The Ishtar = Easter Meme and Pagan Anti-Semitism

So, this is annoying me enough today that I feel I should do a post on it.

This picture has been shared around so many times on FB in the past week it’s given me whiplash:


There is an awesome breakdown of why this is bullshit over at The Belle Jar, posted last year around this time. You can also read the Snopes page about Easter.

But what I want to address in this post is anti-Semitism.

There is a lot of anti-Semitism in Neo-Pagan conspiracy theories about the Christians “stealing our holidays”, because these theories blatantly ignore the Jewish roots of a lot of Christian things.

Full disclaimer: I’m not an expert on this subject, in any way. I’ve picked up a lot from reading the posts of people much better versed in these things over at The Cauldron. That, combined with my patchy knowledge of Abrahamic religions (we spent very little time on them in religions class, which pissed me off because I took the class to learn about them), is how I know this shit.

The roots for a lot of Christian traditions and holidays rest in Jewish traditions and lore. Jesus was killed at Passover. Easter is the celebration of his resurrection. I mean, this isn’t rocket surgery to figure out here.

Yet we consistently get neo-Pagans yelling about how the Christians stole everything from the Pagans, how all these holidays were completely and totally 100% pagan before the Church tacked on some Jesus flavouring and now that’s why we have bunnies and eggs for Easter!

Guys, the church is not some Snidely Whiplash character, rubbing his hands gleefully at the thought of co-opting pagan celebrations in order to force conversion. It’s just how things work when a new religion shows up. People who convert hold onto their traditions; the converting religion says “Sure, I don’t see anything wrong with that.”

When you yell about Christians stealing pagan holidays, or when you spread that stupid Ishtar = Easter meme, you’re being anti-Semitic. You’re erasing an entire history, an entire religion, and entire culture, in your quest to be More Persecuted Than Thou. In your anti-Christian crusade.

If you have problems with Christianity or Christians, fine. Join the club; we have t-shirts and they are all in bad taste. (Personally, I have issues because of a lot of the Christians I’ve known in my life, because I’ve been religiously abused by a Christian ex, because I think there are a lot of problems in a lot of manifestations of modern Christianity and I don’t think that as an activist I have the right to say, “Well, it’s a religion, so it’s above reproach” and just let those things slide. That doesn’t mean I hate all Christians, or Christianity; I still read Christian blogs (usually feminist liberal ones) and I have Christian friends. It just means I’m wary around Christians, and I have a right to be (just as I’m wary around men, and I have a right to be).)

But having personal issues with a religion does not give you free pass to spread around misinformation that contributes to things like anti-Semitism. Having issues with Christianity doesn’t mean you get to play the More Persecuted Than Thou game with bad history and flat out lies.

Pagans already face enough actual, real fucking problems in their day to day lives. (Currently I am hiding my religion because while my landlords are pretty awesome people, they are also very overtly Christian and I’m not sure they wouldn’t evict me if they knew I was a witch. Even though the chances are they don’t care/they would be cool with it, it’s a risk I cannot afford to take, because even if it IS illegal and even if I would have the ability to sue them if they did, I would still be homeless!) We don’t need to make up a past where the ebil Christians stole our holidays (and Judaism apparently didn’t exist) in order to prove how persecuted we are, okay? The very real threat with which many of us live of losing our homes, jobs, and children is enough, thanks.

tl;dr version: it’s anti-Semitic to talk about how Christians ~*~stole~*~ holidays from pagans because it completely ignores the Jewish roots to a lot of Christian traditions and erases Jewish culture, history, religion, and people from the equation. So fucking stop.

