Apr 28, 2015

The power and symbolism of the Red Egg, and Paschal origins and mysteries

     As I am writing this the Easter, according to Orthodox Christian denominations that follow the Julian calendar ( old ) approaches. In fact,  the Easter is tomorrow ( 12th April 2015th ). 

     So I decided to write a little something about the tradition of dying/coloring  eggs, in Christian tradition, and hopefully to help dispel that silly, urban myth;  how it’s a Pagan tradition. Not because I have anything against Pagans, for the record; I have Pagan friends, but because I loathe the New- Age trend of watering down the tradition, and mixing up and confusing facts. On top of all New Agers and Neo-pagans then proceed to insist how it’s The (!!!) Truth, when in fact is just their own misinterpretation. In a very belligerent, and I must add spamming fashion, parroting their nonsense ad nauseum, in hope that a thousand times repeated lie will become just like the truth.
     One of the bluntest examples is related to the tradition of egg dying around Easter. Claiming that it’s related to old Germanic deity Eostre, or Ostara and Spring Equinox, they are in fact trying to appropriate, and claim authorship over such archetypical symbols such as spring, egg, rebirth, red color etc. It’s beyond reductive, absurd, and unfounded.

     Egg symbolism, and dying eggs traditions

     First off, egg is not a Pagan symbol, because as a symbol, it predates any organized religion. Monotheistic and polytheistic. Dyed eggs have been found in prehistorical graves, alluding most likely to early perception even among the prehistoric human, of egg, as a symbol of life, and vitality.
     The unearthed shells were often dyed with either red ochre, or blood, in the territory of what it’s now modern Ukraine, for example. [1]
     Eggs have reportedly been decorated ( usually Ostrich eggs  ) in Africa since the dawn of human, there.
     Egyptians have been dying eggs, mostly for use in their funerary rites, as early as 5000 years BC.
     Zoroastrian religious people have dyed eggs, on their New Year, Nowruz, which falls around Spring Equinox [2]  . Another practice of egg dying that predates Eostre cult. In fact, it’s noteworthy to mention that the first written records about Eostre, date back to the eight century AC ( Bede ) [3] while the Christians have been celebrating the Easter as early as from the 2nd century AC. Hence, all the, extremely spurious symbolism and egg myths associated with Eostre, at least in written records form, came much later.
     To sum up, symbolism of the egg is universal, so the egg is no more pagan in origin than the wheel or fire.
     Egg is a universal symbol of creation, sometimes the thing from which the life emerged; vegetative, Divine, or chthonic. Worldwide, it’s a symbol of affection, happiness, opulence, health, birth and resurrection.  It’s also associated with the springtime. In the Hebrew tradition, it’s a symbol of promise. [4]
     Finally, it’s also a symbol of Cosmic Egg, or Brahamanda ( in Vedic mythology ) and Orphis egg ( in Greek mythology ), from which, respectively, the very universe hatched and expanded, or the primordial, hermaphroditic  deity had.
     Ovoid shape, the egg shape, is a traditional shape used in occultism and talismanic to represent Akasha, the Ether, or the fifth element which is the Spirit. [5]
The Term misconception

     The only thing that, albeit very loosely, correlates celebration of Christian Easter with Eostre is the name.  And that’s only the case in Anglo-Saxon and Germanic counties and diaspora (!!). In fact, Christians will often use the term “Pascha” instead, or “Feast of the Resurrection of the Lord”.
     However to the many English speakers, Easter is a mundane word, with no connotation to Pagan’s month name, or fertility festivities;
Some Orthodox Christians discourage the use of the word Easter, believing that the term has roots in pagan rites of the spring equinox and overtones of fertility. Most English speakers are unaware of the etymological origins of Easter, however, and use it without any sense of pagan connotations, and so Easter is also used by many Orthodox English speakers.
The origin of the term Easter comes from the Germanic name for the month in which the Christian feast usually fell, and so, just as the American civic holiday of the Fourth of July has nothing to do with Julius Caesar for whom July was named, neither does Easter have anything to do with the pagan goddess Eostre, the namesake of the month in which Pascha fell. “ [6]

