First, my original post on this topic is here You Say Easter I Say Eostre. If you haven’t read it you might want to do that first, since I don’t revisit that material, this is a continuation of, and precursor to, kind of post
So let me reiterate something for those who haven’t ever read a post of mine before. I have been a practicing Pagan for almost 25yrs, leading a coven and teaching about Paganism to Pagan & non-Pagan alike for over 16yrs, though I am also an ordained reverend and a Kabbalist, so embrace all spiritual paths as necessary and valid for humans on this planet to connect to the Divine. Which is why I have to speak back up here regarding the FB wars about the Ishtar/Easter meme and the Christian counter “debunking Ishtar/Easter” meme, because it’s making me crazy.
A bit of advice I frequently give non-Christians is that it’s really probably not a good idea to assume the validity of the Christian perspective regarding the secular portion of ANY holiday that’s widely believed to be Christian in origin. The majority of Christians do not actually know (and many who do, do not accept) that Paganism and Christianity co-existed until the year 392AD, when Theodosius I passed legislation prohibiting Paganism, opening the door to the persecution we’ve fought TO THIS DAY, so there was a ton of cross-over between the two religions happening loooong before Christian conversion began. Most don’t care that we weren’t then, and aren’t now, willing converts either, which is why it took 102 years and finally the threat of death by Charlemagne to convert the Anglo-Saxons (one of the last hold out cultures against Christianity along with the Scottish) even though in 601 Pope Gregory had already specifically authorized Mellitus, one of his missionaries, to “appropriate the Pagan festivals and temples to Christian use” in order to convert them faster. The process was called ‘syncretism’, which is “the toleration and adoption of familiar pagan practices that would assume, with the passage of time, a Christian content.” Which, ahem, you see it has, perfectly.
So to speak directly to the debate on the memes. You do know that the practices we call Paganism today have existed since probably the Paleolithic era, but for sure since the Neolithic era, right? Which is ooooh only since like the 10th century BC. There wasn’t even such a beast as Monotheism in fact until around until around 586 BCE. So why does it surprise anyone that the spiritual practices that humans held for THOUSANDS of years couldn’t be eradicated by one religion, and instead had to be adopted and adapted instead? I mean seriously, even ole’ Yahweh himself didn’t deny the existence of other Gods people, He just said that His favored Jews were to stop worshipping them, and worship only Him, the one true G-d, if they wanted Him to deliver them from Egypt. And just who was Yahweh saying they had to deny then? El, Ba’al, and Asherah.
Now there IS a ton of debate in both the Christian and Jewish academic worlds about the 2 names, Asherah and Ashtoreth, in relation to Ba’al. Many coming to the conclusion that Asherah is simply the sacred grove the goddess Ashtoreth was worshipped within. However given that in repeated translations of the Bible both names have been associated as the goddess/queen who was Ba’al’s mate (though King James version eradicated the word Asherah altogether replacing it with “pillars”, “wood” etc) I think it’s fair to equate the two. A breakdown of those connections and biblical references can be found at this link, though their conclusion differs from mine: http://kukis.org/Doctrines/Ashtoreth.pdf
That said, if you research ANY of the goddesses of the pre-Christian era with the same correspondence to love, fertility etc, there is definitely enough archaeological and etymological evidence to suggest the below goddesses are likely all the same archetypal divinity figure, with the variation being particular to culture and derivation of origin myth, much like we see with most of the Celtic countries Pagan deity structures. Therefore the Canaanite Asherah (Athirat), who was called Ashertu in Ugaritic texts, and is the Phoenician Ashtart or Tanit-Ashtart, is likely also the Hebrew Ashtoreth /Ashtoret (which apparently comes from the Hebrew “astart” written as Astoret in older Bible translations because of the insertion of the vowels from the Hebrew word “boset” meaning “shame”, a method of insult used in the Books of Samuel) Ashtoreth is likened to the Arabian Athtar and Babylonian/Assyrian Ishtar (who was often related to Ashtart anyway), who the Egyptians called Astirati (hello Greek Astarte which refers back to the Hebrew word “Astart” as well) who is also likened to the Sumerian Inanna. Most of whom I relate to in my first post about Easter and Eostre. It’s all the same region folks, are we really trying to say these myths are not all interrelated, when we know the tribes were nomadic, bringing their beliefs to other cultures and intermingling them?
So let’s all just take a breath. MOST Christian holidays have Pagan festival celebrations attached to them, so what? Does the act of kids hunting for candy eggs and chocolate bunnies actually make the spiritual belief that Jesus rose from the dead invalid for you? Does it threaten the story somehow, shake your faith? I mean I’m Pagan and even *I* don’t believe that little Christian children are going to become Pagan one day because they were allowed to enjoy Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, and the Easter Bunny. And if you do, then isn’t it up to you to teach your kids what you want them to know about the holiday? To say to them, this is the reason we go to church and why this day is important to us spiritually, but THIS is just how we then have fun celebrating that? Because seriously the nit-picking about the origins of the kind of fun Christians are choosing to have AFTER their religious ceremony is a little ridiculous to me. And lest not forget that what you all are doing as “play”, we Pagans DO consider part of our sacred rites to the Divine, so if anyone should have all bunched up panties about it, shouldn’t it be us? Sheesh, go eat a Reeses egg or some Peeps, I promise you’ll feel a lot better about it.