Category Archives: Pagan Holidays

Krampusnacht

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WHO IN HELL IS KRAMPUS? (info from krampus.com)

Krampus is the dark companion of St. Nicholas, the traditional European winter gift-bringer who rewards good children each year on December 6. The kindly old Saint leaves the task of punishing bad children to a hell-bound counterpart known by many names across the continent — Knecht Ruprecht, Certa, Perchten, Black Peter, Schmutzli, Pelznickel, Klaubauf, and Krampus. Usually seen as a classic devil with horns, cloven hooves and monstrous tongue, but can also be spotted as a sinister gentleman dressed in black or a hairy man-beast. Krampus punishes the naughty children, swatting them with switches and rusty chains before dragging them in baskets to a fiery place below.

KRAMPUSNACHT (NIGHT OF KRAMPUS)

Krampus is celebrated on Krampusnacht, which takes place on the eve of St. Nicholas’ Day. In Austria, Northern Italy and other parts of Europe, party-goers masquerade as devils, wild-men, and witches to participate in Krampuslauf (Krampus Run). Intoxicated and bearing torches, costumed devils caper and carouse through the streets terrifying child and adult alike. Krampusnacht is increasingly being celebrated in other parts of Europe such as Finland and France, as well as in many American cities.

KRAMPUS’S ANCIENT ORIGINS

The European practice of mummery during the winter solstice season can be traced back tens of thousands of years. Villagers across the continent dress up as animals, wild-men and mythic figures to parade and perform humorous plays. This ancient guising and masking tradition continues to this day as the primary source for our modern Halloween with its costumes, trick-or-treat, and pagan symbolism. Among the most common figures in these folk rituals were Old Man Winter and the horned Goat-Man — archetypes now found in the forms of Saint Nick/Santa Claus, and the Devil (‘Old Nick’), aka Krampus.

SANTA THE PUNISHER?

In 19th century New York City an American St. Nick emerged in the form of Santa Claus. Although based on the Dutch Saint Nicholas, Santa incorporated more elements from pagan winter solstice customs. He relinquished his white bishop garb for a red suit, traded his horse and staff for a sleigh and reindeer, and moved his franchise to Christmas Eve.
Santa also tried to take over the dark companion’s job of punishing the naughty, but his New World temperament was apparently unsuited for the task. As Santa neglected and abandoned his punishing duties, American kids lost all fear of Santa and his lumps of coal. Thankfully, in the 21st century, Krampus has arrived in this land of spoiled and dissatisfied children to pick up the slack.

KRAMPUS CARDS

While Santa Claus expanded shop and sold products in mid-1800s America, the holiday card craze exploded in Europe.In Austria and other parts of Europe, countless season’s greeting cards featured Krampus, often emblazoned with the phrase “Grüß Vom Krampus” (Greetings from Krampus). While the lurid images are suffused with a modern sense of the comic and the surreal, they still resonant with mythic power and primordial horror. And with Krampus representing the naughty side of the season, the sexy subtext is hard to ignore in these often very cheeky cards. A century later, the brilliance of these magnificent works of pop art is now gaining global recognition.

KRAMPUS IN AMERICA

BLAB! Magazine curator Monte Beauchamp reintroduced Krampus cards to America nearly a century after their heyday. His art books are the definitive works showcasing Krampus and other Devil-inspired greeting cards. A collector’s market for Krampus cards has grown as the figure of Krampus pops up across the cultural landscape. Krampus has been featured on Adult Swim’s The Venture Bros and the CW’s Supernatural; in 2009, Krampus visited the The Colbert Report and had Stephen shaking in his Brooks Brothers’ suit. Over the last decade, Krampusnacht celebrations have sprouted up in U.S. cities such as Portland and San Francisco.

A NEW SPIRIT OF XMAS?

The hunger for a darker Xmas holiday has made the evil Santa Claus character a staple of pop culture, as seen in movies such as Rare Exports, The Nightmare Before Christmas, books such as Dean Koontz’s Santa’s Twin and many others. A resurgence of Saturnalian rituals and animistic practices during the winter season is evident in Santarchy, a flash-mob phenomenon started in 1994 on America’s west coast now enacted in many countries including Korea, Norway and Ireland. On selected days in early December, large crowds of costumed Santa Clauses descend en masse on public squares and shopping centers to confound, amuse and frighten spectators.
A new appreciation of ancient traditions that smoulder in the dark recesses of holiday revelry continues to rise around the world. Krampus, with his horns, hoove and tongue, embodies this revived spirit of the Xmas season!

