Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Merry Eosturmonath!

This Easter some may celebrate the resurrection of a god that was born of a virgin, was sacrificed on a Friday, rose three days later and brought the promise of eternal life. Not Jesus (who resurrected after only two days) but Attis, an older Phrygian god and consort of the goddess Cybele. Attis was God of vegetation and it was the burgeoning Spring that he represented,  the fruits of the earth which die in winter only to rise again in the spring.. Attis' spring festival - dying and rising on March 24th and 25th, began as a day of blood on Black Friday (so called because it was the day he died) and rose to a crescendo after three days, in rejoicing over his resurrection.

Wheat - the sacred symbol of Attis' resurection
The march dates of Attis' spring celebration were later applied to the resurrection of Christ according to Sir Frazer, "the tradition which placed the death of Christ on the twenty-fifth of March was ancient and deeply rooted ...(as a spring resurrecting god theme)". That Easter falls on the first Sunday after the full moon immediately following the Equinox demonstrates the festivals very Pagan precedent. 

There was aparently violent conflict on Vatican Hill in Rome in the early days of Christianity as the worshippers of Jesus and Pagans quarrelled over whose resurected god was true or greatest. Even then, neither were unique as virtually every civilisation has an equivalent resurrected deity: Tammuz, Adonis, Baal, Osiris, and Dionysus are a few...

The rites of the 'crucified Adonis' demonstrate another dying and resurecting god, celebrated in Syria at 'Easter' and Frazer states: "When we reflect how often the Church has skillfully contrived to plant the seeds of the new faith on the old stock of paganism, we may surmise that the Easter celebration of the dead and risen Christ was grafted upon a similar celebration of the dead and risen Adonis..."... ( source ). Not so much a  pragmatic acceptance of ancient pagan practises by the Christian church then but a wholesale repurposing of existing festivals to new ends.

My point in mentioning the Attis and similar festivals is to provide counterpoint to the Christian Easter and show that the various festivals of this time in fact all stem from an ancient celebration of Spring.

"The Gardens of Adonis" by John Reinhard Weguelin (1888)
According to the Venerable Bede
Be that as it may, according to the Venerable Bede - an English Monk of the 6thC Common Era - an author and scholar known as 'The Father of English History', the Anglo-Saxons called the entire month of April 'Eosturmonath' after their Earth Goddess, Eostre. He also recorded that the ancient Pagan festival had by the beginning of the Eighth Century, been entirely replaced by the Christian custom, which is clearly a propaganda fabulation because the festival of Eostre - also known as Ostara, after the Norse Goddess of fertility, flourishes to this day.

Stories have grown around the goddess' Eostre and her symbols, the cosmic egg and the mad march hare, here's one about the ''Easter Bunny''..
The story goes that after a particularly cold winter, Eostre was late to usher in the Spring. Unfortunately, this meant that a bird succumbed to the cold and died. Feeling responsible, Eostre revived the bird and changed it into a hare, whom she called Lepus. Since Lepus had once been a bird, every year as the Spring returned, he laid eggs. He gave one to Eostre to thank her for saving his life and Eostre, thinking that everyone would appreciate a similar gift, encouraged Lepus to go round the world distributing eggs. Hence, or so this tale would tell, the custom of the 'Easter Bunny' bringing us eggs...

Of course we know better, Eostre as Goddess of fertility and Spring was represented by her two symbols,  the cosmic egg - most basic symbol of rebirth and the mad march hare which also represents fertility and the rebirth of Spring. Whilst the hare was latterly abducted and repurposed into the 'Easter Bunny', the tradition of sharing eggs  sprung from Pagan offerings of colored eggs made in honour of Eostre at the Vernal Equinox, which they placed in fields and also at gravesides as a charm of rebirth. (Egyptians and Greeks were also known to place eggs at gravesites).

Eostre by Thorskegga

The Pagan Eostre then dosen't require articles of faith or complex beliefs to enter into a sacred relationship with nature, but simply celebrates life and gives thanks for the blessings of Spring.

Welcome Eostre ~

Sumer is Icumen In ~
One of the oldest known songs in celebration of Spring, a round or canon called 'Sumer is Icumen In’ celebrates the arrival of the cuckoo. It was written for unaccompanied voices in the Wessex dialect in the 13th century. Although the only part that doesn’t need translating is the phrase “sing cuckoo”, one listen is enough to dispel any doubt that life could be full of exquisite joy, even in the 'Dark Ages'.

Svmer is icumen in                   Spring has arrived,
Lhude sing cuccu                      Loudly sing, cuckoo!
Groweþ sed                              The seed is growing
and bloweþ med                       And the meadow is blooming,
and springþ þe wde nu              And the wood is coming into leaf now,        
Sing cuccu                                 Sing, cuckoo!

Awe bleteþ after lomb               The ewe is bleating after lamb,
lhouþ after calue cu                   The cow is lowing after her calf;
Bulluc sterteþ                            The bullock is prancing,
bucke uerteþ                             The billy-goat farting,
murie sing cuccu                        Sing merrily - cuckoo!
Cuccu cuccu                              Cuckoo, cuckoo,
Wel singes þu cuccu                   You sing well, cuckoo,
ne swik þu nauer nu                   Never stop now,
Sing cuccu nu • Sing cuccu.        Sing cuckoo, now; sing, cuckoo,
Sing cuccu • Sing cuccu nu         Sing cuckoo, sing, cuckoo, now!

Merry Eosturmonath to You ~

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