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Q: History of Easter rabbit ( Answered 3 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Subject: History of Easter rabbit
Category: Reference, Education and News
Asked by: 2b2-ga
List Price: $20.00
Posted: 12 Jul 2005 13:31 PDT
Expires: 11 Aug 2005 13:31 PDT
Question ID: 542733
I would like to know the history of why the Easter rabbit is
associated with the Easter holiday, where this originated and how long
ago. Also, if you answer my question, there will be a $10 tip for you.
Subject: Re: History of Easter rabbit
Answered By: scriptor-ga on 12 Jul 2005 16:33 PDT
Rated:3 out of 5 stars
Dear 2b2,

During much of the 19th and 20th century, it was a wide-spread belief
that the Easter Rabbit and its connection with eggs had ancient pagan
Germanic origins. British medieval scholar Beda Venerabilis
(c.673-735) mentioned, in his book "De temporum Ratione", a Germanic
spring goddess named "Eostur". In the early 19th century, German
linguist and collector of old myths Jacob Grimm examined Beda's
statements and came to the conclusion that the ancient Germanic name
of that spring goddess was "Ostara" (hence the name "Ostern" for
Easter in modern German). In the following time, it was considered
self-evident that rabbit and egg, two well-known symbols of fertility,
had been Ostara's holy symbols. And while the pagan goddess
disappeared except for her name, rabbit and egg remained connected
with springtime and with the Christian feast that, interestingly,
preserved the Germanic diety's name in England and Germany to the
present day.

Unfortunately, this still quite popular theory, as nice at as may be,
includes a huge problem: Apart from one sentence in Beda's book, there
is no trace of the alleged goddess Eostur. She is not mentioned in any
other Germanic legends or myths. Jacob Grimm's derivation of her name
is mere speculation, and modern historians have found no evidence that
Eostur/Ostara ever existed in any Germanic religion. And there are no
sources conncecting rabbit and egg with an obscure Germanic spring

Actually, the Easter Rabbit - a fabulous creature of German origin -
is not explicitly mentioned as such in any source predating 1682,
which is rather late for a creature that allegedly was present in
popular belief for 2000 years. In that year, German professor of
medicine Georg Franck von Franckenau wrote an essay "De ovis
paschalibus - On Easter-Eggs" about the eggs (which are indeed ancient
pagan symbols of life and fertility) connected with the Easter feast:

"In Alsace and the neigboring regions those eggs are called
rabbit-eggs because of the myth that is told to make the simple-minded
and children believe that the Easter Rabbit was laying and hiding them
in the grass of the gardens, so the children search them even more
eagerly, for the delectation of the smiling adults."

This is the first ever written source mentioning the Easter Rabbit. So
the mythical creature can't be much older. Most likely, the tale of
the Easter Rabbit developed over the 16th and 17th century, but not
much earlier since a popular belief of that kind would have left its

Although the rabbit, appearing in strikingly large numbers in
springtime, was certainly a logical choice, it is interesting to know
that spread of the tale of the Easter Rabbit was for quite a long time
limited to Protestant regions in southern Germany. In other regions,
different animals were responsible for the Easter eggs: Hen, cock,
stork, cuckoo, fox and even the Easter lamb itself were among the
other egg-bringers. The tale Easter Rabbit spread and took hold only
slowly. For example, in the Harz Mountains region of Germany, the
Easter Rabbit was still unknown in the 20th century.

Hope this answers your question!


Wikipedia: Osterhase (in German)

Catholic Library: Christian Feasts, Part II

Wikipedia: Ostara (in German)

Religio: Ostern, Himmelfahrt, Pfingsten (in German)

Scienzz: Osterhase und Judaspuppe (in German)

Osterseiten: Osterhase (in German)

Search terms used:
"easter rabbit" history
osterhase ursprung ostara eyern
osterhase ursprung ostara
"georg franck" osterhase paschalibus
"jacob grimm" ostara
"de ovis" franck
"nennt man diese Eier Haseneier"
2b2-ga rated this answer:3 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $10.00
I wish the websites you have directed me to were in English since I
can't read German. So I was not able to find all the information I was
looking for. But, nevertheless, your answer is quite helpful. It looks
like you went through a lot of websites; about how long did it take to
gather all this info?

Subject: Re: History of Easter rabbit
From: journalist-ga on 13 Jul 2005 13:28 PDT
Greetings 2b2,

In defense of my colleague, Scriptor-ga, citing German sources, he is
a born and bred German citizen with a professorial grasp of the
English language.  :)  You can rest assured he has translated well for
you those German-to-English references.

You may also consider exploring the relation between Ishtar and Easter.

"So where did Easter come from? Easter comes from the word Ishtar, who
was a Babylonian pagan fertility goddess of the Babylonian Mystery
Religion of Sun-worship on Sundays; which is why it is celebrated with
eggs, because eggs are a sign of fertility. Easter is a totally pagan
festival that has absolutely nothing to do with Jesus; the
Crucifixion, which was the Second-Passover; or serving God."

When the Catholic Church was in its beginnings, their common practice
was to supersede pagan religious holiday dates with their own so that
no pagan holidays effectively remained.  Christmas replaced the
celebration of the winter solstice, Easter replaced a holiday of
Ishtar (and the Spring equinox celebration).  Purim, or The Feast of
Esther, is a Jewish holiday occurring around the middle of March -
this may also be a supplanted Ishtar celebration.

Even the legend of Jesus appears to have borrowed by Catholicism:
"Some theologians and historians believe that many of the details of
Jesus' life were "borrowed" from a competing, contemporary religion,
Mithraism [600 BCE].  Mithra was a fictional character who was
worshipped as a Good Shepherd, the Way, the Truth and the Light, the
Redeemer, the Savior, and the Messiah. A religion in his name was
founded in the 6th century BCE. 5 Mithraism one of the most popular of
religions in the Roman Empire, particularly among its soldiers and
civil servants. It was Christianity's leading rival. Mithra was also
believed to have been born of a virgin. Like Jesus, their births were
celebrated yearly on DEC-25. Mithra was also visited by shepherds and
by Magi. He traveled through the countryside, taught, and performed
miracles with his 12 disciples. He cast out devils, returned sight to
the blind, healed the lame, etc. Symbols associated with Mithra were a
Lion and a Lamb. He held a last supper, was killed, buried in a rock
tomb. He rose again after three days later, at the time of the spring
equinox, circa MAR-21. He later ascended into heaven. Mithraism
celebrated the anniversary of his resurrection, similar to the
Christian Easter. They held services on Sunday. Rituals included a
Eucharist and six other sacraments that corresponded to the rituals of
the Catholic church. Some individuals who are skeptical about stories
of Jesus' life suspect that Christianity may have appropriated many
details of Mithraism in order to make their religion more acceptable
to Pagans."

Best regards,

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