Friday, April 24, 2015

Supernatural Friday: The Raven Said, "What the Nevermore?"

In honor of Ravencon that I will be at later today and rest of the weekend, I will blog about myths and legends of the raven.

Because of its black plumage, croaking call, and diet of carrion, ravens has long been considered birds of ill omen and of interest to creators of myths and legends.

The raven is the national bird of Bhutan, and it adorns the royal hat, representing the deity Gonpo Jarodonchen (Mahakala with a Raven's head; one of the important guardian deities of Bhutanese culture.).  As a carrion bird, ravens became associated with the dead and with lost souls. In Sweden they are known as the ghosts of murdered persons.
In Irish mythology ravens are associated with warfare and the battleground in the figures of Badb and Morrígan. The goddess An Morrígan alighted on the hero Cú Chulainn's shoulder in the form of a raven after his death. 

Ravens were also associated with the Welsh god Bran the Blessed (the brother of Branwen), whose name translates to "raven." According to the Mabinogion, Bran's head was buried in the White Hill of London as a talisman against invasion. The name of the god, Lugh, is also derived from a Celtic word for "raven." He is the god of the sun, and the creator of the arts and sciences.  He is depicted as giant and the King of the Britons in tale known as the Second Branch of the Mabinogi. Several other characters in Welsh mythology share his name, and ravens figure prominently in the 12th or 13th century text The Dream of Rhonabwy, as the army of King Arthur's knight Owain.

According to legend, the Kingdom of England will fall if the ravens of the Tower of London are removed. It had been thought that there have been at least six ravens in residence at the tower for centuries. It was said that Charles II ordered their removal following complaints from John Flamsteed, the Royal Astronomer. However, they were not removed because Charles was then told of the legend. Charles, following the time of the English Civil War, superstition or not, was not prepared to take the chance, and instead had the observatory moved to Greenwich.

The earliest known reference to a Tower raven is a picture in the newspaper The Pictorial World in 1883.[  This and scattered subsequent references, both literary and visual, which appear in the late nineteenth to early twentieth century, place them near the monument commemorating those beheaded at the tower, popularly known as the “scaffold.” This strongly suggests that the ravens, which are notorious for gathering at gallows, were originally used to dramatize tales of imprisonment and execution at the tower told to tourists by the Yeomen Warders. There is evidence that the original ravens were donated to the tower by the Earls of Dunraven perhaps because of their association with the Celtic raven-god Bran. However wild ravens, which were once abundant in London and often seen around meat markets (such as nearby Eastcheap) feasting for scraps, could have roosted at the Tower in earlier times. 

During the Second World War, most of the Tower's ravens perished through shock during bombing raids, leaving only a mated pair named "Mabel" and "Grip." Shortly before the Tower reopened to the public, Mabel flew away, leaving Grip despondent. A couple of weeks later, Grip also flew away, probably in search of his mate. The incident was reported in several newspapers, and some of the stories contained the first references in print to the legend that the British Empire would fall if the ravens left the tower. Since the Empire was dismantled shortly afterward, those who are superstitious might interpret events as a confirmation of the legend. Before the tower reopened to the public on 1 January 1946, care was taken to ensure that a new set of ravens was in place.
To the Germanic peoples, Odin was often associated with ravens. Examples include depictions of figures often identified as Odin appear flanked with two birds on a 6th century bracteate and on a 7th century helmet plate from Vendel, Sweden. In later Norse mythology, Odin is depicted as having two ravens Huginn and Muninn serving as his eyes and ears – Huginn being referred to as thought and Muninn as memory. Each day the ravens fly out from Hliðskjálf and bring Odin news from Midgard.

