Eostre never existed???: why Easter is NOT a Pagan Holiday

It should be obvious really, that Easter is not a pagan holiday, but a Christian one. The events it describes are clearly the crucifixion and resurrection stories of the New Testament – and we know they happened, according to our sources, on the Passover (or the Eve of the Passover). Without the ancient Jewish Passover festival story, the crucifixion and resurrection narrative make less symbolic sense – but one thing is absolutely obvious – Easter’s date derives from a Jewish festival, not any Pagan one.  So why do so many of us think we know otherwise?

The origin of the word, not the festival

Well the first thing is very simple. No one has ever really seriously claimed to the best of my knowledge that Easter is a Christianized form of an ancient pagan rite — such a claim would be patently absurd. I think even the most misguided advocate of Frazer’s vegetation god’s nonsense from The Golden Bough would realize that simply won’t work.   What is actually claimed by people who know what they are talking about a bit, is that Easter derives its name and some of its symbolism in English speaking countries from a pagan source.  Etymologically pagan, that is the word was borrowed from a pagan source, not that the festival was – but bizarrely year after year I see people make exactly the “Easter is pagan” claim.

So this year –

Why Easter is not pagan!

I throw open the challenge to anyone to demonstrate from primary sources any of these things, or a pagan origin for Christmas.

Let’s dispose of a few dodgy claims first. We have all heard that Easter derives from an Anglo-Saxon festival dedicated to the Goddess Eostre – but no one has ever found any evidence for the existence of this Goddess, outside of the Christian monk Bede, who in De temporum ratione wrote

Bede, c.700

Eostur-monath has a name which is now translated Paschal month, and which was once called after a goddess of theirs named Eostre, in whose honour feasts were celebrated in that month. Now they designate that Paschal season by her name, calling the joys of the new rite by the time-honoured name of the old observance

This was his attempted etymology of Easter – which is  only called that in English of course. The problem is that as the Goddess in question, Eostre is completely unknown otherwise, and Bede was an enthusiast for adopting pagan customs in to Christianity or allowing them to persist where it did not impact on Christian doctrine where possible (out of kindness and a desire to allow people to keep their old ways), so  this proposed etymology is probably spurious. In the 19th century a German antiquarian invented Osatra, as the German form, using Bede as his source.

Bede admits this idea is his speculation – he is not actually aware of a goddess called Eostre, he just thinks there was one. There is not a single reference to her, from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, any of the other writings we have from the period, or from inscriptions. No depiction – no amulets – nothing. Her Germanic version was invented completely in the 19th century, and again has no evidence whatsoever from history or archaeology to back it up. So Bede was, as he often was, wrong – but in line with his own slightly odd but very humane prejudices. Read the first couple of chapters of his Ecclesiastical History and you will get the picture

So why the woo?

I’m afraid we are back to the pernicious influence of Frazerian myths about myths. A good way to spot woo here is the suggestion that the solstices were considered major religious festivals in pagan antiquity. They weren’t. In fact the notion they were really only dates to the last decades of the 19th century, and has more to do with occultism than history. Frazer popularized a lot of this with his Vegetation Gods crap in the infamous The Golden Bough, and the ideas have become as ingrained in popular understanding as say Freudianism has, with even less supporting evidence.

Easter Eggs pagan?

I have it on one good source that eggs were featured in certain Persian rites, and i believe that. It’s nothing to do with our Easter Eggs though. I am aware of no pre-13th century account of painted eggs etc? Maybe you can surprise me with a primary source? The classic study is Newell’s 1971 book – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Egg-Easter-F…9384936&sr=8-1 Anyway I am pretty certain you will find no evidence of pre-Christian Goddesses, especially Celtic ones, getting folks to hunt painted eggs down rabbit holes. One often sees this claim about the Anglo Saxon Goddess Eostre, but her worshippers were hampered in this practice by not existing in the first place, outside of Bede’s imagination. It’s all woo.

So any chance it might be named after a pagan Goddess?

Well Ronald Hutton does not entirely dismiss it

The other is that the Anglo-Saxon eastre, signifying both the festival and the season of spring, is associated with a set of words in various Indo-European languages,signifying dawn and also goddesses who personified that event, such as the Greek Eos, the Roman Aurora, and the Indian Ushas. It is therefore quite possible to argue that Bede’s Eostre was a German dawn-deity who was venerated at this season of opening and new beginnings. It is equally valid, however, to suggest that the Anglo-Saxon “Estor-monath”simply meant “the month of opening”, or the “month of beginning”, and that Bede mistakenly connected it with a goddess who either never existed at all, or was never associated with a particular season, but merely, like Eos and Aurora, with the Dawn itself.” Stations of the Sun, p.180

So there you go — there remains a remote chance we took the word from a real Goddess – but as its called Paschen or similar in almost all European languages, well that means nothing anyway – the English & German terms are much later.   The one thing we can be absolutely certain of is regardless of where the word Easter derives from, Easter was not an adapted pagan festival as often claimed.

UPDATE: I have just seen a strong and intelligent article arguing for the existence of Eostre, from the Keeper of Seasons Hall blog. This has convinced me the case for Eostre is a little stronger than I had thought – do read this — http://www.koshabq.org/2012/03/09/celebrating-eostre/ And whatever your reason for celebrating the season, have a wonderful time!

UPDATE2: Good article in today’s Guardian, well worth reading (Good Friday 2011)

Still if you must follow ancient customs at least this sounds fun!

cj x

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About Chris Jensen Romer

I am a profoundly dull, tedious and irritable individual. I have no friends apart from two equally ill mannered cats, and a lunatic kitten. I am a ghosthunter by profession, and professional cat herder. I write stuff and do TV things and play games. It's better than being real I find.
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147 Responses to Eostre never existed???: why Easter is NOT a Pagan Holiday

  1. David says:

    Good essay CJ.
    In the Orthodox Church we always talk about ‘Pascha’, not easter, even here in the UK. So next weekend we shall be celebrating the Paschal Liturgy in our church.
    After the service, we always greet our fellow Orthodox with the words ”Christ is Risen!” to which the reply is ”He is Risen indeed!” CHRISTOS ANESTI!!

    DCG

  2. bshistorian says:

    Nice writeup cj – my (pagan) fiance brought this one up only the other day (I bit my tongue though, as I’m not too hot on religious history and couldn’t be sure of my facts. These whipper-snappers do love to do down the older religions, whilst ironically enough often claiming false antiquity into the bargain. I don’t imagine these are new phenomena!

    • My initial observation was that this article actually says very little, other than “if you believe a particular myth then prove it”. Quite ironic as the source of the diverse Christian beliefs have very little substance in any provable fact.
      The fact that many Winter (solsitice) & Spring (Equinox) ‘festivals’ existed prior to Christianity is irrefutable. The parellels with the Pagan ‘rebirth’ beliefs, where the Sun lies dormant (dead) for 3 days, only to Rise (be reborn) again after the Winter Solsitice seems an uncanny coincidence….don’t you think!?

  3. Mo says:

    Excellent, I’d never thought to question the received account via Bede. I shall direct Pagan friends here in future!

  4. Murray66 says:

    The “Eastre” idea was posted on my company website. They even said the rabbit was her symbol and the exchange of eggs was a separate pagan sprintime practice. The source they cited for these revelations? holidays.net

  5. Chris says:

    Yes, popularly believed, utter crap. Feel free to direct them to me, or to Beast, if having an English historian explain they have been taken in will help!

    cj x

    • Kami says:

      My brother-in-law is pastoring a church. His study of theology and religion is gathered almost entirey from the internet, as he has never gone to any type of college. No theology school, no seminary, no bible college. He received his Pastoral certificate off of the internet. He has been relentlessly spreading this “Easter is a Pagen holiday” theory to his church and anyone else who is sucked into his life. He says that God hates that we celebrate Easter, that we are all being lead astray. He also backs that up by saying that there are only a few who are priviledged enough to know this truth. He gets off on arguing and is convinced that he is one of the chosen few. I was raised in the Christian church and have been warned by my father to stay far away from my brother-in-laws church. As you put it, he has been “taken in”. I feel like all I can do is pray for him as he is so argumentative and arrogant, I just get angry.

  6. KC Hulsman says:

    We also know of the pagan celebration of Ostara in passing, from Heimskringla (107-110) and the story of King Olaf killing Olvir of Egg, for his continued celebration of pagan practices. Olvir was killed as he was preparing for the forthcoming Ostara ritual.

  7. Chris Jensen Romer says:

    Really! I missed that and I know Snorri quite well. Thank you so much, I’m going to check now –
    “At Easter the king held a feast, to which he had
    invited many of the townspeople as well as bondis….
    Immediately after Easter he sent men into Veradal.
    There was a man called Thoralde, who was the king’s bailiff, and who managed the king’s farm there at Haug; and to him the king sent a message to come to him as quickly as possible. Thoralde did not decline the journey, but went immediately to the town
    with the messenger. The king called him in and in a private conversation asked him what truth there was in what had been told him of the principles and living of the people of the interior of Throndhjem, and if it really was so that they practised
    sacrifices to heathen gods. “I will,” says the king, “that you declare to me the things as they are, and as you know them to be true; for it is thy duty to tell me the truth, as you are my man.”