     Christian symbolism of the Egg
     For the Christians, egg has additional symbolism, aside the universal attributes. It symbolizes and empty tomb, or the tomb of Lord Jesus, whereby the hard, shell exterior symbolizes the stone which was used to cover the entrance to the Christ’s gravesite. Breaking the eggs on Pascha symbolically represents breaking off the stone on Christ’s grave, and just as the little chicken hatches from the egg, so does a new life, Christ rises from grave, defeating thus death. Hence to the Christians, egg is not merely some fertility symbol, nor is associated with the rabbits, those are things of popular culture, and commercialism.
    Traditionally Christians would abstain from eating meat (least the fish on certain days), eggs, milk, or any animal byproducts during the Lent period ( 40 days prior to Pascha ), and the eggs were thus something that was tabooed during the period, in order   to stress out the Divine symbolism embodied in them. This is still a living tradition among Eastern Orthodox Christians, as well as some Eastern Catholic Christians. [7] Hence, the first thing the pious taste, after the communion that is, on the Pascha is an hardboiled egg. Not the chocolate one lol.  
     Christians have been dying eggs in Europe from the XII century, and in Slavic countries ever since the XVI century, which was done to commemorate the miraculous and joyful resurrection of our Lord Christ, who thus saved human souls from perdition, and ensured them eternal life. This is why, the eggs are traditionally dyed in red color, even though in modern times, eggs are being dyed all sort of colors or even decorated with intricate, and meticulously created art, such as is the case of Ukrainian “pysanky” or “pisanki”.
     The oldest technique for this complex method of art decorations    is so called “batik” technique where the special tool, having a quill top pen attached to it, was used to    dispense the melted beeswax over the eggshell, creating decorative, and symbolic patterns, ranging from phytmorphic, over eternity knots to Christian symbolism and inscriptions, such as the Paschal Christian greeting: “God has risen!!!” [8]
    But the red dyed eggs still remain the most favorable, and most traditional kind for Christians. The red color on them symbolizes Blood shed by Lord Christ, life, resurrection, and vitality, also rebirth and health. The first egg dyed red, during particular Paschal season, usually whole red, or decorated with a Cross, or words “God has risen!”  is set aside and kept in home during  the  whole ( following ) year, as a powerful talisman to protect the house from lighting, thieves, misfortune, sickness and epidemics and evil spirits and spells. In Serbia and Montenegro, such eggs is referred to as “Cuvarkuca” (lit. House-guardian), and is kept in some special place in home, often on display, to protect it. After a year has passed, it’s either buried in the ground, or tossed into a running water, and then replaced by a new one. [9]     
     Eggs dyed red are also associated with the miraculous event associated with Mary Magdalene that took place when the Christ resurrected according to Christian legend. The Legend comes in a few variations, in one of them Mary Magdalene came to the tomb of Christ on the third day   after the Crucifixion, only to find and empty tomb. Upon seeing the risen Christ, the eggs she was carrying in basket turned red.
    “A different, but not necessarily conflicting legend concerns Mary Magdalene's efforts to spread the Gospel. According to this tradition, after the Ascension of Jesus, Mary went to the Emperor of Rome and greeted him with "Christ has risen," whereupon he pointed to an egg on his table and stated, "Christ has no more risen than that egg is red."
After making this statement it is said the egg immediately turned blood red” [10]
    In a third legend Mary Magdalene  encounters some Roman soldiers, and greets them with “Christ has risen!” to which they mockingly replay that Christ is risen as much as eggs are red, which results in rain of red eggs falling down on them, striking them with awe and terror, in front of the revelation.

     The power of the red egg, folklore and beliefs among the Christian folk

     Following are some beliefs associated with the Paschal dyed egges, particularly red ones, prevalent among the pious Christian folk

·         The First egg boiled and dyed red for Pascha is set aside to guard home from thunder, thieves,  evil spirits, spells, and misery and illness  ( Serbia and Montenegro, Peninsula ) Several “pisanki” are   saved for the same purpose in Ukraine and Russia
·         The same egg is dipped inside a vessel with water and freshly plucked flowers, blossom and Rosemary twigs, on Palm Sunday, overnight. The next day, the household members, and children wash their face with this water to ensure health, beauty and longevity.
·         Among the Czech and Slovak people, young men hit young women ( lightly ) with birch or willow twigs, and sprinkle them with water, and in return the girls give them red dyed eggs. This is said to confer to the girls beauty and good   health.
·         In Germany and England people dance around hard boiled, dyed eggs on Easter, taking care not to break them. This is sometimes referred to as Egg-dance, or hop-dance in England.
·         Pysanky or pisanki, with spiral motifs can be used to trap demons. A blessed Pysanky can be used to find demons hiding in dark corners of someone’s house ( Ukraine )
·         Cloth that was used ( or a napkin ) first dyed egg on Pascha ( in Balkans ), or the “Cuvarkuca” ( in Serbia and Montenegro ), or  the first “pysanky” in Ukraine, was believed to retain healing powers for the  time of year, and was used in healing rituals.
Benediction of the eggs
     The Paschal, or the Easter eggs, are traditionally blessed by Christian priest, in Eastern Orthodox Christianity, and are then exchanged among the pious, and given as alms to the poor, believing to bring blessings and health when eaten.
     In Serbia and Montenegro, an old European custom survives, and  lives even nowadays, and consists of egg  knocking contest, where the two parties knock eggs, which will result in one being broken and other remaining whole. The owner of the “whole” egg is considered a winner, and also gets the other party’s broken   egg, as a  reward, and moves on  onto the next opponent, doing so as long as his egg remains whole.
     In any case, eggs, most often chicken, boiled and blessed on Pasha, or the  Feast of the resurrection of the Lord are held in belief as powerful blessing and healing tool, as long as You don’t eat too much that is J That would merely give one   a stomachache  and possibly constipation J
    Here is an old prayer, fro the Latin Rite Romanum, used to benedict the  Easter eggs:

Lord, let the grace of your blessing + come upon these eggs, that they be healthful food for your faithful who eat them in thanksgiving for the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you forever and ever! “ [11]

NOTES: This article was written/created by myself, so If You wish to use any part of it  elsewhere online, feel free but  add credits: Shadow of Shadows magick place , Shadow-333@hotmail.com or a direct link to this post

[1] more about Ukranian tradition of dying and decorating eggs ; http://www.encyclopediaofukraine.com/display.asp?linkpath=pages%5CE%5CA%5CEasteregg.htm
[4] According to “Illustrated Encyclopedia of signs and symbols” by Marc O’ Connell and Raje Airey
[5] As stated in: “How to make and use talismans”   by Israel Regardie
[6] Quoted from: http://orthodoxwiki.org/Pascha  ,  used here for educational and explanatory purposes without any ill  will
[9] According to  Dr. Vesna Marjanovic, from the Ethnographic museum of Belgrade; more here:  http://www.blic.rs/Vesti/Dodatak/183594/Jaje-je-simbol-zivota translated and paraphrased here by myself, for educational ,  explanatory and discussion  purposes, without any ill will
[10] Retrieved from:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Easter_egg , used here for educational and explanatory    purposes without    any ill will
[11] Retrieved from   same source   listed under [10]  , for educational and illustrative purposes, posted here without any ill will

IMAGE CREDITS: Image used was taken, and edited by myself


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