The Old English word for a raven was hræfn; in Old Norse it was hrafn; the word was frequently used in combinations as a kenning for bloodshed and battle.
The raven also has a prominent role in the mythologies of the Indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast, including the Tsimishian, Haida, Heiltsuk, Tlingit, Kwakwaka'wakw, Coast Salish, Koyukons, and Inuit. The raven in these indigenous peoples' mythology is the Creator of the world, but it is also considered a trickster god.[ For instance, in Tlingit culture, there are two different raven characters which can be identified, although they are not always clearly differentiated. One is the creator raven, responsible for bringing the world into being and who is sometimes considered to be the individual who brought light to the darkness. The other is the childish raven, always selfish, sly, conniving, and hungry. When the Great Spirit created all things he kept them separate and stored in cedar boxes. The Great Spirit gifted these boxes to the animals who existed before humans. When the animals opened the boxes all the things that comprise the world came into being. The boxes held such things as mountains, fire, water, wind and seeds for all the plants. One such box, which was given to Seagull, contained all the light of the world. Seagull coveted his box and refused to open it, clutching it under his wing. All the people asked Raven to persuade Seagull to open it and release the light. Despite begging, demanding, flattering and trying to trick him into opening the box, Seagull still refused. Finally Raven became angry and frustrated, and stuck a thorn in Seagull's foot. Raven pushed the thorn in deeper until the pain caused Seagull to drop the box. Then out of the box came the sun, moon and stars that brought light to the world and allowed the first day to begin.

In the Talmud, the raven is described as having been only one of three beings on Noah's Ark that copulated during the flood and so was punished. The Rabbis believed that the male raven was forced to ejaculate his seed into the female raven's mouth as a means of reproduction. Interestingly according to the Icelandic Landnámabók – a story similar to Noah and the Ark, Hrafna-Flóki Vilgerðarson used ravens to guide his ship from the Faroe Islands to Iceland.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Supernatural Friday: Snow Angel (Original Fantasy Story) by Pamela K. Kinney

(Enjoy my short fantasy story, "Snow Angel." It is copyrighted, so just share the link if you want others to read it.)

