Sunday, 23 March 2014

Hrethe and Ostara

On the 21st March as Wodenists we celebrate the rite of Summer Finding, the day when the forces of light are now in balance with the forces of darkness, Sunna beginning Her victorious ascent in the heavens. The month of March was known to the Anglo-Saxons as Hrēþmōnaþ which technically began in the modern month of February and extends to April, so roughly March. April was called Ēostermōnaþ after the Saxon Goddess Ēostre who is honoured even today by the xtians, although unwittingly in many cases. This Goddess does have variants of Her name. To the Northumbrians She was called Ēostre, to the West Saxons She was Ēastre and in Old High German She was Ôstara. In fact She is even referred to in the King James Bible:

"And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people." (Acts 12:4)

No doubt the translators of the 1611 Bible made a clear error, intending to use an English term for a jewish festival!  Modern versions of the Bible translate Easter as `Passover` but clearly they were referring to the time of year with reference to a Germanic heathen festival.

Bede (673-735) who is most widely known as the author of A History of the English Church and People referred to Ēostre in his De temporum ratione (The Reckoning of Time) in 725 CE. He stated that feasts were held in honour of Her in the month of Ēosturmōnaþ.

The fame and importance of Ostara must have been great for the Church was unable to eradicate Her name and thus they named one of their most important festivals after this Goddess as Jacob Grimm states:

"This Ostara, like the A.S.  Ēastre, must in the 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. "(Teutonic Mythology Volume 1)

The German variant of Her name has a special significance:

"The OHG. adv. ostar expresses movement toward the rising sun (Gramm. 3, 205), likewise the ON. austr, and probably an AS eastor and Goth. austr. In Latin the identical auster has been pushed round to the noonday quarter, the South. In the Edda a male being, a spirit of light, bears the name of Austri, so a female one might have been called Austra; the High German and Saxon tribes seem on the contrary to have formed only an Ostara, Eastre (fem), not Ostaro, Eastra (masc). And that may be the reason why the Norsemen said paskir and not austrur: they had never worshipped a goddess Austra, or her cultus was already extinct.

"Ostara, Eastre 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 to the resurrection-day of the christian`s God. Bonfires were lighted at Easter, and according to a popular belief of long standing, the moment the sun rises on Easter Sunday morning, he gives three joyful leaps, he dances for joy (Superst. 813). Water drawn on the Easter morning is, like that at Christmas, holy and healing (Superst. 775. 804); here also heathen notions seems to have grafted themselves on great christian festivals. Maidens clothed in white, who at Easter, at the season of returning spring, show themselves in clefts of the rock and on mountains, are suggestive of the ancient goddess (see Suppl.).  
The town of Osterode in the Harz mountains in the German `Land` of  Niedersachsen (Lower Saxony) is reckoned to be named after Ostara and Grimm relates this tale about Her:

"At Osterrode, every Easter Sunday before sunrise, may be seen a white maiden, who slowly walks down to the brook and there washes; a large bunch of keys hangs at her girdle. A poor linen-weaver having met her at that season, she took him into the castle ruins, and of three white lilies she plucked him one which he stuck in his hat. When he got home, he found the lily was pure gold and silver, and the town of Osterrode had not the money to buy it of him. The Easter-maiden`s marvellous flower was taken by the Duke in return for a pension to the weaver, and placed in his princely coat of arms. (Teutonic Mythology Volume 3)

 Scholars conjecture that Ostara derives from a Proto-Indo-European Goddess, *Hausōs and as a beautiful young woman the dawn is personified. Indo-European mythologies are replete with examples of an abduction and imprisonment of a dawn Goddess and Her liberation by a dragon-slaying hero. This motif continues down to the present time in the form of legends and fairytales.

Interestingly the Ariosophist Jörg Lanz von Liebenfels believed that the Ostrogoths and Austria (Österreich) were derived from Ostara and thus he named his magazine after Her.

By contrast the Goddess Hrethe (Hrêðe/Hrêða) which means `famous` or `victorious` appears to be more of a warrior deity whose purpose is to banish winter to make way for the coming of Ostara for Hrēþmōnaþ precedes Ēastermōnaþ. Grimm also considers Hrethe to be a "shining Goddess":

".....I believe that the AS. name was really Hrēþ or Hrēþe = OHG. Hruod or Hruoda, and derived, as I said on p.206, from hruod gloria, fama; so that we get the meaning of a shining and renownful goddess."

1 comment:

SheWolf Night^^ said...

I also think Eostre means a lot more as well to do with the sky. The name is a shortened sentence and means "East Star Maiden", and can be to do with the goddess among stars. Spring is when the constellation of Virgo (woman) appears.