Sunday, March 8, 2009

Easter vs Ostara

*please note that story of Cybele and Attis is not completely accurate but as this was working with young ones, and wanted mainly to find links between Christ and Pagan deities**

EASTER VS OSTARA Many, perhaps most, Pagan religions in the Mediterranean area had a major seasonal day of religious celebration at or following the Spring Equinox. Cybele, a fertility goddess, had a consort who was believed to have been born via a virgin birth. He was Attis, who was believed to have died and been resurrected each year during the period MAR-22 to MAR-25. "About 200 B.C. mystery cults began to appear in Rome just as they had earlier in Greece. Most notable was the Cybele cult centered on Vatican hill ...Associated with the Cybele cult was that of her lover, Attis (the older Osiris, Dionysus, or Orpheus under a new name). He was a god of ever-reviving vegetation. Born of a virgin, he died and was reborn annually. The festival began as a day of blood on Black Friday and culminated after three days in a day of rejoicing over the resurrection." Wherever Christian worship of Jesus and Pagan worship of Attis were active in the same geographical area in ancient times, Christians "used to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus on the same date; and pagans and Christians used to quarrel bitterly about which of their gods was the true prototype and which the imitation."

Another remnant of the Pagan sacred drama was the image of the vegetation God buried in his tomb, then withdrawn and said to live again as the earth begins to turn green. The church instituted a similar custom early in the Middle Ages. A small building was erected and the consecrated host placed within, a priest was set to watch it from Good Friday to Easter Sunday. Then the host was taken out and displayed, and the congregation was told "Christ" (someone playing the savior) was risen. This is still acted out today to remind all of the power of rebirth. Regardless of if one thinks as the figure as Jesus, the goddess, greenman or any other God-like form, it still holds a strong, similar meaning to us all. Death is never the end. The circle will always turn. What was will be. What has been will be again.

Although taken as a given, one question that is rarely asked, but should be, is why Easter has to fall on a Sunday. In 325 AD, the council of Nice issued an edict that read, in pertinent part, "Easter was to fall upon the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the Vernal Equinox; and if said full moon fell on a Sunday, the Easter should be the Sunday after." The Easter celebration was coordinated with older, pre-Christian celebrations of spring. The direct relationship to Sunday as the day sacred to the Sun, the ultimate symbol of life, is obvious; yet the subtle connections to the earlier celebrations of the time of planting and the Moon are of equal importance in determining the day of the Easter celebration.

The resurrection of Christ Jesus is a retelling of the Dramas of the Egyptian Osiris and the Babylonian Bel, which in turn was a retelling of the symbolic death of the Great Mother of the first clans so that the community may survive. It is also bound up with the Nile Valley African’s concept of creation and their observations of the sun’s movements through various star constellations. It doesn’t matter which story connects with a person, they all share the same meaning. They all provide hope and not only are symbolic for the earth’s growth, death and rebirth patterns, but also our own inner selves. We grow as the earth grows. We "die" or turn inwards just as the earth does in winter and so we also are reborn and turn outward to join the dance of life just as the earth does in spring time.

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