The Easter Bunny is not actually a ‘bunny’ or rabbit at all, but is actually a hare. The hare was the sacred animal of Eostre (or Oestra or Ostera), the ancient Teutonic Goddess of the Spring Moon. At the time of the vernal equinox (March or April) the hares are famed for going ‘mad’ and it was at this time of the year that out of character for its species, one of Eostre’s hares laid an egg. Not just any old egg, but the Egg of New Life - the Easter Egg. But surely Easter is a Christian festival marking Jesus Christ’s resurrection after dying on the cross, and not ceremonial to a Pagan hare-headed goddess? Well, actually it’s both. Following debate at the Synod of Whitby in the 5th Century, the ‘Christian Easter’ is destined to fall roughly around the same time as the ‘Pagan Easter’ due to its association to the Judaic Passover which is also fixed by the lunar cycle. Both festivals could also be said to reflect new life, either Christ’s return from the dead or the blossom and birth of Spring. So it was not much of a stretch for the ascending Christian Church to merge both festivals. This is known as ‘assimilation’ and was a habit frequently employed in those times and these isles to ease and encourage rather than force the conversion of heathens. Perhaps it is a little surprising, however, that the pagan name was retained.
Image and Text © Andy Paciorek
Edited and adapted from the book 'Strange Lands' ~