Easter Is Not Named After Ishtar, And Other Truths I Have To Tell You

28 Mar

If there is one thing that drives me absolutely bananas, it’s people spreading misinformation via social media under the guise of “educating”. I’ve seen this happen in several ways – through infographics that twist data in ways that support a conclusion that is ultimately false, or else through “meaningful” quotes falsely attributed to various celebrities, or by cobbling together a few actual facts with statements that are patently untrue to create something that seems plausible on the surface but is, in fact, full of crap.

Yesterday, the official Facebook page of (noted misogynist and eugenics enthusiast) Richard Dawkins’ Foundation for Reason and Science shared the following image to their 637,000 fans:

Neither Reasonable Nor Scientific

Neither Reasonable Nor Scientific

Naturally, their fans lapped this shit up; after all, this is the kind of thing they absolutely live for. Religious people! Being hypocritical! And crazy! And wrong! The 2,000+ comments were chock-full of smug remarks about how naïve and stupid Christians were, accompanied by pats on the back for all the atheists who smart enough to see through all the religious bullshit and understand how the evil church had slyly appropriated all kinds of pagan traditions.

And you know what? That’s fine, I guess. I’m all for questioning religion and examining the sociological, historical and anthropological reasons that help explain the hows and whys of our lives today. I’m actually super fascinated by that kind of stuff, even if I do think that there’s a way to discuss it without making yourself sound smarter and more enlightened than the people around you.

But you guys? The image above is rife with misinformation. RIFE, I say.

Let’s start from the top:

This is Ishtar …

Okay, great. So far things are fairly accurate. The relief pictured here, known as the Burney Relief (also called the Queen of the Night relief) is widely considered to be an Ancient Babylonian representation of Ishtar (although some scholars believe that the woman depicted might be Lilitu or Ereshkigal). This relief is currently housed in the British Museum in London, but originates from southern Iraq and is nearly 4,000 years old.

… pronounced Easter.

Actually, in modern English we pronounce it the way it looks. A case could be made for pronouncing it Eesh-tar, but I have yet to come across a credible source that gives the original pronunciation as Easter.

Easter is originally the celebration of Ishtar, the Assyrian and Babylonian goddess of fertility and sex.

Ishtar was the goddess of love, war and sex. These days, thanks to Herodotus, she is especially associated with sacred prostitution* (also known as temple prostitution), which, in the religions of the Ancient Near East, allegedly took on the form of every woman having to, at some point in her life, go to the temple of Ishtar and have sex with the first stranger who offered her money. Once a woman entered the temple of Ishtar for the purpose of sacred prostitution, she was not allowed to leave until she’d done the deed. I can’t imagine that sacred prostitution sex was ever very good sex, but hey, what do I know? Probably some people were pretty into it – I mean, if you can imagine it, someone’s made porn about it, right?

Anyway, the point I am trying to make here is that, yes, Ishtar was associated with fertility and sex. However, her symbols were the lion, the gate and the eight-pointed star; I can’t find any evidence of eggs or rabbits symbolically belonging to her. And Easter has nothing to do with her.

Most scholars believe that Easter gets its name from Eostre or Ostara**, a Germanic pagan goddess. English and German are two of the very few languages that use some variation of the word Easter (or, in German, Ostern) as a name for this holiday. Most other European languages use one form or another of the Latin name for Easter, Pascha, which is derived from the Hebrew Pesach, meaning Passover. In French it’s Pâques, in Italian it’s Pasqua, in Dutch it’s Pasen, in Danish it’s Paaske, in Bulgarian it’s Paskha, and so on and so forth.

In the Christian Bible, Jesus returned to Jerusalem from his forty days in the desert just before Passover. In fact, in the Gospel according to John, Jesus was killed on the day before the first night of Passover, at the time when lambs were traditionally slaughtered for the Passover feast (because Jesus was the Lamb of God, etc. – SYMBOLISM, Y’ALL). There are a few differing accounts of when Jesus actually died, but most Christian texts, philosophers and scholars agree that it was around the time of Passover. Easter is still celebrated the week after Passover, which is why it’s a different day each year, because the Jewish calendar is lunar rather than solar.

Her symbols (like the egg and the bunny) were and still are fertility and sex symbols (or did you actually think eggs and bunnies had anything to do with the resurrection?).

Actually, according to Jacob Grimm’s Deutsche Mythologie, which he wrote after journeying across Germany and recording its oral mythological traditions, the idea of resurrection was part and parcel of celebrating the goddess Ostara:

OstaraEástre seems therefore to have been the divinity of the radiant dawn, of upspringing light, a spectacle that brings joy and blessing, whose meaning could be easily adapted by the resurrection-day of the christian’s God. Bonfires were lighted at Easter and according to popular belief of long standing, the moment the sun rises on Easter Sunday morning, he gives three joyful leaps, he dances for joy … Water drawn on the Easter morning is, like that at Christmas, holy and healing … here also heathen notions seems to have grafted themselves on great christian festivals. 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.”

Spring is a sort of resurrection after all, with the land coming back to life after lying dead and bare during the winter months. To say that ancient peoples thought otherwise is foolish, naïve and downright uninformed. Many, many pagan celebrations centre around the return of light and the rebirth of the land; these ideas are not new themes in the slightest.

