Wednesday, April 13, 2011
How many of you have heard the expression but don't know exactly what it means? The hare-a member of the genius Lepus-come in many varieties.Unlike rabbits which birth their young in burrows underground, the hare constructs a shallow depression in the ground and lines it with soft material such as grass and fur. Usually a shy critter, the majority of European species are nocturnal until breeding season, when they are hyperactive during the day and run about wildly, the theory being that they are showing off to attract a mate. They breed from February to September, and unreceptive females use their forepaws to repel unwanted male attention by "boxing" them.
The rejected lovers are understandably frustrated and act erratically do to hormonal shifts; essentially they have 'bunny blue balls' which drive them,well....mad.
The phrase," Mad as a March hare" was first used in English literature by Sir Thomas More in a religious tract. It became firmly rooted in the public consciousness when a rather ditsy March Hare character appeared as the Mad Hatter's s tea party co-host in Lewis Carrol's popular " Adventures of Alice in Wonderland" in 1865. The modern tale of the Easter Bunny has it's origins in the March hare; in Germany children would put out handmade grass nests ( much in the manner of hanging a Christmas stocking for Santa) for the Easter Bunny to fill with treats-but only if they'd been good. Later the grass and eggs were placed in a decorative basket for display purposes in the home.
Our history harkens back to the time when we were an agricultural society that lived off the land. People provided their own larder from livestock and grain harvest during the winter months, but by the return of warm weather, those reserves were getting scarce. They supplemented their nutritional needs by hunting for wild bird eggs-easily found in the Spring of the year as many birds were nesting. The eggs were a source of much needed protein, and their colorful shells-pastel yellows,greens and blues and tan, with spots and other markings- are the influence for the dying of Easter Eggs. The egg as a symbol of birth( and re-birth) and the beginning of life came to popular culture.
The Teutonic goddess Eostre, whose festival is held during the early Spring is said to have taken pity on a wounded hare and transformed him into a bird so he could survive...a legend which, I think, is as good an association between bunnies and eggs as anyone has come up with yet. I love exploring how our myths and legends form and change within society to explain the unexplained. All of our stories of origin are supernatural myths conceived to show how uniquely made we humans are, even the ones with humble beginnings.
Lambs are born in the early part of the year. Ewes are in the fields ready to give birth. The name of the Pagan Sabat of Imbolc literally means, " in the belly", and recognizes this time. The white wool of lambs,their assumed innocence(they are born guileless and malleable)and the fact they were frequently used as a sacrifice in the Abrahamic religions-have been used to symbolize Christ for centuries. The Bible often refers to Jesus as " the Lamb of God", who's sacrificial death on the cross, " takes away the sin of the world". The idea of a god being sacrificed for the salvation of the people is found in many world cultures, not just Christian. Mithras is one that comes instantly to mind. There are numerous gods sacrificed in Hindu religions...Celtic, Roman, Greek..nearly every religion in every region of the ancient world can claim this legend.
And so, we have spent quite awhile learning about some of the arcane origins of Easter-some based in factual Pagan history, some coming from myth. I hope these blogs have inspired you to research the fascinating origins of holiday traditions for yourself.
Posted by Ameth Jera at 4:05 PM