It is the hour! We challenge heaven above
Now, to deny our slight ephemeral breath
Joy, anguish, and that everlasting love
Which triumphs over death.
— Alfred Noyes
Today is a very sacred day in many parts of the world.
The 8th of April is celebrated in Japan as Hana Matsuri, or Flower Festival, the day set aside to celebrate the Buddha’s birthday. He was born 2500 years ago to King Suddhodana and Queen Maya in the garden of Lumbini, which was located in Kapilavastu, a small kingdom in the Himalayan foothills. He was called Siddhartha and later, Shakyamuni Buddha. Traditions say that at the time of his birth, the infant Buddha spoke, saying, “Heaven, earth and I are all one person.”
So at each temple throughout Japan, a small pavilion, covering a statue of the baby Buddha pointing one index finger toward heaven and the other toward earth, is set up and decorated with flowers. Sweet tea is an essential element of the Flower Festival, and his statue is bathed with it. That’s because, according to the legend, two Dragon Kings rained warm and cool sweet water from heaven to bathe the baby Buddha.
Here in the United States and much of Europe, Christians are celebrating the ancient theme of the sacrificial dying God and His resurrection, a fertility motif found since prehistoric times in nearly every agricultural society. Interestingly, some of their own ancient texts written at the time of the events they are celebrating never once mention any such event, and some scholars are being forced to conclude that the story of Jesus’ trial and crucifixion, as well as many other of the miracles associated with his life, may have been an embellishment added for political purposes after his death. Obviously, those texts, such as the Book of Thomas, were strenuously repressed and nearly eliminated.
This Christian holiday is named after the Pagan Goddess of Spring, Eostre, and takes place on the first Sunday, after the first Full Moon, after the Spring Equinox. It is Christianity’s one and only lunar holiday. It was named Easter in the 8th century. Before that it was known by the same name as Passover, Pesach.
Tomorrow, I’ll write more about Eostre, for in the coming days, we’ll be celebrating She of Ten Thousand Names, starting with the Maiden and Springtime Goddesses.