A white rabbit with colored eggs in nests.
White rabbit image by Pixaline. Easter eggs by anncapictures.

Written and Narrated by Ellen Evert Hopman.

Watch video version on InnerSelf.com or on YouTube

Have you ever wondered why we have Easter eggs and bunnies? Rabbits don’t lay eggs, and yet we associate both bunnies and colorful eggs with the spring festival of rebirth and goodies in baskets. This tale will explain it all and tell you about the Goddess Eostre, for whom Easter is named.

Henrik* and Annemie* led a very unusual life. They lived with their oma, or grandmother, in a tiny, thatched cottage deep in the forest. (*Henrik’s name is pronounced [HEHN-rihk]. Annemie’s is [ANN-eh-me])

Oma didn’t care if they did their lessons or combed their hair or even if they finished their beans at dinner. She always said there were more important things in life, like knowing where the otters hid their slide into the river, and where the wild swans nested, and which herbs were good for a wound or a cough. Since they didn’t have a calendar in the house, Oma taught Henrik and Annemie to read the signs of nature so that they would know which month of the year they were in.

Moonth or Month?

“Do you know where the word month comes from?” Oma asked early one morning as they were setting out with woven wicker baskets to pick spring greens for their supper.

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“Hmmmm . . . ,” said Henrik, who liked to think long and deeply about things and thought of himself as a philosopher of the mysteries of life.

“No clue,” said Annemie, who liked to read books by candlelight. “It comes from the word Moonth,” said Oma.

“Moonth isn’t a word!” said Annemie, who was very sure she had never seen Moonth in a book.

“Well, it may not be a word in your books, but it certainly is the way Mother Nature organizes her calendar,” said Oma. “Let’s go out tonight and see what happens under the March full Moon. You might learn something!”

Oma didn’t care if they went to bed on time, either.

After a supper of soup made with the fresh greens they had just picked and slices of warm, grainy bread topped with goat’s cheese and wild violet flowers (yes, you can eat those!), they put on their warmest cloaks, hats, and mittens—the spring air was still chilly at night.

The Adventure Begins

Annemie lit a small lantern that contained a single beeswax candle, and Oma filled a thermos with hot herbal tea. Then Henrik unbolted the oaken front door to their cottage and out the door they trooped, into the misty night.

The path through the forest stretched before them, easily visible in the bright moonlight. Oma had taught them to be very quiet in the dark woods and to talk in whispers, and only when it was absolutely necessary. They were so quiet that they could hear owls conversing overhead while mice rustled in the leaves at their feet. A deer crossed the path right in front of them and didn’t even notice they were there!

Soon they came to a large open heath, where the spring grasses and heather were already thick and long. Moonlight glistened on the damp meadow. “We can sit down here,” Oma whispered.

They hunkered down and were very still. Any person or animal walking by would have thought they were just three large rocks in the middle of the field. They waited for a while, enjoying the stars and the soft spring breeze.

Suddenly there was a flurry of movement at the far end of the field.

And it—whatever it was—was coming closer!

“What could that be?” wondered Henrik in a loud whisper. He was scared he might have to defend his grandmother and sister from a bear or a wolf. Annemie slid closer to Oma so they would look like a bigger lump to whatever was coming toward them.

A Tangle of Hares

The grass seemed to part and the thing—whatever it was—was right in front of them. It was a crazy moving tangle of hares! Suddenly hares were everywhere, jumping and chasing and boxing each other. The ones that weren’t doing that were just sitting and gazing, looking up at the full Moon.

“See how the hares are dancing?” said Oma. “Some say that witches shape-shift into hares under the full Moon during the Spring Equinox.”

“That’s when day and night are equal in length and the Sun rises exactly in the east and sets exactly in the west,” added Henrik, in a professorial tone of voice.

“I know that,” said Annemie, who had already read about it in a book. “Look closely at the hares and see if you can find one that is white and larger than the rest,” Oma whispered.

