Sunday, January 3, 2016

The Symbology of the Easter Egg by Jennie Croft 1906


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AS far back as one can trace the observance of Easter, the day has been associated with eggs. The date of the introduction of the egg as a symbol of renewed life is unknown, but it dates back much farther than the early church.

In pagan tradition the egg was a symbol of reincarnation. With the Egyptians it was held sacred as an emblem of the human race after the deluge. The Jews accepted the egg as a symbol of their departure from Egypt, and at the feast of the Passover it was placed upon the table with the Paschal Lamb. So it was natural for the early Christians to adopt the egg as an emblem of the resurrection and future life.

The egg is typical of birth, and St. Augustine recognized it as a symbol of hope. The custom of blessing the Easter egg began in the third century.

It is to the German people, with their folk-lore and legends, that we trace the origin of hiding eggs at Easter, saying the rabbit laid them, and setting the children hunting for them. We can readily picture the staid little German boys and girls in their quaint costumes, rising early on Easter morning to hunt the colored eggs, and we may know that their shouts were no less gleeful than those of our own dear American children of today, when the coveted treasure is found.

But, we would know how the rabbit came to be associated with Easter. The date upon which Easter falls each year is regulated by the moon, it being the first Sunday after the first full moon upon or after the vernal equinox, and this shows us the relation of the moon with Easter. Now, in Ancient Symbology we find the mythical hare as typical of the moon. The Hindoo and Japanese artists painted him across the disc of the moon, and the Chinese representing him as pounding rice in a mortar. The Hindoos have a tradition which especially identifies the hare with the moon. They say that Buddha once took the shape of the hare that he might feed a hungry fellow creature, and that he was translated to the moon in that form, where he still abides.

Thus we see how the hare, the moon and Easter are related, and as the rabbit and the hare are very nearly identical, it was easy to substitute the rabbit for the traditional hare. It was also an easy matter to include the egg, as symbolical of Easter, to this group, and this was done some time in the distant past.

But, to come back to our subject, "The Symbology of the Easter Egg." The egg as a symbol of life and immortality will always remain the chief idea for Easter gifts for two reasons. First, because it is nearly round or spherical in shape, and the circle is the emblem of immortality, having neither beginning nor ending. Second, when the chicken within the shell acquires sufficient life and power, it bursts its bonds and comes forth a living being, full of vigor and activity. Human life on this earth is compared to that of the chicken within the shell, showing that humanity will be delivered from the bondage of earth and know life as free and glorious, as did Jesus the Christ.

The egg is symbolical of this glorious resurrection into new life because it is an illustration of the activity of Divine life and power within the soul of man, which will cause him to break the bonds of the sense life, and rise into the perfect life of the Christ-man. As the life-germ within the egg develops and unfolds into the perfect chicken, which then bursts the shell and comes forth into new life with greater possibilities, so the Christ breaks the bonds of all limitation in the consciousness of man and comes forth as master, leader and guide to the soul of man in its more glorious life. Easter should carry to each of us the consciousness of coming into a new life of light and gladness, because of the dropping off of habits, thoughts and tendencies that held us to a dead self.

Pagan Origin of Easter, article in the Century Path 1906

WE have been again reminded by some of the newspapers that Easter is largely a pagan festival. The Christians who first came to England adopted the Teutonic and the Scandinavian rites and the
festivals which they found established already, grafting on them the Christian symbology. Thus the feast of the resurrection of Christ was made to coincide with the ancient celebration of Eostre, Goddess of the eastern quarter, held in April when the sun is in Aries and the year is reborn.  The egg is one  of the symbols of rebirth used on those occasions. Another symbol was the hare, which is so well known to students of ancient symbology as an emblem of the moon; now it has degenerated into the rabbit.

To some this tracing of Christian rites to "pagan" origins may seem disparaging; but not so to one who properly appreciates ancient mythology. It is not to the mere traditional customs of riotous Teutonic barbarians that we are to look for the origin of these ceremonies and symbols, but to the ancient Wisdom-Religion of which they were survivals. There can be nothing disparaging to Christianity in showing it to be connected with the wisdom of the ages, though perhaps some of the early ecclesiasts did not show much intelligence in the way in which they mixed up the various elements which go to make up the doctrines of the churches.

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