Easter as a meaningful holiday lays a colored egg

The writer has been a member of the Church of God for 20 years and is a deaconess in the Preston, England, congregation of the United Church of God.

By Barbara Fenney

I have been interested in ancient Greek, Roman and Egyptian mythology since early teenage. The problem was that the stories became repetitive; each culture had its own versions of the basic legends. No matter into which part of the world I extended my studies, the underlying stories remained the same.

It was only when I came into contact with the true God that I realized these legends all came from a single counterfeit religion originating in ancient Mesopotamia.

In this article I do not intend to cover the Easter controversy, concerning the change from Passover to Easter. This is well documented in encyclopedias, church histories and Sabbatarian literature. I will, however, attempt to explain where some of the current traditions have come from.

The legend

Easter is an ancient festival, involving the death and resurrection of the husband or lover of the Great Earth Mother goddess.

Before I explain the details, it might be useful to list some of the equivalent gods and goddesses involved, since every country and often each city-state within that country had its own form of the same divinities, with local variations.

In most cases the husband is also the son or half-brother of the goddess.

  • Assyria: Semiramis and Ninus.
  • Babylon: Ishtar and Tammuz.
  • Egypt: Isis and Osiris.
  • Syria: Astarte and Bel or Baal (Marduk) (later Venus Urania and Adonis).
  • Greece: Aphrodite and Adonis.
  • Rome: Kybele and Attis (or Venus and Adonis).

The actual legend is a bit muddled depending on which version you choose but basically goes like this Egyptian one:

The goddess Isis was married to her brother Osiris. The latter was killed by Set, who sent pieces of his body all over the land of Egypt.

Isis set out on a journey to recover the pieces. Having found them, she spent a night and day casting spells to bring Osiris back to life.

In spite of her great powers, she only partially succeeded but was allowed one last night with her husband, during which she conceived her son Horus.

The following morning at dawn Osiris rose to take his place in the heavens alongside his father, the sun god Ra. Having thus received eternal life, he became ruler of the underworld, judging the dead.

What might appear at first glance a simple and noble love story turns out to be anything but that on closer examination. Based on fact, the original so-called goddess, Semiramis, a woman of dubious parentage but great beauty, became queen of Assyria by marrying King Ninus (one of several men she married).

Later she was accused of being involved with his death.

His resurrection into the heavens was an ideal explanation for the disappearance of his body. Her motives seem to have been purely political, to gain control of the kingdom.

To placate her husband's supporters she declared him to be a god and instituted his worship. However, as the supposed god's wife and claiming celestial parentage herself, she soon became the center of worship, reducing the status of Ninus.

Her lovers, it is claimed, were buried alive all over western Asia, yet she managed to retain her role as a mother goddess.

Ishtar (another supposed incarnation of Semiramis) tried to seduce her own son, Gilgamesh, again to retain power. The picture is really one of seduction, incest and murder.

The time of year

The son of Isis, Horus was claimed to have been born Dec. 25. Forty weeks back from that (an average length of pregnancy) brings us to March 21, the vernal or spring equinox.

It is around this date that the ancient celebrations of the death and resurrection of the pagan gods were claimed to have taken place. It is also now used for the dating of Easter.

Yet God makes no mention of the equinox in relation to the timing of Passover, only of the new moon and the beginning of the spring harvest. Neither can Easter claim to be the time of Christ's conception, His birth coming in the autumn (3312 years before His death in the spring).

Duration of the festival

The length of the festival varied greatly from five days in Rome to 11 in Mesopotamia and included the ancients' New Year's festivals. Some involved a week of fasting and purification before the festival proper began.

As mentioned, the actual rites of Isis lasted one day and two nights. In Byblos the death of Adonis was mourned for two days by Venus Urania before he was resurrected and ascended into heaven, accompanied by great joy. Kybele mourned for Attis for two days before finding him and celebrating throughout the third day.

Christ's only sign of his Messiahship was that He would be in the earth (that is, buried) for three days and three nights (Matthew 12:40). As He stated that there are 12 hours in a day, then night comes (John 11:9-10), so there were 12 hours in a night, giving 24 hours in a day.

Therefore three days and three nights equals 72 hours. This clearly distinguishes Him from any of the other so-called gods of the time. The timing of the resuscitation and resurrection of Osiris exactly mirrors modern-day Easter celebrations.


The name Easter is the modern form of the Anglo-Saxon Earth Mother goddess Eostre (pronounced eestra.) Her festival was celebrated on or near the vernal (spring ) equinox.

I haven't found any proof, but I suspect there is a connection between this name and the word oestrus, from which we get estrogen, the female sex hormone.

The name Eostre appears to be a corruption of Astarte, the mother goddess of the ancient Assyrians, also known as Ishtar. The worship of Astarte and her male counterpart Bel (or Baal) was introduced into Britain by the Druids. One of her titles was Frau or Lady. The date of her festival was March 25, which in some lands still bears the name Lady Day.

The word Easter appears only once in some versions of the Bible but is a mistranslation of the Greek word for Passover.

Lent and Easter eggs

Still associated with Easter and the Easter season is Lent. In Babylon Tammuz, husband of Ishtar, was killed by a wild boar, and 40 days of weeping and fasting was ordained for each of the years of his life.

