Happy Easter one an all! Happy Ostara too! Happy Spring and renewal of life in the many languages it takes.
So what does all that mean?
For many, it is but one of many holidays, days meant to join with the community in celebration and togetherness.
For others, it becomes an opportunity to announce one’s self and beliefs. People make proclamations. Those done respectfully serve to announce who they are to the world. But then there are those who abandon respect, and announce with insult, accusation, and slander.
Finally there are those who use the day for introspection and meditation. They look at the narrative of the day, and ponder the deeper meanings to be learned by the event it celebrates.
Not being one for passive acceptance, I choose the third.
The foundation for my search lies in the following assumptions:
1) Not all truths are material. Many are complex and abstract.
2) Experience can be used as a naturalistic experiment. You can test immaterial ideas by living them out.
The holiday of Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus after his Crucifixion on Good Friday. The death itself was to symbolize the final sacrifice to be offered to cleanse mankind. At the time, it was customary to sacrifice animals as a way of gaining forgiveness for sins committed, and the death of Jesus was intended to be the final required sacrifice, and afterwards, forgiveness could be gained through the simple ask of admitting the wrong and asking for forgiveness. Renewal was now handed from the control of the priests and given to the people.
The Day of Easter takes its name from the goddess Eostre, the goddess of dawn and spring who celebrations were said to take place in the April months. She is associated with bringing a joyous light upon the world, as well as with symbols of death and rebirth, such as rabbits and eggs.
But spring, fertility, renewal and rebirth are not the sole domain of these traditions. Baldur, Bacchus, Persephone, the Greenman, and countless other traditions and tales all carry the similar message of the cycle of death, rebirth and renewal. Many claim this a proof of stolen stories, but I prefer to see this as a sign of the common Humanity between the different traditions; that there is a common theme we can join around, learn, and grow together through, and that our divisions are ultimately meaningless.
But still, what does it mean?
When I think about the themes of death, and rebirth/renewal, I begin to think of the problems they answer: terror and festering stagnation. Too often, I have seen the haunt of terror paralyze and dis-empower myself and others. The threat of a physical or existential death can rob men of their power to act upon the world, causing them to retreat or submit. As a therapist, half of what I treat stems from this fear, though clinically we call it “anxiety.” The terrors great and small cause people to avoid life, submit to others, and confine themselves to personal Hells of inaction. Festering stagnation stems from a lack of hope, that there is no alternative, and no control over the forces that injure you. “This is the way things are” is the most common, and most damaging response I have heard to calls to fix problems. “This is the world, there is only one way, and you must accept it in its horribleness” demoralizes the world, likewise causing it to surrender to that which is hurting it most, because the hidden conclusion is “take this horrible world away, and we will have nothing at all.”
The meaning of Death and Rebirth/Renewal presents a cycle in which death can be faced, and rebirth and renewal can come from it. This directly attacks fear and stagnation. Fear is ultimately the fear of death, either physical or existential, and when you can face death, fear no longer holds you hostage. Rebirth and Renewal reminds you that you can create a new world should the old world fall, and that one need not accept an oppressive world just because that is how the world is.
Testing the themes of Death and Rebirth/Renewal has been a quest of mine that has spanned more than a decade. As I’ve worked with some of the most severely traumatized and injured, the feedback i have gotten was that it was the fact I did not run from their terrors that gave them the strength to stop running as well, and helped them to find the strength to heal. In my activism, I have been threatened directly and indirectly, and stood strong enough to see the beginnings of the new world I had hoped for. When people tried to dissuade my ideals as foolish, naive, and divorced from reality, I held tight, stayed the course and played a role in birthing a new reality. And still today, when the threats, fears, and doubts begin to flood in, the courage and hope that I hold onto, the meaning I’ve found in the messages of death and rebirth, keep me going even when others begin to give up.
So as you celebrate this day in the way most personal to you, I ask you to ponder the themes of Death, Rebirth, and Renewal. Look at the roles fear and the hopelessness of stagnation have played in your choice in life, and ask yourself what meanings can you now find to face the terror to overcome it, and how you can rebuild and renew the world around you. Ask yourself where you can find the courage to live more, and the hope to live in the world that is more just and fair.