The History of Hares

The History of Hares-By Angelique Duncan

Most folks are familiar with the magical bunny who delvers eggs on Easter morning. However, rabbits and hares have long history with enchantment and mystic symbolism outside of the annual spring holiday.

Depending on the culture the hare represented life itself and was the ambassador of sorts to Mother Earth. It was believed that hares were the companion of the White Goddess or the Earth Mother and thus held in high regard among the animals. The hare has been used symbolically to represent the cycles of the seasons, the moon cycles, rebirth and redemption as well as serving as a symbol of existence. In multiple cultures they represent love, fertility, abundance, growth and good fortune.

There are many connections between the hare as the chosen companion to different Goddesses. It was believed by the Celts that the Goddess Eostre animal spirit was a white hare and that on a full moon she would transform into a hare herself. The Norse Goddess of love and sensuality Freyia, traveled in a chariot drawn by cats and rode with a boar and a hare. The tradition of releasing a hare before battle comes from Boudicca, queen of the British Celtic Iceni who is recorded as doing so for good luck and to determine the battle plan by the hares’ movements. In ancient Germanic paganism the Earth and Sky Goddess Holda, leader of the Wild Hunt and creator of weather phenomenon; is said to have been followed by a procession of torch bearing hares.

It was thought to eat a rabbit would be to devour a Goddess. The female association with hares went further that many believed that wise women of their villages would shape shift into hares under moonlight. Some thought that when elder wise women passed away that their souls became hares that would represent and communicate with Mother Earth relaying messages to humans. Therefore consuming the meat of a sacred hare was the equivalent to eating someone that one might have known or perhaps ones own mother or grandmother.

The Celts and Teutonic peoples believed that rabbits and hares would keep borrows underground because they had the ability to commune with the Earth. Some beliefs stated that hares could communicate with dead and carry messages back and forth from both the human world to the dead world of the spirits and also to the magic faerie realm under the ground. It was thought that rabbits were impervious to evil and offered protection. They were often kept as a pet for that reason. From this mythology came the practice of *carrying a rabbit’s foot or part of a departed rabbits pelt to ward off evil spirits. To carry a rabbits foot would prevent kidnapping by faeries and prevent one from taken underground to the spirit world.

Hares were used in woodcuttings and religious art by the Christian church to persuade Pagans and followers of Goddess religions with familiarity of symbols. However the hare was seen as too virile and aggressive an animal by European Christians and was eventually phased into the less aggressive, meeker rabbit. Some historians believe this was a very intentional measure of symbolism in art to psychologically undermine the once powerful and magical creature to Pagans. The Rabbit became the symbol of springtime celebrations and associated with renewal given to the world by Christ. The White hare once companion with Ostara and the Goddess Eoster was replaced in imagery of the Madonna holding a white virginal bunny. It was believed that bunnies could become pregnant without conception from a male and hence became associated with the Virgin Mary.

As Pagan religions declined and Christianity spread rabbits and hares became associated with negative connotations and superstition. Like cats and foxes they were believed to be witches familiars. The belief that women could shape shift into hares under moonlight shifted to a myth that rabbits and hares were actually witches. The behaviors of hares helped to feed this notion. Hares can scream when in distress that sounds like a human wail. They also have the ability to stand on their hind legs for extended periods. Although they are mostly solidary and nocturnal; they will gather in a drove during daylight in the spring and dance and box upon their hind legs. This behavior was thought to be witches convening for an equinox meeting. The animal once associated with luck was feared as a bad omen if it crossed ones path. Fears of rabbits and hares were further fueled in North America for their heavy use in Hoo-Doo rituals and African American folk beliefs.

As spring approaches and fluffy bunnies and rabbits emerge take note their heritage that they were once the companions of Goddesses and messengers of the faeries and Mother Earth and quite possibly someone’s departed wise grandmother. Remember that the rabbits and bunnies represent the majestic and magical hare and bring you spring tidings and maybe a little good luck.

