Sunday, April 12, 2009

Official Voice Of Easter

Just a slight ramble and consideration of Easter customs here. First of all, there is the word Easter itself. There is only one mention of the origins of this word at all in ancient texts, and that is from the Venerable Bede (d.735 AD), who mentions that the Anglo-Saxons called the Paschal month Eostre-month, after their goddess Eostre. And that is all that is surely known about it.
Enter the philologists and folklorists in the 19th Century. They began speculating about this forgotten goddess, and adducing all sorts of traits to her. Some tried to make her a goddess of the dawn (the East), and others of spring and fertility. Eggs, hares (rabbits were foreign to Europe), flowers, and storks were all thought probable symbols for her.
There is a thing in word studies called asterisk reality. In a forgotten fragmentary language, like Gothic, many words for even common things are missing. Their likely forms can be deduced by their relationship and changes from closely related languages (such as German and English). These word forms have no proof or solid example, but are possibilities, and are said to have an asterisk reality.
From one mention in an old chronicle, the goddess Eostre was building up an asterisk reality of her own, one that in modern times, in the wild imaginations of Neo-pagans of all stripes, has grown, a very uncontrolled growing thing. There is even less known about her than, say, druids, and where little is known the imagination can take some very odd flights.
Of perhaps even more tenuous speculation is the connection of Easter with rabbits and eggs. Just about every culture from South America to India has seen the shape of a rabbit or hare on the moon, and it is particularly observable on the Paschal moon, which of course is brightly colored and very full. The fact that it occurs in spring when eggs are abundant and hares and rabbits are--ahem--busy, and that their birth cycle is approximately one lunar month, couldn't hurt to connect them.
As I say, just a few thoughts and ramblings, rather far from the true significance of the day. But there you are.


AlanDP said...

So how did they manage to come up with the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox?

Seems to have symbolism of the Trinity and rebirth, but I'm only guessing.

Anonymous said...

I remember the origins of "OVOE". He could be a real jerk sometimes...J

Brer said...

Passover is of course set by the old Hebrew lunar calendar, and all the events of the passion and resurrection of Jesus can be "timed" according to this. It was more or less set by Church fiat that Easter be celebrated on the first Sunday after the "Passover" moon, Sunday having become the most religiously significant day of the week for Christianity.

Brer said...

Yes, but he was OUR real jerk.