Snow Angel
          Pamela K. Kinney

I remember that winter night when I saw the snow angel. It had just started to snow after supper, about six o’clock. Thanks to the weather, when the sky would have been just turning dusk, instead darkness covered the scene like a shadow.
Pressing my face against the ice-cold glass of the large picture window in the living room, I watched the snow falling in the dark. It was illuminated by an eerie kind of ghost-light. At least that’s how I thought of it.
Silence. The only movement came from a lone cat struggling through the drifts to disappear down a storm drain across the street. 
I sensed rather than heard someone behind me. I blew out my breath, fogging the glass.
“Mom, it’s time for bed.”
My daughter, Marie. Of course, who else would it be, since I lived with her and her husband, Andy?
I looked over my shoulder at her. “This feels like a reversal of when you wanted to stay up later. Remember those days?”
She sighed. “I’m sorry, Mom, but the doctor gave me strict instructions that you get enough rest.”
Grumbling, I moved away and headed down the hallway to my bedroom, Marie close on my heels. Not caring, I shrugged off my clothes and flung them to the floor. Marie flashed frustration on her face, but stooped and picked up the clothing, tossing it in a hamper nearby, snatching my nightgown and slipping it on. I ducked beneath the soft pink blanket on my bed. My daughter leaned over to give me a kiss on my cheek. Feather-soft, her lips tickled my skin.  
“’Night,” she said, her voice a whisper, “and dream of snow angels dancing in the snow.”
“That’s silly,” I said. “I only told you that story when you were a kid to get you to sleep during the night. It was my way of getting you to not worry about monsters in closets or under your bed.”
“There are all kinds of angels in Heaven, Mom. The snow angel is God’s own special answer to make sure that snow falls just right so that children will have a wonderful winter world to marvel at.” She stroked my hair. “Least that’s how you explained it to me. Now go to sleep.” 
She left me alone. I didn’t feel somnolent.  Instead I never felt so wide awake.
I slipped out of bed and sat on the window seat by my bedroom window. I peered through the glass and tried not to smog it up with my breath, hoping the snowflakes were still lit up with that odd glow. Thank goodness, they still were.
Just then, I noticed a dark shadow moving in the distance, outlined by the glow, too. Flickering off and on like a shorted bulb, it appeared to be gliding closer and closer to the house. I rubbed my eyes, thinking they were playing tricks on me. But when I took my hands away, something peered back at me from the other side of the window, and it was not my own reflection! 
Heart pounding, I toppled off the window seat. Its head—at least I assumed that was its head—popped through the glass as if it were water and looked down at me. Twin orbs of icy-blue glowed from that dark visage. The glow grew brighter and brighter. Unable to move or speak, I fell into that glow and a sense of peace and warmth filled me. I stood. 
“Who are you?” I whispered.
Silence.  It slid its head back through the window. I got the feeling that it wanted me to join it outside. Not even stopping for a robe or shoes, I unlatched my window and shoved it and the screen up. Frigid air invited itself in and I shivered, but I still climbed out. I dropped down into a soft drift of snow piled beneath my window. To my surprise, I didn’t feel the cold snow squished between my toes and the freezing wind of the blizzard biting into my exposed skin. A warmth filled me, and, feeling giddy, I danced through the snow, laughing. 
My visitor took my hands, and I stopped dancing and looked up at it. It loomed over me, the ghost-light revealing a long figure of ice and snow. Its wings, made not of feathers but icicles, chimed like church bells. The being was glorious and terrifying at the same time. I wasn’t frightened. 
“You’re a snow angel, aren’t you?” I asked breathlessly. “A real snow angel.”
It just pressed me against it. Together, arm in arm, we danced a waltz through the snowflakes. We seemed to be floating on air. Magical, like Christmas morning or that first kiss. 
There was nothing to fear, and, when the angel offered, I let it fly me up, up, through swirling snowflakes, high above the neighborhood.
At first I never gave a thought to my family. But when I heard the screaming and crying from far away, it drew me back. I peeked at the scene below. Morning had dawned and the snow stopped. Something small and indistinct dressed in a pink nightgown lay blanketed by snow right under my bedroom window. 
The window was still propped open. Marie dropped to her knees in the snow and snatched up that still form, screaming and crying. Andy stood over her, talking on his cell phone. 
Marie stared up at the sky. She acted like she couldn’t see me. But I saw her tear-stained face and the pain in her eyes. “Why, God, why?”
I wanted to go to her, but I felt a touch on my shoulder and I looked to see the snow angel hovering beside me. It held out a hand. I took it.
I looked back at Marie and said, “It’s all right, everything’s all right.”
Ready now
I nodded with a smile. We rose higher and higher and passed through a tear in the sky that appeared.  The tear closed behind us and I passed through shining gates, entering the snowy fields of Heaven.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Supernatural Friday: Please Stop for Sasquatch

Sasquatch, or Bigfoot, as humankind likes to call them, has been seen for a long time in the United States. Even more so, versions have been seen in other parts of the world. What are people encountering? Is it real? Or folklore? So famous has this cryptid become, that there has even been TV reality shows about it. Some like "Ghost Hunters," where men go after them--like "Mountain Monsters" on Destination Channel.  There is an organization, Bigfoot Field  Researchers Organization, founded in 1995, that makes claims to being the only scientific research organization that explores the Bigfoot/Sasquatch mystery. You can even do a Sasquatch Festival next month in Washington.
Sasquatch stories go back centuries. Tales of mythical giant apes lurk in the oral traditions of most Native American tribes, as well as in Europe and Asia. The Himalaya has its Abominable Snowman, or the Yeti. In Australia, Bigfoot is known as the Yowie Man. Bigfoot advocates hypothesize that the primate is the offspring of an ape from Asia that wandered to North America during the Ice Age. They believe there are at least 2,000 ape men walking upright in North America's woods today.

