Monday, March 9

The March Hare

In our home, the idea of an "Ostara Bunny" never stuck.  I kind of felt like I was cheating.  All I was doing was swapping the word 'Easter' for 'Ostara'.  In our ever growing attempt to create solid Pagan faith and traditions in our home, Papa J and I have decided to introduce our children to a new figure,  "The March Hare".

And no, not the Lewis Carroll character.  Ours is more like the lesser know, slightly cuter cousin to the Easter Bunny. 

There are so many parallels between Christian Easter and Pagan Ostara, that just about every Pagan family I know does very little to differentiate between the two.  They dye eggs.  They eat ham.  They decorate with bunnies and flowers.  A mythical critter stops by overnight to leave their children a basket of toys and chocolate.  The family will probably dress up and attend a religious ceremony. 

The celebrations are virtually identical, all you do is replace the crosses and the church service with pentacles and a ritual.  Your neighbors might not even know the difference, especially during those years where Easter and Ostara fall during the same weekend. 

The two holidays blend well.

As you can guess, this is not how Mama Stacey rolls.  I don't want to mimic Christian holidays no matter how much of them are drawn from ancient traditions.  I want to reclaim the sabbats as something special and unique for my family.  I want to smile when my great-grandchildren talk about The March Hare.  I want to giggle when my daughter gripes about having to nibble carrots and sneak an Ostara basket past her children.  

Creating Something New

Others have stepped up and created mythical beings for their children, like we have.  In some circles, spring baskets are brought by the Goddess Eostre, or the Equinox Faerie, or even the Ostara Witch.

In Sweden, the Easter Witch or Easter Wizard certainly exist, so why not an Ostara version?

Once upon a time I had considered doing the Ostara Bunny, but that didn't mesh up with anything that my children would actually encounter in the world.  There are no tales, no stories, no inklings of an Ostara Bunny lingering in film or literature.  He/She is a completely new invention and while that is brilliant for some (we are creating new traditions, afterall) I decided to stall.

Doodle Bug has received baskets from his parents for three years.  He knows the items are from us.  He's 12.  He probably should think that.  However, along comes Baby E, our headstrong 2 year old daughter, and I find that I want to infuse a bit more magic and myth into Ostara morning.

Birth of The March Hare

One day, while watching the original Wicker Man (we pretend the 2006 version doesn't exist), this clip stood out to me:

The idea of turning "The March Hare" into a holiday figure for my children began to take shape.

I took to my laptop and researched "The March Hare".  As a figure, that title is reserved solely for the rabbit at the Mad Hatter's eternal tea party in Alice in Wonderland.

The character is named for the British concept of being "mad as a march hare".  Rabbits and hares come out to play in the spring.  While European hares court one another and attempt to find mates, especially goofy behavior is said to be displayed during the month of March.

Neo-Paganism comes to us mainly from Europe.  The March hare idiom originates in Europe as well.  That provided me with one more link or connection to help support the creation of my myth.  If you've ever studied the creation of tradition and myth, these things are consciously created practices and stories that are loosely related to something in antiquity, and purposefully repeated so that they catch on.

European saying, European critter.  I think I'm on to something.

And they are called "march" hares.  While Easter is a floater holiday that shifts months, Ostara is always in March.

Hares are larger and stronger than rabbits, something I did not realize until recently.  This is useful to the March Hare myth.  If the March Hare is stronger and bigger, he can lift more baskets that a bunny any day.

Hares do not burrow, instead using grasses to form nests.  This perfectly explains why there is grass in the bottom of my children's Ostara baskets.

This new myth keeps getting better and better.  

Sacred Critters

Rabbits and hares as holy creatures and symbols of rebirth, femininity, and fertility span the globe.   The Aztecs told tales of the Centzon Totochtin, or Four Hundred Rabbits, who were divine revelers.  So indecent were their actions, that they were gathered up and thrown into the moon.  This is why there are so many rabbit shapes on the face of the moon.

In Egyptian mythology, Wenet was a hare goddess who greeted the dawn each day and carried messages for the god Thoth.  This is particularly meaningful for Pagans as Spring coincidences with the 'dawn' of the year.  Also, dawn happens in the East, the place of words, thoughts, and messages within many Pagan elemental traditions.  It only makes sense that the March Hare would arrive to celebrate and greet spring for Pagans.

The Maya had tricky tales of the Rabbit Scribe, another messenger. 

The Rabbit Scribe painted on Mayan pottery: (L) Vessel K5166, (R) The Princeton Vase

Images of the triple hares (three hares with interconnected ears) migrated from China all the way to Britain by way of the Silk Road (ancient trade routes).

The March Hare Comes Alive

So, this year, Papa J and I are going full force with introducing our children to the sacredness of The March Hare.

Hares are magical and powerful.  We feel confident in our decision to spin the story of the March Hare, allowing it to evolve as the years go by.  We will make hare cookies and wear big floppy hare ears on our heads.  We will paint watercolors of the March Hare in tall grasses and hiding eggs.  We will seek out films and children's books with hares in them.   We will build the myth and create the legend for future generations.

Curious to join us?

Ian MacCulloch