And finally, on another note, that Ishtar = Easter meme is just fucking WRONG when it comes to Ishtar, for Christ’s sake (see what I did there). Bunnies and eggs have nothing to do with Her (I mean unless you’re an Isthar follower/devotee and your UPG says they do; I’m not saying your UPG is wrong I’m referring to the sources we have on Her), She is the goddess of fertility, sex, LOVE AND WAR but it is worth noting that like all goddesses and gods She is multi-faceted and more than the few words attributed to Her, Her symbols are the LION (totes the same as bunnehs amirite) and the eight-pointed star (that could be an egg I guess) and oh yeah, She’s not a spring goddess. While the things She is all about might be related to spring, it’s really not that hard to see that the Ishtar = Easter meme is a big steaming pile of bullshit, if you cared to take 5 seconds to check Snopes or Wikipedia or ask someone who does know, for fuck’s sake.

(I mean, there is probably a lot more to Ishtar and I’m not trying to belittle Her or cram Her into a box or anything; I’m just making the point that a brief fact check of the image against just the basics on Her Wiki page (which are all sourced) will show the image is obviously fucking wrong.)


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13 replies on “The Ishtar = Easter Meme and Pagan Anti-Semitism”

  1. Finally someone else who is willing to do a google search! I will definitely share this. I’ve been battling this meme for a while now, and I was beginning to think I was the only one with access to a search engine.

    1. I know how you feel. I felt like I was banging my head against stone walls yesterday, constantly posting the Snopes and Belle Jar articles on every re-share of the meme on Facebook. It was just a never ending tide of people unable to use the Google machine.

  2. Yes, indeed!There’s almost nothing right on that picture, and even the one “fact” is incomplete, as you pointed out.

    There were no rabbits or hares in Mesopotamia.

    As far as what parts of Christianity (or Islam for that matter) came out of Judaism: I have no dog in that hunt. I consider exclusive monotheism to be among the biggest mistakes humanity ever made. Out of the big three, it does seem that Judaism is the more open and generally sensible, apart from some elements of its ultra-Orthodox fringe. I have, however, no reason to care.

  3. I was always under the impression that the name Easter came from the Germanic goddess Eostre (the root of which is the same as estrogen) and that as old pagan practices died out they were combined or carried over to the new practices. Besides, the Christian Easter is a holiday of hope and new beginnings from the whole resurrection dealy-bob. Ostara is a more physical celebration of those same ideas. From where I’m sitting, it looks like religion just evolving to meet the needs of the people who follow it.

  4. So I don’t really get it. Christians are upset over people saying their religion stole most of their holidays from “pegans” even though it’s a fact that because of Christianity, countless “pegan” religions we’re ultimately wiped off the face of the earth. But to say we’re anti-Semitic for saying a religion used it’s “history” to convert people by saying they have similar holidays is ridiculous. I don’t hate Christians or their holidays, but to ultimately deny any twisting of historical events to make “pegans” convert (although most were forced ie: the crusades) would make your religion look as bad as us so-called anti-Semitic people

  5. So if Yeshua was sacrificed on passover, why celebrate his death and resurrection a month early?! The use of eggs and bunnies is way out of touch when Yeshua specifically told his disciples to break bread, and take wine in his remembrance. So go ahead and follow these pagan traditions, just know you do so against your father!

    1. Nah. Jesus and I had a chat. He recognizes I was never his, and we parted amicably. Your god may be your father, but he’s not mine, or Morag’s. Have a happy Easter, though!

  6. Thank you for this.

    Neo-Pagans whining about Christians “stealing” “their” culture is obnoxious, childish, and wrong.

    My ancestors were Pagans. *Real* Pagans, not “make it up as you go along” Neo-Pagans. My ancestors chose to abandon Paganism and adopt Christianity because they liked Christianity better.

    Whiny, persecution-fantasy Neo-Pagans deny my ancestors the right to their own spiritual choices.

    The solstice does not belong to Neo-Pagans. There is no TM on it. No patent. I don’t have to pay you user fees to notice that the days change length.

    Neo-Pagans need to grow up.

    And you, author, evidently have. Thank you.

    PS: if your spiritual path is valid, you don’t need to prop it up with whining about being “robbed” of things that never belonged to you to begin with.

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