ĒOSTRE or OSTARA (
Old English : Ēastre , Northumbrian dialect
By way of linguistic reconstruction , the matter of a goddess called
* AUSTRō in the
Proto-Germanic language has been examined in detail
since the foundation of
Germanic philology in the 19th century by
Jacob Grimm and others. As the
* 5 Theories and interpretations
* 5.1 Dea ex Machina and the matronae Austriahenae
* 5.2 Hares and
* 6 In popular culture and modern veneration * 7 See also * 8 Notes * 9 References
The goddess name
DE TEMPORUM RATIONE
In chapter 15 (De mensibus Anglorum, "The English months") of his
De temporum ratione ("
The Reckoning of Time "), Bede
describes the indigenous month names of the English people. After
describing the worship of the goddess Rheda during the Anglo-Saxon
month of Hrēþ-mōnaþ,
Eostur-monath, qui nunc Paschalis mensis interpretatur, quondam a Dea illorum quæ Eostre vocabatur, et cui in illo festa celebrabant nomen habuit: a cujus nomine nunc Paschale tempus cognominant, consueto antiquæ observationis vocabulo gaudia novæ solemnitatis vocantes.
Eosturmonath has a name which is now translated "Paschal month", and which was once called after a goddess of theirs named Eostre, in whose honour feasts were celebrated in that month. Now they designate that Paschal season by her name, calling the joys of the new rite by the time-honoured name of the old observance.
JACOB GRIMM, *OSTARA, AND EASTER CUSTOMS
In his 1835 Deutsche Mythologie , Jacob Grimm cites comparative evidence to reconstruct a potential continental Germanic goddess whose name would have been preserved in the Old High German name of Easter, *Ostara. Addressing skepticism towards goddesses mentioned by Bede, Grimm comments that "there is nothing improbable in them, nay the first of them is justified by clear traces in the vocabularies of Germanic tribes." Specifically regarding Ēostre, Grimm continues that:
We Germans to this day call April ostermonat, and ôstarmânoth is found as early as Eginhart (temp. Car. Mag. ). The great Christian festival, which usually falls in April or the end of March, bears in the oldest of OHG remains the name ôstarâ ... it is mostly found in the plural, because two days ... were kept at Easter. This Ostarâ, like the Eástre, must in heathen religion have denoted a higher being, whose worship was so firmly rooted, that the Christian teachers tolerated the name, and applied it to one of their own grandest anniversaries.
Grimm notes that "all of the nations bordering on us have retained the Biblical pascha; even Ulphilas writes paska, not áustrô, though he must have known the word". Grimm details that the Old High German adverb ôstar "expresses movement towards the rising sun", as did the Old Norse term austr, and potentially also Anglo-Saxon ēastor and Gothic áustr. Grimm compares these terms to the identical Latin term auster. Grimm says that the cult of the goddess may have worshiped an Old Norse form, Austra, or that her cult may have already been extinct by the time of Christianization.
Grimm notes that the Old Norse Prose Edda book Gylfaginning attests to a male being called Austri , who Grimm describes as a "spirit of light." Grimm comments that a female version would have been *Austra, yet that the High German and Saxon peoples seem to have only formed Ostarâ and Eástre, feminine, and not Ostaro and Eástra, masculine. Grimm additionally speculates on the nature of the goddess and surviving folk customs that may have been associated with her in Germany:
Ostara, Eástre 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
But if we admit, goddesses, then, in addition to
Nerthus , Ostara has
the strongest claim to consideration. To what we said on p. 290 I can
add some significant facts. The heathen
Grimm comments on further
LOCATIONS, PERSONAL NAMES, AND THE MATRONAE AUSTRIAHENAE
A cluster of place names in England contain and a variety of English
and continental Germanic names include the element *ēoster, an early
Old English word reconstructed by linguists and potentially an earlier
form of the goddess name Ēostre. The
Council of Austerfield called by
Aldfrith of Northumbria shortly before 704 convened at a place
described in contemporary records both as in campo qui Eostrefeld
dicitur and in campo qui dicitur Oustraefelda, which have led to the
site being identified with
The element *ēoster also appears in the Old English name Easterwine, a name borne by Bede's monastery abbot in Wearmouth-Jarrow and which appears an additional three times in the Durham Liber Vitae . The name Aestorhild also appears in the Liber Vitae, and is likely the ancestor of the Middle English name Estrild. Various continental Germanic names include the element, including Austrechild, Austrighysel, Austrovald, and Ostrulf.
In 1958, over 150 Romano-Germanic votive inscriptions to the matronae Austriahenae were discovered near Morken-Harff , Germany. Most of these inscriptions are in an incomplete state, yet many are at least reasonably legible. Some of these inscriptions refer to the Austriates, evidently the name of a social group.
