The Goddess of the Dawn and Reckonings with Time(s): On Eostre, Easter, and transitioning between Times

Sara Jolena Wolcott, M.Div.
31 min readMar 30, 2024

Before the term “Easter” was associated with the most important moment in the Christian liturgical cycle, the term referred to an ancient Goddess: Eostre, whose name means “dawn.” She is part of one of the oldest and most important Proto-Indo-European goddesses: the Goddess of the Dawn.

We don’t know, for sure, why the the Church translated the Latin “Paschale” into “Easter” in English. Quite possibly it was one of many moments of synchronism: the Church leaned into a local tradition, that of celebrating the dawn around the time of the Spring Equinox, and overlaid it with their own celebration of the rise of Christ. It is also possible that the word Easter itself, with its roots meaning “dawn”, fit the meaning of a risen Christ that the Church was trying to convey.

Whichever way, something quite remarkable has occurred.

The name of Eostre, an Olde English Dawn Goddess, not only survived the coming of Christianity, but her name become associated with what is, for many, the very essence of Christianity itself: the ritual celebration of the resurrection of Jesus into Christ. A celebration performed at Dawn. On… Easter.

Our earliest written record of the Goddess Eastre was briefly written by, of all people, a monk in the eighth century.

And not just any monk, but Bede the Venerable, writing in the Kingdom of Northumbria in what is now England. Bede is sometimes referred to as “the father of history,” in recognition of the extent to which his scholarship defined how we conceptualize and practice the discipline of history today. He is probably most famous for his book, the Ecclesiastical History of the English.

It was in a subsequent book, The Reckoning with Time (De Temporum Ratione in Latin), published in 725 AD, that Bede mentions the goddess Eostre, in connection with the old British calendar month that we now think of as April. (Northumbrian: Ēosturmōnaþ, West Saxon: Ēastermōnaþ; Old High German: Ôstarmânoth).

Bede’s book was about the computation of the Christian (liturgical) calendar for the primary purpose of being able to predict its most important event: the timing of Paschale (Easter). It is a bit ironic that part of how we today can remember Eostre is that She is included in a book that was a key text in the larger process that was effectively encouraging people to forget Her.

Bede was part of a larger movement, Christiandom, that was transforming, defining and enacting an international cosmovision, including the purpose of life, what constitutes appropriate knowledge, and how we construct our temporal realities. His little book was part of a cultural and intellectual shift from various indigenous European traditions into a more universal Christian system that included a transformation in how Europe understood time and how they lived their lives. The calendar that he advocated for, and much of the theology in which that calendar was enmeshed, influenced millions of people, rituals, and eco-systems. Much of the system (both the actual calendar and aspects of its theology) he proposed continues to deeply influence us today.

His moment, and this little book upon which a temporal system pivoted, is one that we, in our moment, can learn from.

For we too are in the midst of an epic shift in which we can influence/change our current collective cosmovision. Many aspects of that Bede’s cosmovision remain with us. Many aspects have shifted. And today we too are in need of ways of reckoning with time — albeit for different reasons than for Bede.

So here, in this article, I attempt to explore both the pagan and the Christian understanding of Easter … and thus of time and calendars. I know, Easter is more commonly associated with bunnies, eggs, song, and joyful gatherings. Those are all super important. In and of themselves, they are more part of folk traditions than Christianity per se. We don’t tend to associate the celebration of Easter with time — at least, that is not how I grew up thinking about the holiday, in either its secular or Christian variations. But the more I understand that pivotal moment in the eighth century, and the more I understand the Goddess of the Dawn, the more I see how much the nature of time as well as how we compute it is part of this moment when, in the northern hemisphere, we are surrounded by new life. (Much of my references here are based on the seasonal and related spiritual experiences of the northern hemisphere. As Christendom becomes intertwined with global empire and global missionizing, many aspects of what I’m writing about become relevant for geographies in the southern hemisphere as well.)

So I’m inviting you into journey into the past for the purpose of better understanding the present, including how we are thinking about the future. To do this, I start with the time before this time: the millennia of animist traditions. I then go into ecclesiastical history and this particular book which enabled future calculations of the date of Easter, offer some side notes, and then jump back into our present moment. For those of you who follow my work, I am going much deeper into medieval ecclesiastical history than what I usually do.

Let’s begin this journey with a Goddess.

Eostre: a goddess known since the dawn… of human time?

Her name is a remnant of a time before this time.

Her name itself beckons, evokes, summons. Like a shaft of light in a dark room, when one is wondering yet again for how long the winter wind will howl.

