Over on Patheos there’s a wonderful interview with an old friend of mine, Adrian Bott – better known online as Cavalorn. Cavalorn is a children’s author (responsible for, amongst other things, the Dan Hunter line of books), occult historian and the former proprietor of (the late, lamented) New Aeon Books in Manchester who has made a lifelong study of magic and paganism. He also writes and consults for tabletop and computer games and has appeared in a Channel 4 documentary about Rasputin, amongst other things.
Anyone who’s known Cavalorn for more than a year will know about his yearly rants on the subject of Eostre, debunking much of the commonly-held and incorrect beliefs about the Spring Equinox and how it relates (i.e. doesn’t) to Easter, particularly the commonly-held belief beloved of so many neo-pagans that Christians “stole” Easter. There is no definitive historical evidence that a goddess named Eostre and her hare companion was part of pagan folklore, and Cavalorn has repeatedly, vociferously and with citations a-plenty done his best to scotch this perennial favourite from the modern pagan movement.
He’s unearthed some really rather lovely little nuggets of information along the way, including the story of the Easter Fox (Osterfuchs) which predates that of the Easter Hare or Bunny.
My favourite part of the interview comes in his final summing up:
The most pernicious thing about the popular Eostre myth – the whole spring goddess with the egg laying bunny bit – is not its falsity but its homogenity. Its purpose is to recast a globally celebrated Christian festival with secular elements in modern Pagan terms. But if we do that, our paganism is nothing but that same global Christianity with the numbers filed off. To reclaim ‘Santa Claus’ or ‘The Easter Bunny’ is to adopt mass-market icons.
I think we have to reaffirm the importance of the local, the personal, the particular. Don’t just accept the stories you’re told uncritically and circulate them. Embrace the uncertainty and tell your own stories. I have no interest in the rosy-cheeked smiling flowers-and-ribbons choccy-box Eostre with basket of decorated eggs and fluffy rabbit that you see all over the place on the pagan Internet.
But a wild-eyed Eostre, a survivor, young and rangy and half-starved from winter, clawing her way up a barren mountainside with her fox at her heels towards a blood-red Spring dawn, grinning in triumph, alive, unbroken, unbreakable? I’ll drink to her any day.
I heartily recommend reading the interview; it’s well worth a few minutes of your time, whether you consider yourself Christian, Pagan or a blending of the two.
Further recommended reading – Articles about the Eostre myth by Adrian Bott:
- Cavalorn: Eostre: the making of a myth (part 1)
- Cavalorn: Eostre: the making of a myth (part 2)
- Cavalorn: Hunting the spurious Eostre Hare
- Cavalorn: Eostre, Ostara, and the Easter Fox
- Rational blogs: No, it’s not all about Ishtar. Some mythbusting Easter facts from your friendly pagan sceptic.
- Guardian “Comment is Free”: The Modern Myth of the Easter Bunny