Saturday, October 22, 2016

March Totems: Hare

In our tradition we divide the year not only by eight solar and agricultural holidays, but also by the Kalends. We celebrate twelve months of the year by the common calendar, plus a special thirteenth month for Samhain.  These month cycles are associated with different totemic spirits. Each month is assigned an animal, a bird (or other flying creature), and a tree. March's totems are Hare, Birch, and Goose.

The totemic associations are as follows:

Hare (Gearr) – lunar magic, fertility, sensitivity, swiftness, intuition
Birch (Beithe) – new beginnings, healing, cleansing
Goose (Geadh) - feminine power, springtime, questing, vigilance


Rabbits are notorious breeders, and are a symbol of the fertility of spring. The expression“mad as a March hare” comes from the rabbit's habit of fighting, courting, and mating during the early spring. The tradition of the “Easter bunny”, or Eostre rabbit, reflects this springtime symbolism.

Rabbits have always been associated with witchcraft.  They are sacred to Hecate and have the peculiar habit of gathering in a circle, the “hare's parliament”. Witches are often thought to be able to transform into a rabbit.
“I will go into a hare
with sorrow and sighing and mickle care,
and I will go in the Devil’s name,
aye ’til I be fetched hame
- Hare, take heed of a bitch greyhound
will harry thee all these fells around
for here come I in Our Lady’s name
all but for to fetch thee hame”
–Robert Graves, “The Allansford Pursuit” (which is based upon a shape-shifting incantation of Isobel Gowdie, a seventeenth century Scottish witch)
Many cultures perceive the form of a rabbit in the full moon, and thus the rabbit is associated with lunar magic. So associated with the moon and old goddesses of Europe is the hare that it was once forbidden to eat its flesh in Britain and Ireland.  In Kerry it is still said that to eat a hare is “to eat one's grandmother”.

Rabbits bring great fortune to those who associate with them, due to their fecundity, and perhaps to their association with witches. Thus it became lucky to carry a rabbit's foot, especially during games of chance.

Rabbits could curse as well.  It was considered very bad luck to even mention a rabbit when at sea, and pregnant women who had a rabbit cross their path were said to give birth to babies with a “hare lip”.

Rabbits are most active during dawn and dusk, the liminal times, and their burrows are sometimes said to be entryways to the underworld or fairie realm. “Going down the rabbit hole” is a metaphor for entering into trance consciousness.

Rabbits have an old association with cats.  They share the nicknames “pussy” (from the Latin lepus) and “malkin”.

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