As we continue to move deeper into the Spring of this year and renewing cycle of life, we are also edging toward Easter this weekend, which also calls up visions, thoughts, beliefs, and energy of its own including fertile creation. Easter brings pictures to mind of spring blooms like tulips, colored eggs, baby animals, and also deep symbolism that may have varying meanings to each individual.
Easter is also a time when a lot of people, unfortunately, give baby bunnies as gifts to their children and do not understand the commitment to these precious and extremely sensitive living beings that comes hand-in-hand with that. Rabbits are the third most euthanized animals in shelters, right behind dogs and cats – something I learned from Marcy Schaaf, head of SaveABunny (a non-profit organization rabbit rescue and nationally recognized adoption, education and foster center) when I adopted Joy from there just over 4 years ago.
This is a great post that covers the considerations to be consciously aware of in terms of our rabbit friends and making compassionate choices on their behalf: Five Reasons Not To Buy A Bunny For Easter by Julie Castle
With the connection many of you know I have with rabbits and the depth of their magical presence in my life, this time of year can be especially sensitive for me and also a chance to share some of that magic with you in relation to the symbolism and connections rabbits have with Easter, along with some of the origins and meanings behind this “holyday of transition.”
Here are some snippets from a post I shared last year about this connection:
“….Traditionally, the Easter Bunny, actually a Hare, was said to lay eggs at Easter. This concept is of course very strange to our factual minds, but taken symbolically, the Egg is not only Potential, but it also represents the Cosmos, the very ground of Being from which we spring–no pun intended! One only need think about the Cosmic Egg and the Druid’s Egg to begin to get the full scope of this meaning. No wonder then that the Hare was at one time considered both male and female. To produce the cosmos, both must be present….
….Overall the Hare is a symbol of many things, all involving balance, Life, creative potency, regeneration, fertility, and eternity. This symbolism manifests in associations with Springtime, the Dawn, the Moon and Sacred Fire, the Egg, the Circle and Infinity symbol, Marriage, Androgyny and Hermaphroditism, as well as Madness, Genius and Inspiration (which seem to go hand in hand)….”
You can read the full post here: Hare Symbolism for the New Earth – Birthing the Cosmic Egg here
Easter has Pagan origins that bring to light a deeper understanding of its meaning. Easter is connected to the Anglo-Saxon Pagan goddess Eostre (or Ostara), but was originally the celebration of Ishtar (pronounced “Easter”), the Assyrian and Babylonian goddess of love, procreation, sexuality, fertility, and war. The dyed “cosmic” eggs were both “sacred Easter offerings in Egypt,” as well as are connected to the “mystic egg” that hatched Ishtar.
You can read a few of these insights to reflect on below and click the links for the whole articles.
As N.S. Gill shares in The Eostre Hares and Pagan Easter:
“An Anglo-Saxon goddess named Eostre may have had hares as attendants. If so, the hares may have held her lights, since Eostre was the goddess of Dawn, like Eos (Greek) and Aurora (Latin). The month of April was, among the Anglo-Saxons, called Eostur-monath, and during Eostur-monath, a festival was held to Eostre. This festival has, at least in name, been taken over by the Christian spring festival Easter. If Eostre did indeed have hares as companions, the association of Easter and Easter bunnies is an ancient one.”
Swain Wodening adds in the article Eostre:
“Eostre is a very obscure Goddess, and uniquely Anglo-Saxon Pagan….Her name is connected for words for “east” and “shining.” It is therefore related to the Greek godname Eos, Goddess of the dawn in their pantheon….
….Grimm in his Teutonic Mythology maintained that “Ostara, Eástre, was goddess of the growing light of spring.” The date of the holy tide would make this a reasonable conclusion. Holy water in the form of the dew or water collected from brooks was gathered at this time. Washing with it was said to restore youth. Beautiful maidens in sheer white were said to seen frolicking in the country side. Also according to Grimm, the white maiden of Osterrode, was said to appear with a large batch of keys at her belt, and stride to the brook to collect water on Easter morning. Cross buns were of course baked and eaten. While this could be a Christian addition, that cakes were often use in Heathen rites is apparent in any survey of the lore. And the cross may be symbolic of the rune Gebo or the buns may represent the sun wheel. Easter eggs seem to go fairly far back in both English and continental celebrations, and of course symbolize the beginning of new life. The hare also known for its fertility appears fairly early in Easter celebrations. Bonfires and vigils also seemed to play a role in many Easter rites.
