Thoughts, lessons, and theology from an eclectic witch from a varied background.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Easter rant.

If you are on Facebook or generally run with a pagan crowd via social media, the above image may have flown across your screen. It's become something of an annual thing. I first saw this a few years ago. I twitched a little bit and then continued on with my day. Now, it seems I can't get away from it this year. So, rather than merely twitching, I'm going to give my response to it. (Spoiler: I'm not happy.)

There are so many things wrong with this on so many levels. Revisionist history irritates me to no end. Intentional mangling of information and presenting it as fact makes me furious. This is a meme that I keep seeing reposted with the intent to 'set the record straight' about Easter. I confess, I get angrier each time I see this. I can appreciate the desire to demonstrate the pre-Christian roots of this celebration. I can even appreciate the desire to normalize pagan faiths. You don't do that by way of bullshit. A few minutes of fact checking and this is revealed to be utter garbage.

Ishtar is not connected with Easter in even the remotest fashion outside of this meme. The name Ishtar is pronounced entirely differently than the word Easter and comes from a completely different culture. She is indeed an Assyrian, Babylonian, and Akkadian goddess of love, war, fertility, and sex. Ishtar is believed to be a cognate to Innanna and Astarte. (They are Sumerian and Aramean goddesses, respectively.) Her name is understood to be pronounced 'ish-tar' given what we have been able to do with reconstructing the ancient language that her name comes from. The egg and the 'bunny' are not her symbols. She is associated with lions and a seven pointed star. 

The closest we can come to an association with the spring season is the myth of her descent into the underworld. This myth is considered to be a part of seasonal worship patterns with Ishtar's descent associated with the fallow time of year and her return to the upperworld with the return of fertility. This association, however, is not as strong as others would like to paint it. The figure that is tied most closely to the fertility of the land is not Ishtar but her lover Tammuz. Ishtar and Tammuz are a pair that bring fertility to man and livestock (in Ishtar's case) and the land (in Tammuz's case). This, however, is only one interpretation. In another interpretation, Ishtar's return to the upperworld comes when she sends Tammuz in her place to stay with Ereshkigal (Ishtar's sister and the goddess of the underworld) because he did not mourn her absence. The lore is unclear here and the historical record is inconclusive as to which interpretation is correct. There is, however, a growing consensus among scholars that the second variant of the tale of Ishtar's descent is accurate, which would make her the primary deity of fertility.

Now, what does this have to do with Easter? Not bloody much, to be honest. A vague seasonal overlap and some passing similarity in the visual appearance of her name to the term Easter (which only occurs in the English language, from what I can tell) is the best connection you're going to get here. Easter is a word that comes from an entirely different part of the world and an entirely different period in history. Easter has been shown to be derived from the old English term Ostara (which has multiple spellings and can be found in the Germanic people of continental Europe from this era as well). Ostara seems to be connected with a goddess of the same name, though there are functionally no records of her worship.

Ostara is believed to have the hare as an animal associated with her, but there is no solid evidence either way. She is also believed to be associated with eggs, but that connection is equally questionable. The folk practices of Easter are considered by many to be cultural vestiges of the worship of Ostara. Within the modern pagan community, Ostara is observed as the celebration of the Spring Equinox and many give homage to this mysterious deity. These observances, however, have a great deal of overlap with the culturally dominant Easter folk practices. While there is an effort to 'take back' the folk practices, the lore is functionally non-existent and the corpus of devotional activities of mainstream pagans are of modern manufacture.

Now, someone may ask where I personally fall on this matter. It is a fine question and I believe it merits answer. Ostara is a Germanic goddess whose historical cult of worship was in many ways lost by the time Bede wrote of her. I honor her as a fertility goddess. I am of the opinion that she is most likely of the Vanir. It is my belief that she is a mighty goddess that is not directly approached because people are not sure how to approach her. At the Spring Equinox, I pour out offerings for her as I do for the other gods. I ask her blessing upon my efforts over the growing season and upon my growing children. It is my suspicion that children and young of any life form are under her special care. I think that the connection between Ostara and eggs comes because this is when birds begin nesting. 