Eostre. Eostare. Ostara.

The Goddess of the Dawn

Eostre, the English version of the Goddess of the Dawn, is part of a much larger and much older set of Goddesses in Proto-Indo-European traditions associated with the coming of the day. The pre-Christian Indo-European linguistic, cultural, and religious peoples, it is thought, started in (probably northern) India and slowly moved into, influenced, settled, and made their homes across Europe. Remnants of language, culture, and tradition remain in different parts of this vast area in different ways. As is so common, in these really old dieties, we see Her in many forms, variations, and names — and yet the commonalities between them invite us to consider common human energetic and spiritual experiences of the dawn.

(Source: Loc.gov)

The Proto-Indo-European goddess Haéusōs (lit. ‘the dawn’) is believed to have been one of the most important deities worshipped by Proto-Indo-European language speakers and culture bearers. She is consistently found in multiple traditions and cultures across that wide geography, including in India. In the Rigveda, she is known as Usas, and is one of the most important goddesses. Unlike many of the deitites that we know about of this vast culture and language group, who tend to be masculine, she is consistantly and clearly feminine. The word for dawn also becomes the word for the direction “east”.

The Dawn Goddess is associated with birth and rebirth — even of eternal rebirth. She is easy to recognize, as she so closely resembles the dawn itself: radiant, bright, and persistant. She is often associated with the dawn of time, and the beginning of life itself. Her regularity leads her to be associated with stability, persistance and order. She is often portrayed as forever young, or un-ageing.

In the Iliad, she is Eos, “born in the morning”. Throughout the Odyssey, Homer writes of the appearance of the “ early-born rosy-fingered Dawn.” Sometimes she is known as the Morning Star or the Day Star, or the first light. Colors associated with her, are, unsurprisingly those associated with the sunrise: reds, pinks, and gold. In old Greek and Roman poetry, she is associated with rosy fingers and wears golden rings.

In the Vedic tradition, where the dawn Goddess is called Usha (Ushas), she is associated with the initiating life principle. Usha is depicted as the one who imbues life to all beings, as the “life of all life” and “breath of all breaths.” She is revered as the deity who revivifies earth each day, drives away the chaos and the darkness, sets all things in motion, and sends all living beings to do their duties.

Here is one of many examples where we see the strong connection with the beginning of any particular day and the beginning of time. Her predictability is part of what gives her a character of the order of the day and with that, the law of the universe.

Some say she opens the gates at the beginning of the day for the sun to enter. As domesticated animals became more common in those cultures, so too do they enter her story — say she is associated with horses or cattle whom she drives across the sky; for those people in cultures that used chariots, she would be the one riding the chariot alongside the sun.

While sometimes she may be hesitant to start the day, she is, nonetheless, reliable, dependable, and purposeful. Some associate the Spring Equinox with Ostara (although from what I’ve read, she is more often associated with the month of April, not the month ofMarch, which is when the Spring Equinox occurs).

Today, there is still much music dedicated to the Dawn and to the Morning Star, especially in Baltic traditions. One can easily be discouraged by how little is written about her, especially if you are searching for her in britain — Bede’s brief mention is not much to work with. But don’t forget how many different forms of ReMembering there are, and the many ways that traditions and customs survive all sorts of attempts of forgetting. There are still many remanants of her, and many more can continue to be recovered. If you are looking for a playlist and a deeper dive into the dawn goddess, I suggest the Fair Folk Podcast and Danica Boyce’s beautiful playlist.

This Ancient New Day

When I consider her long history, stretching at least back to ancient India, and how ‘natural’ it seems to have a diety of one of the most important times of the day, often balancing the diefication of the coming of the night, I can’t help but wonder just how old this diety is. Might it be that humans have been celebrating Her, in some form, for as long as we have known ourselves to be human? This I can’t know for sure, of course. Yet perhaps you too have known that feeling of wonder, awe, and even calm at the magnificence and regularity of the sunrise.

Today, Eostare/Ostara is one of the few memories of the Goddess who lived in the time-space of Dawn celebrations in April — a time-space currently occupied by Paschal/Christ’s resurrection.

When I think of rituals for Her, based on the rituals that have come before and the ones that I have done, I think of going to the top of a local hill, perhaps at Equinox, or at Eastertide, facing East, the direction of the rising sun, and singing. For she is the first light and how else shall we celebrate the beginning of life, the beginning of the day, except through song?

Singing in worship of the dawn.

