Peter Rabbit, Peter Cottontail, Br'er Rabbit, Alice's White Rabbit|
all failed the audition to become the Easter Bunny
Peter Rabbit is a fictional rabbit in children's stories by
Beatrix Potter (1866-1943).
He first appeared in The Tales of Peter Rabbit (1902), and later in
five more books (1904-1912). The book has been translated into 36 languages, and
with 45 million copies sold, it is one of the best-selling books of all time.
Peter Rabbit wears human clothing and walks upright when dressed.
Peter disobeys his mother's orders and sneaks into Mr. McGregor's
garden, eating as many vegetables as he can before McGregor
spots him and chases him about. Peter manages to escape, but not
before losing his jacket and shoes, which McGregor uses to dress
a scarecrow. Peter returns home weary and ill and is put to bed with
a dose of chamomile tea.
Peter Cottontail is a fictional rabbit in the works of
Thorton Burgess (1874-1965).
In 50 years he wrote over 170 books and 15,000 stories in newspapers. Peter Cottontail first appeared in
Old Mother West Wind (1910) and in
Adventures of Peter Cottontail (1914). In the second chapter "Peter Finds a Name"
"Cottontail, Cottontail," said Peter
over and over to himself and began to smile. Every time he said it he liked it better.
"Cottontail, Peter Cottontail! How much better sounding that is than Peter Rabbit!
That sounds as if I really was somebody. Yes, Sir, that's the very name I want.
Now I must send word to all my friends that hereafter I am no longer Peter Rabbit,
but Peter Cottontail."
He was also featured in Little Peter Cottontail (1956) and
How Peter Cottontail Got His Name (1957). Peter Cottontail
is sometimes used as a euphemism or alternative to the term Easter Bunny
("Here Comes Peter Cottontail" song).
Br'er Rabbit is a central figure in the Uncle Remus stories of
Southern United States. He is a trickster character succeeding through
his wits rather than through strength. He enjoys tweaking authority figures
and bending social customs as he pleases. The origin of Br'er Rabbit is linked
to both Cherokee and African cultures.
Joel Chandler Harris (1845-1908)
published "The Story of Mr. Rabbit and Mr. Fox as Told by Uncle Remus" in the
Atlanta Constitution on July 20, 1879. Remus' stories featured a trickster
hero called Br'er Rabbit ("Brother" Rabbit), who used his wits against adversity,
though his efforts did not always succeed. Br'er Rabbit appears in Disney's movie
Song of the South (1946) in three animation segments including the song
"Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah" which won the 1947 Academy Award for Best Song.
White Rabbit is a fictional character in
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865)
by Lewis Carroll (1832-1898).
He appears at the very beginning of the book, in chapter one, wearing a waistcoat,
and muttering "Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late!" Alice follows him down the rabbit
hole into Underland. Alice encounters him again when he mistakes her for his housemaid
Mary Ann and she becomes trapped in his house after growing too large. The Rabbit shows
up again in the last few chapters, as a herald-like servant of the King and Queen of Hearts.
Overall, the White Rabbit seems to shift back and forth between pompous behavior toward his
underlings, such as his servants, and grovelling, obsequious behavior toward his superiors,
such as the Duchess and King and Queen of Hearts, in direct contrast to Alice, who is
reasonably polite to everyone she meets. The White Rabbit's descent into the underworld
into Wonderland appeared to be a perfect symbol of Easter that parallels Christ's entombment
in the dark cave before his wonderous and miraculous resurrection. However, the White Rabbit's egocentric
character was not as pure as his name, hence not a good representation of the Easter Bunny.
Saxon goddess of radiant dawn
Eastre from whom Easter got its name
Eastre (Old English Eostre, Old High German Ostara) is the name of the Germanic
goddess whose Anglo-Saxon month, Eostur-monath, has given its name to the festival of Easter.
Eostre is attested by Bede, in his 8th century work De temporum ratione, where he
states that Eostur-monath was the same as the month of April. In his 1882 Deutsche Mythologie,
Jacob Grimm writes "Ostara, Eastre seems to have been the divinity of the radiant dawn,
of upspringing light, a spectacle that brings joy and blessing, whose meaning could be easily
adapted by the resurrection-day of the Christian's God. Bonfires were lighted at Easter and
according to popular belief of long standing, the moment the sun rises on Easter Sunday morning,
he gives three joyful leaps, he dances for joy... Water drawn on the Easter morning is,
like that at Christmas, holy and healing. Maidens clothed in white, who at Easter, at the season
of returning spring, show themselves in clefts of the rock and on mountains, are suggestive of
the ancient goddess." (Image: Ostara (1884) by Johannes Gehrts.
The goddess flies through the heavens surrounded by Roman-inspired putti, beams of light,
and animals. Germanic people look up at the goddess from the earth below.)
Ishtar, the Assyrian goddess of fertility
who journeys to the Underworld only to rise again
Ishtar is the Assyrian and Babylonian goddess,
counterpart to the Sumerian Inanna and to the Northwest Semitic goddess
Astarte. Ishtar is a goddess of fertility and sexuality. In the Babylonian
pantheon, she "was the divine personifaction of the planet Venus. Her symbol is an eight-pointed star.
