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Four Ways to Make Easter Not Suck

Four Ways to Make Easter Not Suck

Easter has never been my favorite time, largely because it’s a Christian holiday that is pretty much a celebration of their death-cult god. Even when I was growing up, other than getting Easter baskets with lots of yummy chocolate, all I remember is having to get dressed up and go to church and afterwards a brunch that was maybe okay.  (Never mind the fact that ham was the main dish, ahem…in honor of Freyr.)

Sure, we can quibble whether Eostre was really an Anglo-Saxon goddess or not, but it really doesn’t matter much if you’re a solitary Heathen among Christians.  Sure, you can go through the motions and celebrate the season with family, but I’ve come up with some interesting ways to make Easter not suck.

Make Easter a Celebration to Freyr, Freyja, and Eostre


Okay, maybe Eostre existed in Anglo-Saxon lore, and maybe she didn’t.  That’s okay.  We know Freyr and Freyja exist and we can use Easter as a time to celebrate the gods and goddesses of spring.  That means creating yummy meals, doing blots, and celebrating like it’s a time to celebrate — that is, the beginning of new life.

Have a roast pig dish, crack open a bottle of mead, and celebrate the spring.  Got Christians in your family?  Well, how would they know this is for our gods and not theirs?

This past Yule, I didn’t get my Christmas cookies made, so I figure now is as good of time as any to make roll out cookies. Luckily I have more than just Christmas shapes.  In fact, one of my sisters gave me a Star Wars cookie cutter set, because nothing says Christmas like Star Wars.  So, I figure Easter is as good as any for cookies that I can enjoy. (ETA: Munching on them right now.)

Go Have Fun While the Christians are in Church

Look, not everything in the United States shuts down on Easter (I can’t say that with certainty in other countries), so why not catch that movie you’ve wanted to see, go to the attractions that are normally mobbed other times of the year, or plan doing something that is just plain fun while the Christians are getting the megadose of guilt in church?  Look, just because they’re insistent on getting all formal to impress other people in church doesn’t mean we have to sit around and mope.  Celebrate Easter with a favorite movie, meal, or go outdoors and enjoy nature.

Or do what we do, and go rabbit hunting.  “Hey, it’s the Easter bunny!”  Blam!

Sleep In

It’s Sunday, and unless you have to work on Easter, just sleep in and relax.  Nobody is telling you to get up for the crack of dawn sunrise service.  Look, you’ll probably be doing that on Winter Solstice and Summer Solstice, so why bother for a day that has no meaning to you?

Do Some Eostre Egg Dyeing and Hiding

If you feel the need to enjoy the holiday, why not hard boil some eggs and use natural dyes to color them?  Here are recipes which teach you how to make natural colored dyes easily.  If you do put on an Eostre egg hunt, be sure to count the number of eggs you hid. otherwise a few days later you’ll find the egg with your nose.

I am certain there are other things you can do to make Easter more enjoyable.  Let me know what you do.

How Heathens can Celebrate Easter with Christians

How Heathens can Celebrate Easter with Christians

If you’re like me, chances are you have Christian relatives who celebrate some form of the Christian holiday of Easter. If you’re the only Heathen in your family, you may get an earful about what is considered the most holy time that Christians celebrate.  Still, unless you’re looking to cut ties with your family–and I don’t recommend that–you may be looking for ways to enjoy the Easter celebrations.  If you’re a Heathen who loves to get into fights with family members over Christian holidays, or at least not willing to put aside your differences for one or two days, this post isn’t for you.

Let’s take a look at some of the ways you can get involved with minimal headaches.

Put Your Pride on the Back Burner (or Don’t be an Asshole)

Unless you have an extremely open-minded family/extended family, most of them are going to take a dim view of you not being Christian.  I’m sorry, but that’s the truth. They’ve been indoctrinated into the Christian belief system, and it’s unlikely you’re going to change their minds. You’re going to the Christian hell, and that’s all there is to it, (unless they can persuade you into the fold/back into the fold), and they really don’t get why you would worship pagan gods.  At this point, all you can do is grit your teeth and hope to get through the Christian talk without losing your cool.

That being said, understand that this is a Christian holiday, even if they took on the pagan trappings surrounding it.  Easter is considered to be more important to the Christian religions than Christmas, so realize that you are the outside here. It is you who is extended the olive branch, not them.  So, don’t expect for them to understand/accept you being Heathen in their most holy time.