And yes, rabbits and eggs are fertility symbols, and they are, in fact, associated with Eostre.

Ostara by Johannes Gehrts

Ostara by Johannes Gehrts

After Constantine decided to Christianize the Empire, Easter was changed to represent Jesus.

Hey! Guess what language Constantine, the Roman Emperor, spoke? Not English, that’s for sure! In fact, when he was alive, English didn’t even exist yet. He would have spoken Latin or Ancient Greek, so would likely have referred to Easter as Pascha or Πάσχα.

But at its roots Easter (which is pronounced Ishtar) was all about celebrating fertility and sex.

Look. Here’s the thing. Our Western Easter traditions incorporate a lot of elements from a bunch of different religious backgrounds. You can’t really say that it’s just about resurrection, or just about spring, or just about fertility and sex. You can’t pick one thread out of a tapestry and say, “Hey, now this particular strand is what this tapestry’s really about.” It doesn’t work that way; very few things in life do.

The fact is that the Ancient Romans were smart when it came to conquering. In their pagan days, they would absorb gods and goddesses from every religion they encountered into their own pantheon; when the Roman Empire became Christian, the Roman Catholic Church continued to do the same thing, in a manner of speaking.

And do you know why that worked so well? Because adaptability is a really, really good trait to have in terms of survival of the fittest (something I wish the present-day Catholic Church would remember). Scratch the surface of just about any Christian holiday, and you’ll find pagan elements, if not a downright pagan theme, underneath.

Know what else? Most Christians know this. Or, at least, most of the Christians that I’m friends with (which is, admittedly, a fairly small sampling). They know that Jesus wasn’t really born on December 25th, and they know that there were never any actual snakes in Ireland, and they know that rabbits and eggs are fertility symbols. But they don’t care, because they realize that religions evolve and change and that that’s actually a good thing, not a bad thing. The fact that many Christian saints are just re-imagined pagan gods and goddesses doesn’t alter their faith one iota; because faith isn’t about reason or sense, it’s about belief.

Look, go ahead and debate religion. Go ahead and tell Christians why what they believe is wrong. That’s totally fine and, in fact, I encourage it. A little debate and critical thinking are good for everyone. But do it intelligently. Get to know the Bible, so you actually know what you’re disagreeing with when you form an argument. Brush up on your theology so that you can explain why it’s so wrong. And have some compassion, for Christ’s sake – be polite and respectful when you enter into a debate, even when the person you’re debating with loses their cool. You want to prove that you’re better, more enlightened than Christians? Great, do it by remaining rational and level-headed in the face of someone who’s willing to stoop to personal attacks. To behave otherwise is to be just as bad as the people you’re debating.

Anyway, I hope you guys have a fantastic long weekend, no matter how you spend it. If your holiday involves chocolate, then I hope you enjoy that. If not, just enjoy the extra day or two off work and the (hopefully) warm weather. No matter what you believe in, I think that we can all agree that the end of winter and the rebirth of spring is worth celebrating.

And also? Richard Dawkins? You need to fact-check yourself before you fact-wreck yourself. Spreading this kind of misinformation to your foundation’s 637,000 fans is just plain irresponsible, especially coming from someone like you. Get with the program, buddy.

ETA: The post now seems to be removed from The Richard Dawkins’ Foundation for Science and Reason’s FB page. Thanks Richard! 

ETA Part Deux: Oh. It looks like it was deleted from their timeline but not the photo album. Welp.

*It should be noted that the only actual historical evidence that we have of sacred prostitution comes from Herodotus (I’ve included an excerpt from Herodotus’ Histories below) and no one is really sure how accurate it is. Herodotus is known for making shit up, like giant ants for example. But it makes for an amazing story and people still make the association between Ishtar and sacred prostitution, so I decided to mention it here.

The foulest Babylonian custom is that which compels every woman of the land to sit in the temple of Aphrodite and have intercourse with some stranger once in her life. Many women who are rich and proud and disdain to mingle with the rest, drive to the temple in covered carriages drawn by teams, and stand there with a great retinue of attendants. But most sit down in the sacred plot of Aphrodite, with crowns of cord on their heads; there is a great multitude of women coming and going; passages marked by line run every way through the crowd, by which the men pass and make their choice. Once a woman has taken her place there, she does not go away to her home before some stranger has cast money into her lap, and had intercourse with her outside the temple; but while he casts the money, he must say, “I invite you in the name of Mylitta” (that is the Assyrian name for Aphrodite). It does not matter what sum the money is; the woman will never refuse, for that would be a sin, the money being by this act made sacred. So she follows the first man who casts it and rejects no one. After their intercourse, having discharged her sacred duty to the goddess, she goes away to her home; and thereafter there is no bribe however great that will get her. So then the women that are fair and tall are soon free to depart, but the uncomely have long to wait because they cannot fulfil the law; for some of them remain for three years, or four. There is a custom like this in some parts of Cyprus.

That crack about ugly women was totally unnecessary, Herodotus. I am just saying.

**The first written reference we have for Eostre dates back to the 7th century AD and can be found in Venerable Bede’s Temporum Ratione, in a passage explaining that April was often referred to as Eostremonth:

“Eosturmonath” has a name which is now translated “Paschal month”, and which was once called after a goddess of theirs named Eostre, in whose honor feasts were celebrated in that month.

