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    Horace Dunn

    As far as I can tell, there is little evidence to favour the theory that hares were sacred to Eostre (charming though the notion is). Of course, precious little is known about Eostre and the earliest reference to her, in the writings of Bede, makes no reference to the hare. In fact, it has sometimes been suggested that Oestre was an invention of Bede (hardly likely, but another charming notion).

    That you used the word "magical" to describe the hare that you saw is hardly surprising. Throughout the British Isles they have always been associated with magic. It was believed that witches could change themselves into hares, for example, and one piece of folklore holds that if a hare runs through a house, then that house will burn down. Generally, from the Middle Ages onwards hares have been considered an ill omen. However, others have a more positive view of them. It used to be common for people to keep a hare's foot to ward off evil (as a boy I had a rabbit's foot "for luck", of course, by that time, alas, hares had become all too rare).

    It also used to be believed that if a pregnant woman was startled by a hare, her child would be born with a hare lip unless she immediately tore up her petticoats.

    Of course, all this shows that the perception of hares as somehow magical is quite common. But it does not explain why we DO perceive them in this way. Personally, I think that there is something curiously human about hares. They have none of the cuddly anonymity of rabbits (or most other wild mammals) and they seem to exhibit some sort of personality in the way they move and behave. Good old anthropomorphism is probably the answer.


    Horace, you're clearly more much more knowledgeable about these legends and beliefs than I am. Thanks for your insight.

    I agree that the hare, perhaps because it is usually seen as an individual, seems to have some quasi-human qualities. But then it also has the apparently magical ones of seeming to appear out of nowhere. And it sits more upright than a rabbit. It does also seem to me to have an objective beauty of the type that deer have, and rabbits do not, which may have to do with body language and movements as well as physical characteristics.

    Horace Dunn

    Judy, I could not have put it better myself. Thank you for that.

    Actually, I'm by no means an expert on this stuff. I made a bit of a study of it when I was younger, but these days have to refresh my memory with books. If you're interested in this sort of thing you could do worse than getting hold of copies of Simpson & Roud's "Dictionary of English Folklore" and Iona Opie and Moira Tatem's "Dictionary of Superstitions". Both are Oxford dictionaries and, I think, readily available in paperback. These are good bluffer's guides (!) but also have detailed bibliographies should you want to approach the subject more seriously (and here comes the oft-heard plaintive cry "I wish I had more time"...)

    I'm enjoying the blog, by the way, and the little excursion into the weird magical world of the hare, made it all the more attractive. Many thanks.

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