Which came first: the bunny or the cross?

>> Friday, March 21, 2008



Today I was privy to a conversation that took place in the office over the "true meaning of Easter". In this conversation I overheard one woman complaining about how her family celebrates Easter, that all it is to them is the Easter bunny, candy, and colored eggs, and that they needed to get back to the REAL meaning of Easter and about how it's about Jesus' death on the cross and his resurrection. It took everything I had not to blurt out with a belligerent, "Are you kidding me?" But I bit my tongue, swallowed down hard, and kept my mouth shut and decided to save my rant for a blog entry.

Easter is a pagan holiday. It is nothing but Pagan through and through, no ifs, ands, or buts, about it. Christians can't even claim exclusive rights to the idea of a god/man born of a virgin who dies and then is resurrected from the dead. That's right, folks! The pagans thought of that one long before the Christians! If Christians want to get a little further away from the pagan origins of Easter, (even the name "Easter" is pagan), they would celebrate the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus at Passover, and not during the Spring Equinox, when the pagans celebrate the return of their gods and goddesses.

Read this from Religious Tolerance.org:

Many, perhaps most, Pagan religions in the Mediterranean area had a major seasonal day of religious celebration at or following the Spring Equinox. Cybele, the Phrygian fertility goddess, had a fictional consort who was believed to have been born via a virgin birth. He was Attis, who was believed to have died and been resurrected each year during the period MAR-22 to MAR-25. "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."

Many religious historians believe that the death and resurrection legends were first associated with Attis, many centuries before the birth of Jesus. They were simply grafted onto stories of Jesus' life in order to make Christian theology more acceptable to Pagans. Others suggest that many of the events in Jesus' life that were recorded in the gospels were lifted from the life of Krishna, the second person of the Hindu Trinity. Ancient Christians had an alternative explanation; they claimed that Satan had created counterfeit deities in advance of the coming of Christ in order to confuse humanity. Modern-day Christians generally regard the Attis legend as being a Pagan myth of little value. They regard Jesus' death and resurrection account as being true, and unrelated to the earlier tradition.

Wiccans and other modern-day Neopagans continue to celebrate the Spring Equinox as one of their 8 yearly Sabbats (holy days of celebration). Near the Mediterranean, this is a time of sprouting of the summer's crop; farther north, it is the time for seeding. Their rituals at the Spring Equinox are related primarily to the fertility of the crops and to the balance of the day and night times. Where Wiccans can safely celebrate the Sabbat out of doors without threat of religious persecution, they often incorporate a bonfire into their rituals, jumping over the dying embers is believed to assure fertility of people and crops.


Pagan Origins of the Easter Bunny

From About.com:

The answer lies in the ingenious way that the Christian church absorbed Pagan practices. After discovering that people were more reluctant to give up their holidays and festivals than their gods, they simply incorporated Pagan practices into Christian festivals. As recounted by the Venerable Bede, an early Christian writer, clever clerics copied Pagan practices and by doing so, made Christianity more palatable to pagan folk reluctant to give up their festivals for somber Christian practices.

In second century Europe, the predominate spring festival was a raucous Saxon fertility celebration in honor of the Saxon Goddess Eastre (Ostara), whose sacred animal was a hare.

The colored eggs associated with the bunny are of another, even more ancient origin. The eggs associated with this and other Vernal festivals have been symbols of rebirth and fertility for so long the precise roots of the tradition are unknown, and may date to the beginning of human civilization. Ancient Romans and Greeks used eggs as symbols of fertility, rebirth, and abundance- eggs were solar symbols, and figured in the festivals of numerous resurrected gods.

Pagan fertility festivals at the time of the Spring equinox were common- it was believed that at this time, when day and night were of equal length, male and female energies were also in balance. The hare is often associated with moon goddesses; the egg and the hare together represent the god and the goddess, respectively.

Moving forward fifteen hundred years, we find ourselves in Germany, where children await the arrival of Oschter Haws, a rabbit who will lay colored eggs in nests to the delight of children who discover them Easter morning. It was this German tradition that popularized the 'Easter bunny' in America, when introduced into the American cultural fabric by German settlers in Pennsylvania.

Many modern practitioners of Neo-pagan and earth-based religions have embraced these symbols as part of their religious practice, identifying with the life-affirming aspects of the spring holiday. (The Neopagan holiday of Ostara is descended from the Saxon festival.) Ironically, some Christian groups have used the presence of these symbols to denounce the celebration of the Easter holiday, and many churches have recently abandoned the Pagan moniker with more Christian oriented titles like 'Resurrection Sunday.'


So which came first, the bunny or the cross? It would appear that the hare wins this one.

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