A Pagan, A Christian, And The Easter Bunny Walk In To A Bar…
My favorite “holiday” is upon us, and I decided to do a little research on the origins of Easter, so with an open mind I turned to Google (despite warnings of a drop in dopamine made by @AlexLiang in Doping Out On Dopamine). Because, well, I was in a hotel room, not within walking distance of a library, and I had no car. So, throwing caution and dopamine levels to the wind, I Googled it with apt pleasure.
I typed the words “pagan history of Easter” into the search box, which for any who may be conservatively Christian in nature, despite what you’ve been told, pagan does not presumptively mean “devil worshiper”, but apparently it does hail a belief in something other than main stream Christianity. So, in the spirit of Easter and bunnies I hopped onto the Pagan trail to see what pagan actually meant. What I found personally surprised and intrigued me.
Right there in the middle of the definition was the disgusting childhood thing my Mom called me and my sisters when we were not behaving to her satisfaction.
“Heathens,” she’d cry.
And just like that, we had been cast among infidels, idolaters, and pagans. While she vehemently declared us “little heathens”, did she also think us pagans, infidels and idolaters too?
The word, used both as a noun and an adjective, comes from the Latin word paganus which means villager or rustic. Now that doesn’t sound so bad, so how does one go from being a rustic villager to a devil worshiper in a matter of a few centuries? Enter the Christian Latin meaning of the word pagan and you get “there” by not “being enrolled in the army of Christ”. Gee, all I had to do to get “there” in my mom’s eyes was climb trees, soil my clothes and be late for dinner. Times change.
Hopping off the trail of pagans and back on to the Easter Bunny’s trail I noted one of the top search results was “Goddess Easter: Celebration of the Spring Equinox (www.nobeliefs.com/easter.htm) “ and the “no beliefs” dot com website struck me as a touch ironic. Even a belief in not believing is still a belief, right? Now, I’m not questioning anyone’s right to believe or not to believe, I’m simply asserting that everybody believes something about their own existence whether it’s mainstream or for lack of a better word, pagan. How we got “here” (wherever here is) and what we’re doing “here” is The Question encoded in humanity’s DNA. Thus, I suspect the answer is there too, though we’ll have a much harder time agreeing on it.
Returning to my investigation into the origin of the name “Easter” revealed a nod to the aforementioned site referencing Goddesses and the Spring Equinox by a Christian scholar named Bede(672–735). Therein he claims Easter or Eastre was named after the Great Mother Goddess of the Saxon people in Northern Europe(http://www.religioustolerance.org/easter1.htm) Additionally, there are many other biblical and religious scholars who have scoured early history and multiple civilized references to find even older ties to Easter; however, modern Christian scholars deny any biblical connection to Christ’s resurrection and discourage the use of Easter in this context. Personally speaking, I’m a bit skeptical of a religious movement which commands its followers to ignore the whole of human history preceeding it.
Now, lets get to that bunny with a spring in his step and a basket full of eggs, better known as the Easter Bunny.
Turns out he or she is an extremely fertile pagan. What? You heard me, a big old fuzzy, cuddly baby making pagan carrying around the pagan symbols of fertility in a wicker basket full of colorful eggs. Forget the stork people, you wanna keep your eye on the Easter Bunny, “breeding like rabbits” and all. Pagan lore and the symbolic rituals of Spring renewal put aside, the Easter Bunny also happens to be a creation of the sinister but brilliant segment of the population known as marketers. Marketers live to make you buy things you don’t need. Marketers created the Easter Bunny to serve the commercial machine of capitalism which needed to manufacture a “holiday” in the Spring to boost revenues. Cynical? Maybe, but no less true. The greeting card, the egg, and the candy industries thank you for your patronage.
So, a pagan, a Christian and the Easter bunny walk in to a bar. Who orders the wine and who orders the carrot juice?
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2016 S. Lynn Knight