Bigfoot is sometimes described as a large, hairy bipedal hominid, and many believe that this animal, or its close relatives, may be found around the world under different regional names, such as the Yeti of Tibet and Nepal and the Yowie of Australia. Stories of wildmen are found on every continent except Antarctica. Ecologist Robert Michael Pyle argues that most cultures have human-like giants in their folk history.
Bigfoot is commonly reported to have a strong, unpleasant smell by those who claim to have encountered it, and covered in dark brown or dark reddish hair. Alleged witnesses have described large eyes, a pronounced brow ridge, and a large, low-set forehead; the top of the head has been described as rounded and crested, similar to the  crest of the male gorilla. The enormous footprints for which it is named have been as large as 24 inches (60 cm) long and 8 inches (20 cm) wide. Scientists discount the existence of Bigfoot and consider it to be a combination of folklore, misidentification, and hoax, rather than a living animal, in part because of the large numbers thought necessary to maintain a breeding population. A few scientists—such as Jane Goodall, and Jeffrey Meldrum—have expressed interest and belief in the creature, with Meldrum expressing that evidence collected of alleged Bigfoot encounters warrants further evaluation and testing.
Yowie, also known as Yoser, Tjangara, Yay-ho, Koyoreowen (southern Australia), Jimbra, Jingera, Turramulli, and Lo-an (western Australia). Yet another cousin of the Bigfoot, this time from down under. Reports of a Sasquatch like creature are also numerous throughout Australia, ever since European settlers first entered the continent. Before the coming of the settlers, Yowie sightings were made by the Aborigines and remembered in their folklore. 

An earlier name for the creature was 'Yahoo', which according to some accounts was an aborigine term meaning "devil", "devil-devil" or "evil spirit." More likely, the indirect basis for the name was Jonathan Swift, whose Gulliver's Travels book (1726) includes a subhuman race named the Yahoos. Learning of the aborigines' fearful accounts of this malevolent beast, nineteenth-century European settlers in all probability applied the name Yahoo to the Australian creature themselves. The term "Yowie" stared to be used in the 1970's, apparently because of the aborigine word 'Youree', or 'Yowrie', apparently the legitimate native term for the hairy man-monster. One can easily assume the Australian accent could distort "Youree" into "Yowie." 

Sightings of the Yowie take place mostly in the south and central Coastal regions of New South Wales and Queensland's Gold Coast. In fact, according to local naturalist Rex Gilroy, the Blue Mountain area west of Sydney is home to more than 3,200 historical sightings of such creatures. In December 1979, a local couple (Leo and Patricia George) ventured into the region for a quiet picnic. Suddenly, they came across the carcass of a mutilated kangaroo; moreover, said the couple, the apparent perpetrator was only forty feet away. They described a creature at least ten feet tall, and covered with hair, that stopped to stare back at them before finally disappearing into the brush. 

Or Mapinguari. Also known as Isnashi. Brazil's Bigfoot, described as a tall black-furred hominid usually seen in the jungles along the 'Rio Araguaia', a large river in Brazil's state of Mato Grosso do Sul. 

Ape-like creatures have been reported in many areas of Brazil for over two hundred years, but it seems that this central area of this immense and diversified country is the 'hotspot' for them. 

In March and April of 1937 one of these creatures supposedly went on a three week rampage at Barra das Garas, a small farming town 300 miles southeast of the city of Curitiba, capital of the central state of Mato Grosso do Sul. A large number of heads of cattle were slaughtered by somebody or something with super-human strength, enough to torn out their huge tongues. Reports included unconfirmed sightings, humanoid-like tracks as long as 18 inches, and horrible roaring from the woods. All together, over one hundred heads of yellow cattle of old Spanish origin were killed, all the way to Ponta Branca, located 150 miles south of Barra das Garas. This Mapinguary rampage made the major newspapers. 