The actual dawn.

And the metaphorical dawn.

The internal experience of the dawn that rises within us.

For in Ostara we see that precious human capacity to integrate the real and the metaphorical. We have both the embodied fleshy world, with actual sunrises, and we have our inner landscapes, with their invisible set of human emotions and needs and wants and desires and symbols and metaphors. In between these is the stuff of language and meaning making and community crafting and world-building.

What if, especially at some point around the Spring Equinox, there is an energetic moment of rebirth that has been recognized by multiple spiritual traditions?

And in that (perhaps unexpected) survival through the night and through the winter, She continues to beckon.

There have grown many stories about her name since then.

Bede describes not only a dawn goddess, but one whose feast day is in April — accompanied with the coming of Spring. This resonates with similar stories of celebration of the rebirth of life in the spring throughout Europe.

Perhaps the most well-known story about Eostre is that old folklorist Jacob Grimm. Maybe he heard the tales from a few locals in a village, in that oral tradition kind of way, where the story is passed down and made up and repeated exactly the same way each time, or something like that, depending upon who you heard it from.

In at least one version of this tale (which some say Grimm made up, which I doubt), which Grimm wrote about in 1835 in his Teutonic Mythology, Eostre had once saved a bird from the winter cold. The bird’s wings had frozen, and could not fly. So she changed the bird into a rabbit, (or perhaps a hare), whose warm winter coat helped her survive the winter. As the rabbit was once a bird, it could lay eggs. We have earlier stories — centuries earlier — linking eggs and rabbits and the spring equinox in Germanic folklore.

According to Grimm, Germanic peoples gathered holy water for washing in the form of the dew, or water collected from brooks. He tells of beautiful maidens clad in white and, in meshing of Christian and older traditions, the ‘white maiden of Osterrode’, keys at her belt, collecting water from a brook on Easter morning.

So here is a Goddess of the Dawn who is also associated with the coming of Spring, the birth of life itself, the persistant nature of life, and has at least some celebrations in April.

All of these point to Her as a what I am thinking of as a kind of diety of a particular moment of time that is also associated with a set of metaphors and interior experiences of both rebirth (the dawn comes after the darkest hour of the night) and the persistent, stable experience of time (every morning the dawn comes). She is an expression of a kind of energy-field that informs how we relate to time, and with time, to the order of the universe.

Now, let’s go into the worldview of Christianity that was both in many ways incorporating co-existing surrounding cosmovisions as well as creating something quite different.

Solidifying a new worldview

I’ve been increasingly attending to the multi-century transition from an indigenous European culture to a Christian culture and the gazillion implications that had for the people of Europe and for us today. It seems a particularly important moment in thinking about eco-spirituality, ecology, decolonization, and what it means to be spiritual grounded and deeply aligned in a rapidly changing political, economic, and climate-changed world as we are today. You might have listened to an earlier podcast I did on this topic, with Prof Carole Cusack. While I don’t consider this to be my area of expertise, but I’ve been able to put together some big pieces.

What was their worldview that led to a monk writing a book such The Reckoning with Time? Christian author, C.S. Lewis, best known for his children’s series, the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, was deeply informed by his reading of medieval literature. His final book, The Discarded Image: An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature, does an impressive job of helping the more modern reader understand the medieval cosmovision.

Lewis points out that Medieval culture was “essentially bookish character… and their intense love of system”.

When Lewis says bookish, he is saying that the intellectual elite spent a lot of time with their books. The images of monks bent over books engraved in the books that they themselves were reading with and for each other was something I saw a lot in my history books growing up. It does indeed convey a key part of their life!

I’m not sure if the copious amount of time that the modern elite spends on the internet is all that different. In both societies, our bodies are hunched forward, heads bowed, hands in front of us, looking into and active co-creating a world that if you are not reading books or if you are not on the internet — and believe it or not, there are still a lot of people not online — then you just are not a part of.

Lewis goes on to say that with the bookish character came a great need for order.

Augustine, who plays a big role in this multi-century story, essentially reframes what it is that is worth thinking about.

It was as if, prior to that, there was one set of goals for intellectual pursuit. And then Augustine changed what the goal of thinking, learning, education, and learned discourse. In one of his most famous works, De doctrina christiana, he argues that Christian knowledge and scholarship is a means to a very particular end: the training of men to be preachers or teachers — to actively understand the Word of God and help people reach salvation. Augustine argues for a radical division of knowledge into two categories: useful and useless knowledge. Christians did not need to know anything that was not useful to salvation. “Useful” is a huge category for Augustine. It includes what C.S. Lewis, many centuries later, refers to as the need to understand the “model” or the system of the universe. More recently, people refer to this as God’s masterplan.

