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EostreEostre is generally said to be an Anglo-Saxon goddess goddess of dawn, also associated with various aspects related to the renewal of life: spring, fertility and the hare (quick and numerous reproduction). Though it has been said that she was sometimes depicted with a hare's head, no authentic animal-headed deities appear in Germanic or Celtic cult objects.
According to Bede (died in 735 CE), writing in De Tempore Rationum ('On the Reckoning of Time') Ch. xv, the English months, the word is derived from Eostre, a festival that he connects with an Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring, to whom the month answering to our April, and called Eostur-monath, was dedicated. The connection is often made without quoting Bede himself, who says,
Mediterranean cultures also reveal traces of a submerged level of riotous renewal at Easter: Encyclopaedia Brittanica 1911, reported "In Corfu, for instance, the people at a given signal on Easter Eve throw vast quantities of crockery from their windows and roofs into the streets, and thus execute an imaginary stoning of Judas" (see (article 'Judas Iscariot' ref:Kirkwall, Ionian Islands, ii. 47).") Lest any actual connection with stoning Judas Iscariot be made, the similar custom, of throwing out the new, has been tranferred in Naples to New Year's Eve, according with the change in the calendar. As recently as thirty years ago, the streets of Naples were filled with broken glass, pottery and unwanted furniture by dawn on New Year's Day.
Her name originated in Old Teutonic, derived from the same root that gave the conjectural *austrôn-, meaning "dawn". Later on, her name was spelled variously as:
The Latin meaning of oestrus comes directly from Greek oistros, originally referring to a 'gadfly'— specifically the gadfly that Hera sent to torment Io, who had been wooed and won in her heifer form by Zeus. Homer uses the word to describe the panic of the suitors in Odyssey ch. 22. The modern technical Latin meaning of estrus became more prominent after it was revived in 1890 to describe the female equivalent of 'rut'.
Oestrus/oistros also meant 'frenzy.' Euripides uses it both to describe the madness of Orestes, and of Heracles (line 1144): Heracles has murdered his own children and cries, 'Where did the madness seize me? where did it destroy me?'
More to the point, Herodotus (Histories ch.93.1) uses oistros to describe the desire of fish to spawn.
Oestrus is an irrational drive: Plato, Laws, 854b:
The earliest English language sense is of "frenzied passion."
It seems reasonably certain that 'Eostre' refers to the annual Romano-Briton spring celebrations during 'Eostermonat' but Bede, writing in the late 8th century, conflated the festival with the goddess's name. The goddess's original name has been lost, for the name of her springtime 'rising of the sap' festival was translated into Latin, before the Roman legions left in the 5th century, it would be reasonable to suppose.
A distracting apparent early reference to 'Easter' in the Authorized Version translation of the New testament, Acts 12:4, is simply an anachronistic mistranslation of the Greek pascha ("Passover"), in which King James's committee followed such earlier translators as Tyndale and Coverdale. The Acts passage refers to the seven-day Passover festival (including the Feast of Unleavened Bread); "it is reasonably certain that the New Testament contains no reference to a yearly celebration of the resurrection of Christ."
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