Other reports from South America describe the Mapinguari as a large foul smelling nocturnal animal, covered in red hair and with a frightful screaming cry. This other version of the legendary creature is supposedly a strict vegetarian, with feet that are turned backwards and claws capable of ripping apart the palm trees it feeds on. Other local names for this type include 'capŽ-lobo' (wolf's cape), 'm‹o de pil‹o' (pestle hand), and 'pŽ de garrafa' (bottle foot). 

According to old Indian, 'seringueiro' (rubber tree worker) and 'caboclo' (local mixed race people) legends, the Mapinguary was a man whose hubris led him to seek immortality and who is now relegated to wandering the forest forever as a stinking, shaggy, one-eyed beast. Fifteen feet tall and with hair so thick it makes it invulnerable to bullets, swords, knifes, arrows and spears, the creature loves tobacco and twists off the upper skulls of its human victims so as to suck up their gray matter. But its most freaky feature is its 'extra mouth' in the middle of its belly! When it feels threatened, it lets out a truly vile stench like commingled garlic, excrement, and rotting meat from this second mouth, which, the Indians say, is strong enough to suffocate any attacker. Because of this despicable odor, the creatures are often followed by clouds of flies, and the strongest warriors are forced to flee from the smell of the monster alone; others find themselves dazed and sick for days after an encounter. 

Because of such reports, legends and descriptions, a small number of naturalists believe that these are surviving specimens of the giant ground sloth, Mylodons, generally assumed to have died out around ten thousand years ago. They were red-haired vegetarians that emerged about 30 million years ago and roamed the Americas, the Caribbean, and Antarctica. With large claws that curled under and faced backward when they walked on all fours, these giant marsupials could also stand on their hind feet like people. Some species had dermal ossicles, bony plates that made their skin very tough. 

South America's Bigfoot -- Ape-like creatures have been reported in many areas of South America, and they go by many different names, depending on the region. Some of these names are: Aluxes, Goazis and Guayazis (dwarf-like man-faced animals). Aigypans and Vasitris (evil man-like beasts).  Matuyus and Curupiras (wild men with their feet pointing backwards, which supposedly help the wild animals and are defenders of nature and ecology).  Curinqueans (giants measuring twelve feet tall).  Di-di or Didi, Mono Grande and the Mapinguary (Sasquatch-like creatures). 

Since the arrival of the Portuguese and Spanish in South America, a steady stream of reports about bestial and dangerous sub-humans have filtered out of the hinterland. None is more compelling than the one made by Colonel P. H. Fawcett, made world famous by his dramatic and still unexplained disappearance with his eldest son in this area. The Colonel's diaries were preserved up to his last fatal expedition, and published by his son, Brian Fawcett, under the title 'Lost Trails, Lost Cities'. In it, the Colonel describes an encounter in 1914 with a group of enormous hairy savages that, although looked very primitive, were carrying bows and arrows. Apparently these wild men could not speak, but just grunt, and upon arriving their village, the Colonel and his group were on the verge of being attacked, barely avoiding capture or death by firing their guns into the ground at the apemen's feet, who then fled in terror.

Yeti, the Tibetan name for the Abominable Snowman, is a human-like monster whose tracks have been discovered in the frigid lands of perpetual snow in the Himalayan regions of India, Nepal, and Tibet. According to locals, this creature is but one of several unidentified creatures that inhabit the highlands of southern Asia. Several sightings, mainly of footprints, have been reported by westerner explorers throughout the years. In 1998, the latest sighting had American climber Craig Calonica, while on Mount Everest, claimed to have seen a pair of yetis while coming down the mountain on its Chinese side. Both had thick, shiny black fur, he said, and walked upright. Another Himalayan name for Yeti is Meh-Teh ("man-beast"), a type of Yeti supposedly proportioned more like a hairy heavy set man (but it leaves a most inhuman type of footprint), and the Dzu-Teh like a gigantic ape-man. Another type of Yeti (pygmy size) is called Teh-lma. 

