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 the redeemer of mankind. However, the cross, which in Christian mythology signifies the crucifixion, is a much older symbol.
In pre-Christian traditions, it symbolised the cosmic order: the four directions, the axis of time and space, and the surrender of the ego, which is bound to the material world.
In the symbolism of the ancient world, sacrifice was not a celebration of death, as it may seem, but of life. It was seen as a way of giving back, so life may continue. Death and rebirth were seen as two sides of the same door. Like the Ouroboros, life feeds on itself, thereby continuously regenerating itself.
For a sacrifice to be meaningful, it had to be of value. It had to be something special. Any old rat would not do! This was meant to be a gift to the Gods!
Originally, only the king himself was worthy of being sacrificed. But in time, Kings were not so keen on being sacrificed and instead of themselves, they offered up their first-born. But in time, that too was deemed too much. Animals now had to play the part. At Ostara, when the Earth renews itself, that sacrificial animal was an innocent lamb – which it still is to this day: a lamb roast serves as the centrepiece of the Easter feast. This is a distant echo of an age-old sacrificial tradition.
Easter is a movable feast – a clear indication that this festival pre-dates Christian times. The exact date changes every year. It always falls on the first Sunday following the first Full Moon after the Spring Equinox (Worm Moon). Originally, Easter, or Ostara, as it was known, was the festival of the Goddess Eostre, a Mother Goddess that is known by many names: Ishtar, Astarte, or the Great Mother Kali.
Her sacred ‘Moon Hare’ (a symbol of fertility) has become the ‘Easter Bunny’. The eggs symbolise life as unborn potential as well as the promise of rebirth. Traditionally, the eggs would have been dyed red, the colour of blood as a conduit of life. A gift of such dyed eggs is a symbolic blessing: A gift of life and abundance! May your potential unfold and blossom!
The Woman’s Encyclopaedia of Myths and Secrets, Barbara G. Walker, HaperCollins, 1983
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