Monday, April 02, 2012
easter comes sunday
(Re-posted with revisions from April 12, 2009.)
Easter, the ultimate Christian holiday, is also our only special day whose name derives from pagan sources. Old dame Eostre, the northern equivalent of the Latins' Primavera, and the goddess who used to rule the earth during the season of the hare moon, has managed to hang around nearly two thousand years now in the Germanic cultures, lending her old fertility totem and talisman, bunnies and eggs, to the feast of the resurrection.
When Eostre ruled the spring rather than Jesus there were 13 months, not 12. This is why, in Walter Scott's version of Sherwood Forest, Robin Hood and his men sang "How many months be there in the year? There be 13 I say..." And it works out, too, because 13 months X 4 weeks = 52 weeks.
Some years have 13 full moons, and some don't. We'll have 13 this year, with two in August. The second of these, on the last day of the month, will be the blue moon.
Thirteen is a very magical number, partly because it's prime and also because of its calendrical significance. In the Christian era it acquired ominous meanings and became associated with "bad luck," because there were 13 gathered at the last supper, supposedly. The real reason the early church fathers tagged 13 as an "evil" number, however, is because of its significance to pagans the world over, and paganism always had to be represented as the work of devils and demons. Hence, that unlucky day, Friday the 13th.
There are 13 cards in a suit, and for Americans, the revered, almost mystical origin of the nation in 13 colonies.
I've also found that my own life tends to run in 13-year cycles, the end of which always see a significant closing and equally significant opening.
But that's only if you believe in that kind of stuff. And I do, sort of, in a way.