The Meh-Teh is allegedly a very bestial and shy type of hairy hominid, with a animal-like behavior and thick reddish-brown to black fur, a conical head, stout neck, wide mouth with no lips, and long arms which reach almost to its knees, supposedly inhabiting the Tibetan upper plateau forests. Its five-toed feet are short and very broad, with a second toe longer than the big toe.

The Yeren is an alleged mysterious creature, half-human, half-ape, that supposedly lives in the remote forests of central and southern China. It is also known as Yeren and Xueren (also the name of like creatures in the Philippines)
The creature is said to stand an average of six and a half feet tall and to be covered in thick brown or red hair. It is bi-pedal and has a hefty abdominal region as well as an ape-like muzzle, large ears and eyes like that of a human, leaving behind large footprints, up to sixteen inches long, with five toes, four small toes held close together and a larger toe that points outward slightly. 

According to Chinese folklore, the creature eats people. Coming across a human, it grips his or her arms tightly, making escape impossible. It is apparently so overjoyed by trapping its prey that it faints with mirth - but without losing its hold. When it returns to its senses, it kills and eats its victim. Thus travelers in the mountains were advised to wear a pair of hollow bamboo cylinders on their arms. If a Wildman caught them, they could then, while the creature was in swoon, slip their arms out of the cylinders and escape. Reports of the creature go back to as far as 2000 years.

Other bigfoot-like beings reported or stories are told about are Almas of the Caucasus Mountains, in the republic of Kazakhstan, central Asia, Chuchunaa of Siberia, and Higabon of Japan, reported in the Japanese islands, specially in the Hibayama mountains in Hiroshima. There’s also the Nguoirung is also known as the Vietnamese Wildman, or "Forest People,” Orang-Pendek (Little Man) and Orang Letjo (Gibbering Man) of Sumatra.

This creature is supposedly seen only in the State of Washington in the United States, maybe even Oregon, Northern California, and other parts of the Far West. But that is wrong, for there have been sightings of Big Foot for more than four hundred years in many other states too, especially in Virginia. The sightings in Virginia would be the oldest sightings, some that date back to before the 1800s. The Department of Forestry’s website says there are 15.8 million acres of forest in the state. 
Similar to Asia’s Abominable Snowman, the history of Bigfoot reaches far back into America’s past with the Indian people. In the Northwest and west of the Rockies, Bigfoot is seen as a special being, all due to close relationship with humankind. Indian tribe elders see him as a border between animal-style consciousness and human-style consciousness, one that gives him special powers. In Indian culture, animals are not looked upon as inferior to humans. Instead, they are regarded as elder brothers and teachers of humans. Interestingly enough, the Northwestern tribes never considered the Sasquatch as other than a physical being. But to other tribes in the U.S., Bigfoot is perceived more as a supernatural or spirit individual. An appearance to humans is meant to convey some sort of message.
The Sioux called Bigfoot Chiye-tanka. Turtle Mountain Ojibwe call the Sasquatch Rugaru, close to the French word, loup-garou, which means werewolf.  They also associate Bigfoot with Windago, the cannibal-giant of their legends.  The Hopi see Bigfoot as a messenger who appears in times of evil. Among the Iroquois, mentioned much more often than Bigfoot are the “little people”—both are regarded as spiritual or interdimensional. These are the Pukwudgies. They believe that these beings can enter or leave our physical dimension whenever they wish to.  Strange that these little people myths are all over the world, like the little people known as fairies in Europe, for example.
Sightings of the Sasquatch have been reported to this day, even by credible people. To many, these facts suggest maybe the presence of an animal, probably a primate that exists today in very low population densities. Bi-pedal, unlike an ape, it walks with long strides and has a cone shape for top of the head. If so, it has became very adept at avoiding human contact through a process of natural selection.

