Rabbit, The Feminine, and The Moon by Judith Shaw

judith shaw photoRabbit plays in tall grasses, dances in the moonlight, nibbles on nature’s greens, then freezes if danger is sensed. With a thump as a warning, rabbit hops away in a flash, disappearing down its rabbit hole.

Rabbits and hares, though very similar looking, are completely different species of the Lagomorpha order of mammals. The process of divergent selection began only 1.5 million years ago while the oldest rabbit fossil found is about 53 million years old.  

Originally from Europe and Asia and first domesticated in the 5th Century, today rabbits live all around the world.

Moon-Rabbit-painting-by-Judith-Shaw

Fertility, Prosperity, Abundance
Well known for its insatiable breeding habits, Rabbit symbolizes prosperity, abundance and fertility.

With a 95% mortality rate in their first year and a life span of only 1.5 years in the wild, rabbits evolutionary response is one of great fecundity – producing several litters a year, each averaging six kittens, starting at about 3 months old. 

The returning birds, budding trees, and growing light of spring bring the promise of summer’s fertility. Cultures throughout the world observe festivals of renewal and rebirth at this time.

Silar, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Germanic people celebrated Ostara, Goddess of Dawn and Spring, with a festival calculated from the full moon following Spring Equinox, the same calculation used to set the date for Easter. Ostara and her Saxon version Eostre/Eastre were closely associated with the hare and the egg.

Christianity, with its habit of fusing pagan traditions into their own, turned Hare into Rabbit, who brings colored eggs to children on Easter.

The Aztecs recognized 400 drunken Rabbit Gods. These 400 were known as Centzon Totochtin (400 rabbits) or Gods of Drunkenness. One of these 400 was Two Rabbit (Ome Tochtle), considered the king of the Drunken Rabbits, who reigned over fertility and drunkenness.  

Rabbit offers you abundance in many areas of life. Allow your creativity to breed like rabbits. 

Cleverness, Spontaneity, Discernment, Luck
Well equipped to pinpoint predators from far away, rabbits have nearly 360° vision – allowing detection from all directions. Their sense of smell and hearing are even better.

When Rabbit perceives a threat it first freezes and observes. If danger is confirmed, Rabbit will thump powerfully with its strong back foot to warn the others. Then as it runs away the flash of white from under its tail provides another warning signal. 

Rabbit, with strong back legs, leaps high in the air and moves forward nearly 10 feet in a single bound. Clever Rabbit runs in a zigzag manner, confusing the predator rather than outrunning it.

African stories of trickster Hare arrived in North America with the slave trade where they mixed with Cherokee and other tribes’ rabbit tales, emerging as the well-known Br’er Rabbit of the American South. Br’er Rabbit is famous for overcoming powerful opponents with his intelligence and wit. 

The Rabbit’s foot is used for good luck worldwide. In the Chinese zodiac the Year of the Rabbit is considered the luckiest of all. 

Rabbit calls you to assess the totality of your situation, to honor the crooked path, and to warn others when danger is near. With the use of intelligence and wit your luck will most certainly improve. 

Feminine Energy, Lunar Cycle, Sanctuary
Rabbit’s reproductive cycle is in tune with the 28 day lunar cycle, associated with feminine energy. Rabbit kittens are born blind, deaf and hairless. Within 28 days kittens are ready to venture outside for life on their own, making room for the next litter to arrive. 

Rabbits live in underground burrows, called warrens, usually built by the females, with multiple entrances providing quick escape from above ground dangers.

By Hiart – Own work, CC0

Rabbits are social animals who live in colonies, varying in size from one pair to up to 30 rabbits living in the same warren. Within the warren they generally adhere to male/female pairs and a family group within the greater hierarchy of the whole warren.

The Chinese believe that those born in the Year of the Rabbit posses powers of the moon. This might stem from the Chinese myth of Chang’e, Moon Goddess. She rewarded the little rabbit’s willingness to lay down its own life to provide food for a hungry traveler by saving it and taking it to the moon as her companion –  Jade Rabbit. 

Additionally Jade Rabbit is depicted pounding the elixir of life in its pestle, the elixir which granted Chang’e immortality. When the moon is full, look up and you just might see Jade Rabbit grinding its pestle. 

Releasing Fear, Gentleness, Introspection
We all love cute, cuddly bunnies. Domesticated rabbits are very affectionate with each other and their human owners. Nose nudging and nibbling is not seen as often in wild rabbits – perhaps because the dangers of being in the open don’t allow for the distraction of affectionate behavior.

