Spring, Ostara and the Hare
This post explores some the ideas I have found about the Goddess Ostara and her trusty sidekick the humble hare. Furthermore, it examines some of the myths and the artwork it has inspired me to create.
I am sure you have guessed by now that I am a great fan of the seasons. This is because every season has its own unique source of inspiration. Each season has its own specific colour palette and symbolism.
Autumn and Winter have already been covered in previous posts. Now it is the turn of Spring. In particular, the role of the hare. This fascinating creature has potentially shaped some of our most treasured celebrations.
Spring is finally on its way. Very shortly, the patter of tiny paws from the iconic brown hare will be bouncing around the undergrowth throughout the English countryside. The hare is strongly associated with the season of Spring. This is because of their well-documented boxing matches during March and April. Not only that, but some people believe that this majestic animal has a deep routed connection to our past beliefs. Most notably with the Vernal Equinox.
Who is Ostara?
Ostara or Eostre is a Celtic goddess who gives her name to the Christian celebration of Easter. Goddess Ostara is a symbol of fertility. Therefore, like Spring, both the hare and the goddess are associated with rebirth and renewal. Seedlings and blossoming shoots are encouraged to grow as the dark skies become lighter for longer periods during the day.
Easter Hares not Bunnies
Up until fairly recently, I had no idea where the concept of the Easter Bunny actually came from. Some people believe originally the animal in question, was, in fact, a hare instead.
Legend has it, the humble hare is closely associated with the Goddess Ostara. For the reason that he won over her affections when offering the goddess a gift. Worried that other animals would impress their important visitor with more lavish gifts, our hero, instead, offered Ostara his only possession, an egg. Ostara appreciated the hare’s gesture of giving away everything he had and so appointed him to the role of her very special animal.
It should be noted, that this idea is contested by some. Claiming that it is not a traditional Pagan idea, but more of a modern invention. However, I still love this story because of its rather romantic depiction of the origins of today’s Easter Bunny. And there is plenty of stunning pieces of artwork illustrating Ostara and her sidekick.
The Hare and the Moon
As a nocturnal creature, the hare has become synonymous with the moon. Furthermore connecting the hare to the rebirth and fertility theme of Spring. Both hare and moon are said to die every evening so they can be reborn each morning. Thus making our friend a symbol of immortality.
Hares have come to fascinate me since discovering the their connection to Easter. In addition, I have also discovered that the hare is shrouded in mythology from other cultures. Consequently, I have become obsessed with their story. Therefore I have started to incorporate them into many aspects of my work.
I even took some time out of my doll making to try my hand at this crocheted trophy head from the book “Animal Heads: Trophy Heads to Crochet” by Vanessa Mooncie. When compared to the original, he certainly looks ‘mad as a March hare‘.
Mythology and Symbolism of the Hare
As with any myth or legend, there is a lot of contradicting information about the hare’s story. However, the images conjured up by these tales, true or not, have formed a basis of inspiration for many artists and pieces of art.
Other Hare Facts
- The hare is also sacred to the goddesses Aphrodite, Hecate, and Freyja to name a few.
- Hares are a symbol of abundance as well as fertility and immortality.
- They are elusive and shy creatures.
- Some have credited the hare as a hermaphrodite. Encompassing both male and female qualities, giving this animal mysterious and perplexing qualities.
- Leverets (the babies) are born fully furred with their eyes open.
- Unlike rabbits, hares live in nests on the ground rather than burrows.
- Buddhists and Hindus believe this animal is a creature of fire. Others even suggest the hare, therefore, symbolises a balance between destruction and creation (rising out of the ashes of fire).