Ostara, played by Kristin Chenoweth in the 2017 Amazon series American Gods.

Ostara, also known as ƒíostre, is a Germanic dawn goddess who is widely believed to be the namesake of the Easter festival. She is solely attested as ƒíostre in The Reckoning of Time by Bede in the 8th century CE, where it is stated that the month of Ēostre held festivals in her honour. Ēostre is the pagan Anglo-Saxon equivalent of the Easter celebration. These festivals were held throughout April and celebrated fertility and the renewal of life. She is always depicted as a young maiden: old enough to physically bear children but not a mother. Bede continued to say that the tradition had died out by his time, as it had been replaced by the later Christian belief that this period was the resurrection of Jesus. As this is the only example of a deity with this name, its authenticity had been called into question.

However, in his 1835 Deutsche Mythologie, Jacob Grimm cited evidence that he believed could reconstruct a forgotten Germanic goddess. Her name appeared to have been preserved in the Old German name for Easter, Ôstara. As the name Ostara is feminine, she was certainly a female deity. Grimm believed that she was particularly prominent, with her worship so deeply rooted in pagan religion that the Christians tolerated the continuation of her name and applied it to their own celebration. In this context, Ostara was again a divinity of the dawn much like Ēostre. The deity was first mentioned in the Life of Charlemagne, dating to the 9th century CE by a monk named Einhard, who gives the name Ostaramonath as the old name for April.

Her festivals of joy and blessings in this month could have easily been adapted into the Christian tradition of resurrection of Jesus. Early Easter celebrations saw maidens being clothed in white to represent the return of spring; a trait which is suggestive of an ancient pagan fertility goddess. The custom of Easter eggs‚ is reminiscent of a spring pagan games challenge, with the egg seen as a symbol of fertility of the earth and the rebirth of nature.

Ostara has most recently been seen in the 2017 Amazon series American Gods, played by Kristin Chenoweth. In this, she is named as the origin of the Easter festival and referenced as one of the oldest gods in the world.

-Devon Allen
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

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