3655 – Moon gazing hare

Physical description:
A ceramic hare, painted in a naturalistic style, raising its nose to the sky.
Museum classification:
Wheel of the Year / Hare Lady / Upstairs Gallery / Modern Witchcraft
15 cm x 8 cm

Hares were sacred to ancient religions across the globe.  In Europe, these ancient traditions tend to associate the hare with moon deities and the symbolism of the hunt.  Irish mythology and folklore is particularly respectful of hares:  eating a hare in Kerry was said to be like eating your grandmother.  The Goddess Eostre changed into a hare at the full moon, whilst Boudicca is thought to have used the hare for divination.  In esoteric terms, the hare is best known as an animal of transformation.  The Celtic warrior Oisin wounded a hare during a hunt, and followed it into some bushes.  He found there a door into the ground which led to a grand hall in which sat a woman on a throne with a wounded leg.  In more modern European folklore, witches and hares have become synonymous.  There are numerous cases in which witches turn themselves into hares, but the most famous and poetic example can be found in the confession of Isobel Gowdie (1662) who reported that:

I shall go into a hare,

With sorrow and sych and meickle care;

And I shall go in the Devil's name,

Ay while I come home again.

This has been seen by some as evidence that witchcraft is a form of or derivative of an older Goddess orientated religion.  It is clear that the hare is strongly associated with women and the divine feminine.  

Modern commentators have discussed hare symbolism in this and other witchcraft trials and confessions as part of a larger 'collective unconcious'.  Whilst the hare may have personal and literal significance for an individual, it is an archetype or an 'image impressed upon the mind since of old...'  (St. Augustine of Hippo).  Whilst people in different periods may interpret the hare differently, it has been argued by cultural theorists and psychologists that the hare is a persistent symbol in people's lives, dreams, feelings and hopes (see John Layard, The Lady of the Hare, Shambala: 1988).  

Carl Jung theorized the archetype in the following way:

"Primitive tribal lore treats of archetypes that are modified in a particular way..., changed into conscious formulas that are taught according to tradition, generally in the form of esoteric teaching...  Another well-known expression of the archetype is myth and fable.  But here also we are dealing with conscious and specifically moulded forms that have been handed on relatively unchanged through long periods of time."

The symbol of the moon-gazing appears universal.  Modern Pagans believe that moon-gazing hares bring growth, re-birth, abundance, new beginnings and fortune.

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