KRAMPUS THROUGH THE AGES

2000 BCEEnkidu appears in the Epic of Gilgamesh, the earliest known appearance of a ‘Wild Man’ in literature.

600 BCE In the book of Daniel in the Old Testament, King Nebuchadnezzar is punished by God for his pride when he is turned into a hairy beast.

217 BCE Saturnalia is introduced as a winter celebration in Rome, marked by gift giving, wild parties, and a reversal of the normal social roles of slave and master.

4th Century CE Due to Roman influence, many Germanic tribes, such as the Goths and Vandals, convert to Christianity; their pagan traditions survive in small villages in the Alps where the Church cannot penetrate.

1250 CE King’s Mirror, a Norwegian text, features a Wild Man character who is described as being covered in hair.

17th Century CE ‘Knecht Rupert’ appears as a figure in a Nuremberg Christmas procession.

1810 CE The Brothers Grimm began publishing stories of Germanic folktales, marking a resurgence in Germanic pagan folklore.

Early 19th Century CE Holiday postcards from Austria, Germany, and other parts of Europe feature holiday greetings Krampus and other companions of St. Nicholas.

Early 19th Century CE Germanic and Dutch immigrants to the US popularize ‘Pelznickel’ traditions in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and as far west as Indiana.

2004 CE Blab! Magazine curator Monte Beauchamp publishes Devil In Design, a collection of vintage Krampus postcards from the turn of the 19th century. This book marks an increase in Krampus’ popularity in the English speaking world.

krampus~ Posted by Asfridr ~ All info from krampus.com

We’ve got a bunch of Krampus stuff in our Heathen Holiday section of our shop!  Click over to page 2 for Krampus ornaments, stockings, and playing cards!  and a couple books devoted to him are on page 1.

Also we have an entire album devoted to Krampus on our Facebook page.  Merry Fucking Christmas!

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Comments on “Ten Things You Might Not Know About Christmas” by Addicting Info

All in all this article is pretty good. I support all efforts to resurrect Olde Yule, and get to the roots of many of our holiday traditions.  There are just a couple of items mentioned here, though, that I would like to address.

Influences that preceded Santa:

409px-Georg_von_Rosen_-_Oden_som_vandringsman,_1886_(Odin,_the_Wanderer)One great point in the article is something I have been saying right along, that Santa is an amalgam of many influences – BUT he is not simply Odin repackaged like a lot of Asatru bloggers keep saying.  There seems little doubt that the white bearded Odin/Woden/Wotin who flew through the air on his magical horse to participate in the Wild Hunt at Yuletide was certainly a major influence. However, there are many other influences to consider. The archetype of the wise man, magician, sorcerer was prevalent in Northern European society from Britain to Russia. Certainly Odin is a part of this tradition, as he is known as the Wanderer in pointed wide-brimmed hat, tattered robes, often carrying a staff or walking stick. He is associated with magic, bringing us the Runes and he is said to have learned the Norse magical tradition called “Seidr” from Freyja.

ded_moroz_by_brzoza77-d35np1hHowever, the image of the mage, the wise sage who is a wielder of magic is seen elsewhere in Europe.  Think Merlin, Taliesin, and Finnish sorcerers/wizards which are so common in old Finnish folklore.

Shamanic influences are also strongly theorized to be an influence on Santa. The Finnish wizards were affiliated with Finno-Ugric shamanic tradition.  Another FInno-Ugric group with a strong shamanic tradition are the Saami.  Their shamans were known to eat the red and white fly agaric costume and then journey to the spirit world aided by the beating of their drums. These drums were often adorned with jingle bells.

Other figures across Europe follow this same pattern of being influenced by “the wandering sorcerer” archetype. Ded Moroz is one such Christmas figure from Russia (pictured above). And the English Father Christmas is another (pictured below).  I do understand that other internet writers aren’t as well versed in European folklore, so they don’t mean to be dismissive of other cultures. But, I personally feel it is disrespectful to other Northern European cultures whose traditions have  a legitimate influence on Santa Claus to leave them out.

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Saints were usually made up by monks to dissolve cults to local deities:

Another point of contention I have with the “influences” of Santa mentioned in the article, and this is no fault of the author as it is the common theory espoused about the “history” of Santa, is Saint Nicholas.

