We’ve looked at rabbit in the wild unknown animal spirit cards and rabbits and hares are often linked together despite being quite different.
Hares are larger than rabbits, have longer ears and more powerful hind legs. They are more combative and their babies are very different at birth. The baby rabbit is helpless and hairless whereas the baby hare is born with fur and sight and are independent pretty much from the word go. Rabbits are sociable and hares are solitary. Even their associations are different. We see the rabbit as cute and fluffy and our pets and we see hares as boxers, linked often with witches. A rabbit’s foot is considered lucky but hares are feared.
Despite their shy nature, hares have to get together to mate. This happens in spring and sees a change in their behaviour. They come out during the day and chase each other – thought to be about establishing dominance between males. During the mating season, hares can been seen boxing each other and it was thought until recently that this was males fighting males to attract females. It is now thought to be more often a female boxing an overeager male when she is not ready to mate. These behaviours were considered strange and erratic and led to the saying mad as a march hare.
Once they have mated, the gestation period for hares is 28 days, the same as a moon cycle. This symbolically ties them to the moon, to the feminine and to the mysterious. In many cultures, the hare is actually seen in the dark patches on the moon itself (sometimes it’s a rabbit). The constellation Lepus is said to represent a hare, again tying the creature to the night, when they are generally more active.
One further link to the moon is Ch’ang-O, the Chinese Goddess of the Moon. Instead of personifying the moon like most lunar deities, she is said to live on the moon. She is often depicted with a hare or rabbit and the story goes that she ate a pill and discovered she could fly. The pill didn’t belong to her though so she was chased to the moon (naturally there are different versions of this!). To start with she was lonely but in time she found that a jade rabbit (or hare) lived there too and they became friends. In tarot, I have seen Ch’ang-O associated with the hermit card. Life on the moon has given her a lot of time for contemplation and consideration of life and love and many other mysteries.
Returning to earth, hares give birth to independent babies and one female can have 3-4 litters a year. It is this, their short gestation period and their activity around Easter which have led to the hare (as with the rabbit) being a symbol of fertility and life and rebirth. The hare was considered a sacred animal of Aphrodite and hares were sometimes given as a declaration of love. Hare asks us to embody our sexual self, our passionate self, our creating self.
And there is a sense of urgency with this. As depicted in the hare and the tortoise, the hare is a swift animal and can run up to 35kph. This swiftness could be a positive trait but we find the hare associated with unreliability, haste and impatience. Because of their lack of follow through, they are seen to be poor messengers despite their speed. Perhaps you have been experiencing some miscommunication in your life, emails gone astray, post never arriving or a lack of connection in sex. Whilst the live hare may not be a good way to communicate, their bones and flash have been used in divination, conveying messages from the divine.
It is not obvious from this that the hare was once considered sacred. This changed when they became known as witches familiars or creatures which witches could shapeshift into. In the form of a hare, the witch was said to milk cows until they ran dry and because of this farmers considered them pests. It was said that you could kill a hare that appeared amongst your cows on mayday using a silver loaded gun and that the wound would then been seen on the human form of the witch.
Other beliefs about the hare include bad luck coming if a hare runs across your path and a fire nearby if you see a hare running along the road. These, along with the ideas we’ve considered around swiftness and unreliability all tell of the hare as a constantly moving entity. She is always on the go, always up to something (even if she doesn’t complete it). Speed and action are important and when we are always on the go it can be easy to lose sight of our motivation or our values. We can start to act in ways that are less considered or less like we want to be. When we are on the treadmill of life, of keeping up, of constantly being busy or productive, we can get lost in a world which is greedy and selfish and not aligned with our true self. We get tied up in the perpetual motion and it is like a chain around our legs. Pause a moment, untie the chain and use your momentum wisely and for freedom.
Hares are almost literally born running and I’ve focused heavily on this but for a brief moment, let us turn to sleep where we will find some interesting ideas. If you dream of a hare it means an enemy is plotting against you. To prevent yourself from oversleeping, indulge in a hare brain in a glass of wine. Hares were believed to never sleep and would change sex every year, something they were able to do because of their dark nature. They had a melancholic nature which would be transferred to you if you ate them so they weren’t considered a good food source.
The hare clearly is a magical animal, a powerful creature, an active force that can be used for good or evil. How will you use your power?