A few years ago on Facebook, I posted this image to The Wife‘s wall. Silly me, I was thinking I could entice the woman I love into engaging in some Rites of Spring when I posted it. Easter is the traditional holiday that most closely corresponds with the Vernal Equinox, the celestial demarcation for the beginning of spring. Easter is promoted as the original spring festival, unlike the Hallmark created holiday of Valentine’s day which is as like a real celebration of spring as porn is a representation of sex.
I say silly me because I spent the better part of that Sunday fending off attacks from friends affronted by the notion that Easter is in any way sexual or that the fertility goddesses alluded to in the image have anything at all to do with the resurrection of their savior or the holiday that Catholics created specifically to counter the carnal celebration rituals which had predominated societies of all kinds prior to christianity’s rise.
This year Easter will arrive almost comically late to the spring scene, April 16th. The trees have been budding for about a month here in Austin as I write this. The birds will already be on their way further North from here by the time we get to Easter, so the sexually repressed will breath a sigh of relief knowing there will be little confusion between their sacred holiday and the equinox. It is a testament to the sexual repression present in the US that there isn’t even a wiki page on the subject of Rites of Spring that isn’t about music. Another testament is the fact that I can’t even say exactly when I posted the image to The Wife’s Facebook wall, because the image is consistently removed as offensive every time it is posted there.
I am sorry that the fact that spring is the time of rebirth, of fertility and sex, gets in the way of a deathcult-like obsession with afterlives and resurrection that is found within the various flavors of the christian religion when it comes to their spring celebration. The sexual repression that Paul introduced into the church from it’s earliest days has seized hold of the majority of the religion’s followers in the US, causing them to reject all things sexual as anti-christian. Jesus was not a sexist, he saw no need to place women in an inferior role in the world.
There is also a hemispherical bias at play here. I’ve often wondered what an Australian would think of the hubbub common in the Northern hemisphere surrounding this issue. Easter is in the fall in the Southern hemisphere; consequently the death-cultish air that bothers me about Easter probably is a nice foreshadowing of the oncoming winter when viewed from South of the equator; a preparation for the dying off of plant life, the hibernation of animal life, with a spring resurrection waiting at the other end of winter.
I originally entitled this piece Easter-Ishtar-Astarte. How about Tammuz? Because I wanted to push back at the near-hysterical responses I got from offended christians on Facebook. The offense has since spread all across the internet, with rebuttals on nearly any christian site you care to look at (no I won’t link any of them) most of them rather petty in tone. Also, most of them cherry-pick history to prove their points, largely relying on Bede and Herodotus who give the preferred twist to the pagan spring rituals that pre-date christianity.
One would think there was no basis for the worshipping of the feminine, a common theme in the pre-monotheistic times, if you listen to modern christian apologists. That there was no goddess Asherah mentioned in some versions of the Old Testament, that she wasn’t worshipped as an equal right alongside the shrines to Yahweh in ancient Israel, before the cult of men, the cult of the penis asserted itself and made itself the lone holiness to be worshipped.
The truth is that the facts are much harder to tease out than those people who simply want to prove their worldview try make them. For example. The article at Scientific American on the subject of this meme cites the Germanic deity Eostre as the basis of the word Easter, as many of the christian apologists do. However, the sole source of this proposition remains Bede. In the end, the need to prove that Easter is or isn’t some phonetic variation on Ishtar is pointless and petty, a hallmark of the vast majority of Facebook content. As one of the commenters to the SA article pointed out;
Actually, there is a connection between Oestre and Ishtar. Ishtar is associated with Venus, which is often referred to as the morning star, or light-bringer with its association with Lucifer (lucis = light). Venus is the planet of love and marriage traditionally.
There are Babylonian egg myths too featuring Ishtar being hatched, and the mystic egg falling from heaven to the Euphrates. These same myths are recycled from their Egyptian/Babylonian origins and do seem to be connected to the old pagan rites.
