Friday, April 6

The Origins of the Easter Bunny


The other week I was writing away when I stopped to ask my mum what herbs go well with rabbit (a slightly morbid beginning to this tale, but it was pertinent to my story, I assure you lol). Since she didn't know the answer, she pulled out her Celtic Folklore Cooking book by Joanne Asala (a Highland Games buy from a few years ago). While flipping through it, she came across a recipe for Poacher's Pie. At the top was an interesting little paragraph:
"There was a common folk belief that rabbits sucked the milk from sleeping cattle, and that witches, who would keep rabbits as familiars, would even take the form of a rabbit to steal their neighbor's milk. Like other much maligned animals, the rabbit was sacred to the Goddess. Celts imagined they saw a rabbit in the moon, and this moon-hare would lay eggs for children to eat--the origin of the Easter Bunny" (Asala 304).
I was hesitant to believe such a tale, so I googled it. After coming across numerous websites, I found out that it was true! Here's what I learned:

Easter-- The word is derived from a Saxon goddess of Dawn and Spring known as Oestre or Eastre (Ostara in Germany). She was a fertility goddess and her sacred animal was the hare. The rabbit was also associated with the moon goddess, so the above quote now makes sense.

Easter eggs-- Eggs were a symbol of fertility in most ancient cultures, and the Celts were no different. During the spring festival to celebrate Ostara, they painted eggs to give as gifts. The chocolate eggs we now associate with Easter were introduced at a much later date.

"The Goddess Ostara and the Easter Bunny:

Feeling guilty about arriving late one spring, the goddess Ostara saved the life of a poor bird whose wings had been frozen by the snow. Filled with compassion for him since he could no longer fly, Ostara turned him into a snow hare and gave him the gift of being able to run with incredible speed so he could protect himself from hunters.

In remembrance of his earlier form as a bird, she also gave him the ability to lay eggs (in all the colors of the rainbow).

However, the hare later angered the goddess Ostara, and she cast him into the skies where he would remain as the constellation Lepus (the Hare), forever positioned under the feet of the constellation Orion (the Hunter). He was allowed to return to earth once a year, but only to give away his eggs to the children attending the Ostara festivals that were held each spring. Thus, the tradition of the Easter Bunny had begun" (Easter: History and Traditions).

So there you have it! Fascinating stuff, eh? I always think it's interesting how so many "Christian" holidays have their origins in Pagan religions.

Sources:
--Celtic Folklore Cooking by Joanne Asala
--Easter: History and Traditions: Link
--The Pagan Origins of the Easter Bunny: Link

*The student in me wants to properly quote and cite my sources, but I figure you guys get the picture, LOL!*

11 comments:

  1. Very interesting! Had never heard that before!!!! Thanks for sharing!!!

    Andrea - CHRW

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  3. What a lovely post and thank you so much for sharing! I too have never heard of this (and I absolutely love rabbits after having owned several varieties thru out the years). Patty

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  4. Andrea- Thanks for stopping by!! I'm glad you enjoyed the post =) I hadn't heard of it either!

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  5. Patty- Thank you for hopping on over ;) I thought it was incredibly interesting, so I just had to share!!! =)

    I've also had rabbits--a brother and sister named Oreo and Buster, LOL.

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  6. Natalie this is fantastic. I love hearing how traditions can be explained away. You have to love the imaginations of the 'gods and goddesses' and how they have brought joy through the centuries with some of them.

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  7. Paisley- Aww, thank you =) Agreed! I think it's really interesting how the traditions and religious customs of the Pagans were incorporated into Christianity.

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  8. Great post, Nat! I've never heard this before. It's so fascinating. And I love the bunny photo - too cute!

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  9. So are you still going to cook the rabbit? :-) Very interesting post, Natalie. I learned something today. BTW, your mom sounds like an interesting lady too. Happy Easter!

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  10. Jen- Thanks hun! =) I hadn't heard of it before either--it surprised me! Heheh yes, I thought he was a cutie ;)

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  11. Pat- LOL! Alas, my characters did eat a rabbit ;)

    Thanks!!! Haha yes, she's the best. We have tons of random books around the house. =)

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