Who is the “Eastre” Rabbit?

Via on Mar 30, 2010

Did you ever wonder why rabbits and eggs are symbols of Easter..? Before Passover and Easter, many ancient cultures

celebrated the Rite of Spring…

Before Christianity, Easter, Eastre, Eostre was goddess of dawn, spring and fertility.

No, it’s not a typo: Eastre is a Goddess and she loved rabbits. Did you ever wonder why we associate rabbits and eggs with Easter..? It goes back to a Beautiful, Bountiful Pagan Goddess…

This time of year is Passover and Easter, and many ancient cultures have celebrated the Rites of Spring…

Our Mother and Father

Earth is referred to as Mother since ancient times: “Mother Earth” and “Mother Nature.” Watching the cycles of Nature one sees that rain falling brings life to Earth, so ancient cultures saw Father as Heaven, and Earth as Mother.

The union of this heavenly Father and earthly Mother brought forth abundant crops, as the rains from the sky met the welcoming earth. Festivals like “The Marriage Feast of Canaan”  were Spring fertility rites in ancient times which celebrated this intercourse.

Christian Easter falls around the same time as Pagan Easter and after the Judaic Passover, which is fixed by a lunar cycle. The Jewish Passover was known as “Pasch”,  taken from the Hebrew  “Pesach”, meaning “to pass over”. It commemorates emancipation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt. The rituals of Passover remind us to honor freedom as Easter symbolises new life and the potential of renewal. Spring abounds with reminders of change and promise everywhere!

Eastre, the Goddess

Before Christianity, “Easter” (Eastre, Eostre) was a Teutonic goddess of dawn, spring and fertility. She is also called Ostara, goddess of dawn, with sunrise celebrations centered on growth and renewal. Prayers to her assured abundant crops, and eggs were eaten and exchanged as talismans.

Other Names of Spring Goddess:

  • Ostara
  • Ostare
  • Ostern
  • Eostre
  • Eostra
  • Eostur
  • Eastra
  • Eastur
  • Austron
  • Ausos
  • Ishtar
  • Ashtur

Symbolising the beginning of Spring, with brightening and longer days after vernal equinox, Eastre is full of growth and  passion of new life. She was the Great Mother Goddess of Northern Europe. She is a goddess of  dawn and spring, and her name derives from dawn, the light arising from East. The word, East is related to her and the female hormone, estrogen is named for her.

The Rite of Spring

Eastre’s male consort was the Sun god, and rites of spring were celebrated in her honor on the first day of spring. Pagan celebration were on the first full moon following vernal equinox. The full moon represents a “pregnant” phase of Eastre, passing into fertility to give birth to the Sun’s offspring.

“Eastre” is derived from the direction East, and the Spring Goddess is associated with  dawn. Eastre is related to the Indo-European Hausos, Goddess of dawn, and the Roman and Greek Godesses, Aurora and  Eos. In German Austron means dawn,  derived from Aus, “to shine”. The ancient word for Spring was Eastre, and Goddesses in many  cultures are celebrated as the bearer of springtime.

Aphrodite ~ Cyprus
Ashtoreth ~ Israel
Astarte ~ Greece
Demeter ~ Mycenae
Hathor ~ Egypt
Ishtar ~ Assyria
Kali ~ India
Ostara ~ Norse Goddess of fertility

The middle east celebrates many Spring festivals, including the Iranian Nowruz, ascension of the mythological king of Persia. Commemorated by Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, India, Turkey, Zanzibar, Albania, Kurds, and central Asia, it is a Zorostrian holiday, and celebrated by Baha’i’ and Nizari Ismalili Muslims.

Sham El Nessim has been celebrated since 2700 B.C. and ancient Egyptians celebrated this creation story with a feast at the Great Pyramid. The feast of Shemu, means ‘renewal of life’ later changed to ‘shamm’ (smelling or breathing) and ‘nessim’ (breeze). Sham El Nessim is celebrated as a national holiday, and is celebrated by Christians and Muslims as “Easter Monday”.

Rabbits & Eggs

Eastre represents renewal and fertility, and eggs and rabbits were sacred to her. Rabbits are potent symbol of fertility, as a female can conceive a second litter while still pregnant with the first! The markings of the full moon were believed by some Eastern cultures to be  an image of a rabbit pounding a mortar.

Some Asian folklore has rabbits living on the moon. Chinese Goddess Chang’e lives on the moon, because an overdose of immortality caused her to float up, and the Jade Rabbit continually pounds the elixir of life for her. In Japanese and Korean folklore,  rabbits pound mochi and tteok. a mashed sticky rice.

