Alright guys. Since Easter is coming and neo-pagans are celebrating Ostara, I would like to clarify a very common misconception that is spreading on the internet like bacteria.
The idea that Easter comes from the goddess Ishtar (Akkadian goddess of love and war, initially appearing in the Sumerian mythology with the name Inanna and later associated with the goddess Astarte) is an absurdity from many points of view, some of which I shall present below, but first I’ll deal with the text from the attached picture.
“This is Ishtar: pronounced “Easter”
Easter was originally the celebration of Ishtar, the Assyrian and Babylonian goddess of fertility and sex. Her symbols (like the egg and the bunny) were and still are fertility and sex symbols (or did you actually think eggs and bunnies had anything to do with the resurrection?).
After Constantine decided to Christianize the Empire, Easter was changed to represent Jesus. But at its roots, Easter (which is how you pronounce Ishtar) is all about celebrating fertility and sex.”
Ok. Obviously, the neo-pagan and anti-christian communities were enraptured by this remark, without doing a minimum research to see if it is true. They have been given a new reason to throw mud at Christianity through a simple image with a few words. Everyone wishes that his religion to be the right religion, the original religion, but everyone, absolutely everyone is mistaken from this point of view. There is no original religion. There is only a continuity of some religious ideas and beliefs. Mircea Eliade tells us about this fact in his book “Shamanism. Archaic techniques of Ecstasy”, that:
„As can never be sufficiently emphasized, nowhere in the world or in history will a perfectly „pure” and „primordial” religious phenomenon be found. The paleoethnological and pre-historic documents at our disposition go back no further than the Paleolithic; and nothing justifies the supposition that, during the hundreds of thousands of years that preceded the earliest Stone Age, humanity did not have a religious life as intense and as various as in the succeeding period. It is almost certain that at least a part of prelithic humanity’s magico-religious beliefs were preserved in later religious conceptions and mythologies. But it is also highly probable that this spiritual heritage from the prelithic period underwent continual changes as a result of the numerous cultural contacts among pre- and protohistorical peoples. Thus, NOWHERE IN THE HISTORY OF RELIGIONS DO WE ENCOUNTER „PRIMORDIAL” PHENOMENA; for history has been everywhere, changing, recasting, enriching, or impoverishing religious concepts, mythological creations, rites, techniques of ecstasy. Obviously, every religion that, after long processes of inner transformation, finally develops into an autonomous structure presents a „form” that is its own and that is accepted as such in the later history of humanity. But no religion is completely „new”, no religious message completely abolishes the past. Rather, there is a recasting, a renewal, a revalorization, an integration of the elements – the most essential elements! – of an immemorial religious tradition.”
As such, no matter how many elements Christianity took from paganism, it doesn’t mean that it makes it less „pure”, especially when talking about a simple historical error (done intentionally or not).
Getting back to the point, the affirmation itself that Easter and Ishtar are pronounced the same is erroneous and not only, but it is purely a phantasmagorical idea of Americans without any knowledge of etymology and phonetics. Easter is pronounced IS TURR (ˈistər) and Ishtar is pronounced ISH TAR (/ˈɪʃtɑːr/; D ištar). I can’t explain very well, but for example, Easter in Romanian is pronounced „Istăr” and Ishtar is pronounced “Iștar”. So, no, they are not pronounced the same, even if they are similar, it doesn’t mean they are the same thing. It’s like saying that the name Christie comes from Caristie, an ancient roman festival held in the honor of Concordia, or that the name Christina comes from Krishna.
The image that comes along with the text is called the „Burney Relief” and is also very controversial, because many people say it represents Lilith or even Ereshkigal, the latter being a different deity/goddess who forbid Inanna to leave the Underworld.
Eggs can be considered symbols of fertility, but they have never been associated with Ishtar or Inanna, as for the bunny, that is a total invention. Lions and owls were associated with Ishtar, not bunnies. Also, the octagram (eight pointed star) is her symbol, not the egg. Other symbols of Ishtar, which can be clearly seen in the image/terracota plaque are the crown, rings and disks. According to Sandra Tabatha Cicero, the Horned Cap of Divinity, the Rod and Ring of Justice and the lion are all symbols of Ishtar/Inanna who was often shown winged and naked. It is supposed to be a sexual or underworld aspect of the goddess. Many very similar images from Sumeria still exist.
There is also the conception (misconception) that Easter comes from Ostara, the pagan festival that falls on 21st March, being the Vernal Equinox or the Spring Equinox, when day and night are equal. Symbolically, they both represent rebirth, revival (in Ostara it is the revival/rebirth of nature, in Christianity it is the resurrection of Christ). But once again, the etymology and the history differ. Although Easter and Ostara are similar, when we are talking about Easter we take into consideration the origin of the word which comes from Pesach, the Jewish holiday commemorating the exodus. In greek and latin it is Pascha. In Christianity there are many similar names for the celebration of Christ’s resurrection. In Romania, it is called Paște or Paști, in Italy it is Pasqua, in Spain it is Pascua, in France it is Pâques, in Holland it is Pasen, in Denmark it is Paaske, in Bulgaria it is Paskha, in Portugal it is Páscoa, and so on. And no, Passover doesn’t come from Pesach either. Easter doesn’t come from Eoster.
We can say that both Easter and Ostara are symbolic celebrations of rebirth and revival. Everyone is free to celebrate them in their own way, through their own beliefs, but we should never disrespect other peoples holidays, especially if we don’t use truth, but lies and misinformation.
This symbolism exists since tens of thousands of years, which preceeds both the myth of Christ and that of Ishtar/Inanna. Everything is, as Eliade also stated, just a reinterpretation.
Lets all revive and celebrate together with nature and leave the past behind. Revival is a new beginning!