The Irish Legends of the Beltane Hare

Happy Half-o-Ween! We have reached the midway point to Halloween, and it's all preparation from here. However, the midpoint of the year between Samhain and the next Samhain is another cross-quarter festival called Beltane. This is celebrated as May Day by most people today, but it harks back to ancient Irish pagan lore, when the veil between the real and the other world is particularly thin.

Spring is often associated with the return and reproduction of nature's creatures, including the rabbit, which led to the idea of the Easter Bunny. In Ireland, rabbits were only introduced to the island in the 12th century, but hares were already there, and already had a devious reputation. They were shapeshifters who could steal milk. One Irish legend tells of a hare who stole milk and was wounded by a farmer as it was chased away. Following the hare underground, the farmer found a woman with the same wound. She was a witch, who was able to change into a hare because it was Beltane.

The hare was regarded as a cryptic trickster animal with supernatural talents in more than one ancient society. Read about the legendary hares who brought chaos along with spring at Atlas Obscura. 

(Image credit: Gunnar Creutz, Falbygdens museum

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