There was something about white and yellow flowers, filling my thoughts with white Easter eggs and soft yellow lemon flavoured sugar or marshmallow centers. Mmm... the best. Something was said about a Cross, a cave and a big stone and Jesus coming out. In my mind as a little boy I just thought it was the cave where the Easter Bunny lived. At least I could tell it was about goodness and life. Of course, I thought, when they talked about the SON of GOD rising on Easter morning, they meant the SUN, GOD had made in the sky, rising on Easter morning. I'd think to myself, the SUN rises every morning doesn't it, so why was this morning so important?
But sometimes the things meant to point us to the point, become seemingly pointless if we get distracted by the trappings. I guess that's why they call them trap-pings.
This was one of the few times a year we children got to stay in the big people service, hearing the stories they got to hear. Of course, this made me wonder why we didn't stay with them every service. The stories were filled with pictures, and the minister was really nice, and happy, as he told us about Jesus being killed, by and for selfish people. This kinda left me confused. It was sad, why could he smile about this? And until he shared about what happened on the third day, I never understood what it was all about. Hey, I guess I did eventually focus after all. We sang songs like the 'Old Rugged Cross', 'Because He Lives ' and 'Coming Again'. All of us little ones tried to keep up as best we could, not really knowing the words.
However, there was that one song we knew from Sunday school, 'Jesus Loves Me', and you should have seen us shine then. You never saw so many little kids sing as loud as they could, trying to out sing our parents, but...it was always met with big smiles from the adults.
No doubt, we were a little distracted by the egg hunt coming after Sunday school, so maybe we didn't really focus on the point they were trying to share, you know, that Life had overcome death. As attested to by thousands, after Christ walked among them again. But hey, don't we all have lapses in focus and miss things in life? Distractions becoming our attraction, kinda thing, huh. I heard a twist on a modern adage, somewhere, “If we don't plan to focus in life, we are planning to miss valuable things about life.”
Speaking of distractions, I was going to share where these distracting symbols, we use at Easter time, come from. Well, for a long time, it was believed they originated amoungst the German peoples pre-Christian worship system. If you go back to last weeks editorial, I wrote on the Origin of the word Easter. As I wrote, I failed you as a reader, and I apologize for that. I got drawn into this stories narrative and didn't communicate, the story of Eostre, or Ostre, was about a work of fiction, written in the style of Viking lore. However, what is historical is, these Viking tribes, from around 800 to 1100 AD, moved all over the European lands, conquering and settling these territories at different times. As they did, they imported their traditions and beliefs, including fictional children stories, used to motivate children to behave well and grow more socially accountable.
The word East or “Ost” comes from their language, and being a very nautical people, so does "Nord, Süd, West. (pronounced Vesht)" As Europe developed so did the influence of these stories, spreading to our culture today. But, as a figure of worship among their pagan system, this deity is not substantiated in actual history. Wow, talk about distractions!
In 1682, Georg Franck von Franckenau wrote a work called De ovis paschalibus (About Easter Eggs), which shared about the German story of the Easter Hare bringing eggs to children, if they had been good.
This was propagated by modern writers, like, Sarah Ben Breathnach in Mrs Sharp's Traditions (1990) and Jean-Andrew Dickmann in Cricket magazine (1973 to present).
As the original story goes, “Eostre” was believed to be a goddess of the Sun, springtime, and fertility, worshiped by Viking or the Scandinavian peoples. She had many familiar creatures surrounding her, which supposedly worked for her purposes. Familiar – means those who allow the same spiritual influence to flow through them. One of these, her most favourite, was a bird. But just as all of these petti-gods are prone to do, she got enraged at its failing to do her bidding and judged it, turning it into a hare, or what we like to call a bunny. Because it was previously a bird it continued to lay eggs to produce its offspring, and offer them to those who worshiped Eostre, if they were good. Kinda mixed impulses there, threat of judging or living to please an angry god, feels like behavioral extortion to me.
As a side note: People, then, observed that apparently, rabbits or hares were able to produce young without the need of a partner, seeing many times one litter following another, without need of copulation. What we know now, that they did not, is, these animals can carry two litters at different stages of development, appearing to give birth mystically. People monitoring female domesticated rabbits caring for their young, saw no interaction with a male, concluding they must be impregnating themselves, not realizing they were watching a doubly pregnant mother. Distractions can be deceiving, like the hand is quicker than the eye, kinda thing.
This appearance naturally led to the association with the virgin birth of Christ, and subsequently to the appearing of the hare in many Christian works of art at the time. Even to the point of a symbol of three rabbits encircling each other as a representation of the trinity on many church buildings.
You know the saying, “Truth is stranger than fiction”, well, this is what gives fiction its power to invoke feelings of reality, and so enlist so much loyalty.
The Christian church had to deal with this stories entrenched influence, so as it addressed the pain and aggression in the then German people, it embraced much of the stories symbolism, attempting to remove it from its original association, to use it as a bridge to communicate ideas in the gospel to the German mindset, instead. Unfortunately the fictitious diety reference stuck as well, leading to loyalty to the original story, instead of the useful symbolism. Sometimes it's better to enlist, rather than conflict. It is the peacemakers way. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God,” the scripture says. Good try church, but it distracts from the resurrection of Christ, the truth is difficult enough to get our minds around.
Anyway, there are many other stories, which distort the understanding of actual history in much the same manner, they have tried to wedge their way into our culture. Stories about a Jolly Ol' Elf, to overshadow the true life Saint Nicholas, and of the real life of Saint Patrick, presented as a Leprechaun.
These stories, possibly without their authors intending, attempt to corrupt the realization of the powerfully graceful good offered to our lives, through the history of Life itself, separating us from actual culture. This Eostre story is like that as well, it does harm, even though it serves as a leverage point for behaviour modification in children, if the actual account of the Resurrection of Christ and it's personal value is not realized, this hardly justifies the usage of the Eostre story. There are better ways, to teach our children well.
What ever way you decide to use this information, I hope you treasure the truth and promote it centrally in all your commemorative traditions. Have a wonderful Easter, or even better, Resurrection Day!