Happy fertility goddess day!

This weekend is the weekend of rabbits & eggs, right? Is it also the weekend for Jesus, a time to remember that the messiah is risen? Ever wonder how is it that these are even remotely related; how is it that Jesus is associated with eggs and rabbits?

I've addressed Easter in the past before: the name "Easter" comes from the Anglo-Saxon's goddess of spring, fertility, and sexual impulse, Eostre. Of course, the Anglo-Saxons weren't alone in their thinking: as I mentioned in my post on Lent & Easter, the Babylonian "queen of heaven," Semeramis (also worshipped and known as Ishtar), the wife of Nimrod and mother of Tammuz, was the origination of the Easter spring/fertility goddess. Aphrodite of the Greeks, Juno of the Latins, Isis of the Egyptians, Astarte of the Moabites, Ashtoreth of the Zidonians & Israelites, Ashtar of the Assyrians, and Eostre of the early Anglo-Saxons, just to name a few, all were localized versions of the Babylonian Semeramis/Ishtar, who we have in modern form as Easter.

"Easter" and the related spring/fertility festivals built around it are nothing new.

All these false goddesses (although more correctly "goddess" singular, as these names are all variations of the same deity) originate from the Babylonian myth of Semeramis (Ishtar). As the myth goes, the wife of Nimrod, Ishtar, was born as such: a giant egg fell magically from heaven and landed in the Euphrates river. The fish rolled the egg to shore, where the birds hatched it, and out came our friendly fertility fallacy, Ishtar, whom the Babylonians (and indeed hundreds of other cultures throughout history) worshipped as the queen of heaven, the goddess of spring and fertility.

A common theme among all versions of the Ishtar/Easter myth is that of sexuality. Babylonians worshipped Ishtar as the goddess of fertility and sexual impulse, and throughout these millenia of Easter celebrations, there has often been sexuality involved. In Hasting’s Ency. On Religious Ethics, p. 117, we read of these ancient "easters":

A spring feast was celebrated. These occasions were marked with great sexual license.

Just as it was for the Lent ritual, the Catholic church of the 4th and 5th centuries adopted the various pagan festivals and slapped a Christian label on it ("Jesus resurrected on this day!") so as to convert the massive pagan cultures to the Catholic faith. Fortunately, the excessively negative light in which Catholics (indeed most Christians today) portray sex has pretty much eliminated any immoral sexuality associated with Easter. That said, we still keep remnants of the ancients, with rabbits, eggs, and a spring festival all symbolizing fertility.

Even to this day, despite the supposed Christian holiness and purity of Christ in us, we've been unable to shake the very paganism that angered God enough to scatter Israel and punish them for more than 2 millenia. If Christians are part of Israel (as Paul argues in the New Testament), are we not also the people of God? Are we not angering him with the same festivals he hated in Solomon's day? If Israel's paganism angered God then, does ours not anger Him now? Or has God magically and suddenly transformed from an angry, mean-faced, Old Testament God, into a touchy-feely, happy, New Testament God? Don't fool yourself, God has never changed.

It was because the Israelites would not turn from pagan ways that God punished them; they were battled, taken into captivity, and dispersed throughout the world. First northern Israel (Ephraim) was dispersed because they loved paganism. Then southern Israel (Judah) was dispersed in 70 CE. If the Jewish return to Israel in 1947 is any indicator, that brings a talley of an almost 2000 year punishment. For northern Israel, they do not even know who they are, no one does; the 10 northern tribes are lost. Their punishment has spanned more than 3000 years. 3000 years! How much more can that be stressed? God makes it pretty clear -- no, he pretty much yells in our face throughout Scripture -- how much he hates paganism and false gods; yet here were are, 3000 years later, still observing fertility festivals, named after the very same goddess the Israelites were punished for worshipping & celebrating.

Oh, but surely God doesn't mind this time around since we pretend Jesus resurrected on Easter day.

If Easter was in fact such an ungodly, idolatrous thing, one would think us holy and sacred Christians would be doing hand-stands to please God, jumping at every opportunity to spite ungodly things. Alas, I don't see anyone doing handstands. That's just the thing: we like to pretend we're holy without actually committing anything difficult to God. Maybe I go to church to make people think I'm a good person, but in reality I've never talked to God and I don't have a relationship with him.