The mythology of Astarte (Greek) and Ashtoreth (Jewish) seems very similar too. Everything seems to have a common origin.(emphasis added)
The rest of the meme is even more questionable than the assertion that Easter and Ishtar are one and the same. Further down in the SA article is the observation;
The cosmic egg, according to the Vedic writings, has a spirit living within it which will be born, die, and be born yet again. Certain versions of the complicated Hindu mythology describe Prajapati as forming the egg and then appearing out of it himself. Brahma does likewise, and we find parallels in the ancient legends of Thoth and Ra. Egyptian pictures of Osiris, the resurrected corn god, show him returning to life once again rising up from the shell of a broken egg. The ancient legend of the Phoenix is similar. This beautiful mythical bird was said to live for hundreds of years. When its full span of life was completed it died in flames, rising again in a new form from the egg it had laid (4).
Eggs appear to be central to almost all of the spring rites and creation stories. They lend themselves quite handily to the theme of new life arising from an apparently inanimate object. There is no specific linkage between Ishtar and eggs that I could lay hands on; but then there doesn’t need to be, since the egg is all over the various mythologies of the day as being the beginning of life.
The hardest facet of current Easter practices to track down is the Easter Bunny. Theories abound, and I even have some thoughts of my own on the subject as relating to the Wolpertinger and the Jackalope, both icons of Germanic influence in the US. The rabbit’s springtime mating antics do bring me back to the point I started with. Like so many things human, the trappings of tradition cloud the purpose of the celebration.
The Rites of Spring from a human standpoint are necessarily sexual. That is how we renew the species, creating children who go on to make the future of the human animal a reality. Nearly all of the celebrations of spring outside of the deviancy of the christian religion are sexual in nature, as they should be. If you want an example of this, wander through the galleries of ancient temples dedicated to the subject. Read about the fertility rites that are still practiced in Asia. These are not perversions any more than christianity’s sexless renewal celebration is a perversion of nature as well.
The US is demonstrably repressive when it comes to the subject of sex. Demonstrably repressive, and at the same time unhealthily obsessed with meaningless sex like pornography, which can be found all over the place in spite of the almost reflexive repression present everywhere in the US that isn’t the internet. Or San Francisco. Naked bodies being used to sell every single product you can imagine, whether that sales strategy makes sense or not.
Pornography is not really sex in the same way that film is not real life. The proverbial money shot, a hallmark of pornography, defeats the entire purpose of the sex act. If the male’s bodily fluids aren’t left inside the female’s body, what is occurring is no more meaningful than a daily walk in the park. A session of weight lifting. Swimming a few laps. It is exercise; and in the case of pornography, exercise engaged in for the purpose of display only. As Robin Williams once famously quipped pornography is “an industrial film covered in fur”.
Sex is a joyous celebration of life. It is central to the human experience. No adult life is complete that doesn’t include some form of sexual interaction with a willing partner on a regular basis. Good health requires this and I consider it a travesty in the US that we cannot come to grips with the existence of sex all around us all the time, much less be unable to declare that the Rites of Spring should be founded around sex.
I have a solution to this frustrating issue from a non-believing perspective. I’m simply going to stop acknowledging Easter as a Spring holiday. The Vernal Equinox is the holiday now. I’m done with the vagaries of Easter, aside from the chocolate of course. Dopamine rewards being what they are I’ll take them where I can get them. I’ll just wait til Monday April 17th to go chocolate and Blackbird egg shopping this year. I can wait a month. We’ve got these dice to play with. Should keep us busy for at least that long.
What you have just read is the second 2017 version of my Vernal Equinox post. The “ctrl-z while editing” Blogger glitch claimed the first version scant days before its publish date. I have no idea how that version differs from this one. C’est la vie. This is also why the blog is now hosted on a third party site created with WordPress software. C’est la guerre. This post was based on one that was originally published here.
Every day should be a learning experience. If each day is not a learning experience, you are doing it wrong. The apparently obvious is not apparent or obvious until you trip over it. The mundane day to day events in human cultures sometimes never get communicated to people from outside that culture. The Vernal Equinox, for example, is also the first day of the Persian New Year. I discovered this while listening to A Bittersweet Persian New Year.
Lacking the ability to just move the New Year around willy-nilly myself, and also lacking a desire to mix one celebration with another, I’ll have to simply wish celebrants of Nowruz a Happy New Year! and leave it at that. However, a two-week festival leaves plenty of time to celebrate beyond simply observing the Rites of Spring, so I may have to explore this festival idea some more.