Jean-Andrew Dickman and the "Bird-Bunny" Myth
Jean-Andrew Dickman loves reading and telling stories to children. According to the brochure of summer camp she was scheduled to help with in 2014:
Jean-Andrew has been telling stories professionally since 1983. A career as an elementary school teacher and then children’s librarian opened the door to the art of storytelling. A highlight of Jean-Andrew’s storytelling journey was the semester she spent at Emerson College, England, in the School of Storytelling.
Everything I see about her says she's a very nice person. The only reason she came across my radar at all was that in 2002, she published a story called "The Coming of Eostre" in Cricket children's magazine. The story was a "warmer, kinder" version of Sarah Ban Breathnach's 1987 invention of the original "bird-bunny" myth. I am very sure that Dickman meant only to tell a fun kids' story and had no notion whatsoever of NeoPagans adding her invention to their "canon," much less trotting it out every spring to "prove" that the Christian doctrine of the Resurrection was simply a usurped pagan tradition.
Soon after this, a young person who was raised in the church, told me that Easter was invented by pagans, and, to prove it, explained that:
- The Saxons had worshiped a goddess named Eostre, after whom our feast of Easter was named.
- Eostre had see an injured bird and felt sorry for it.
- She knew that if she healed it it would never fly again and would be vulnerable, so she changed it into a bunny.
- The bunny could still lay eggs, and so became the first Easter bunny.
You have to admit, it's a charming story, and a nicer version than Breathnach's 1987 version in which Eostre changed the bird to a hare in a fit of anger. At the time, I didn't know what to say, since I had never heard either story before. But the young person assured me that the legend predated the birth of Christ and proved that Christians had stolen the "Easter Bunny," if not the Resurrection itself, from pagans.
Whether she had seen Dickman's version itself, or one of the countless "fact-based" retellings of it, I have no way of knowing. But I do know that presenting this modern fable as an ancient legend has misled countless thousands of gullible people.
Ms. Dickman: If you are reading this, I also hope that you are well. In addition, if you had some source for the "bird-bunny" myth besides Ms. Ban Breathnach's writings, I'd be very glad to see those as well.
To everyone else: please enjoy the spring season and your Easter holiday season in the way that seems best to you.
For more information about Easter, Easter traditions, and related subjects:
- Introduction to Easter - A brief introduction and links to our other articles.
- Easter: Frequently Asked Questions - Want to know why Holy Week wanders around the calendar? What are the Stations of the Cross? Why we call Easter "Easter" when almost every other culture calls it "Pasch"? And many more.
- The Timeline of the Resurrection - If you read the gospel accounts one at a time, they can be confusing. This shows the timeline, as most people see it.
- Why Easter is Sacred to Me
- The Myth of the Myth of the Easter Bunny - Where did the Easter Bunny really come from and how did it get attached to so many urban legends?
- Timeline of Easter Traditions - how far back in time do Easter Eggs, or the Easter Bunny go? Did the church really start celebrating the Resurrection as late as the fourth century AD, as certain writers would have you believe? Was the ancient Teutonic deity some folk claim was the original source of all of our doctrine and celebrations of the Resurrection really - for all intents and purposes - invented eighteen centuries after Jesus' crucifixion?
- Eostre: Frequently Asked Questions - Why do we "know" so much about Jacob Grimm's hypothetical ancient Germanic goddess today when all we have is a single allusion ancient writings, and research has turned up no new facts since 725AD?
- Bede's Statement about the Saxon Name for Pasch (Easter) - A brief look at the only mention of anyone named anything like Eostre or Ostara in anywhere before 1835.
- Jacob Grimm - A brief look at Grimm's research and why this fairy-tale collector and linguist invented a hypothetical "ancient" Germanic goddess in 1935 and dubbed her Ostara (the German equivalent of the Saxon "Eostra").
- Pope Gregory's Letter to Mellitus - a look Pope Gregory's 601AD letter to a missionary trying to reach the Saxons in Britain. We list it here only because so many writers misrepresent its contents.
- To My Pagan Friends at Easter - A side note to folks who need to believe in something.
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