Rabbits prefer to spend most daylight hours tucked away in their own little world of the warren. Rabbit’s timidity indicates that a high level of fear permeates its life – no surprise being such a common prey animal with limited physical prowess. Their timidity is their greatest defense.

Rabbit wisdom teaches that instead of focusing on your fears, which will surely draw them into your life, you are better served to focus on the positive. Rabbit guides you to your own private space where you can access your intuition and gain confidence in yourself. Stop worrying about the future and do what you can in the present for you and your community.

Transformation, Otherworld Guide
After the introduction of rabbits in the 12th century to Ireland, the Celts used both rabbits and hares for divination. They believed that rabbits in their underground warrens could communicate with the spirit world, carrying messages between the living and the dead.

Rabbits live best in liminal spaces – borders between one place and another – such as woodland edges and hedgerows. Rabbits graze most vigorously at dawn and dusk – thresholds between light and dark.

Rabbit’s ability to molt, changing fur colors several times a year, reinforces Rabbit’s connection with transformation.

By Charles Robinson

In Lewis Carroll’s story, “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”, the white rabbit leads Alice down the rabbit hole to a world that transforms her forever. Though the adventure might be chaotic and confusing, Rabbit guides us to a new understanding of our world. 

Divinatory
Rabbit bestows fertility and abundance, all in tune with feminine energy, and guides you to a peaceful sanctuary. Rabbit calls you to act quickly and cleverly as opportunities might be brief. 

Rabbit grants you the ability to shift swiftly between the inaction of assessment into a creative path to success. If you are running around in a panic with no direction Rabbit calls you to stop, define your goal and move forward. Luck just might appear unexpectedly. 

Rabbit teaches you to acknowledge your fears and release them; to follow your intuition and discover your natural path forward. Rabbit communicates when to take shelter and when to surface.

Releasing fears brings transformation. Rabbit guides you through the chaotic times of transformation to renewal. 

Sources: Wonderopolis, Live Science, BeChewy, Rabbitmatters.com, One Kind Planet, Learn Religions, Spirit Lodge, Lords of the Drinks, Discover People Places, Wild Gratitude

Judith’s deck of Celtic Goddess Oracle Cards is available now.  Celtic-Goddess-Oracle-cards-by-judith-shawYou can order your deck on Judith’s website – click here. Experience the wisdom of the Celtic Goddesses!

Judith Shaw, a graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute, has been interested in myth, culture and mystical studies all her life. Not long after graduating from SFAI, while living in Greece, Judith began exploring the Goddess in her art. She continues to be inspired by the Goddess in all of her manifestations, which are found everywhere in the natural world. She is now working on her next deck of oracle cards – Animal Spirit Guides, and on a modern folktale of the Reindeer Goddess. Originally from New Orleans, Judith makes her home in New Mexico where she paints as much as time allows and sells real estate part-time. Give yourself the gift of one of Judith’s prints or paintings, priced from $25 – $3000.



Categories: animals, Earth-based spirituality, Folklore, General, Myth, Paganism

Tags: , , ,

13 replies

  1. Lovely as always thank you Judith! Have shared as a resource.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, I do so love that Rabbit painting Judith, and as always your thorough investigation of these animals. I am curious about the following remark… because elsewhere you seem to blend rabbits and hares (as many sources do) but not here. “Christianity, with its habit of fusing pagan traditions into their own, turned Hare into Rabbit, who brings colored eggs to children on Easter.”

    Hares are wild, and very secretive – rarely seen unless in the desert. Rabbits, on the other hand are quite visible in early mornings and evenings and have been domesticated (to some extent – my personal experience suggests they adapt to the wild easily).

    There are real differences between them as you mention – . I think Hares, women and the moon seem more closely related – while rabbits seem to take on a trickster like aspect – and are often male. I find these differences curious and wanted to hear what you think about them… my sense is that together they provide a whole picture – one that displays woman’s relationship to hare/moon and includes a male trickster aspect as rabbit.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Sara,
      Thanks for your insights. I had not really thought of the trickster aspect of Rabbit as being male but now that you mention it I tend to agree. Both Alice’s White Rabbit and Br’er Rabbit are male. Yet Hare is also considered a trickster in various traditions.

      When I first began learning about hares and rabbits in 2019 with my post on Hare I found their differences and similarities to be confusing when considering how to present them as Animal Spirit Guides. At that time I decided that each needed its own space. In some ways I feel Hare presents more masculine aspects than Rabbit and was believed to be androgynous by some. Hare was companion to many, many goddesses whereas Rabbit only accompanies a few.

