Easter and Christmas continue ancient celebrations of the sun’s annual resurrection in the northern hemisphere—the winter solstice and the vernal equinox. According to Christian scholar, the Venerable Bede, who lived around 700 C.E., Easter was named after Eostre, the Great Mother Goddess of the Saxon people in Northern Europe. There were many other names for her, among them Ostara, Ostern, and Eostre.
Every spring, ancient cultures around the Mediterranean celebrated fertility in ceremonies honoring goddesses with a variety of names. Some are mentioned in the Bible—Asherah, Astarte, Ashtoreth, and Anath. Modern people are more familiar with Aphrodite, well-known for her connection with fertility. My favorite non-Christian Easter story—favorite because it so perfectly balances the Christian Father-Son bias—is the one I tell in my post Easter symbolized. More about the Mother-Daughter rites in my post Pagan Easter.
The New Testament, of course, doesn’t mention Easter. There, the universal and timeless theme of death and rebirth pairs the Christian story with the Jewish festival of Passover. This commemorates the Exodus story in which an angel of God kills the firstborn male of every Egyptian household and passes over the doors marked by Jews with the blood of a lamb.
Christ was said to be the perfect Passover lamb who gave birth to Christianity as the original Passover lamb gave birth to Judaism. The symbols work beautifully. But mature Christians need to graduate past worship of a certain man-god to recognizing the universality of the Holy Week theme.
For me, there’s no motif more universally applicable to all of existence than that of dying and rising, because deaths and resurrections form the structure of existence. After our death to the present life, I believe we reincarnate into another life (see the previous post). Even in this present lifetime we go through many, many deaths and rebirths, a reality I meditate on in Resurrection.
Now a postscript. The many names for the Great Mother Goddess expose the fallacy in the Judaeo-Christian boast that our tradition first discovered monotheism. The evidence shows that recognition of one pervading Spirit irrespective of multiple names for what we call “God” existed well before Abraham.
And another postscript. I remembered that I forgot my promise in my April 13 post to distinguish womenpriests from male clerical culture. Holy Week and Easter intervened, but I hope to do it next time.
Resurrection … Reincarnation
"Jesus did not found a religion . . . When did religion enter Christianity?
. . . When Jesus became an object of worship."
Fr. Joseph Comblin, theologian who died in Brazil.
So Comblin implies the first Christians did not worship Jesus, did not relate to him as to a god. I agree. But the same issue of NCR that quotes Comblin also editorializes about the Resurrection:
What happened to Jesus changed not only history but the very cosmos and what we know of human reality on the time-space continuum. . . . [Jesus] opens up for all of us the possibility of life beyond the grave.I don't believe this and a number of Catholic theologians do not. Comblin may have been one of them.
The man from Nazareth manifested holiness to a degree that spawned a movement devoted to him, which developed into Christianity, but Christian historians find evidence of many different Christian beliefs in the early centuries. Uniformity didn’t happen until Roman emperors forced it in the fourth and fifth centuries. Only centuries later, with enlightenment science, did the belief develop that Jesus’ life and death changed the cosmos and all human reality in our three-dimensional universe. I reject it.
I believe life after death has always existed and explain my belief in my blogspot Channeling & Reincarnation. Belief in reincarnation does not permeate Catholic theology now, but it was a common belief in the early centuries of Christianity and was never doctrinally rejected. Instead of citing evidence for early Christian belief in reincarnation, which is relatively easy to find, I cite something more surprising—a fairly modern prelate, Catholic Cardinal Mercier, who lived from 1851 to 1926, stated that belief in reincarnation is not incompatible with Christianity. Good thing, because about a quarter of European Christians and a quarter of American Christians believe in it.
One of three Americans raised Catholic no longer identifies as Catholic. A PEW study into the reasons for the exodus of Catholics did not ask about beliefs other than the hot button issues of abortion, contraception, homosexuality, treatment of women, and divorce. Social issues really drive Catholics out of the Church, but independent thinking about them encourages independent thinking about core Christian beliefs and about Christianity itself. It's now common to find Catholics and other Christians who question dogmas. That's excellent.
The last comment to my blogpost Channeling & Reincarnation accuses me of lying. A lie is a DELIBERATE false statement. If the early Church did not accept reincarnation but I believe it, my saying so is not a lie. In fact, there is much evidence to support my belief, as a quick Google search shows. So the comment is false, but I won’t accuse the writer of lying because he didn’t know better.