That is why despite a blatantly idolatrous fertility goddess festival, complete with decked out rites (sunrise service) and rituals (painting eggs, hiding eggs for children, eating a tasty pig, etc), we Christians really don't want to give it up. We don't like to admit when we're wrong. That's hard. And we don't like to change, that's really hard too, it's easier just to deny fault and continue on.

Admitting wrong takes humility, of which there is a definite lack in the modern church, heck in all the world today there is little humility (myself 100% included, I've always struggled with pride and trying to impress people). With the way we act, one would think we're all big bosses, American Idols, God's own righteous prophet, somebody special. Yet what are we really? We're people who do terrible, disgusting sins we keep secret from everyone else. Ouch. As Jesus put it, everyone has sinned and fallen short of God. Lack of humility prevents us from ditching this ungodly festival.

And on the issue of changing your lifestyle and your beliefs, well that requires doing something other than going to church, and for modern day believers, often that is just too much to ask. Our lethargic spiritual lives, and our resistance to change prevents us from dumping paganism.

To pile more dung on the heap, for some, there are yet more reasons to continue on with the ways of our parents and grandparents. Even if one acknowledges the pagan roots (and branches, and indeed the whole tree) of Easter, there still lies the issue of family. Others, especially family, stop us from leaving behind idolatry. Dear me, what will my family think when they invite me to their church's Easter sunrise service, and their Easter dinner afterward? How will my kids react? I can't deprive them of Easter, I have so many fond memories! For me, it's just a fun holiday to go to church, eat ham, and hide eggs for our kids, spend time with the family. For me, it's so innocent. For me, it isn't pagan. For me, it's ok. For me, it's his resurrection day.

When do you suppose, dear blog readers, would be a good time to stop thinking about "me" for just a second and instead consider what God thinks of all this? To God, what does it mean?

What does it mean to God? Of course we're not truely worshipping a goddess on this day, like the Israelites did and others. On one hand, at the very worst, we've kept a pagan festival out of sheer ignorance; we didn't know any better, we just accepted what was passed down to us as "Christian". On the other hand, if one thinks about what it means to God, the answer is clear as day. To God, it's gotta mean something that we observe a fertility festival, and most likely he isn't bursing with joy because of it. To Jesus, let's be honest, he's not sporting a grin while we celebrate his resurrection on a day named after a false fertility goddess. To Jesus, I doubt he's smiling on our fertility customs of eggs and rabbits either, no matter how innocent they may seem to you and I. To Jesus, Easter does mean something -- and it probably isn't what your pastor will tell you -- no matter how hard we try to justify it to ourselves, no matter how big the Christian label we slap on it. The rites & rituals we perform on Easter, be that egg painting, egg hiding, eating a pig, giving out candy rabbits, or whatever else you care to borrow from Ishtar, these rituals are not from God. If they are not from God, and are instead from a fertility goddess, doesn't that make them ungodly? If the rites and rituals are ungodly, how much more the entire holiday? All in the name of Jesus no less.

I encourage you to not take for righteous the things handed down to us by our religious leaders. If the paganism is too dear for you to let go, then maybe we ought to sing, in place of Amazing Grace, this hymn during our Easter sunrise service this Sunday. After all, we're drowning in idolatry as it is, might as well go all out, at least the song would fit the occasion.


  1. Hi Judah, nice blog. I followed your link from slashdot. You are a very good writer, and quite persuasive. I just had a few questions.

    What are your thoughts on Paul's statements about eating meat sacrificed to idols in 1 Cor. 8? Paul tells us not to focus on the origin of the meat (pagan worship) but on the intentions of those who eat the meat. Do the intentions of those who celebrate Easter come into play here, or should we focus on the origin of the holiday?

    Genesis 50:20 tells us that God uses evil to accomplish good. Is it possible that God can use a pagan holiday for Himself? Why or why not?

  2. I guess that i'm a repeat reader now, and at that, one who finds the subject matter interesting. Of course, i think that there is room for debate in the arena of pagen festivals turned Chistian holy days. This Easter represented a rare chance for me to dine with people whose backgrounds i don't fully understand, while ostensibly celebrating the resurrection of Christ. That's the good part. Then there's the flipside, the notion that Christians everywhere celebrate only the externals, as if it means anything. I try to make clear to people the reason that i go to church (joint worship) or the reason that i celeberate a holiday (recognition of God's special interaction with man), because there's a definite danger in going with the crowd and letting others see that.

