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Easter Eggs, Chocolate Bunnies and the Crucifixion

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Rev. Stephanie Clarke

Have you ever wondered about the connection between chocolate bunnies and Easter eggs and the Crucifixion of Jesus the Christ?

We have the pagans to thank for the sweet legacy that has been passed down to us at Easter time. When I say “pagans” I don’t mean “heretics” in the derogatory way that the Christians meant it when, at the end of the 4th century, Christianity became the dominant religion in the Roman Empire. I simply mean the polytheistic people who worshiped the Mother Goddess, who honored nature - the sun, the moon, the earth and the changing of the seasons - and who celebrated sexuality, fertility and Life!

Eostre - or Ostara according to her Germanic origin - the Goddess of Fertility, was one of the important goddesses pre Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Every year, at the time of the Spring Equinox (March 21), the pagans held festivals in honor of Her. In the ancient agricultural communities, where survival depended on the land and a good harvest, plus a high enough birthrate to counteract infant mortality, fertility was crucial. The pagans believed that the great Mother Goddess was responsible for the fertility of the soil, healthy crops and healthy babies, it was important to show gratitude and win Her ongoing benevolence.

Easter shows its pagan origin in the dating system based on the old lunar calendar. It is always celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring Equinox. Plus the Christian Church took the name “Easter” from the Goddess for the celebration of the death and the resurrection of Jesus.

Eostre’s totem animal was a Moon Hare which is the origin of our Easter bunny. Of course, hares and rabbits are the perfect symbols of fertility too but how come the hare lays eggs? Well, it was believed that the Egyptian Goddess Hathor, also known as Astarte, (another name for Eostre), gave birth to the Golden Egg which was the sun. And a myth sprang up among the pagans that the hare would lay eggs for the good children on Easter Eve. Of course, the good children received real eggs then – not the chocolate variety. If you have ever taken part in an egg and spoon race or hidden chocolate eggs in the garden, you have been honoring the ancient pagan traditions.

And just as the ancients mixed their myths with the eggs and the hares, Christianity managed to get pagan myths mixed up with the crucifixion and resurrection story. It was the only way that the Christian rulers in the Roman Empire could manipulate the pagans into adopting Christianity. 2000 years later, all the myths still co-exist.

Now, as well as then, the Christian Church is not powerful enough to crush these pagan traditions, these earthy joyful celebrations of Spring, new life, sex and fertility. Something primal runs deep within our psyche and happily infuses our contemporary man-made religious culture. Praise the Goddess!

Rev. Stephanie Clarke is a faculty member of All Paths Divinity School Email

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