Eggs and Hares, Hares and Eggs - Folkbuilder James Cummings
Ostara is our Goddess of the Dawn, of Spring, and Rebirth. Her return at the Spring Equinox heralds longer days and warmer weather. We see green sprouts and await the blooming of flowers.
References to Ostara in the Scandinavian Lore is scant. It seems her worship was more prevalent in the Germanic lands slightly to the south (Germany and England). The Christian historian Bede, writing in 731 CE, noted the prevalence of a Spring festival in honor of Eostre (English spelling of the German ‘Ostara’) in April. The old English calendar even named what we now call April as “Eosturmonath”, and in the old German calendar, it was Ostarmanod.
Today, many Christians gladly color eggs and tell their children that the Easter bunny hides them, along with treat-laden baskets, as part of their Easter celebrations. However, these customs, along with the name of the holiday itself, have nothing to do with any faith originating in the Middle East. These are our traditions. As with many aspects of Yule, the ancient holiday was intentionally overlaid with a Christian veneer as part of the conversion process.
In his Deutsch Mythologie, written in 1835, Jacob Grimm picked up on Bede’s writings to reacquaint the Folk with our Spring Goddess. Expanding on his work, Adolph Holtzman, writing his own book, in 1883, of the same name (Deutsch Mythologie), relates the story of Ostara, on her way to bring rebirth to the world, finding a bird, frozen and nearly dead. In pity, the Goddess restored the bird to life. But it’s wings being so damaged by the frost, they could not be healed, she instead revived the bird in the form of a hare. The hare grew sad, as it could no longer fly. In compensation, Ostara allowed the hare to once again lay brightly colored eggs, once a year, at the time of her return. There are several versions of this story, some a little more complex, but what is described above covers the general idea.
Since ancient times, the hare has been associated with fertility (they breed, after all, like rabbits), and the egg symbolizes pending birth and the eternal cycle of life. It is appropriate that they are associated with the Goddess who brings life back into the world.
This year, as you color eggs and conceal chocolate bunnies for children to delight in finding, bear in mind that you are participating in a tradition (and honoring a Goddess), that our Germanic ancestors practiced for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years before the coming of Christianity.
Folkbuilder James Cummings