Easter

The origins of the word Easter are a bit uncertain. According to The Venerable Bede (672-735 AD), a Christian scholar, Easter was named after Eostre (a.k.a. Eastre), who was the Great Mother Goddess of the Saxons.

The Teutonic goddess of fertility was known by such names as Ostare, Ostara, Ostern, Eostra, Eostre, Eostur, Eastra, Eastur, Austron and Ausos, and her name came from an old word for spring: eastre.

An alternative theory is that Easter comes from the German word Ostern.

Many cultures celebrate the beginning of spring with various festivals. The Christian festival of Easter was probably grafted onto old pagan spring festivities, and things like Easter eggs and Easter bunnies are symbols of new life and fertility which perhaps date back to pagan times.

There’s more information about the origins of Easter at:
http://www.religioustolerance.org/easter.htm

Happy Easter to those you who celebrate it.

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This entry was posted in Language.

7 Responses to Easter

  1. TJ says:

    did you notice that the names mentioned for the goddesses are close to the name “Ishtar” which had many various versions in various semitic cultures?

  2. Polly says:

    What I noticed about the various goddess names is how closely they approximate the word “estrogen.”

  3. TJ says:

    true. It’s common that the scientists adopt such names for their discoveries and not necessarily depend on greek or latin to name them!

  4. Joseph Staleknight says:

    I’m guessing that the Indo-European root for “feminity” is something like “etr-“, then.

  5. Religious festivities are often related to much older ancestral pagan rites, and Christian Easter is one of them: its symbolism of death and resurrection is clearly a metaphor of nature’s cyclic rebirth in springtime.
    Although in the Jewish tradition Easter corresponds to Pesach (English: Passover), there is another festivity called Purim (“a joyous Jewish holiday that commemorates the deliverance of Persian Jews from the plot of the evil Haman to exterminate them”, says Wikipedia) which falls on either the 14th or 15th of Adar of the Jewish lunar calendar, roughly corresponding to the start of springtime (this year it fell on March 14). Doing some further investigation – I personally know very little of Jewish culture – I came across a specialized website, from which I learnt of a close relation between Purim and the Book of Esther; the relevant passage is quoted below.
    “The book of Esther purports to explain the origin of the Jewish celebration of Purim, possibly in the early 5th century BCE. In this book, Esther (Hadassah in Hebrew) and her cousin Mordecai save the Jews living in the Persian empire from being destroyed. The book itself may have been written as late as the 2nd century BCE, although it contains traditions which go back well beyond that.”
    Could ‘Esther’ be the clue to ‘Easter’, having the two springtime festivities been mixed up by northern European cultures?
    By the way, the word for “Easter” in Romance languages (see this website’s excellent page at http://www.omniglot.com/language/phrases/easter.htm ) sprung from Hebrew, as well. The early medieval ecclesiastical Pascha is a Latinized version of the aforesaid Pesach, a Jewish word meaning “to pass through”, referred to the escape of the Jews from Egypt, where they were held as slaves.