    Thoralde replies… (snip a bit)

    Then said Thoralde, “If I must say the truth, king, as it is, I must declare that in the interior of the Throndhjem land almost all the people are heathen in faith, although some of them are baptized. It is their custom to offer sacrifice in autumn for a
    good winter, a second at mid-winter, and a third in summer. In this the people of Eyna, Sparby, Veradal, and Skaun partake.

    There are twelve men who preside over these sacrifice-feasts; and in spring it is Olvir who has to get the feast in order, and he is now busy transporting to Maerin everything needful for it.”

    So we have a winter sacrifice, a mid-winter (Yule) sacrifice, and a summer sacrifice. Olaf turns up and kills Olvir, and disrupts the planning in the spiring, but I am at a loss as to whether the Spring festival constitutes a different festival, or is a preparation for the summer one? It may well hint at Osatra/Eostre worship, but Snorri writing two centuries after events does not seem to know the name.

    It may well be that future discoveries will throw light on my Scandinavian ancestors beliefs, and show a dawn goddess of that name existed, but for now I simply feel sorry for Olvir and the folks Olaf had murdered for their faiths, but little more convinced that this is more than a hint at a possible Osatra cultus.

    Thanks for the reference, and if anything else turns up do show me! I am rather passionate about learning about ancient Norse religion.

    cj x

  8. Aleks says:

    I have written about this myself. It is so pathetic the way people repeat the nonsense about Eostre the pagan Goddess that only existed according to a Christian MONK!

    Five Myths About Pascha (Easter)

  9. Cavalorn says:

    Oh thank goodness, a kindred spirit!

    http://cavalorn.livejournal.com/502368.html

  10. christina says:

    In human history there is collective consciousness, and memory. This is why the overwhelming majority of world myths are so similar to each other. As it says in Ecclesiastes, “there is nothing new under the sun”. For example; Babylonian goddess Ishtar/Astarte is the counterpart of Sumerian Inanna, counterpart of Phoenician Ashtoreth, counterpart of Canaanite Asherah, Teutonic Eostre (whom you contend never existed). One of Ishtar’s titles in ancient literature is “Light of the World”. The name “Ishtar” means, ‘star’. Interesting. The name “Esther” also means ‘star’. Very interesting. Most etymologists will say that the name “Easter” is derived from a) goddess Eostre, and/or b) from the German ‘dawn’, or ‘east’, coming from the root ‘aus’. All of the above goddesses were connected with love and fertility. In the Old Testament, goddess Asherah is called “the Queen of Heaven”.

    Do you not see the similarity in all these names, meanings, and themes? Why does almost every other language use a term for ‘easter’ that is derived from ‘pesach’ (Passover) or ‘resurrection’..except English and German? Why?

    The idea of using eggs and bunnies to celebrate the resurrection of Christ didn’t come from the Bible. So where did it come from? And if you believe they are purely Christian inventions, then why were people (aka pagans) using them to celebrate fertility and rebirth before Christianity?

    Many non Christians in the US celebrate Easter. They celebrate the coming spring time, they do egg hunts and tell their children about the easter bunny. Why? Because these things have absolutely NOTHING to do with the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

    Christmas is another topic, but I will say this; Jesus was born in the summer/early fall. So why do we celebrate His birth on December 25th? Which by the way, happens to coincide with the ancient pagan festivals of Saturnalia, the Winter Solstice, and Yule.

    • Cavalorn says:

      ‘Do you not see the similarity in all these names, meanings, and themes?’

      If you squint hard enough you can make anything look like anything else. A common linguistic root doesn’t mean that there was a common entity who somehow unites completely disparate ‘pagan’ regions.

      The great error is to think that ‘pagans’ were some sort of a homogenous mass with fundamental beliefs in common. They weren’t. It’s frankly ridiculous to think that an ancient Babylonian goddess would somehow pop up thousands of years and hundreds of miles away from her original site of worship, with a different hat on. What sort of process do people think took place to enable that? It’s simply the Error of Pagan Homogenity.

      ‘The idea of using eggs and bunnies to celebrate the resurrection of Christ didn’t come from the Bible. So where did it come from?’

      Eggs are a simple one to answer. Eggs were forbidden during Lent, which is why the household would use up its remaining eggs on Shrove Tuesday (and make pancakes, which is an excellent way to use up eggs.) When Easter came around, the Lenten feast was over, so you could have eggs again. That’s why eggs are connected to easter. It has NOTHING to do with ‘paganism’.

      The traditions concerning rabbits and hares are folk customs. There’s nothing intrinsically pagan about them either. The single mention there is of Eostre says nothing about a connection to rabbits or hares, and hares aren’t known to have been important in any pagan faith.

      It seems most likely that the Easter Hare was simply a cute way to explain to children where their decorated eggs had come from, just like the presents at Christmas coming from the Kriist Kindle, or the Tooth Fairy bringing money for teeth. Hares were abundant at that time of year, so why not claim they did it?

      • Coura says:

        Or quite possibly, hare, being a common food, was like what we think of as ham. The Easter meal to celebrate the end of Lent even for the poorest, ie the Easter Rabbit. I had someone once point out how the hare’s burrow may remind someone of the empty tomb with the stone rolled away (a hole, often with dirt around it.)

        The egg, I’ve had it pointed out more than once that it was often used as an allegory lesson for the trinity. The shell, the white and the yolk all being separate but one. It’s also much easier to show that and teach it to kids with a hard-boiled egg over a raw egg… personally I think the first egg hunts were contests to see what kid could find and gather the most eggs for the adults to eat and use. Get them out of the kitchen and busy doing something useful. Chickens don’t just nest in their roosts so it can be a hunt, and at spring the eggs become more abundant than in the winter, so I would bet there were many hunts through the spring and summer.

        Well written essay btw. This time of year I’m always looking for essays on this subject to save away for when my children spout the nonsense that Eostre=Easter. The Venerable Bede was basically disproven years ago as far as Easter goes, yet people still base the entire argument on him without fail, or else quote some fool verbatim without doing any thinking on their own.

        Even so, I tend to nudge my children towards the lamb this time of year over the bunny, and people forget that lambs have been a symbol of Easter for as long if not longer, but no one argues about what that means.

      • Kate JR says:

        I’m afraid sound as if you’re trying to fit older Pagan customs into Christianity, when in fact it is vice versa. Christianity assimilated the old Pagan customs. Pancake Day is most likely connected to the festival of Omelc or Imbolc of February 2nd, celebrating among other things, the first ewe’s milk and also ‘growing light’. Christians have adapted it for their celebration of Candlemass on the same day. You will find all our supposed Christian festivals are rooted in older Pagan customs. So using up eggs for Lent just sounds a bit like a convenient way of fitting Christianity or Shrove Tuesday around a much older custom. I notice too, that little has been mentioned the importance of the female fertility side of Easter. We have kept the name Easter precisely because of the importance of new beginning in nature which we have always celebrated. The eggs can’t be separated from the female deity, whether real or symbolic. Oestrogen comes from the same source, again associated with female fertility.

      • David says:

        Catholic is pagan

    • Shelby says:

      If one more person hints or explicitly says Jesus must have been born in spring because shepherds don’t stay in the fields in winter, I will have just one more laugh I suppose. Jesus didn’t live in Europe, but rather Judea, where the average winter temp is 65-70f. There is no “too cold” time in Israel. And even if winter was severe in Israel, when would shepherds stay in the fields? When there is little for wolves and asian lions to eat, or in summer when predators can have their pick of food? The modern silly ideas about why Jesus must have been born in spring comes from a lack of geographic knowledge, something we Americans are sadly infamous for lacking.

      • Its the lambs in the fields (not the shepherds) that makes me think its very possible Jesus was born in the Spring time. Lambs are usually born in the spring time. Not that I think its important what time of year He was born. I would imagine the shepherds would keep an eye on their flocks all year round.

      • David says:

        Thank you…this “article ” was ridiculous….I thought I was gonna have to type out what you did..lol…if you haven’t read the 2 Babylon’s by Alexander Hislop..a scholarly work…quite involved but it lays waste to this “non pagan assertion”…by the the way…the eggs were colored with baby blood…born of ritual temple prostitutes for the purpose of sacrifice to Astarte…fertility goddess…which goes back to the unholy Trinity of Cush..Nimrod and Semiramis..thank you again for blasting them…and Saturnalia…the god who eats his children is next…the book of Jeremiah speaks against the Christ mass tree(Nimrod) also..

    • David says:

      Thank you…this “article ” was ridiculous….I thought I was gonna have to type out what you did..lol…if you haven’t read the 2 Babylon’s by Alexander Hislop..a scholarly work…quite involved but it lays waste to this “non pagan assertion”…by the the way…the eggs were colored with baby blood…born of ritual temple prostitutes for the purpose of sacrifice to Astarte…fertility goddess…which goes back to the unholy Trinity of Cush..Nimrod and Semiramis..thank you again for blasting them…and Saturnalia…the god who eats his children is next…the book of Jeremiah speaks against the Christ mass tree(Nimrod) also..

