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The Hare and the Tortoise by Edward Julius Detmold, 1909

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Rabbit Symbolism       

Native American
From Lawrence, The Symbolic Role of Animals in the Plains Indian Sun Dance
Sioux participants may wear the skins of rabbits on their arms and legs, for "the rabbit represents humility, because he is quiet and soft and not self-asserting a quality we must all possess when we go to the center of the world" (Brown, 1967, p. 85). The wearing of strips of rabbit fur by the Cheyenne who build the sun dance lodge may refer back to the time when the tribe lived in the north and subsisted chiefly on rabbits (Grinnell, 1923, vol. 2, p. 218). The Arapaho sun dance involves a rabbit-tip), whose name originated from the myth in which rabbits conducted the secret ceremonies of the sun dance lodge. Those who still perform the rites are called Rabbit-men (Dorsey, 1903, p. 37). Weasel and otter hides, because they come from "tough little animals", are linked to the Crow sun dance (Vogel, 1984, p. 253), probably conferring endurance. For the Lakota, these two animals are especially "wakan"' meaning akin to sacred (Walker, 1980, pp. 101, 168).
Notes:  
Brown, J. E. (1967). The sacred pipe. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.  Grinnell, G. B. (1923). The Cheyenne Indians. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1, 2.  Dorsey, G. A. (1903).  The Arapaho sun dance: The ceremony of the offerings lodge. Chicago: Field Columbian Museum Publication 75, Anthropological Series, 4.  Voget, F. (1984). The Shoshoni-Crow sun dance. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.  Walker, J. R. (1980). Lakota belief and ritual. R. J. DeMallie and E. A. Jahner, (Eds.), Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.

In Zuni art, the rabbit symbolizes gentleness, release, and fecundity. (Zuniart)

Chinese
The RabbitAttributes of those born in the Chinese year of the Rabbit, according to Holy Mountain.

The Rabbit is quick, clever and ambitious, but seldom finishes what he starts. He epitomizes gentleness, refinement and elegance, turning his back on conflicts of any kind. Preferring a situation that is perfectly favorable according to his specific desires, the Rabbit bypasses all obstacles and persons he does not find suitable. As a result, he is rarely angry, hostile or aggressive. Companions quickly forget any discord, only remembering his seductive grace.
     The Rabbit is the happiest sign of the Zodiac -- gifted, nice to be with, discreet, refined, reserved, ambitious but not too much so, and virtuous in the bargain. Nobody ignores Rabbits, for they are good company and know how to make the best of themselves. Unfortunately, however, Rabbits are superficial and their good qualities are superficial also.
     The Rabbit is a social creature, tactful, cool, and sensitive to others. Yet this calm can become aloof, the sensitivity can be quirky and thin-skinned, and the intelligence can become dilettantish. The Rabbit is lucky -- with brains and only a little hard labor, the Rabbit can go far.
     Rabbits seem to be born with an innate sagacity, a natural shrewdness which makes them streetwise when it comes to the affairs of the world. Intuitive and with a canny understanding, they seem to possess an ability to see things before they happen, a talent which secures them the best deals both in business and in life, whilst also ensuring them financial stability and security. With perfect understanding of their partners, they frequently have the advantage, and in the practice of human relations, they are unrivaled in what requires subtle negotiations. They will undertake nothing before they have weighed the pros and cons and examined the deal from every angle. Because of this, people admire the Rabbit and take him into their confidence. He shines in trade, especially in some offbeat aspect of it like antiques, which permits him to capitalize on his good taste. Politics, diplomacy and the law all offer the Rabbit equally good opportunities -- provided always that he can live the tranquil life he craves within their orbit.
     Style as well as an eye for beauty are especially associated with this group whose members possess refined tastes together with artistic skills. Highly creative people, art is of particular interest to them. Because of the Rabbit's built-in acquisitive nature, many become great collectors, filling their houses with beautiful paintings and objets d'art. In whatever walk of life Rabbits find themselves, they will always be distinguished by this sense of refinement and their cultured views. Elegant both physically and intellectually, Rabbits will always stand out from the crowd either as extremely stylish dressers or because they create an individualistic fashion statement of their own.
     During the three phases of his life, the Rabbit will manage to have the peaceful existence he wants on one condition: that he keeps away from the exceptional situation, the dramatic turn of events, or the insurmountable obstacle. Wars, revolutions, natural catastrophes have nothing to do with him; he wasn't designed for adversity. Anything that threatens his quiet life becomes insupportable.
     There is usually something offbeat and mysterious in the Rabbit's makeup, as though he held the secret to some great truth that he dare not reveal. It must be remembered that the Rabbit's apparent weakness can easily be changed into strength -- from man to magician to god.

The Sensual Rabbit
     Though Rabbits are sensitive, sentimental creatures, emotional and easily moved to tears, when it comes to committing themselves to a long-term relationship they can be quite mercenary. Their driving passion is a desire for an easy life, filled with as much comfort and luxury as they can get. Thus they are more likely to show their allegiance to someone who will not only provide security and stability but who will also guarantee as much of la dolce vita as possible. But to give them their due, once they have found the right partner they make faithful husbands or wives, devoting themselves to their families and to their homes. By the way, their sensuality usually ensures that the Rabbit family will be a large one.
     Affectionate and obliging though he is with those he loves, faithful and loving though he is, the Rabbit finds it easy to benefit his friends at the expense of those nearest to him; he's not really a family man, and that's the truth of it. Often enough, he regards his parents or his children almost as strangers to whom he prefers the cronies of his own choice. So far as female Rabbits are concerned, they can always be relied on to do their duty, but their maternal instinct in fact is strictly limited.  

