Pagan Easter Post, Plus Easter War!

A happy Easter to all my Christian readers. I actually attended the Easter vigil at the local Catholic church (my wife is Catholic). I found the whole experience quite “pagan” at times. One of the responsorial psalms “As the Deer Longs” fit into my personal theology just fine.

“As the deer longs for running streams, so longs my soul for you, O God.”

Not to mention the blessing of the fire and the candle-dunking. All so very fertility faith driven if you ask me. The media must have had similar ideas, I have been looking at “Pagan Easter” stories and editorials for weeks now.

“Who or what is Easter? It was the festival in honor of Osterne, spring goddess of the Anglo Saxons, their goddess of the dawn of the Eastern sky like the Roman Aurora or the Irish Brigid. Augustine of Canterbury was impressed by the reverence with which his pagan people honored the rebirth of life. He wrote to Pope Gregory the Great and asked whether these celebrations could combine with the celebration of the rebirth of Jesus, the light of the world. The pope, who didn’t know he was Great in those days, replied that as long as there was nothing unworthy or inappropriate in the ceremonies, there was no reason the church could not use them in its celebrations. Thus Christianity appropriated the three major symbols of life that the pagan English had worked into their festival ?? eggs, rabbits and lilies.”Rev. Andrew M. Greeley, The Arizona Daily Star

“Easter is another Christian holiday that has picked up pagan baggage along the way – another example of how the early church fathers found it easier to modify pagan practices than to irradiate [I think he means ‘eradicate’] them…The Easter bunny and the colored eggs have firm pagan roots. Both rabbits and eggs were considered symbols of fertility, and eggs have been colored and exchanged as Easter gifts long before the advent of Christianity. The pagan aspects of Easter seem to fit well with the holiness of Easter and don’t detract from the message of the Risen Christ.”Kent Harper, The Ely Times

“I think Easter and Easter customs in a Christian sense can’t be separated from spring rituals. It fits together well that the spring festival — when the flowers are blooming again, the green in the forests, in the bushes and on the meadows grows again — that this resurrection festival is celebrated. It’s often the case that pagan customs tied with Christian ones.”Pastor Joachim Gerhard, Deutsche Welle

“The word Easter comes from two old pagan spring festivals: the European pagan festival of Ostara, which celebrated new life, and the Arabian Sun festival of Ishtar. Early Christians took over the festivals and turned the pagan festivals of new life to mean the new life that Jesus gave the world when he rose from the dead.”The Register-Mail

“To aid in the successful conversion of the Saxons to Christianity, then Pope Gregory permitted many pre-Christian traditions to continue. The festival of Eostre was one of them. The Christians decided the festival, which celebrated life and rebirth, was easily adaptable into their own symbol of rebirth ?? the resurrection of Jesus Christ…This pagan connection has made it easy for people of other faiths to enjoy the Easter holiday as a festival of renewal.”The Toronto Star

That is just a sampling. If you have the time and inclination you could find dozens more. I personally don’t mind that they have adapted pre-Christian ritual and symbology so long as they are honest about it (and a growing number are). I’m just happy this holiday hasn’t erupted into a stupid “War on Easter” in a fashion similar to the media-frenzy of the “War on Christmas”. Not that some aren’t trying.

Atheist group (I’m guessing) Beyond Belief Media in an attempt to drum up publicity for their documentary “The God Who Wasn’t There” (which lays out the case for Jesus being mythical) is waging a personal “War on Easter”.

“Using its documentary THE GOD WHO WASN’T THERE as the chief weapon, Beyond Belief Media is covertly planting DVDs of the film in churches throughout the United States…A total of 666 DVDs will be hidden like “Easter eggs” in sanctuaries, church yards and other holy areas by Beyond Belief Media’s national team of volunteers. The DVDs will be slipped into hymnals and other locations where they are likely to be discovered by unsuspecting worshippers.”

The “war” strikes me more like a viral PR campaign to increase sales and media coverage complete with a “street team” of disgruntled former Christians. I may have my issues with the dominant monotheisms, but I’m against violating another faith’s sacred space during their most important holiday (unless you want to enter into a war of attrition). But then this is why modern Paganism and atheism will never see eye to eye. Personally the whole thing strikes me as grade-school shenanigans masquerading as serious protest.

Have a happy spring time ritual of renewal!

Jason Pitzl-Waters

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