Jacob Grimm said that he found further evidence of Eostre and her associations with Easter, eggs and rabbits when researching his Deutsches Mythologie, although he was unable to discover any written records about her.

1,098 Responses to “Easter Is Not Named After Ishtar, And Other Truths I Have To Tell You”

  1. Roger March 28, 2016 at 5:40 pm #

    Well said. The Easter/Ishtar hoax is abominable drivel. But it shows how myths circulate. That one was confected by Alexander Hislop in 1850. In my link I dissect his claim.

    • neil July 1, 2016 at 3:08 am #

      Most of this argument is simply waffle,e written by someone brainwashed by their religion upset by the obvious fact yet another part of their belief is a mishmash of older traditions ie Christmas and Easter Saints resurrection etc etc Ishtar /Eostre who cares its all superstitious nonsense.

  2. theystilldontknow83 March 28, 2016 at 6:28 pm #

    Thank you for sharing

  3. planmeister March 28, 2016 at 7:50 pm #

    If, JUST IF, Ishtar were the way-back-there origin of European Easter/Eostre/Ostara, it would NOT be first or only case of European adoption/adaptation of Middle Eastern mythologies. I know this is a touchy subject, but just because some might delight in rubbing Xian noses in this, doesn’t mean that it’s not factual!

  4. boobadkittyfunk March 28, 2016 at 7:51 pm #

    If this article is true, can we get the reference list?

    • Allen Burke March 29, 2016 at 3:14 am #

      You Samaritans, when are you going to learn? The age of blood sacrifice is done. Study Isaiah closely.

  5. Christine March 28, 2016 at 8:30 pm #

    I think I will believe Richard Dawkins over your dumb ass regarding the name.

    As far as what it “means”: we athiests don’t give a rat’s ass. We aren’t pagan either. The point is that your religion comes in, sweeps up whole cultures and rebrands their sacred holidays and practices.

    • The Lone Armadillo July 27, 2016 at 8:39 pm #

      And the Romans didn’t made the same thing?
      “The fact is that the Ancient Romans were smart when it came to conquering. In their pagan days, they would absorb gods and goddesses from every religion they encountered into their own pantheon; when the Roman Empire became Christian, the Roman Catholic Church continued to do the same thing, in a manner of speaking.”

    • Kerry September 29, 2016 at 6:01 pm #

      🙂 thank you

    • tracypaints44 April 17, 2017 at 11:05 am #

      please don’t speak for all atheists, especially if you’re going to be so obnoxious about it. You’re the kind of atheist that makes the rest of us look like boorish jerks. I personally find other cultures and faiths fascinating. Just because a person eschews religion doesn’t mean they can’t find this kind of thing interesting. Being an atheist doesn’t make me (or you) smarter than or superior to anyone.

  6. Jay Cee March 28, 2016 at 8:44 pm #

    I enjoyed your article. I myself have been quite fed up of seeing this meme, which I knew to be inaccurate, over the past few years.

    First, I would just like to comment on one of your statements in the beginning. You mention ways of misinformation being spread through social media and state, “..that twist data in ways that support a conclusion that is ultimately false,” among other things. Do you think “official reports” by our gov’t, gov’t funded studies, etc don’t do the same thing? Case in point, look at all the “official reports” over the years regarding marijuana and look at where the legality of marijuana use, both medicinally and recreationally, is right now!

    Lastly, you mention towards the end how many Christians know things, such as saints being reimaginations of older pagan gods/goddesses, but they don’t care because “faith isn’t about reason or sense, it’s about belief.” That’s all good and fine. Unfortunately, it leaves me with a question that I’m quite interested in knowing to better understand that point……..IF it’s about belief, and what you are taught to believe must obviously be, in one way or another, false and fictitious, since those things are NOT original and borrowed from something older, then what, exactly, is the “belief” in? What is it that they believe that maintains their faith in the religion?

    Again, all in all, I enjoyed your article.

    • Chris March 29, 2016 at 12:16 pm #

      It amounts to NOTHING. That’s the point the people that make these memes try to make. If the modern theology didn’t amount to lies upon lies upon older lies then it probably wouldn’t be so easy to get sidetracked in the random tangents and one-offs while trying to present people with the truth of the matter.

      Fun and traditions are all well and good but the level of dishonesty in European culture has reached the level where even many of them no longer know they are lying to themselves and their children. It has reached detestable levels and needs to be curbed before the huddled masses descend further into not being able to distinguish reality from fantasy.

  7. Richard McMellon March 28, 2016 at 10:51 pm #

    Reblogged this on Richard McMellon.

  8. Fretfire March 28, 2016 at 10:52 pm #

    Yes, you split hairs and end up only “proving” that people are claiming the name is based on the wrong goddess. The fact is that you’re totally ignoring what I call the “Mystery Babylon Continuum”, which is that all the ancient pagan mystery religions that originated in Mesopotamia influenced all that followed; the Egyptians influenced the Babylonians, the Greeks the Romans and so on, especially their “borrowing” gods & goddesses from previous cults and renaming them. As others pointed out in above posts, there is every reason to believe that Ishtar spawned later goddesses, especially where there is a similarity in the root of the name – as ralfellis pointed out, Oester coming from Ast, Est or Isis, and those coming originally from Ishtar or Asteroth. The name Esther is also derived from the same root. It doesn’t matter that different languages were involved, do we not have many words that come originally from different languages? Philip had some very good points on this. The spelling or even the lettering system may be completely different, the pronunciation changes but remains similar. Ishtar/Asteroth/Ast/Est/Oester/Easter. One thing they all have in common is that they have absolutely NOTHING to do with Jesus’ resurrection, and whenever I hear people wishing each other “Happy Easter”, I think…no matter how well intentioned they are, it must be very insulting to God, especially since He says in Jeremiah and other places how much He hates the worship of the Queen of Heaven, or Asteroth!

