Rite of Spring: Estre, Freya and Christ

Easter the moveable Christian feast has its origins in pagan mythology. The name may come from the Teutonic Estre who was the goddess of spring. Spring is a season of renewal, fertility and birth after the cold dark days of winter. The goddess Estre was associated with the hare and egg both symbols of fertility. The Easter bunny and Easter egg are derived from her rituals. Johannes Gehrts (1855-1921) the German illustrator and painter shows the goddess flying through the air holding a floral staff bringing light, flora and fauna to the earth. Another goddess associated with spring, fertility and rebirth was the Norse Freja. She rode through the sky in a golden chariot drawn by two blue cats leaving sunlight and spring flowers behind her. The Swedish painter Anders Leonard Zorn (1860- 1920) depicts the goddess of love in her hall Sessrúmnir. Christ is celebrated at Easter for rising from the grave after his crucification bringing spiritual light to mankind in a time of darkness. The early Christians incorporated pagan symbols of new life into their own holiday. In the painting by Russian Symbolist painter Mikhail Vasilyevich Nesterov (1862-1942), Christ is illuminated and surrounded by spring flowers.