Happy Easter! Easter began as a way to rejoice about the Spring Equinox. The origins of Easter also have many female connections, the details of which may surprise you. Let’s begin with the goddess Ostara, also known as Ēostre. Then we’ll talk about Mary Magdalene.
For Anglo-Saxon pagans, Easter marked a time to celebrate the German goddess Ostara or Ēostre. Ēostre is said to have inspired the name “Easter.” Now you see why I wanted to mention her in this origins of Easter post!
Not only was she the goddess of Spring, but also of the dawn and fertility. Without fertility and sex, there would be no future generations, so this ritual to Ostara was not to be understated. Back then science didn’t provide them with egg freezing and they didn’t know all of the natural ways to boost fertility that we know now.
Thus, the pagans held feasts to rejoice with the goddess and festivals to celebrate fertility throughout the April month. For Ostara represented the rebirth of nature in Spring. And, yes, sex rituals happened too. Mind you, there wasn’t the shame associated with sex back then that some people experience today.
The Easter Bunny
Oh, and you know that hare that we call the Easter bunny, which is such a beloved part of the holiday nowadays? Of all the goddesses, Ostara most closely links with the hare. And the hare symbolized fertility, like Ostara.
Today, the Easter bunny delivers eggs to many children on the morning of the holiday. The Easter Bunny itself was delivered to America by Germans, as per History.com.
Origins of Easter: The Egg
As for the egg that is synonymous with Easter? Think about how the chicken lays an egg. While the story of Easter is that it is a bunny laying an egg, it’s still an egg that represents rebirth. The egg symbolizes fertility and life, although we don’t see what’s within the egg. It shows the potential for a new life and it is women who give birth.
The egg symbolizes fertility in a subtle way. That’s in comparison to the big historic celebrations.
Even the activity of coloring the egg links with the concept of birth. And that dates back before modern religion. Decorating eggs was part of the Persian tradition Nowruz. Years later, in 1873, the chocolate Easter egg was first made in Britain.
While the Easter bunny is a key part of the Christian holiday today, there’s no mention of the bunny in the Bible. Christians likely adopted the pagan traditions and, as with most things, the activities changed over time.
But the Bible does describe is Jesus’s rebirth as a symbol of nature’s rebirth in Spring. And there was Mary Magdalene. So, how does she fit into the origins of Easter?
It was at the foot of the cross that St. Mary Magdalene cried until Jesus Christ died. With great pain, she went to Jesus’s tomb at the first sign of light the next day. And it was in reward for her love that Jesus appeared on Easter morning.
In addition to her pivotal role in Jesus’s rebirth, Mary Madalene was also the first to see him. She then told the 12 Apostles what she’d seen. She would go on to be a trailblazer and forever be sacred by the Christian Church.
Also, when she went before Roman Emperor Tiberius Caesar to announce Jesus’s resurrection, she was holding an egg to him. “Christ is risen!” she said. Aha, there’s mention of an Easter egg with reference to female Mary Magdalene.
True, we don’t know for certain that her holding the egg happened. But we do know this: at Easter today the Christian tradition is to hand out eggs.
Conclusions on Women and the Origins of Easter
In summary, women were a big part of the origins of Easter. From goddess Ostara or Ēostre and Mary Magdalene to the symbol of the egg, there are many examples of women’s influence on Easter.
Do you celebrate Easter? If so, what are some of your family traditions? Which women inspire you at Easter?