Easter, Ostara, & (not) Ishtar

ishtar and easter

It is almost Easter and inevitably this meme will be passed around the Interwebs (if it isn't already). I feel my know-it-all duty to make sure people know it is actually not true, and offer a basic linguistic lesson of why. While I completely understand wanting to elevate past wisdom and correlating it with modern usage, I feel uber annoyed by the spreading of false information (something I am of course also guilty of). Of course it also offers me a momentary usage of my graduate degree and to show off my thesis knowledge.

Most older religions, pre-Christianity, were all based on Earth and planetary cycles, most had a spring goddess. The spring goddess in Scandinavian was "Ostra," for Anglo-Saxons it was "Eostre," and the current region of Germany she was called "Eastre." See the similarities? This goddess welcomed spring and the dawn, why our word for "East" and "Easter" come from her name. Originally in Pagan traditions, Easter was celebrated with a feast to celebrate Ostara (the Old English spelling) the bringer of dawn and spring on Earth.  

English is Germanic and therefore based on Proto-Indo-European (PIE) language. PIE was spoken around 3500 B.C.E. by a group of nomads called the Aryans living in what is now Southern Russia. It is of course critical to mention the improper usage of the word "Aryan" in Nazy Germany.  Despite a modern understanding, Aryan was a word to describe a group of people who spoke the same language, not a race. The Nazi's using it to describe a biological group was a false understanding of the word itself. This would be the equivalent of saying everyone who speaks English is the same nationality.

Sanskrit is the oldest languages with PIE roots and others include Hindi, Spanish, Portuguese, Bengali, Russian, Punjabi, German, French, and of course English. Early Babylonian and Assyrians spoke Akkadian, a now extinct East Semitic language from around 2300 B.C.E. of the Afro-Asiatic language family that includes Hebrew, Arabic, Aramaic, and Egyptian. Of course the African Diaspora would assume there was a prehistoric language that pre-dated all of the language roots, but the association listed above would have to have happened before this differentiation, which would not be possible.

Of interesting note, the symbols we use for Easter also have their roots in the PIE languages and cultures. The bunny is from German tradition. In the 16th century the Easter Bunny was the springtime version of St. Nicholas who gave colored eggs for well-behaved children. Eggs are perhaps the oldest of symbols of resurrection, renewal of life, and fertility, all qualities of spring and rejuvenation after dark winter.  Later in As Christianity spread, the egg was adopted as a symbol of Christ’s resurrection from the tomb (a hard casket from which new life will emerge).

As this meme points out, many religions existed before Christianity that honored the fertility of spring, though the English word "Easter" and the celebration itself did not evolve from Sumerian practices or Ishtar the goddess. Even though the above is not true, Easter still has ancient roots with beautiful Earth-based practices that honor the cycles of our own rebirth and resurrection of this sacred time. 

Want to read more about linguistics and consciousness, read a basic intro here or my thesis here.