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Forum Home > Blessed Ostara / Earraigh ~ > OSTARA: Info, Origins, Associations, etc. . . .

Azhdaya Ravenwolf
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~ Ēostre ~

Ostara (1884) by Johannes Gehrts. The goddess flies through the heavens surrounded by Roman-inspired putti, beams of light, and animals. Germanic people look up at the goddess from the realm below.

Old English  Ēostre  (also  Ēastre)  and  Old High German  Ôstarâ  are the names of a putative  Germanic goddess  whose Anglo-Saxon month,  Ēostur-monath,  has given its name to the  festival of Easter . . . .Eostre is attested only by Bede, in his 8th century work De temporum ratione, where he states that Ēostur-monath was the equivalent to the month of April, and that feasts held in her honour during Ēostur-monath had died out by the time of his writing, replaced by the "Paschal month". The possibility of a Common Germanic goddess called  *Austrōn - was examined in detail in 19th century Germanic philology, by Jacob Grimm and others, without coming to a definite conclusion.

Linguists have identified the goddess as a Germanic form of the reconstructed Proto-Indo-European goddess of the dawn,  *Hausos,  some scholars have debated whether or not  Eostre  is an invention of Bede's, and theories connecting Eostre with records of Germanic Easter customs (including hares and eggs) have been proposed.


Ēostre  derives from Proto-Germanic *austrō,  ultimately from a PIE root *au̯es-, "to shine" and closely related to a conjectural name of  Hausos,  the dawn goddess, *hausōs,  which would account for Greek Eos,  Roman Aurora  and Indian Ushas.

The modern English term  Easter  is the direct continuation of  Old English Ēastre,  which is attested solely by Bede in the 8th century . . . Ēostre  is the Northumbrian form  while  Ēastre  is West Saxon.

Bede states that the name refers to a  goddess named Ēostre  who was celebrated at  Eosturmonath, one of the months of the Anglo-Saxon calendar . . . In the 19th century Hans Grimm  cited  Bede  when he proposed the existence of an Old High German equivalent named  ōstarūn,  plural, "Easter" (modern German language Ostern) . . . There is no certain parallel to  Ēostre  in North Germanic languages  though  Grimm  speculates that the east wind, "a spirit of light" named  Austri  found in the 13th century Icelandic Prose Edda book Gylfaginning, might be related.

Bede's Account

Eástre (1909) by Jacques Reich. Directly derived from Gehrts' image (above), with the Germanic worshipers replaced by a picturesque landscape.

Jacob Grimm and Ostara

In his 1882 Deutsche MythologieJacob Grimm cites comparative evidence to reconstruct a potential continental Germanic goddess whose name would have been preserved in the  Old High German name of Easter,  Ôstarâ . . . Grimm is willing to take Bede's accounts of three pagan goddesses at face value, stating, "There is nothing improbable in them, nay the first of them is justified by clear traces in the vocabularies of Germanic tribes."

Specifically regarding  Eostra, Grimm continues that:

We Germans to this day call April  ostermonat,  and  ôstarmânoth  is found as early as Eginhart (temp. Car. Mag.). The great christian festival, which usually falls in  April  or  the end of March,  bears in the oldest of OHG. remains the name  ôstarâ  [...], it is mostly found in the plural, because two days [...] were kept at Easter. This  Ostarâ,  like the [Anglo-Saxon]  Eástre,  must in heathen religion have denoted a higher being, whose worship was so firmly rooted, that the christian teachers tolerated the name, and applied it to one of their own grandest anniversaries.

