Easter is one of my most favourite seasonal celebrations, a time of great hope, unlimited potential and the miracle of rebirth.
Although it is seen as a Christian holy-day, its roots lie in earth-based spirituality practices that far precede the birth of Christ. Unearthing these ancient roots help to enrich my celebrations with greater reverence and soulful significance. Disillusioned by modern celebrations, marked by gratuitous consumerism and gluttony, I seek to reconcile my relationship with what Easter has become and find ways of celebrating that feels true to me.
The word Easter is of Saxon origin, Eostre (Ostara), the Celtic goddess of spring and fertility, bringer of light after winter. Ostara has etymological roots in the word oestrogen, signalling fertility. Our ancient ancestors honoured the earths fertility and rebirth after the dormancy of winter and gave thanks to the Sun as it reawakens into its full power. They extended gratitude through offerings for the endless bounty and generosity of our Earth, as she upholds her promise of renewal each Spring through her cyclical nature of life, death and rebirth.
Ostara was usually celebrated at the Spring Equinox, which marked the beginning of Spring and the start of a new growing season, a rebirth of crops that have been dormant through the winter. This promise of a plentiful food supply was crucially important for the farmers of antiquity whose very lives depended upon a successful crop. And as such, they were far more connected to the earths cycles than we are today with our modern lifestyle’s of 24/7 convenience.
Bearing witness to natures rhythms
Yet when we are mindful of natures rhythms, we notice how the earth is fertile with new growth at Spring time. We witness buds bursting open displaying glorious colour, animals giving birth and agricultural seeds being planted. This outer expression of renewed life from darkness can act as a metaphor for our lives as nature mirrors back to us the energy of new beginnings and renewed vitality. Who doesn’t feel enlivened by the promise of spring, as the activating life force offers a welcome spring in our step!
So how does the resurrection story of Jesus’ fit in?
Quite perfectly actually, despite its seeming disconnection from the celebratory symbols of the egg and bunny. When Christianity became the established religion in the late 6th century, Easter, along with other ancient festivities were adopted and overlaid with Christian stories in attempt to convert pagans. The theme of rebirth from death continued although its true origins were erased from mainstream consciousness.
However, this is not to dismiss the vast significance of the resurrection story, regardless of whether the dates match up. It serves as the perfect metaphor for what occurs this time of year as the death of winter gives way for the renewal of life in spring – and is an important teaching to embody in our lives. From painful endings, springs forth fresh new beginnings with greater wisdom, strength and transformation. Look at the biggest challenges in your life – did you not emerge stronger, wiser and a better person as a result? It’s a message of great hope and light at the end of the tunnel. Not something to be dismissed, but celebrated as an archetypal pattern no matter what your religion or belief. The “death and return of the King” was also a common theme in nature-based spirituality, explained as the renewal of the Masculine energies that are reborn at Spring time, ushering in the outward expansive energies of the growing phase of the solar cycle.
The underlying message of the resurrection is one of sacrifice, forgiveness and hope, reminding us that light always prevails over darkness, and rebirth always follows death. This beautiful message offers the kindling of hope to overcome adversity and the courage to forgive others as he did his persecutors whilst on the cross. To me, it reminds me to consider ‘how can I be love in the face of overwhelming suffering / persecution?’ ‘How can I cease judgement and drop into my heart, out of my judging mind and view all circumstances with neutrally, however painful in the knowing that this space of neutrality is indeed true alchemy?” This I believe was Jesus’ true message of the resurrection, along with the impulse to extend kindness, compassion and forgiveness to all. I put this notion into practice as I consider our world leaders and the injustices I see occurring at this time. It feels particularly pertinent to remain in the space of love and neutrality in the face of stark polarities and deception, which seek to divide the population.
Connecting to the Christ consciousness
On a more mystical level, Easter can be seen as a time to connect to the Christ consciousness within, to the infinite light of our eternal divine essence, beyond the physical form. I always feel this energy ardently at this time so is a wonderful opportunity to tap into this transformative power. Transpersonal psychotherapist Sophie Nevil, of thekindestthing.com explains this perfectly below:
“Christ was not Jesus’s actual name. That Jesus was given the name Christ, meaning ‘anointed one’, as he was a human who was fully awake to his divine Self. Like a wise older brother – he did not come to ‘save us’ but instead came to remind us of our true divine potential. To show us that the kingdom of heaven does not lie somewhere outside of ourselves but actually within us.
He was awake to his divine perfection and came to show us that full embodiment of ‘Christ’ consciousness is a potential for us all – ‘what I can do, ye shall do and more’ (John 14:12-14).
From this perspective, Easter can be seen as a symbol reminding us of the true reason we came to earth. By Jesus being crucified and then resurrected – he was showing us the journey that on some level we all must symbolically take – the crucifixion of our egoic and separate self and the resurrection of our infinite wholeness and divine Self…
“…Furthermore, Jesus coming back from the dead made it clear that even death cannot hold us back. As we all know – energy can never be destroyed – only changed and transformed into something else. Therefore, death of this physical form is only an illusion – who we essentially are – the infinite Light, space and silence of the universe can never die”… ~ Sophie Nevil/thekindestthing.com
Easter is a beautiful time to remember this sacred and holy Light within. To celebrate it and to remember the real reason we chose to come here at this time.”
However you choose to celebrate, may it be a blessed and bountiful time of loving connection, creative inspiration and immense joy. For celebratory ideas, see my article ‘Celebrating Easter/Ostara through Creative Ritual’.
2 thoughts on “The Origins of Easter”
I have taken the time to read this article even if Easter is not my favourite holiday. The suffering through which Christ and many others like him had to go through is giving me a lot of pain. The violence on Earth, in the past many centuries is stressful and I cannot find a reason for ANY violence.
But there is a lot of truth in what you are saying; the way you put this Easter story on a sort of evolution until today is capitalising mostly the positive side of Easter. I am grateful to you for this. Your little essay helps me see Easter without the pain and violence and also stupidity of people who chose to save Barabas over Jesus…The same stupidity that I see still today, after 2021 years since those times…
Your suggestions are true and powerful – focusing on the good and divine in us, we can limit the darkness, the bad in us and around us. Hopefully, more of us could do this and more often, not only for Easter. And praying for us and also others is also bringing close the fulfilment of our positive wishes and desires.
Wherever you are, Happy Easter days with health, strength and lots of intuition!!
Thanks for your comment. I hear you. I was the same for many years, I rejected Easter for it just reminded me of the barbaric Roman torture method of crucifixion that they carried out en mass, not just to Jesus. And also the environmental desecration caused by mass consumerism – the endless plastic waste from store bought eggs, decs & the slaughter of lambs etc. This didn’t feel like a reason to celebrate AT ALL. But then I digged deeper to learn the original meanings behind Easter, that go back 1000’s of years BC even. And this brought a whole new depth of significance to me so this is now the version I celebrate, along with honouring the light that Jesus represented. I now rarely even think of the suffering to be honest. I’m glad you found benefit in my musings.
Brightest blessings to you wherever you are based. I am in Sussex, UK. x