The Goddess Eostre:Bede's Text and Contemporary Pagan Tradition(s)
Subject Areas: Religious Studies
Modern Pagan groups often consult texts from the European Middle Ages and rely upon scholarly assessments of the authenticity of these texts and the traditions they contain. Often these texts become 'scripture' for Pagans and are thus vitally important for identity and community. This applies equally to Traditional and Eclectic Pagans, although they differ in their attitude to the past, the former group engaging in reconstruction where the latter are more flexible and engage in reinvention. This article investigates the sources for a minor Anglo-Saxon goddess, Eostre, best known for bestowing her name on the Christian festival of Easter. Eostre has been chosen precisely because of her obscurity; academic discourses in Anglo-Saxon studies are unable to reach agreement even concerning her existence. In contrast to these cautious, sceptical, 'outsider' voices, the 'insider' voices of the contemporary Pagan community celebrate Eostre and perform rituals in her honour. It is here argued that there is a continuum of interpretations of the Eostre/Ostara material, with scholarly scepticism at one end and Eclectic Pagan reinvention at the other end, while the more historically grounded Traditional Pagan interpretations found in Asatru and some other Northern traditions negotiate a compromise between 'objective' scholarship and 'subjective' faith.
Author: Carole Cusack