Evening all, I know some of you’ll be or have been celebrating the Spring Equinox today. I haven’t. Oh, I’ve been enjoying the day and I rearranged the alter. It’s now in the sitting room and the Matronae have their own shelf and candle. I promised it to them if they’d help me get through a particularly tough time with my depression and financially.
The weather has begun improving but it’s still definitely March weather. That sun is deceptive – it’ll pour down without much warning, and the wind is sharp, fierce even, just as the month is named after Hretha, Hrethamonath, as Bede tells us.
I always feel like it’s slightly inappropriate to be praising Eostre in Hretha’s month. Celebrating the equinox is one thing but celebrating one goddess in the month devoted to another seems rather rude.
I praise Hretha today,
Honour the fierce one who brings burning
Cold winds and cutting rain.
I honour you Hretha,
Heralded by dancing daffodils and
The petit pink blush of blackthorn.
Praise Hretha on this equinox.
There’s daffodils everywhere here in Immingham; many years ago as a teenager and a Girl Guide, I helped in the planting of thousands of daffodil bulbs, and event organised by our Guide leader, who was also the wife of the local Church of England vicar and a Marie Curie nurse. The yellow daffodil is the symbol of the Marie Curie nurses, and our Guide Leader had a lot of influence in the town, organising many charity events. Over the years the daffodils have multiplied and now they’re everywhere from January to late April. I’ve had daffs blooming in my front garden since December; a symptom of the mild weather and the sheltered nature of the garden by my front door, it faces south so I get plenty of light all year and of course the soil stays warm most of the year. If I hadn’t heard first hand that others have had similar experiences this winter I’d have said ‘good microclimate’ and left it at that. But I think we can add the changes to flowering of plants to the list of evidence for climate change, added to Nasa’s recent announcement that February had been the warmest since records began in the 1880’s.
This evening I’ve been reading the March/April issue of Kindred Spirit. They had a cover article called ‘Spring Fever and te Rites of Eostre’. Getting past the first two paragraphs was difficult but once I did I quite enjoyed the suggestions for rituals. The first two paragraphs were full of the usual modern myths of Eostre. I was forced by my devotion to historical accuracy to point out the errors by email. Want to see it?
I picked up issue 142, March/April 2016 of Kindred Spirit a few days ago and have enjoyed reading it. There’s always such a wide variety of articles.
I have to point out errors in the first two paragraphs of Teresa Moorey’s article ‘Spring Fever and the rites of Eostre. Literally the only pre-modern reference to Eostre is as an explanation for the pre-Christian Anglo-Saxon name for April written by the Venerable Bede in his monastery at Jarrow, Northumbria in the eighth century. Everything else is modern.
In English we derive Easter from Eostre; in non-English speaking countries the word used for that particular Christian festival is a variation on ‘pasche’ or passion, referring to Christ’s death. Northern Europe does not equal English-speaking, however because much of neo-paganism was developed in Britain and the U.S. the prejudice is for English and the assumption that ‘everyone speaks English’ has infected paganism.
There is no evidence for Eostre being a goddess of spring or even the spring equinox, since as Bede tells us Hrethamonath is named in honour of the fierce goddess Hretha, March, in which the equinox falls. Eostremonath is named for Eostre and is the equivalent name for April, as I said above.
There are no extant legends referring to Eostre; all the connections with rabbits, hares and eggs are a modern addition, based on Jacob Grimm’s eighteenth century book ‘German Mythology’ in which he suggests there may possibly, possibly being the important and oft forgotten word, be a relationship between the newly common, in Germany at the time, rabbit and eggs association with the Christian festival of Easter and the goddess Ostara – one of the German words for the festival. Current scholarship suggests that, in fact, rather than being a pan-Germanic/Northern European goddess the name, is an import taken to Germany by English missionaries in the eighth and ninth centuries as a month name. It then evolved from Eostremonath to Ostarmonath. There is even some evidence that Eostre may have originated among the Anglo-Saxon tribes of Kent. There is certainly nothing to back up the claim that ‘to certain Germanic tribes she was a lunar maiden goddess who mated with a fertility god at the Equinox, so giving birth to his successor nine months later’. This is a modern myth imposed on Her by the Wiccan, and other Pagans, Wheel of the Year, developed from the work of nineteenth century folklorists during the birth of the neo-pagan revival in the middle decades of the twentieth century. As a random aside, in the early twentieth century, the Easter fox was as common in certain parts of Germany, and it’s mentioned in sources that the Easter Fox was being pushed out by the ‘new’ Easter bunny and all the things we associate with the Christian festival of Easter now.
There is very definitely no relationship between Eostre and Ishtar or Astarte, linguistically or otherwise; they are a thousand years and several thousand miles apart. Eostre and Eos are both words that have a shared root *Aus (proto-IndoEuropean), it’s also the root of the word East in Germanic, Romance and several other language families in the Indo-European language group. However, all four of these goddesses are distinct, individual personalities. The connection between Eostre and Ishtar/Astarte is that assumption about English language again – if a word sounds like an English one they must automatically be connected. That’s not how languages work.
It is hard to admit for most pagans but all of the myths associated with Eostre and the spring equinox festival are modern inventions. It’s intellectual dishonesty to suggest otherwise, however they and the modern rituals Pagans perform in Eostre’s honour work for all parties. It’s a vibrant time of year, as the light and heat increases, and soon we’ll be able to start planting vegetables in the garden and enjoying the bright spring and summer flowers
I’m probably being pedantic and most people don’t care, but I can’t help myself.