As important as the Easter bunny but much more enchanting is the hare – an animal associated with this time of year, and also with magic. The Celts linked it to shape-shifting and rebirth, considering it sacred – so much so that killing it remained taboo until Victorian times.
This elusive animal is linked to rebirth and intuition, bringing the secret gifts of the underworld up into the ordinary world, as light increases. Folk tales tell of witches who could turn into hares, running about the countryside creating mischief, just like the faerie people. Isobel Gowdie, tried for witchcraft in Scotland in 1662, claimed to be able to turn into a hare, saying she got her powers from the Fairy Queen, the Queen of Elphame, who was really the ancient pagan Mother Goddess. Such stories are remnants of old shamanic traditions, in which spirits of nature are “channelled” for wisdom and healing.
Species of hare are found all over the northern hemisphere. They are also prevalent in Africa and have been introduced into Australia and New Zealand. Look out for hares “boxing” (male and female hares standing up on their hind legs and fighting as part of their mating ritual) in the Equinox moonlight, for this is said to be very lucky!
At this time we can imagine our generic goddess and god figures enjoying their youth and freedom. The young god, personifying the sun, now gets his manly strength. Easter derives its name from Eostre, the ancient Teutonic goddess of spring and fertility. She is a maiden aspect of the great Mother Goddess, bringing lightness and hope. Eggs were hidden in her honour as part of fertility rites and, as she was also a moon goddess, her celebrations were held at the full moon closest to the Equinox. In addition, 25 March is Lady Day – the day on which the Virgin Mary was visited by the Archangel Gabriel, who told her she would give birth to Jesus Christ – thus nine months before Christmas Day. Gabriel is the archangel associated with the moon and with healing and creativity. He also proclaimed the resurrection of Christ. Gabriel is often depicted with a trumpet to announce change and good news so, if you wish, you could place a small trumpet on your nature table, to signify moving onward.
However, the month of March isn’t just about beauty and light. Named after the Roman god of war, it was seen as a good time for war. Farming also began again at this time, when farmers “attacked the Earth with their ploughshares”, which was in keeping with the fact that Mars was also god of agriculture. Just like the weather, which can be soft or savage, March and April have many moods.
In Celtic tradition, the beautiful and the deadly come together in the person of the Welsh goddess of spring, Blodeuwedd, whose name means “flower face”. She was created from oak, broom and meadowsweet by the magicians Gwydion and Math, to be the wife of the hero Llew Llaw Gyffes. This was one of the first acts of male dominance because by so manufacturing a bride for Llew, they deprived his mother, Arianrhod, of her traditional matrifocal (female head of the household) rights. The story of Blodeuwedd shows that nature cannot be owned or tamed and that it follows its own laws. She fell in love with a handsome hunter and they plotted to murder Llew. After this she became an owl, forever haunting the midnight forests. In the same way, instinct cannot be quelled by the logical mind – so the story of Blodeuwedd reminds you to find your own wild side.
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Available from 10th March 2020, The Little Book of Nature Blessings by Teresa Dellbridge encapsulates “everyday spirituality” requiring no set of beliefs, generating a feeling of self-awareness. Written in a user-friendly, entertaining and engaging manner with a simple message that will enable any reader to improve their life by connecting to the world around them.