Kenny Klein: Tales Of The Rambling Wren.
Follow Kenny from the levees of New Orleans to the whirling chaos that is the Pagan festival circuit and beyond. Musings, rants, and just plain Pagan talk.
Oestara and Pace-Egging
Oestara, the spring equinox, is fast approaching, and for those who practice the old traditions, it's time to paint eggs!
Painted eggs? you ask. Isn't that what our Christian neighbors do for Easter? Well sure. Where do you think they got it?
The custom of painting eggs is an ancient Pagan tradition that occurrs throughout Europe. Russia and Ukraine are famous for their traditions of painted eggs. Eastern Europe most likely had a tradition like that of England (which we'll speak of in a moment, have some patience). Here are some typically elaborate Ukrainian eggs:
In England, the tradition of gathering painted eggs is called Pace-egging, and involves a song, sung by young men as they march through the town on the equinox gathering eggs from each house. Here is one example of the traditional song:
When the eggs are gathered up, and after a good deal of drinking ale, the lads chuck the painted eggs into a river or stream. The colored eggs will float to the Underworld, where they will alert the spirits of crops killed in last year's harvest that it is time to rise again, and inhabit this year's grain.
In some villages an entire mummer's play is enacted each spring, representing a "summer king" killing a "winter king" for the hand of a "princess." We Pagans know that this is the triumph of the Robin over the Wren (see my book The Flowering Rod for a whole lot of stuff on this tradition). While these plays are rustic and often badly acted, they are a Pagan tradition that dates back to Saxon times, well before the Christian era. Here is the mummer's play from the village of Midgley, performed by teens:
And here's another Pace Egging mummer's troop, adults this time, from Stourvale:
Note in both plays the charming rhymes and characterizations; while these actors are modern Christians, they are well aware that they are part of a tradition that dates back centuries, and contains a deep underlying magic. Ask any Mummer or Morris dancer and they'll tell you the same!
One does not wish a "Happy Oestara," for the same reason one does not wish a Happy Beltain or a Happy Yule; one says Merry Oestara, Merry Beltain, or Merry Yule. The word Merry is seen often in pagan traditions; Robin Hood's hoodlums were Merry Men, and to this day one "makes merry" at Beltain and Yule/Christmas. The term Merry probably derives from the Goddess Mari: Morris Dancing was probably once Mari's Dance, and Robin Hood's men probably held the tradition of worshiping Herne and Mari, worship forbidden by the Norman kings of their day. So May is Mari's month (the Merry month), and Oestara is a merry day.
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