Ishtar =/= Easter, Geez!

The Ishtar = Easter meme is doing the rounds again, with even more inaccuracies and visual lies than previous years. I'll start with the worst offending parts, from the point of view of mythologists, historians and anthropologists... and rant on from there.



Lies. Deliberate, malicious lies.

 The top left statue of a woman holding a rabbit is of a MAYAN goddess! A 16th century MAYAN goddess! Her name was Ixchel and she was a Jaguar. The statue shown, though, is a modern day bit of tourist ware from Mexico. She has absolutely nothing at all to do with Easter, or Old World mythology in general. Nothing. Zero. Zilch. Nadda.

And the one of Astarte holding an egg? That's PHOTOSHOPPED. She lives in the Louvre and is not holding anything. No one actually knows who she is supposed to be.

Atheists and pagans; you are making mythologists and ancient historians weep. Stop it. If you want to stick your nose up at Christians celebrating Easter by pointing out it's a mishmash of other festivals and myths (like, you know, every act of religious worship and celebration because we've been doing this stuff for thousands of years); please get it right.

The goddess you want for the name given to Easter ONLY IN GERMANIC LANGUAGES (it's a derivative of Pesach, or Passover, everywhere else) is Eostre, who may have been made up by the Venerable Bede as an origin for the name of the month that Pesach fell in, Eostur-monath. Not Ishtar. Not Astarte. Not Ashtoreth. Not Eastre... which is a spelling I can only guess was made up for this image, because it's Eostre. The same as the "Aglo [sic] Saxon" Eostre, from the same writing by Bede; The Reckoning of Time.

Eostre and Ishtar are not etymologically linked, though because cultures borrow, swap and outright steal from each other, some of Ishtar's myths may have been moulded into Eostre's (again, if she wasn't just made up by Bede). Eostre is from "dawn, shining, rising sun". Ishtar likely means "leader".

Ishtar's symbols were lions and owls, which can be seen in the image behind the text, and the eight pointed star. They were not a rabbit and an egg. Her consort was not a hare either. Tammuz was human shaped, and also came back from the dead... he's a much better fit for Christ Resurrected than Ishtar. There are plenty of resurrected gods to choose from that are a more interesting (and more likely influential) fit than Ishtar; Osiris, Mithra, Odin, to name a few.

Eggs have long been associated with Pesach and as such early Jewish Christian spring celebrations. Ask a Jewish person. Ask someone who caters for Pesach saders. So. Many. Eggs. Do you know how long it takes one person to peel just 85 hard boiled eggs? I do!

Early Jewish Christians adapted Pesach rituals involving eggs into rituals for the commemoration/celebration of Christ's death and resurrection, this included painting eggs. Reasons for painting them are uncertain. One could argue it was in fact adopted from earlier non-Judeo practices (egg decorating is found all over the world, as ritual and as art). We really don't know though, and it certainly had nothing to do with Ishtar.

There are other pre-Christian traditions of decorating eggs that got co-opted in painting eggs for Pesach, like the Ukrainian Pysanka eggs. Again; nothing to do with Ishtar. Eggs are just, you know, ubiquitous in spring time in temperate zones. They're THE go-to symbol of spring and rebirth. You could wipe the memories of a whole bunch of people, stick them in a valley with resources and in a few generations there's a good chance they'd be viewing eggs as symbols of spring.

There is also the fact that eggs are one of the things people are supposed to give up for Lent, which ends at Easter. Of COURSE people are going to associate eggs with, and the consuming and even celebrating of eggs at Easter; they've not been able to eat them for 40 days (except on Sundays, in some churches)!

The Easter bunny is actually a hare. Hares are FASCINATING in the context of mythology and spiritual symbolism around the whole world and have worked their way into Christianity in several ways and at different times.

The hare was believed way back in the early centuries of the Common Era (and probably before that, it's just no one bothered writing it down), to be a hermaphrodite, able to breed without mating, i.e. have virgin births. Virgin birth, anyone? Yup; Mary Mother of Christ!

From the far east, the image of three hares running in a circle and sharing three ears between them was, probably, adopted into medieval Christian culture as a symbol for the Holy Trinity; Father, Son, Spirit... or as that there blog puts it "Mother, lover and friend." Some are sceptical of the religious nature of church carvings, which are rife with non-Christians symbolism, believing them to be more down to the masons' tastes and whimsies than orders from church hierarchy. Either way; hares appear in medieval churches and scripture (for pure amusement's sake, see this).

Shoot forward to 1600s Germany, where the Easter Hare is a furry little Santa wannabe; a judge of children's behaviour, who brings Pesach eggs in a basket for the good children. I have no idea where this sprung from. Hares, and rabbits, are fairly wide spread symbols of spring, life and frivolity (and fertility... so much fertility). Let's just accept that parents are very good at making up stories to keep children a) entertained, b) engaged with tedious rituals and, most importantly c) on their best behaviour.

Chocolate eggs; capitalism.

Okay, did I miss anything? Did I get anything painfully wrong? It's been a while since I've studied this stuff so please do post corrections, possible alternative theories on origins, etc.

So, the absolute WORST thing about this stupid meme is the use of a Mayan goddess and photoshopping of statues to sell lies. That is someone deliberately making stuff up. Everything else is just irritating, from an educational point of view. You can look this stuff up on Wikipedia, people!

Get your act together pagans and atheists. You don't need to lie to show that the modern Christian Easter celebrations are not "pure"... or... something. Honest to goodness, I don't even know what the point is. As someone who did her dissertation on comparative mythology, I cannot comprehend why anyone would think that showing how cultures have shared, adopted, pushed on, and downright stolen stories and symbols from each other throughout our several thousands of years of doing "culture" is shocking.

Okay, so there'll be some ultra hardcore American Christians incensed by this meme. That'd be ultimately pointless (have you learnt nothing from the internet?), but a little bit funny IF IT WAS FACTUALLY ACCURATE!

It's not. All this does do is piss off anyone with even the vaguest knowledge of history and comparative myth.
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