I have been inspired by the arrival of a beautiful, hand-crafted sculpture in my garden. With perfect timing, just after the Spring Equinox, we commissioned local artist and blacksmith Katherine Womack to create a moon gazing hare. It is a wonderful thing to look at, but then my research into the meaning of this ancient symbol has made it very special indeed.
The symbol of the moon gazing hare crosses many cultures and dates back to the earliest times of humankind. Pagans believed moon-gazing hares would bring growth, re-birth, abundance, new beginnings and fortune. In this year when I have a big birthday, the kids are flying from the nest and I retire from a full-time job to work freelance, it carries a positive, personal message.
I am fortunate to see hares quite often in the fields behind my house when walking the dog. We will see them soon in pairs leaping wildly in the air, living up to the title of being ‘mad’. This is not, as you might think, a boxing match between two males, but it is the female hare that is the most ferocious. It has been suggested that the female is testing the fitness of the male before she decides to have him as her mate, and if she doesn’t like him then boxing his ears is a good way of telling him to get lost!
The powerful female image stretches back through the ancient mythology. The hare is associated with moon goddesses, including the Egyptian Isis and the Anglo-Saxon Eostre who lent her name to Easter, which coincides with the first full moon after the Spring Equinox. For Eostre the hare was sacred, but gradually and sadly this has become the much commercialised, fluffy Easter bunny.
The association between the hare and rebirth goes beyond lunar mythology. Many Buddhist and Hindu texts describe the hare as a creature of fire, specifically the consuming sacrificial fire of the phoenix, having the ability to rise again out of the ashes. As an occupational therapist this has special resonance because the symbol of my profession is the phoenix. We work to enable people to reach their full potential, a process of profound change, often from a dark place.
The spiral is often seen on images of the moon gazing hare and this is very ancient, considered to be the earliest known representations of spirituality. It is the symbol of the goddess, fertility, growth, rebirth and continual change.
The moon gazing hare is an archetype that lives within our human collective consciousness across millennia, and it still has a resonance today. Myths and legends may seem redundant in the modern world, but connecting with the power of nature and the deep understanding of our ancestors can give courage and hope in an uncertain world. Mick Collins explores this in his book ‘The Unselfish Spirit’ where he touches on the archetype of the divine feminine. I am taking a message of inspiration into 2018, my year of change and transformation, from the fierce moon gazing hare.
Collins M (2014), The Unselfish Spirit. Permanent Publications, Hampshire.