    I could go around telling everyone that i don't celebrate Easter because it's rooted in a pagan festival, but people would probably assume that i've soured on religion or that i'm just plain boring, leaving little opportunity to bring out the more important issues. I'd nearly always choose the gentler way, unless i can have a meaningful conversation with someone whom i know well. To me, it's a question of appropriateness. As Paul says in I Cor. 9 "To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings."

  3. timxpx, I understand where you're coming from. The roots of festivals like these seem rather unimportant to most.

    I would agree with you completely if Paul had said, "And to the Pagans, I became a Pagan and did Pagan things that I might save some."

    Of course, he didn't say that; Paul is saying here how he, even in his Jewish nature, blended with gentiles so as to bring them to Christ. Does that mean he was going to the temples of Zeus and eating before idols of false gods? No, of course not.

    You say brining up the truth about paganism would make people think you're boring, soured with religion, leaving you with "little opportunity to bring out more important things". I would say to you that if you're holding back because what people would think of you, then you are trying to please men over God. "More important things" seems to imply paganism is of little importance... I don't know, God seems pretty concerned about paganism and idolatry throughout the Bible: enough to scatter his own people for over 2 millenia because of their idolatry and paganism. To me, that seems pretty important.

    "For I have not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfil. Surely, until heaven and earth pass away, not a single dot or letter will pass from the Law. The man who teaches those to keep the Law will be considered great in the kingdom of heaven, but those who disobey the Law and teaches others to do so will be considered least in the kindom of heaven." -Jesus

  4. c0ach, thanks for visiting, good to see a fellow slashdotter and believer in Christ.

    Paul is saying here that some people chose to eat meat, even if that meat was sacrificed to idols! What does he have to say the practice itself?

    "Eating food offered to idols gives us no advantage; we do not come short or become any worse if we do not eat"

    That alone seems Paul is not encouraging eating the meat given to idols; in fact, the whole chapter is about being careful: those who do eat idol meat might make others go astray. The context makes it clear; Paul is warning those who eat idol meat not to make others go astray.

    The story of Joseph in Genesis is a bit different from our Easter situation. Could God use a pagan festival for himself? Of course! He can do anything he wants to. While God certainly uses anything he pleased to do his will, we really have to ask ourselves, what is being accomplished when we celebrate Easter? Most of Easter has nothing to do with God: eggs, rabbits, all these things are not of God. The Catholic Church chose to modify it so as to include the Christian story; leaving us today with a mix of paganism and Christianity. I find the mixing of godliness and ungodliness hardly a work of God himself. If this were a work of God himself, we would throw off all the paganism and focus on God alone.

    I think if Christians are truely interested in doing what God wants, we could celebrate Resurrection day on the correct day (Jesus was raised from the dead on the Feast of First Fruits), rather than on the day named after a fertility goddess. Additionally, we could do without the eggs, rabbits, and fertility symbols; for sure these are not being used by God for his own purposes.

  5. Well said Judah.
    And I, as a Levite have to say that disobeying the Torah by eating ham, or celebrating Easter is wrong. Bar none. No man should ever do those things if they love God. This just seems out of the question to me. Why would any believer in God or Yeshua ever do this? It seems rediculous to me that any believer would ever consider disobeying God.
    Maybe it's because they have been raised that way? But still, the word of God is clear, and does not beat around the bush.


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  7. Judah, Christian Slashdotters are all too rare, my brother. :)

    Thank you for your thouhtful and civil reply. You correctly state that Paul is not encouraging meat sacrificed to idols. It's also important to note that he is not discouraging the eating of the meat, either (for those who understand its meaning). In vv 4-6, Paul tells us that we believers know that there is only one God and meat sacrificed to gods that do not exist is nothing. In other words, it is the same as ordinary meat.

    If one takes part in customs that originated in a pagan holiday, knowing full well that the original object of the pagan holiday does not exist, he or she is doing nothing wrong. If I could take the liberty of using 1 Cor. 8:7-8 as I suspect Paul would have intended in our case:

    "Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat an Easter egg they think of it as having been directed at an idol, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. But Easter eggs do not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat them, and no better if we do."
    --1 Cor 8:7-8, after substituting Easter eggs for food/meat.

