Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Down The Bunny Trail

Well, it's that time of year again.

Easter is this Sunday. This is a hard celebration for Christianity to explain, at least as far as its trappings go. The Church  can point to the Resurrection, the renewal of life, the salvation by grace, but can't quite explain away the rabbit who lays eggs.

Do I have to do it for ya? Sure, OK. Some of you may not be among the Pagan brethren (NOT the motorcycle “club”) and would enjoy a quick history lesson.

Hares and rabbits are associated with the moon, life and renewal, and March begins their mating cycle. In fact, the phrase “mad as a March hare” comes from their mating rituals where they almost seem to be boxing each other. Spring Equinox is also in March and, at this time, the ancient Saxons worshiped a goddess of the moon, life and fertility named Ostara (also seen as Eostre). Her symbol, and totem animals, were hares.

Ostara - Goddess of Spring
                                                                                                                                                            She also had a brightly colored bird. According to her legend, in order to amuse the children who asked her for magic, she changed the bird into yet another hare. This one, however, kept its ability to lay eggs, and they were always the bright colors of its former feathers. These eggs would be gathered into a basket, and the hares would distribute them to all the children who loved Ostara.

In reality the egg was another fertility symbol, and the chick inside was self-sustaining abundance. It didn't matter who came first, the chicken or the egg. As long as you kept the cycle going you would always have both.
Not your typical Easter chick

 As you may have guessed, “Ostara” or “Eostre” became “Easter.” The celebration and symbols of this time became too ingrained for the church to pry them away from the people, so they carried on. Even the dating of Easter depends on the Vernal Equinox: it is the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Equinox.

My Mom saw to it that we were raised Irish Catholic. Most of us kids went to parochial school K through 12. (one sister escaped into the public school system – scared of nuns. Cleaver girl. I could have pulled off a panic attach in front of the penguins too. She beat me to it.) Easter Week meant turning in your Lenten banks for the poor Pagan children in Africa, rehearsing for the Spring concert, and driving wooden crosses into the hearts of our dearly departed.

Well, we did. We still do. Even now, in my semi-mobile state, I paid too much money for someone to nail together 2 wood crosses, stapled all over with palms and a bow. Then, I enticed a poor friend to go out to the cemetery with me, and drive the stake ends of the crosses into the burial places of my parents and grandparents. Hey, Happy Easter, Mom and Dad! That outta stop ya rising from the dead and eating my brains.. So, why do I do it? Well, it always seemed important to Mom that she get out there to the graves and play Buffy with a palm cross. Guess I'm just (sniff) sentimental...or mental. Your choice.

Nope. Could never embrace the Easter thing. I could never understand how Friday night to Sunday morning equaled 3 days. I never saw the ultimate big deal in returning from the dead. To me, dying for your convictions – standing firm in the wake of suffering and pain – was a massive example of how to commit to your ideals. But then the whole thing turns into Smetana's “The Moldau.”

Not familiar with the piece? You can find it on You Tube but for the sake of convenience: It is a classical piece of music that tries to give you the feel of the river Moldau. It flows through quiet areas, past mighty castles, pounds over rocks and, at the end, wanders out to the sea as the violins softly fade. And then, the final two notes smack your ears – Bump BUMP! It's like a musical “Ta-da!” Spoils the whole damn thing (although I love it). That's the Resurrection for me, a big Jesus “ta-da!”

Everything dies, and everything returns. I already knew that from Nature.

Anyway, I must admit I like the various “bungee jump” Jesus resurrection sets you can get, now-a-days. Here are a few. (I mean, if you're going to stand on the top of the rocks in that position, may as well go for it!)

There's even this great big one someone build...somewhere....

As for me and mine, we're a mixed bag. Easter is a family holiday (that's safe enough ground) as some of us are Wiccan, some Catholic, lapsed Catholic, born again Christian, atheist and vote-not-yet-counted. Our typical ritual begins with the snacking of snacks and proceeds into the ham dive, forks a blazing. All except my nephew, who does the annual egg-day butcher of the mac and cheese (vegetarian you know. Must not chew the chicken or masticate a pig.) This is generally followed by some kind of veggie, some other meats, rolls with butter, coffee, dessert and groaning. It was the same when I was a kid, except Mom made her meatloaf, so my groaning started before the meal.

Then, there usually comes the baskets. My sister and brother-in-law went over the moon crazy each year with baskets for everyone: bunnies, eggs, jelly beans, little foil eggs and peeps (...all the peeps, peeps, peeps ... sorry. Had a Grinch moment there.) This year, however, the baskets are no more, except for the small kids. We're all broke, most of us older ones are fighting the battle of the bulge, some of us are diabetic ... so we'll just stuff the kids with sugar and watch them pop like ticks. Next year, maybe we can give them each a puppy and a shot of espresso, too!

No matter what your path, it is a time of greening, coming warmth, rebirth. So be it praise Jesus, or hail Ostara, enjoy. My brother-in-law is making me a personal batch of chicken marsala. Stick a few stale peeps on the plate and my feast is set to go.

Happy Holiday!

P.S. This is me, Easter in New Jersey 1958 - just like today, chubby but cute!

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