What do bunnies have to do with Easter?

Happy Easter to you all!

I thought I'd talk about that very important subject: what do bunnies have to do with Easter?

Actually, bunnies have everything to do with Easter.  Bunnies are very fertile little creatures, as we all know, and Easter began life as a Germanic fertility celebration.

The first mention of pagan Easter was in a book written in 703AD by the famous English mediaeval monk The Venerable Bede.  Bede mentions that in Eostre's Month the people celebrated with feasts in honour of the Goddess Eostre.

Eostre was a Germanic goddess, (definitely not classical), possibly also known as Ostara.  It's slightly odd that she doesn't get a mention anywhere else other than Bede, but it's not a huge problem.  Early Germans weren't exactly literate, early Christians weren't exactly fond of pagans (and in any case were very busy expropriating their festivals), and the fact that Easter got taken over complete with original symbolism demonstrates the existence of the original festival.

It didn't take long for Eostre / Ostara to morph into Easter.  Eggs are also a fertility symbol (obviously).  Somewhere along the line the two got mixed together and the Easter Bunny ended up dealing out eggs.

And so here we are, painting eggs and eating chocolate bunnies.  There are worse fates for a goddess.


Martha Murphy said...

Several years ago near Easter I saw a TV special - it may have been by the BBC - about this topic. It was very beautiful cinematically; much of it was shot at ground level, or bunny level, so to speak. One thing that sticks in my mind was the idea that the rabbits or hares appeared ahead of people reaping grain. They kept moving to hide in the standing grain, until they exploded out of the last patch cut. And so, supposedly, they came to be associated with the harvest, and fertility/ fecundity. Of course, the little critters multiply rapidly, too. I live in Southern Oregon, and we rarely see wild rabbits here, although there are miniature cottontails nearer the coast.

Gary Corby said...

That's a good try on the bunny association, Martha!

Would be happy to ship you some rabbits. We are well stocked. (We only have to wander down the street to see the bunnies nibbling the grass on the nature strip).