    I will state, that 1 Cor. 8 warns of the faith of weaker brothers, who see our actions and are scandalized, even to the point that they are emboldened to worship the idols we know do not exist. Is this a potential problem? It could be, but I have yet to meet someone tempted to worship Ishtar because of Easter eggs and the day we are celebrating the Resurrection, have you?

    "Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone with a weak conscience sees you who have this knowledge eating in an idol's temple, won't he be emboldened to eat what has been sacrificed to idols? So this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge."
    --1 Cor 8:9-11

    It seems to me that a fair exegesis of 1 Cor. 8 leads to the following:

    * A man who participates in activities directed at idols is not sinning if he understands that there is one true God.

    * A man who participates in these activities in full knowledge, but causes his brother to fall into worshipping this false idol is sinning against Christ.

    In other words, we have Christian liberty, but we are not to parade our liberty around our weaker brothers who may fall into sin because of it (see 1 Cor 8:9). You seem to agree with this in your response, but I didn't see you mention that we have Christian liberty. I think an understanding of Christian liberty is vital to understanding 1 Cor. 8.

    "Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day."
    --Col 2:16

    Colossions 2 has a very good description of Christian liberty. What are your thoughts on Col 2:6-23 with respect to Christian Liberty? What is Paul saying in Colossians 2:16, in your opinion?

    God bless,

  8. Hello again c0ach. I gotta say, you make a very convincing argument and I'm really humbled by your awesome knowledge of Scripture.

    If we are not doing the festival in honor of an idol or a false god, then it doesn't have the same implications as actually celebrating the festival in honor of a false god. Paul confirms this when he qualifies his statement by saying it applies to "those who have the knowledge" and to those who know "an idol is nothing at all in the world and there is but one true God."

    You have convinced me. If we know that Easter is nothing at all in the world, and we know there is only one real God, then we are not in sin by observing Easter.

    If it is not sin, should we continue on observing it? Following in your tradition, let me play a game of substitute the nouns:

    "Some people are still so accustomed to Easter that when they celebrate it thinking of it as having been directed at an idol, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. But Easter does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if don't celebrate it, and no better if we do."
    --1 Cor 8:7-8, after substituting Easter for food/meat.

    To say we are "no worse if we don't celebrate and no better if we do" makes me believe Paul is hinting at something here. Indeed, if one looks at Acts 15:25-35, in particular verse 29, his statement in Corinthians conflicts with Paul & Barnabas' own assertion that new believers ought to abstain from meat sacrificed to idols!

    So is there a conflict? No, I believe Paul is saying in Acts that we shouldn't eat meat sacrificed to idols, and in his letter to the Corinthians, he qualifies the idea by saying that while such is not a sin (as long as you know that idols are nothing in this world), there is no benefit in doing it.

    Likewise I'll say that while it is not a sin celebrating Easter (knowing that the goddess Ishtar is nothing in this world), there is no benefit in doing it.

    Now on Christian liberty, wow, there's a whole blog post (or blog posts) by itself. I was recently talking with another blogger about this very topic: see this blog post by Gary Kirkham. Maybe I'll write some more on this later.

    Good talking to you c0ach. God bless!

  9. Awesome article on Easter. We have recently found out this is a pagan holiday and our family is freaking out about us not celebrating it any longer. We are Christians but feel that God is calling us to be set apart from the world and walk in holiness in these last days. Thank you for an article that explains and supports the truth about the history behind what Easter really means. Good job!

  10. Christian Americans do a lot of things that are ungodly and devilish. Christmas is not an ordained holiday at all. The Word tells us to celebrate His coming daily. Most of the stuff done in Christ's name is not. After all, Christianity has killed many in His name. The truth is to become more like Him in thinking and in deed. Thank you for the great blog about another holy day turned into Satan's lie. thanks.

  11. I appreciate your comments on this subject.I have taken the bulk of your article to use in our church newsletter. We do not charge for the letter. I will not print it without your approval. But I agree with the things you said. Why reinvent the wheel. You can email me at vetorichj@gmail.com. I look forward to hearing from you.