Henrik and Annemie squinted and stared until finally they did see one that seemed to stand out.

“I think I see it!” whispered Annemie.

“Who is that?” whispered Henrik. “Is it the king of the hares?” “Well,” said Oma, “this time of year is sacred to a particular Goddess.

"Her name is Eostre, and she has a large white hare that goes with her wherever she travels. You might be seeing that hare now! Eostre herself takes the form of a hare at every full Moon. All hares are sacred to her. They are her messengers.”

“Messengers?” squeaked Henrik. “Who do they take messages to?” “When hares burrow underground, they commune with the spirits, and then they bring messages from the Faeries and the ancestors back up to the world of the living,” explained Oma. “But Eostre has one extra-special white hare that lays colored eggs just for children every year at exactly this time of year!”

“Is that how we get them in our baskets?” asked Annemie.

“Yes! That is why we always put out a basket at this time of the year,” said Oma. “And have you noticed that the days are getting longer and longer now?”

“Oh yes,” said Henrik, who was very glad he could stay out just a little later each day to study bugs and frogs and other interesting creatures.

“That’s because Eostre is followed by a long procession of hares carrying torches, and each morning when she rises at dawn, they follow her,” Oma told them. “As they approach, the light grows stronger and stronger, and the strengthening light tells the birds that it’s time to lay their eggs. So, we celebrate with colored eggs. Easter is named for Eostre, and that’s why we have Easter bunnies and Easter eggs!”

The Sweet Blessings of Eostre

As they watched, the hares leapt higher and higher, as if they were trying to touch the Moon. Oma, Henrik, and Annemie sipped their warm tea, enjoying the spectacle. When they started to feel the cold and damp, Oma said it was time to go home. And so they went.

The next morning, when Henrik and Annemie got up, their baskets were filled with beautiful colored eggs and lots of sweets like cookies, candy, and dried fruits.

“I hope you will never forget how magical these eggs are, brought to you by Eostre’s special bunny,” said Oma. “The Goddess Eostre always carries with her a basket of newly laid eggs. They hold the promise of new beginnings and the yearly resurrection of nature after the long sleep of winter. Every time you see an egg, know that it is blessed by Eostre, and give thanks.”

And do you know, that is exactly what they did.

© 2022 Ellen Evert Hopman.
Printed with permission from Destiny Books,
an imprint of Inner Traditions International.

 Article Source:

BOOK: Once Around the Sun

Once Around the Sun: Stories, Crafts, and Recipes to Celebrate the Sacred Earth Year
by Ellen Evert Hopman. Illustrated by Lauren Mills.

book cover of Once Around the Sun: Stories, Crafts, and Recipes to Celebrate the Sacred Earth Year by Ellen Evert Hopman. Illustrated by Lauren Mills.In this beautifully illustrated book, Ellen Evert Hopman shares rich stories drawn from traditional folktales, hands-on crafts, and seasonal recipes to help families and classrooms learn about and celebrate traditional holy days and festivals of the sacred earth year. Designed to be read out loud, the stories are complemented with pronunciation guides and translations for foreign words. 

For each story, the author includes hands-on projects special to the holiday--from crafting magical wands and brooms to flower crowns and Brighid’s Crosses--as well as seasonal recipes, allowing families to enjoy the tastes, smells, and sounds associated with the feast days and celebrations.

For more info and/or to order this book, click here. Also available as a Kindle edition

About the Author

photo of: Ellen Evert HopmanEllen Evert Hopman has been a Druidic initiate since 1984. She is a founding member of the Order of the White Oak, an Archdruidess of the Tribe of the Oak, and a member of the Grey Council of Mages and Sages. She is the author of several books, including Walking the World in Wonder.

The book's illustrator, Lauren Mills, has won national acclaim as both an author/illustrator and a sculptor. She is the author and illustrator of the award-winning The Rag Coat.

More books by Ellen Evert Hopman.