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Ostara – Eostre – Eástre – Austriahenea


Ostara - Eostre - Eástre - Austriahenea

Hail Eostre!
Spring has come to the Southern Hemisphere!

“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.”
– Deutsche Mythologie Vol.1, Jacob Grimm, 1835

“But if we admit, goddesses, then, in addition to Nerthus, Ostara has the strongest claim to consideration. To what we said on p. 290 I can add some significant facts. The heathen Easter had much in common with May-feast and the reception of spring, particularly in matter of bonfires. Then, through long ages there seem to have lingered among the people Easter-games so-called, which the church itself had to tolerate : I allude especially to the custom of Easter eggs, and to the Easter tale which preachers told from the pulpit for the people’s amusement, connecting it with Christian reminiscences.”
– Deutsche Mythologie Vol.2, Jacob Grimm, 1840

Grimm comments on further Easter time customs, including unique sword dances and particular baked goods (“pastry of heathenish form”). In addition, Grimm weights a potential connection to the Slavic spring goddess Vesna and the Lithuanian Vasara.

Scholar Philip A. Shaw (2011) writes that the subject has seen “a lengthy history of arguments for and against Bede’s goddess Eostre, with some scholars taking fairly extreme positions on either side” and that some theories against the goddess have gained popular cultural prominence.
Shaw, however, notes that “much of this debate, however, was conducted in ignorance of a key piece of evidence, as it was not discovered until 1958.
This evidence is furnished by over 150 Romano-Germanic votive inscriptions to deities named the matron Austriahenea, found near Morken-Harff and datable to around 150-250 AD”.
Most of these inscriptions are in an incomplete state, yet most are in a complete enough for reasonable clarity of the inscriptions. As early as 1966 scholars have linked these names etymologically with Eostre and an element found in Germanic personal names.
Shaw argues against a functional interpretation from the available evidence and concludes that “the etymological connections of her name suggests that her worshippers saw her geographical and social relationship with them as more central than any functions she may have had”.
Shaw, Philip A. (2011). Pagan Goddesses in the Early Germanic Goddess: Eostre, Hreda and the Cult of Matrons. Bristol Classical Press. ISBN 978-0-7156-3797-5

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