I bet these colored eggs are familiar to you. I’m quite certain that they would be familiar to just about anyone in our western society, if not everyone. For most, these eggs are associated with the Christian holiday of Easter and are thus called “Easter Eggs”. Have you ever wondered what they actually have to do with that particular holiday, though? It will probably come as no surprise to you (particularly given my previous posts on certain holiday traditions) that they really don’t have much to do with the resurrection of Christ at all. Again, we find the absorption of pagan tradition into Christian holidays as a means of assimilation.
Easter has it’s word origins in the old English word “Eostre” – a word that is believed to refer to a goddess of the spring, and fertility. This word has evolved into the word “Ostara”, and it is currently used to honor that goddess as the name of the holiday that falls on the spring, or vernal equinox.
At this time of year (on or around March 21st – this year it happens to fall on the 20th), the seasons make a shift once again. The equinox marks the day of equal light and dark, and the beginning of the sun’s reign.
Ostara is celebrated to mark the fertility that has returned to the Earth – we see flowers blooming, animals giving birth to their young, and the lush green of spring is taking over. The sun is returning and reclaiming its dominant time in the sky as the days now will begin to lengthen.
There are two very well known symbols during this holiday – both obvious representations of the fertility that abounds at this time of year. The egg and the rabbit. Clearly, there is no explanation needed for the egg. And you must only think for a moment to realize why the rabbit is also a symbol (you’ve heard the expression “breeding like rabbits”, I’m sure).
Some say that if you take an egg outside at the time of the equinox and set it on it’s end (the wider of them), it will balance with the equilibrium of the planet until the moment of equinox passes. I have yet to try this, and it probably won’t be this year, either – seeing as the time of the equinox is supposed to fall at about quarter after one in the morning, and I will hopefully be fast asleep at that moment in time. There are no scientific studies on this at the moment, but it’s fun to think that because of the time of year, the egg will balance.
There is a story floating around out there that explains the reason for the egg-laying rabbit we tend to associate with the holiday. In it, the goddess Eostre found a wounded bird outside of the forest in the end of winter. To save the bird, she transformed it into a rabbit, but the transformation was incomplete, and so the rabbit could still lay eggs. Each year, the rabbit paints his eggs as gifts for the goddess in thanks for saving its life.
In some cultures colored eggs were exchanged as gifts, with the intent of wishing the ones that were given these gifts good crops, abundance, health, and wealth through the coming year.
So, as you decorate eggs and eat chocolate bunnies this year, try to remember why. And while you’re out in the beautiful spring weather, take notice of the new life happening all around you. The Earth is fertile, and Ostara is upon us.