The goddess of Easter?
With it being Good Friday, and Easter weekend. A spring\Easter deity seemed appropriate for a post on Norse Mythology. As you will read though, it is not all so straight forward.
More accurately, the spelling is Ēostre. However, a lot of scholars spell it the English way, Ostara.
Historical Debates As you may know, Norsemen and the Vikings, did not write their religion or laws down on paper. Making their stories, traditions, and ceremonies different in each region. The regions include all the Scandinavian countries, and even in Germanic tribes. The differences makes research a bit confusing and difficult. Many mythological stories, and real historical events are lost to history, because of the lack of literature, even the runes found carved in stones that Vikings used, have little information to give. One such deity who has been forgotten, was the goddess Ostara. There are debates on if she even existed in the realm of Norse deities to begin with. Such little is found on her that some historians believe she was invented as a way to explain where the original Easter celebration came from.
The one source found so far of Ostara’s possible existence with the other Norse gods, dates back to the 8th century, by a writer named Bede. He wrote about Ostara, specifically of the pagan calendar and why the months were named as they were. The month we call April they called, Ēosturmōnaþ, translated to mean ‘Ostara month’.
There is a debate on whether Bede had made the name up, since there was no other evidence of it being true. You can read more about Bede and his writings if you follow the link: https://familychristmasonline.com/other_holidays/easter/bede.htm
Jacob Grimm, one of the Grim Brothers, a linguistic and German folklore enthusiast, took Bede’s writing seriously, believing that Ostara really was worshipped by the Norsemen. You can read more about his belief here: https://familychristmasonline.com/other_holidays/easter/grimm.htm
Feast of Ostara Whether Ostara existed as a deity or not, there is evidence of a type of celebration called the feast of Ostara. It had a different name depending on the region, but celebrated the same. It was essentially a feast, with religious ceremonies to welcome spring, and the bounty of food that would come with it. It was celebrated any time between the end of March to the beginning of April. I suspect it depended on when the snow was gone, and it was time to plough.
The Wiccan, those who worshipped nature, and have been classified as witches by others. Can be traced as far back as the 5th century. They had a witch, or a goddess, by the name of Ostara. They also celebrated the feast of Ostara, with rituals and ceremonies to bring spring to the land.
The goddess herself Since there is such little written about Ostara within the Norse religion. A lot of what we now know of Ostara is guess work.
Ostara’s origins were found in Germanic clans, whom believed in the same Norse gods and goddesses, so she may have been worshiped in Scandinavian countries as well. Ostara was the goddess of Spring, and by extension fertility. She would visit earth, from Asgard I assume, when it was time for winter to come to an end. She would spread the warmth of spring across the earth, walking across the lands until it was free of the frost, then returning home until the next year. The hare was often associated with Ostara, as her companion. Some even say Ostara’s favourite hare was so strong it could pull her chariot, with her in it, with ease. Scholars believe that the hare was her companion because hares are bountiful in springtime. When they first come out of hibernation they are seen everywhere, but then they dwindle in summer, when they are wearier of hunters.
Easter Bunnies and Coloured Eggs Stories started appearing of Ostara and how she is the reason rabbits and eggs are so prevalent during Easter. Although this story has been proven to be made up by story tellers and marketers in the 1800s, for various reasons. Here is a brief telling of how the story goes.
One year, Ostara was late to come to earth and bring spring with her. She hurried her work to thaw the snow, before the creatures came out of hibernation. While walking she found a poor sparrow who had frozen half to death from the cold. The bird was frozen so badly that its wing was rendered useless. Even with all of her powers, Ostara was unable to heal the wing. Feeling awful for what had happened, she turned the sparrow into a hare, so that it could run across the land freely, and faster than any other hare. Ostara then made the hare her pet, and kept it with her at all times. The hare never forgot it was really a bird, and so was able to lay beautiful, colourful eggs. To stop the hare from laying eggs all over the place all the time—one story says that the hare angered Ostara in some way, so she cursed it—to only be able to lay eggs once a year. The hare would accompany Ostara across the earth, and hide its eggs on the ground, leaving them for children who believed to find. The End
You can find what historians, and enthusiasts have to say about this story, and of Ostara’s origins, in the links I have provided at the bottom of the article. A lot of articles go deep into their arguments if you are interested in researching more.
Ostara The Goddess of Spring (goddess-guide.com) The Myth of the Myth of the Easter Bunny - from Family Christmas Online™ Ostara and the Hare: Not Ancient, but Not As Modern As Some Skeptics Think | Folklife Today (loc.gov) - this article goes into great detail and sights many other articles you can research.
Pictures in the article are taken from these websites as well.
Written by Billie Richard