The Hare has long been revered in Irish folklore. Witches were often said to shape shift into hares and the Celtic peoples forbade the eating of Hares and Rabbits.
What has the Hare got to do with Easter? In olden days what we know as Easter was a celebration of the lenghtening days and the return of fertility to the land. Eostre was the Moon Goddess worshipped at that time, it is said she took the form of a hare at the time of the full Moon. When Christianity came along this time became Easter and the Hare became the Easter Bunny. The Hare was discarded because of its witchy associations.
My Mother recalls my Grandfather telling stories about a local woman, in Tipperary, whom everyone called Kitty the Hare. Kitty was reputed to have been a witch. She changed into a hare and went about causing devilment and casting spells and curses. So it is reputed.
A story told to a folklore collector tells:
“Long ago the people used to turn themselves into hares by witchcraft and go from house to house sucking the milk from the cows. These people could only be done away with by shooting them with a crooked sixpence. I know of a woman who turned herself into a hare. Her name was Mrs. Hutchinson, a Protestant woman from Ryeforth in Cavan. She went to my Grandfather’s, Ennie Goldrick RIP, and sucked the milk from his cows. Grandfather saw her, got his gun, loaded it with a crooked sixpence, fired at the Hare and hit it on the head. The Hare ran off and he followed it to a nearby house where he found a woman with bleeding from her head.”
This story was collected in Cavan in 1936.
The wonderful Hare in the photo was painted by local woman Jessie Skillen who lives in Ballinafad, Co. Sligo. Isn’t it great, I love it! When we are finished decorating it will hang in a prime position. You can check out Jessie’s work on Facebook at Sylvan Hare Arts.
Hope you all have a wonderful Easter/Eostre. May the days become sunny and your gardens become fruitful once more.