Thursday 9 April 2015


Where are we? Ritual . . . Random . . . Rabbit!  Here in the relentless hunt for edutainment., we have come down to the three Rs.  Not Reading, wRiting and aRithmatic: that would be too school marmish.  And not Reduce Reuse Recycle: that would be too green.  Today it comes down to the three rabbits.  The symbol of three hares or rabbits running in a circle [R] is widespread in the world's iconography but not uniformly distributed.  There is a peculiar cluster of them, carved out of wood and embedded in the roofs of churches in and around Dartmoor in SW England, where they are known as Tinners' Rabbits although most of the examples are more clearly hares Lepus europaeus than rabbits Oryctolagus cuniculus.  Both species are members of the mammalian order Lagomorpha, along with a couple of dozen other species, some more prolific than others. Tinners were the workers of the mineral cassiterite which was particularly abundant in SW England since ancient times and immensely desirable as a component of bronze. As with vultures, we should try to be careful about which species we are talking about. 
There is probably a distant connection between the three running hares and these three heraldic examples [L-R Isle of Man; Bretagne; Sicilia] of  triskels which word we get from the Greek τρισκέλιον three legs - and of course the triple spiral of Newgrange. One of the peculiarities of the three lagomorphs is that they usually save on ears and are carved as a sort of optical illusion with each animal having two ears shared with two others. This emphasises that one of the mythological attributes of hares is resurrection and cycles perhaps because its gestation period is the same (28 days) as the cycle of the moon. The Easter Bunny has clearly come down to us from this source but in a fluffy way - stripped of the three Fs [make up your own list] aspects of the story and acceptable to children and nuns. A connexion between three hares and the Holy Trinity will not have escaped the nuns either. The fact that bunnies eat their shit cecotropes is generally not emphasised by Cadbury and Hershey come Easter. It's not clear why the Tinners should have adopted the ever-running hares as their badge but there is a suggestion that the symbol travelled from the Buddhist Orient along the Silk Road during medieval times and came to rest in Devon.  Along the way, it infected all three great monotheistic religions and you are as likely to find the three hares in a synagogue as in a church. 

If believers would pause a moment to consider what they have in common with other religions they might be more open to the three Ls [look, listen, learn] and engage less in the three Ws [weapons, war, widows].

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