  11. Leslie says:

    The Annual Rite Of The Eostre Holiday

    By James Donahue

    The celebration this weekend is to the pagan goddess of spring and fertility, Eostre. It was never meant for Jesus.

    The Roman Catholic Church scooped up the trappings of the pagan rites of spring the turned it into a celebration of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. In essence the holiday marks the end of winter, the rising of Ra, the Sun, and the rebirth of the green and growing foods from the earth.

    Labeled as the holiest holiday among Christians and Jews, for different reasons, the celebration has become a complex mixture of bunnies, baby chicks, painted chicken eggs, candies delivered in baskets filled with fake grass, and ladies wearing new spring hats. Some celebrate by going to church at sunrise because this is the time Jesus was allegedly supposed to have risen from the dead.

    Many of us wonder why Easter has become such a hodge-podge of traditions ranging from mysterious visits by Easter rabbits that bring gifts and candy to Easter Parades and the display of Lilies.

    The crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Jesus is part of the story, but this is part of an ancient pagan mythology that dates back to Semiramis, wife of Mesopotamian ruler Nimrod who declared herself mother of the reborn god Marduke. That was the first Jesus story. After Marduke came the Persian sun-god Mithra, the Egyptian solar god Horus, the Far Eastern god Buddha, and the Indian god Krishna. All of these follows died, some of them by crucifixion, then rose from the dead after three days. They promised to return and take all people who believed in them to heaven. Their life stories parallel the Bible story of Jesus.

    It was the Roman emperor Constantine who advanced the cause of Christianity after his conversion from the Mithraic cult. At the time he came to power, Rome ruled the known world, from Britain to North Africa. He made Christianity the official religion throughout Europe. From there it spread to the New World when the Europeans settled North America.

    The Americans carried the celebration of Easter to fantastically new levels than the folks in the old world ever did.

    The mixing of rabbits, colored eggs, candy and the other trappings of the holiday appear to have happened when the Christian holiday got mixed in with pagan rites of spring, which, when you get right down to it, is what Easter is really all about.

    For example, in the Western culture, Easter falls on the first Sunday following the full moon on or after the spring equinox on March 21. Thus Easter can occur as early as March 22 or as late as April 25. It may never fall on the real date that Jesus died. That he rose from the dead is a myth that is yet to be proven. The Jewish Passover is associated with the mix, since the Bible story maintains the crucifixion occurred during the time of this religious event as well.

    The spring celebrations once honored the pagan goddess Eostre, also known as Ishtar and Oestre. She was the goddess of spring and fertility. Thus the decorating of eggs, showing of blooming flowers and newborn animals like baby chickens all are symbols of newness and rebirth. The rabbit, known for its ability to reproduce its numbers quickly, also became a symbol for the fertility of the season.

    It is all about sex and the planting of crops for a new season. Notice too, that the very name of the goddess Eostre, Ishtar or Oestre is updated to the word Easter. The celebration, if you want to participate, is to her, not to Jesus. It has been so for thousands of years.

    There is a story about how the Easter Bunny came into being. It seems The Goddess Eostre took pity on a wounded bird that could no longer fly and transformed it into a white hare, then blessed it with the ability to lay eggs in many colors, but only on one day of each year. When the hare later offended Eostre, she banished it to the stars as the constellation Lepus. The hare was only permitted to return to earth on Eostre’s feast day each year and give its special eggs as gifts to the children.

    The Easter basket had it origins in Germany, where children traditionally placed their hats in secret places on the night before Easter. If they were good, they were told the “Oschter Haws” would leave colored eggs and treats in their hats. When the German immigrants came to America, the hats and bonnets evolved into baskets.

    There is another story that the coloring of eggs is a tradition that dates back to about the Thirteenth Century. It is said that eggs were a forbidden food for Catholics during the Lenten season, so people painted and decorated them to mark the end of the period of penance and fasting. They were eaten on Easter as part of the celebration.

    Easter egg hunts and egg rolling are contemporary and very American traditions. The first White House egg roll was started by President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1878. Some people think of egg rolling as symbolic of rolling the stone away from the tomb of Jesus.

    Easter candy mostly includes egg-shaped chocolates, rabbit shaped chocolates, and jelly beans, which look like small eggs. Sam Born invented the concept of the marshmallow Peep in the 1950s and that is now included among the traditional Easter candies.

    New Yorkers have held a traditional Easter Parade since the mid-1800s. This event was made popular by the 1948 film Easter Parade starring Fred Astaire and Judy Garland, with music by Irving Berlin. Now other cities across America also hold Easter Parades.

    • Shelby says:

      Actually Easter does fall on the real day Jesus died once every few years because he was crucified on the High Passover, which only occurs every so often. It is more true to say that most Easters don’t fall on the real day Jesus died.

  12. Pingback: Celebrating Eostre | Keeper of Seasons Hall

  13. C J says:

    Just seen a wonderful defense of the existence of Eostre which looks convincing from the Alburquerque Asatru community. I am delighted to see I may well be wrong and what I categorized as a remote possibility not so! will link when I get in later.

  14. Sorn says:

    Thank you for your kind words regarding our handout for the Keeper of Seasons Hall March 2012 meeting. I personally am still not entirely sure that there was a pre-conversion goddess by that name, but many of my fellow Heathens worship her in one guise or another. For our group’s discussion, I tried to present what evidence I knew of that could be used to argue for her existence, and, IMO, it’s pretty far from conclusive. Still, if the theories regarding the etymology of her name and regarding place- and personal-names linked to Eostre are correct, that’d be a petty solid indicator.

    Yours was one of the first internet posts I read that didn’t go on about some rabbit-headed goddess or red-clad woman turning birds into hares or explain that every Easter custom known to man was actually a celebration of Saxon (or, often, Celtic) Paganism. I appreciate your clarity and even-headedness in discussing the topic. I found it very useful in preparing for our meeting. Thank you for posting it.

    Have a great spring,

    Sorn

  15. You are morons says:

    Here we go again. Mindless Christians trying to cover up the facts that they’re Holidays we’re assimilated from existing Pagan holidays as is most of their mythology. Keep spreading your propaganda no one in there right mid is buying it. Your god is a lie and you are pathetic.

    • Chris Jensen Romer says:

      Have a look at Sorn’s great article pro-Eostre linked above. If you know of good historical evidence for an Easter festival before Christianity just post links and ill include it. Hutton referenced in my piece is no Christian — well not last time I met him at a moot anyway. He is a superb historian though. And check out the JREF or RationalSkepticism forums and start a thread on the historical issues and I’ll happily discuss it. I’m no apologist I’m happy to talk historical evidence.

      • Jason says:

        Remember, you’re dealing with someone who accuses others of being morons, while lacking the most basic grasp of spelling or grammar.

        What do you expect? Rational argument?

  16. Tony says:

    It’s all made up by man anyway, Christians like all other religions think their god is the only god, the new testament is not proof of gods existence or that of Jesus. Christianity usurped many pagan festivals, the solstices would have been very important to our ancestors as it marked the days lengthening or shortening and this can be proven by many structures that align to the sun or moon and even Venus, that were built thousands of years prior to Christianity. To say that Christianity did not engulf older beliefs just shows how blinked people can be.. Just because you believe something it does not make it true. And as for saying there is no written proof is also absurd as we know that our ancient ancestors had no written word… That we know of.
    Science and the quest for knowledge are the only god, believing in angels and unicorns is just a distraction from reality… There’s written proof that men decided on the direction of Christianity and what ideas / festivalsshould be included and what should be excluded. Take all the propaganda and fairy tale out of religion and there is a modicum of truth about the struggles/wars of our ancestors and how they used a god to explain what they didn’t understand..it doesn’t prove there was ever a god.. Science can show through evidence that the earth is billions of years old yet religion scorns it, but when science can be used to confirm some religious story they can’t praise it enough… It isn’t called ‘blind faith’ for nothing.. Blinded from reality. The human race would have been better off without religions and their wars… Too much evil has been done under the guise of religion..

  17. Cory Richardson says:

    Who ever you are that wrote this clearly don’t understand the bible. There are many scriptures that speaks against all these man holidays. No matter how you try to put it Most High God said not to follow in the custom of the heathens and there God’s.

  18. Pingback: Easter is Not a Goddess | For The Love Of Truth

  19. jack says:

    Well obviously in Christianity it is a festival but it was a festival for thousands of years before that and Christianity quite sensible appropriated it as they did with the Roman festival of Saturnalia, where people celebrated with family meals, decorated trees and gave presents. The Christians kept the festival but called it Christs birthday [christmas]. Quite sensible when they were forcing populations and cultures to convert to their new beliefs, kept the festivals just change their meaning.

    There were religions and festivals for thousands of years before the cult of Christianity gained ground and many of them like Zoroastrianism had the son of God, sun God’s…. the exact equivalent of Jesus [the Jewish fundamentalist]. Quite simple really. Mankind has always had festivals celebrating the changing of the seasons and the start of renewed life as in spring/easter.

    Feel free to believe what you want but don’t be so blind as to deny human history just because you choose to worship one of the thousands of religions of mankind and one that is a very recent new comer.