Basically: There is a system in which the universe works. Humans have free will… so they can choose to use their mind to achieve salvation… or not. For those who choose salvation, some (more often men) get to participate in understanding, interpretting, and aligning human activity with that system. Augustine creates a field that we now refer to as ‘systematic theology’ — and a lot of people were invested in developing it.

Part of this, C.S. Lewis explains, is that, “All the apparent contradictions (in the world) must be harmonised. A Model must be built which will get everything in without a clash; and it can do this only by becoming intricate, by mediating its unity through a great, and finely ordered, multiplicity.”

Within that is the practical and theological necessity to understand time — and to create a working calendar where all of the Churches could do the same ritual at the same time, in order. Because such order was a sign that the humans on earth were echoing/following the ultimate order that was associated with an omnipotent and everpresent God.

The problem: their calendar system did not enable them to predict future dates in time in a cohesive, collective, and systemic manner.

Numbering Years: its a really big deal

Let’s back up just a bit.

For most of recorded European history, including during the Roman Empire, there was no universal or generic measurement of what year it was. If I say that something happened in, say, 2001, you most likely know what year I’m referring to, whether you live in Europe or Indonesia. You might have other ways of numbering the years as well (perhaps you also work with a Jewish or Islamic calendar, both of which have their own set of numbers).

But back then, the year was determined by who the king or emperor was. Calendars, thus, were quite local. Year 3 in the reign of Augustus, for example. That also meant that if you were outside of the Roman Empire, you probably had a way of recording what year it was based on your local king. And you might not have known what year it was according to an empire that was really far away from you.

In about 525 AD, Christians started using the term Anno Domini, which started the collective year count from Christ’s birth. Theologically, this was because Christ reigned all of time, not just the comings and goings of kings and emperors. So, Christ’s life governed the calendar.

However your little fiefdom or kingdom used to mark time, as your part of Europe became Christian, that conversion (either by force or by choice) included a new calendar system. A new set of patterns came with that — this was especially influential for the growing network of abbeys, monasteries, and churches, and all of their rituals. The liturgical calendar shaped what people did when.

The event around which everything else in the year turned was — yes, maybe you saw this coming — Paschale, or Easter.

The resurrection of Christ (which was not actually recorded in the earliest written record that we have of the Gospel, but that’s a story for another time) was seen as the central point around which the essence of Christianity, and its distinction from other religions, including Judaism, was based. As the church developed its liturgy, the two months prior to the resurrection, including the celebration of Lent, became a critical part of its yearly rhythm. The Church needed to be able to predict when Paschale would occur.

Now, in the Muslim world, — which had been celebrating Ramadan since 624, in the city of Medina, in what is today Saudi Arabia, so that’s about a century before Bede was writing his book on time — there was also a need for a collective agreement about when to begin the holy month of Ramadan. Their solution was to base it on the siting of the new moon in a particular place — and then to tell everyone else that yes, the moment has come, this sacred month has begun. They recognized some of the inaccuracies of human calendars, and found a way around it. This tradition continues today.

It seems that at one point in the Church, the Pope did something similar. But that didn’t always work so well.

They needed to do something that had not been done on this kind of scale before: to predict the future and to be able to plan for it years in advance.

Here’s a bit of the issue:

The church determined that Easter would fall on the Sunday after the full moon that followed the Spring Equinox. This required working with the solar cycle, the lunar cycle, and the weekly cycle. I’m not going to get into the exact computations here, but just a quick overview is that one of the challenges of putting together a successful calendar is that the thirteen lunar months do not precisely fit into a single solar calendar. This was well known in medieval Europe. (As was the fact that the earth was spherical in shape). People came up with different ways of calculating how the lunar and solar cycle might go — basically coming up with a set of long tables — but many of these tables proved inaccurate, or highly cumbersome, or people were using different tables. As a result, churches in Alexandria and in Rome were celebrating Easter several days apart.

This was not systematic. This was evident of confusion in the Model. Confusion was common, and that was not a good sign.

And so for multiple reasons, from at least the third century, the Church in Rome was looking for a way to determine the future dates of Easter years in advance of their actual occurrence.

Now — enter Bede. A brilliant monk in the Kingdom of Northumbria, supported by an abbot with a vast library and a wide network throughout the growing Christian world.