Now, a bit of nerdy Medieval explanation is necessary. When one is a student of Medieval Studies, one becomes familiar with a genre of writing not well known by the general public: hagiography.  Hagiography is a genre of literature dealing specifically with saints’ lives. However, it differs from biography because hagiographies were written with an agenda to spread the Catholic cult of saints. They were very popular during periods of conversion, when the church targeted locally venerated deities and attempted to replace them with Christian saints.  One such swap out is very well known – goddess Brigid to Saint Brigid.

StbrigidIn their campaign to build up the saint while diminishing the god, hagiographers literally made shit up.  Straight up inventions based on nothing but the imagination of the writer.  They bullshitted their way through it. Sometimes a real figure could be used as a model, and then merged with the god they were trying to erase.  But the lives were typically completely contrived, and all manner of miracles and benevolent acts were ascribed to the newly invented saint.

Therefore, it is my strong opinion that the Saint Nicolas theory is but more bunk that was put round by the Church to distract people from their traditional Christmas figures.  Many local Yuletide characters were unsavory to the church.  Italy’s Befana is a witch, and Germany’s Krampus is a creepy goat-man with likely roots as a Pan-like agrarian deity, just to give two examples! There may well have been one or more real life men who the story of Saint Nick was based on. But, more than likely, the story was purposefully devised to replace and distract people from Odin and the other figures mentioned above.

** Edit – Someone made a comment on Facebook that “the author is downplaying the real Saint Nicholas.”   Ahem. In helping a friend find scholarly sources for Valentines Day, I was reminded that it was yet another holiday rooted in a pagan past; the old Roman Lupercalia.  Saint Valentine was grafted on to the holiday in the SAME way as St. Brigid became the patron saint of Candlemas, which was formerly Goddess Brigid’s Imbolc.  If you don’t see a pattern here and want to continue to believe the tale of “real” Saint Nicholas, you go right ahead.**

Santa’s reindeer are not based on a horse. They are based on, erm, reindeer:

Corrected_Sapmi_in_Europe (1)Another point of contention is the assertion that Santa’s reindeer are based on Odin’s magical horse Sleipnir.  As explained above, the bearded magic man flying through the air at Yule does have connections to Odin and his flying horse.  However, the reindeer are more than likely inspired by the Saami reindeer herders.

Although the Saami are largely unknown by the general American public today, they were referenced quite often in writings of the 19th century when the American version of Christmas as we know it today was formed.  Back then they were referred to as Lapps, and they were of great interest to folklorists and travel writers to whom “Lapland” was an exotic and fascinating foreign location.

Reindeer herding has been a traditional livelihood of the Saami for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.  The Saami live at the tippy top of Scandinavia reaching from Norway and Sweden to Finland and over to Russia. Most of this area is considered Arctic, and it is virtually undeniable that the Saami in Lapland (Sapmi is the politically correct term for this region today) were a huge influence on our image of “The North Pole.”

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The Saami tie to Santa’s reindeer goes beyond simply the coincidence of them being affiliated with reindeer in the North Pole. As mentioned above, Saami shaman used the fly agaric mushroom to spirit travel.  Well, as we would have it, the Saami reindeer herders did as well. According to folklore and historical sources, the Saami herders would watch when their reindeer rooted out the mushrooms from beneath the snow. After the reindeer ate the shrooms, the herders would collect their urine and drink it to “fly” themselves.  And there you have it: flying reindeer. This is pretty straightforward and difficult to debate. Sorry, Sleipnir! Not that I don’t love you and your eight legs or anything, but I’m not going to make up a tenuous connection just to pander to what people want to read! Especially when the truth is equally cool! If you don’t believe me, maybe BBC can explain it to you:

Fly agaric was a super uber common motif in German, Norse, and Finnish Christmas, which in all likelihood is a hold over from old Yule  All you have to do is Google it and you will find numerous images like the one below which clearly demonstrate how Santa got his red and white suit (Sorry, Odin! No rags for Santa!):

fly_agaric_childrens_holiday_card_lg

** Quick edit with massive EYE ROLL and condescending sigh.  Yes, Coca-Cola made today’s image of Santa famous. Duh. We all know that. But this article is more about addressing the information given by the other article referenced at the top than an exhaustive meticulous history of American Christmas. However to address some comments made on Facebook… ahem, do you think the artists working for Coke lived in a vacuum?  Obviously they lived in the same culture as everyone else and were exposed to the same culturally pervasive motifs and imagery that were common to the time. As I said above, the fly agaric mushroom was a popular Christmas symbol and that pre-dated modern images of Santa.  Coke’s artists, just like everyone else at the time would have seen these everywhere. So when they were choosing colors for his outfit, there could be little question as to whether these images played a large role in their inspiration.**

