Spring, Ostara and the Hare
By now, it has been well documented on this blog, that I am a great fan of the seasons. This is because each season has its own unique source of inspiration from their specific colour palettes to the images and symbols they offer. Autumn and Winter have already been covered.
Now it is the turn of Spring. In particular, the role of the hare and how this creature has potentially shaped some of our most treasured celebrations. Therefore, this post explores some the ideas I have found about the hare and the work it has inspired.
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. A reputation that is mostly due to 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. In particular, to the period around the Vernal Equinox.
Hares fascinate me because I have recently discovered that they are shrouded in mythology. Consequently, I have become obsessed with their story and have incorporated 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’.
Who or what 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 hare and goddess are associated with rebirth and renewal. Encouraging seedlings to grow and blossom as the darkness of Winter fades to the lightness of Spring.
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, including my own work.
Easter Hares not Bunnies
Up until fairly recently, I had no idea where the concept of the Easter Bunny actually came from. It turns out, 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.
This is one of the contested ideas about the hare, however, I 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.
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).
The Hare as My Source of Inspiration
Early on I created a character with a working title of ‘The Hooping Hare’. ‘Hooping’, not ‘hopping’. And ‘hooping’, of course, referring to my love of the circus skill of hoop dance.
She has become quite a recurring theme, within my drawings, and I will write a sperate post dedicated to her.
My forthcoming doll collection is very much inspired by the themes discussed in this blog. For a sneak peek, please visit my portfolio page, where I have introduced a litter of springtime leverets.
Other Hare Art and Craft
Many other artists and designers also appear to be inspired by these amazing animals. Last year I created a gift guide blog based on this theme. If this post has inspired you to respect hares. Please click on the links below to my Pinterest boards.