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When and How was "Easter" (or it's ancestral or cognate forms) substituted for "Pascha"

 
 
Reply Sat 14 Jul, 2012 01:09 am
From the very beginning the crucifixion of Christ was commemorated through the observance of Passover (Gk.Pascha; Heb.Pesach) on the 14th day of the first month (Abib). The Roman Catholics changed the date of the observance of 'Pascha' so that it would always be commemorated on a Sunday. Some time after this, 'Pascha' began to be referred to as 'Easter' in Germany and English speaking countries. From about this time on the word 'Pascha' seems to have fallen out of vogue in these countries and was replaced by the word 'Easter' throughout Roman Catholicism and those congregations which came under Roman Catholic influence.


My Question is twofold:
1) Who was the first person (or group) to substitute 'Easter' (or it's ancestral/cognate forms) for 'Pascha'?
2) When and where did this occur?
 
Setanta
 
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Reply Sat 14 Jul, 2012 02:37 am
I suspect that's almost impossible for anyone to say. The Saxons of Northumbria celebrated a Spring fertility festival honoring Eostre, a goddess of fertility. The name comes from a proto-Germanic cognate for shine or light, and in Germanic forms is Austre of Austro--this is the same as the origin for the word east, and although there is maddeningly little in the way of written records, and those corrupted by christian bigotry, Eostre/Austre may originally have been the dawn goddess, either initially or in addition to her fertility attributes.

The English Roman Catholic church historian Bede refers to the celebration of that spring fertility festival by the Saxons of Berenicia (what became the northern portion of Northumbria). The Saxons of Northumbria were converted to Christianity in the early 7th century, about 50 years before Bede was born. Therefore, the Saxons were using the term Eostre to describe their spring festival at some time before (ang probably for quite some time before) the early 7th century.

But you have a problem of outlook. The form of your questioing assumes that someone conscientiously substituted Eoster for the christian holiday. In fact, this is just anotyher example of the christians co-opting an ealier, well-established pagan festival, and associating it with their scripture and liturgy. When kings decree the religion of their people, and the monkish scholars say that the celebration of Passion Week is the same as the celebration of the goddess Eostre, it's likely not to have very much influence on the attitudes of those who celebrate the feast. They will continue as they always have, but with new imagery to satisfy the obsessions of their new religious masters
Setanta
 
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Reply Sat 14 Jul, 2012 02:41 am
@DavoDavo,
It's impossible to categorically answer your questions. However . . .

DavoDavo wrote:
1) Who was the first person (or group) to substitute 'Easter' (or it's ancestral/cognate forms) for 'Pascha'?


The first group to co-opt existing spring fertility festival, for which we have a record, would be the clerics and monks of the Roman Catholic Church.

Quote:
2) When and where did this occur?


Berenicia, in Northumbria, sometime after 627 CE, at least according to the only record we have.
Walter Hinteler
 
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Reply Sat 14 Jul, 2012 06:18 am
@Setanta,
Well, the Saxons of Northumbria came from Germany ...

The old-germaic word "austrô" means something like "morning light" (similar: auster in Latin) - thus, not only 'East' but as well "the wake up of spring" = Eastern. (The singular ôstarâ, ôstrâ etc was mainly used in the plural forms ôstarûn, ôstrûn, ôsteron, ôstron, ôsteren, ôstern ...)

At least since Charlemagne's times, April was called ôstermânôth ("Easter month")

Edit: Beda already called 'April' (apriliis) "Eostur-monath" (in De temporum ratione; chapter 14)
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DavoDavo
 
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Reply Sat 14 Jul, 2012 06:36 pm
@Setanta,
Thank you Setanta. Your information is proving to be most helpful. You mentioned that we "have a record" of the first group (RCC) to co-opt existing spring fertility fest. Could you please share the reference for this record?

Cheers.
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Setanta
 
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Reply Sun 15 Jul, 2012 02:21 am
Well, that's not difficult, but i continue to suspect that you're tap dancing in an historical mine field. The reference is Bede is Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum (The Ecclesiastical History of the English People). That is, however, just a reference for the mention of Eostre being used by the Saxons of Berenicia.

The date when this holiday should be observed is a subject of considerable controversy. It is a major point of division between the Roman Catholic Church and the various Orthodox churches. It also was a controversy between the Insular Church and the Roman Church. The Insular Church refers to the christians of what we call Wales and of Ireland. They were first on the ground in what we now call England (it wasn't called England then--if mentioned at all it is referred to as Englaland or Englalond--and there wasn't really a concept of England, as a united nation, at that time). However, they did not pursue a policy of attempting to force religion on the peole by converting the local "king," and then declaring everyone a christian by fiat.

The Roman Church, however, did just that. The Pope sent a mission to Britain at the end of the 6th century (Pope Gregory?--don't know, don't care). At the very beginning of the 7th century, the "king" of Cent (we now write that as Kent) became a christian, and then decreed that all his subjects were now christians. As the Roman church spread out from their home in the southeast, they inevitably came into contact and conflict with the Irish and British missionaries from the Insular Church. The determination of the date for what we now call Easter was a crucial point of division between (as well as the trivial matter of the Insular Church not recognizing the authority of the Pope [Warning: Ironic humor]). So they held a conference on the matter, and the "Romans" browbeat them into submission on the matter.

So, it would be reasonable to assume that the Irish or the Britich (Welsh) were the first to slyly substitute their religious holiday for the pagan observance of Eostre. However, i can only say with any certainty that it is first mentioned by Bede. The "king" of Berenicia became christian in 627 CE, so the two holidays, pagan and Roman, would certainly have been merged some time after that. It is likely, though, that the trick had been turned before then, and likely that it was Welsh or Irish missionaries who pulled it off. But Bede is the first record we have on the subject.
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