Eostara, the Triumph of Light over Dark

This article first appeared in the March 2008 issue of Immanence.

As crocuses appear out of the snow and the days slowly lengthen, we count down to the Vernal Equinox, the day night and day are of equal length (equinox literally means equal night), a sign of warmer days to come. We also count down to Easter, a day of chocolate, eggs, and bunnies—and the rebirth of Christ.

On one hand, Jesus Christ, rebirth, resurrection, crucifixion…on the other, bunnies, chocolate, and eggs. See the connection? No?

A possible source of these traditional Easter symbols is Eostre, or Eostara, the Teutonic lunar goddess of dawn, spring, and fertility, whose symbols were the bunny and the egg. Her holiday fell on the full moon of the vernal equinox (ie, the closest full moon to the equinox itself). The holiday was called Lady Day, on which people would put eggs (a general symbol of regeneration and birth) onto gravesites to symbolise rebirth.

This is why Easter moves its chocolaty fingers all over the calendar every year. It occurs on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox. If the first full moon and Sunday coincide, Easter gets bumped a week later, to make sure it’s not on the full moon itself. This is because the Church follows a solar calendar–which makes sense, as they follow a Lord of Light–and doesn’t want to give concessions to those crazy lunar people, or those crazy lunar goddesses (or gods). That’s cool. It doesn’t stop equinox from happening or people from eating all the chocolate they want.

This time of the year is a time to celebrate the victory of light over dark, life over death, no matter what tradition you follow–be it that of Eostre and her bunnies or Jesus and his resurrection. Spring has come, banishing Winter for another six months. It is time to celebrate that and dance in joyous renewal of the earth. It’s also a time to eat chocolate till you…uh, regurgitate.

Towards the end of this year Winter will come again, and Dark will triumph over Light…but we may rest assured that Spring will come again, and we can party with our deity of choice. Give thanks to Eostre for the good things in life: spring sunshine, crocuses, bunnies, and, of course, chocolate.