The Earth in Spring is full of fertility and awakening, so the egg is an obvious symbol, and it has been a symbol of rebirth since ancient times.The hare was sacred animal of the Spring Moon. At vernal equinox one of Eastre’s hares laid an egg, the Egg of New Life.

Egyptians and Greeks buried eggs in tombs of the dead as a sign of resurrection, and the egg is a symbol of nature rebirth and regeneration. Eggs were  decorated and given as gifts, and dyed eggs were part of early rituals in ancient Near Eastern civilizations. These could have been the first Easter eggs!

Easter egg decorating is an art in Germany and Russia, and old Spring rituals in  Germany and Sweden consist of throwing an egg into the air “to ensure grain will grow as high”

With all this growth and abundance around us, it might be a good time to create intentions for this year. Imagine yourself reborn anew,  filled with Spring energy, and use it to clear away something that no longer serves you.

Things to Energise You!

  • Decorate your home with Spring flowers; crocuses, daffodils, violets, lilac, lilies, roses, iris
  • Add something green: a plant, candles, soap to represent growth and expansion
  • Work on projects and ideas initiated around Winter Solstice

Here are some favourite Spring Flower symbols. Add some to your home!

  • Dogwood:  4 petals symbolize 4 directions
  • Iris:  Purity, wisdom, faith, birth blessing, life and resurrection
  • Honeysuckle:  Rebirth, renewal, spiritual sight, versatile mind
  • Jasmine:  Lunar, psychic, spiritual love
  • Lily:  Strong associations with fertility, purity, rebirth
  • Rose:  True love, joy,  yellow roses for Eastre

The soil is prepared, planting season has begun, so sow your seeds and hard work will bring you full bloom!

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CORA WEN grew up in Hong Kong, Indonesia, Switzerland, Australia and the US, and has travelled extensively around the world. She loves learning about legends and mythology of diverse countries and find ways to share these tales to connect others. Cora always wants to learn about people, and their cultural backgrounds, stories and wisdom. She teachers Yoga internationally, and uses Chinese Energy Meridians to describe her energetic Yoga flow. Cora has been dedicated in her support of preserving culture for exiled Tibetan people.

Find out about Cora, ERYT500 Yoga Alliance, CYT International Association of Yoga Therapists

About Cora Wen

CORA WEN grew up in a traditional Chinese family in Asia and the West, and took refuge in the Buddha as a teen. An international childhood growing up in Hong Kong and Indonesia, Switzerland, Australia and the US, has instilled the spirit of a travelling adventurer. After sowing wild oats in New York City in the 70s with rockers Deborah Harry and Patti Smith, she had careers in fashion and banking. Since 1994, Cora has taught Yoga, mentored by America’s most influential Yoga lineage. She has been dedicated since 2002 in support of indigenous culture for exiled Tibetan people and land mine victims. Find her at www.corawen.com.

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25 Responses to “Who is the “Eastre” Rabbit?”

  1. Tobye Hillier yogi Tobye says:

    Well said sugareemama! Thanks Cora!

  2. Wow, Cora. That qualifies as the most unexpectedly fascinating articles I've read recently.

    And to think I used to be excited about just finding a few jelly beans hidden around the house!

    Thanks for a great read.

    Bob Weisenberg
    http://YogaDemystified.com

  3. Thanks for this, Cora! Love, love, love it! I have sort of a compulsion for researching holidays, the history, symbolism, etc. I will add this to my stack of Easter articles so I can pour over it each year and think of you!

  4. lisa hilts says:

    I wish I could push a love button for this, Cora. Thank you for publishing this awesome article :-)

  5. Absolutely fantastic – makes me want to dye some eggs and buy chocolate bunnies in copious amounts to celebrate the glorious season of rebirth. Thanks for the fascinating article.

  6. Jessica says:

    Love the article!!! Thanks, Cora. I am going to create a new vision board now in light of your words. :)

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  9. Maheshvara says:

    Thanks! Interesting article… but instead of Kali as the equivalent of Eastre, Lakshmi or Shri the Goddess of abundance, beauty and radiance would be more appropiate for the Hindu manifestation. Kali is the fierce Goddess of destruction and literally means the "dark-one". Kali is a different manifestation of divinity, who is much more fierce and purifying.

  10. [...] who celebrate Easter as a more secular holiday can connect with the breath and the movement of the body, tracing the festival of the vernal [...]

