Think Easter is just a celebration for those of the christian faith? Well, think again!
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Before christianity many others celebrated the Vernal Equinox which falls between March 19th and 22nd. This Sabbat is primarily a night of balance in which night and day are equal at the midpoint of spring, with the forces of light gaining power over the darkness. This is when the cold winter leaves and the warmth of the spring sun brings rebirth and new life, the awakening Mother Earth. The next full moon is called the Ostara and is sacred to Eostre the Saxon Lunar Goddess of fertility (from whence we get the word estrogen, whose two symbols were the egg and the rabbit).
Because the Equinox and Easter are so close, many Catholics and others who celebrate Easter often see this holiday as being synonymous with rebirth and rejuvenation: the symbolic resurrection of Christ is echoed in the awakening of the plant and animal life around us. It was only natural for christians who were building their church to combine these two holidays to entice the pagans to come into their fold!
(The following are excerpts from WitchVox)
The traditional coloring and giving of eggs at Easter has very pagan associations. For eggs are clearly one of the most potent symbols of fertility, and spring is the season when animals begin to mate and flowers and trees pollinate and reproduce. In England and Northern Europe, eggs were often employed in folk magic when women wanted to be blessed with children.
As for the Easter egg hunt, a fun game for kids, I have heard at least one pagan teacher say that there is a rather scary history to this. As with many elements of our “ancient history, ” there is little or no factual documentation to back this up. But the story goes like this: Eggs were decorated and offered as gifts and to bring blessings of prosperity and abundance in the coming year; this was common in Old Europe. As Christianity rose and the ways of the “Old Religion” were shunned, people took to hiding the eggs and having children make a game out of finding them. This would take place with all the children of the village looking at the same time in everyone’s gardens and beneath fences and other spots.
It is said, however, that those people who sought to seek out heathens and heretics would bribe children with coins or threats, and once those children uncovered eggs on someone’s property, that person was then accused of practicing the old ways. I have never read any historical account of this, so I cannot offer a source for this story (though I assume the person who first told me found it somewhere); when I find one, I will let you know! When I first heard it, I was eerily reminded of the way my own family conducted such egg hunts: our parents hid money inside colorful plastic eggs that could be opened and closed up again; some eggs contained pennies, some quarters and dimes and nickels, and some lucky kids would find a fifty-cent piece or silver dollar! In our mad scramble for pocket change, were my siblings and cousins and I mimicking the treacherous activities of children so long ago?
A favorite part of Easter for kids, no doubt, is that basket of treats! Nestled in plastic “grass” colored pink or green, we’d find foil-wrapped candy eggs, hollow chocolate bunnies, jelly beans, marshmallow chicks (in pink, yellow or lavender!), fancy peanut butter or coconut eggs from Russell Stover. How this custom began and why are the baskets supposedly brought by a bunny???
In the faery lore of the Celtic countries it is customary to leave food and drink out for the fairies on the nights of our festivals, and it is believed that if the fairies are not honored with gifts at these times, they will work mischief in our lives. Certain holidays call for particular “fairy favorites.” At Ostara, it is customary to leave something sweet (honey, or mead, or candy)–could this be connected to the Easter basket tradition? Perhaps a gift of sweets corresponds to the sweet nectar gathering in new spring flowers? The forming of candy into the shape of rabbits or chicks is a way to acknowledge them as symbols; by eating them, we take on their characteristics, and enhance our own fertility, growth and vitality.
So, now you know how the Easter Bunny got to share the day with the christians belief of Christ’s resurrection! Pretty smart way to make religious peace between the people, no?
Here are a couple of templates to print and color and make decorations for Easter. Also, I’ve included a wee bit of interesting facts and activities that you may like to add to your celebration. Enjoy!
Symbols: Egg, Rabbit, Equilateral Cross, Butterfly
Deities: Youthful Deities, Warriour Gods, Deities awakening to sexuality
Leafy green vegetables, Dairy foods, Nuts such as Pumpkin, Sunflower and Pine. Flower Dishes and Sprouts.
Herbs and Flowers: celandine, cinquefoil, jasmine, rue, tansy, and violets may be burned; acorn, crocus, daffodil, dogwood, gorse, honesuckle, iris, jonquils, lily, narcissus, olive, peony, strawberry, woodruff and violet may be decorations.
Jasmine, Rose, Strawberry, Floral of any type.
*Taken from Celtic Myth and Magick – Edain McCoy
*Here are a few suggestions for activities that may be part of the Sabbat celebration or something to do during the day:
Make Hot Cross Buns to honor the union of the Earth and Sun for spring. Slash the ‘X’ with your bolline and bless the bread.
Have a traditional breakfast of buns, ham, and eggs. Save the eggshells and after breakfast, throw the crushed eggshells into the garden and say:
For fairy, for flowers, for herbs in the bowers,
The shells pass fertility with springtime showers.
Wear green clothing.
Bless seeds planted in the garden.
Color hard-boiled eggs and add the symbols for the Fertility God, the Goddess, the Sun God, unity, fire, water, agriculture, prosperity and growth, strength and wisdom, spring, love and affection, and protection.
Consecrate the eggs by saying:
In the name of the Goddess of spring (name),
And the ever-returning God of the sun, (name),
By the powers of the four elements – earth, air, fire, and water,
I do consecrate these eggs of Ostara.
Point your athame at the eggs, make the sign of the pentagram, and see the energy flow through the blade into the eggs, and say:
New life writhing as new life shall enter the soil.
Let those who see this life find it and consume it,
for all life feeds on life.
The eggs may be hidden and the Ostara Egg Hunt commences.
On Ostara Eve, light a purple or violet candle and burn patchouli incense. Carry them both through the house, saying:
Farewell to wintry spirits and friends;
On morrow we greet the spirits of spring;
Our blessings to thee as your way you wend;
And merry we’ll meet next winter again.
Blow out the candle and say:
Merry meet, merry part, and merry meet again!
*Activities from “Green Witchcraft” by Anne Moura (Aoumiel)