Grimm notes that  "all of the nations bordering on us have retained the Biblical  'pascha';  even Ulphilas writes  paska,  not  áustrô,  though he must have known the word [...]." . . . Grimm details that the Old High German adverb  ôstarexpresses movement towards the rising sun", as did the Old Norse term  austr,  and potentially also Anglo-Saxon  eástor  and  Gothic  áustr . . .  Grimm compares these terms to the  identical Latin term  auster . . . Grimm says that the cult of the goddess may have worshiped an Old Norse form,  Austra,  or that her cult may have already been extinct by the time of Christianization

Grimm notes that in the  Old Norse Prose Edda book Gylfaginning,  a male being by the name of  Austri  is attested, who Grimm describes as a "spirit of light." Grimm comments that a female version would have been  Austra,  yet that the High German and Saxon tribes  seem to have only formed  Ostarâ  and  Eástre,  feminine, and not  Ostaro  and  Eástra,  masculine. Grimm additionally speculates on the  nature of the goddess  and  surviving folk customs  that may have been associated with her in Germany:

Ostara, Eástre  seems therefore to have been the  divinity of the radiant dawn,  of upspringing light, a spectacle that brings joy and blessing,  whose meaning could be easily adapted by the resurrection-day of the christian's God . . . Bonfires were lighted at Easter  and  according to popular belief of long standing, the moment the sun rises on Easter Sunday morning, he gives three joyful leaps, he dances for joy [...]. Water drawn on the Easter morning is, like that at Christmas, holy and healing [...]; here also heathen notions seems to have grafted themselves on great christian festivals.  Maidens clothed in white,  who at  Easter,  at the season of returning spring, show themselves in clefts of the rock and on mountains, are suggestive of the  ancient goddess [...].

Hares and Freyja

An Easter postcard from 1907 depicting a rabbit

In Northern Europe, Easter imagery often involves  hares  and  rabbits . . .  Citing  folk Easter customs in Leicestershire, England  where  "the profits of the land called Harecrop Leys were applied to providing a meal which was thrown on the ground at the 'Hare-pie Bank'", late 19th century scholar  Charles Isaac Elton  theorizes a  connection between these customs  and the worship of  Ēostre . . . In his late 19th century study of the  hare in folk custom  and mythology, Charles J. Billson cites numerous incidents of  folk custom involving the  hare  around the period of  Easter  in Northern Europe . . . Billson says that "whether there was a  goddess named  Eostre, or not, and whatever connection the  hare  may have had with the  ritual of Saxon  or  British worship, there are good grounds for believing that the sacredness of this animal reaches back into an age still more remote, where it is probably a very important part of the great Spring Festival of the prehistoric inhabitants of this island."

Some scholars have linked customs and imagery involving  hares  to  Ēostre  and the  Norse goddess Freyja . . . Writing in 1972, John Andrew Boyle  cites commentary contained within an etymology dictionary by  A. Ernout  and  A. Meillet,  where the authors write that  "Little else [...] is known about [Ēostre], but it has been suggested that her lights, as goddess of the dawn, were carried by hares. And she certainly represented spring fecundity, and love and carnal pleasure that leads to fecundity." . . . Boyle  responds that nothing is known about  Ēostre  outside of  Bede's single passage,  that the authors had seemingly accepted the identification of  Ēostre  with the  Norse goddess Freyja,  yet that the  hare  is not associated with  Freyja  either . . . Boyle writes that  "her carriage, we are told by Snorri, was drawn by a pair of cats — animals, it is true, which like hares were the familiars of witches, with whom Freyja seems to have much in common."  However, Boyle adds that "on the other hand, when the authors speak of the  hare  as the 'companion of  Aphrodite  and of  satyrs and  cupids'  and  point out that 'in the Middle Ages it appears beside the figure of  Luxuria',  they are on much surer ground and can adduce the evidence of their illustrations."

Modern Influence

Jacob Grimm's reconstructed  *Ostara  has had some influence in popular culture since . . . The name has been adapted as an  asteroid (343  Ostara, 1892 by Max Wolf),  a  Mödling,  Austria-based German nationalist book series and publishing house (1905, Ostara), and  a date on the  Wiccan Wheel of the Year (Ostara, 21 March) . . . In  music,  it has been adopted as a name by the musical group  Ostara,  and  as the  names of albums by :zoviet*france: (Eostre, 1984) and  The Wishing Tree (Ostara, 2009).



March 18, 2011 at 3:49 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Azhdaya Ravenwolf
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Posts: 354

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~ Azhdaya Ravenwolf 


March 24, 2014 at 1:40 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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