Based on this Eostre would appear to be a Goddess of purity (the holy water), youth and beauty (the young maidens), as well as one of new life beginnings….”
And as Mark Esposito shares in his guest blog, Happy Ishtar Day: The Origins of Easter:
“….But the festival likely has origins before the Hebrew feast of Passover. Two thousand years before the accepted birth of Christ, ancient Babylonians were marking the beginning of Spring with a gala celebration honoring the resurrection of the god, Tammuz, who was killed by a wild boar. Tammuz was returned to life by his mother/wife, Ishtar (after whom the festival was named) with her tears. Ishtar was actually pronounced “Easter.”
Ishtar was quite the racy goddess, as historians Will and Ariel Durant explained in their monumental work, The Story of Civilization:
“Ishtar … interests us not only as analogue of the Egyptian Isis and prototype of the Grecian Aphrodite and the Roman Venus, but as the formal beneficiary of one of the strangest of Babylonian customs…known to us chiefly from a famous page in Herodotus: Every native woman is obliged, once in her life, to sit in the temple of Venus [Easter], and have intercourse with some stranger.”
Need anyone wonder why the ancient Hebrews would want to amend this legend and the Puritans to forget about it all together. They didn’t consider Babylon “the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth” for nothing.
Another theory, adopted by the Roman Catholic Church, is that Easter celebrations have their linguistic origins in the Anglo-Saxon fertility rites of the goddess, Eastre. “Since Bede the Venerable (De ratione temporum 1:5) the origin of the term for the feast of Christ’s Resurrection has been popularly considered to be from the Anglo-Saxon Eastre, a goddess of spring…the Old High German plural for dawn, eostarun; whence has come the German Ostern, and our English Easter” (The New Catholic Encyclopedia, 1967, Vol. 5, p. 6).
But what about Easter eggs? How did they enter the mix? Christians have always used the egg to symbolize the rock tomb from which Jesus emerged into new life. But the symbolism predates the Christian era. Pagan theology considered the egg as a symbol of Spring’s rebirth from Winter. (Francis X. Weiser, Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs, p. 233). The Egyptians had a slightly different spin considering the egg the symbol of the passage of life from one generation to the next.
“Eggs were hung up in the Egyptian temples. Bunsen calls attention to the mundane egg, the emblem of generative life, proceeding from the mouth of the great god of Egypt. The mystic egg of Babylon, hatching the Venus Ishtar, fell from heaven to the Euphrates. Dyed eggs were sacred Easter offerings in Egypt, as they are still in China and Europe. Easter, or spring, was the season of birth, terrestrial and celestial.” (Egyptian Belief and Modern Thought, James Bonwick, pp. 211-212)
The pagan tales of gods and goddesses was quite an ecumenical affair with many civilizations sharing the same deity but branding each with a different name that suited their populations. Thus Ishtar became Astarte to the Greeks and Ashtoreth to the Jews. Nimrod, the Biblical figure who built the city of Babylon, and was mentioned in Genesis is another example. He was worshipped as Saturn, Vulcan, Kronos, Baal, and Tammuz by succeeding civilizations but the story remained more or less intact for centuries.
Easter thus is an international affair going back centuries and spanning civilizations from the Babylonians to ourselves. Who says things really change?”
Wishing you a regenerative, abundantly creative, and cosmically enlightening Easter.
The fasts are done; the Aves said;
The moon has filled her horn
And in the solemn night I watch
Before the Easter morn.
So pure, so still the starry heaven,
So hushed the brooding air,
I could hear the sweep of an angel’s wings
If one should earthward fare.
~Edna Dean Proctor, “Easter Morning”
Dedicated to my beloved and departed angel, Nestor, who embodies the Cosmic Egg of my heart.