  9. SueB March 28, 2016 at 11:27 pm #

    Thank you for writing this. I am religious, and though I don’t celebrate Easter (I’m Jewish), I don’t feel the need to criticize or insult people who do. I like learning about the pagan origins of holidays, my own included, but I dislike having to wade through so much misinformation to do so. Good article.

  10. Helen March 29, 2016 at 12:26 am #

    Thank you for historical debate and clarity. The bottom line is there is no Easter mentioned in the bible and therefore there’s no need to celebrate such festival if you are a believer in the Word of God. The God I refer to is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

    • Cynthia Rodriguez March 30, 2016 at 6:34 am #

      The bible was written by humans as a way to understand the natural world around them. (Before you get offended God did not sit down take pen and paper and proceed to write the Bible)I believe in God but I also know that Christianity has co-opted many religous rituals in order to bring different peoples into the faith. The actual origin of Mary is much older than Ishtar the Venus of Willendorf and other figurines like her clearly demonstrate that the worship of the Earth Mother has morphed into the worship of Mary. Do I believe in God? Yes I do but I believe he gave me a brain and the ability to think rationally. Whether or not Ishtar is or is not the etymological root of Easter is irrelevant, but I do share the author’s frustration with the deliberate dissemination of misinformation . People who say that the only “Truth” is the one that supports their point of view are to be pitied but not ridiculed or denigrated. Everyone is entitled to believe what they want but do your own research and do not just mindlessly go through life parroting what you heard from others.

    • Al Swilling April 16, 2016 at 9:26 am #

      Helen, Easter–or the celebration of Christ’s resurrection–is not a holiday that was ordered by Jesus Christ or any of his disciples or subsequent writers of the New Testament books. It is a holiday that early Christians began celebrating around 35 A.D.

      It wasn’t called “Easter” at that time, just a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It was commemorated for obvious reasons, and it was always observed on the first day of the week, originally observed in connection with Passover, since Jesus Christ was referred to by John the Baptist as “The Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world”; the Lamb that the Passover sacrificial lamb symbolized.

      The celebration of Easter was later changed by the Catholic church in order to standardize the holiday among all churches in all geographical locations. The calculation for the observance of Easter was extablished as the FIRST SUNDAY after the FIRST FULL MOON after the VERNAL EQUINOX (first day of spring). Before that, Easter was celebrated on different dates by different groups and geographical areas.

      Easter is strictly a man-made holiday; not one that was established or sanctified by God or Jesus Christ.

      The only practices that Jesus Christ established and told his disciples to keep in remembrance of him were the humility service (foot washing), and the “Last Supper” or “Lord’s Supper” in which unleavened bread and non-alcoholic wine (alcohol and leavening symbolized sin) were eaten and drunk to symbolize Christ’s body and blood that were sacrificed for remission of sin.

      • Micha Ben Malachi May 28, 2016 at 7:45 pm #

        How did they manage to have non alcoholic wine at the last supper? That was about six months after the grape harvest and they had no method if preserving grape juice without it fermenting. Louis Pasteur was not born yet and they did not have refrigeration. Also at the time if Passover the grape vines are only starting to bud, leave alone bear fruit. Please be factually correct. The whole notion from Mormons, Swaggartarians and Pentecostals that they drank unfermented wine is wishful thinking at its best. When it comes to grape juice; no pasteurization or no refrigiration=fermentation=wine, period!

        During the Passover seder, four glasses of wine is consumed. The transliterated reference in the Torah to this beverage is ya’een. Grape juice transliterated is called mitz anaveem – totally different. If people are scared of alcoholism or getting drunk, they should learn moderation and self control and not demonize something good. Just for the record Jesus was a Jew, his desciples were Jews and they had a Passover seder with wine. The did not have communion or a ‘last supper’ as is commonly the belief among Christians. Remember also, as a Jew he said: ‘As often as you eat this
        bread and drink this wine, remember me.’ No Jew eats unleavened bread and drink with it any of the customary four cups of wine anytime they like. We do it once a year. So where do Christians get their custom of having communion anytime they like from? Why do they not do what Jesus did and follow what he instructed? Makes one think! The problem with Christianity is that they BELIEVE IN the Jewish Jesus, but by their actions they do NOT BELIEVE the Jewish Jesus.

    • allen April 23, 2016 at 2:57 pm #

      All I know is “my Jesus” is the embodiment of the sacrificial lamb of passover. The door posts of my house, mind and spirit have been painted with His blood. 🙂 but I do know who Ishtar is. Sometimes I eat her for breakfast (eggs) Sometimes I have her for lunch (that wylie wabbit)….hahahaha. 😉

  11. dollywitch March 29, 2016 at 7:36 pm #

    Eostre is in turn derived from Ausos, the Proto-Indo-European Goddess of the dawn, reconstructed from various other Goddesses such as Aurora, Eos etc.