Because this is their most holy time, mentioning the appropriation of Eostre’s holiday at the Easter dinner is probably not going to do you any favors. Yes, they eat ham, which honors Freyr, but let it slide. Yes, they decorate eggs.  Yes, they associate chicks and bunnies with Christ’s death and resurrection, but pointing out the incongruity of it all won’t cut it. If we want to maintain the peace in our celebrations, it is better to sit and listen rather than fight a foolish battle. This is their Easter–not ours, so let’s respect their religion, just like we’d want them to respect ours.

So, What Can You Enjoy?

At this point, you’re wondering what you can enjoy out of Easter.  There are a lot of cool things you can do and still be part of the Easter celebration.  Here are some of the things I recommend.

Egg Coloring

We color eggs for springtime, so there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy coloring eggs with your Christian family. Talking about spring and its renewal, as well as the cycle of life, is fairly safe.

Easter Egg Hunt

Why not hold an Easter egg hunt? Put together some of those plastic eggs and fill them with goodies. Hide them and watch as your family searches for them. You’ll all enjoy it.

Chicks and Bunnies

Whether live, toy, or simply drawings, the images of chicks and bunnies are pretty much safe territory.  You may want to talk about the Oschter Haws which was brought into Pennsylvania by German settlers. Avoiding the Urglaawe references, your Christian family may be delighted to learn that that’s where the Easter bunny who laid colorful eggs came from.

Easter Candy

Easter candy originates from clever marketing by candy makers in the 19th century to capitalize on an untapped market. There’s no reason for you to mention this, nor is there any reason why you can’t have some yummy candy in pagan symbols such as rabbits, chicks, and eggs.

Easter Brunch or Dinner

Never turn down a good feast, even if it’s in honor of a god you don’t follow.  All the trappings are Heathen, or at least, pagan, so enjoy spending time with family and friends. You may want to even bring some mead so your family may enjoy something a little different than the traditional grape wines. Toast to your family and to those family members who are no longer with you. You’ll be honoring the ancestors and still not offend your family.

Talk about Family, both Present and Past

Speaking of family, strike up a conversation about your family and your ancestors. Talk positively about them, or if someone in the family knows a particularly good story about an ancestor or a relative who is alive, encourage them to relay that story.  As the good Doctor says, “We’re all stories in the end. Just make it a good one.”

Listen to Your Family, Even if You Disagree with Them

If your family starts talking about Christianity, listen to them. You don’t have to agree with them, but when they tell you about their faith, they tell you about themselves. Ask questions. Ask why they believe what they believe, and don’t argue with them over their beliefs. You may discover that your mom believes in the Christian god because she finds comfort in a god who promises to care for her. Or your dad might actually not believe in the god but goes to church because the family does it. Or maybe your cousin is an atheist at heart.  You can learn a lot about your family just by listening.

Go to Church with them

This suggestion is somewhat dangerous when it comes to family, not because you’re likely to change your faith, but more likely because you may offend or get into an argument with a family member. Some Christians, most notably Catholics, have rules against participating in sacraments such as the Eucharist (the bread and wine) because they believe you must be of their denomination to participate. (It has to do with transmogrification, but that’s another long post.)

Why go to church with your family?  Well, first it puts you on the same page as your family members so if they discuss the sermon, you know what was said. Secondly, you can see Christianity with all its pagan influences.  Third, churches often have amazing artwork that is worth seeing.

Just sit and watch as they go through sitting, kneeling, and standing routines. Listen.  It may seem worthless, but in a way you are gathering intelligence about this religion. That way, you understand your family’s behavior a bit better.

Take Time Out for Our Gods, Wights, and Ancestors

I’ve given you ideas for keeping the peace with your Christian relatives.  But this isn’t about Heathenry, it’s about keeping the peace in your extended family. Before you join in the Easter festivities, make an offering to the gods, especially Frigga and Frau Holle, the wights, and your ancestors for a peaceful gathering. And thank them after the day for their help, especially if things went successfully.

Hopefully, I’ve given you ideas for staying sane around Christians during their holiday.  If, in the end, you do decide to try out some of these ideas, I’d be interested to learn how they worked out.

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Has Heathenism Beaten Christianity?

Has Heathenism Beaten Christianity?