Bede… for whom to rewrite history was to articulate God’s movement amongst humans. To compute the calendar was to articulate God’s masterful system.

Bede was in the midst of narrating and ordering his world according to a Christian cosmovision. To do so, he was engaging with time. First, history. And then, at least as important, was the calendar. The calendar would enable this vast religion, spanning great distances, though not yet in what would become its full entirety, to function as a whole — to enact the same rituals at the same time as everyone else.

The Venerable Bede writing. Detail from a 12th-century codex (Wikipedia.org)

Bede referred to his book, The Reckoning of Time, as “our little book about the fleeting and wave-tossed course of time.”

In some ways, Bede did something simple — he figured out which of the existing tables made the most sense and then he strengthened it.

But then Bede did something very powerful: in the way he wrote about it, he presented the new calendar as a kind of temporal cosmovision. What is time? Why is it sacred? What are days and weeks and months, and how do they fit together? How do we understand other temporal systems, such as that of the Hebrew calendar, the Romans and the Greeks, and the calendar of the Brits?

The Reckoning of Time, Book by Bede

Their frame for this — computus in Latin — has no real equivalent today: it is both science and art, drawing from astronomy and mathematics as well as theology, and is imminently practical: a kind of applied science with deep philosophical implications. Much medieval scholarly work has gone into understanding computus, and the variety of disciplines and thought that Bede, in his brilliant way, synthesized and logically laid out in a format that would influence pedagogy, culture, education, liturgical cycles, calendar cycles, and the entirety of both English intellectual culture and Christendom for centuries to come.

Now this could be seen as just a cool history of calendars that continue to influence us today. But something else was happening that one could easily miss. And that has to do with how they — and really how we — saw the future.

Future-Numbering

Medieval scholar Faith Wallis, whose commentaries and translations I have found immensely helpful in understanding this book, writes about the significance of this shift:

“To project the dates of Easter is to project the future, and to give names to years which have not yet been. This was a very unusual project for early medieval people. Neither Romans nor Germans had any prospective era; they could only name the years in the present and past, by reference to consuls or kings. Computists not only thought about the years to come, but also counted and named them in the columns of their Paschal tables.”

In numbering the future and connecting those numbers to Pachal, to the resurrection of Christ, Bede elicits a bigger conversation.

About planning: yes. But also about the end-point of the linear trajectory of time that he now has numbers for.

Deep in the growing mythology and the cosmovision of Christianity is the notion that time is both cyclical — each year has a particular rhythm that is repeated every year alongside planetary movements — and that time is linear.

Time has a beginning and an ending.

The end of times. The apocalypse. The time of eternity: when there is no time.

When Bede first put forward his calendar and started actively naming the future, there was a bit of trepidation. What were the consequences of humans placing names into the future? Was that appropriate?

And, in particular: Does this knowledge bring us closer to the much anticipated Day of Judgement?

In this scene from the Book of Revelation, illustrated about 1255–160, Saint John crouches low to see the horrifying action in this illumination of The Massacre of the Two Witnesses by the Beast (detail). Source: Getty.edu

Church authorities needed to be able to plan. That need overcame whatever internal resistance there might have been to the human audacity of naming the future which was, surely, in the realm of the Divine. Bede was one of many who was eager to assuage his fellow intellectuals (and their congregations) that the End of Times, and the coming storm between the Christ and the Antichrist was (based on a thorough exegesis combined with a careful set of astronomical calculations) quite a long way off.

In his final chapter of the book, Bede goes into the End of the Times, explicating upon the Book of Revelations and upon certain sections of the Book of Genesis to do so. The calendar he advocates for, with its inherent cycles, is one that, following what was at the time standard theology, will end at a new dawn. In that time, when the moon will shine as brightly as does the sun, where there will be no need for night, and an eternal, bright and sunny future that those who act piously now, in this time can enjoy in their renewed, and uncorrupted bodies.

And as he did so, something far bigger than a set of numbers emerged. Again, I turn to the scholar Faith Wallis:

“The purified eschatology of (the last chapters) of The Reckoning of Time also gives Bede an opportunity to do what no previous computist had ever attempted: to turn the reckoning of time into a (figura) of eternity. The calculation of Easter merges into a meditation upon the last things, a spiritual exercise whose purpose was to rise through the contemplation of time to the perception of eternity. (The final chapter) brings The Reckoning of Time to a close by underscoring the book’s essential character as a vision of eternity through time.”

