I have loved animals as far back as I can remember. I played with my "imaginary" animal friend as a child, not knowing at the time what a power animal was. I had vivid dreams and visions throughout my life. I also felt drawn to different animals at different times in my life and when I found out about power or spirit animals, I finally understood why. Reading up on those animals and then going on shamanic journeys and meditations afforded me the entry point into the world of animals on a spiritual level. The reason I prefer the term power animal to spirit animal is simply because it feels more grounded and manifested to me. You are, of course, welcome to use whatever term you like; power animal, spirit animal, animal guide...You choose. The important thing is to have a strong, loving connection and to trust and ask your animal to teach you and share its wisdom with you.
Slicing like a Sickle
The hare has been venerated for millennia in Northern Europe. In Ireland, the hare population goes back to around 28,000 BCE, for example. When the veneration of this wonderful animal first started is not certain, but evidence suggests that it has a long-standing history.
The most widely known association of Hare in mythology is its connection with the spring equinox and thus, with the Proto-Indo-Germanic Goddess Eostre or Ostara, of whom I wrote a blog on Thursday. However, I merely skimmed at the meaning of the Hare, so today, we will definitely go deeper into the matter here. To start, we need to go back in time to the old Celtic peoples and their mythology to gain a better understanding.
The Celtic people admired Hare for its strength and speed and because it was night-active, it was also associated with the moon. Because it was seen as magical and mysterious, it was treated with caution. In fact, Cesar noted when in the British isles that it was forbidden for Celtic people to eat Hares. In Ireland, it was believed that the women from the Otherworld could shapeshift and frequently did so in the form of the Hare. There have been many depictions of Hares in many cultures for thousands of years. To this day, the Easter Hare features in children’s tales in modern children’s literature.
Until well into the 18th century, the Hare was believed to be a hermaphrodite, changing gender every month. Moreover, it was assumed that it could get impregnated with new offspring while already pregnant, producing eggs at the same time as carrying young. This explains why Hare is so strongly associated with fertility and fecundity. The Mediterranean people believed that male Hares could become pregnant, too. This gives insight into things like their reverence for hares, as super-fertile shapeshifters and miraculous acts of natural alchemy. There were also many other superstitions attached to Hare. As the animal likes to jump in circles, clockwise was a good omen, anti-clockwise a bad one, for example.
When we look at many religions and myths, especially the Pagan and shamanic traditions, it was believed that the true nature of ourselves and the divine stems from the union of opposites. At the Equinox, there is a perfect balance between the masculine and feminine. From this union of the masculine and feminine, all creation breaks forth into life and consciousness. There is an innate logic in this construct that anything in nature that brings together the masculine and feminine, be it sexual intercourse, self-replicating fish, or in this case, Hares who interchanged between male and female, as it was believed, were all held as some of the highest and most sacred subjects in the world because they embody the actual creative powers of the universe.
A Rich Mythology
In Europe, the Hare as a mythical creature connected to the moon as an intermediary between the worlds is well established, but there is mythology found in most parts of the world relating to Hare. Many Buddhist and Hindu texts describe the hare as a creature of fire, but not just any fire--the same consuming sacrificial fire of the phoenix, then to rise again out of the ashes. The Hare in this sense is not just a symbol of cyclical life like the moon and in many tales blatantly depicted as a bringer of reincarnation to mankind, but also in the same way, it becomes a symbol of simultaneous destruction and recreation that is at the very heart of all life. Life is not just about being creative, but also requires the balance of first being destructive. Thus, we are confronted again with an appropriate reminder of the Equinoxes.
In my book Opposites Attract, I use this theme, bringing this macrocosmic archetype into form in the microcosm of a relationship between two very different individuals interacting with each other. At first, it seems, there is only a small step to full-out war, but as the plot develops and the story unfolds with many scenes that will make you laugh, feel for the characters or hold your breath with suspense, and hopefully it will make you take away some insights into your own psyche as well, the two warring parties slowly come together and as trust is built and teamwork established, instead of blocking each other, the two main protagonists come to a consensus whereby they can actually appreciate each other’s strength and together, they make a whole whose sum is larger than their individual parts.
Back to Hare, it is interesting to note that the Ancient Egyptian hieroglyph for the verb "to be" or "being" was actually a hare crouched over a squiggly line of water. This "to be" incorporated at that time in Egyptian grammar the idea of being embodied, alive and persisting in being. For all these reasons, the Hare then is not only associated with the moon, the sacred fire and spring, the daybreak of the year, but also with the dawn and, more importantly, with enlightenment.
Returning to the Goddess Eostre, the Goddess of spring, dawn and new life, whose familiar Hare was, Hare represents the archetype in our psyche of new beginnings, rejoicing at the rebirth of life and the full potential that is presented to us in abundance. The Easter Bunny, which is actually a Hare, is traditionally said to lay eggs on Easter. This is not to be taken literally, but symbolically. The egg represents potential and the cosmos, the very ground of being from which we spring. When you think of the Cosmic Egg or Druid’s Egg, you may begin to detect the full scope of this meaning. And to produce the cosmos, both the male and female must be present, and thus, this ties in neatly with the belief that Hare was both male and female.
Further associations for Hare are marriage, the companion of the Goddess Aphrodite, and also being a shaman’s familiar. In this version, Hare is a trickster and cheats winter and death. Overall, Hare is a symbol of many things, involving balance, life, creative potency, regeneration, fertility, and eternity. This symbolism is associated with springtime, the dawn, the moon, sacred fire, the egg, the circle, the infinity symbol, marriage, androgyny and hermaphroditism, as well as genius and inspiration.