Sunday, April 05, 2015

Easter Legends

Portrait of Bede from the Nuremberg Chronicle, 1493

An article on NPR's website which is dedicated to informing you about "What You Didn't Know about What You Already Know about Easter" contains a major error of its own. The article incorrectly attributes a story about the origins of Easter to the 8th century English monk Bede. In the story, a girl prays to the goddess Eostre for the sake of a wounded bird; the goddess Eostre descends to the girl upon a rainbow, and turns the wounded bird into a hare (thereby healing it, evidently), which thereafter lays colorful eggs once a year.

This is an urban legend; Bede never told this story. The NPR story quotes the story, claims the story is from Bede's The Reckoning of Time , and cites a website written by the University of Florida's Center for Children's Literature. The Center for Children's Literature website does contain the story, but does not attribute it to Bede--nor to any other source.

Bede does state that the English name for the holiday Easter comes from the name of the month sacred to the goddess Eostre, but mentions neither hares, nor colorful eggs, nor girls praying to save wounded birds. As far as I can tell, the story is a modern invention, but I have not yet discovered its origin.

Johannes Gehrts, Ostara, 1884
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