Easter: why we celebrate it and what it is really about

Article from Sydney Morning Herald

Date :March 25, 2016 – 11:58AM

John Elder

The simplest answer is that “Easter” is the brand name the church has pirated for the remembrance of Christ’s death and suffering on the cross, and for the celebration of his resurrection. They could just as well have called it Sad-Then-Happy Time.

However, the “East” in “Easter” has some relevance because the sun rises in the east, and every day is a new and hopeful start.

But… but… there has to be more to it than that!

Ishtar holding her symbol. Louvre

There really is. Once upon a time there was a Sumerian goddess called Ishtar, but her name was actually pronounced “Easter”.  She was the goddess of love, war, fertility and prostitutes. She was also regarded as the human personification of the planet Venus. Some say she was hatched from an egg. She was worshipped by the Philistines.

Her husband Tammuz is described in the Book of Ezekiel as a false god.  And Ishtar may have been a descendant from Noah.

When Tammuz died young, Ishtar – dressed in jewels and fine clothes – travelled to the underworld. She meets the goddess of death and sterility who orders Ishtar executed and her body hung on a pole for display, presaging Christ’s humiliation on the Cross.

Meanwhile, in Ishtar’s absence, sex on earth dries up, be it among livestock or humans. Carnal desire is dead… until Ishtar, covered in feathers and dust, is sprinkled with the waters of life resurrected (sort of like Jesus).

Upon her return to the surface of the earth, birds started singing again, bulls commenced rutting and men rushed home to their wives for a bit of life-making cuddle time. Babies were born and the world kept on turning. In effect, the resurrected Ishtar became the goddess of new life.

The Greeks later told a similar story about the young goddess Persephone who was dragged to the underworld by Hades, causing the world to freeze over and crops to fail. A brokered deal saw her return to the surface of the earth for at least half the year – and this saw the birth of the seasons.

But if I tell my kids the bed-time story of Ishtar the ghostly prostitute who saved the world, they’re still going to wonder about the rabbit bringing chocolate eggs on Easter morning. Where do they fit in?

Forget about Ishtar. Crawl ahead to Saxon times, when the Roman Empire is in decline, and the Germanic peoples have not yet converted to Christianity. At the spring equinox, they worshipped the dawn and fertility goddess whose name was Ēostre or Ostara, or in Old English Ēastre.


Eostre is said to be the true namesake of Easter, a pagan festival of renewal, the date of which was fixed by the cycle of the moon. The Christian church, for centuries, followed this practice of celebrating Easter on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox, or the first day of spring.

Over the last hundred years, the Church, and its competing denominations, has tried to distance itself from the pagan connection – and also to simplify Easter by giving it a fixed date. It was recently announced an agreement is only years away.

Zzzzz… what about the rabbits and eggs?

Oh yeah. Again, they come from Eostre, the Saxon goddess. Eggs and rabbits were her symbols of fertility. There’s a story that she saved a dying bird by turning it into a rabbit. The rabbit continued to lay eggs. And the rest is history. Well, folklore. And aggressive marketing.
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/national/easter-sort-of-explained-20160324-gnqq10.html#ixzz43sXVn4ca