Iroquoian peoples called them stone giants. The story goes that these giants overran the country, fought a great battle, and held the people in subjection for a long time. Ravenous, they devoured the people of almost every town in the country. At the Mississippi they had separated from all others and headed northwest." The family was left to seek its habitation, and the rules of humanity were forgotten, and afterwards even ate raw flesh of the animals. They practiced rolling themselves on the sand. Doing so to insured their bodies were covered with hard skin; so they could become giants and dreadful invaders of the country.
Onondagas tell a different story. A Stone Giant lived near Cardiff, south of their reservation. Once like other men, he turned into a cannibal and grew larger. His skin became hard like scales, flesh no arrow could pierce. Every day he came through the valley, caught and devoured an Onondaga. The people formed a plan. They created a road in the marsh with a covered pitfall. They lured the giant through the path and he fell into the pit, killed. This, the earlier story, and another stone giant tale by the Onondagas sounded not unlike the Wendigo legends told by the Cree Indians. 

Whatever these creatures, missing link or a species of ape, they fascinate us. Remember, animals have been and are still being found we have no knowledge of, except as legends. One of these was the mountain gorilla. Maybe we shouldn't capture one, for how long will these legends remain hidden from mankind? Sometimes, legends and myths should remain just that: stories for our imagination and wonder. 

Friday, April 03, 2015

Supernatural Friday: Eggs, Eggs, My Easter Basket for Some Dyed Eggs

Easter has myths and legends behind it, just like any other holiday. And be honest, haven’t you ever wonder how a rabbit delivering colored eggs in a basket, along with candy, has much to do with Jesus Christ rising from the dead? Or even with the Jewish Passover, which is celebrated at this time too.


To start, we celebrated the rites of spring at this time of year, with the perfect balance of light and darkness, called the Vernal Equinox. The First Council of Nicaea (325) established the date of Easter as the first Sunday after the full moon (the Paschal Full Moon) following the March equinox.


Rituals and traditions surrounded the coming of spring centuries ago, as early peoples celebrated that their food supplies would soon be restored. The date is significant in Christianity because Easter always falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox. It is also probably no coincidence that early Egyptians built the Great Sphinx so that it points directly toward the rising Sun on the day of the vernal equinox. The first day of spring also marked the beginning of Nowruz, the Persian New Year. This celebration lasted thirteen days, rooted in the 3,000-year-old tradition of Zorastrianism. With the Greeks, there was the sacrificing of virgins and the worship of fertility gods and goddesses including Pan, Isis, Demeter, and Ceres. The goat god Pan, representing the force of life, is god of the forest and of shepherds, and was said to grant new life on earth every spring.  Also, egg dyeing can be traced back to early Greek Christians who dyed eggs red to symbolize Christ's blood. The name itself is connected with Ishtar, the Babylonian and Assyrian goddess of love and fertility, or Eostre, an Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring. However, Christian traditions might closely mimic Passover besides the pagan ones. The last supper is believed by some to be a Passover Seder. European names still use this root for what they call Easter; in Spanish it is Pasqua, French call it Paques, and the Italian name is Pasqua.

The Easter Bunny evolved from a mythic German goddess named Ostara, (Oestre / Eastre), the Germanic Goddess of Springtime. In ancient Anglo-Saxon myth, Ostara is the personification of the rising sun. In that capacity she is associated with the spring and is and is considered to be a fertility goddess. She is the friend of all children and to amuse then she changed her pet bird into a rabbit. This rabbit brought forth brightly colored eggs, which the goddess gave to the children as gifts. Ostara is identical to the Greek Eos and the Roman Aurora. Recent research suggests that the Ostara myth was potentially invented during a mischievous moment by the Venerable Bede. This well-known monk mentioned her in connection with the pagan festival Eosturmonath in a book written in 750 A.D. -- but extensive research has failed to find a trace of her prior to that. Imagine: a famous monk makes up a weird story about a goddess who never existed - who turns a bird into a rabbit that lays colored eggs -- and it morphs into a mega-watt holiday celebrated the modern world over. 


