|PERIOD||3rd – 1st Century B.C|
|DIMENSIONS||47 mm x 20 mm|
|PROVENANCE||Ex American private collection, purchased from a US antiquities dealer (1999)|
Rabbits and Hares comprise a very ancient archetype that has stretched across religion and culture for thousands of years. In this essay I will use the terms rabbit and hare to refer to both who are often depicted as one animal and belong to the same family (Lepus). We find the rabbit appearing in Buddhism, Islam, Christianity and Judaism as well as throughout Indigenous culture in the Americas.
In ancient traditions hares and rabbits belong to women; they are powerful goddesses associated with mystery and magic, the lunar cycle, fertility, longevity and rebirth.
Hares are believed to be messengers from the realm of the Great Goddess moving by moonlight between the human world and the spirit world. In some places She is the Great Goddess herself. S/he is also androgynous sometimes appearing in a male form. The male aspect appears most often as a trickster figure or is incorporated into the female as the rabbit and his grandmother who both live in the moon according to some Native American Indigenous traditions.
In China, The Hare in the Moon is depicted with a mortar and pestle in which She mixes the elixir of immortality. This goddess conceives through the touch of the full moon’s light without the need of impregnation by a male (not to be confused with the “virgin birth” – this goddess is one unto herself) or she conceives by crossing water by moonlight. As the Great Goddess she is the guardian of all wild animals.
In Egyptian myth hares were associated with the moon which was masculine when waxing and female while waning – highlighting the feminine power of yin. Hare headed goddesses and gods can be seen on temple walls. The female is the goddess Wenet, while the male probably represents Osiris, the son of Isis.
Greek and Roman mythologies tell us the hare represents love, abundance, and fecundity. Hares were associated with Artemis, goddess of the wild places and Artemis would not permit young hares to be sacrificed (as some demanded) but left to her protection. Rabbits were also sacred to Aphrodite the goddess of love and beauty. Carvings of rabbits eating grapes and figs appear on both Greek and Roman tombs symbolizing the transformative cycle of life, death, and rebirth.