As I begin to meditate I see the white rabbit as my guide leading me down the path to my woods. This rabbit has been with me for as long as I can remember.
Across cultures, the rabbit (or hare) has remained a strong symbol for fertility and reproduction. This remains true today even with the celebration of the bunny rabbit at Easter, which reminds us of rebirth.
In Roman times, the white rabbit symbolized love and sexuality. It was believed that the rabbit was the pet of the Goddess of love, Aphrodite.
In Teutonic myth, the earth and sky goddess Holda, leader of the Wild Hunt, was followed by a procession of hares bearing torches. Although she descended into a witch–like figure and boogeyman of children’s tales, she was once revered as a beautiful, powerful goddess in charge of weather phenomena.
Freyja, the headstrong Norse goddess of love, sensuality, and women’s mysteries, was also served by hare attendants. She traveled with a sacred hare and boar in a chariot drawn by cats.
Kaltes, the shape–shifting moon goddess of western Siberia, liked to roam the hills in the form of a hare, and was sometimes pictured in human shape wearing a headdress with hare’s ears.
Ostara, the goddess of the moon, fertility, and spring in Anglo–Saxon myth, was often depicted with a hare’s head or ears, and with a white hare standing in attendance. This magical white hare laid brightly colored eggs which were given out to children during spring fertility festivals — an ancient tradition that survives in the form of the Easter Bunny today.
Eostre, the Celtic version of Ostara, was a goddess also associated with the moon, and with mythic stories of death, redemption, and resurrection during the turning of winter to spring. Eostre, too, was a shape–shifter, taking the shape of a hare at each full moon; all hares were sacred to her, and acted as her messengers.
Caesar recorded that rabbits and hares were taboo foods to the Celtic tribes. In Ireland, it was said that eating a hare was like eating one’s own grandmother — perhaps due to the sacred connection between hares and various goddesses, warrior queens, and female faeries, or else due to the belief that old “wise women” could shape–shift into hares by moonlight. The Celts used rabbits and hares for divination and other shamanic practices by studying the patterns of their tracks, the rituals of their mating dances, and mystic signs within their entrails. It was believed that rabbits burrowed underground in order to better commune with the spirit world, and that they could carry messages from the living to the dead and from humankind to the faeries.
Less evident today is the ancient symbolism connecting rabbits to women, blood cycles and the moon, although contemporary Asian images often depict rabbits with a traditional sense of womanly grace and stillness
“How far down the rabbit hole do you want to go?”