THEORIES AND INTERPRETATIONS
DEA EX MACHINA AND THE MATRONAE AUSTRIAHENAE
THIS SECTION NEEDS EXPANSION. You can help by adding to it . ( April 2012)
Some debate has occurred over whether or not the goddess was an
invention of Bede's, particularly in the 19th century before more
widespread reconstructions of the
Proto-Indo-European dawn goddess.
Writing in the late 19th century,
Charles J. Billson notes that
scholars before his writing were divided about the existence of Bede's
account of Ēostre, stating that "among authorities who have no doubt
as to her existence are W. Grimm , Wackernagel , Sinrock , and Wolf.
On the other hand, Weinhold rejects the idea on philological grounds,
and so do Heinrich Leo and Hermann Oesre. Kuhn says, 'The Anglo-Saxon
Eostre looks like an invention of Bede;' and Mannhardt also dismisses
her as an etymological dea ex machina ." Billson says that "the whole
question turns , upon Bede's credibility", and that "one is inclined
to agree with Grimm, that it would be uncritical to saddle this
eminent Father of the Church, who keeps Heathendom at arms' length and
tells us less of than he knows, with the invention of this goddess."
Billson points out that the
Christianization of England started at the
end of the 6th century, and, by the 7th, was completed. Billson argues
Writing in the late 20th century, Rudolf Simek says that, despite expressions of doubts, Bede's account of Eostre should not be disregarded. Simek opines that a "Spring-like fertility goddess" must be assumed rather than a "goddess of sunrise" regardless of the name, reasoning that "otherwise the Germanic goddesses (and matrons ) are mostly connected with prosperity and growth". Simek points to a comparison with the goddess Rheda , also attested by Bede.
Scholar Philip A. Shaw (2011) writes that the subject has seen "a lengthy history of arguments for and against Bede's goddess Eostre, with some scholars taking fairly extreme positions on either side" and that some theories against the goddess have gained popular cultural prominence. Shaw, however, notes that "much of this debate, however, was conducted in ignorance of a key piece of evidence, as it was not discovered until 1958. This evidence is furnished by over 150 Romano-Germanic votive inscriptions to deities named the matronae Austriahenae, found near Morken-Harff and datable to around 150–250 AD". Most of these inscriptions are in an incomplete state, yet most are in a complete enough for reasonable clarity of the inscriptions. As early as 1966 scholars have linked these names etymologically with Eostre and an element found in Germanic personal names. Shaw argues against a functional interpretation of the available evidence and concludes that "the etymological connections of her name suggests that her worshippers saw her geographical and social relationship with them as more central than any functions she may have had".
HARES AND FREYJA
In Northern Europe,
Some scholars have linked customs and imagery involving hares to
IN POPULAR CULTURE AND MODERN VENERATION
Jacob Grimm's reconstructed *Ostara has had some influence in popular
culture since. The name has been adapted as an asteroid (
343 Ostara ,
In some forms of Germanic neopaganism ,
Politically, the name of Ostara was in the early 20th century invoked
as the name of a German nationalist magazine , book series and
publishing house established in 1905 at
Ostara is portrayed by
Mōdraniht , the
Old English "Mother's night," also attested by
Hengist and Horsa , euhemerised
Old English deities also possibly
* Tīw , the
Old English extension of the
Old High German lullaby , a lullaby in
Old High German that
mentions Ostara, generally held to be a literary forgery
* ^ Watkins 2006 : 2021.
* ^ Mallory & Adams (1997:148–149).
* ^ Giles (1843:179).
* ^ Wallis (1999:54).
* ^ Grimm (1882:289).
* ^ Grimm (1882:290).
* ^ Grimm (1882:290—291).
* ^ Grimm (1882:291).
* ^ A B Grimm (1883:780–781).
* ^ Cubitt, Catherine (1995). Anglo-Saxon Church Councils
c.650–c.850. London: Leicester University Press, pp 302f. ISBN
* ^ Shaw (2011:59—60).
* ^ Shaw (2011:60).
* ^ Shaw (2011:52 and 63).
* ^ A B Billson (1892:448).
* ^ Simek (2007:74).
* ^ Shaw (2011:52).
* ^ Shaw (2011:70—71).
* ^ Elton, Charles Isaac (1882). Origins of English History. p.
* ^ Boyle (1972:323—324).
* ^ Schmadel (2003:44)
* ^ Hubbard (2007:175).
* ^ Diesel, Gerten (2007:136).
* ^ Cusack (2008:354–355).
* ^ Simek (2007:255).
* ^ Griffiths, Eleanor Blye (19
* Barnhart, Robert K. (1995). The Barnhart Concise Dictionary of
Etymology: The Origins of American English Words.
* v * t * e
Anglo-Saxon paganism and mythology
GODS AND DIVINE FIGURES
* Middangeard * Neorxnawang
* Anglo-Saxon calendar
* Anglo-Saxon Rune Poem
SOCIETY AND CULTURE
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Months and modern equivalents
Mōdraniht (New Years)
* Æfterra Gēola (
* Solmōnath (
* Hrēthmōnath (
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