    It’s likely Eostre was a preserved iteration of Ausos, who held much the same characteristics whereas the others had drifted enough to be considered separate entities. So it’s a shame so little is written about her, as she was probably one of the longest surviving elements of the PIE religion.

  12. yoobie glue March 29, 2016 at 9:57 pm #

    i cant celibrate easter anyway

  13. J.M.M.E.KAIWA March 30, 2016 at 6:17 am #

    Bottom line Easter is mentioned no where in the bible. But rather passover

  14. cherylhart March 30, 2016 at 12:24 pm #

    Sideline to your post but I was so pleased when I saw that you described one of Ishtar’s symbols as the ‘eight-pointed star’. My PhD research examines the rosette motif and I get so annoyed when people constantly claim that the rosette is the symbol of Ishtar or Inanna. Probably winds me up as much as people claiming a link between Ishtar and Easter does to you.

  15. Jeff March 30, 2016 at 1:22 pm #

    Eostre is related to the word “East”, the direction in which the sun rises. The Proto-Indo-European goddess mentioned, Hausos, “the Shining One”, became Eostre when an extended stem “tro” was added to it. It is unknown exactly where Proto-Indo-European began, but the best guesses so far are the Pontic Steppe north of the Black Sea or just a little further south in Anatolia, which is now called Turkey. Ishtar was definitely known in this area. Her name appears in the Hittite “Kingship in Heaven,” the original creation myth that inspired the creation story in Hesiod’s Cosmogony. “The Empire of the Amorites” (1919) by Albert Tobias Clay (printed by Yale) made a very compelling case, on both a historical and etymological level, that all the Mesopotamian gods originated from Anatolia.

    There are also hints of a shared mythology between Germany and Mesopotamia. Baldr is a dying-and-rising god who is accidentally shot and killed by his blind brother Hodr with a mistletoe dart, which was the Achilles Heel of the otherwise immortal deity. Baldr’s mother Frigg, who was identified with Venus, asked the goddess of the Underworld, Hel (from which the name Hell derives), to release Baldr if all objects weep for his death, a ritual reminiscent of the “weeping for Tammuz” that was done for the dying-and-rising version of Yahweh at the Jerusalem Temple, as shown in Ezekiel 8:14. But because of the refusal of a single giantess, believed to be the “trickster god” Loki in disguise, Baldr was to remain in the underworld until Ragnarok, the Norse apocalypse. Isaiah 14:12 also speaks of a Canaanite “son of the Dawn” named Hel-El, or “Hel-God”, who falls from heaven, mimicking the descent of Venus or “evening star” at dusk. Like Eostre, this “Shining One” is named after the twinkle of Venus in the morning and evening, from which the get the Latin name “Lucifer”. The Canaanite myth is likewise linked to the mythological motif behind the most famous of the myths about the Sumerian Ishtar, “Inanna’s Descent to the Netherworld”, which also happens to feature the underworld ruled by a goddess rather than a god. Hel-El’s father Shahar, the god of the dawn, also had a twin brother, Shalem, the god of the dusk, and the deity that Jerusalem, or Yeru-shalem, was originally named after. They appear to follow the same “good twin/bad twin” motif that Baldr and Hodr occupies, symbolizing the dual natures of the rising morning star and the falling evening star, and are often considered to be the twin avatar of Athtar, the male equivalent of Ishtar.

    The ancient fertility goddess and the dying-and-rising gods have an ancient link to one another. Each of the mysteries, from Dumuzi to Tammuz to Adonis to Dionysus to Osiris to Baldr was associated with a mother goddess who causes the death of the god and/or tries to bring him back to life. Vatican hill was known to have hosted the Anatolian Mother goddess Cybele, who they called Magna Mater, or “Great Mother”, whose lion totem confirms her association with Ishtar, and the Vatican necropolis has turned up images equating Jesus with Mithras using symbolism of the sun. Thus, religious syncretism is far more ubiquitous than most people realize, so it’s not surprising that they balk at the idea the Christian religion, whether they love or despise it, may be part of a tradition that has a far older pedigree than a 2,000-year-old Jewish apocalyptic movement.

    Besides that, the Hittites were not the only Indo-European speakers in the Near East. There were also the Armenians. In Armenian mythology, the goddess of love and fertility was Astghik, literally “East Star” i.e. Easter, from the Proto-Indo-European word *hzster. The Armenians themselves identified Astghik with both Ishtar and Aphrodite, both of which are equated with the Roman Venus, the “East Star”. The Armenians celebrated her festival not in April but July, and the holiday was rededicated to the Transfiguration of Christ when they became Christianized. From these facts alone, I would argue we do not even need the Venerable Bede to make the confirmation that the name Easter came from a goddess.

