The Persistence of the Pagan Bunny

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  April 8, 2007 — Leave a comment

The Easter season is usually a time when the press focuses on Christian-centric stories to capitalize on the most important holiday in the Christian liturgical calendar. But it is also a time for deep introspection on exactly where that darn spring-colored bunny carrying colored eggs came from.

“The legend of the Easter Bunny is far from a modern invention. Long ago, the rabbit was the earthly symbol of the pagan goddess Eastre, and was worshipped in the pagan festival of Eastre … The hare has long been a symbol of fertility and renewal of life – which fit in with the Christian tradition of Easter and the tradition of Easter eggs.”KNBC, Los Angeles

Yes its time for that persistent thorny question…

“Ever wonder what bunnies have to do with the Resurrection?”Rob Jenkins, Gwinnett Daily Post

Some Christian leaders take the bunny in stride, acknowledging that the Christian church has picked up some pagan baggage in its long history.

“Area religious leaders, including campus pastor Kent Kersey at Corban College, admit it’s a bit strange for churches to be using pagan symbols such as eggs and bunnies to deliver the Easter message. “But that’s part of the Evangelical heritage, the whole missionary understanding,” Kersey said, “to adopt cultural norms and share the Gospel through those means.” Easter celebrates the resurrection of Christ from the dead.”

Others aren’t so sanguine.

“The cliched traditions that accompany these two Christian events, from eggs to baskets, are merely paganism with a Christian face, seeing as they too have evolved out of non-Christian celebrations of the vernal equinox. At best, they distract us from the true meaning of Christ’s sacrifices in the desert, his death on the Cross and his Resurrection. At worst, they instill a modern form of paganism into an increasingly selfish and consumerist society that appears neither to care for the sacrifices of Christ nor to reflect earnestly and exhaustively on what salvation entails.”

For many it seems that a spring festival is a spring festival, and while some earnest attempts are made to attend church (and call it “Resurrection Day” instead of “Easter”), most families seem content with it being about family, a feast, colored eggs, and a semi-mythical hare.

“It really just depends on how religiously observant you are. Just remember that every time you sow a few seeds or plant a rose bush and make a small wish that they will grow, you are effectively taking part in a pagan celebration devoted to a pagan goddess named Eostre.”Terry Kirby, The Independent

I hope my Christian readers have a pleasant Easter, try not to worry too much about the tiny offerings to Eostre in the process.

Jason Pitzl-Waters