I got in a conversation with another pagan on Huginn’s Heathen Hof, and he had a different outlook on the whole Christianity versus Paganism argument.  It hit me as having some merit, so I’d thought I’d explore it more in depth.

The Argument

The person who put forth this argument to me was a Heathen and a Gnostic. (Let that sink in a bit before dismissing it outright.)  His basic argument was that Christianity at its beginning had nothing — no holidays, no formal sacraments, etc, — so it took from other religions.  In fact, it took so much from pagan religions that the pagan religions actually triumphed.  I’ve been mulling it over for some days and while I don’t think it’s entirely correct, I think it has some merit to at least think about.

Christianity at its Core

Christianity is, at its core, a death cult. It focuses not on rewards in the here and now, but after one dies. It even focuses on the gruesome torture and death of their god. While I think that knowing where you’re going when you die is important, I think that this life is just as important on how we live.  Yes, Christians do focus on how well behaved they should be because they will receive a reward in “heaven,” but honestly, it takes a fear of eternal punishment to behave correctly?  Think about that for a bit.

The major holiday that Christians have recognized since its inception would be Easter, that is the day when Christ allegedly rose from the dead.  We know that Easter arose from the Passover festival, around which Christ was allegedly crucified.  Easter follows Passover.   But we know that it took the name Eostre, and it may have borrowed the pagan trappings of festivals during that time, presumably to make it more palatable to the audience.

Yule and Christmas

We do know that Christmas was pretty much taken from pagan midwinter festivals, celebrating the celebrating the god of agriculture for a full month starting a week before the solstice.  We know that Christmas wasn’t instituted until the fourth century CE when the Church thought to take those midwinter festivals and sanction them.

return of the sun.  While us Heathens can lay claim to Yule, we aren’t the only ones that had midwinter celebrations.  The Romans had Saturnalia, which was spent

The Puritans actually banned Christmas (and the saints) because they recognized the pagan origins. For about 25 years England under Oliver Cromwell made Christmas illegal.  That joy was brought over with the Puritans who made Christmas illegal.  Such was the control of the Puritans that anyone found in Boston exhibiting the Christmas spirit during the years 1659 to 1681 could be fined. What a great bunch.

Incidentally, the Christmas tree came into vogue with Queen Victoria, taking the customs of her husband’s homeland.  The Christmas tree popped up around the 17th century in Germany have its, …ahem, roots in paganism.

Plenty of pagans have pointed to Odin’s ride, Slepnir’s eight legs changing into eight reindeer, and other similarities, that suggest Odin is Santa Claus, so I don’t need to go through that argument.

Harvest and Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving, itself, is more of an American holiday that was celebrated in New England for some time before Abraham Lincoln made it a national holiday in 1863.  George Washington issued the first national Thanksgiving proclamation in 1789, thus putting it on the table, so to speak, when it came to having a national day of thanks.  A quote from History.com:

Autumn Comments & Graphics
Image by Magickal Graphics

“As an annual celebration of the harvest and its bounty, moreover, Thanksgiving falls under a category of festivals that spans cultures, continents and millennia. In ancient times, the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans feasted and paid tribute to their gods after the fall harvest. Thanksgiving also bears a resemblance to the ancient Jewish harvest festival of Sukkot. Finally, historians have noted that Native Americans had a rich tradition of commemorating the fall harvest with feasting and merrymaking long before Europeans set foot on their shores.”

We have our own celebration of Harvest Home, so saying that Americans “invented” a harvest festival like Thanksgiving isn’t truthful.  Now, we did put our own spin on it, but in the end, it is the celebration of family and home, as well as harvest.

The Days of the Week

The months are named after Roman months (gods, Caesars, and numbers), but the days of the week were Roman names changed to our gods, with the exception of Saturday because people probably thought Ymirday might not catch on.  (Yeah, I know the story is that there’s no German equivalent to Saturn who was an agricultural god slain by Jupiter, but that’s another story for another time.) So, when we say we’re meeting someone on Thursday, we’re meeting them on Thor’s-day.

Saints versus Polytheism

Becoming Polytheistic was easy after being Catholic for me. Any religion that allows veneration of saints actually lost to the polytheism.  Even the Episcopalians have the saints and the time I went to an Episcopalian mass proved to me that they’re Catholics without a pope who allow divorces. We know that some saints were actually gods that got incorporated into the ranks of saints to make the religion more popular (such as Saint Bridget).  So, yeah, in some Christian religions, we got some of the gods and goddesses in.

