Easter :: History and Traditions
you BELIEVE in the Easter Bunny?
"A rabbit", you say,
"that lays bird eggs in the colors of the rainbow, and is male? What's not
It's a goddess thing!
Many of our
Easter traditions arise from the ancient myths of the
Saxon goddess known as
Oestre or Eastre. She is a goddess of the dawn and the spring.
name literally means the goddess of the shining light that rises in the east, aka, the goddess of the dawn.
In Germany she was called
Ostara, Goddess of Spring
and the Dawn (Oestre / Eastre)
Our word for the "female hormone", estrogen,
is taken from her name.
Putting an end to
winter, bringing with her the longer, brighter, and blossoming days of
springtime, Ostara was, of course, a fertility goddess.
Like the Celtic goddess Brigid, Ostara had a passion for new life.
You knew when Ostara had arrived. The plants flowered and the babies,
human and animal, were born. What could be more appropriate than a rabbit
as the sacred symbol of a fertility goddess. After all, their
propensity for rapid reproduction is well known.
Easter eggs and the Easter Bunny both featured largely in the annual spring festivals
The Goddess Ostara and the
She felt so guilty about arriving late one spring, so the goddess Ostara
saved the life of a poor bird whose wings were frozen by the late snow.
She felt so sorry for him that she made him her pet (or, in some versions, her lover.)
with compassion for the poor bird since he could no longer fly, Ostara turned him into a snow hare
so he could run with incredible speed and evade all hunters.
To honor his earlier form as a
bird, she gave him the ability to lay eggs in all the colors of
the rainbow, but he was only allowed to do this on one day of each year.
The feisty hare managed to anger the goddess Ostara by being
unfaithful. (In all fairness to the poor guy, it was her own
fault. She had turned him into the randy rabbit in the first
Nevertheless she threw
him into the heavens where remains to this day, known to us as the constellation Lepus
(The Hare). His punishment is that he will be forever positioned under the feet of the constellation
Orion (the Hunter).
But Ostara was of a generous nature, so
she took pity on him and invited him to return to earth once each year
to participate in her festival day in the spring. She stipulated that
he also had to give away his eggs to the children who were attending.
And thus he tradition of the
Easter Bunny began.