Ostara: Chased by the Hare


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You probably know that the so-called Easter Bunny wasn’t a rabbit, but a hare. You probably know too that this hare is a manifestation of an Anglo-Saxon/Northern European Pagan goddess called variously Ostara, Oestre or Eostre (spellings vary), which gave its name to what Christians in North Western Europe later called Easter.

The pagan festival of Ostara, in honour of the goddess, unlike the Christian festival which took its name, generally coincides with the equinox. That usually happens on the 21st March, but as it happens this year took place yesterday.

As is often been discussed, here and elsewhere, the Christian hijacked the pagan tradition because it was a challenge to nascent Christian values, as defined by the medieval converts, and was both too sexual and altogether too dark for the prevailing sensitivity.

pagan Schmeck-OsternAt such times light and dark are in balance and themes or renewal, mating, sex and sexual dominance are explored in both man(kind) and nature. From Cornwall to Eastern Europe traditions prevail, where men brandishing sticks (or in some cases balloons) attempt to swat a passing maiden. These pagan rites were carried out in plain sight whilst disapproving priests looked on.

From the earliest times flagellation was often associated with fertility and sometimes this was done in earnest. In times and places women were stripped to be flogged in the name of the gods, and of course they had to (no doubt reluctantly) comply. Once naked and whipped, they were ready for whatever followed. If not, they could flee like the hare, caught only if they so desired.

So too the goddess took this form, fleeing from male mastery, for few can catch the hare and less she so desired. Of course to be caught and switched on the bottom before seduction by the god was her destiny and desire. So goes the cycle of life.

This begs the question, if the goddess is ascendant and this is her true desire, then who is chasing whom?

There is a 1960s film depicting the times, sadly the name escapes me, where a comely girl teases a boy saying, “If you can catch me, you can spank me.”

He replies, “If I catch you I will do more than that.”

She grins and runs, yelling, “You will have to spank me first.” The capture is never in doubt.

One Victorian parson writing in the 1850s (it may have been Kilvert) seems to chuckle at the village hussy being chased down ‘to receive stripes to her nether person,’ even if ‘such rough play oft go too far with the rending of gowns and the baring of too much flesh.’

It is no wonder the Christians were so suspicious of the true Easter. While the public fun was limited to a harmless spanking or at worse a bare bottom switching. Later in the bushes and after the consumption of much ale the young were apt to have sex outside of marriage. This was a usurpation of their primary purpose; the control of marriage and the property that went with it.

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Finally caught: Conceptual dark photography by Olia Pishchanska


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