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Hare Women

Spring and the images of bounding hares, fluffy chicks and painted eggs that dominate the media today, remind us of some very ancient roots. The magical shapeshifting hare has long been associated with the festival of Ostara, also known as the Vernal equinox, which occurs around the 21st March.

Eostre is the Saxon goddess of the spring and is inextricably linked with this imagary. From the Iron Age and beyond, hare's were sacred and the Saxon hare goddess Eostre is the personitication of this mythology. She is also the goddess of feritility and rides through the sky surrounded by sunlight and animals.

In the 6th century an Irish king's daughter travelled to Wales to escape an arranged marriage. There she was found in the woods, by another prince who was touched by her realtionship with the hares that lived there and gifted her the woodland as a hare sanctuary. She became St Melangell and is still celebrated to this day.

Progress through history to the infamous witch hunts that began in the 15th century and we find women being accused of taking the shape of a hare in order to perform rituals and evade capture.

Most famously Isobel Gowdie was said to confess at her trial, amongst other things, that

'I sall go until a hare .

Wi' sorrow and sick mickle care

I sall goe in the devil's name

An while I come home again'

This has entered into folklore in many forms and Maddie Prior made the condession into a song called 'The Fabled Hare' which you can listen to on Spotify here: 'The Fabled Hare.'

Over thousands of year the image of the woman and hare have become inextricably linked. On my alter stand three hares one of which is one of the Museum of Witchcraft's most admired objects, the Miskin Hare Woman. This is an anthropomorphic hare woman created by Lionel Miskin in the 1960s, while he was teaching at Falmouth School of Art.

The small hare in the dress is remeniscent of the illuminated manuscripts which again show many anthropromorphised creatures amongst the marginalia.

These images have been in existence for millenia though as we can see from the depictions of Egyptian gods and goddesses such as Bastet and Anubis.

The moongazing or stargazing hare on the right on the image below is very popular in the pagan tradtion. It represents good fortune and abundance, bringing us back to the symbolism of fertility and the hare.

I love to tell stories of hare women and my favourites include, 'The Laddie Who Herded Hares.' 'The Beekeeper And The Hare', and 'The Witch of Fife'. You can find me telling some of these stories on my Youtube channel here.

I will be sharing more stories, folklore and mythology of the hare in my Wild Women's Circle at The Wild Nest Yoga Studio in Petersfield on the 15th April. More information can be found here.

You can aslo listen to my podcast episode on the shapeshifting hare here and the extended episode via Patreon, here.

If you enjoyed this post, please share it with your friends. on social media or leave a comment below. I'll be back in April with the focus on the blackthorn and the dark fae of the hedgerow. For now, you can find me on Instagram via @dd_storyteller , on Facebook as DD Storyteller and on Twitter as @dd_stortyeller. I'll see you there!

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