Easter, Eostre, Ishtar
Easter is a welcoming in of the New Year which used to begin in March, but in the Roman calendar was brought back to the winter cold of January. March welcomes longer days and warmer Sun rays, Nature blossoms as she regains her fertility.
The name for Easter is derived from the Saxon Eostre (Eastre) and the Babylonian and Assyrian Ishtar, the goddess of love and fertility. Ishtar and Eostre are in turn derived from the African Goddess Auset who represented fertility and motherhood after the conception of Heru.
In the West, the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox is Easter celebration. But the vernal equinox itself is celebrated on its day. Vernal denotes “spring”. Equi-nox means “equal night”. As the Sun is positioned above the equator, day and night are about equal in length all over the world during the equinox.
March 20 (March 21 in some years) is significant for astronomical reasons. On March 20, 2012, at precisely 1:14 AM EDT (March 20, 05:14 AM UCT), the Sun crossed directly over the Earth’s equator. This moment is the vernal equinox in the Northern Hemisphere. (For the Southern Hemisphere, this is the moment of the autumnal equinox.) A second equinox occurs each year on Sept. 22 or 23; in 2012, it was on Sept. 22 at 10:49 AM EDT. This date marked the autumnal equinox in the Northern Hemisphere and the vernal equinox in the Southern.
Because of the 23.4 degree tilt of the Earth’s axis, we receive the Sun’s rays most directly in Summer. In Winter, when we are tilted away from the Sun, the rays pass through the atmosphere at a greater slant, bringing lower temperatures. If the Earth rotated on an axis perpendicular to the plane of the Earth’s orbit around the Sun, there would be no variation in day lengths or temperatures throughout the year, and we would not have seasons.
in Kemet built the Her Em Akhet (Greek Sphinx, Sophi-nox) so that it points directly toward the rising Sun on the day of the vernal equinox. Obviously, Africans have recognized vernal equinox for at least tens of thousands of years. But also among other people, there is no shortage of rituals and traditions surrounding the coming of Spring. Many peoples celebrated for the basic reason that their food supplies would soon be restored.
The first day of spring still marks the beginning of the Indian New Year, celebrated in a colorful festival called Holi. And Nowruz, the Persian New Year. The celebration lasts 13 days and is rooted in the tradition of Zorastrianism.
Europe, eggs and bunnies
Europeans make offerings of colored eggs to Eostre at the Vernal Equinox. It is a reference to the Moon and the Goddess of fertility. In Medieval Europe, eggs were forbidden during Lent. Eggs laid during that time were often boiled or otherwise preserved. Eggs were thus a mainstay of Easter meals, and a prized Easter gift for children and servants.
Now many traditions and practices have formed around Easter eggs. The coloring and decoration of eggs is an established art. Eggs are also used in various holiday games: the Easter egg hunts and egg rolls. Parents hide eggs for children to find, and children roll eggs down hills. The most famous egg roll takes place on the White House lawn every year.
In addition, eggs have been viewed as symbols of new life and fertility. It is believed that for this reason many ancient cultures used eggs during their spring festivals. The pagan Europeans also placed them at graves, probably as a charm of rebirth.
Hares and rabbits have long been symbols of fertility. This is also a reference to the Moon and the Goddess of fertility. The inclusion of the hare into Easter customs appear in Germany, where tales were told of an “Easter hare” who laid eggs for children to find and cakes for Easter were baked in the shape of hares. German immigrants to America brought the tradition with them and helped spread it. In modern times, many prefer buying chocolate bunnies and eggs.
Christians celebrate the Easter between March 22 and April 25, and connect it to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. According to the holy book the Bible, Jesus’ death and resurrection occurred around the time of the Jewish Passover, which was celebrated on the first full moon following the vernal equinox. [Jesus’ death and resurrection symbolizes the Winter Solstice. 7M] The Jewish celebrate “Passover” at around this time, from their Exodus story where God passes over the “chosen ones” on his way to kill the firstborns of ‘Egypt’ (Exodus 11, 12).
In 325 CE the Council of Nicaea established that Easter would be held on the first Sunday after the first full moon occurring on or after the vernal equinox. From that point forward, the Easter date depended on the ecclesiastical approximation of March 21 for the vernal equinox.
After their baptisms, early Christians wore white robes all through Easter week to indicate their new lives. Those who had already been baptized simply wore new clothes to symbolize their sharing a new life with Christ. In Medieval Europe, churchgoers would take a walk after Easter Mass, led by a crucifix or the Easter candle. Today these walks endure as Easter Parades. People show off their spring finery, including lovely bonnets decorated for spring.