Re: Sticky Memes

From: John Wilkins (
Date: Wed 25 Jan 2006 - 05:40:55 GMT

  • Next message: Price, Ilfryn: "RE: Sticky Memes"

    On 25/01/2006, at 1:14 PM, Scott Chase wrote:

    >>> ...

    >>> Can we discard colored eggs and chocolate bunny rabbits, neither
    >>> having anything to do with Christian mythology, from the
    >>> symbology of Easter? The Christians co-opted these pagan
    >>> fertility symbols, so apprently they have some staying power.
    >>> But what's really wrong with coloring eggs and hiding them on an
    >>> annual basis, beyond the foul odor experienced due to forgetting
    >>> one behind the couch for a couple months? One could do that and
    >>> eschew the whole Christian aspect of Easter. Heck it's really
    >>> about some long forgotten fertility goddess ain't it?
    >> That's what was reported in some medieval chronicler, but in fact
    >> it appears not to be. There were fertility rituals at about that
    >> time of year, for sure, but that's because the northern spring
    >> began about then and most agricultural societies were very aware
    >> of this. But the calculation of Easter relies upon the Jewish
    >> calendar, and it is solely based on that.
    >> Arguably there are the "god-resurrected" myths that Fraser
    >> reports but AFAIK this has tended to evaporate on hard inspection.
    > Hmmm... What about what is said in my quote below:
    > (From _Myths of the Norsemen From the Eddas and Sagas_ by HA
    > Guerber, 1992 orig 1929, Dover Publications, Inc, New York p 55-6)
    > [bq]"The Saxon goddess Eastre, or Ostara, goddess of spring, whose
    > name has survived in the English word Easter, is also identical
    > with Frigga, for she too is considered goddess of the earth, or
    > rather of Nature's resurrection after the long death of winter.
    > This gracious goddess was so dearly loved by the old Teutons, that
    > even after Christianity had been introduced they retained so
    > pleasant a recollection of her, that they refused to have her
    > degraded to the rank of a demon, like many of their other
    > divinities, and transferred her name to their great Christian
    > feast. It had long been customary to celebrate this day by the
    > exchange of presents of coloured (sic) eggs, for the egg is the
    > type of the beginning of life; so the early Christians continued to
    > observe this rule, declaring, however, that the egg is also
    > symbolical of the Resurrection. In various parts of Germany, stone
    > altars can still be seen, which are known as Easterstones, because
    > they were dedicated to the fair goddess Ostara. They were crowned
    > with flowers by the young people, who danced gaily around them by
    > the light of great bonfires, - a species of popular games practised
    > (sic) until the middle of the present century, in spite of the
    > priests' denunciations and of repeatedly published edicts against
    > them." [eq]
    > So is any of the above true? I thought it was a matter of the evil
    > violent Christians imposing their memeset upon the peace loving
    > folk of Northern Europe.

    I don't have the refs to hand (but note that yours is 1929 - a lot of stuff has been done on pagan religions since), but it seems the story has been subject to a few meme-wars on its own, between rationalists and believers.

    The distal source of the Eostre myth is Bede, but some scholars think this was one of those "made up because it fit" stories rather than being based on any actuality. However, Paschal celebrations go back to the second century in Smyrna, nowhere near the supposed Germanic sources. However, one scholar thinks the Easter Bunny may be a pagan relic. Easter eggs are not, apparently. easter_legend_is_a_hoax/

    John S. Wilkins, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Biohumanities Project
    University of Queensland - Blog:
    "Darwin's theory has no more to do with philosophy than any other
    hypothesis in natural science." Tractatus 4.1122
    This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
    Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
    For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Wed 25 Jan 2006 - 06:00:17 GMT