Another Embassy visit today, for the Easter Dawn Service.

Rumour has it that we can thank the Venerable Bede whose writings include references to the Anglo-Saxon  Eosturmonath, the month of the goddess Eostre for naming Easter.

A frequently repeated – but wholly unsourced – story relates how Eostre found a wounded, freezing bird and transformed it into a hare to ‘save’ it. The hare continued to be able to lay eggs and did so each spring in gratitude to the goddess.  A neat, improbable conjoint, I think.

Eostre (or ‘a’) seems to have been the divinity of the radiant dawn, of upspringing light, a spectacle that brings joy and blessing, whose meaning was perhaps adapted for the resurrection-day of the Christian God, the ancients being notorious for hedging their bets since allegiance to one deity invariably ticked off the others – rather like supporting two football teams at the same time. Bonfires were lit at Easter and according to popular belief the moment the sun rises on Easter Sunday morning, she (or perhaps, he) gives three joyful leaps, and dances for joy. Water drawn on Easter morning is, like that at Christmas, holy and healing. Maidens clothed in white, who at Easter, at the season of returning spring, show themselves in clefts of the rock and on mountains, are suggestive of the ancient goddess. 

In the Embassy gardens this morning, no maidens, clad or otherwise, peeped out from behind the bushes, no hares gambolled, no eggs were discovered in hedgerows; instead a dawn chorus of familiar numbers from Godspell started off the proceedings. Lovely. However, I still think that sticking to Pesach would’ve been much fairer to everyone.

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