Christmas Caroling began in Pagan Europe, not in the Christian 15th Century:

One last thing to mention. The article mentions Christmas “songs” going back to the 4th century in a Christian context, and that carols originated in the 15th century.  Again, no blame on the author as this information is very hidden and not well known. But Christmas caroling is a VERY pagan tradition!  It is yet another indigenous European pre-Christian custom that the Church literally rallied and launched campaigns against.  They finally decided to try to wipe out the pagan custom by replacing it with a Christian one, the same tactic mentioned above with the saints. Please read this article which explains it in detail: The Hidden History of Christmas Carols. 

winter solsticeAnd there we have it. ~ Aelfie

Please check out our section for Pagan roots of modern holidays in our shop. I will be developing and adding more great resources and recommendations to it 🙂

How the “War on Christmas” Made Me a Pagan

I’m going to share something personal with you guys. Maybe you’ve heard Christians give their “testimony” about how they “came to The Lord.” Well this is my story about how I came to discover my own ancestral indigenous religion.

Unlike some of the pagan stereotypes out there, I was never a goth chick, never obsessed with magic or “playing witch.” What I was, simply, was a deep thinker, inquisitive, curious, an avid reader, a history nerd, an animal lover, nature lover, and passionate about the things I care about.

Being raised in the church from birth, I was naturally very gung-ho about it up through my teenage years, and my thirst for knowledge lead me to learn a lot about the Bible and church history. But, there was always a frustration because it was clear from childhood that my Christian peers tended to be very shallow thinkers and I butted heads with them on their hypocrisy and sheer lack of logic. By my late teens and early twenties Christian dogma was just no longer jiving with my own ability to process information and what I knew to be true about the world at large. So I entered a period of what I might call “agnostic spirituality.”

As someone who avidly absorbed myself in history since I was a kid, I always knew about old Yule, and always had an interest in world cultures in general, but also my own cultural heritage which is generally British and Northern/Central European. So one year during the Christmas season, when I heard Bill O’Reilly launch into his “War on Christmas” tirade, something inside of me just snapped!

Now, this was nothing new. I was raised with this rhetoric. But after having been released from the brainwashing for a few years, it just really irritated me to hear this complete and utter bull. I sat there thinking “what about when Christmas warred on Yule?!” How ridiculous and hypocritical to bang on about your holiday being attacked, when your holiday attacked and hijacked another!

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It led me to thinking on how much of Old Yule is still present in our current Christmas traditions. This spawned more and more research, and something inside me just clicked. To get to the truth, you must scratch away the facade. Christianity has been a veneer painted over Europe (and European descendants in the New World) which has separated and hidden us from our roots.

I don’t mean to leave out other ethnic groups because the same is true for many. Other ethnic groups experienced this assimilation and erosion of culture more recently so it is more well known. The attack on indigenous European culture is further back in time and very well hidden. By the time Christianity began assimilating other cultures, it had become ubiquitous with Europeans, so people saw it as “white man’s religion.” We had lost our own tribal and indigenous identities by then.

By emphasizing my ancestral roots, I make no claim on any kind of superiority what so ever. Every person should connect to their ancestral roots, and to all aspects of it if you are of mixed heritage. I do not mean to exclude anyone. But the fact of the matter is that American and European “Christmas” was stolen largely from Germanic Yule. There are many other winter solstice traditions all around the world, and I urge everyone to research solstice traditions from your own heritage, or simply embrace what speaks to you.

Yule has a special place in my heart because it was the moment I had an epiphany. It was my rational and knowledgable side that thought “um, no. Screw you and your fake war on Christmas! And screw your lack of knowledge of history. Screw your hypocrisy. Screw your idiotic lack of conceptual understanding that there was, indeed, a religious holiday preceding yours that your religion usurped and waged war on!” From that moment on I became a shield maiden. No, actually I always was a shield maiden, it’s in my blood! But it activated my inner warrior to stand up for what is good and right, for the truth, and for my heritage. It spurred my entire “Heathen awakening” if you will.

