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The efforts of professional Catholic Bill Donohue and his Catholic League to gin up a new “war on Christianity” shtick is pretty funny from a Pagan perspective. He makes up stories about kids not being able to call the eggs they collect “Easter eggs.” For good measure he seems to toss in anything else he doesn’t approve of even if it has no connection to Easter.
I wonder how this most Catholic of people would handle the fact that according to the medieval writer the Venerable Bede (672/3- 735), Easter’s popular name apparently apparently derived from a Saxon goddess, Eostre, who was associated with Spring. As such, the name long predated Christianity. We know next to nothing about this Goddess, the only information we have being from the Bede:
Eosturmonath 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.
Spring in the Bede’s Europe would certainly be a time when fertility and growth were celebrated, and bunnies and eggs fit a fertility symbol much much better than they do any alleged resurrection. Colored eggs have existed as symbols in pre-Christian cultures in the Middle East and Iran for at least 2500 years. While there are competing stories for Easter eggs, their connection with an alleged resurrection is a stretch whereas with a celebration of Spring is no stretch at all. The same is even more true for rabbits. The earliest mention we have of the Easter Bunny seems to be in the 15th century, but we know the rabbit had long Pagan associations, and no Christian ones.
As a Pagan I am delighted at his efforts to keep Pagan symbols such a strong element in Easter observances.