    Like Ishtar, Astghik had a lover, Vahagn. Astghik and Vahagn formed a triad with Anahit, a goddess of war, wisdom and healing, who they identified with Artemis. Like Artemis’ brother Apollo, Vahagn was a dragon-slayer. The brother-sister theme of Apollo/Artemis is likewise paralleled by the sibling-lovers Hadad and Anat. Anat takes revenge for Hadad between his death and resurrection, which I see as paralleled by Geshtinnana helping her brother Dumuzi escape his demonic persecutors. The dragon slaying motif is likewise paralleled by Yahweh’s fight with Leviathan, Hadad’s fight with Lotan and Marduk’s fight with Tiamat and in my view reflects the historical defeat of the pre-Sumerian culture of the Ubaid that worshiped Nammu (Tiamat), Enki and Dumuzi as snakes or dragons, as archaeology has unearthed humanoid figures with snake/lizard/dragon faces from that time period in Mesopotamia and Dumuzi is often given the title “Mother-Dragon-of-Heaven” (even though contemporary Sumerians later identified him (but not Inanna/Ishtar) with the same bull totem as most of the other gods). This is also why the Promethean god of wisdom Enki is portrayed as a snake tempting Eve with wisdom from Inanna’s tree in the Garden of Eden (located on the Tigris and Euphrates), just as Inanna (Ishtar) took the secret arts of civilization, the me‘s, from Enki’s temple in Eridu (the Biblical Enoch) and brought it to Uruk. The Sumerians correctly identified the original deity Nammu as a female, even though she was not a main character in any of their myths and barely even registered a personality. The Babylonians did away with her distinction as first deity by personifying the Akkadian apsu // Sumerian abzu, literally “abyss”, into the Father God Apsu, so as to create a patriarch god as ancient as the Mother Goddess, then explained it away by saying Ea (Enki) cast a spell and made Apsu “go to sleep”, that is, turned the “god” into the inanimate freshwater that became Enki’s home. The Babylonian nation god Marduk then slays Tiamat and takes all the titles of the other gods to become the king god, marking what was a growing trend of imperial henotheism, the worship of one god over many, replacing polytheism. But even going to battle against a female must have been too embarrassing for the later Canaanites and Judahites who turned the matriarchal nemesis into a male hydra.

    In the Romance languages, Friday is known as the “Day of Venus.” As I explained already in my post, the Norse dying-and-rising god Baldr is protected by his mother Frigg, who is also identified with Venus and whose name is etymologically linked to the Anglo-Saxon name Friday. Baldr was killed by his blind brother Hodr with a mistletoe dart causing him to die on the Winter Solstice (Christmas). This is a myth associated with rise of the morning star and fall of the evening star, which are likewise associated with the twin brothers Shahir, the god of the dawn, and Shalem, the god of the dusk, the sons of El, which is also the Hebrew word for god, and both were equated with Athtar, the male equivalent of Ishtar. This makes Good Friday of special interest since the holy day is traditionally said to be based on John 19:42 making Jesus’ crucifixion the day before the Sabbath (Saturday) even though the Synoptic gospels portray him as being crucified on the Sabbath. The “Sign of Jonah” from Matthew and Luke is supposed to be a prophecy that Jesus would stay in the “belly of the whale” for three days, but this doesn’t fit with either chronology since Friday is two days before Easter Sunday and one day before the Sabbath.

    Now, it is true that Ishtar is a Semitic name, and the Semitic language is generally believed to have migrated to the Middle East from Africa. But the etymology of the name Ishtar is uncertain. A popular theory is that Arabia breeds vast numbers of nomadic tribes that cannot be supported requiring them to migrate out in waves as part of a “Saharan pump”: first the Akkadians, then the Amorites, the Arameans, the Nabateans, and finally the Arabians. George A. Barton argued in “On The Etymology of Ishtar” (1911) that it derives from a south Arabian root that means “She who waters”.

    But if this etymology is to be accepted, look at what we have here: it means that Ishtar started in Africa, moved through Palestine, and then crossed into Anatolia, while *hzster, a goddess with the same characteristics, the same planet identification, the same mythological background, and a similar name, moved from the Pontic-Caspian Steppe, down through Anatolia, into Armenia, essentially criss-crossing one another and being identified with one another by their respective peoples. I will accept that this is a distinct possibility, but it is in the very least a scenario that is far different than envisioned by critics who laugh mockingly about the tenuous connection between Ishtar and Easter as completely out of time and place.

    Another theory which I find rather compelling comes from “The Empire of the Amorites”, which argues that Arabia’s climate was actually far more fertile in the ancient world, making the “Saharan pump” hypothesis harder to explain, and that a survey of names do not provide adequate evidence of large scale migrations from Arabia. Leaving aside the anthropological question of the ultimate origin of the Semitic race, Clay points out that Genesis places the Semites as starting from where Noah’s Ark at Mt. Ararat in Anatolia, to Shem’s son Aram, to his son, Uz (Arabia), indicating the belief in a line of migration opposite to that of the “Saharan pump”. Joktan, a great grandson of Shem, has 13 sons named after 13 Arabian peoples, also pointing to a southern migration. The tradition that the six Arab sons of Keturah, the second wife of Abraham, also indicate a belief that the Aramaeans from the north settled Arabia. Clay also provides an analysis on many of the names of the Akkadian gods, indicating a large number of them are from Anatolian origin. Admittedly, Ishtar is not named among them, but if we follow the gist of this scenario, the names Ishtar and *hzster could possibly have originated from around the same place, Anatolia, which also happens to host some of the largest and most ancient monuments predating the Sumerians and Akkadians.

    A 2009 Bayesian analysis of Semitic histories identifies an origin of Semitic languages in the Levant around 3,750 B.C. with a single introduction from southern Arabia into Africa around 800 B.C. This to me seems reasonably close enough to the best estimation of the original location of the Proto-Indo-European language to have been the original provider of the name, or perhaps for both languages to have inherited the name from a now dead language.

