Goddess of the Month: Eostre

Eostre

Eostre the Norse/Germanic Goddess of Spring, Fertility, and the Dawn. In fact, the old Anglo-Saxon word “Eostremonath” or “Ostaramonath” is what they called the month of April, and when they held festivals in Eostre’s honor. Ostara, or “Easter” was essentially a name for her, although that second name was eventually usurped by the Christians as a name for their resurrection holy day. Her name may also be related to that of the Greek Goddess Eos, also a Goddess of the Dawn. There is not a lot of consistent writings about Eostre, which has led to different theories about her origins.

Some scholars wondered if the ancient writer St. Bede actually invented her existence when he wrote about Eostremonath, but it’s mostly agreed that Bede inventing goddesses is extremely unlikely. It’s also said that he wrote about another goddess who would have been worshiped around the spring equinox named Hredhe. The month of March was named for her, so some say she is actually the goddess the Anglo-Saxons would have worshiped at the equinox, while Eostre was worshiped in April because that was her month. However, it is Eostre who is most associated with the festivals of Ostara and Easter.

Jakob Grimm also wrote about her in Teutonic Mythology. He wrote that “Eostre” as a word is related to the High German word “ostar” which describes movement towards the sun. He believed Eostre seemingly being a deity of the dawn who brought joy and blessings could easily be why it was easy to adapt her festival day to the resurrection day of Jesus in Christianity. Some believe, although there isn’t a lot of writing to back it up, that Ostara is another form of the goddess Freya, while others believe she may be Idua, or Walburga. More modern practitioners of Norse traditions believe she is at least very close to the Vanir, if not an actual Vanic goddess.

Eostre is usually portrayed as a youthful maiden who is old enough to bear children, but not yet a mother, as Ostara is often a time of restored youth. Many people collected ‘holy water’ in the form of dew, because it was said that if you washed yourself with it, your youth would be restored. Grimm believed the white maiden would come to a brook on Easter morning to collect this water.

All in all, her origins seem to be a mystery. But while she may not be evident in a lot of writings, she is evident to us every year. We can see and feel her evidence in the first warmth of the spring months, in the birds as they migrate north again, in the plants and trees as they begin to bloom, and in the animals that come out of their winter hiding places. Eggs start to appear again, as chickens don’t typically lay in winter when they are kept in the natural light. The months of March and April surround the equinox, known as “Ostara,” and are the peak time of year for chickens to lay eggs. Those eggs were a welcome protein source for our ancestors, who experienced long and hungry winters.

Given this, it’s unsurprising that the rabbit or hare is Eostre’s sacred animal. They are symbols of fertility and purity, as well as rebirth and renewal. Many other lunar goddesses such as Hecate and Freya are also associated with rabbits and hares (they are often considered the same animal in a lot of mythology), but Eostre is the one most associated with this lunar animal. Another symbol, also not surprising, is the egg, an even more obvious symbol of fertility and birth. Eggs are in particular abundance is the spring due to the hens laying more after the long winters. The moon also represents nature’s rebirth in Spring, so all three are connected to Eostre. She is the true embodiment of fertility, rebirth, and Springtime.

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-Shannon Tricia

shannontricia.wordpress.com

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