For many Christians, Easter is an even more important festival than Christmas. Easter is a festival of sacrifice and resurrection. We commemorate Christ’s sacrifice on the day he died on the cross as Jesus, the man, only to be resurrected as Christ, the son of God and redeemer of mankind. In Christian symbolism, the cross commemorates the crucifixion. However, the cross is a much older symbol and in pre-Christian traditions it was more often associated with the cosmic order, the four directions, the axis of time and space, and the sacrifice of the ego, which is bound to the material world.
Sacrifice, in the symbolism of the ancient world, was not a celebration of death, as it may seem, but of life. A sacrifice was a way of giving back, to offer life to life, so it may continue. Death and rebirth as two sides of the same door. Life feeding on itself and continuously regenerating itself.
A sacrifice had to be something special. Not any old rat would do! This was a gift to the Gods! So, it had to be the very best, something precious! Originally, it was the king himself. Later, it became the his first-born. Eventually, animal tokens were used instead of the self. At Easter, that sacrificial animal was an innocent lamb. Even today’s traditional Easter feast often features a lamb roast as the centre piece. A distant echo of this ancient sacrificial tradition.
Easter is a movable feast, which is a clear indication that it is a festival that dates back to pre-Christian times. The date, which changes every year, is determined by the first Full Moon that follows the first New Moon after the Spring Equinox. Originally, Easter, or Ostara, as it was known, was the festival of the Goddess Eostre, a pagan Mother Goddess that has been linked to the Great Mother Kali.
Her sacred ‘Moon Hare’ has become the ‘Easter Bunny’. And as for the eggs, they are a symbol of life. The egg represents unborn potential, and the promise of rebirth. Traditionally, the eggs would have been dyed red, the colour of life. To give these as a gift is a blessing: Life! Abundance! May your potential unfold and blossom!
The Woman’s Encyclopaedia of Myths and Secrets, Barbara G. Walker, HaperCollins, 1983
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