    The description of Noah as the first winemaker also links him with the Eucharistic nature of the dying-and-rising gods such as Geshtinanna and Dionysus (who is also locked in a great chest and thrown in the ocean). This is corroborated by the name of the Greek version of Noah, Deucalion, whose name means “New-Sweet-Wine Sailor”, and whose father is Prometheus, the equivalent of Enki, the father of Dumuzi and the deity who warns the shipbuilder in every Mesopotamian flood myth from Ziusudra to Ut-Napishtim. Baldr also happened to own the greatest ship ever built, called the Hringhorni. In the Finno-Ugaric version of the flood story, centered around Finland, Hungary, and Russia, the sky god Numi-Tarem tries to use a “holy fiery-flood” to destroy the prince of the dead, Kulya-ter, but builds two great ships, an iron airship for the gods and a covered raft for the people, and similar to Noah’s invention of wine, the flood hero tells his wife how to invent beer.


  16. Seth March 31, 2016 at 3:01 pm #

    Thank you for the clarification! I was doing my own research into this after seeing the same meme online and could not come across any specific distinctions between Ishtar and Easter except for the very broad “love, sex, war symbols” and “english pronunciation.” Great write up!

  17. lilbitmo March 31, 2016 at 6:00 pm #

    Funny how someone can condemn all Christians for “attacking” (because, of course, all Biblical Christians are uninformed, misinformed people of “blind” faith), condemn her fellow anti-Christians for spreading misinformation while encouraging them to show Christians how they are wrong, in the “correct” way without a clue how she just demonstrated her own arrogance, hipocrisy, pride and self-righteous attack. Thanks for the post though. This ignorant Christian found it useful. I think you should devote your entire life to proving that the Bible and it’s consistent message of God’s redemption of man repeatedly tyipified and symbolized from Genesis thru thousands of years, 66 books and 40 different Authors cannot be true.

  18. erita magariro April 1, 2016 at 9:47 am #

    catholic or not, my bible says we should worship God in truth and in spirit, it does not matter how i do it…and being a catholic or not does not really guarantee one to go to heaven. all churches (christians) share the same final goal that is to go to heaven some day so lets stop concentrating much on what other people do in their churches because at the end its all about the relationship between you and God….

  19. Domenico Celli April 5, 2016 at 9:36 pm #

    Easter is just a stupid English word. The commemoration of Jesus’s death and resurrection goes by many different words depending on the language. I am Italian and our word for Easter is Pasqua, referring to Jesus as the pascal or sacrificial lamb that saved the world. Nothing to do with pagan rituals. You English people can be so stupid sometimes.

  20. O.J JOSHUA April 10, 2016 at 8:47 pm #

    The word of God as it is in the Holy Bible is the final say in case. In Jere 10;1-3 God said “the costums of men are vanity. That we must not join them in their practiceis. Again, God commanded us not to observe times. All the so call holy days are sin. Because God warrned us against them. Forget about the origine of Easter or Ishtar or Eostra, Christ-mass, Valentin etc. The truth is all these holy days practicing is a sin.
    Dou shall not observe times. See Deu 18;13-14 Isa 1;14 /2kings 21-6.
    What so ever name you give them.

  21. Al April 16, 2016 at 8:38 am #

    Easter is NOT celebrated the week after Passover. It is celebrated EVERY year on the FIRST SUNDAY after the FIRST FULL MOON after the VERNAL EQUINOX (first day of Spring). This year, for example, Easter fell on Sunday, 27 March 2016. Passover for this year does not begin until Shabbat (Saturday) 23 April 2016 (15 Nisan 5776 by the Jewish calendar), which would put Easter this year on Sunday, 01 May 2016.

    It would seem that all the false info that you railed against has worked its way into your own rhetoric.

  22. Al Swilling April 16, 2016 at 9:07 am #

    In your article, you wrote, “In the Christian Bible, Jesus returned to Jerusalem from his forty days in the desert just before Passover. In fact, in the Gospel according to John, Jesus was killed on the day before the first night of Passover, at the time when lambs were traditionally slaughtered for the Passover feast (because Jesus was the Lamb of God, etc. – SYMBOLISM, Y’ALL). There are a few differing accounts of when Jesus actually died, but most Christian texts, philosophers and scholars agree that it was around the time of Passover. Easter is still celebrated the week after Passover, which is why it’s a different day each year, because the Jewish calendar is lunar rather than solar….”

    Easter is NOT celebrated the week after Passover. It is celebrated EVERY year on the FIRST SUNDAY after the FIRST FULL MOON after the VERNAL EQUINOX (first day of Spring). That has been the rule for celebrating Easter at least since 725 A.D. THAT is why Easter falls on a different day each year. It has nothng to do with Passover (always begins on the 15th day of the Jewish month Nisan), even though, according to the Gospels, Jesus Christ was crucified during Passover.

    For example, this year (2016) Easter fell on 27 March 2016. Passover for this year does not begin until Shabbat (Saturday) 23 April 2016 (15 Nisan 5776 by the Jewish calendar), which would, according to your formula, put Easter this year on Sunday, 01 May 2016.