I also think that my area celebrates Ostara early when we go by the calendar because the birds are not nesting yet, but it is easier for my children to celebrate it in proximity to the Christian celebration of Easter because there is less friction with our Christian community. At the Spring Equinox, I am not only celebrating and honoring Ostara, by the way. I also give offerings and celebrate Freyr and Gerda. It is my sincere belief that this is the time of year that Freyr returns from Helheim to his bride. Thus, I make a point to pay homage to them as well at this time of year.

If you want to point at the pagan origins of Easter, that's great. Let's look at the real origins rather than this bad fiction meme.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Waning of Moura.

Moura 27

My intentions to post through out Moura have been frustrated by my illness and this has me feeling somewhat despondent. My home is not half as neat and tidy as I had thought I would have it by now. Part of this was due to the chaos that came when my previous stove attempted to set itself afire a third time. (Last two times were due to grease build up beneath the stove top. Apparently the previous tenants in the apartment never cleaned it, as there was a thick layer of grime. It was only clean on the surface, it seems. That was resolved with some effort and steel wool. This third incident was a case of one of the oven burners shorting out. There were sparks everywhere. It was quite alarming. We now have a new stove.) Part of this is due to the fact that I have two small children who are positively brilliant at creating messes. And, finally, my lack of energy and depression has made some of the simplest tasks of caring for my home quite challenging.

I am presently on new medication for my depression and in the midst of an adjustment period. This medication has me feeling fairly awful and I find myself struggling with my simple daily prayers. In the middle of all this, I received a gift of an Anglican styled rosary. As I was looking it over and admiring it, I managed to catch the cross on some fabric and split the jump ring that was holding it on. Fortunately, I didn't lose that charm. I did, however, take the opportunity to amend it to something closer to my leanings and added a silver pentacle charm where the gold tone cross was. I have been handling this set of beads a fair amount over the last week.

I found myself struggling over what sort of prayers I would use with it. In my depression inspired thick wittedness, I just would pick up the beads and ask for comfort in my angst. I did a little reading today about Anglican rosaries. I found that they are less structured in their prayer format than Catholic rosaries. Ordinarily I would have been comforted by this idea, but right now it only served to make me more anxious. Then I saw something that felt like it was written just for me. As I may have mentioned in the past, Dame Julian of Norwich is one of the religious women of the past whom I feel a measure of kinship towards. There is a set of prayers based off of her writings (towards the bottom of the page here). I am going to adapt the language slightly because the pronouns for Dea are female and I am not interacting with Yahweh. Still, I have a place to begin with this new set of beads and this comforts me.

I beaded myself a 108 wooden bead mala on Monday. I just felt the necessity to do so, thus I did. I know several other people who are Buddhists and have found the practice of this philosophy life changing. I find myself debating if I should add some chanting based upon Buddhism because so many people I know are finding such solid and helpful results. I am having a hard time thinking clearly because of the depression and the medication change, but this is an idea that has been at the back of my mind for about a half year now as I have watched my friends enacting major changes in their lives. The other possibility that has come to mind is taking up a more focused practice of the Nordic path, including galdr.

I feel somewhat cut off from Dea again. I believe it is my illness getting in the way. I feel as though there is a pall cast over me. The effort that it takes for me to write my little daily prayer in my journal has been harder than it has been over the last year. My prayers of late have been for our Lady to ease my illness and help me manage my symptoms. I still have faith, though the depression and such tell me to give up. It is, I hope, this faith that will carry me forward into health.

Thursday, March 10, 2016


Hello everyone,

I am attempting to attend to my Moura devotions and manage my well being at the same time. The efforts to manage my illnesses are winning out over much of the devotional activity I had planned to do and getting posting done. I struggle with posting because depression tells me that it is a futile effort and that my work is useless in the grand scheme of things. I also struggle because the mental focus to do so has been difficult to attain.

My medications have been adjusted and I honestly don't know how this is going to effect the situation. It is my hope that it improves things. My home is not as clean as I wanted it to be. My life is something of a disorganized mess right now. On the whole, I really am not doing very well at all. Still, I am not going to give over to despair.

Thank you all for being so patient with me. I sincerely hope that we are reaching a turning point in this mess with depression and rampant anxiety. Thank you again.