Paganistan: Notes from the Secret Commonwealth

In Which One Midwest Man-in-Black Confers, Converses & Otherwise Hob-Nobs with his Fellow Hob-Men (& -Women) Concerning the Sundry Ways of the Famed but Ill-Starred Tribe of Witches.

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Rethinking the Ostara Hare

 I shall go into a hare, with sorrow and sighing and mickle care,

and I shall go in the Devil's name; aye, till I come home again.

(Isobel Gowdie)


The first theological argument that I can remember getting into had to do with which was better, Santa or the Bunny.

Everybody else liked Santa best, but I held out for the Bunny.

Santa just brings you clothes and underwear and stuff that they think you want or that they want you to want, but that you don't really want at all.

But the Bunny not only brings you bad stuff.

He makes you work for it.


Once the chocolate eggs are eaten up and the baskets put away, we tend to forget about the Ostara Hare.

We shouldn't.

Europe, the Americas, Africa, Asia: just about anywhere you'd care to look, people tell stories about Hare.* He's a trickster, and you've got to love tricksters: loveable f**k-ups who teach you the right way to do things by doing them the wrong way instead.

They talk about Hare wherever they speak an Algonquian language, and that's a pretty big swath of North America. Bre'er Rabbit? Those are African tales that came over with the enslaved through the Middle Passage. Here in the Midwest, we may call him Jackrabbit, but he's still Hare alright, believe me.

Check out Bugs Bunny: now there's a trickster, if ever there was one. Singer-songwriter Sparky T. Rabbit (guess what the T stands for)** always used to contend that Bugs was his favorite overcultural incarnation of the God of the Witches, Himself a trickster from Way Back. Ears = horns, no surprise there.

Hare's a witchy critter, and witches go in the form of hares—see Scots witch Isobel Gowdie's incantation of transformation above—in which form the Old Hare Himself met with Lancashire witch James Device on his way home from church one Sunday in 1613, to chide him for eating the communion bread instead of stealing it for desecration later. Imagine that.

For gods' sakes, though, don't call him a bunny. Maybe cowans can't tell the difference between a rabbit and a hare, but you, my pagan friend, know better.

Remind me some day to tell you the story about why Hare wears his “eggs” in front of his dick instead of behind it, like everybody else. Really, you'll piss yourself laughing.

But for now, there's seasonal work to be done, and Hare is busy doing it.

And I still think he's better than Santa.

Way better.


*Well, except maybe in Australia, where there aren't any hares. No doubt he takes a local form there; that's how these things work.

**If you thought it was “the,” you're right.


Above: Hannah Willow, Uffington Hare








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Poet, scholar and storyteller Steven Posch was raised in the hardwood forests of western Pennsylvania by white-tailed deer. (That's the story, anyway.) He emigrated to Paganistan in 1979 and by sheer dint of personality has become one of Lake Country's foremost men-in-black. He is current keeper of the Minnesota Ooser.


  • Murphy Pizza
    Murphy Pizza Saturday, 02 March 2019

    Are you familiar with the 1978 film version of Watership Down?
    The rabbits have their own cultural myths; the creation myth tells of the hubris of their ancestor, El-Hrairah and how the gift of trickery, among others, is what helps rabbits survive in a world quite literally designed to destroy them...
    "The whole world.will be your enemy, Prince of a Thousand Enemies,
    And when they catch you,.they will kill you..
    ..but first they have to catch you."

    Yeah, hares and rabbits arent the same..but they have a common ancestor...:)

  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham Saturday, 02 March 2019

    There didn't USED to be any rabbits in Australia, but somebody thought it would be a good idea to import them. That didn't work out too good. I remember seeing pictures of something called the rabbit fence designed to keep rabbits out of a good chunk of Australia. The public library used to have a book of Australian folk tales, I only got as far as the story about waltzing Matilda, I don't know if any folk tales have grown up about rabbits or not.

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