      Hare, who is solitary and wild (never tamed) seem to have a deeper connection to the mystery of death and rebirth – to transformation. Rabbit, who lives in community and has been widely domesticated (though certainly still lives wild too) represents the feminine aspect of nurturing and community.

      Rabbit also symbolizes transformation but the path shown is very different – Rabbit who is timid and fearful shows the way to transformation by acknowledging and releasing our fears whereas Hare lights the path of transformation with its boldness, strength and independence.

      And finally the issue of the Easter Rabbit. My own confusion around the Easter Rabbit begins with Ostara and her Saxon version Eostre/Eastre and the disagreement among scholars as to whether or not Eostre/Eastre exited in the ancient mind at all. Assuming that all three variations of a spring goddess existed they were all associated with Hare not Rabbit. Most feel that the Easter Rabbit grew out of the Saxon Eostre/Eastre association with Hare. But in Christianity I have never, ever heard of anything but the Easter Rabbit. For that reason it seems to me that Hare was cast out in the minds of the Christians as one to be associated with Easter. Perhaps the Christians preferred the more timid version of the animal associated with spring rites and the feminine……

      So I guess I would say that in my view both Rabbit and Hare are strongly associated with the moon and the feminine (rabbits’ gestation period is 28 – 30 days whereas hares’ gestation period is 36-37 days.) And they both exhibit the trickster element. Maybe each one individually and both together represent that whole picture. I think that often the animals associated with Goddess in her many forms highlight the male element and remind us that Goddess promotes balance in all aspects of life.

      What are your thoughts on my including both Rabbit and Hare in my upcoming Animal Wisdom oracle deck as similar and yet different?

      Like

  3. Thank you for this fun and informative post, as well as your beautiful painting! We have rabbits or hares living in our yard and now I feel as if I know them much better! I’m always amazed at the skills and abilities of the beings you profile in your posts – nature is so miraculous!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Carolyn,
      I too am amazed by everything I am learning about animals as I work on this oracle deck project. Nature truly is miraculous and our animal relations deserve so much more understanding and better treatment from our human culture.

      Like

  4. Thank you, Judith. I needed this today. Saw two bunnies in my backyard yesterday, the first time I’ve ever seen them there, just before allowing my dog to go out and play. Didn’t think much of it except for enjoying the momentary sight. But then I had a very vivid dream (no rabbits) and after meditating on it, I opened my email to find your post. And then the aha! It is all connected (as always!) Such a wonderful web of symbols appearing at the same time to offer me some clarity. Many thanks and many blessings to you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jan,
      How wonderful to hear of your experience in the weaving together of all the symbols which appear and help make sense of our lives. Thank you so much for sharing. It validates for me the importance of continuing to explore myth and symbol. Blessing to you too!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Cool! I love your illustrations, especially that green ceramic rabbit (Silar) surrounded by his friends (?). I’m thinking of the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland–“I’m late, I’m late.” Busy fellow, but not very timid. As you say, he’s transformational. He sure changes Alice’s life. As always, I also like the divinatory meanings you assign to each animal you write about. In these times of pandemic and hate crimes, we need to meet Rabbit and follow him to shelter and renewal. Brava to your work! Bright blessings!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Barabara,
      Shelter does seem to be the concept of the moment doesn’t it. After the recent occurrence of mass shootings I had the thought – even more now it’s the time to stay home, time to shelter – . I guess Rabbit was influencing my feelings….

      Like

  6. I love the lore you have gathered for us, like Rabbit-born painted eggs in an Ostara basket. I had not heard of the drunken rabbits, and it brings to mind an image of rabbits dancing under a full moon. Rabbits in my part of the world seem incredibly generous–even though I am sure they might rather not–taking their place in the dance of predator and prey, feeding owls and so many forms of life while having going on with their own lives with cleverness and courage. Of course I love your painting!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Elizabeth,
    Yeah, well drunkenness does seem to lower inhibitions and raise the libido, so the Aztecs were on to something…. Chinese Moon Goddess, Chang’e certainly saw Rabbit’s generous nature. I love the way you word it to include all rabbits as generous with their lives. I think “generous” is a key word that should I add to Rabbit symbolism. After all what good is abundance is one is lacking generosity? I love the way the community here at FAR helps me hone in on aspects of each animal which I have slightly missed in my mad dash to meet yet another deadline.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thanks, Judith, for this multicultural look at rabbit. One of your facts might be misunderstood, however. Rabbits evolved in what is now Asia, but that was before the break-up of Pangeia, the original supercontinent. As a result, rabbits and hares evolved in every part of the world except Australia (where they have been destroying the landscape, since they have no natural predators).

    Liked by 1 person

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