Ostara (Oestre) Saxon Goddess of the Dawn and Spring
Ostara, the Germanic Goddess of Dawn who was responsible for bringing spring each year, was feeling horribly guilty about arriving so late one year. To make matters even worse, the first thing she saw when she arrived was a pitiful little bird who lay dying, his wings frozen by the snow.
Lovingly, Ostara cradled the shivering creature and saved his life.
Legend has it that she then made him her pet or, in the adult-rated versions, her passionate lover. Filled with compassion for him since he could no longer fly because of his wings had been so damaged by the frost, the goddess Ostara turned him into a rabbit, a snow hare. She named him Lepus.
She also gave him the wonderful gift of being able to run with such astonishing speed that he could easily evade all the hunters. And to honor his earlier incarnation as a bird, she also gave him the ability to lay eggs (in all the colors of the rainbow, no less). He was, however, only allowed to lay eggs on one day out of each year
But all good things must come to an end.
Eventually Ostara lost her temper with Lepus (some say the raunchy rabbit was involved with another woman), and she flung him into the skies where he would remain for eternity as the constellation Lepus (The Hare), forever positioned under the feet of the constellation Orion (the Hunter).
But later, remembering all the good times they had enjoyed together, the goddess Ostara softened a bit and allowed the hare 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.
Easter gets its name from the goddess Ostara, also known as Eastre.
Ostara is a fertility goddess. Her annual arrival in spring is heralded by the flowering of trees and plants and the arrival of babies, both animal and human.
Easter eggs and the Easter Bunny both featured largely in the spring festivals of the goddess Ostara. The rabbit (famous for its skill at rapid reproduction) was her sacred animal and brightly colored eggs, chicks, and bunnies were all used at festival time to honor this goddess of fertility and abundance.
And here’s the rest of the story . . .
Already feeling just a little bit guilty for arriving late one spring, the Goddess Ostara was appalled when the first thing she encountered was a little bird who lay dying on the forest floor, his wings frozen by the snow.
Filled with compassion, Ostara took him as a pet or, as some versions of the tale have it, her lover. Feeling sorry that the poor wingless bird could no longer take flight, she turned him into a snow hare and gave him the ability to run rapidly so he could evade all hunters.
Honoring his earlier life as a bird, she also gave him the ability to lay eggs in all the colors of the rainbow.
Whatever could the goddess Ostara been thinking when she turned him into a randy rabbit? Eventually the decision backfired when the goddess became enraged with his numerous affairs.
In a fit of anger, she threw him into the skies where he unfortunately landed under the feet of the feet of the constellation Orion (the Hunter). He remains there to this day, and is known to us the constellation Lepus (The Hare).
Softening her attitude a bit, Ostara allowed the hare to return to earth once each year to give away his colored eggs to the children attending the Ostara festivals that were held each spring.
The tradition of the Easter Bunny had thus begun.
More Bunny Beliefs ……..
The Hare was sacred in many ancient traditions and was associated with the moon goddesses and the various deities of the hunt. In ancient times eating the Hare was prohibited except at Beltane (Celts) and the festival of Ostara (Anglo-Saxons), when a ritual hare-hunt would take place.
In many cultures rabbits and eggs were considered to be valuable remedies for fertility problems. Pliny the Elder prescribed rabbit meat as a cure for female sterility, and in some cultures the genitals of a hare were carried to avert barrenness. (True origin of the rabbits foot?? hmmmh…..)
Medieval Christians believed the hare brought misfortune, saying witches changed into rabbits in order to suck the cows dry. It was claimed that a witch could only be killed by a silver crucifix or a bullet when she appeared as a hare.
Given their wild leaping and boxing displays during mating season, not to mention their ability to push out dozens of bunnies each spring, it is understandable that they came to represent lust and unbridled sexuality.
Much later, depictions of a white Hare sitting at the feet of the Virgin Mary, was signified Christianity’s triumph over lust or the flesh. The speed displayed by a rabbit symbolized the need to flee from sin and temptation and a reminder of the rapid passage of life.
And there is also the touching tale about a young rabbit who patiently waited in the Garden of Gethsemane for three days and nights for his friend Jesus to return, worried about what had become of him. At dawn on Easter morning, Jesus returned to the garden and was welcomed by the loyal little friend.
That night when the disciples arrived at the garden to pray, unaware of the resurrection, they discovered a clump of beautiful larkspurs, each blossom reflecting the face of the rabbit in its center as a remembrance of the little creature’s hope and his faith.
Easter traditions serve to remind us of the cycle of rebirth and the need for renewal in our lives. In the history of Easter, Christian and pagan traditions are delicately interwoven with grace and beauty.