The Story of the Easter Bunny

Easter :: History and Traditions

Do 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 to believe??"

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.

Her 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.

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 of Ostara.

The Goddess Ostara and the Easter Bunny

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.)

Filled 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 place!)

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.

Easter eggs, the Easter Bunny, the dawn that arrives with resurrection of life, and the celebration of spring all serve to remind us of the cycle of rebirth and the need for renewal in our lives. In the history of Easter, Christian and pagan traditions are gracefully interwoven.

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