The original celebration was not a Christian one. In Anglo-Saxon history the festival was originally for the goddess Ēostre, also sometimes written as Ēastre.
Ēostre also gives her name to Eosturmonath, one of the months in the Anglo-Saxon calendar, and is believed to have been either a goddess of light or fertility. Experts who have debated the role of Ēostre in Anglo-Saxon culture include Jacob Grimm, one half of the Brothers Grimm, and co-author of Grimm’s Fairy Tales.
As pilgrims converted Anglo-Saxon cultures to Christianity they were aware that the Ēostre worship festival occurred around the same time as the resurrection of Jesus. In order to help blend Christianity into the pagan cultures the two festivals were actively merged. The event became known as Easter and became Christian in focus.
However, some modern churches, looking to distance themselves from the pagan origins of Easter, have started to use the phrase “Resurrection Day” instead.
The origins of Easter eggs begin in the region of Alsace. References to the Easter bunny itself are included in the writings of Georg Franck von Franckenau, a German botanist, who lived from 1643 to 1704. It was German settlers who introduced the concept to the States in the 18th century.
Pagan symbology includes the rabbit as an emblem of fertility. This ties in strongly with Ēostre as a goddess of fertility. Some suggest that the Easter bunny may be the avatar of Ēostre on earth.
The Easter bunny is the product of two religions; Christianity and some forms of Anglo-Saxon paganism. It has been adopted into modern culture easily as it is also readily available for the commercialisation of Easter.
In Pure Spirit
What have you been told about the origins of the Easter bunny? What does the Easter bunny mean to you?
Or also long as tasty Easter eggs are forthcoming – does it matter at all?
Picture credit: Iain Watson, released under Creative Commons.