Of Names and Symbols

The name “Easter” originated with the names of an ancient goddess and god. The Venerable Bede, (672-735 CE.) a Christian scholar, first asserted in his book, De Ratione Temporum, that Easter was named after Eostre (a.k.a. Eastre). She was the Great Mother Goddess of the Saxon people in Northern Europe. Similarly, the “Teutonic dawn goddess of fertility [was] known variously as Ostare, Ostara, Ostern, Eostra, Eostre, Eostur, Eastra, Eastur, Austron and Ausos.”  Her name was derived from the ancient word for spring: “eastre.”

Gerald L. Berry, author of “Religions of the World,” wrote:

“About 200 B.C. mystery cults began to appear in Rome just as they had earlier in Greece. Most notable was the Cybele cult centered on Vatican hill …Associated with the Cybele cult was that of her lover, Attis (the older Tammuz, Osiris, Dionysus, or Orpheus under a new name). He was a god of ever-reviving vegetation. Born of a virgin, he died and was reborn annually. The festival began as a day of blood on Black Friday and culminated after three days in a day of rejoicing over the resurrection.”

Wherever Christian worship of Jesus and Pagan worship of Attis were active in the same geographical area in ancient times, Christians:

“… used to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus on the same date; and pagans and Christians used to quarrel bitterly about which of their gods was the true prototype and which the imitation.” Quoted from Religious Tolerance.org

There are a few other similar pagan legends told about the origin of the word Easter and the false goddess of fertility and sexuality. One thing remains in common:  Whenever numbers of followers (thereby, increasing taxes/tithes) became the focus of questionable “Christian” rulers and/or clergy, compromise, even if well-intentioned, led to overshadowing of the resurrection and adoption of even the very name of the false goddess, Easter.

The New Testament Scriptures are extremely clear that the crucifixion and resurrection took place at the time of the Passover celebration. Read Matthew 26:1-19. Jesus tells his disciples what will happen to Him during the Passover remembrance. Mark chapter 14, Luke chapter 22, and John chapter 13 also record the fact that Jesus was preparing for His death during the time of the Passover. He was to become the paschal Lamb of God. This was God’s timing and plan and it had nothing to do with bunnies, chicks, or eggs (fertility symbols).

It is up to the individual to decide how to celebrate the resurrection and what, if any, symbols should be included. I think we must be careful with not falling into a trap of affording worship to any symbol, even if it be a cross. God was extremely clear about graven images in the second commandment (Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5). The cross can represent the sacrifice made by Jesus (whose personal likeness we do not have), but we need to realize that Jesus is Savior, not the wood upon which He was tortured and died. The cross is a reminder, not a talisman. There is no “magic” even in the symbol of a cross.

When my children were little, we colored eggs. I wasn’t sure what was “wrong” and what was “right” at that time. I tried to “take back” the holiday by using the eggs as explanation for how the Trinity can exist as one God. There are three parts to an egg—shell, white and yolk; three parts but still one egg. My grandmother would buy chocolate bunnies for the kids; however, I think that was a convenient excuse to buy one for herself! If you knew my Grandma, you knew her chocolate addiction. I would opt for the chocolate crosses. We would wish one another, “Happy Easter.” To us, it was nothing other than a spiritual holiday.

I was not then, nor now am, a pagan. I had no knowledge or thought of spring fertility rites or false goddesses going back to Babel. I gave no thought to the origin of the word, Easter.

It is not my job to judge others who struggle (or don’t) with this Easter issue. As with the Egyptian bondage of 400 years, sometimes the people of God simply have forgotten something about their roots. I do know one can be quite unpopular for bucking this whole “Easter” thing–especially by Christians who have known no other term for celebrating the remembrance of the resurrection. I’ve been ridiculed as being “too picky.” If I have felt comfortable discussing this with someone, I have tried not to seem holier-than-thou, and have gladly let the subject drop if it was causing discomfort. As with all conviction, the Holy Spirit is in charge and He doesn’t need my opinion.

There is a gentle way and a private time to discuss such things and a time to refrain. Many years ago, a well-meaning sister chastised me at church when I wished her a Happy Easter. It was not gentle and it was designed to shame and embarrass me. It definitely did not encourage me to explore the history behind the controversy. One cannot be convinced of anything if they are smarting from an ill-timed rebuke.

For me, individually, the whole thing came down to my interpretation of WWJD. I came to the place of not being able to envision wishing Jesus (in prayer) a “Happy Easter.” Or thanking Him for “Easter.” This took a lot of time, thought, and prayer. The conclusions to which I come for myself do not immediately apply worldwide.

I want to fully celebrate the fact that Christ is my Savior and has arisen in triumph over the eternal separation from our Father that Satan desired. God, in His mercy, gave me the grace and the time to mull over these things. He desires for me to allow the same for others. If you wish me a “Happy Easter,” don’t worry about offending me—you won’t! I understand your spirit of that blessing and appreciate it. I promise I won’t think you inferior or uneducated. I have so many failings that I have no time to worry about your business. Most certainly, our salvation does not depend on resolving this issue.

So, during this relative time of the remembrance of the Passover, I wish my fellow Christian believers a blessed celebration at your home of our Lord’s resurrection. We do well to reflect on and tell that blessed story at any time of the year. Christ is risen! Alleluia!

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~ by saginawrobin on March 28, 2012.

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