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Early Origins of Easter? Posted by on Apr 4, 2010 in Uncategorized

There are several theories as to when and where Easter came from. One theory claims that the origins of Easter can be traced to Magna Mater, or “Great Mother” (Greek equivalent would be Cybele). An ancient Roman festival called Hilaris that honored the Magna Mater’s lover Attis,  took place between March 15 and March 28. The festival was supposed to commemorate Attis’s death and his resurrection by Magna Mater. Hmm…resurrection…sound familiar anyone?



Pictured here is a sculpture of Attis. Attis’s birth is interesting in that his father was castrated and killed by the gods. The castrated organ was thrown away, and from it, sprung a fruit bearing tree. Nana, a daughter of a river god, ate the fruit. She became pregnant and bore a child named Attis. (Wasn’t there another guy also associated with a virgin birth? Hmmm…) Attis grew up to be a handsome man and the Great Mother fell in love with him.

When Attis saw Cybele (Magna Mater), he turned crazy and cut off his genitals (This is a really dysfunctional family!) and died soon afterward. In her grief Cybele ressurected him. This is probably why the priests of Cybele in ancient Roman times were eunuchs. There was also a rite called Taurbolium, that involved sacrificing a bull. The bull’s blood was thought to cleanse sins and create a renewing life for the participant. (Perhaps this led the way for what we call Easter?)

There were several temples dedicated to the goddess Cybele, but perhaps the most famous is the one in Palantine Hill. The story behind the temple can be traced to Publius Cornelius Scipio Nasica, an ancient Roman consul who was ordered to bring the statue of Magna Mater to Rome. After the statue was brought to Rome, the Romans won a decisive victory over Carthage. A temple was consequently built in the goddess’s honor.

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  1. Seumas:

    Well, a quick read of the sources on Attis such as here shows that any comparison with early Christian texts is a stretch, to say the least.

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