JESUS STOLE EASTER…AND THAT’S OKAY
There’s a 5,000 year old clay tablet they call the “Burney Relief” depicting a goddess figure with bird’s feet; it’s commonly cited as an image of Lilith, but Marist College Professor Joshua Mark says it might be Easter–that is to say, Ishtar, the Akkadian goddess who gave today’s egg-themed holiday its name.
Because that’s what happens to religious symbols: they change, they get lost, they become mixed up or conflated. And sometimes–very often in fact–they’re stolen outright.
Catholic League boss Bill Donohue–whose moral high ground is swiftly eroding given what his peers are up to these days–is particularly fired up about that right now, getting his rosaries all in a tangle about the Penny Lane documentary Hail Satan?, released on Good Friday.
But to the Bill Donohue types who object to someone else capitalizing on “their” holiday, I say let he who is without sin throw the first stone at his glass house.
Or something like that; it’s Easter and I’m Irish-American, you didn’t really think I was going into this sober.
Donohue, previously most famous for referring to priest rape as “corporal punishment” and making even Fox News embarrassed to hang around him, has a hair up his cassock about the film and its release date.
In a Catholic League blog (the most dispiriting combination of words since “ditchwater enema” surely) he refers to the Satanic Temple as “a ragtag group of weird looking people,” which is some flex from a man who worships origami hats.
Bill also dismissively refers to Satanists as “wizards,” which again is quite a maneuver given his sect’s fondness for robes, magical powers, and inadequate Hit Dice.
In the strangest moment of his tired tirade, Donohue exposes an entirely characteristic lack of understanding about trans issues, human bodies, women, and men, all in one stroke:
“The happy Satanists also collect menstrual products to distribute to local shelters. Not a word about what the guys get, nor, for that matter, what the trans people get.”
Um, trans men get menstrual products, Bill. Because a lot of them menstruate. We don’t have time to each you all about the birds and the Beezlebubs now, so just go to Wikipedia for your sex ed, like the kids in Catholic schools do.
One of Bill’s beefs intrigues me though: “It is not an accident that this documentary opens during Holy Week. The Christian haters have a long history of living parasitically off of Christianity.”
Now, it is a hell of a nervy move for a Catholic to complain about someone else making hay off of their religious traditions. But particularly so when it comes to “Holy Week”; as if when Easter falls has anything to do with Jesus.
Does he really expect us to believe that the old JC just happened to be born at Yuletide and then by chance conveniently died at the Spring Equinox? Come on Bill, you’re not supposed to swallow tripe on a Friday so don’t ask us to either.
“Early Christianity made a pragmatic acceptance of ancient pagan practises, most of which we enjoy today at Easter,” Heather McDougall writes in the Guardian. If you couldn’t figure that out on your own just wait three days and maybe your IQ will rise again too.
As previously mentioned, even just the name Easter stems from a pagan figure. We know Catholic types have a lot of trouble naming names, but try to keep up.
The historian Bede–a saint, by the way–clued us in back in the 8th century: “Eosturmonath was once called after a goddess named Eostre, in whose honor feasts were celebrated in that month.”
For crying out loud Bill, you even decide the date of Easter every year using the equinox AND the full moon. Tell yourself that’s not witchcraft if you want, but denial ain’t just a river annually flooded by an androgynous fertility god with a goat-hair beard.
More than 75 percent of Christianity’s holy book consists of sacred texts lifted wholesale from Judaism, from which Christian tradition sprang and then almost immediately began to antagonize.
Even the name “Satan” is a Hebrew noun, but with the earliest concepts of the devil probably springing not from Jewish but Zoroastrian thought. Bill doesn’t have a leg to stand on–or at least, none that he didn’t take from someone else first.
People like Bill Donohue are afraid to acknowledge the piecemeal history of their own religious traditions thanks to authenticity anxiety. And like all insecure people, they project their anxieties onto those they perceive as enemies.
To be honest, early Christianity’s wholesale looting is not really a surprise. I don’t want to speak lightly of how often this practice is destructive for out groups, but we cannot ignore the fact that, historically speaking, this is just the way that religions develop.
Indeed, all creative human endeavors are a process of turning old ideas into new ones. Early Christians stole Easter, Yuletide, Satan,etc. from competing faiths because that’s just the nature of traditions, in the same way that it’s a boulder’s nature to roll downhill.
Speaking of things that are rapidly going downhill, I think folks like Bill Donohue should worry less about our religion and more about his, which is having some, ah, growing pains right now.
During his grousing, Bill also claimed that Satanists “hate Catholics,” which of course is silly. What I hate is theocracy, abuse, bigotry, colonialism, sexual violence, misogyny, and pederasty.
Clean up those messes and we’ll get along fine. After all, you did give us Hot Cross Buns, so let it not be said I haven’t borrowed a tradition or two from other quarters myself now and then.