web analytics

The Pagan Origin and History of Easter

Basket full of painted Easter eggs

Basket full of painted Easter eggs. Image courtesy of Marco Verch under Creative Commons 2.0

Page Visited: 106
0 0
Read Time:5 Minute, 19 Second

After Christmas, Easter is probably the most celebrated Christian festival in the world. Easter is observed by Christians in honor of the Resurrection of Christ, which occurred on the third day after Good Friday, which in turn is the day when Christ allowed Himself to be crucified to atone for the sins of man.

Easter typically involves an appearance by the mischievous Easter Bunny who stealthily hides its eggs around the house (yes, eggs, despite being a mammal), much to the delight of the young ones. The Easter Bunny has the peculiar habit of coloring its eggs and sprinkling them with stardust. At times, the abnormally intelligent rabbit also pastes brightly colored papers on the eggs, and occasionally, even goes as far as placing them in small boxes wrapped elegantly in gift wrappers. The festival, which normally starts after sunrise service at church,  also features parades, chocolate bunnies and so much more.

The season of Easter, or Eastertide, is a seven-week long affair that commences on Easter day itself and ends on Pentecost, a celebration in commemoration of the Holy Spirit’s descent unto the Disciples of Christ. Easter is traditionally celebrated after the vernal equinox on Sundays between March 22 and April 25. The exact dates are determined by the World Council of Churches using the lunisolar calendar.

Basket full of painted Easter eggs
A basket full of painted Easter eggs. Image courtesy of Marco Verch under Creative Commons 2.0

The Pagan Origin of Easter

But wait a minute. HOW did rabbits, parades and egg hunts become part of the religious festival of Easter?  Let’s look at the most obvious place first, the Bible. Now, where in the Bible is Easter mentioned? Nowhere, unfortunately. Wait a minute, you say. What about in Acts 12:4?

Acts 12:4

“And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him, intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.”

Sadly, this reference to Easter was a translation of the Greek (which was the primary biblical language prior to the introduction of the King James Version in 1611) word Pascha, which actually was referring to the Passover, the feast of unleavened bread, normally celebrated by Jews to celebrate their Exodus from Egypt, as indicated in Leviticus 23:5.

Leviticus 23: 5

In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the Lord’s Passover.

Well then, so when did the festival of Easter begin? The real answer may shock you.

The actual origin of Easter

About two thousand years ago, Prophet Noah, the last of the great Christian Patriarchs (Adam, Seth, Enoch, Kenan, Mahalalel, Jared, Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech and Noah) – as well as the builder of the Ark that ensured the preservation of humanity – had a great-grandson named Nimrod. It was stated in Genesis 10:8-10,

And Cush begat Nimrod: he began to be a mighty one in the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the Lord: wherefore it is said, Even as Nimrod the mighty hunter before the Lord. And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel (Babylon), and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.

Nimrod soon became drunk with his own might and turned away from the path of God. His palace, cities, and people were decadent in every sense of the word, corrupt beyond imagination. Nimrod, in an act of unrivaled blasphemy, created pagan Gods to be worshipped by his people (no, not the Flying Spaghetti Monster).

When Nimrod died of old age, his young wife, Queen Semiramis, took advantage of his passing to deify him to his people, and elevated his status to that of the Sun God. After conceiving another child by one of her many lovers, Queen Semiramis proclaimed that the son she bore, Tammuz, is a reincarnation of her late husband, the Sun God, Nimrod. The Babylonian priesthood took matters a step further by anointing Queen Semiramis as the personification of the Moon God. It brought forth a slew of blasphemous practices, which include,d but are not limited to, astrology, human sacrifices and the deification of inanimate objects in space. A pantheon of gods was created among the visible stars and planets in the sky, complete with ranks and titles.

One day, in a hunting trip, Tammuz was killed after being mauled by a wild board on the plains of Shinar in modern day Iraq (on the banks of River Euphrates near Al Hillal). However, according to the priesthood, the tears from his mother, Queen Semiramis, miraculously brought Tammuz back from the afterlife in the form of a lush field of greens, of trees and grass and flowers and all the wonders of a returning spring. Every year thereafter, people of the land celebrated the birth of spring and equated it with the resurrection of Tammuz (as well as Nimrod). Incidentally, among the many names that Queen Semiramis held at the time were Ashtaroth, Ishtar, Astarte, and Eastre.

Queen Semiramis and Easter

Over time, Queen Semiramis evolved into a symbolic representation of fertility, and her name attained immortality in the form of a catalyst of fertility, to be worshiped and prayed at, to be invoked for those seeking the blessings of familial nature or the harvest kind. She was mentioned by the Benedictine monk, Saint Bede The Venerable (673 – 735) in his De temporum ratione (On the Reckoning of Time); ‘The English term relates to Estre, a Teutonic goddess of the rising light of day and spring’. In other cultures, she was Isis (Egyptian), Aphrodite (Greek) and Venus (Roman).

The tradition slowly strengthened over time, and the arrival of spring became a festival to celebrate the goddess of spring (or fertility). The most famous of these Babylonian traditions involved abstinence for a period approximately 40 days prior to the festival, a tradition that seems uncannily similar to Lent.

Further integration of the Babylonian festival can be seen in the eggs and rabbits, both symbols associated with birth, resurrection, and fertility (rabbits do propagate prodigiously, after all). Saint Hyginus, the Bishop of Rome (139AD), spoke of the relationship between the egg and Eastre.

‘An egg of wondrous size is said to have fallen from heaven into the river Euphrates. The fishes rolled it to the bank, where the doves having settled upon it, and hatched it, out came Venus, who afterwards was called the Syrian Goddess’ — that is, Astarte. Hence the egg became one of the symbols of Astarte or Easter; and accordingly, in Cyprus, one of the chosen seats of the worship of Venus, or Astarte, the egg of wondrous size was represented on a grand scale.’

The populace of the ancient cities of Babylon were said to have adorned and decorated their homes with ornamented eggs as the festival of Eastre approaches, and upon breaking their fast following 40 days of abstinence, the eggs would be the first thing consumed, in the hope they would receive the blessing of the god-child Eastre/Semiramis.

The weaving of facts, legends and biblical accounts, sometimes tends to cast a mythological air over events. Yes, Babylon existed. It was one of the earliest civilizations of humanity, and it was a powerful and hugely influential empire. Its influence has extended through distance and time, and humanity, to a certain extent, has been shaped by them. Moreover, the pagan Gods, rituals, and beliefs of the ancient Babylonians have also trickled down through the pages of history, evolving over millennia and integrating themselves into many of our contemporary religions and beliefs. This concatenation of influences over modern day Easter shouldn’t really come as a surprise.

However, it is important to remember that the Easter celebrated today is completely different than the one celebrated millennia ago. It may share the same origin, but Easter today is built around Christian theological constructs.

Song of the day: Jeffrey Osborne – On The Wings Of Love

Happy
Happy
0 %
Sad
Sad
0 %
Excited
Excited
0 %
Sleepy
Sleepy
0 %
Angry
Angry
0 %
Surprise
Surprise
0 %