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Why is Easter Island named “Easter”?

Easter Island

The instantly recognizable statues on Easter Island (887 of them), called moai, have perplexed and fascinated explorers, experts and average folks since the Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen came across it in 1722. And Mr. Roggeveen is the reason it’s called Easter Island. He and his crew dropped anchor on Easter Sunday.

The current inhabitants of Isla de Pascua (Spanish for “Easter Island”) call it Rapa Nui, a phrase whose origin points to the sad history of the place. Apparently Rapa Nui derives from slavers who abducted island dwellers and somehow confused it with another island named Rapa.

For all the magnificence of the moai, the human story of life on Rapa Nui has been bleak for centuries. Famine, warfare, disease from visiting ships, and ecological changes seem to unceasingly pummel the native people. Of course, these conditions only make the existence of the statues all the more of an enigma.

The how and why of the statues deserves its own detailed explanation. Click here for a brief answer. The task at hand is naming.

Research suggests two possible names that the island was called prior to contact with Europeans. Te pito o te henua translates roughly as “navel of the world.” Mata-ki-Te-rangi is approximately “eyes looking to the sky.” Both come from conjecture and the lack of a definite answer again highlights the tragic and chaotic past of one of the world’s most remarkable locations.

On a related note, check out the surprisingly pagan origin of the word Easter.

17 Comments

  1. HI -  May 28, 2014 - 10:02 am

    HI

    Reply
    • Hello -  May 28, 2014 - 10:03 am

      Hello

      Reply
  2. HI -  May 28, 2014 - 10:01 am

    What does this mean???

    Reply
  3. Hunter -  March 27, 2013 - 5:40 am

    And the rabbit/hare/bunny hopped away

    Reply
  4. reece -  March 6, 2013 - 6:00 am

    this is rubish!

    Reply
  5. GAGAL -  April 25, 2011 - 10:03 am

    Why the surprise about the connection of Christian Holidays to pagan culture? We make cnnections all the time for teaching opportunities. Example: familar (dogs & feas), higher concept (choices & consequesnes).. “If you lie down with dogs, you will get up with fleas.” So Christian Holidays with pagan roots are examples of effective teaching methods & opportunities which took something familiar and linked it with something that alone may have seemed strange or hard to understand.
    Jesus used this teaching method often in his many parables comparing a difficult concept with a more familiar one, for example: “The Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed” which starts very small but can grow into something much bigger in which creatures can find a home, a place of rest, a gathering place of safety and this home will produce more seeds and more homes of safety for more of God’s creatures.
    And also in the case of pagan holidays ‘your midwinter celebration is like our Christmas Mass’ in that both celebrate the end of a time of darkness and the beginning of a season of increasing light but unlike the pagan story where the darkness comes again and again, in the Christmas story the Light of God’s Love comes by way of Jesus into a world of darkness. However, this Light, this Love of God, can never be quinched by winter, evil, fear or the like. It is a celebration on eternal light, hope and joy for all of human kind.
    And Easter, a pagan celebration of new life and spring, is like the Christian celebration of Jesus’ victory over death and his invitation to a new life and birth into the Family of God by faith through grace (g-r-a-c-e = God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense).

    Merry Christmas, Happy Easter, & Grace be with you all.

    Reply
  6. Kendra R -  April 24, 2011 - 3:03 pm

    interesting. So the island is called easter island because they landed on Easter??

    Reply
  7. kG -  April 24, 2011 - 10:41 am

    df – I’m curious, what Christian events do you refer to when you say that they originate in pegan practice? Is your remark pertaining to the Catholic church and the things they practice today? So curious…
    I really don’t know about the Catholics, but I know that Christians outside of the Catholic church celebrate communion and mark certain days as days to remember…Christmas, Maundy Thursday (the day before Christ’s crucifixion), Good Friday, Easter Sunday, and Pentecost (remembering when Christ ascended into Heaven and the coming gift of the Holy Spirit). They’re all days where we remember what God has done for us…no rituals or pegan events involved.

    Reply
  8. JONNYBOY -  April 22, 2011 - 5:47 pm

    i thought that the name of the people living there are called the Rapa Nui?

    Reply
  9. df -  April 22, 2011 - 2:56 pm

    Joe – don’t know about communion, but the pagan origin of many Christian events is real – just fiction re-written to support the new status quo.

    BTW if the ‘Source’ really was into showing people something, regardless of their current or former ‘religion’, I would think there would be equivalents for these events in other religions like hindu or islam or … so either it’s all just a big collection of stories, the Source is rather absent-minded, or the Source hates ~66% of the world population.

    Reply
  10. Joe -  July 12, 2010 - 11:35 pm

    Communion comes from the Passover which is Jewish not Pagan directly.

    Also a lot of times people point out pagan origins to say gotcha it doesn’t mean a thing. If it were good and true, wouldn’t it persist even into other religions, if the Source of it all wanted to show us something? Just a thought. Humanity is a vector in time and that which aligns with the vector persists until the end and our connection with G~d.

    Reply
  11. ? -  July 12, 2010 - 11:21 pm

    What does a solar eclipse have to do with it???

    Reply
  12. James Phelan -  July 12, 2010 - 5:12 pm

    I do agree that the history of Christian and pagan rituals are interesting to learn about. I was sitting in the Northwest Museum of Native American Art once and a visitor who seemed to know a lot about rituals, happened to mention that many Christian rituals (if not all) do come from earlier Ancient pagan rituals. As I recall, the Communion offering might have been one.

    Reply
  13. Professor -  July 12, 2010 - 4:01 pm

    GrayKat, just on that note, didn’t the practice of ‘Christianizing’ pagan rituals and festivals really start with Constantine? I have been told that, when he made Christianity the official religion, people simply replaced their pagan gods with various figures from the Bible – then it was business as usual!

    I would like to know more about it.

    Reply
  14. GrayKat -  July 12, 2010 - 11:39 am

    For anyone who has studied anthropology or pre-Christian religions, there is nothing of “surprisingly pagan origin” in Christian holidays. The church was notorious for reattributing local pagan festivals and twisting them to coincide with some distant “saint” or event to convert locals to Christianity.

    Reply
  15. EASTER | BLOGCHI@mayopia.com -  July 12, 2010 - 11:26 am

    [...] Hot Word from dickom is “EASTER” — What else can we say — From Islands to Fertility and Jesus Christ to pray. — [...]

    Reply

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