His wife, Ishtar, visited the underworld and by her grief claimed to have been able to revive him. Often the fast included going without meat, poultry and dairy products, as well as eggs.

The custom of giving something up for Lent remains. Sometimes it is claimed that Lent represents Christ's 40 days of fasting before His ministry began. However, since He began His ministry around age 30 and it lasted 312 years, His fast must have taken place in the autumn. There is no indication in Scripture of any similar fast before His death.

Eggs are a long-standing symbol of creation, fertility, renewed life and resurrection. They have been used at spring festivals since ancient Egypt and Persia, when eating colored eggs was part of their rituals.

The Syrian goddess Astarte was believed to have been hatched from a huge egg that fell into the Euphrates.

Eggs were considered sacred to her and were not eaten for the period of mourning-which corresponds with Lent-for her husband, Bel. They were all eaten up before this period on what we now call Pancake Day or Shrove Tuesday (Mardi Gras) and did not appear again until the joyous celebrations of his resurrection, when they appeared in a riot of colors (the Persians dyed theirs red) and became the object of various games. That they should now be made of chocolate is, I suspect, a marketing ploy!

Hot-cross buns

Hot-cross buns are eaten throughout the spring season, but in ancient Babylon the Chaldeans used to offer them to the queen of heaven (Ishtar) on the day now known as Good Friday.

Similar wheat cakes, marked with a cross, were offered to or eaten in honor of Apollo, Diana, Hecate and the moon (the latter also being Diana's symbol).

The cross represents the four seasons, or the four phases of the moon, and are on the sacrificial bread of the lunar goddesses of many cultures. They are found from Egypt to the Aztecs of Mexico. A circle with a cross (the female symbol) was often set up on top of a pillar (representing the male)-the whole representing union or fertility. It is also interesting that the biological symbol for female remains a circle with a cross beneath.

In Jeremiah 7:18; 44:19, 25, the baking and offering of these cakes to the queen of heaven (Ishtar or Astarte) are mentioned as being part of the apostasy of the people of Judah.

Rabbits and hares

A lesser custom, at least in the United Kingdom, is the idea of the Easter Bunny. Rabbits and hares, prolific breeders, have been a symbol of fertility since antiquity. In Teutonic myth it was a hare that supposedly laid the Easter egg. Hares were the sacrificial victims of the goddess Eostre.

Sunrise services

Sunrise services are a tradition in parts of Europe and America, but not in the United Kingdom as a whole. In the North of Scotland it was supposed that the sun would dance on Easter morn for joy that the savior was risen.

The question is, Which savior? As I stated earlier, Christ was to be in the earth three days and three nights. Since He was put in the earth (buried) on a Wednesday at sunset (as a careful reading of a correct translation of Mark 12:1, Luke 23:56 and Matthew 28:1 reveals), He must have been resurrected three days and three nights later at sunset on the end of the weekly Sabbath, at the same time the wave-sheaf was being cut (Leviticus 23:10-11).

This sheaf would be offered to God the following morning. When the women arrived at Christ's tomb towards dawn on Sunday, He was already risen (Mark 16:2-6), but when he met Mary Magdalene a little later in the garden (presumably after sunrise) He had still not ascended to His Father (John 20:17).

Sun worship was one of the earliest religions. In ancient Babylonia the sun was personified as Tammuz, the returning lover of Ishtar. It was at dawn that the Egyptian Osiris rose to join the sun god in the sky. Even today in Britain Druids hold sunrise services on the summer solstice.

Sunrise has long been the traditional time for sun worship, and Ezekiel 8:16 describes such a service. As if to clarify the season, verse 14 tells us that the women were weeping for Tammuz.

We know therefore that these things occurred at the time of the death and resurrection of Tammuz; that is, at what we now call Easter.

Aphrodite in Scripture?

There is a somewhat oblique reference to Earth Mother cults in the New Testament. This is found in 2 Corinthians 6:15, where Paul asks: What agreement has Christ with Belial?

Vine gives Belial in this context as being the cult of Aphrodite. Aphrodite was the Greek equivalent of the Syrian Astarte, renowned for being promiscuous herself and the patron of prostitutes.

In Deuteronomy 12:30-32 God warns His followers not to pollute His worship with customs used to worship pagan gods.

This is wholly understandable when it is realized that most pagan celebrations have strong sexual connotations and look to the mother goddess (queen of heaven) as the supreme deity.

Easter specifically also seems to celebrate political corruption, murder and incest.

With this in mind, surely Christians should be careful to avoid being drawn into keeping customs that God has not sanctioned.

Apart from anything else, such customs may take our minds away from the realization of our need for the death and resurrection of Christ and for our reconciliation with God the Father.


  • Classic Ancient Mythology, Patrick and Croft.
  • The Year of the Goddess, Durdin-Robertson.
  • The Silver Bough, Vol. 2, McNeill. The Aquarian Dictionary of Festivals, Cooper.
  • Myth and Mystery, Jack Finnegan.
  • Myths of Assyria and Babylonia, Mackenzie.
  • Myths of Mesopotamia, Dalley.
  • Vine's Expository New Testament.

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