Friday, March 20, 2015

Hail to the (Mysterious) March Hare...

A stained glass window in the Castle Inn at Lydford.
Photo Credit: Eleanor Ludgate, found here.

Well, officially it's Spring, and it hasn't come a moment too soon... although, if you're like me, you aren't exactly seeing any signs of it yet.

Enter the mad, March Hare...

Let's face it, it's been a long winter. And if you're feeling a little grey around the gills, down in the dumps, and even a tad snarky, then, perhaps, you're in need of a Mythic fix. In which case, I'm here to give you one...

"This fascinating and ancient symbol of three hares, or rabbits, running in a circle and joined by their ears forming a triangular shape giving the illusion that each hare has two ears when in fact they only have one, has been discovered in various places all over the world. The earliest dating back to 581 AD were discovered in Buddhist caves in China, however they have also been found in Nepal, Iran, Southern Russia, Switzerland, Germany and France. They are thought to have been brought on the silk route to Britain where they are found mainly in Medieval church roof bosses of which Devon has by far the most with seventeen churches containing a total of twenty nine bosses, plus other places where the image is depicted in plaster and glass."

-  Devon artist, Eleanor Ludgate, from her website page...

"The original, pre-Christian meaning of the Three Hares design has yet to be discovered, but we can glimpse possible interpretations by examing the wealth of world mythology and folklore involving rabbits and hares. In numerous traditions, these animals were archetypal symbols of women, femininity, female deities, and women's hedgerow magic, associated with the lunar cycle, fertility, longevity, and rebirth. If we dig a little deeper into their stories, we find that they are also contradictory, paradoxical creatures: symbols of both cleverness and foolishness, of femininity and androgyny, of cowardice and courage, of rampant sexuality and virginal purity. In some lands, Hare is the messenger of the Great Goddess, moving by moonlight between the human world and the realm of the gods; in other lands he is a god himself, wily deceiver and sacred world creator rolled into one."

- Terri Windling, from her article: The Folklore of Rabbit and Hares.

“The secret is not great when one knows it.
But it is something to one who does it.
Turn and turn again and we will also turn,
So that we give pleasure to each of you.
And when we have turned, count our ears,
It is there, without any disguise, you will find a marvel.”

- From an engraving of the Three Hares motif, 1576, (written in both Dutch and French) found at Mythic Living.

"The belief in the power of witches to change their shape into hares and go roaming about at night dates from much earlier. In fact, Giraldus Cambrensis, writing almost 500 years earlier in the Topography of Ireland reported “It has also been a frequent complaint, from old times as well as in the present, that certain hags in Wales, as well as in Ireland and Scotland, changed themselves into the shape of hares…” Remnants of this belief can still be found in the numerous folk stories about hares that were shot at night to find a local woman with a shoulder wound the next morning or parsons surprising a coven of witches and finding hares in their place the next instant."

- From Tinners Rabbits at the Otherworld Apothecary.

"In the black furror of a field
I saw an old witch-hare this night;
And she cocked a lissome ear,
And she eyed the moon so bright,
And she nibbled of the green;
And I whispered "Whsst! witch-hare,"
Away like a ghostie o’er the field
She fled, and left the moonlight there."

- An excerpt from a poem by Walter de la Mare found in Terri Windling's Endicott Studio article.

The Three Hare symbol by Jackie Morris

I've little to add here, but it's interesting to note that the older carvings of the Three Hares symbol (found here) are very often discovered in the company of carvings of the Green Man. Now, what were those stonemasons trying to tell us?*

For a pretty (spring-like) interpretation of the Three Hares, try here. For more, try here.

And, may Springtime arrive in your neighborhood real soon! :-)

* Further research seems to indicate that this statement concerning The Three Hares and the Green Man may be inaccurate. I took the prompt from the Wiki page, and assumed the carvings were in stone, but it appears the few examples which exist may be carved in wood. As far as the creators of these designs trying "to tell us" something, however, well, the impression I'm getting currently is that this may, indeed, be true. 


"The myth of the Moon gazing hare reflects ancient beliefs. Pagans believed that seeing a moon gazing hare would bring growth, re-birth, abundance, new beginnings and good fortune. The symbol of the moon gazing hare is almost universal meaning fertility and dates back to ancient times. The hare is always an attribute of lunar deities. The moon-gazing hare was especially important to early Britons. In nature hares can be seen and in ancient times, often seen in this "moon gazing" pose. Chinese moon gazing hares were thought of as gazing up at what he sees as his ancient ancestor in the moon."

- from the Phantasy Publishing article, The myth of the Moon gazing hare.*

* Note, March 23:  I was in the process of updating this section of the post with more information, when it occurred to me that what I really needed to create was, essentially, another post altogether. So, for those of you following my "fits and starts" I apologize. Part II, regarding The Three-Hare symbol, will appear as soon as I can manage it.


  1. and I see a new post has sprung....and how apt for Easter, that celebration of Spring.

    Fascinating as always.......esoteric and yet, at the base, so much a part of the symbolism that shapes our society.

    1. Thanks, BG!
      But, believe it or not, I wasn't even thinking of Easter bunnies. (!) Go figure.
      I might add a little more to this post tomorrow... and Ēostre might inadvertently be mentioned in relationship to the hare's lunar aspect. Not sure.

  2. It made me think of Watership Down. Nice post, I didn't know about this symbol, and I could use a rebirth at this point, it's been a long, hard winter.

    1. Yes, it has been a long winter... even here in NM. Regardless of how you interpret it, the Three-Hare symbol is very dynamic... and magical.