    Happy easter/pesach,spring equinox or whatever you choose to call the celebration of rebirth that is spring as represented by the egg and has been for thousands of years before the term Christianity was ever thought up.

    • Chris Jensen Romer says:

      Hey Jack,

      Well as I have just written in another comment, to me this is not primarily a religious question but a historical one. Certainly Zoroastrianism had a strong influence on many of the early religions of the Near East, and you are quite right to point to it. What I am not convinced at all by is the idea that the solstices were important in pagan antiquity – I would recommend having a look round for evidence thereof. Saturnalia is interesing, but not a solstice festival as often asserted. I have written a long critique on this blog of ideas that Christianity derives directly from Mithriasm byw, that might amuse you. The best source for the holidays history is probably Professor Ronald Hutton’s magisterial Seasons of the Sun – well worth reading – and Ron is, or at least was last time i saw him a pagan and a druid. 😀

      As to your final point, I could not agree more. Have a wonderful holiday!
      cj x

  20. A. N. Atheist says:

    Well, I know what I believe and it certainly is nothing to do with the Christian religion. Jesus was simply a very clever man who had the ability to lead people.

    • Chris Jensen Romer says:

      Hey A.N! As you rightly surmised I am a Christina, but to me this is a historical question not one about whose religion is right. I think the historical origins of Easter are firmly rooted in the Jewish Passover, but you can celebrate however you choose. Have a great holiday! And you might want to check out the forum http://www.rationalskepticism.com – great people, 99% atheist, many of whom have become dear friends of mine. If you do take a look say Jerome sent you, and there is plenty to discuss and chat about and some laughs too. 🙂 Have a good weekend man.
      cj x

  21. So “Easter” is not based on the myth that the other guy said, it’s based on the myth that you and a lot more people said. It is not based on some anecdotal history lost to time, it is based on the most popular anecdotal tome to the western world. And if Easter can be linked to the hero of that pseudo-history, than all other claims of that book and claims of its adherents are also granted to be fact-based: transubstantiation of crackers into flesh, resurrection of corpses, spiritual control of atmospheric phenomena. When you have won this argument, what have you really won in terms of progressive thought?

    • Chris Jensen Romer says:

      Histrorical fact? That has to be a fight worth having. Obviously nothing else follows from it: but it is always worth applying sceptical critiques to pseudo-history? I’d argue just as passionately about ANY bad history, on principle.

      cj x

  22. Pingback: Ash Wednesday/Lent >Pagan origins, against Christ's command. - Page 36 - Christian Forums

  23. Chantelle says:

    Please learn your history first. Paganism is the oldest religion there is, the Catholic church copied the pagan holidays so that they could convert the Pagans

  24. TheHappyHeretic says:

    Wow, amazing ignorant. Next you’ll be spreading some drivel about your god actually existing and Winter Solstice is really a christian holiday…

  25. Chris Jensen Romer says:

    I’m mildy amused at being disagreed with by a Baptist and an atheist in less than an hour! I stick by my analysis — as a historian. And yes HappyHeretic, go look on the JREF forum or RationalSkepticism forum (both major skeptic and atheist hang outs) and you will find that my position is generally considered historically sound there. If you have evidence tot he contrary, just post it 😉

    cj x

  26. Joe Ivik says:

    Any excuse to push the religious hand-cart in everyone’s face by dispelling pagan rituals thousands of years before the invention of an Arab criminal nailed to a tree in the Middle East, and no-one had Western names like Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Gabriel, Adam, Eve, Joseph, Mary…..then up comes Jesus, still used today in the Middle East with the real pronunciation, Hayzus!

  27. Even if we don’t find Eostre mentioned a lot, doesn’t mean she was never worshipped.
    There are many gods and goddesses lost to us either because they were local, or simply lost stories about them.

    But you make a few bold claims that you are confident debunk the pagan origins, so let’s start by debunking some of your debunks.
    Firstly, you claim that outside of the English world, Easter is never named that. Well, what about the German word for ‘Easter month’…Ostermonat? That is Oster (Easter) monat(month). Now, as far as I’m aware, that’s not an English speaking nation. Not to mention that English is so named after the Angles, which were after all a Germanic tribe and English is a Germanic language.

    But what about Einhard? The monk at the court of Charlesmagne? He called April Eostremonat too, surely that makes two different people in different countries calling it by the same name and the fact it was at the court of the most Christian leader of this time? Not to mention that Bede was a Christian, who would surely have been much happier inventing the traditions at easter as being Christian rather than a pagan Goddess?
    Also, when it is stated that only Bede has mentioned this goddess, that means only the origin and meaning of such a goddess is found in his work. But surprising as it may seem, there have been inscriptions of her name found, so whilst it may be somewhat of a mystery, it is most likely not invented, and would be too much of an etymological coincidence.

    But putting aside the whole date of Easter and looking at the celebrations everyone is familiar with, let’s see just how ‘Christian’ this celebration is, since you are sure it is a Christian festival.

    One thing is for sure, there were no rabbits in Israel at the time of Jesus, but there were hares.
    The problem is though, that they were seen as unclean, and thus not something to venerate, like we all do at Easter.
    Folk tradition also has incidents of placing things like painted eggs in groves and by springs (still seen in the idea of the egg hunt). This is very pagan in nature, as Christians did their rituals within closed spaces.

    If this was a Christian festival, we would see far less attention being paid to nature and to animals. Last time a biblical character gave so much praise to an animal, Moses got angry for worshipping a bull.

    The truth is that we do not have enough evidence to say who Eoste was, but one thing is for sure, there is far more evidence to support a pagan origin to our Easter than a Christian one. If you disagree, then please, do link up our traditions to Jesus’ death? Was there a hare present? Did they place painted eggs before him? Did people in Judah even have the word Easter or some variation of it in their vocabulary?

    Happy pagan easter

  28. Roxanne says:

    Jesus died on Passover, was buried of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and rose on the holy day called First Fruits because Jesus is the First Fruit. Coincidence ? Moses delivered the Ten Commandments on Shauvout. Pentecost happened on Shavout. Coincidence?

    There are many such biblical coincidences. Every major event in scripture happens according to God’s calendar with its biblicly appointed Holy Days. You won’t notice these coincidences if you are following Pope Gregory’s calendar.

    Easter and Christmas are not biblical. Pagan or not, there is every indication in scripture that we should not be following the traditions of men but rather worship God in the way that pleases Him. Moreover, we loose a lot of understanding by not keeping the biblicly mandated Feasts. When we observe Passover we can easily see that “communion” is merely an excerpt from the 3rd cup of wine used in a Passover (Seder) meal.

    Jesus’s “last supper” was a Passover meal. We can also better understand the wine and unleavened bread elements if we observe Passover. The matzah bread is pierced and striped, as Jesus was pierced and striped. The Matzah bread is also covered in linen only to be hidden (buried) and then taken out again during the Passover meal.

    Centuries of anti-semitism have disconnected us from the Jewish roots of our faith. This makes it hard for either Jews to convert or for Christians to truly understand the cultural context of the scripture.

    A lot is lost. Want to regain it? Visit http://www.passionfortruth.com

  29. JC says:

    No one has provided any proof of any god. Full stop. At least my gods are fun.

    “no one has ever found any evidence for the existence of this Goddess, outside of the Christian monk Bede…”

    If you can provide PRIMARY evidence of a god, or Jesus then post away. And no, you can’t quite the bible; not PRIMARY evidence. Nice try.

  30. Corey says:

    Umm you still didn’t cover Ishtar and many other names that (do not sound the same) but had the same festivals on as Easter after them as worship. The name may be irreverent but the way they celebrated them is the exact way we celebrate Easter. God warns about people who worship Tammuz and Ishtar in the bible. it even goes so far to say that people were celebrating a holiday to the queen of heaven. Ishtar is the queen of heaven. painted eggs got their origins as a fertility practice around 2000 BC, they would make cuts on babies and use their blood to paint the eggs for fertility reasons. the Easter hare or Rabbit or bunny was also used as a sign of fertility because how fast they reproduce. even ancient Asian cultures used eggs in a worshipful practice of fertility. pointing to Anglo Saxon accounts is like saying the NIV was the first bible

  31. Pingback: Easter is the correct word in Acts 12:4 and this is why, a post by Will J. Kinney | Badmanna's Blog

  32. Pingback: Will Kinney on “Easter” in Acts 12:4 « Providentially Preserved

  33. mekab02 says:

    Easter is mentioned one time in the bible. I’m the book of acts. Herod had killed James and was going to kill Peter but Easter was coming up. Now how can someone who were killing people who were preaching about Christ and the things he taught celebrate the death and resurrection of him.

  34. mekab02 says:

    Acts 12:4……read it….how can someone who was killing the apostles because of Christ celebrate a holiday relating to his death and resurrection. I don’t know about all these other books but purple who believe in the bible should read this and then choose

  35. Digg says:

    “…but no one has ever found any evidence for the existence of this Goddess…”

    Is that the best point to predicate your article on? Shouldn’t that be the litmus test for the existence of any god and the holidays based on their religions?

  36. John says:

    Very funny.

    One group ridicules the accuracy of Bede, but promotes the bible as knowing better? Only in social science ‘research’.

