Ostara's Home Page
The Germanic Goddess of Springtime
Variant spellings: Eostra, Eostrae, Eostre, Eástre, Austra.
Edited by D. L.
Ashliman. Copyright 1996.
According to the historian Bede the Venerable (673?-735), writing in
chapter 13 of his De temporum ratione, the heathen Anglo-Saxons
called the third and fourth months "Rhedmonath" and "Esturmonath" after
their goddesses Rheda and Eostra respectively.
Rheda, except for the brief citation above, has been forgotten.
Eostra (Ostara) has fared somewhat better, although there is little direct
evidence of her and her followers.
The following views, advanced by Jacob Grimm in his Deutsche
Mythologie (1835), are generally held by Germanic scholars:
April, in Anglo Saxon, Old High German, and some modern German dialects,
is called "Ostara's month."
- All cultures living in temperate (or winter dominated) climates
celebrate the coming of spring with major rituals and festivals. One of
the most important of spring festivals among pre-Christian Germanic tribes
apparently was dedicated to the goddess Ostara, whose name suggests "east"
and thus "dawn" and "morning light."
- The name of Ostara's (Eostra's) festival was transferred to the
celebration of Christ's resurrection when Anglo-Saxon and German heathens
converted to Christianity. Thus, unlike other European cultures, English and German Christians still
attach the name of a heathen goddess to their most sacred holiday: Easter
or Ostern. In other European
languages the holiday's name is based on the Hebrew word "pasah," to
pass over, thus reflecting the Christian holiday's Biblical connection
with the Jewish Passover.
- In addition to the name, other popular Easter customs also have
- The belief in the curative properties of water drawn early on Easter
morning. These beliefs were common in Germany into the nineteenth
- The veneration (if now only playful) of rabbits and hares.
- The decoration of eggs (obvious fertility symbols).
- Place names suggest that Ostara was venerated throughout ancient
Germany and Denmark.
- Although neither the Prose Edda nor the Poetic Edda
mentions Ostara, both works refer to a male dwarf named Austri, whose name
also means "east."
The English and German words for "Easter" derive from the name "Ostara,"
the Germanic Goddess of Springtime.
All other European words for "Easter" derive from the Hebrew
word "pasah," to pass over, thus reflecting the Christian holiday's
Biblical connection with the Jewish Passover.
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Revised November 6, 1996.