I’ve long realised that the “Easter symbols” I grew up with, and encouraged both at my old Catholic school and my Anglican family, have nothing to do with Jesus or even Christianity. These are fertility symbols that have nothing to do with death and apothesis.
But where Wiccans and pagans of ancient Northern European traditions recognise these as symbols of Oestere, I posit that these are symbols of Eros.
First we have daffodils — an English hybrid of Narcissus Poeticus — the species of flora that was once the Thespian youth Narkissos, the boy who spurned Eros for his own reflection. My mother and hers always decorated our baskets with plastic or silk yellow and peach-coloured daffodils, so while this may not seem an “Easter symbol” to some, it’s one that I cannot shake.
“Firstly, black-winged Nyx laid a germless egg in the bosom of the infinite deeps of Erebos, and from this, after the revolution of long ages, sprang the graceful Eros with his glittering golden wings, swift as the whirlwinds of the tempest.” (Aristophanes, the Birds)
And so we have glittering, coloured eggs for Eros.
In ancient art, Eros and Erotes were frequently depicted with hares, and those beloved of the Gods (here, Ganymedes and Zeus) with cockerels — making it easy to discern where “bunnies” and “baby chicks” come from; after all, as the image of Eros in art became younger and younger, it’s certainly logical that these symbols of His feast will, as well.
I admit, the lamb is harder to connect, but growing up amongst Polacks, you notice their tradition of the “butter lamb” which, being made from milkfats, reminds us of the fertility of Eros and his cult in Thespiae. The Simnel cake, coated in marzipan, an almond paste, reminds us of Eros, as the force of fertility itself, which formed Attis from the cast-away “boy parts” of Kybele — and the hot cross bun, traditionally filled with currants and raisins, reminds us of Eros’ similarities to Dionysos.
Even the modern custom of “Easter chocolates” brings to mind modern “Valentine’s Day” traditions — and thus the cults of love and fertility.
And so I wish you all a merry Feast of Eros.