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Easter Really Doesn’t Have Anything To Do With Ishtar

And seriously, can we just stop this kind of thing all together?

Except, no.
Except, no. It wasn’t. Most of this is false.

Each and every year, I see this going around earlier and earlier- it’s sort of become the neo-Pagan’s version of The War On Christmas memes.

You know, the ones we like to laugh about, because, there’s really no War On Christmas?

While I don’t understand the whole “War on Christmas” thing, sadly, I kind of understand this. While that’s a bit on the silly side, you can understand why it is that those who aren’t of the Abrahamic faiths would want to find those areas where there have been sort of…well, I don’t want to say cultural appropriation- but, it’s a similar concept. A lot has been said about how the pagan belief systems have been Christianized and what reasons there may have been for that. This is of course, not just in where Christians have taken bits and bobs of other religions into their own traditions- but, I mean, take a look at any Asatru page with a large following on Facebook. Any of those things look a bit familiar? If you look, and really look, you’ll recognize a few themes that…well, it’s not exactly pre-Snorrellssen stuff, there mixed in with some “Hahaha! Silly Christians!” stuff- which is…uh…. (Off the top of my head, I can’t remember the full title, but, if you ever get the chance, there are not only quite a few things out there on this- but, I first read about it in a book called The Christianization of Iceland and I think it’s by Vesteinsson. Anyhoo..back to this whole Ishtar/Easter bit..)

If you want something slightly closer….

In case Dutch ain’t your bag, baby:
Shrouded in the field, in mist and cold
Shines a shimmer in the dew
When the heavens color from black to blue
In the East where the night begun
Awakes the light of the morning sun
Her morning blesses our source/spring

Early, when the day begins
And the sun blinds the field of stars
When Spring conquers Winter
By the dawn, witnessed by us
Sunlight paves a path of gold
Through the chilling fog banks in the woods

Night and day reach balance
Long-awaited return of the light
When the sun rises again and the cold disappears
And the light of life shines on the land
Feel the warmth in the morning
Lush green shoots from cold ground
When the Saxon people greet the sun
On the hills bathing in her glow


Let’s not soften a goddess who was anything but, first of all.


You know what Ishtar’d probably do to you if you handed her an egg?

Beat you with it until you were dead.

Okay, actually, no, she wouldn’t, but if you look at…jesus, do you even Gilgamesh, bro?

The Cliff’s notes version is, here we have a goddess who fell in love with a hero. Yes, that old chestnut. So, she says, “Hey, look, let’s get married.” He says, “I don’t think so, frankly, you scare the shit out of me- and anyway, your love life’s a trainwreck. You’re like that shitty pair of sandals that makes guys trip and fall on their faces.”


She gets pissed. That whole woman scorned thing usually gets a whole lot worse when it involves a goddess- and well, she asks her dad, Anu, the King of the Gods, if she can use the Bull of Heaven- he’s pretty hesitant, until she threatens him:


If you refuse to give me the Bull of Heaven- I will break in the doors of hell and smash the bolts; there will be a mixing of people, those above with those from the lower depths. I shall bring up the dead to eat food like the living; and the hosts of the dead will outnumber the living!


So, basically, she’s like, “Look, I’m going to bring about the zombie apocalypse if you don’t, Daddy. Gimme the fucking bull.” This was actually one of her favorite threats and how she got into the underworld. Ultimately, getting there naked. But that’s another story.


