With the Sabbat Ostara the origin center of many religious holidays, there are a variety of celebrations. Just how did these traditions come about? What did they originally mean?
Eggs and Bunnies
The rabbit (hare) is the spirit animal of our dear Eostre. It is also the best animal to represent fertility and birth since a rabbit can get pregnant within hours of giving birth. That’s right! They can have a liter of up to 14 babies a month and begin growing the next liter only hours after evicting the previous tenants. Just a prime example of how nature affects our holidays and rituals. Eggs are also a great representation of fertility and life. Spring is when birds and chicks are laid and begin hatching.
Folklore suggests that Easter egg hunts arose in Europe during "the Burning Times", when the rise of Christianity led to the shunning (and persecution) of the followers of the "Old Religion". Instead of giving the eggs as gifts the adults made a game of hiding them, gathering the children together and encouraging them to find the eggs.
Chocolate Easter bunnies and eggs, marshmallow chicks in pastel colors, and candy of all sorts, most of which are given out as personalized gifts during Easter . . . these have pagan origins as well! To understand their association with religion we need to examine the meaning of food as a symbol.
The ancient belief that, by eating something we take on its characteristics formed the basis for the earliest "blessings" before meals (a way to honor the life that had been sacrificed so that we as humans could enjoy life) and, presumably, for the more recent Christian sacrament of communion as well.
Shaping candy Easter eggs and bunnies to celebrate the spring festival was, simply put, a way to celebrate the symbols of the goddess and the season, while laying claim to their strengths (vitality, growth, and fertility) for ourselves.
The Goddess Ostara and the Easter Bunny
Feeling guilty about arriving late one spring, the Goddess Ostara saved the life of a poor bird whose wings had been frozen by the snow. She made him her pet or, as some versions have it, her lover. Filled with compassion for him since he could no longer fly , Ostara turned him into a snow hare and gave him the gift of being able to run with incredible speed so he could protect himself from hunters.
In remembrance of his earlier form as a bird, she also gave him the ability to lay eggs (in all the colors of the rainbow, no less), but only on one day out of each year.
Eventually the hare managed to anger the goddess Ostara, and she cast him into the skies where he would remain as the constellation Lepus (The Hare) forever positioned under the feet of the constellation Orion (the Hunter). He was allowed to return to earth once each year, but only to give away his eggs to the children attending the Ostara festivals that were held each spring. The tradition of the Easter Bunny had begun.
Eostre and the Easter Bunny
Some have suggested that the purpose of this fasting may have been to create a sought-after state of "altered consciousness" in time for the spring festivals.
Feasts of the Season
Having slaughtered and preserved the meat of their agricultural animals during the Blood Moon celebrations the previous autumn so they would have food throughout the winter months, they would celebrate the occasion by using up the last of the remaining cured meats.
In anticipation that the arrival of spring with its emerging plants and wildlife would provide them with fresh food in abundance, it was customary for many pagans to begin fasting at the time of the vernal equinox, clearing the "poisons" (and excess weight) produced by the heavier winter meals that had been stored in their bodies over the winter.