To Hunt the Cunt and Other Country Matters, Part 2: Hares

The musician Maddy Prior and Ian Anderson headed to out shoot something, perhaps hares.

Hares, and rabbits to a lesser extent, have traditionally been associated with Witchcraft,  fertility, and goddesses.  The most famous hare of them all is of course the Easter Bunny, which was originally Eostre’s Hare (whose mistress may or may not have been a worshiped goddess).

Hares?  Rabbits?  Isn’t that like the same difference? Hares and rabbits are two different creatures.  Despite the common American misconception, hares are not simply English rabbits.

This website, http://www.diffen.com/difference/Hare_vs_Rabbit, explains in laymen’s terms the main differences between the two animals.  And America does have hares–we call them Jackrabbits.

In cultures all over the world, hares and rabbits have been associated with goddesses and the supernatural.  A popular hare magical symbol is the Tinner Rabbits, reminiscent of the Pagan triskele that often is used to symbolize the different triplet natures of Pagan deities.

In some cultures there is the “Hare in the moon,” and in  April’s full moon is known as the “Hare Moon”.  Hmmm, Hares+Moon=Goddess (Fertility+Rebirth).  Based on this formula, the ancients often saw hares and rabbits as acting as messengers between the divine and humans.

Where did the fertility and rebirth idea come from for the hare?  Rabbits and hares are a renewable resource, if managed correctly and not over hunted. Cottontail rabbits typically have 4 to 5 litters a year with an average of 8 kits per litter (by the way, kit is short for kitten–what rabbit people call bunnies). Hares also produce large frequent litters and have the ability to superfetate, or conceive while pregnant.  http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/science/2010/09/hares-can-get-pregnant-while-pregnant/

Hares also like to engage in some rough foreplay prior to copulation–hence all the stories of crazy March Hares.

The hare’s supernatural status rose, especially in the Celtic lands, with the belief that they were not only messengers but could travel in both the human and the Otherworlds because they burrowed underground.  Druids and later “witches” were thought to shapeshift into hares for magical work.  Because of this belief, according to Julius Cesar (since we all know his works on the Celts are just so very reliable), it was considered taboo amongst the Celts to eat hare in case you were eating someone who was just shifting.

Despite this belief, many cultures eat hares and rabbits.  As was stated above, if populations are managed correctly, they are a wonderful renewable resource that is fairly easy to hunt.  They can be hunted with weapons, traps (live or kill), sight or scent hounds, and even hawks and other birds of prey.

They die fairly quickly (and they can literally die of fright), and they can be skinned with your bare hands–no knife required.  Hares and rabbits are also just the right portion size so there is little waste due to uneaten food.  For more information on eating rabbits, check out

Hares and rabbits lend themselves well to ritual.  In ancient times live rabbits and hares were used in divination based on how they ran away from a person once they were released, which can still be performed by modern practitioners.  The rabbits’/hares’ job as messenger can be used as well, with the participants telling the animal what messages they need carried to the Goddess.  After all the messages have been conveyed, the animal would be released to do its job.

Rabbits and hares can also be used in death and rebirth rituals.  Since rabbits are quick and easy to kill and butcher, they can easily be dispatched in circle (to much dramatic effect), their entrails read for guidance, and then their flesh cooked on a spit on the ritual fire for cakes and ale.  In death, the animal gives us life, and a connection to our deities and the Otherworlds.  Some people may even take this one step further and incorporate a similar ritual into their shamanic practices.

For more information on hare lore, check out this great online resource: http://www.endicott-studio.com/rdrm/rrRabbits.html

These folks like to stomp rabbits:

Quadrivium Supplies  http://www.quadrivium-supplies.com

Erotic Sensations http://eroticsensations.us/

Labor Day Libertine http://ldl.tribussolvo.org/home

The Scourge–Part 2

     In my last blog about scourging, I discussed the tradition of Lupercalia, where runners flogged women to impart fertility (sort of like a drive-by—but on foot!).  Another Roman tradition related to fertility scourging and purification is the legend of the rape of the Sabine women.
The Rape of the Sabine Women by Giambologna

When Rome was first founded, there were more men than women, as is often the case in new colonies and settlements.  To bring in potential mates, the Romans invited the Sabines to a festival, and then they raped the women and held them hostage.  The Sabine men, of course, took offense, attacked Rome and recaptured their ravished womenfolk.  There was a catch. The women were now infertile.
     The Sabine women appealed to Juno, who told them that if they made love to a sacred billy goat or a ram (we’re not sure because the leaves were rustling) that they would regain their fertility.  They found this remedy unappealing.  An oracle was consulted, and the dilemma was solved.  Instead of sleeping with the goat, they would kill the goat and make a scourge out of it.  By submitting to the goat scourge and by extension Juno, the women were being purified from the scourge of infertility.
Juno
     The whip served a duel purpose here: fertility and purification.  It’s been recently explained to me that in some traditions the handle of the scourge represents the feminine while the falls of the scourge represent the masculine.  Some scholars have linked the story of the Sabine women to Lupercalia, but others dispute that claim. Spring fertility/purification festivals using scourges and scourge-like implements still continue today all over the world, particularly in Eastern Europe and South Korea.  Evidently it’s not just a Roman notion.
     The scourge has also been used in many cultures as a tool for initiation.  Pain can be the ordeal that many folks are looking for when seeking a “real” initiation (ie fraternity paddlings) because it does prove something, if not to the outside world then at least to the initiate.  The rhythm of the blows and the brain chemicals released when the body is in pain can also lead to deep meditative states that are necessary to a good initiation experience.  Many of the Greek mystery cults realized this and utilized the scourge in this way.
This is Nemisis but pretend that it’s Telete
The goddess Telete, Dionysus’ daughter and the goddess in charge of initiations, was often portrayed holding a whip or a scourge.
     The scourge also makes an appearance in the myth of Inanna, in her descent into the Underworld.  This myth is seen by many to represent initiation at its best and is used as the basis for many Wiccan and Pagan initiation rites today.
There are many versions of the Descent myth and they give different reasons for her descent, but in all of them, Inanna must give up seven symbols of power as she proceeds through the seven gates of the underworld.  Eventually she arrives in the underworld naked and seemingly powerless.  In the ancient myths she dies at the hands of her sister Ereskigal and is hung on a hook (sounds a lot like suspension).  In Wiccan interpretations that some suspect to be Gardner’s embroidery on the fabric of older myths, she is scourged by Death as a punishment, perhaps, for refusing his advances.
Death and his scourge

 

The Inanna descent, regardless of which version you go by, represents for many people facing their inner demons and fears–which is one of the aims of initiation.  The myth also symbolizes not only death and rebirth but purification of soul and spirit by being broken down and built back up.  This is another aim of initiation and is a continuing cycle within life.