So, the thing goes bugshit on Uruk. Each time this bull stomps a foot- something horrible happens. Warriors die, mostly. Well, Gilgamesh has this friend he’s been running around with- Enkidu. Originally, he was a wild man- part beast, part man who was supposed to take Gilgamesh down a peg or two, but one thing leads to another with a temple prostitute and he’s tamed. Of course, he later blames her for this, but, well, we all know how that shit goes. Anyway- right around the last time the bull stomps, he falls into the pit. He leaps up out of it, taking the bull by the horns- (Oh yes.) screams, “Hey Gilgamesh, come get this bull!” and he does, he stabs it in the throat. They rip out the heart and give it to the sun god. Ishtar gets pissed off again, and Enkidu rips the bull’s leg off and hits her in the face with it. You can imagine how thrilled she was about that. At this point, the man-beast friend begins to dream- and up until now, he’s just been helping Gilgamesh sort his own dreams out and he’s like, “Uh, I think we might be a bit screwed here. In my dream I saw these 3 Gods talking and they think I need to die because of this shit with the bull and a tree in the Cedar Forest. One of the Gods, Shamash says ‘guys, they did it for me, though..’ and another God, Enil, is just a bit annoyed by this. And that’s when I woke up.


Gilgamesh is upset, because his bromance is about to die in the most literal way. Enkidu gets ahold of Enil and…when begging doesn’t work, he starts cursing and blaming everyone and everything for what’s about to happen to him. He and Shamash sort of have this conversation:


I, I am clearly broken and no one knows what to do
Pieces of the puzzle don’t fit, so, I pound them into you
Itching is the pulse inside
Creeping out to come alive
It’s just doing what it’s gonna do
Times are looking grim these days
Holding on to everything
It’s hard to draw the line
Shut the fuck up! Get up!
Shut the fuck up! Get up!
Shut the fuck up! Get up!
Anyway, spoiler alert, he dies anyway.
And much of this happens, because she saw Gilgamesh after a fight and thought he was hot enough to be her husband. Except…her husbands don’t end well. Point being, this is not the Easter Bunny and it’s definitely not Eostre. For one thing, as the meme states- those aren’t Ishtar’s symbols. There is no evidence anywhere that they ever were. Hers were lions and the 8 pointed star.
Eostre is a Saxon goddess. Something like…3, 4 thousand miles from Mesopotamia. But here’s the thing about Eostre- some people think maybe St. Bede The Venerable made her up. Widely considered to be the most learned man of his time, Bede was a Catholic historian/monk who wrote something called The Reckoning of Time in about the 8th century. He said that the pagans used to have feasts in her honor right around springtime, but, you know, that was before his time and now, it was Paschal….or…Passover. Which….would be where we get into the bit about Easter, sort of.
The first time I saw this, all I could think was…okay, wait. We have this vengeful Canaanite fertility goddess that somehow makes its way into Anglo Saxon or even English stuff. Well, okay, so, even going on that, if you look at the fact that in much of Europe, even- it’s not called Easter at all, but rather relate it to the resurrection: or words relating to Passover. Which are more P words, like the French say Paques and so forth. It’s not entirely unheard of for this kind of thing to occur, but mythologically and linguistically- it doesn’t even make any sense. 
Anyway, later on, we have Jacob Grimm- and this is a German, so, you know he’s going to argue. Beyond that, though, he’s a mythologist and oh, one of the guys who wrote and edited a bunch of fairy tales. Again, an editor. You know, he’s going to argue.
He rightfully pointed out that…”Uh, hey, Bede. How in the hell do you get this when in the freaking Gylfaginning, we have Austri?! Of course, the feminine of that would end in an “a” but, beyond that, uh, these customs and everything…oh and another thing- those gods, goddesses and customs were hardly over when you came on to the scene, here, so...”
Of course, he’s not actually talking to Bede, because Bede has been dead quite some time at this point, but, you get the idea.
You probably shouldn’t get me going on how, well, there was another Goddess that liked hares, eggs, fertility and sunlight- Freyja and well, some say, could be Idunn.
Thing is, there are a small handful that you could say this of, who have been debated as having been: and Ishtar’s not one of them.

Beyond all that…

Is this really the way we want to do this?

This sort of smug bullshit is obnoxious, and well, it’s even more obnoxious when it’s a complete load of shit.

In other words, eat your Reese’s eggs, celebrate whatever it is you do, and leave people be.

We really don’t need a pagan version of the War On Christmas.


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