Easter: Death, Rebirth and Resurrection. The Lunar & Solar calendars and our next Moon Medicine Gathering at The Chapel of Ease
“orig., name of pagan vernal festival almost coincident in date with paschal festival of the church; Eastre, dawn goddess; 1. An annual Christian festival celebrating the resurrection of Jesus, held on the first Sunday after the date of the first full moon that occurs on or after March 21.”
Webster’s New World Dictionary 1974 edition
I have always associated Easter with an early Easter Sunday morning in 1996, the moment I discovered that my mother was facing death. Life was never the same at home. My mother lived for another 6 months but that day has forever cast a shadow on my relationship with Easter. This year I decided to free associate. In the process of exploring the many aspects of Easter I soon realised that a lot of mysteries shroud this time of death, rebirth and resurrection. And there is somehow comfort in the mystery.
My travels through time have unearthed stories about the lunar and solar cycles, goddesses, shapeshifters, labyrinths, hares and the Otherworld. It seems Easter transcends and includes the passions of Christ, Passover, The Copernican Revolution and The Space Age. The calendar dates of Easter involve algorithmic plot lines dramatic enough to fuel a Mexican soap opera. This adventure has taken me to the moon and back, which reminds me to remind you to check out our next Moon Medicine Gathering at The Chapel of Ease on April 18. It will be lit.
The Origins of Easter
Where the word ‘Easter’ comes from is still debated, but it appears to have sprung from a combination of the Greek goddess of fertility, Ēostre or Ostara, and the Sumerian goddess, Ishtar who was hung naked on a stake, and was subsequently resurrected and ascended from the underworld. The word East is also derived from her names, as is Oestrogen, the female hormone. Ostara was observed through feasts and celebrations involving coloured eggs, rabbits, chicks, and flowers. The emphasis of the Sabbat was on rebirth and renewal and so the symbol of the egg was of particular importance as was the concept of the labyrinth. The labyrinth dates back to the Neolithic Age in regions as diverse as Ireland, India, and Greece and served as a symbolic representation of detaching one’s self from one’s present external reality to find some greater meaning within one’s self.
Today Easter is celebrated by many different cultures for many different reasons. Christians celebrate the resurrection of Christ. Jews celebrate Passover. Pagans celebrate the Spring Equinox.
“The Christian Easter is destined to fall roughly around the same time as the Pagan Easter [vernal equinox] due to its association to the Judaic Passover [marking the liberation of the Jewish people from Egyptian bondage] which is also fixed by the lunar cycle. Both festivals could 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 … to ease and encourage rather than force the conversion of heathens.”
Andy Paciorek, Strange Lands.
In Ireland our collective associations with Easter run deep. It is a time when as W.B. Yeats put it ‘All changed, changed utterly / A Terrible beauty is born’. The 1916 Easter Rebellion is now understood as a crucial step in a process that led in 1937, to full independence for most of our island home. One of the 1916 rebel leaders Patrick Pearse merged his nationalism and his devoted Catholic faith and spoke passionately of a ‘blood sacrifice’ that was in some ways inspired by the sacrifice of Christ at Easter. A hundred years on, some view the 1916 Easter Rising as the beginning of the end of the British Empire.
The Hare and the Moon
The Easter Bunny may well have its origin in the honouring of rabbits in Spring as an animal sacred to the goddess Ostara, much as horses are sacred to the Celtic Epona, and the crow is sacred to The Morrigan. In Celtic mythology and folklore the hare has links to the mysterious Otherworld of the supernatural. The Otherworld (Aos Sí) community was reached through mists, hills, lakes, ponds, wetland areas, caves, ancient burial sites, cairns and mounds. Those entities were seen as very powerful and the hares link to them sent a warning that those who harm them could suffer dreadful consequences. Shape shifters were often said to take the form of the hare.
“ The association of rabbits, hares, and the moon can also be found in numerous cultures the world over ranging from Japan to Mexico, from Indonesia to the British Isles. Whereas in Western folklore we refer to the ‘Man in the Moon,’ the ‘Hare (or Rabbit) in the Moon’ is a more familiar symbol in other societies. In Chinese folklore, female hares conceive through the touch of the full moon’s light (without the need of impregnation by the male), or by crossing water by moonlight, or licking moonlight from a male hare’s fur. Figures of hares or white rabbits are commonly found at Chinese Moon Festivals, where they represent longevity, fertility, and the feminine power of yin”.