    It would seem that all the false info that you railed against has worked its way into your own rhetoric.

  23. Steve Sharpe May 9, 2016 at 6:00 pm #

    Seriously check your facts….Easter Does come from Ishtar/Astarte who was adopted into the Nordic myth as she was everywhere else around the world in one permutation or other…the only real foible in the article is that Ishtar was pronounced Easter. Every religion in the world since it’s beginnings have absorbed and renamed as their own elements of older cultures…each adding to and reacting to their liking. ALL religion and culture is sycretic to some degree… NO “Pure” system of religion exists wherein all is true and no error is found…attempts to find any said system is a self-defeating endeavor….glean, like good sheep and avoid the briars, they’re for the goats.

  24. firefly128 May 30, 2016 at 6:43 pm #

    Personally I’m not totally sure what the point of things like this are. As you said, many Christians realize the celebrations in our religion often have elements of pagan mythology. Some people alter their practices to match that (for example, I know more than a few Christians who don’t celebrate Christmas or Halloween). Some don’t care, not because faith is just belief and nothing else, but because it doesn’t always really matter. I’m one of those people. I just had to mention that cos I a) hate this idea that goes around (usually in atheist, rather than Christian circles) that faith is without reason, and b) most people I’ve met (and I’ve been a Christian my whole life and done a bunch of church/denomination-hopping) fall into one of these 2 groups.

    I celebrate Easter because of the resurrection, which is first and foremost the purpose of the holiday. I know there are also cultural practices centred around spring and rebirth at this time, and I know they have elements of pagan practices (though it’s often not true that they come *solely* from those practices). I have no issue with the ideas behind them in principle (ie. rebirth, spring is good), so I will happily take the chocolate and go on an egg hunt. Same thing with Christmas – I know Jesus’ birthday likely wasn’t Dec 25, I know we don’t know how many wise men were there, etc. But the spirit of the traditions is there, and it’s good, so why not celebrate it? As for the non-religious part of it, well, the roots are a big mishmash of historical and pagan and Christian practices, and today all it amounts to is singing songs about a fat man with presents or a snowman that comes to life, and giving each other gifts. Sounds fun to me, so whatever, let’s do it 😛 You can have both without it necessarily being some corrupt thing.

  25. Simon October 7, 2016 at 8:36 pm #

    I think you should read the ancient sumerian tablets before make that kind of statemend, the way you try to explain may look like plausible, but not. Read, and read a lot then you can write or talk

  26. ralfellis November 8, 2016 at 10:23 am #

    The etymology and culture of Easter are definitely from the Egyptian Isis, who was called Aest or Eest (with the Egyptian feminine ‘t’ suffix).

    With Est (Isis) and Easter:
    They were both identified with fertility.
    They were both identified with an egg
    … … (the name for Isis uses the egg-glyph).
    They were both identified with a star (Venus).

    Isis (East or Ast) became Astar-te, Ashtar-oth, Ishtar, Aphrodite and Venus – the Eastern Star of Eastar or Easter. With the veneration of these fertility goddesses being at the Vernal Equinox (ie: Easter).


  27. Tara Greene www.taratarot.com March 20, 2017 at 5:49 am #

    All religions are based on nature first and foremost. The Sun is God, by whatever name you call it. Ra, Jahweh or Jesus. The Sun is the LIGHT the life force and source of everything, It is very obvious. The worship of the Sun and Mother Earth follows natural cycles which everyone depended on to stay alive. Everyone was initially “pagan.” The roots of all observances of nature and peoples harmonious interconnection with the cosmos is the basis of all spiritual beliefs, religions and customs. This was practiced everywhere in the world and it was also based on the planets. Actually Astronomy/Astrology was one of the main religions as the symbols of VENUS- Ishtar, light bringer.
    Easter is the ancient celebration of equal day and night which thousands of years ago marked the Sun at Zero degrees of the Constellation of ARIES. We celebrate this today as Spring Equinox.
    Everyone borrowed fro other cultures. Modern Christians who take literally the Bible as the “word of God” are being totally misled. Just to look to the ancient pagan Goddess worshipping cultures in the world for the real evidence. People back then were not Left brained or literate whichmeans they innately understood nature and all the cycles. They were naturally spiritual and understood the The Goddess was immanent. They experienced the communion with the Earth and Sky the Goddess and God as One. Sex was the original religion. The Catholic church in its insatiable greed to control others demonized, women, sexuality and created the Devil from ancient worship of Pan the Goddesses fertile consort who inseminated her and brought forth life. Ancient pagan beliefs are what we need to return to and they are the fastest growing spiritual philosophies, it is not an organized religion with no heirarchy.
    The putting down of “sacred Prostitution” is also all wrong. Read Barbara Walkers the Women’s Encyclopedia of Myths and secrets about Sacred Holy Hierodules dedicated to the Goddess of Love.
    I have past life memories of being a High Priestess in Venus’s temples and it was not prostitution. Men were healed in the Goddess temples from PTSD from shedding profane blood in wars. Every woman had to go and serve as a holy priestess for a year before she could marry. She was initiated and by embodying the Goddesses unconditional holy kundalini energy she made love to the starnge man to “baptize” him, heal him and make him whole, Enabling soldiers to reintegrate into communal life again. Men made offering to Venus but it was not prostitution it was an offering.
    There is still so much misinformation.

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