*In modern times with awareness of animal rights and protections of species please refrain from carrying the foot severed from an actual rabbit. Faux rabbits feet are available and carrying a talisman with the representation of a rabbit can also serve to bring you good fortune.

Illustration “White Rabbit-Spring Ostara Miniature Art – Pocket Charm” Copyright Intricate Knot. To more of Intricate Knots art and where to buy visit her artist page Art For A Gloomy Day.

Illustration “Jumping to Spring” Copyright Michelle Angelique Duncan. To see more of Twilight Faerie’s art and where to buy visit her artist page Twilight Faerie Nostalgic and Capricious Objects.

Angelique Duncan is proprietor of Twilight Faerie Nostalgic and Capricious Objects. Check out her artist page to find links to her shops and vintage inspired traditional holiday art. Visit again next month for more traditions and folklore.

The Rabbit and the Eggs

The Rabbit and the Eggs-By Angelique Duncan

Wonderful Enchanted Springtime! Finally the sun and warmth make their appearance after the long slumber of winter. Everything is born again as green and colors emerge from the earthen garden. Celebrations for spring and her Equinox commence as Easter and Oestara announce the arrival of the Easter Bunny, also known as the rabbit Oshter Haws, bringing the gift of colored eggs.

The modern practice and symbolism of “Easter” eggs has existed for many centuries in varying cultures as far back as the Egyptians and Mediterraneans. Throughout time the practice of painting and giving decorative eggs has, for the most part, remained intact in observance. However the interpretive meaning behind the symbolism of eggs has changed. The appearance of painted eggs, or pysanka as they have been named in the Ukraine, at or near the Vernal Equinox is a deep-rooted tradition in many cultures yet has for the most part held the same meaning. Eggs have been used as symbols of rebirth and renewal. In pre-Christian cultures this renewal and rebirth was in celebration of the coming of spring and the renewal of life that occurred in nature. For many Pagan cultures the process of decorating the egg was a ritual and rite of Spring celebration. It was believed that the eggs were endowed with talisman or magical power through prayer and meditation. It was believed the eggs could ward off evil spirits, guarantee a good harvest and bring a person good luck. These meditations passed into the eggs a wish that the recipient would receive protection from harm as well as good fortune and a message of well-being, happiness and joy. With the rise of Christianity the amulet properties of painted eggs was shed and the emphasis of rebirth of nature was shifted to the renewal and redemption of souls through Christ and the resurrection. However the springtime images have remained a prominent theme to most ornamented eggs.

The Easter Rabbit or once named in Germanic culture “Oschter Haws” meaning magical hare was brought to the United States by the Deutsch. The Easter Bunny has his origins as a symbol of renewal of life and fertility in nature. Many believed the rabbit would bring the decorated eggs to well deserving children as rewards in the form of tokens of good fortune for the upcoming year. The Easter rabbit was once revered as a powerful symbol to promote life and fertility for crops, families and livestock. It was believed the hare, being the most prolific in its reproduction during spring, was the most endowed of animals in the process of life renewal from winter to spring. As with the Egg, the Rabbits symbolism was transferred to a more Christian interpretation as Christianity spread and the practice of nature religions declined. The once important fertility symbol of the robust rabbit hare began to lean towards that of the sweet young bunny and became a symbol of the sacrifice Christ made for innocence and the emphasis was less on the rabbits breeding ability and shifted its representation to the “new life” given to the world by Christ. Many non-Christians “accepted” the Christian meaning given to their spring symbols in an effort to preserve pieces of their culture and continue some form of their spiritual practices.

The legend of the magical Oschter Haws or Easter Bunny who delivers enchanted painted eggs under the cover of darkness before sunrise still remains all these centuries later. When you wake up and find those colorful eggs that appeared in your yard early Easter morn and your enjoying those colorfully wrapped chocolates count yourself lucky, for Oschter Haws deemed you deserving of good fortune and delivered for you talismans of springtime protection.

Angelique Duncan is proprietor of Twilight Faerie Nostalgic and Capricious Objects. Check out her artist page to find links to her shops and vintage inspired traditional holiday art. Visit again next month for more traditions and folklore.