Monday, April 17, 2006

The Fakelore of the Easter Bunny

` I imagine that many of you are probably worn out from all that extensive reading, if you have even deigned to attempt it. That is why I have decided to give you a small break:
` Yesterday, as you all may know, was Easter. As the library was closed - or at least not open very long, being a Sunday - I was off in my lab doing important dissections [left].

` I recall reading a pamphlet last year explaining that the word 'Easter' is derived from the name of the pagan goddess 'Eostre', which was documented - if dubiously - by the Venerable Bede. In any case, the lunar month of April was known to pagans as 'Eostre-monat'.
` The pamphlet also said that the Oschter Haws (Easter Hare) comes from a legend where Eostre comes across a wounded bird lying in the snow. To help it survive the winter, she turns it into a hare - except it can still lay eggs, which it decorates and gives to her in thanks.
` If that legend, or similar ones, were told by ancient pagans, then why does the first citation of it appear sixteen years ago in a book by Sarah Ban Breathnach? (The book in question is Mrs. Sharp's Traditions: Nostalgic Suggestions for Re-creating the Family Celebrations and Seasonal Pastimes of the Victorian Home.)
` It makes me wonder; where do these 'legends' come from? I know that the fakelore of Paul Bunyan was invented by a lumber company in the early twentieth century, so he can be attributed to advertisement writers. That is straightforward enough, but... who would even want to make up the Easter Bunny legend? (...Perhaps reading Sarah's book might give me a hint!) I mean, why do people do this stuff? I just don't understand!
` Then again, I am of a mind of reporting the truth. It's the scientific way.

11 comments:

Denny said...

as far as ive noticed and read about, most of the peagan legands and sesonal celebrations were incorporated into christianity and given differnt names to coincide with church sanctioned holidays as to convert as many poeple and cultures as possible in roman times as a way of convertining everyone to one religion as peacefully as possible. That is a very short and incomplete explination to a very complicated conversion, but its very interesting how it all took place.

bt said...

What denny said is right on the mark of what I have read on the subject. Although (once again as he said) in a very simplified way of putting it. For most of said incorporations you can put logic to it though, as opposed to listening to some batty witch who dreams up her own silly notions. Most pagan sabots have something to do with the seasons. Halloween is when every thing starts dying for the winter, so it is all about death, Easter is when everything is coming to life (probably why they say it is when the resurrection of Hesus took place) and what do you have when every thing is coming to life and there is food to eat? birds laying eggs, bunnies fucking like bunnies, the dead earth rising from the dead looking husk it was in the winter.

Course, that is just my take on it... I have been known to be wrong when making what I thought were logical conclusions before.

S E E Quine said...

` You're right, of course. I know that the Church did what they could to make Christianity resemble pagan beliefs. For example, they had Christmas at the same time as Yule and did not even interrupt pagan traditions such as slaughtering a pig.
` In fact, someone just told me the other day that the saints were made to represent different pagan gods! I must look into this....

` The problem here is not that the Easter Bunny has nothing to do with pagan spring celebrations: The problem is that there is no known evidence for the aforementioned 'Bird turning into a hare legend', nor is there any conclusive evidence that any pagans worshipped a goddess named Eostre.

Amber said...

The pagan thing is really old, it's been around a looong time, not just since that girl wrote that book.
Christians stole almost every if not all holidays from older pagan beliefs, it was (in my opinion) not as you say Denny to do it peacefully, I think it was a form of control, they took their religions, traditions and then their churches, languages, all of their previous culture and way of life and turned it into something of their own. It was all about bastardizing something to get the people to worship their gods. Why else would you build churches on top of ancient ritual sites? Control, control control. And while I do find things like the Inquisition and the Crusades interesting reading subjects, it was an awful thing, a marr on Christianities history, but that's the history of many other religions as well.

Amber said...

Eostre: there is much evidence of this, Quine. Just looking at the etymology of the word should tell you a lot -
excerpt from Wiki:
Many linguists agree[1] that Eostre and Ostara are derived from the Old Teutonic root 'aew-s', 'illuminate, especially of daybreak' and closely related to (a)wes-ter- 'dawn servant', the morning star Venus and *austrĂ´n-, meaning "dawn".

Similar words, which it has been suggested are variations of Eostre's name, include Ostare, Ostara, Ostern, Estre, Eostre, Eoster, Eostra, Eastre, Eostur, Eastra, Eastur, Austron, Aurora, and Ausos. There is no certain parallel to Eostre in Old Norse though Grimm speculates that a "spirit of light" named Austri from the Eddas might be related.

If you're really interested in some of this you should check out Joseph Campbell - particularly the Power of Myth series as well as the Masks of God, all his stuff is really good.

Aaron said...

How did the dissection go? Did you pull a Hannibal Lecter on the specimen?

Denny said...

Well your right amber it wasnt peaceful per say but by including alot of the celebrations for the peagans helped to make christianity easier to swallow by making it seem that they were tolerant when in fact that wasnt the case.

S E E Quine said...

` Well, it's perfectly possible that Eostre was the same thing as Ostara, though if you want to get Wikipedish about it, my only point was that:

'German Protestants wanted to retain the Catholic custom of eating colored eggs for Easter, but did not want to introduce their children to the Catholic rite of fasting. Eggs were forbidden to Catholics during the fast of Lent, which was the reason for the abundance of eggs at Easter time.

The idea of an egg-laying rabbit came to the United States in the 18th century. German immigrants in the Pennsylvania Dutch area told their children about the "Osterhase" (also: "Oschter Haws"). "Hase" means "hare", not rabbit, and in Northwest European folklore the "Easter Bunny" indeed is a hare, not a rabbit.

Only good children received gifts of colored eggs in the nests that they made in their caps and bonnets before Easter. Presumably, the Oschter Haws laid them when the children were not looking.

A hundred years later Jakob Grimm wrote of long-standing similar myths in Germany itself. Noting many related landmarks and customs, Grimm suggested that these derived from legends of Ostara.'


` But what legends?

'Recently, a neopagan legend has sprung up concerning the Easter Bunny. Though it is usually circulated as a Pagan tradition, it does not appear before 1990; it is presented by a fictitious character, Mrs. Sharp, created by an author of inspirational aphorisms....

This story is deemed fakelore by critics, who point out that it has never appeared in any historical account of pagan celebrations, nor in any attempt to reconstruct the same by folklorists such as Grimm. There is also no historical evidence linking Ostara to the hare or rabbit.'


` That's all I'm saying, though if you can find an earlier citation, tell me about it.
` And, yes I did eat the aforementioned victim after I was done studying its innards (which was hard to do, as they were invisible).

` On a side note, intolerance should mainly be limited to that of the intolerant of people for no good reason. Then we'd really have a party! (And a paradox!)

Amber said...

Can it be a tea party? You can be the mad hatter, I'll be Alice, and obviously we'll know where to find bunnies now...

S E E Quine said...

` Oh... I've always wanted to be the Mad Hatter! (Does that surprise anyone?) Perhaps I can somehow solidify intolerance and brew it into tea, and then make all the needlessly intolerant people drink it!
` ...The question is; would we have to join in?

Galtron said...

Yes we'd have to join in!!!! But I, as the doormouse, would probably not be able to stay awake long enough to have any intolerance tea.

So... ha.