    Keep it up guys. World Peace has never been as far away…

    • Chris Jensen Romer says:

      Who mentioned the Bible? This is a question of historical etymology not religious truth.

      • Talon says:

        Shh.. using reason to distinguish concepts like “etymology” and “truth” is confusing to those who cannot be bothered to carefully read or understand context. Many love a good hate, especially targeting the Church, so naturally, caution and consideration give way to uncharitable drive-by remarks. It’s a shame you have to explain this, but it is a symptom of a larger problem: crack-pot skeptics.

  37. vlbrown says:

    Seriously? Your argument is “no evidence for the existence of this Goddess”???

  38. Mark Van Order says:

    You are quite right in your assertion that Easter isn’t a pagan holiday. However, your assertion that, because Bede was a monk, he is a purely Christian scholar is wrong. If you know your history at all, you’ll know that the monasteries were the centers of learning and study. But by the time he wrote, most if not all of the non-Christian holidays had either been suppressed or subsumed by the Christian churches. And I have a feeling Bede was much more of a scholar than you’ll ever be, as he at least admitted there was a celebration in honor of a fertility goddess, and that her name was Eostre. Or did he make the name up out of whole cloth, as you seem to do with the rest of your argument? At least you admit that the traditions of rabbits and eggs, both fertility symbols, were co-opted by the Christians. But that was done purely as a way of subsuming the fertility rites surrounding the spring equinox (a time of rebirth), and thus the rest of the pagan celebration, in the Christian mythos. Do a little archaeological research and you’ll find the symbols well predate the Common Era.

    • Chris Jensen Romer says:

      Mark please provide evidence of pre-Christian soltice celebrations anywhere in any culture? I’ve not found one. It’s a Frazerian myth. And while eggs are commonly depicted in Neolithic art and Hare goddesses are common you will find the consensus of historians is neither actually are associated with Easter until quite late. The Easter Egg is 13th century – the Easter Bunny 16th. Neither derived from paganism.

      • Philsco says:

        So is everything on this page wrong, then?
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C4%92ostre

      • Chris Jensen Romer says:

        No about 10% 😉 other bits are just very questionable – the maters and matrons bit is true but a bit misleading. I ought to write an updated article here! 🙂

      • Philsco says:

        …well, for pre-Christian solstice celebrations…I mean Yule, right? That’s definitely pre-Christian.
        Not taking one side or another here (as I don’t care much for either give nor take on this), but that IS one.

      • Chris Jensen Romer says:

        Good one Philsco but Yule is not recorded before the 4th century and basically means midwinter months – there were two Yule Months. The saga of Haakon the Good mentions a Yule festival, which is moved to meet the Christian date. So Yule is only known later, and the feast was in January. See Stations of the Sun by Professor Ronald Hutton (himself a pagan) for a great discussion of this.

  39. Kate JR says:

    I’m afraid sound as if you’re trying to fit older Pagan customs into Christianity, when in fact it is vice versa. Christianity assimilated the old Pagan customs. Pancake Day is most likely connected to the festival of Omelc or Imbolc of February 2nd, celebrating among other things, the first ewe’s milk and also ‘growing light’. Christians have adapted it for their celebration of Candlemass on the same day. You will find all our supposed Christian festivals are rooted in older Pagan customs. So using up eggs for Lent just sounds a bit like a convenient way of fitting Christianity or Shrove Tuesday around a much older custom. I notice too, that little has been mentioned the importance of the female fertility side of Easter. We have kept the name Easter precisely because of the importance of new beginning in nature which we have always celebrated. The eggs can’t be separated from the female deity, whether real or symbolic. Oestrogen comes from the same source, again associated with female fertility.

    • Chris Jensen Romer says:

      Hey Kate

      It is important to recognise the association of the season with fertility: historically though mid – February is more so in Western Europe. Imbolc as a Celtic festival is only known from 1000AD onwards – and Ireland had not been pagan for four centuries by our first reference. Ireland was one of the most fervently Christian places at the time, and the notion that the Celts marked the solstices in pagan antiquity is a 19th century idea as far as I can see.

      Oestrogen is a good idea, but it derives from the Latin and before that the Attic Greek word for passion or frenzy, and that is attested back to the third century BC so Greek paganism but not a Celtic goddess. You may well be right though in that Bede may well be referring to a real Celtic goddess by a word that meant roughly “frenzied lust” in Latin, or a stinging insect. Definitely a good possibility – his name for the goddess is actually an abusive nickname?

      The problem with the idea of syncretism and adaptation of pagan festivals is generally the Christians were unrelentingly hostile to paganism. Bede actively makes his case for syncretism, and adapting older practices but there is little evidence his sensible plan actually occurred much.

      • Kate JR says:

        Hi, nice try, Chris, but it’s well documented that February 1st/2nd is an old Pagan celebration that predates Christianity. It’s in fact the celebration of St Brigit and Brigit is the ancient goddess associated with childbirth, poetry and the hearth among other things. The British Isles were Pagan long before they were Christian and many of the ancient customs are still celebrated in some form or other.

        Oestrogen is not simply a ‘good idea’ as you bizarrely put it, Easter comes from the same root! Oestrus meaning a ‘recurring period of sexual receptivity and fertility in many females’ which of course is what Easter is about, new life and birth! You may prefer your misogynistic version, maybe because, as with many a follower of patriarchal religions, you have a problem with female sexuality, I suspect, hence your preference for ‘an abusive nickname’ rather than the giver of new life. It’s not rocket science to see this is the symbolism of Easter eggs.

        You will find across cultures, similar myths and archetypes, to represent the cyclical aspect of nature, birth and rebirth…

        Certainly stories in the Bible are full of hostility to the older pagan and heathen religions but historicallt invading cultures often assimilate aspects of the cultures they invade, so we end up with a hybrid.

      • Chris Jensen Romer says:

        It is often asserted – but not well documented. The two are not the same thing. In fact there is nothing from the pre-Christian era about Brigit or Imbolc — every reference we have is from Christian sources.

        The notion that pagan survivals lasted centuries of Christian oppression to emerge as folklore in the 19th century one, but like Margaret Murray’s witch cult survival hypothesis i don’t think historians take it seriously as they once did.

        We can’t know much about Celtic and British/Irish paganism except through the distorting mirror of hostile Christian writers.

        From a spiritual perspective the fact the Goddess might not have been known by that name hardly strikes me as important. Wicca has created it’s own modern cycle of festivals – the fact they may not be authentically ancient doesn’t matter. I don’t see why you think I’m a big fan of Patriarchy either but never mind.

        I’m not arguing spiritual validity. I’m arguing history. Find any evidence for the pagan antiquity of these things in artefacts, statues, inscriptions or the ancient poems and we can look at the evidence. I’m always happy to do that and be proved wrong! 🙂

      • Kate Jay-R says:

        “every reference we have is from Christian sources” and as we all know Christian sources are oh so reliable and not at all lost, edited, written years later…

        “The notion that pagan survivals lasted centuries of Christian oppression to emerge as folklore in the 19th century one, but like Margaret Murray’s witch cult survival hypothesis i don’t think historians take it seriously as they once did.” – I’m finding it hard to make sense of this sentence…but what we do know is that Christians built their crosses over ancient stone sites

        As for evidence and artefacts, perhaps you might care to read some Merlin Stone for a wider perspective, and collation of the research and evidence on the ancient matriarchal societies and the role they played…

      • Chris Jensen Romer says:

        Yes that’s my point. The Christian sources are not reliable depictions of pagan antiquity, and much of what we think we know about the pagan period is romantic 19th century reconstructions of what might have been. I’d recommend Ron Hutton ‘ s Stations of The Moon.

  40. simeon vandeventer says:

    Would it not make more sense to put your “Update” at the top of the article, so readers are not forced subjected to the article proposing a thesis that has no legs after the update?

  41. beep says:

    No one has ever directly stated that you are an idiot, but…if you actually believe that Jesus was resurrected, you might be. Deny all you like, he’s dead and is not coming back, and there is no dude up in the sky wearing a white robe with angels flitting all round him.

    • Chris Jensen Romer says:

      I may well be a total idiot. However this is a historical question not a religious one, so your critique isn’t really relevant?

    • john stott says:

      yup, jesus slowly rolled away the stone, while the roman soldiers watched in amazement as their death sentences were being executed inch by inch. for surely, allowing the body of a prisoner, dead or alive, to mysteriously disappear is a crime of capital offense. get real. jesus supernaturally transcended this planet…or maybe he disappeared in to the unknown caverns of the tomb, taken away by wild mystical animals of the underworld. this myth seems more plausible to skeptics like you…so who’s story is more logical? happy resurrection day, happy redemption weekend, and best of all, happy reconciliation holiday. really though, the best thing about easter, if i’m honest, is the chocolate.

      • Chris Jensen Romer says:

        I think they were paid to keep quiet and keep out of trouble by saying the disciples stole the body if I recall Matthew 28 correctly John.