I hope to have the time to post more on Yuletide traditions and history this season, but life has been busy and I have been dealing with serious illness. The Northern Grove FB page will be sure to share informative posts in the upcoming weeks.

~ Aelfwynne ~

PS – UPDATE:

People have been asking where to find info on Yule, and Yule’s influence on Christmas. I’ve added some great books on this to our Amazon shop and created a new section for Heathen/Pagan holidays ! 🙂

pagan christmas

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Follow Up to Easter/Ishtar/Eostre Silliness

When an article is rather lengthy, there is a tendency for people to skim and pick out bits and pieces out of context, and respond to what they think they just read, while missing the other points.

The previous post was in no way meant to insinuate that there are not many Spring festivals all around the world.  There are!  Many of them use some of the same imagery, eggs, rabbits, etc.   It was not to imply that Germanic culture corners the market on that.

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The point was to address the meme going around the internet that states incorrectly that the word Easter derives from Ishtar.  So perhaps it’s my own error in not being more clear. (Incidentally, I am far from the only person taking issue with this meme, by all means read Megan McArdle’s article and the Belle Jar Blog).

The fact of the matter is, the word Easter derives from the Anglo-Saxon goddess Eostre. In Germany  you will find Ostern, deriving from Ostara.  Both were Spring Equinox festivals.

In old Celtic society you will find the Spring equinox festival Alban Eilir, celebrated by contemporary practitioners of Celtic Druidry and paganism today.  According to the Order of Bards and Druids, eggs are also a traditional symbol of this holiday.

I recently responded to questions and comments on our Facebook page about why I’ve been mentioning Brigid in conjunction with Ostara, and had to clarify that while they are not connected linguistically, and while their holidays fell at different times of the year, Brigid’s holiday Imbolc (usually celebrated between Jan 30th to February 2nd) is also a heralding of Spring.  Milk and dairy held significant meaning to the Celts who celebrated Imbolc, and symbolically they had a similar meaning as eggs do on Easter.  The milk and eggs functioned in the same way, to stand for new life, rebirth, renewal, as well as nurturing sustenance.

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CLEARLY this happened all over the world! Duh! The point is not that Germanic culture as the one and only culture with a claim on Spring!  My point is just that all cultures deserve respect. Ishtar deserves respect within her cultural context.

People all around the world are attempting to reconnect with old ways that were often suppressed and hidden to history. It’s not just Germanic and Celtic descendants.  There are Hellenic pagan groups in Greece, Italian-American Stregheria practitioners, revivers of the Old Religion in Italy, Slavic Rodnovery, Lithuanian Romuva, and even people attempting to revive Canaanite paganism and Egyptian Kemetic pagan religion. Image

So for non-pagans to whom all of this “pagan jargen” is foreign, as well as to Wiccans and eclectics who haven’t been exposed to this other heritage influenced paganism, here’s a newsflash: it is NOT  just the Germanic heritage that makes a connection between pagan religion and cultural heritage. It is happening all over the world with many cultural groups.

At Northern Grove, we support ALL of these people!  And while we do support  and would love to network with them, obviously every group has to have a focus, and ours is on the Northern European traditions. So our page attempts to explore and learn more about the Germanic, Celtic, Baltic, Slavic, Saami, Finn, and other groups in the region.

Anyway, the whole point about Ishtar and Easter was simply that Easter is an English word deriving from an Old English goddess.  Ishtar is a Babylonian goddess, who likely had her own festival. I did Google it and couldn’t locate one, though. So by all means if someone knows it, link me to some info 🙂

I don’t put anybody’s culture above anybody else’s. But I hope as the Pagan movement grows, we can be respectful of ALL the cultures we’re representing.

Sure cultures overlap and have connections. People attempting to “school” me on this point have obviously not spent time on my Facebook Page, where I continuously butt heads with white supremacists (who turn up hoping we support that and get very angry when they discover we dont!)  and I constantly point out that nobody’s ancestors lived in a vacuum. (Except perhaps those in harsh climates and remote islands, lol)

I have to roll my eyes at some of these comments, which yes, I am deleting.  I stand up for respect of other cultures pretty much EVERY DAY.  I continuously share articles with commentary about the way our ancestors interacted with other cultures, and explain that racial or cultural purity arguments are bogus.

