Ishtar and the Easter Connection

One of the myths that circulates each Spring near Easter is that Easter was another name for Eostre or Ishtar and was a fertility festival in her honor.  Despite the wide circulation of this myth,  there is no historical evidence for this until the 8th century A.D. Not only is this late in antiquity and most definitely from the post Christian era, but this is the only evidence that Easter was named for any possible goddess. This evidence is not so much proof, nor is it in anyway tied to Ishtar, or from any “pagan” text,  but rather is based on the ramblings and writings of a Monk named Bede:

“The first month, which the Latins call January, is Giuli; February is called Solmonath; March Hrethmonath; April, Eosturmonath; May, Thrimilchi; June, Litha; July, also Litha; August, Weodmonath; September, Halegmonath; October, Winterfilleth; November, Blodmonath; December, Giuli, the same name by which January is called. …Nor is it irrelevant if we take the time to translate the names of the other months…. Hrethmonath is named for their goddess Hretha, to whom they sacrificed at this time. 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. “- From De ratione temporum 15. (The reckoning of time, tr. Faith Wallis, Liverpool University Press 1988, pp.53-54) more can be found at tertullian.org

This writing comes from a monk called Venerable Bede. It seems that Bede has sent Scholars on a sort of wild goose chase as none have been able to link Eostre to anyone in history:

“Eostre is a very obscure Goddess, and uniquely Anglo-Saxon Pagan. She is not mentioned at all in the Norse corpus and only fleetingly in the Old English by Bede in De Temporum Rationale. Her material is so scant that some scholars have speculated she was not a Goddess at all, but that Eostre was merely a name for the holiday.” – Wednesbury Shire History of Anglo-Saxon Paganism

Keep in mind that Bede’s quote above is the only ancient source for any Easter/Eostre connection. This source has nothing to do with Ishtar as there are many ancient text that exist pertaining to her however none show any connection with the word Eostre.  The only thing that is known is that Eostre is a German word for the spring season or possibly for one of the months in spring:

“It is equally valid, however, to suggest that the Anglo-Saxon “Estor-monath”simply meant “the month of opening”, or the “month of beginning”, and that Bede mistakenly connected it with a goddess who either never existed at all, or was never associated with a particular season, but merely, like Eos and Aurora, with the Dawn itself.” [Stations of the Sun, p.180]

Perhaps Bede, thinking that all ancient month names were linked to a god or goddess, simply made a guess that historically can not be proven. Either way, what is known is that Easter has always been linked to the Christian observance of Pascha and the Resurrection:

No Norwegian, Icelandic or other Scandinavian primary source mentions ‘Ostara’. In fact, the name ‘Ostara’ isn’t found anywhere in connection with a goddess. ‘Ostara’ is simply the Old High German name for the Christian Festival of Easter.”- manygods.org.uk

Ostara is one of the names linked from Eostre to Ostara to Ishtar in order to connect these as the same goddess, however Ostara and Eostre are simply words, not goddesses:

“The English word Easter, which parallels the German word Ostern, is of uncertain origin. One view, expounded by the Venerable Bede in the 8th century, was that it derived from Eostre, or Eostrae, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring and fertility. This view presumes—as does the view associating the origin of Christmas on December 25 with pagan celebrations of the winter equinox—that Christians appropriated pagan names and holidays for their highest festivals. Given the determination with which Christians combated all forms of paganism, this appears a rather dubious presumption. There is now widespread consensus that the word derives from the Christian designation of Easter week as in albis, a Latin phrase that was understood as the plural of alba (“dawn”) and became eostarum in Old High German, the precursor of the modern German and English term. The Latin and Greek pascha (“Passover”) provides the root for Pâcques, the French word for Easter.” -Current Online Edition Encyclopedia Britannica

Add to this the fact that Scholars such as Candida Moss state that the connection of Easter to Eostre or Ishtar is all hype with no truth to it:

Among the rash of sensationalist stories we can expect through the season, the annual “Easter was stolen from the pagans” refrain has sprouted again just in time for Holy Week.

Don’t believe the hype.

Perhaps most misinformed theory that rolls around the Internet this time of year is that Easter was originally a celebration of the ancient Near Eastern fertility goddess Ishtar.

This idea is grounded in the shared concept of new life and similar-sounding words Easter/Ishtar. There’s no linguistic connection, however. Ishtar is Akkadian and Easter is likely to be Anglo-Saxon.

Just because words in different languages sound the same doesn’t mean they are related. In Swedish, the word “kiss” means urine. –  Did Christians really ‘steal’ Easter?, CNN Blogs, Candida Moss

The burden of proof is on those who claim that Easter is the festival of an ancient goddess. I would love to see source citations for any claims that the word Easter has anything to do with Ishtar or any other pagan goddess. And I do not mean something from the last couple of hundred years but rather true historical sources; ancient writings, inscriptions, etc. However, I have never found any such source.because it simply does not exist. For those who bash the word Easter as a pagan feast I pray that you research this myth thoroughly rather than basing your claims on only one historical witness in the writings of an 8th century Roman Catholic Monk. There is zero evidence for the existence of Eostre and definitely nothing that connects this word to Ishtar in any historical text. As with all of the lies against Christianity, it would be worthwhile for those who make these claims to investigate them before repeating the lies and myths of the Atheist community.

Other Sources:

Eostre and Easter Customs-manygods.org.uk

Eostre-Westbury Shire

The Epic of Gilgamesh-ancienttext.org

 

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