  42. Druweid says:

    An interesting essay, to be sure, but not one which I would agree to be characterized as “good.” Your entire premise could be summarized in a single statement: “I have not seen it, therefore it has never existed.” While you have may have presented an adequate argument to support a notable lack of support for a singular concept, you have not presented a single shred of evidence to support outright refutation of the concept as a whole. This fallacious argument may be charaterised as a “absence of proof is not proof of absence,” or “Argument from ignorance” fallacy.

    I found your statement, “…provide evidence of pre-Christian soltice celebrations anywhere in any culture,” to be particularly disturbing, and one blatantly devoid of factual support. One need only look to Pre-Gregorian Roman calendars and the Coligny calendar to find proof of two basic concepts in direct contradiction with your statement: 1) Pre-Christian religious observances were recorded as occurring on monthly and yearly cycles, and 2) Calendars were based on a yearly cycle of seasons, i.e., the solstices and equinoxes (albeit, in addition to lunar and astrological cycles).

    If even the earliest calendars, for which we have an abundance of physical evidence, recorded the passage of time based on the solstices, reasonable logic dictates a very high likelihood that *before* the concept of a formal calendar came into being, people as a whole recorded time in a similar manner. This is further emphasized by pre-Christian Europe being a primarily agricultural society, as early as ca. 5,000 BCE in specific areas (e.g., Hallstatt), and ca. 2,000 BCE as a whole. Iron Age society did not begin in Europe until ca. 1,200 BCE, and not in Britain until ca. 800 BCE, coincidentally around the time calendars were first being developed. There is little that could be more significant to the ancient farmers than the cycle of the seasons, since it likely dictated a strict schedule of planting and harvesting. As such, days of significance, i.e. worthy of observance, (religious or otherwise) would most likely be based on the solstices and equinoxes.

    As archaeological and anthropological data is acquired and examined, we tend to find more support for this concept than the concept that religious celebrations are a product of Roman-Britain or Christian influence.

    • Chris Jensen Romer says:

      Yep much sound sense. However the notion the solstices were observed in a religious manner is not supported by history, myth or the archaeological evidence. I made my challenge based on more than a little reading, and my thesis was a critique of the development of the astroarchaeology of Alexander Thom etc and idea of Neolithic astronomy and the megalithic yard.

      I don’t doubt seasons are important (and widely variant on geography) – I just don’t think they were marked in a religious context. That is a 19th century idea not a reality of antiquity. It comes from crude Frazerian notions of religion as primitive science, as does the X was God of (physical phenomena) Y conceit that really works in D&D but isn’t true of ancient paganism.

      • Druweid says:

        The “notion” that Sol Invictus and Saturnalia were celebrated on, or in conjunction to, the Winter Solstice certainly does exist. What does *not* exist, of course, is empirical evidence, I’ll give you that. There are arguments on both sides, and both are fully subjective. The one fact, however, that you cannot avoid is that while information exists regarding the celebrations of both Roman holidays in the first and second centuries, there is *not one* mention of the celebration of the birth of Jesus in December until Constantine in the fourth century. It also bears mentioning that in 1659, in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, it was declared *illegal* to celebrate Christmas, since the Puritan Pilgrims considered it to be (do you want to sit down for this one?) a Pagan holiday. In their own words: “For preventing disorders arising in several places within this jurisdiction, by reason of some still observing such festivals as were superstitiously kept in other countries, to the great dishonor of God & offense of others, it is therefore ordered …”

        Clearly, the dispute over the validity of Dec 25 being the birth of Jesus is hardly a modern invention.

        Also, the “notion” that the summer solstice was *never* celebrated with religious observances is simply inaccurate. There is a wealth of information on such Summer celebrations, as well as the church’s efforts to supplant such holidays with St. John’s Day. In the 7th century, Saint Eligius wrote “No Christian on the feast of Saint John or the solemnity of any other saint performs solestitia [summer solstice rites] or dancing or leaping or diabolical chants.” Surely he was not referring to, and recommending against, rites that did not exist.

  43. jack briggs says:

    Jesus never existed either :/ he certainly never came back from the dead, so why be so salty that a holiday made up about a false myth is names after a Germanic god

    • Chris Jensen Romer says:

      Whatever you think about the truth of Christianity the existence of a historical Jesus is pretty solid. I spend a lot of my life debunking bollocks because it’s fun to occasionally introduce facts in to the world. We all work.on heuristic shortcuts and tend to believe stuff because others tell us it so, but I enjoy checking sources and upsetting apple carts. 😉

  44. Fern Miller says:

    Why don’t you christians celebrate your jesus when the jews celebrate passover? Which begins in the evening of Friday, April 22 and ends in the evening of Saturday, April 30, 2016.

    • Chris Jensen Romer says:

      No idea Fern. I have often wondered that. I will have a look at my books and post here if I find out but yes clearly Passover would make sense. The date of Easter certainly caused controversy for 5 centuries – the Celtic church accepted the normal one at the Synod of Whitby as I recall.

  45. Frank the Easter Bunny says:

    It is unbelievable that Christians are so clueless about the origins of their holidays. You have a Christian say it’s not a pagan holiday, rather than actual historians, and you’re all happy to have heard it and run with it to keep the comforting delusion going. Yep, as with all things, heads in the sand. I won’t read anyone’s response because we all know there’s much non-sense to claim with facts by the religious, regardless of which religion it happens to be that the believer claims from, based on the geographical location of their birth\. Such movie popcorn eating fodder!

    • Chris Jensen Romer says:

      I am a historian though (former university lecturer in subject). I just did not think that was particularly relevant here?

  46. Religion weakens the mind says:

    Jesus is as real as Eostre.

  47. Adam says:

    I think and feel you are wrong. But hey, that’s what conjecture and personal interpretations are about. The fact is, you don’t know. I don’t know. And no one really knows. However, historical fact and documentation says you’re only holding half the cards and hiding a few. Instead of taking a standoffish approach, perhaps one would benefit more by trying to bridge the gap. Food for thought.

  48. fuzzysdoll says:

    “but no one has ever found any evidence for the existence of this Goddess, outside of the Christian monk Bede”
    Well, it’s about even, because there is NOTHING about Jesus’ existence outside one book. Actually, half a book. The NT.
    And two of the gospels were badly copied from Mark, and the first gospel wasn’t written till 70 AD, around the temple destruction, so…..second-hand legend.
    Cargo cult.

  49. john stott says:

    yup, jesus slowly rolled away the stone, while the roman soldiers watched in amazement as their death sentences were being executed inch by inch. for surely, allowing the body of a prisoner, dead or alive, to mysteriously disappear is a crime of capital offense. get real. jesus supernaturally transcended this planet…or maybe he disappeared in to the unknown caverns of the tomb, taken away by wild mystical animals of the underworld. this myth seems more plausible to skeptics like you…so who’s story is more logical? happy resurrection day, happy redemption weekend, and best of all, happy reconciliation holiday. really though, the best thing about easter, if i’m honest, is the chocolate.

  50. dave says:

    Yes, and bunnies and chicks have nothing to do with fertility or the transition to spring time. It just happened to be that bunnies lives at the base of Jesus’ cross. Also, they use chocolate because it’s the same color of the cross (eating white chocolate on Easter might actually be a sin). Also, Jesus was born on December 25th (I guess this means that he was miraculously able to be born twice; once on Dec 25 in the eastern hemisphere and again on the 25th in the western hemisphere, or maybe he was on a supersonic jet, so Mary’s labor stretched across time zones. Or maybe it was Santa’s Sleigh which has to go incredibly fast in order to cover the entire globe in a single night. Though this would pose a slight problem, because either jets or Santa would have to exist before Jesus. It was just a coincidence that this time coincided with the celebration of the winter solstice. No early Christian were persecuted by the Romans, so they didn’t have to disguise their celebrations so as to coincide with already existing pagan holidays.

    Seriously, stop taking yourselves so seriously. There is plenty of room for al of us to celebrate and believe whatever we want.

    • Kate Jay-R says:

      And in the Russian Orthodox church he was born on January 7th!

      • Chris Jensen Romer says:

        Which is December 25th in their calendar! 🙂

      • Kate Jay-R says:

        I have to laugh when here you are wanting historical fact and yet you as a Christian (presumably) don’t have any problem believing something that has no basis in historical or scientific fact: that Jesus is the son of God. Hmmm…

  51. ansilatoms says:

    Oh good grief, you’re an idiot. To even suggest that pre-Christian cultures didn’t essentially celebrate Spring is purely bone-headed. Oh, I could be kinder, and more eloquent, but I really don’t want the waste the time to type, beyond at least calling you out. Dip.

    • Chris Jensen Romer says:

      Mark spring sure. Hold religious festivals on the solstices? Ok show your evidence. That’s all you have to do to prove me wrong. Inscriptions, documents from the time, that sort of thing. You know, hard evidence. Should be easy right? 😉

    • Kate Jay-R says:

      Totally agree ansilatoms, it’s not giving the more enlightened Christians a good name when someone is afflicted with such same tunnel vision they are blind to the obvious Pagan origins of Easter…

  52. Edward Taylor says:

    Easter is a pagan holiday going back to the year 800. Easter came the worship of eostre a ancient Saxon goddess. That is a fact. Here is a website if anybody wants to look that and research it. The website is http://www.truth be known.com I am a mythologist so I know the facts.