Easter is thus a moment when a past event — the resurrection of Christ — a current event — where the celebration of a congregation is now — and a future event — the second coming of Christ — are all blurred into a single moment. If you go deep enough, you can also touch upon the beginning of time itself, when, as the Gospel of John says, “In the beginning the Word was with God.”

In that dawn, the beginning of time and the end of time and the time we are in right now touch each other. I suspect that if the Easter ritual was done ‘well’, then, some of that was actually a somatic experience for many of the participants.

The system — God’s plan — is explained. Some of the strangeness of the human experience and what was felt as disjointedness of the Church practicing its most important ritual on different days is straightened out. A new order is possible. Right now. And in that order, there is a promise of an even better order in the days to come.

For him, a better order was closely attached to an even more perfect stability.

As Bede himself writes, “And so our little book concerning the fleeting and wave-tossed course of time comes to a fitting end in eternal stability and stable eternity.”

Fresco by Andrea da Firenze, Santa Maria Novella, Florence, 1366, perhaps the earliest “hovering” Christ

A microcosm and a macrocosm

Now here’s a bit of irony. Or at least, a weird way in which there was a fractal nature of what was going on — and part of why I think this moment in time remains important.

Bede, in articulating a calendar that, in many ways, we continue to practice, was himself playing a key role in the end of one set of Time and the beginning of another. Even as he wrote about the end of times, he was enacting that very thing on a small scale in Northumbria.

Bede lived in one of the first stone buildings ever raised in that part of England. He wrote under glass windows, which had not been known to that part of the country before, and had been brought over from France. His life and daily practice entailed using technology, writing, that had not been part of the millennia of storytelling culture of the Celtic British peoples who preceded him. He learned writing — perhaps the equivalent of today’s cell phones — growing up in the monastery. His teachers had also grown up learning to read and write. But most likely, neither his parents nor grandparents did: and certainly many of the common people all around the monastery in which he lived his days would not have known how to use this technology.

And the world he was living in, the world of Christendom, which his thinking and writing were helping to actively create and enact, not just observe and witness, was a world that saw itself on a linear trajectory of continued growth to a definable endpoint: the resurrection and renewal of all of the world.

A quick pause: Not all Christians are into the End of Times

I have to admit that I, growing up in the unprogrammed Quaker tradition, which is a sub-section of the incrediably wide and diverse religion that we call Christianity, did not grow up with this idea of the End of Times. Or rather, it simply was not important.

The Quakerism that I grew up practicing and which continues to deeply shape my theology today made no bold claims about life after death.

Our general approach is that we don’t know what happens when you die. Heaven and Hell were seen as allegories, symbols of internal struggles and of external realities in many people’s lives. The attention was on this lifetime, not future ones. Nor was their much attention on the second coming of Christ. Quakers also did away with all the holidays — Christmas, Lent, Easter — in favor of living simply every day.

I did grow up with cultural Easter celebrations that are far more pagan in origin than Christian, and which have become embedded in both Christian and secular and folk practices today: painting eggs, hunting for them, and eating chocolate bunnies. These deep fertility symbols were quite likely also associated with the April feast day of the Goddesses of the Dawn.

I suspect, though I can’t know for sure, that the everlasting continuation of life that the eggs and the rabbits and cows and the dawn symbolized for common folk traditions the continuation of the community, not the body of the individual. Christianity brought a level of individualism that was distinct from both its polytheistic and Jewish counterparts, who lean into the community.

Bede also does not, in this book, mention the cults that grew up around Mary, and the specific workship of the Virgin Mary around the bright morning star: the star that precedes the coming of life. I don’t know if he knew about them. Or if he knew how much of the rituals around Easter are so much older than even his long calendar sequence.

I’ve yet to hear the goddess of the dawn associated with the End of Times in the way that the resurrection of Christ is associated with the End of Time.

Much has been said about Jesus as the Way and the Law.

Much can — needs to be — said to draw out the implications of Eostre, the Goddess of the Dawn, part of the same energy system as the Vedic Ushas, as a maintainer of Law. Not ‘law’ as it is understood as a set of legal systems. But law as in, how the universe is ordered, and how life emerges, and how our breath flows. The growth of light, the lighting of the way of daylight, at the fading edge of night.

And — Can Time End?

As I read Bede and consider the deep, deep faith he had in the coming of the ending of time, I found myself wondering, ok, so, what do we know about the end of time these days? You know, from science?

So I, being a proper modern woman, asked google.