  11. doseitmatter says:

    You all might want to know were the dying of the eggs came from. People would sacrifice babies and dye the eggs with the babies blood. I hope you enjoyed your pagan holiday.

  12. Usually I do not learn post on blogs, however I would like to say that this write-up very compelled me to check out and do so! Your writing style has been amazed me. Thank you, very nice post.

  13. CB says:

    Where did you get the association of Ashtorate as a Goddess to Israel? Jews do not believe in more than he God…

  14. CB z says:

    Correction …More than one God

  15. Robin Turner says:

    I don't like to pour cold water on a nice story, but the Eostre/Eastre/whatever story is just that – there's very little evidence to show that Easter derived from any pagan festival except that (a) most people celebrate Spring and (b) Bede has one sentence that mentions a goddess called Eostre after whom he assumes the Saxon lunar month was named – a goddess who is never mentioned anywhere else. See "Eostre: The Making of a Myth" http://cavalorn.livejournal.com/502368.html

  16. the Eostre/Eastre/whatever story is just that – there's very little evidence to show that Easter derived from any pagan festival except that (a) most people celebrate Spring and (b) Bede has one sentence that mentions a goddess called Eostre

  17. Florencia says:

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  19. sportsinhd says:

    There is so much here that is just not true. No one is really sure if there is an actual goddess named Eostre, and if there is she's certainly not related to Ishtar. (Just because things sound similar in English doesn't mean they are related in any way linguistically). Eastre is only named in one source, the English historian Bede, and he didn't include any mythology with that mention. There is nothing connecting Eastre to rabbits other than historical want and wishful thinking. If Eastre was truly "the great Mother Goddess of Western Europe" we would have stories and myths dedicated to her, along with archeological remains.

    If you are going to publish "history" please make sure it's history, and provide a few references.

  20. Brad says:

    This is nearly pure fantasy. You haven't cited any sources to back any of this up. There is a romantic desire to know the clear origin (and Freudian obsession with claiming to know the symbolic meaning) of contemporary phenomena but those origins/meanings are anything but clear and the associations between different deities and their attributes here are speculation at best and mostly fabrication. There is no connection between Eostre and Ishtar and no connection between Eoster and rabbits or eggs. There is a clear explanation for Easter eggs without resorting to imaginary universal meanings. When Lenten fasting was instituted by the Council of Aix in 837, all animal products such as meat, cheese and eggs were off the menu until 1784 when eggs were reclassified as acceptable fare for penitents. The long period in which eggs were forbidden during Lent gave rise to certain practical measures independent of the presumed archaic or universal symbolism of the egg. In addition to the distribution of eggs laid and preserved during Lent at Easter, any pre-Lenten eggs would have been used up during Carnival. Numerous concomitant egg rituals have been documented since the Middle Ages including widespread and still familiar games such as egg hunts, egg races, egg-rolling, egg-tossing and of course, egg fights, such as the famous battles that took place in Medieval times at Chester Cathedral between the bishop, dean and choristers during the midst of Easter services (Toussaint-Samat 1993: 355-62).

  21. Brad says:

    The only source of information about the Goddess Eostre is Bede (below in full) and you will see there is no reference to any attributes such as fertility, dawn, rabbits, eggs or spring. I have cited sources to back this up. In the future, please back up your claims. Spreading false information is not enlightened and does not help people to become better persons.

    In chapter 15 of his 8th-century work De temporum ratione, Bede describes the indigenous month names of the English people. After describing the worship of the goddess Rheda during the Anglo-Saxon month of Hrethmonath, Bede writes about Eosturmonath, the month of the goddess Ēostre:

    Original Latin:

    Eostur-monath, qui nunc Paschalis mensis interpretatur, quondam a Dea illorum quæ Eostre vocabatur, et cui in illo festa celebrabant nomen habuit: a cujus nomine nunc Paschale tempus cognominant, consueto antiquæ observationis vocabulo gaudia novæ solemnitatis vocantes.[1]

    Modern English translation:
    Eosturmonath has a name which is now translated "Paschal month", and which was once called after a goddess 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."[2]

    1. Giles, John Allen (1843). The Complete Works of the Venerable Bede, in the Original Latin, Collated with the Manuscripts, and Various Print Editions, Accompanied by a New English Translation of the Historical Works, and a Life of the Author. Vol. VI: Scientific Tracts and Appendix. London: Whittaker and Co., Ave Maria Lane.
    2. Wallis, Faith (Trans.) (1999). Bede: The Reckoning of Time. Liverpool University Press. ISBN 0-85323-693-3

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