A popular meme on Facebook in recent years associates the Christian holiday of Easter with the Babylonian goddess Ishtar. Supposedly Ishtar, who is the goddess of sexuality, love and war, is pronounced Easter in English and her symbols are the egg and the rabbit. While it is true that Easter’s name and symbolism are derived from Pagan sources the connection to Babylonian mythology is entirely a work of fiction.
For a start the name Ishtar is not pronounced Easter in English its pronounced largely the way it looks (Ish-tahr). Even this sets aside the fact that Easter is the English name for the holiday in Latin its called Pascha which is derived from the Hebrew Pesah (Passover). So from the start the holiday’s origins are rooted in Judaic tradition not Babylonian. The English word Easter is actually derived from the Old English Eostre, itself derived from German. Although there is some debate on the matter Eostre is generally believed to have been the German goddess of Spring and the name for Spring as well.
The symbolism of Easter, like the name, has its roots in Germanic paganism. Both are symbols of the goddess Eostre associated with renewal and rebirth. This particularly makes sense when one realizes the myth of the Easter Bunny is derived not from Babylon or even Rome but from German immigrants into the United States (the Pennsylvania Dutch to be precise). The symbols of Ishtar are another matter. Among animals the lion was considered sacred to her as was the eight pointed star and the morning star.
Its clear that whatever the origins of the meme they are either some kind of practical joke or simply engaged in very sloppy research. While some of the popular symbols of Easter, and its English name have roots in Germanic Paganism the supposed connection to theBabylonian goddess Ishtar is pure fiction.
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