According to my less than half a second search, the science is a bit uncertain. It is, according to an article in Scientific American titled, “The Paradox of time: why it can’t stop, but must”, the end of time is theoretically possible, but right now, observation points to continued expansion.

Here’s a quote from that article.

“Time itself could end. All activity would cease, and there would be no renewal or recovery. The end of time would be the end of endings…..If the universe ever stops expanding and starts contracting again, it will go into something like the big bang in reverse — the big crunch — and bring time crashing to a halt.Time needn’t perish everywhere. Relativity says it expires inside black holes while carrying on in the universe at large. Black holes have a well-deserved reputation for destructiveness, but they are even worse than you might think. If you fell into one, you would not only be torn to shreds, but your remains would eventually hit a singularity at the center of the hole, and your timeline would end. No new life would emerge from your ashes; your molecules would not get recycled. Like a character reaching the last page of a novel, you would not suffer mere death but existential apocalypse.”

Existential apocalypse.

“The Big Crunch.”

It could happen.

Doesn’t really sound like perpetual daylight, but, well, I dunno. Maybe some of the universe escapes the crunch and just goes walking on a super long light beam?

As physicists and mathematicians and others contemplate the end of time, they recognize that, so far as we know, the pre-requisites of time is the pre-requisite of our own existence. As George Musser writes, “The end of time may be something we can imagine, but no one will ever experience it directly, any more than we can be (fully) conscious at the moment of our own death.”

At any rate, according to the observations, we seem to be on a growth trend. “We” here being the universe, that is. Humans? Well, humans do seem to keep growing too, but how long that will continue remains… debatable.

OK, so, the general theory of relativity and some data and theory concerning parts of the universe that are way beyond this precious blue planet, such as black holes, suggest that our experience of time, including days and nights, are not always the inevitable future for all of creation. And that continued expansion is not inevitable. Dawn might not always come — and if she does not, nor do we. But that is, most likely, a really really long ways into the future.

Quite possibly beyond our own current calendar systems.

Multiple Apocalypses

Back here on Earth, there are many times when times change: when one world — cosmovision, way of life, way of relating, the arc of the grand story we share with one another — seems to end and another begins.

The early middle ages, with the coming of Christianity in Europe, was such a time.

So too was the late 1400s, a period we can now associate with the Doctrine of Discovery, which helped to launch European global colonization, and the beginnings of the great European Witchhunts, around which I do much of my teaching. It’s also seen as the end of the medieval era and the beginning of the modern era. Sometimes referred to as “the age of discovery”, or, alternatively, the beginning of a massive ecological and human destruction. Technology (the printing press especially), cosmovision, and the understanding of time-space itself shifted.

In the Americas, the period of colonization had many genocides — apocalyptic moments. The genocide of what the Lakota/Dakota people refer to as the Buffalo Nation was one such apocalypse.

There too — a cosmovision, a story of how we relate to earth and to time and to one another and to the Great Spirit — changed.

And then there’s us.

And in these times? We too are reckoning with time. Again.

Over 1300 years after Bede’s treatsie, another Easter approaches, thanks in part to a variation of the calendar system that Bede helped to develop.

According to Hallmark, its about easter eggs and chocolate bunnies. Consumer spending on Easter in America in 2024 is expected to be around $22.4 billion dollars. 3.1 billion of that is geared towards candy.

In some ways, this is a stark difference from Bede’s world, where chocolate was not yet known and where no one was tracking consumer spending as its own critical category. In other ways, it has some similarities. For most of the common people, Easter sunrise service was followed by large feasts, a particularly welcome occasion after the season of Lent. One could finally eat some of the eggs that one had been storing up for the past 40 days.

These days, my own style of writing — on a device with a blue-lit screen and a clock that changes from daylight savings automatically, even as my body remains a bit confused by the ‘suddenly’ longer days — is indicative of a technological world utterly foreign to my medieval English ancestors. I sit on a continent that Bede had no idea existed. An assemblage of rocks and metal in my pocket is fastened together in such a way that I receive minute-by-minute updates from people in places much further away than Alexandria. I live in a world — both a time and a place — that Bede could not have imagined.

And yet here I am reading his (translated) words, finding curiosity and resonance in his desire to order his world. We too are wondering about time. About a reckoning with time.

Today’s reckoning of time entails a reckoning with things past: the legacies of colonization leading to, amongst a myriad of social and economic challenges, climate change.

The seasons themselves are changing, though the planetary motions that Bede and the billions of sky-watching people all around the world before him have been observing, have not.

