The Reckoning of Time …

There was a bit of a family gathering last evening. Those who would normally eat meat ate fish. Good Friday. God clearly favours cows over fish.

Easter wanders around a bit so how do the good people know when not to eat meat? The formula for calculating Easter has varied over time. As I have told you in a previous lecture on early Christianity in England there was once a time when half the Northumberland King’s court were celebrating Easter while the other half were still observing Lent. Violence ensued, probably because all the Easter eggs had been eaten. The synod of Whitby (AD 664) restored peace to the land.

The formula these days is the first Sunday after the first full moon occurring on or after the northern hemisphere’s spring equinox.

Does that mean we antipodeans should be celebrating Easter six months later? And remember, rabbits are an introduced pest.

But back to Northumberland and the Venerable Bede, historian of his era. In chapter 15 of his magnum opus, De temporum ratione, he tells us …

Eosturmonath, qui nunc Paschalis mensis interpretatur, quondam a Dea illorum quæ Eostre vocabatur …

or in English

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.

So Eastermonth existed before Christianity reached those pagan shores, the rites of spring. Eostre, radiant goddess of the dawn brought the flowers, put new leaves on the trees and turned the minds of hares and rabbits to procreation. It is not a coincidence that the sun rises in the east.

Have a good one.


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