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Since today is Easter, I was thinking it would be neat if we all shared some knowledge of Easter's Pagan roots.
First, I have no idea if this is true but I happened upon the story of Odin hanging from the Tree of Life. Has anyone else heard this before?
Yggdrasill - The Tree of Life
The World Ash-a gigantic ash tree that towers over all the world. One root reaches into the realm of Niflhiem, where the serpent Nidhogg feeds on dead corpses and upon the very root of Yggdrasill. The second root stretches to the realm of Asgard were the Norns dwell, three old women who rule the destinies of men. These women are known as Fate, Being, and Necessity, they keep the root alive by sprinkling it with pure water from the well of fate. The third root dwell in the realm of Jotunheim, the land of the giants. Beneath this root lies the well were the severed head of Mimir speaks harsh words.
It was on Yggdrasill that Odin the All-Father gained the magic runes in which men can record and understand their lives. Odin wished to learn the magic of the runes but first he had to endure terrible sacrifice, spiritual and physical torture. For nine long agonizing nights Odin hung from the tree over the bottomless abyss, pierced through with a spear, offering himself in sacrifice. Ratatosk, the squirrel , who carried insults from the eagle at the top of the tree to Nidhogg the serpent did not even give an offer of food. In the end Odin could take no more, he gave a mighty cry and seized the runes from the tree as he fell. When Odin arose from his death he knew the secrets hidden from man. He knew how to heal the sick, blunt an enemy's blade, and how to catch an arrow in flight.
Easter is a pagan festival. If Easter isn't really about Jesus, then what is it about? Today, we see a secular culture celebrating the spring equinox, whilst religious culture celebrates the resurrection. However, early Christianity made a pragmatic acceptance of ancient pagan practises, most of which we enjoy today at Easter. The general symbolic story of the death of the son (sun) on a cross (the constellation of the Southern Cross) and his rebirth, overcoming the powers of darkness, was a well worn story in the ancient world. There were plenty of parallel, rival resurrected saviours too.
The Sumerian goddess Inanna, or Ishtar, was hung naked on a stake, and was subsequently resurrected and ascended from the underworld. One of the oldest resurrection myths is Egyptian Horus. Born on 25 December, Horus and his damaged eye became symbols of life and rebirth. Mithras was born on what we now call Christmas day, and his followers celebrated the spring equinox. Even as late as the 4th century AD, the sol invictus, associated with Mithras, was the last great pagan cult the church had to overcome. Dionysus was a divine child, resurrected by his grandmother. Dionysus also brought his mum, Semele, back to life.
In an ironic twist, the Cybele cult flourished on today's Vatican Hill. Cybele's lover Attis, was born of a virgin, died and was reborn annually. This spring festival began as a day of blood on Black Friday, rising to a crescendo after three days, in rejoicing over the resurrection. There was violent conflict on Vatican Hill in the early days of Christianity between the Jesus worshippers and pagans who quarrelled over whose God was the true, and whose the imitation. What is interesting to note here is that in the ancient world, wherever you had popular resurrected god myths, Christianity found lots of converts. So, eventually Christianity came to an accommodation with the pagan Spring festival. Although we see no celebration of Easter in the New Testament, early church fathers celebrated it, and today many churches are offering "sunrise services" at Easter – an obvious pagan solar celebration. The date of Easter is not fixed, but instead is governed by the phases of the moon – how pagan is that?
All the fun things about Easter are pagan. Bunnies are a leftover from the pagan festival of Eostre, a great northern goddess whose symbol was a rabbit or hare. Exchange of eggs is an ancient custom, celebrated by many cultures. Hot cross buns are very ancient too. In the Old Testament we see the Israelites baking sweet buns for an idol, and religious leaders trying to put a stop to it. The early church clergy also tried to put a stop to sacred cakes being baked at Easter. In the end, in the face of defiant cake-baking pagan women, they gave up and blessed the cake instead.
Easter is essentially a pagan festival which is celebrated with cards, gifts and novelty Easter products, because it's fun and the ancient symbolism still works. It's always struck me that the power of nature and the longer days are often most felt in modern towns and cities, where we set off to work without putting on our car headlights and when our alarm clock goes off in the mornings, the streetlights outside are not still on because of the darkness.
What better way to celebrate, than to bite the head off the bunny goddess, go to a "sunrise service", get yourself a sticky-footed fluffy chick and stick it on your TV, whilst helping yourself to a hefty slice of pagan simnel cake? Happy Easter everyone!
I've sort of done Easter instead of Ostara this year, because I wasn't having a good week when Ostara came and went - but I only did the Pagan bits - eggs, Easter bunny, hot cross buns, chicken/egg/flower decorations.
Yes, I have heard of Odin and the tree, that's the first story you learn when learning about Runes.
Funny you're posting this because I just spent like 30min looking at different links to post on FB b/c I'm sick of all this Jesus stuff
Oh I feel your pain on this one. I can take a little bit, but it really makes me nautious when people post about how they are slime and unworthy of "his" love. C'mon people! Give yourselves a little credit!
An example... this, posted by my cousin:
As I think about the sacrifice, the pain, the blood, the nails, the anguish of the Father as His blameless son becomes wretched and filthy with the cloak of MY sin...my own pitiful excuses and justifications of humanity are a sickening reminder of my unworthiness. And yet he loves me and gives new mercy every day.