Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Three Hares

Ray gave me a beautiful pendant for my birthday,
of three hares running in a circle, joined at the ears.
my birthday present, thanks Ray x
It's an ancient design. The oldest examples are hundreds of years old and found  in a Buddhist temple in China. From there it seems they spread along the old trade routes, and wherever the hares went people loved them and made them their own. so, they are found on Iranian Islamic pottery, on European synagogue ceilings,and medieval church roof bosses: the three hares motif is an age-old trans-cultural, multi-faith symbol, meaning something special to each people who adopted it. It is also beloved of neo-Pagans - the hare is an important symbol for many following an earth-spirituality path.

There's a lovely site with photos and details about the Three Hares, by Chris Chapman, who tentatively considers the question of their meaning. The thing, is, nobody wrote about them, so we don't know, we can only guess. Most likely, they took on different meanings, in different contexts. it is interesting that to a Christian, as well as to some neo-Pagans, it is the three-in-oneness that particularly attracts, a Christian, associating it with the Trinity, a Pagan, with the triple Godess. But to other faiths, the hares surely suggest something else.
A 'speaking pebble' I painted last year      

Although I have seen the odd hare while out in the coutryside over the years, including some near the white horse of Uffington, and another near Wayland's Smithy on the Ridgeway, last August, up in Northumberland at Lammastide, they were all over the place! The barley harvest had begun and the hares, it seems, although they are nomadic, were feeling dislocated.
hares near the White Horse

As we walked the last few miles of the pilgrim route to Lindisfarne, there they were, running ahead of us along the edges of the fields at great speed. They are thus, very much associated with the grain harvest to me, indeed, there are European folk traditions that the hare embodies the spirit of the corn and flees as the last sheaf is cut. But there are also many traditions which associate hares with the moon, and while we didn't see any hares during our nights camping in the area, there was, nevertheless, a beautiful full moon.

You can find a fuller reflection plus illustration of the Three Hares in The Healer's Tree, (which is also available as a download) in which I also talk about the Green Man, another widespread and mysterious motif. There's also a Celtic legend to engage with, of a hunted hare who finds sanctuary under the cloak of a holy woman, Saint Melangell.
one of a series of grain-cycle pebbles I painted for lammastide

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