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Monday, 28 March 2016

A Flowchart for Telling if a Christian Festival Really Originated in a Pagan One


8 comments :

  1. Reasonable evidence for word "Easter" having pagan origins, though? Bede?

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  2. Reasonable evidence for word "Easter" having pagan origins, though? Bede?

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    1. The word may have. Though the evidence is pretty slight. The idea that "Easter" is therefore a pagan festival - drivel.

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    2. Bede is the only authority for this "goddess Eostre" who is not mentioned by any other contemporary source. Unfortunately he doesn't say where he got his information from. Nor are there any surviving physical representations of her (eg carvings, vessels, coins, temples, remains of groves) nor any account of any rites or worship. All he says is, "Eosturmonath has a name which is now translated "Paschal month", and which was once called after a goddess [dea] of theirs named Eostre, in whose honour feasts were celebrated in that month. Now they designate that Paschal season by her name, calling the joys of the new rite by the time-honoured name of the old observance." (De Ratione Temporum). It is not clear who the first "they" refers to; Bede says he is talking about "the English people" "in former times", so he could be referring to the Celts or (given that he is writing in the 8th century) to the early Anglo-Saxon invaders. Very little is known about the religion(s) of the latter, but I think it's a fair guess that a female god, in spring, has got to have something to do with fertility. She may have been a purely local cult, there were dozens of those, of which Bede just happened to have heard. Beyond that, it's impossible to go.

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    3. That's a pretty good summary of what I thought

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  3. Well, as for the goddess, there's the evidence of one comment from one person who is rather vaguely reporting something someone told him.

    The idea that "Easter" comes from a word meaning something like "spring" in languages spoken by people who were, at the time, Pagan, now, that's more likely. No one seems to know for sure what they called their goddess of the spring, if they had one, or what kind of festival they held to honour her, although I suppose Bede's guess is as good as any.

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  4. I like to think that we owe something to a pagan heritage - after all, Lady Godiva exhibited Pagan qualities, riding through Coventry in the Buff.

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  5. The main reason that Lady G never became a saint was that she lived too long and the Norman Conquest intervened. The Anglo/ Saxons were more liberal in ascribing sainthood to godly aristocrats.

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