Catholics will tell you that they do not worship saints. That is true at the highest level, but the line gets mighty blurred with the veneration of Mary and other saints.

So Did Heathenism Win?

That’s the million dollar question, isn’t it? I would argue yes and no.  In the long run, we still have the Christian god, complete with all the stupidity that has subjugated women, condoned slavery, and given us plenty of hangups due to the “do this or you go to hell” mentality.  I’m not saying that heathens were morally superior as we had slavery and human sacrifice, but most of us are willing to make the change in the right direction.

By the same token, we got our holidays and other pieces infiltrated into Christianity. People who celebrate the holidays are often celebrating the secular holidays rather than what their church would like them to celebrate.  Sure, they keep Jesus in Christmas, but seeing as the whole nativity scene is pretty much made up, and seeing we really don’t know much about the historical Jesus, or even if there was one, we can call it a myth and be done with it.

What it does say to me is that Heathens can celebrate those so-called Christian holidays and feel good about putting their own spin on things. At least, that’s how I look at it.

Added for Clarity:

The point the person made was that arguing whether or not to worship Christ was irrelevant because basically Christianity took all the trappings from pagans anyway. We can argue semantics, but that was his point. I was willing to consider his belief and came up with a yes and no observation. I rushed the conclusion, which perhaps I shouldn’t have done, but I wanted to get the piece out, late as it was.

That being said, I think he does have a point. Is it Heathenism under another flavor? No. Our gods are not revered, although one might be able to point out some obscure saints the Church may have created to appease Heathens. Is Christianity the same as it was when it was conceived? No. It is mostly pagan with the foundation of the Abrahamic faith. Depending on your beliefs in Asatru and Heathenism, you can argue that what parts of paganism was added is superficial. Maybe so, maybe not. I just found it an interesting opinion, and one I couldn’t completely dismiss.

Eostre — Was Easter Appropriated?

Eostre — Was Easter Appropriated?

As the Rational Heathen, I’ve been called out occasionally on agreeing with the beliefs that Christianity appropriated the trappings and dates of pagan festivals and gave them a shiny new coat of paint and something for the masses to celebrate instead of their old customs.  While I agree that in some cases, particularly Eostre/Ostara, we don’t have the proof, my gut tells me that the trappings surrounding Easter has more to do with pagan origins than Christian ones.  Let me explain.

Easter Bunnies Do Not Make Sense from a Christian Standpoint

While growing up, I had a tough time swallowing the whole rabbit/egg/chicks thing when it came to the resurrection of Christ.  Don’t get me wrong–I love chocolate and eggs and the whole idea of renewal, BUT…nowhere in the Christian bible is there a rabbit handing out eggs and candy.  Nor is a rabbit or an egg linked as a symbol of resurrection in the bible.  I suppose we could look at these as symbols of resurrection, but that sounds remarkably like a rite of spring and not Christ rising from the dead. Yes, yes, we could point to spring as the earth resurrecting from winter, but given that Christ’s crucifixion was only during spring because of Passover (Jesus went to Jerusalem during the feast of Passover), there’s no real bunny-earth-chocolate connection there. The bible doesn’t make that connection, so why do we?  More likely we’ve had something that pointed to rabbits and birds as symbols of springtime as a time of renewal.  I suspect it is the way we celebrated the return of fertility and birth of animals and plants. Being the clever Christians, they quickly pointed to the rabbits and baby birds and said they’re symbols of the Christian Easter.  Easter, which existed for Christians, needed a shiny paint job to get everyone on board with it. Why not go with the fluffy and cute, which probably was already there in the pagan world?

The Easter Bunny

Even History.com admits the ubiquitous Easter bunny most likely has pagan roots because rabbits are prolific little buggers.  What better way to show fertility and new life than something that breeds…er, like rabbits?  The Germans who showed up in the United States in the early 1700s are said to have brought their stories of “Osterhase” or “Oschter Haws,” an egg-laying rabbit. (Incidentally, this isn’t the only occasion Germanic peoples have brought holiday customs to the United States–Christmas is a biggie too.)  It’s interesting to note that Osterhase has a similar root to Ostara.  A coincidence?  Unlikely.

Other candidates for passing out eggs included foxes, storks, and other birds. Let’s continue.