We are in the midst of a reckoning of a story about our place in the cosmos that keeps faltering and flailing. A reckoning about the meaning of the times and places and the patterns in which we live our lives. A reckoning about continued aspects of unveiling; multiple dimensions of variations of apocalypses. The Anthropocene Age. The prophets of science are dire and grim. Other prophecies, from other cosmovisions, are uncertain. Much is possible. The stakes are high. Risky — very risky.

The prophets of doom today, speaking not from (only) from biblical references, but from the studies of rocks and air particles and storms.

And that old biblical story of the christ and the antichrist? It’s still here. The very real potential for armageddon seems to have only increased, kept alive in blockbuster films, games, political narratives, and many corners of the internet.

That old song comes to mind — are you more surprised at how things change, or at how they stay the same?

As in Bede’s time, we need to reconsider our relationship with time and place, and with the cosmovisions that we are enacting in our calendars and in our holidays, and in our planning and monitoring and evaluating and scheduling.

Augustine set forth a purpose for the many new monks and others focusing on learning. It was a purpose that fused what we now think of as science and art and spirituality, and that had a clear goal (enabling salvation). The calendar was devised to enable the (ritual and pracitcal) enactment of that cosmovision. Lives were structured accordingly. Knowledge was both honed and forgotten accordingly.

Advanced planning across vast differences became first possible, then normalized, and, now, expected.

What theologies, including what kinds of anticipations, are our calendars enabling today? What higher purpose are our cosmovisions enabling… and how are we enacting that in how we construct our calendars? As my friend/colleague/student Andrew Murray Dunn, founder of the School of Wise Innovation, said in a recent conversation, what’s the liturgical calendar for regenerative economic systems?

I ask these questions alongside my co-participants and co-creators a lot in my work around circular time and anticipation. Part of our work is to reconnect time and place — for colonization has unmoored too many of us.

Some of us are seeking ways of returning to older and maybe even more sustainable ways of knowing and being. We attempt to re-enchant a disconnected and distracted world; to return to cyclical rhythms and circular calendars (which Bede probably would have appreciated) — and also to wander into energy fields and deities that Bede noted and then moved away from. Much of these are deities and energies that, perhaps, seemed less concerned with the end of time and more with its cyclical continuation.

There is increased recognizition for example of the importance of traditional ecological calendars for climate adaptation. Prof Karim Aly-Kassam with the Kassam Research Group at Cornell University has been engaging with indigenous communities internationally around understanding and revitalizing ecological calendars.

As many of us attempt to reconnect, rewild, and reRemember ourselves into the sacrality of place, questions of time and the various ways of engaging with its sacred dimensions naturally emerge. How can we from multiple faith and cultural lineages acknowledge honor and re-enact the traditional rhythms of the places where we are now, including traditional ecological calendars and the many indigenous cultures that continue to carry such knowledge?

Leaning into the cyclical possibility of renewal

Amidst dozens of reckonings, amidst people filled with grief and confusion, of death tolls and genocide and extinctions — we need that age-old promise — of renewal.

I like to think that the two deities — The Goddess of the Dawn and the Risen Son of Mary— are good friends, perhaps the way an Auntie and a nephew might be. Perhaps not always in agreement about everything, but walking together, celebrating the inner-outer wonder of light and new beginnings. Maybe it's not about so-called Pagan vs Christian. For both embody a deep celebration of life, from the beginning of time to the present, and a renewed promise of more life to come.

I know — Bede would think that I totally missed the whole point.

But in our world, today? I know far too many followers of Jesus who are also deeply animist, and who hear goddesses, as well as the Son of Mary. And the Jesus whom I have encountered is a wild god. When he was buried in the cave by the women, he was re-entering the great mother. And as my friend, Mennonite and Wild Church Pastor Katerina Gea once preached, the beings who witnessed his transformation were the stones of Earth, Herself.

Perhaps on that time we call Easter Morning, that ancient maiden- Goddess and the Son of God walk together. Nine months before Winter Solstice. The promise of continued fertility: the coming of a new day.

A moment we need as much now as we did then.

And so maybe you, too, are watching: for the shaft of light under the door amidst the storm.

For the Goddess of the Dawn.

May the blessings of Easter — of a Goddess, and/or of the Son of a God and of a woman named Mary — rise upon you. And within you. And within our inherent interbeing with all of Creation.

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Sara Jolena Wolcott, M.Div.

ReMembering and ReEnchanting our world. Retelling Origin Stories and other myths and truths. Entrepreneur, legacy advisor, and unconventional minister. Healing.