In Northwest European folklore the "Easter Bunny" indeed is a hare, not a rabbit. The Easter bunny or hare was introduced to American folklore by the German settlers who arrived in the Pennsylvania Dutch country during the 1700s. The arrival of the "Oschter Haws" was considered "childhood's greatest pleasure" next to a visit from Christ-Kindel on Christmas Eve. The children believed that if they were good the "Oschter Haws" would lay a nest of colored eggs. The children would build their nest in a secluded place in the home, the barn or the garden. Boys would use their caps and girls their bonnets to make the nests. The use of elaborate Easter baskets came later as the tradition of the Easter bunny spread throughout the country.

Bringing Easter eggs seems to have its origins in Alsace and the Upper Rhineland, both then in the Holy Roman Empire, and southwestern Germany, where the practice was first recorded in a German publication in the 1500s


The Dogwood:
Long, long ago, when Jesus walked upon the earth, the dogwood tree was tall and proud. Its trunk was as large around as an oak tree and its wood was hard and strong.Near the city of Jerusalem grew an especially lovely dogwood tree. When Jesus was to be crucified, the Roman soldiers looked at the tree and decided it would be just the right kind of wood for a cross. They cut down the tree and made a cross for Jesus.But the dogwood tree was very sad and ashamed to be put to such a terrible use. Jesus knew the tree was very unhappy and he felt sorry for it. He promised the dogwood that it would never again grow large enough to be used as a cross. And then, to give the world a reminder of the tree's history, Jesus gave it a very special blossom. This blossom would be a sign of Jesus' death. That is why the dogwood's four white petals form the shape of a cross. On the outer edge of each petal there is a dark red stain, as a
reminder that Jesus was offered on the cross for forgiveness of sins. And in the center of each bloom is a tiny crown of thorns.

Easter Lily:
In the Garden of Gethsemane, there were many beautiful flowers, but the loveliest of all was the pure white lily. The lily knew it was very beautiful, and it proudly lifted its head to show itself to anyone who happened to pass by the garden. On the night before he was crucified, Jesus came into the quiet Garden of Gethsemane to pray. As he prayed and wept there, the flowers of the garden bowed their heads in pity and sorrow too. But the proud lily would not bow its lovely white head. The next day, the lily discovered that Jesus was going to be crucified. The flower felt so miserable about how it had acted in the garden that it bowed its head in shame. To honor the Lord Jesus and to show its sorrow, the lily has grown with a down-turned blossom ever since that first Good Friday of long, long ago.

Pussy Willows:
These are picked at Easter in England and Russia. Then people would tap each other on the shoulders with a branch of the pussy willow for good luck.
And if you can’t think of any creepy story connected to Easter, there’s Black Annis. In England, she’s a blue-faced hag who lives in a cave in the Dane Hills, Leicestershire. The cave, called "Black Annis' Bower Close" was dug out of the rock with her own nails. She hides in front of it is a great oak and leaps out to catch and devour stray children and lambs. Every year on Easter Monday, it was customary to hold a drag hunt from her cave to the Mayor's house. The bait was a dead cat drenched in aniseed.

Whether you celebrate it for its Christian designation or for celebration of spring, or even color eggs and eat a chocolate bunny traditionally, Easter has its myths and legends like the other holidays--some are sweet and some are scary. It's all about enjoying the day with family and friends, and isn't that what any holiday should really be all about? 

Interesting Facts:

Back in the 19th century, families too far from town hall, took an egg and dye it, inscribing it with an infant's name and date of birth—making eggs into birth certificates. It was accepted as a legal document.
Hot cross buns and other breads marked with an X symbolizing the cross are a tradition on many Easter tables. There are many kinds of sweet breads from all over the world, like Choreg (Armenia), Paska (Ukraine), Babka (Poland), Tsoureki (Greece). There is a traditional Italian Easter Bread that has eggs baked right in (talk about hiding the Easter eggs!). The breads are risen breads which may also show a desire for Easter traditions to be different from Passover which includes unleavened breads.