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Easter: The Celebration of the Possible Resurrection of Christ or the Pagan Goddess Eostre ?


Regularly observed from the earliest days of the Church, Easter celebrates Christ’s resurrection from the dead, following crucifixion. It marks the end of Holy Week, the end of Lent, and the last day of the Easter Triduum (starting from the evening of Maundy Thursday, through Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday), as well as the beginning of the Easter season of the liturgical year.

In the New Testament (1 Corinthians 5:7), Paul connects the resurrected Christ to Passover. He refers to Jesus as the paschal lamb who has been sacrificed for his people’s salvation. Jesus celebrated the Last Supper with his disciples during Passover, so it makes sense that the Feast of the Resurrection is connected with the Jewish holiday. Today, Christians celebrate the “Paschal mystery.”

Easter is the most important feast day in the Christian calendar; however, a quick google search on the ‘pagan origins of Easter’ will yield a plethora of articles from various sources all repeating the same information about the pagan origin's of Easter.


Between the 5th and 8th century a variant of Germanic paganism spread across much of north-western Europe, it encompassed a heterogeneous variety of beliefs and cultic practices, with much regional variation.


Some academics have reported the name 'Easter' is derived from 'Eostre', the name of the pagan fertility goddess. The Germanic goddess of dawn who is celebrated during the Spring Equinox on the old Germanic calendar. The equivalent month to April was called “Eostarmānod” – or Easter-month named after her. As a holiday, some have argued that Easter predates Christianity and was originally the name for Spring Equinox celebrations and provides evidence for the pagan celebrations and beginnings of what we now know as Easter.

Others dispute this origin of Easter as the only source of this is an 8th century English monk called the Venerable Bede. Prior to Bede, there is no mention in any Germanic, Celtic, or English ancient literature about this goddess or Eostarmānod celebrations; however, this is not to say there wasn't any. It is odd though considering the literature is otherwise filled with the beliefs and religious practices of pagan groups at the time. Interestingly, there is not a single reference to her, from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, any of the other writings we have from the period, or from inscriptions, no depiction, no amulets nothing and one would think that the 'goddess of fertility' would be quite important to these people.

In AD 595, Pope Gregory sent a mission of 40 monks led by a Benedictine called Augustine to England with instructions to convert the pagan inhabitants to Christianity. Augustine was advised to allow the outward forms of the old, heathen festivals and beliefs to remain intact, but wherever possible to superimpose Christian ceremonies and philosophy on them.


Pope Gregory’s mandate of conversion through coercion was brilliant in its simplicity: he surmised that the easy-going but deeply superstitious Anglo-Saxon peasants would not object if the seasonal festivals of the pagan calendar were Christianised, provided the ancient celebrations remained basically unchanged. Gradually, the main heathen feasts became days honouring Christ or one of the Christian saints.


Bede like Pope Gregory, may have supported the pagan celebrations to persist where it did not impact on Christian doctrine. Let us suppose for an instant that pagan's did worship this goddess and used the name of her month Eostarmānod” – or Easter-month for the new Christian festival given that it fell around the same time of year. The leap from this to claiming the festival itself was somehow ‘pagan’ maybe false as Christians had been celebrating Easter since at least the second century AD. Contrasting this it has been reported that the practices of paganism were followed by the Anglo-Saxon’s between the 5th and 8th centuries.


It seems the only thing the goddess Eostre seems to have given to Easter is her name.


Paul Rushworth-Brown is the author of three novels:

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Times were tough in 1603, and there were shenanigans and skulduggery committed by locals and outsiders alike...

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Novels by Paul Rushworth-Brown

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