But, there comes a point when the double standard has to be called out. Here I constantly say those things, but when I say “wait a minute, you’re taking an Old English word and attributing it to a Babylonian goddess, please respect my culture!”  People try to turn it into some kind of racial purity thing.  Ridiculous!

I’m also incredibly interested in Baltic paganism and Lithuanian Romuva and have discussed the connections and similarities between it and Hinduism. But look, there is an Indo-European background there. Not some long lost ancient connection from so many thousands of years ago that it barely makes sense to force a comparison.

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I’m done with this rant, and hopefully now we can move on to more interesting topics!

~ Aelfwynne ~

Cultural Appropriation, Ishtar, Eostre, and Easter

this post is by Aelfwynne

Cultural Appropriation is defined by Wikipedia as follows:

Cultural appropriation is the adoption of some specific elements of one culture by a different cultural group. It describes acculturation or assimilation, but can imply a negative view towards acculturation from a minority culture by a dominant culture.It can include the introduction of forms of dress or personal adornment, music and artreligionlanguage, or social behavior. These elements, once removed from their indigenous cultural contexts, can take on meanings that are significantly divergent from, or merely less nuanced than, those they originally held.

This has been in the news a lot lately in both pagan and mainstream media. Groups ranging from fashion designers to practicing pagans have been scolded for handpicking bits and pieces from other cultures to use for things from aesthetics in fashion to neo-pagan ceremony.

(See this article from Jezebel)

In the US, this typically happens between the dominant culture and Native American culture. Native Americans then speak up and say “HEY! Give us our stuff back!” And more power to them. They have every right to do so. After having their culture nearly wiped out, I praise their efforts to safeguard their traditions and preserve their original meaning within their cultural context.

Most people aren’t fully versed in the history of the conversion of Northern Europe to Christianity. I delineate Northern from Southern because Southern Europe, being integrated into the Roman Empire and with more frequent interaction with the Middle Eastern and North African countries on the other side of the Mediterranean, has a completely different history and relationship with Christianity than does Northern Europe. My personal delineation between Northern and Southern Europe draws the line between Romance speaking and non-Romance speaking countries in the West, so I include countries often considered “Central Europe” in my definition, as well as the United Kingdom and Ireland. Granted England was under Roman rule, but for a much shorter time comparatively, and the pagan Germanic tribes took over after Rome left. So they have more in common with Scandinavia and continental Germans for our purposes here.

I can’t spare the space to give you a run down on the conversion process, but stay tuned for future blogs on that. If you aren’t well versed in it, please Google the following: The Northern Crusades, Charlemagne and Widukind or Charlemagne and the Saxons, and the Wendish Crusade. That’ll be enough to whet your whistle.

To get back to the point, much of the conversion of Northern Europe happened with armies and much bloodshed. In some cases, it led to the virtual genocide of entire ethnic groups (Google the Teutonic Knights and Prussian genocide). When these people were conquered, they were forced to give up their ancestral ways. From religion, to festivals, and folk traditions. They were oppressed by the new dominant culture; Christianity and the new systems of social control and governance. When caught practicing their ancestral ways, the penalties could be severe. Many victims of the witch hunts were, in fact, people caught practicing their traditional folk practices which were now outlawed.

Destruction of the Baltic Pagan Temples During the Northern Crusades

Destruction of the Baltic Pagan Temples During the Northern Crusades

Fast forward to today, and we find the descendants of these people making great strides in reviving their ancestral ways. Through scholarly research and archaeology  we’re piecing together the puzzle of what our own indigenous faith looked like. Personally, I think this has great potential beyond the realm of our own self identity. For the first time in recent history, so called “white people” are connecting to a tribal past. By understanding our own indigenous roots, and that we too were victims of oppression and assimilation, we can better understand issues faced by indigenous people who have gone through this more recently, or are experiencing it now.

Incidentally, there are, in fact, still indigenous groups of Caucasian people today living very close to their ancient tribal ways and facing persecution of the same kind that other indigenous people around the world are facing. But we’ll explore that in another post.

Now what does all this have to do with cultural appropriation?

Well, by now, pretty much everyone is fully aware that holidays like Christmas and Easter were originally pagan and commandeered/re-purposed by Christians. This was clear cut cultural appropriation the first time around, but it was so many hundreds of years ago that most of us don’t consider it that way. However, in the case of Easter, it seems to be happening all over again.

