I have been to Whitby many times for the Gothic Weekend twice a year– this year will be the first year I will be attending as a dealer! Look for me in the Leisure Centre if you will be there.
Near the Shambles in Whitby, there used to be a shop with green shutters painted with three hares. That little Pagan shop has moved and the three hares are now painted over, but it was the first place I saw this sacred image. The hares form a triquetra, or three cornered shape, representing the three aspects of the Goddess– later adopted by the Christian faith to represent the Holy Trinity.
They are a riddle, these “rotating rabbits”– three hairs, each with two ears, yet they only share three. This image originated in the cave temples of China, and traveled along the Silk Road to England. Sometimes called “Tinner’s Rabbits”, the symbol was adopted by tin miners in Devon.
But the three rabbits also decorate mosques, and the appearance of this traveling symbol in synagogues may be a reference to the Jewish diaspora.
Hares have been associated with the Virgin Mary– and most likely is attached in ancestral memory to an older Goddess, one associated with the moon and lunar cycles. In Chinese Folklore the Moon Rabbit is said to be pounding out the elixir of immortality in a mortar for the moon Goddess Chang’e. The Aztecs also have a moon rabbit legend as well as many other cultures. Some say you can see this rabbit by looking at the shadows on the moon which form its shape. One wonders if the moon gazing hare is looking up to see its big goddess in the sky– it’s a nice image to contemplate at this time of year. At least, I like to think on it.
In the days before special effects, the optical illusion of the three ears must have had been amplified with a kind of shifting mystery. These rabbits turn and turn in the mind, spinning the wheel of the year toward spring.
As an aside, I have been listening to the neo folk band, The Hare and the Moon a lot lately– they describe themselves as “spook folk”. You might like to give them a listen! http://www.myspace.com/thehareandthemoon
Blessed Spring Equinox, dear reader!