EASTER AND THE STORY OF ISHTAR
by Dennis Gaumond
Saying anything that challenges the official position of Christian doctrine continues to be a tricky endeavor. However more and more people are seeing that, just as with Christmas, there are aspects of Easter that have little to do with the death and resurrection of Jesus, and that originated much earlier.
Several pagan goddesses from the European continent, such as Eastra, Oestra, and Estara, have been cited as the focus of the feast - all are symbols of the coming of spring, renewal, rebirth. It is likely that these goddesses are all derivative of the ancient Sumerian goddess, Inanna, who is better known by her Babylonian name, Ishtar. She is also known by the names Astarte, Aphrodite and Venus.
There are several ancient stories involving the death and resurrection of a god figure, such as Tammuz, Horus, Dionysus and Mithras. Most of them involve a period of three days of death or journey to the underworld followed by a resurrection. It is interesting that the final step in the Egyptian mystery school process is said to involve being sealed within the granite sarcophagus in the King's Chamber of the Great Pyramid for a period of three days. If the initiate was able to survive this and conquer all fears, they would become enlightened.
Most of these ancient stories are celebrations of the return of spring, the dawn of a new season of fertility and prosperity. Eggs and rabbits are ancient symbols of rebirth. It seems obvious that the Christian interpretation of this celebration chose to retain many of these traditions and that it was easier to appropriate existing feasts into the newly formed Christian traditions than to do away with them.
The Christian Church, however, has downplayed the sexual aspect of the feast. The sexual nature of these ancient pagan goddesses is another aspect of fertility and prosperity. In the pagan resurrection stories there are major, significant roles being played by females. In the Christian version, however, the females are mostly bystanders.
I have gone online and tried to find accounts of the pagan origins of Easter that are more of a scholarly approach and less influenced by Christian bias. The first one is pretty good, but you have to put up with a lot of ads. The second one is more thorough, fewer ads, but sometimes seems poorly written.