Eggs

I’m pretty sure Christ wasn’t hatched, so I think it’s pretty safe to say that the colored egg thing isn’t really a Christian thing. A nice stretch the History Channel made–and to be honest, I’ve heard this too–is that the egg symbolizes Christ’s resurrection from the tomb.  Okay, then.  The custom of painting eggs goes back to the 1200s.  Why?  Well, they think that maybe eggs weren’t allowed to be eaten during Lent and painting the eggs for Easter made them extra special.  I can see that…maybe.  In which case, it was a way to make nasty old eggs look yummy.  (The fasting in Lent generally lasts 40 days–you’d have a lot of eggs by then.)  I grew up Roman Catholic, but not eating eggs wasn’t part of Lent when I was growing up. In fact, the Catholic Bishops say eggs are okay, even if you go with the traditional fast.  Maybe this is something pre-Vatican II?

But then we still have the Osterhase who lays colored eggs.  Who knows?  Maybe both contributed to it. One German site I found says that the Babylonians, Egyptians, and Persians looked at eggs as the symbol for rebirth and fertility.  I’m not relying on this site, but it does make sense that a Middle East death cult would take on the trappings of pagan symbols.

Candy

I’d love to claim candy as a pagan/heathen tradition, but really the Easter candy started with chocolate eggs in the early 1800s.  Probably a nice little marketing idea.  I’m pretty sure Jesus didn’t give out chocolate eggs at the crucifixion or at the resurrection.

But What About Eostre/Ostara?

Eostre/Ostara isn’t a goddess we know much about.  But I suspect we’ve lost much since the rise of Christianity.  It’s interesting that St. Bede is the reason we even know about Eostre.  He wrote in the 8th century about Eostre who had the month of April bearing her name. There are some folk who even dispute whether or not Eostre was a goddess, but I think it is likely she was. Given the general fertility rites of spring, we can guess that Eostre was a dawn and fertility goddess, akin in some ways to Freyja. Wikipedia states:

“As the Germanic languages descend from Proto-Indo-European (PIE), historical linguists have traced the name to a Proto-Indo-European goddess of the dawn *H₂ewsṓs (→ *Ausṓs), from which descends the Common Germanic divinity from whom Ēostre and Ostara are held to descend…”

I suspect that Eostre and Ostara are names for the Greek goddess of the dawn, Aurora, but this is conjecture on my part. Still the names have basically the same roots, which means that the goddess was worshiped well before our ancestors separated. It also gives me credence when I say that Eostre/Ostara was a goddess and not just a name for opening or new things.

When we talk about Eostre existing or not, this is all more or less by guess and by golly.  Yes, there has been at least one person who has put forth some very convincing arguments that she didn’t exist. No, I’m not convinced, but with good reason.  We just don’t know. The problem with his arguments is no one has a time machine (yet) that allows us to go back and see what really happened.  Where is the Doctor when you need him? (Did you REALLY think I was going to write a post without a Doctor Who reference?  Oh, ye of little faith!)

Trying to Reconstruct from the Ashes

Doctor Who aside, we Heathens are basically left with the smoldering remnants of what used to be a rich and detailed belief system.  We can only gain glimpses of what our ancestors believed and try our best to reconstruct and fill in the blanks. Some of us hear the gods and goddesses and can write about our UPGs, but there’s really no way we can find out scientifically what actually existed without some new artifacts, or someone somehow going back in time and bringing us the information.

Our neolithic ancestors were very sophisticated people who were unlucky enough to not have invented a written language. Even the Norse and Germanic tribes, while they did have the runes, they were used for ceremonies and inscriptions. Looking at the stone age construction we’ve discovered in recent times, shows that our ancestors were quite capable of building impressive temples, stone homes such as those in Skara Brae, and stone monuments.  But much of what they created did not survive. Statues made of wood rotted or were burned. Metal statues of gods were most likely melted down and reused. Without identifiable written language and without much art of gods or goddesses available (and knowing that’s what the art depicted), it’s  questionable that we can ever truly reconstruct what happened in our past.

Whether you believe Eostre is a construct of Bede or not, the point is that Christians took on pagan trappings to ease the masses into their religion. After all, if your god accepts bunnies, chicks, and colored eggs–which is something you did to celebrate your former god–it probably doesn’t matter much to you that the names changed.  It’s the same thing, just a slightly different flavor if you keep the basics intact.