What are the ancient origins of Easter and does it really matter?
In the ancient heathen world there were gods and goddesses for everything. There were gods for the sun, moon, trees, animals, love, and so on. And as Paul found out, there was even a god called the “unknown god”, just in case they missed any. Some of these gods were at one time real human beings and after death were glorified to the status of a god or goddess. The people did not necessarily worship the sun or the moon but the god that was “in charge” of the sun or the moon, etc… Even the great Caesars were given god-like status even while some were still alive!
The greatest of all of the gods throughout all of history and all civilizations was virtually always the “sun-god”. And the first god worshipped as the god of the sun was Nimrod, the very same Nimrod from the book of Genesis. And from the book of Genesis we learn that Nimrod was a great grandson of Noah, an incredible hunter and became a mighty king on the earth. Genesis also records for us in chapter 10 that he was responsible for building the kingdoms of Babel and Nineveh along with many other cities. But his most famous accomplishment was the “brilliant” idea to build a “tower whose top would reach the heavens”. This in turn provoked the LORD to come down out of heaven to confuse their language and scatter them over the face of the earth. This infamous tower became known as the “Tower of Babel”. Nimrod was said to be the most powerful ruler of all time and when he died, Babylonian legend says that he ascended into the heavens and he became the sun-god. The name that the people of his time would call him would be “Baal” which means “lord”. The wife that he left behind was named Semiramis, who would now become the “Queen of Heaven” since she was the wife of the sun-god Baal.
Years later Semiramis became pregnant. She declared that she had become pregnant by the rays of the sun of her deceased husband, Nimrod (Baal), and nine months later she gave birth to a son in which she gave the name “Tammuz”. Because of the god-like status of his late father Nimord, baby Tammuz was quickly haled to be the reincarnation of his father Nimrod. Tammuz, like his father, also became a mighty hunter on the earth. But, when he was forty years of age, he was killed by a wild boar on one of his hunting expeditions. Because he was revered to be the reincarnated sun-god, his death brought great despair upon the people of Babel. So, they set aside forty days of weeping and fasting for Tammuz each year in the Spring to commemorate each year that he was alive. (This tradition has been passed down through the ages to the church and is where we get the forty days of fasting before Easter Sunday. This is where the Catholic original tradition of “Lent” came from until Catholic leadership changed the origination to the 40 days of fasting that Jesus did in the wilderness.) After the forty days of weeping, they would kill a wild boar (getting back at the boar that killed Tammuz) and eat the ham on the first Sunday after the Spring Equinox (This is where the tradition of eating ham on Easter Sunday came from). Also as a side note, one of the ancient statues of Mary holding baby Jesus in the Vatican is actually a REAL statue of Semiramis holding baby Tammuz! The Catholic Church just changed the names to Mary and Jesus!
Many years later, as the legend continues, Tammuz’s mother Semiramis dies and ascends into heaven. But as the luck of the Babylonian legend would have it, when she ascended into the heavens, the gods sent her back down to earth in a giant egg at sunrise on the first Sunday after the vernal equinox (first day of Spring). She landed in the Euphrates River, the egg busted open and she turned a bird into an egg laying rabbit. (Have you ever wondered where the Easter Bunny and Easter Eggs came from? Well, now you know.) Eggs were very symbolic of many pagan religions as many believed that the earth itself came from a giant egg. Furthermore, the rabbit was looked upon as the most fertile animal on earth and the egg was also viewed as a symbol of fertility and new life. This is why these two symbols were attributed to the new “Queen of Heaven”, Ishtar.
It is also important to note that the process of deifying someone included renaming the individual after they had died. Many times they would be given a name that represented whatever they were going to be the god of. The new name of Semiramus according to the Babylonians was Ishtar, the god of fertility and the god of the East, or sunrise. Later, the Phoenicians and the Greeks in their language called her Astarte, the Zidonians called her Ashtaroth (Judges 2:13 “And they forsook the LORD and served Baal and Ashtaroth.”), the Philistines in the time of Saul kept the name Ishtar and the Celtics called her Eostra.
(Judges 10:6, “And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the LORD, and served Baal and Ashtaroth, and the gods of Syria, and the gods of Zidon, and the gods of Moab, and the gods of the children of Ammon, and the gods of the Philistines, and forsook the LORD, and served Him not.”)
But all of these names were referring to the same goddess: the bare-breasted fertility goddess of the Spring. And guess what the Anglicization of the Babylonian name “Ishtar” is? You guessed it---Easter.