Again, I don’t have the time and space to give you a run down on the historical evidence for the Anglo-Saxon goddess Eostre. But before you jump in with the nauseatingly cliche comments like “there is little evidence for her,” please take a look at the rundown of the available evidence in our Facebook post, which I hope to expand and blog at some point.

The Goddess Eostre by by Jan Fibinger

The Goddess Eostre by by Jan Fibinger

 

So, we have established that there IS evidence for Eostre, and that she is the namesake of the Spring festival we know as Easter. Yet, there has been a recent movement to associate Easter with the Babylonian goddess Ishtar.

Ishtar is a goddess completely removed from the the linguistic and geographic region where Eostre reigned. Ishtar is related to Astarte and Inanna, all found in the Middle East area. 

For those who don’t know much about mythology, let me explain something. There are people who attempt to force connections where there are none. This goes back to the Romans who forced connections between their own gods and the gods of the North. These connections are often tenuous at best and completely erroneous at worst. In the old pagan world, mythologies were heavily influenced by geography, climate, society, and culture. So a society in a desert climate for example will have very different mythologies than people in a fertile green area. Defined seasons with harsh winters will develop different mythologies than temperate climes where seasons aren’t as extreme. Agrarian farming societies will place higher emphasis on fertility and Earth mother goddesses, and in hunting/nomadic societies masculine sky gods will dominate. So for cultures who are removed from each other both geographically and linguistically, it doesn’t make sense to force connections between their gods. 

I could go into a breakdown of Ishtar/Astarte/Inanna and why she is very different from Eostre/Ostara, but by all means, please look at each for yourself if you don’t take my word for it. They each have very well cited Wikipedia entries. Ishtar’s entry connects her to the goddesses I’ve mentioned, but make NO connection between her and Easter. Conversely, both entries for Eostre and Easter mention the connection to the other.

Yeah, it’s Wikipedia, I know. Again, see my post on the historical evidence on Eostre for more links.

But back to cultural appropriation. The idea that we are a cultural minority may come off as laughable to some. Sure, we’re part of the Caucasian majority who has gone around oppressing all the other minorities in the world, right? Well, not so fast. We are a religious minority. And we are a people making a legitimate attempt to reclaim and revive the part of our culture that was oppressed by an invading dominating foreign culture. And as such, it is important to recognize our holidays and the deities represented by them.

Now, Ishtar probably did have a fertility festival. I am in no way denying that. But it wasn’t called Easter. If you think this is a petty splitting of hairs, then consider this. Would you approach a Hindu and say, “well I like that holiday of yours, but I prefer St. Peter as my patron. So I’m going to use your holiday but insert my patron saint and parade around telling people the holiday is in honor of him.” That would be terribly rude and offensive. Similarly, would you approach a Hindu and say, “oh Ganesh is so cool! Well I’m going to make him the center of my Christmas celebration.” The Hindu person would probably find that offensive as well and would explain that Ganesh has nothing to do with Christmas.

The Goddess Inanna by The Goddess Inanna, related to Ishtar, by pearlwhitecrow.deviantart.com

The Goddess Inanna related to Ishtar, by pearlwhitecrow.deviantart.com

So why is it acceptable, when European pagans are only now reclaiming their indigenous religions, to pluck the patron deity of a particular holiday out and insert an unrelated foreign deity from a completely different culture, in a completely different part of the world?

It’s NOT ok. Eostre has been buried for centuries. People today are still denying that she was ever worshiped. Thankfully new research is coming to light showing that she, in fact, did have a wide following through continental German speaking areas over to England. When we are finally reclaiming this goddess it is offensive to our culture to disregard her.

And, hello? It’s offensive to the culture Ishtar came from to take her out of her own cultural context and insert her into a foreign one! So please, pagans, wise up! Do your research. Stop spreading false information.

I must also assert that what’s good for the geese is good for the gander. If stealing, perverting, and twisting other people’s cultures is offensive and wrong, well I’m here to say that I’m of Germanic and Anglo-Saxon descent, I practice a form of paganism that honors my ancestral heritage, and just as anyone else would be, I’m offended when the goddess that we only recently “resurrected” from the depths of hidden history is pushed out again. And just like anyone else in this world, I am within my rights to want to protect the integrity of my ancestral culture.

** Please see the FOLLOW UP to this post **