Sunday, April 16, 2017

Blogging Past Theocracy

St. Conilius of Bologna, Briish Library Medieval, Add. 49622., via.  Just kidding. But the manuscript shelfmark is real.
The tradition of the Easter egg commemorates a miracle in the vita of the martyred Saint Conilius, deacon in a congregation of 5th-century Bononia, who found his family at the end of one Lent too poor for meat with which to break the fast, except a little bacon. He saw a fat hare in his garden, nibbling at the new ramps, and lunged for it—but as he was readying himself to break its neck he saw its eyes filling with tears, and bethought himself of the Blessed Virgin's suffering through the death of her Son on the Cross, and let the animal go. It scampered away, but not without pausing here and there in the bushes, where it miraculously laid a sequence of eggs about the size of duck's eggs and equally rich, in a rainbow of different colors. Conilius gathered up a dozen or so and brought them home, where he invented spaghetti alla carbonara.
Wrote this back in 2013, and reprinted the original post that contained it in 2015, and always felt it has not been sufficiently praised, possibly because it came at the end of the o.p. and nobody ever read that far, so here I go again.

Of course it is an alternative fact, not true, or #fakenews, depending on your political opinions. It did not happen, nor has anybody other than me ever said it did. It is an inauthentic myth, as is the story circulating on Twitter:

That's the Babylonian fertility goddess Ishtar on the right, with her characteristic animal, a lion rather than a rabbit, lying at her feet, I think, but the image at the left is from a very long way from Bablyon, reproducing a cheap modern statue of the Mayan jaguar goddess Ixchel, mother of the Rabbit in the Moon, copying this wonderful original piece, a sculpted whistle, from the Maya Classic Era (600-800 C.E.), now in the Princeton University Art Museum:

Via J.E. Bruce.

Ixchel giving birth to the Moon-Rabbit. Unknown Maya artist of the Classic, collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, via Wikipedia.
You heard that here first.

The bunny-and-egg number at the spring festival belongs only to the Germanic peoples, and comes from the goddess Eostre or Ostara, which is why the festival in those lands is known by a modern reflex of her name, Easter or German Oster. Whereas in the heart of Constantine's empire in Greece, Asia Minor, Italy, Gaul, and North Africa, where Ishtar was Astarte, the holiday is called Pascha/Pasqua/Pâques, meaning Passover.

Because that's what it is: the Last Supper (Maundy Thursday) was a first Seder, and the bread of which Jesus said "This is my body" and "Eat it in remembrance of me" was matzoh. Unlike with Christmas, which the priests fixed for December 25 purely to create an Advent season corresponding with the pagan Roman Brumalia festival stretching from late November to late December, the dating of Easter corresponds to an essential element of the story: it has to be around the first full moon after the spring equinox, though they've made the Passover connection as complex and obscure as they could.

Of course it's also the crucifixion or sacred lynching of the ancient Syrian god Attis, as you can learn from Ten Bears, who also has a couple of Easter pieces proper, one angry (from 2007) and one funny (by Alexandra Petri). 

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