    • Chris Jensen Romer says:

      So how do you account for all the references to Easter by writers before that date for 700 years? Things like the Synod of Whitby
      https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synod_of_Whitby

      • Melanie Spice says:

        Your calendar is broken. The council of Nicea was during the reign of Constantine (who was made emperor in Eboracum, now York, Yorkshire) in the forth century. That’s when the current Christian calendar and bible was made up.

      • Chris Jensen Romer says:

        The Council of Nicea had nothing to do with the Bible – it was about Arianism. Have you been reading Dan Brown? The books in the Bible long predate it obviously but the exact final canon was a subject of controversy – but not at Nicea. I’m confused by what you mean. Look up the Muratorian Fragment on Wikipedia.

        And York rocks. Great city.

      • Melanie Spice says:

        The pagan celebration around the Spring Equinox definitely took place in Roman and pre-Roman Britain.

  53. Edward Taylor says:

    You can’t say eostre never existed because neopaganism is older than Christianity. Neopaganism is 40,000yrs old. All religious beliefs including Christian beliefs are myths.

  54. Melanie Spice says:

    But all the gods are mythical. The christian god is no more real than the pagan ones. So how can you say easter is truly a christian festival. There’s no justification for that what so ever. If you go purely on how old it is then the pagan one wins out. Just saying “our mythical sky daddy is better than your mythical sky mummy” is not justification.

    • Chris Jensen Romer says:

      This is a question of history and etymology (origin of words) not religion so regardless of your beliefs or lack thereof the argument stands.

    • Kate Jay-R says:

      Aye, you can say it until you’re blue in the face, Melanie, but logic doesn’t seem to have entered the OP’s head. Misogyny and delusion are deep-rooted in Western culture..and when we try and reclaim ‘the old religion’ and redress the balance, out comes the misogynistic, delusional, ‘my way is the only way’ claptrap

      • Chris Jensen Romer says:

        Look go and read http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Triumph-Moon-History-Witchcraft/dp/0192854496 by Professor Ronald Hutton who if you are a pagan you must have heard of.

        My problem is not your religious beliefs or gender. My problem is you are factually wrong on history. I get on fine with every pagan I know – I’m not some bigot, and BadWitch or Tressy at the LGT will vouch that I am not a bigot I’m sure. I’m a historian, and you are stuck on some ideas discarded a long time ago.

      • Kate Jay-R says:

        “My problem is you are factually wrong on history.”

        My problem is that most people have shown that you are factually wrong historically, but you reject any evidence that doesn’t fit in with your fixed belief. What is ‘historical fact’ is open to dispute, change and rejection in the light of new or conflicting evidence. History is fluid and selective.

        I’m not a devout Pagan…although celebrating the seasons and their meanings definitely resonates with me. But the festival of Easter is not Christian in origin. The clue is in the name and I don’t want to go round in circles any more. I suggest you read through all the posts and read the suggested links. The Christian festival is man-made to fit in with a man-made religion and superimposed on an older festival as has been done with all the church festivals.

      • Chris Jensen Romer says:

        No one has shown I am factually wrong. In fact if you check out the literature you will discover pretty much any book published in the last 25 years agrees. And yes Easter derives quite clearly from the Jewish Passover – and in every country before the Saxons including here under the Celts was called Påske, Paschen or similar just as it still is in every country outside Britain 🙂

      • Kate Jay-R says:

        Except Jews don’t recognise Christ…ergo your argument falls down…

      • Chris Jensen Romer says:

        Correct – but Christianity appropriated Passover (when Jesus crucified) and made it about Jesus not the Paschal lamb. It’s the celebration of Jesus sacrifice replacing the Jewish one. And it is all extensively documented in many many books written at the time. It’s based on the Lunar Jewish Calendar – why it moves as it does – and this year by coincidence it fell near the Spring Equinox but most years it is weeks away from it…

      • Kate Jay-R says:

        “And it is all extensively documented in many many books written at the time.” Which are historically accurate how??

      • Chris Jensen Romer says:

        Well Eusebius writing about 300 records the change in celebration date from 14th Nisan to the nearest Sunday…

        “A question of no small importance arose at that time [i.e. the time of Pope Victor I, about A.D. 190]. The dioceses of all Asia, according to an ancient tradition, held that the fourteenth day of the moon [of Nisan], on which day the Jews were commanded to sacrifice the lamb, should always be observed as the feast of the life-giving pasch (epi tes tou soteriou Pascha heortes ἐπὶ ταῖς τοῦ σωτηρίου Πάσχα ἑορταῖς), contending that the fast ought to end on that day, whatever day of the week it might happen to be.

        However it was not the custom of the churches in the rest of the world to end it at this point, as they observed the practice, which from Apostolic tradition has prevailed to the present time, of terminating the fast on no other day than on that of the Resurrection of our Saviour.”

      • Kate Jay-R says:

        Well, that’s really historically accurate, not. You can’t place any historical importance on something written at least a couple of hundred years AD! As a social science graduate I know only too well the inaccuracies of recording an event in writing even as it HAPPENS. You will get many different versions of the same event. Add a few hours, days, weeks, and the events get distorted even more. Months, even more of the wheels fall off (like Chinese whispers). Decades, and the original event is likely to have little similarity to the original as insignificant bits get embellished and important bits get omitted and new bits get added for good measure. Centuries and…well, you see the problem, don’t you?

      • Chris Jensen Romer says:

        Yes but i’m not claiming Eusebius was necessarily accurate about events in 190. What is clear though is by the time he was writing around 300 Easter was generally celebrated on a Sunday and everybody knew it came from Passover. And all this was six centuries before the single reference to Eostre in Bede…

      • Kate Jay-R says:

        “What is clear though is by the time (Eusebius) was writing around 300 Easter was generally celebrated on a Sunday and everybody knew it came from Passover.”

        You say on the one hand want historical accuracy, but on the other hand, you make these wild claims with comments such as ‘everybody knew’ and ‘generally celebrated on a Sunday’ that you then pass off as being accurate 300 years after the event!

        Anyway, off to get some shut eye now. Night night!

      • Chris Jensen Romer says:

        Night! 🙂 Catch me in Cheltenham or Exeter some time and we can debate.

  55. Matthew S says:

    You are forgetting Ishtar, the goddess similar to Eostre aka Ostara.
    You do realise that almost all of the supposed christian holidays are borrowed from both Jewish holidays and Pagan holidays. Heck, even the supposed birth of Jesus is a pagan holiday. Evidence supports that jesus was born well before December 25th, which just so happens to fall after the end of the pagan holidays.
    Or perhaps the very beginning of lent, which just so happens to coincide with the feast of dionysus.
    Please, before you rant about how christians invented easter, know that the very person you worship, was quite possibly also an invention.

    • Chris Jensen Romer says:

      Ishtar was worshipped 3,500 miles and 1,000 years away from the alleged Eostre. There is no connection at all, beyond what I assume was a parody meme circulated by the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science. Go look at RationalSkepticism.com or whatever the JREF forum is called now and they will tell you this is bollocks.

      And type Mithras or Christmas in to the search engine on my blog to see my other articles.

      And why does everyone assume I’m a Christian? I am now but I can assure you I argued this when I was a member of the Pagan Fed just as much.

      • j says:

        The “queen of heaven” was given many names by the many cultures that celebrated–and still celebrate–her occultic, abomidable ways. If you really want to know the truth… ask God.

  56. Adam says:

    The Sciptures say, “Test everything, hold on to what is good.” -1 Thes 5:21. Also, Jesus said, “Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” -Matt 7:20-21. I would challenge you to change the perspective of your question. Instead of asking, “Is Easter pagan?”, why don’t you ask, “Is Easter Biblical?” Do any of the patriarchs, prophets, apostles or Jesus Himself celebrate it? Does God ever command His children to celebrate it in the Scriptures? Is the date/timing of Easter ever mentioned in the Bible? Do the Scriptures ever refer to Jesus as the Easter Bunny? Do the Scriptures ever compare Jesus as an Easter Egg? The answer to every one of these questions is a deafening NO. According to the Scriptures Easter is not “Christian” (meaning “Christ-like”). Now, on the contrary… Do any of the patriarchs, prophets, apostles of Jesus Himself celebrate Passover? Does God ever command His children to celebrate Passover? Is the date/timing of Passover ever mentioned in the Bible (the council of Nicea decided to distance itself from God’s Word in Leviticus 23 and instead adopt a date of their own based not on the moon but the equinox)? Do the Scriptures ever refer to Jesus as the Passover? Do the Scriptures ever compare Jesus to unleavened bread? The answer to every one of these questions is a resounding YES. So according to the Scriptures, which is “Christ-like”, Easter or Passover? Is it the Lord’s will that we celebrate the holy days which He calls His own according to His instruction (Lev 23:2)? Do the Scriptures tell us not to absorb the worship rites of this world belonging to the enemy (Deu 12:1-4, Rom 12:2)? Jesus’ name being painted on top of man-made tradition, with eerily similar pagan ties is not something Scripture ever condones. It is like pasting a spouse’s face over the faces of nude models in a porn magazine and then expecting the spouse to be happy about it when the rationale is given, “I was really only thinking about you!” How many places do the Scriptures instruct us not to mix (John 17:16, 2 Cor 6:14, 1 Pet 1:16, Rev 18:4)? Specifically, I suggest you consider the golden calf narrative (Ex 32:4-5). A parallel situation is when Jeroboam directed the northern kingdom of Israel to worship God by the 2 golden calves (1 Kings 12:28). The problem was not that the people were worshipping another god. It was that they were worshipping the one true God according to their own way, which He did not command, but indeed commanded against. Consider also when Saul disobeyed God’s command to destroy the Amalekites and reasoned that his disobedience was validated as long as he worshipped God with his spoil. To this Samuel replied, “To obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.” (1 Sam 15:22-23). Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for rejected God’s commands and replacing it with their tradition (Mark 7:5-8)? It is clear you have the gift of teaching. Teachers are held to higher account (James 3:1). You say you are a Christian, so out of love I challenge you as a brother: when you worship the God of Heaven according to the tradition of Easter, are you following the example of Jesus (1 John 2:3-6) or of the world (James 4:4)? When you stand before the Almighty, will you tell Him you have directed His sheep according to His Word or according to the tradition of man?