Terri Windig, The Symbolism of Rabbits and Hares
Calendrical Algorithms , The Paschal Full Moon and Ireland’s role in calculating the dates of Easter
The paschal full moon refers to the ecclesiastical full moon of the northern spring used in the determination of the date of Easter. The name "paschal" is derived from "Pascha", a transliteration of the Aramaic word meaning Passover. Peter Lynch, Emeritus professor at the school of mathematics and statistics, University College Dublin explains the role that Irish scholars played in determining the dates of Easter.
“At the first Council of Nicaea in AD 325, it was agreed that Christians should use a common method to establish the date. The church aimed to have Easter celebrated on the same day throughout Christendom. It was commonly held that the world was created on the vernal equinox, so time should be reckoned from that date and Easter should be celebrated after it. Since the Resurrection is a triumph of light over darkness, it should be linked to the full moon…Irish scholars devised a number of calendrical algorithms for calculating Easter and also the beginning of Lent, the Ascension and other key dates. In the seventh century, two methods of computus were in use in Ireland, one based on an 84-year lunar cycle, the other on a 19-year cycle. Indeed, a major dispute – the paschal controversy – lasted for more than a century, with accusations of heresy being made, and was finally settled only in 716 when Iona adopted the Alexandrian method then approved by Rome, the system of Dionysius with a 532-year cycle”
To read The Irish Times article click here
Joseph Campbell on The Mythology of Easter
In 1984 Eugene Kennedy, then professor of psychology at Loyola University Chicago, published an interview with Joseph Campbell in the Easter Edition of The New York Times Magazine, called “Earthrise - The Dawning of a New Spiritual Awareness.” Campbell talks of the passing from one age to another, of the perils that face our world and of the importance of nurturing a new spiritual awareness. Campbell later wrote to Kennedy, telling him it was that interview that brought Campbell’s work to the attention of Bill Moyers, whose televised interviews put Campbell into the nation’s living rooms. These interviews were watched by millions, and Campbell’s book, The Power of Myth, became a runaway best seller.
Here Campbell talks about the metaphorical meaning of Easter
“St. Augustine speaks of going to the Cross as a bridegroom to his bride. There is an affirmation here. In the Prado is a great painting by Titian of Simon of Cyrene as he willingly helps Jesus with the cross. The picture captures the human participation, the free, voluntary participation we all must have in the Easter-Passover mystery. An awareness of mythological truth alerts us to the fact that our Easter experience is not just remembering historical events, but that we are experiencing in ourselves Passover and Easter.”
and back to the question of timelines
“Easter is calculated as the Sunday that follows the first moon after the vernal equinox. It is evidence of a concern centuries before Christ to coordinate the lunar and solar calendars. What we have to recognize is that these celestial bodies represented to the ancients two different modes of eternal life, one engaged in the field of time, like throwing off death, as the moon its shadow, to be born again; the other, disengaged and eternal. The dating of Easter according to both lunar and solar calendars suggests that life, like the light that is reborn in the moon and eternal in the sun, finally is one.”
Which completes the circle for now. In walking the labyrinth of Easter we arrive at a greater understanding of Death, Rebirth and Resurrection. Again we dance with the opposites - The Light and the Dark, The Sun and the Moon, The Hero’s Journey and The Heroine’s Journey which brings me to The Chapel of Ease…..
Moon Medicine at The Chapel of Ease
“Moon Medicine - a lunar love in. Over the years The Trailblazery events have been the source for all sorts of new ideas but now they have come up with an ancient one...”
The Irish Times, 2019
Our next gathering takes place just before Easter on April 18 at The Chapel of Ease, Irishtown Gospel Hall with host Kathy Scott and guest luminaries Lou Horgan | Yoga Teacher & Creatrix with Sally (Cinnamon) Foran | DJ, Crafter & Storyteller and Fiona Cribben | Artist, Maker & Wellness Practitioner. Our Full Moon April gathering weaves a range of potent practices and teachings with musical soundscapes, crafting and conversation to celebrate The Heroine’s Journey. Join us and bring your sisters.
For more Moon Medicine information and bookings click here.
We look forward to blazing trails with you in the near future.
Kathy & all at The Trailblazery