Saturday, March 30, 2013


Sybil asked about the word Easter, wondering if the liturgical feast received that name because the events narrated in the New Testament took place in the Mideast rather than in the West. In answer, I’m going to reprint something that appeared here in 2007.

  • Ancient Babylonians and Syrians worshipped the goddess Ishtar.
  • Among Semitic worshippers, the same goddess was called Astarte.
  • When her cult spread to Europe, her name evolved into Ostara.
  • The name came into Anglo-Saxon as Eastre.
Her feast occurred during the vernal equinox, and since she was a fertility goddess, prolific symbols such as rabbits and eggs were part of the trappings.

Canny Christian missionaries incorporated some of the features into their celebration of the Resurrection. Their formula for the date of Easter has been passed along for centuries: the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox.

Available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition
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