Paskha , Paskha, Ptichka


Paskha is the Russian word for Easter.  It is also the word for a cheesy pyramid shaped treat food consumed at Easter.  It also sounds a lot like Ptichka, which means “little bird”.  We all know that eggs are a symbol of Easter.

But Eggs predate Christianity.  Oester was a germanic fertility goddess represented by a Hare (hence the Easter Bunny).  From the word Oester we get oestrus and oestroegen.  The feast of Oester was aligned with the vernal equinox and was a time of planting, lambing, calving and egg laying as the days grew longer.

Eggs, therefore, were one symbol of birth, and were appropriated by the Christian church as a symbol of rebirth as the Christian church appropriated the earlier pagan festivals.

In Russia there is a peasant tradition of setting a little bird (the ptichka) free and I wonder is this why the Russian for a little bird looks very like the word for Easter?  Someone who knows something about Russia will probably disabuse me of the notion.  Until then, here is a poem about a little bird by one of the greats of golden age Russian poetry.

A Little Bird ; by A.S. Pushkin

In alien lands devoutly clinging
To age-old rites of Russian earth,
I let a captive bird go winging
To greet the radiant spring’s rebirth.
My heart grew lighter then: why mutter
Against God’s providence, and rage,
When I was free to set aflutter
But one poor captive from his cage!

A. Pushkin

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