Norse
The rabbit is a symbol of the ancient Ostara festival, a spring festival of renewal and re-brith.  The rabbit is an Ostara symbol because it re-emerges in the spring and because of it's fecundity. (wizard realm)

Pagan
 8th-century English scholar St. Bede, holds that the modern festival of Easter  probably comes from Eastre, the Anglo-Saxon name of a Teutonic goddess of spring and fertility, to whom was dedicated a month corresponding to April. Her festival was celebrated on the day of the vernal (Spring) equinox; traditions associated with the festival survive in the Easter rabbit, a symbol of fertility, and in colored easter eggs, originally painted with bright colors to represent the sunlight of spring...(Gayla's garden)

Easter
European spring goddess Eostre (from whom we get the name Easter) had the head of a hare, and the date of Easter is determined by the moon whose symbolism is strongly tied to that of the hare. In fact, the hare is the symbol for the moon. Ever since the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D., Easter has been celebrated on the first Sunday following the first full moon after March 21st. Because of these early associations, hare hunting was once a common Easter activity in England and even today the Easter Bunny delivers eggs to children on Easter morning.

In many parts of the world Easter heralds spring as well as the resurrection of Christ. The nocturnal rabbit, signifying the moon who dies every morning and is resurrected every evening, also represents the rebirth of nature in spring. Both the moon and the rabbit were believed to die in order to be reborn. Therefore the hare is a symbol of immortality. In Egypt, Osiris, god of the dead, was sacrificed to the Nile each year in the form of a hare to guarantee the annual flooding Egyptian agriculture depended upon. Although the hare is not a symbol for Christ some analogy might be made to Christ who was sacrificed in the form of a man for the feeding of God's people. (bestiary)

The hare is an emblem of many lunar goddesses such as Hecate, Freyja, and Holda. In legend, the shadows of the moon's surface are believed to be rabbits. Hares are thought to be the moon's lovers or brothers. Chinese superstition claims that the hare is impregnated through gazing at the moon and, if a pregnant woman is touched by moonlight, her unborn child will grow a harelip.

Although rabbits and hares have a slightly different physiology, they share the same symbolism. Rabbits are much more common than hares in the New World than in the Old and vice versa. At the time of Christ, there were no rabbits in Israel but the Child Jesus most likely saw many hares as He was growing up. Nevertheless, there is a legend about a young rabbit who, for three days, waited anxiously for his friend, Jesus, to return to the Garden of Gethsemane, little knowing what had become of Him. Early on Easter morning, Jesus returned to His favorite garden and was welcomed by His animal friend. That evening, when Jesus' disciples came into the garden to pray, they discovered a path of beautiful larkspurs, each blossom bearing the image of a rabbit in its center as a remembrance of the patience and hope of this faithful little creature.

To Buddhists the hare is a symbol of self-sacrifice. Legend says this creature threw itself into a fire in order to feed Buddha when he was starving. As a reward, it was given a new home in the moon.

Because of its fertility (one doe can produce 42 young a year), the rabbit or hare is an emblem of fertility, abundance, good fortune, sexuality, lasciviousness, lust, procreation, puberty, renewal, spring, rampant growth, excess, and love gods and goddesses such as Venus, Aphrodite, and Cupid. Pliny the Elder even prescribed its meat as a cure for female sterility. The white hare sometimes found at Mary's feet represents her triumph over lust or the flesh. Because it signifies abundance, the rabbit is sometimes used in western countries as a harvest or fall symbol. It also stands for madness and the month of March.

The rabbit's alertness and speed made it a Christian symbol of vigilance and the need to flee from sin and temptation. Like the lion, the hare was believed to be so vigilant that it slept with its eyes open. Its flesh was contaminated with wakefulness and could cause insomnia in its eater. Its speed was a reminder of the swift passage of life.

Tertullian compared the persecuted church to hunted hares, writing, "On us, as if we were hares, is the hunt focused." Unlike other animals, the rabbit has no strength or weapons with which to defend itself from attack. He, therefore, represents Christian trust and dependence on Christ's provision, protection, and mercy both in this life and in the next. The apostle Paul boasted of his infirmities for in them the power of Christ was made perfect and plain. [2 Cor 12:9-10] The saints in heaven are sometimes pictured as hares munching on grapes. The rabbit's burrow is a symbol of Christ's tomb.

The rabbit's trembling makes it a symbol of cowardice and timidity. However, Judeo-Christian writings recommend a holy trembling before the Lord. [1 Chr 16:30; Ps 96:9, 99:1, 114:7; Is 19:1, 66:2; Jer 5:22, 33:9] The writer of Philippians warns the Christian to "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." [Phil 2:12] In Medieval times, cowardice was personified with drawings of an armed man running from a hare. On the other hand, in Africa and the Americas, the hare was believed to be a trickster using its superior intellect as its defense. Some tribes considered him a hero and even the earth's creator. Aztecs believed 400 rabbits guarded their fields.

To the Israelites, the hare was an unclean or forbidden food. [Lev 11:6; see also Deu 14:7] But westerners found its form beautiful. In fact, it was believed that if someone ate rabbit for nine days in a row they would become beautiful to look upon. The Trinity and the swift passage of the ages is represented by a group of three hares running in a circle with their ears creating the shape of a triangle.(bestiary)

 

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