Thursday, 29 November 2012

Hares and "Unquakerly" behaviour at Swythamley

The Hare ambled nonchalantly off as the car passed. It was sitting beside the back road between Monyash and Bakewell as we approached. I have been closer to them before. One March day in fields near Ipstones I came across them “boxing” and so unconcerned by my presence that I got close to them as the fur literally flew.

Throughout the world, there are legends concerning Hares from the Americas to the Far East, from Africa to Europe. The animal is embedded deeply in the folk myths of our ancestors. It is associated in mythology with the Moon, cunning and bravery. There is evidence of Hare mythology in ancient pottery, coins, seals, and cuneiform writings and in oral history.

The most striking thing about the mythology of hares is the degree of commonality across the globe. Similar to the fact that most ancient cultures have a flood myth, most also seem to have hare mythology

To the Celts the Hare was sacred to the White Goddess - the Earth Mother - and as such was considered to be a royal animal. Boudicca released a Hare as a good omen before each battle divining the outcome of battle by the animals movements.

Hares have a place in British folklore. The suggestion that the animal is unworldly is an ancient one. Gerald Cambrensis writing in the 12th century tells of a belief that witches in Wales can change themselves in Hares. One such story closer to home was collected by a Catholic priest in Leek during the 1950s. WP Witcutt’s account concerns Hag Farm near Swythamley and a 17th century witch who turned herself into a Hare to be coursed by a farmer called Wood in return for a gratuity given by her husband. The husband of the witch would watch the event with interest and often money was exchanged. Witcutt mentions that Wood was a friend of the Quaker William Penn the founder of Pennsylvania. The Priest speculated what the local Society of Friends in Leek must have felt of this bizarre carrying-on, as it is very unquakerly behaviour, is unknown