  57. Lily says:

    Why does it matter? Isn’t paganism an modern invention anyway? It doesn’t seem important to me whether I am doing the same thing as pre-Christian faiths were or not. In fact I am sure I qouldn’t want to worship exactly as our pre Christian ancestors did! They lived in a different world with a neccessarily different world view. I don’t intend to start blood sacrifices any time soon. What is important to me is that I am rejecting Christianity, which I do not find a fit practice for the reality I live in, nor for my personal knowledge of the divine in our universe. I pick and choose the practices that make sense to me. I have no need to suggest Christianity is or was less valid as a religion because in some cases it appropriated elements of other religions, any more than I suggest modern paganism is less valid because it is not a direct replication of it supposed ancient counterpart. This is where people go wrong with paganism. It is a new faith, rooted in science and rationalism but with a keen understanding of the psychology of the mind and of the forces of our universe. It is a call to arms in defense of the planet that nurtures life, and is the human race’s only means of survival. It is a rejection of a theology that is western centric, white centric, male dominated. It is an entirely modern phenomena and there is nothing to be ashamed of in that. Why people feel the need to keep trying validate it by attempting to directly link it to ancient practices is beyond me. Or to undermine Christianity by suggesting it is a wholesale appropriation of an older faith. It is not, it was a new faith with a new message – centuries ago. Now it is an outdated faith. I also wonder what makes you all think that Gods and Goddesses could only come into being thousands of years ago? Why is an Eostre from Saxon times more valid than one of today? Why should not gods adapt and change, come into existence and dissappear also? I say to modern pagans, accept your Eostre is a new goddess and worship her all the more joyfully. Appropriate the Chriatian’s festival for your goddess of life and rebirth, in the manner of religions down the ages.

    • Chris Jensen Romer says:

      Hi Lily – yep my interest here is a question of history not faith. My friend Tressy at the Goddess Temple has a relationship with Eostre as a goddess which I in no way dispute – I dispute she was an Anglo-Saxon goddess. And sorry it took so long for me to see you comment and approve it. Sincere apologies CJ x

    • Kate Jay-R says:

      Except Paganism isn’t a new religion. It may not have been called by that name and yes people have adapted it to modern life. That means it’s evolving and I don’t doubt that some elements are new or adapted from older customs. But worship of the elements and nature, often in the form of gods or goddesses is as old as time.

  58. Michael Garfield says:

    Christmas and Easter ARE heathen in origin. Are they mentioned in the bible? Nope. Typical Judaeo-Christian bigotry. They incorporated heathen celebrations into their religion to make a case for convincing heathens to convert to it, and then claim those celebrations and associated gods/goddesses have nothing to do with paganism/heathenism.

    • Simon says:

      Michael Garfield says:
      “Christmas and Easter ARE heathen in origin. Are they mentioned in the bible? Nope.”

      It is well known that Christianity assimilated other beliefs into the religion. So what? As Christianity is the true religion; then it is surely a noble aim to bring others into the fold?
      It is not as though other practices, such as blood sacrifices, were incorporated, is it?
      Although, the bread and wine of the sacrament can be viewed as appeasement; towards Pagans.
      As Christianity marked the start of a new dimension, and was a new religion, the claim that it was ‘heathen’ in origin is not justified.

  59. Jerry says:

    God told us to observe three great feasts throughout the year, one of which is Passover. The ecclesiastical new year began with the spring equinox on the ancient biblical calendar. Passover is on the fifteenth day of the first month Abib. This places Passover at the same time every year. Easter is used only once in the bible. It translates to paschal, the same as Passover. Eggs and rabbits are fertility symbols, traditions of men. Eostre, Ishtar, Ashtoreth, all idols made up by men. We were warned about idol worship. Eggs and rabbits have nothing to do with celebrating the resurrection. In my opinion, anything that takes away from the true meaning is pagan. It is the same with Santa Claus at Christmas. Isn’t it strange that this occurs at the two holiest Christian holidays?

    • Kate Jay-R says:

      God told us? You’re assuming we all share your ‘belief’. But the belief and worship of the goddess, precedes the worship of a male deity by centuries. “We were warned about idol worship” is another man made creation if you are agnostic, atheist or Paganism. As for Christmas, that is an ancient festival celebrated at the darkest time of the year. ” Isn’t it strange that this occurs at the two holiest Christian holidays?” Do you not ask yourself why? It is because Christians have hijacked or absorbed older festivals – not just Easter and Yule but also festivals such as Candlemass and All Soul’s Day. In fact, just go through the Christian calendar and you will find older echoes in Pagan or more ancient religions. The fact that Christ was born in January further proves the point that Christmas has nothing to do with his birth.

  60. Simon says:

    Jerry says: “Eggs………. have nothing to do with celebrating the resurrection.”

    A simple search on wikipedia contradicts what you say. Apparently, the tradition of painting eggs at passover goes as far back as the ancient christians of Mesopotamia who would collect eggs and stain them red to represent the blood of Christ.
    So; an ancient Christian tradition, in fact.

    • Edward Taylor says:

      As a student of mythology and a humanist I will tell you that the god of Christianity is a myth also

  61. Simon says:

    Edward,
    You cannot tell me that; unless, of course, you are suggesting that the New Testament (if not, the whole Bible) is a myth based set of rules and regulations, somehow cobbled together in order to obtain influence over the proletariat? I can see how that viewpoint would fit into the narrative of those who extol the virtues of an humanitarian stance. Yet; that would not, I suggest, take into account the divine aspect of the Bible. It is my opinion that the Bible is something other than a clever attempt to subjugate the masses. It is, indeed, a book of enchantment; a book of spells which is used, even today, in church’s everywhere; not only as instruction but as inspiration to those seeking solace from the travails of our existence. Yet; if it is to achieve its purpose, then it must have interdimensional properties. All supernatural effects must have this interdimensional aspect to them. If not; then everything we stand for: love, philanthropy, charity, virtue; may as well be cast to the wind. The reliance upon an humanitarianist viewpoint alone is not enough to ease the suffering of those in difficulties. It is more likely, in due course; to lead to a society in which only the strongest survive. Fatalism is the end-game, for humanitarianism.

  62. Kate Jay-R says:

    Um – why is my comment on May 25th in reply to Jerry still waiting moderation while others have come through with today’s date ie May 28th?

  63. Denn says:

    I think you must be incredibly patient! All those people who still can’t understand that you are speaking as a historian not as a Christian. As for neopaganism being old – it’s neo or new paganism, not old paganism.
    We are talking about something that might or might not have happened centuries ago, with a world view that is 21st Century, and we cannot possibly understand how they lived on a day by day level. I was born during the 2nd World War, my grandmother lived with us until she died nearly thirty years later, but I do not understand what her life was like she she went hop-picking in the Summer as a teenager.
    All these people who claim that they know what really happened two thousand years ago are talking out of the back of their heads, at least until we can travel back in time and see what really happened.

    • Chris Jensen Romer says:

      Ah hop picking! My parents were born in 1925 and 1931 and oast houses and markings were still common sights. I guess they had machines for hop picking by then but it is something by my youth mainly remembered in street names!

      Bury St Edmunds used to see a lot of melting and I bet Kent was a real centre but as a Suffolk lad I grew up with the smell of the malt and sugarbeet factories.

      The biggest difference between my mum’s and gran’s generation was probably the loss of horses from our streets. Psychologically they must have been a massive part of people’s lives.

      You are right: We can read so much about the past, but we see it all through modern eyes…

    • Simon says:

      Denn says:
      “All these people who claim that they know what really happened two thousand years ago are talking out of the back of their heads, at least until we can travel back in time and see what really happened.”

      I think that’s a bit mean. People are allowed to speculate upon these matters, aren’t they?
      The article is about the origins of Easter. Naturally, that leads by way of question and answer, into the broader aspects of religion as a whole. Your comment, by comparison, adds nothing to that debate. The consequences of people following your example, means that we may as well remain silent about the subject. Not much point then,… is there?

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