In her youth Ishtar loved Tammuz, god of the harvest. After his death Ishtar went to the Underworld
to retrieve him. When Ishtar came to the gates of the underworld, she demands the gatekeeper open them:
"If thou opens not the gate to let me enter, / I will break the door, I will wrench the lock, /
I will smash the door-posts, I will force the doors. / I will bring up the dead to eat the living. /
And the dead will outnumber the living." (Myths of Tammuz and Ishtar).
Donald A. Mackenzie draws a parallel between the love goddess Aphrodite and her "dying god" lover Adonis
on the one hand, and the love goddess Ishtar and her "dying god" Tammuz on the other hand.
Joseph Campbell equates Ishtar, Inanna, and Aphrodite,
and draws a parallel between the Egyptian goddess Isis who nurses Horus, and the Babylonian goddess Ishtar who nurses
the god Tammuz.
(Image: Ishtar/Inanna (early 2000 BC) depicted on the "Ishtar Vase" Larsa, Louvre, AO 6501)
Egyptian goddess Isis who brought Osiris back from the dead
Isis was the ancient Egyptian goddess of motherhood,
magic, and fertility. Isis was the first daughter of
Geb (Earth God) and
Nut (Sky Goddess). She
married her brother Osiris and conceived
Horus. Isis and Osiris represented the Moon and Sun respectively. She holds a globe
in her hand with a vessel full of ears of corn. The Egyptians believed that the yearly flooding of
the Nile came from the abundant tears Isis shed for the loss of Osiris. Isis was instrumental in the
resurrection of Osiris when he was murdered by Set. Her magical skills restored his body to life.
The word Isis signifies ancient, and, on that account, the inscriptions on the statues
of the goddess were often in these words: I am all that has been, that shall be, and none among
mortals has hitherto taken off my veil. The worship of Isis was universal in Egypt; the priests
were obliged to observe perpetual chastity, their head was closely shaved, and they always walked
barefooted, and clothed themselves in linen garments. During the night hey were employed in continual
devotion near the statue of Isis. [Lemprière's Classical Dictionary (3rd Ed.), 1984, p. 301]
(Image: The Goddess Isis, Encyclopedia Mythica)
Perhaps the Hare in the Moon would be
the best Easter Bunny who understands
|The Hare in the Moon, Moon Rabbit,
or Jade Rabbit is an image of a rabbit that lives on the moon in Chinese folklore. It is based on
pareidolia of moon markings
showing a hare or rabbit pounding in a mortal with his pestle creating the elixir of immortality
for the Moon goddess Chang-O. There are several Chinese legends about
Chang-O. One version has her husband
Houyi the Archer been given the pill of immortality by the Queen Mother of the West.
Houyi placed the pill in a box and warned Chang-O not to open the box. However when
he left the house, Chang-O was curious like Pandora and opened it. Finding the pill
she swallowed it and was soon borne aloft and floated to the moon. Her only companion
on the moon was the jade rabbit under a cassia tree pounding the mortal making
the elixir of immortality. The moon rabbit was mentioned in the conversation between Houston and the
Apollo 11 crew
just before the first moon landing (095:17:28)
Houston Mission Control (Ron Evans): Among the large headlines concerning Apollo this morning there's one asking that
you watch for a lovely girl with a big rabbit. An ancient legend says a beautiful Chinese girl
called Chang-O has been living there for 4000 years. It seems she was banished to the moon
because she stole the pill for immortality from her husband. You might also look for her companion,
a large Chinese rabbit, who is easy to spot since he is only standing on his hind feet in the shade
of a cinnamon tree. The name of the rabbit is not recorded.
Michael Collins: Okay, we'll keep a close eye for the bunny girl.
Pareidolia of Hare in the Moon.
Bottom: Medallion of Jade Rabbit under cassia tree pounding elixir of immortality.)
the meaning of Easter and its link to all those fertility goddesses
The Easter Bunny is ubiquitous at Easter as Santa Claus is at Christmas.
It has its origin in pre-Christian fertility lore. The Hare and the Rabbit were the most fertile animals known and they
served as symbols of the new life during the Spring season. The bunny as an Easter symbol seems to have its origins
in Germany, where it was first mentioned in German writings in the 1500s. The first edible Easter bunnies were made
in Germany during the early 1800s. And were made of pastry and sugar. The Easter bunny was introduced to American
folklore by the German settlers who arrived in the Pennsylvania Dutch country during the 1700s.
Easter may be related to mythical fertility goddesses such as
Eastre, Isis, and Ishtar who descended to the Underworld and became resurrected like Christ.
(Image: Easter Bunny Postcard, circa 1907)
Hare is a lunar animal, attribute of all moon deities; as closely connected with the moon,
it represents rebirth, rejuvenation, resurrection, intuition, and 'light in darkness'. It is often
associated with sacrificial fire and 'life through death'. It is a fertility symbol and
typifies feminine periodicity; it is a love gage; crafty wisdom; fleetness. The hare in the moon
acts as an intermediary between lunar deities and man. In the West, the
white hare symbolizes snow; the March hare madness. A hare's head or foot is a specific against
witchcraft, but the hare is often the servant or companion of witches. African: Associated
with the moon by the Hottentots. Amerindian: The Great Hare, Manabozho, father and guardian,
is a creator and transformer, changing man's animal nature. He is the Hero Savior, a demiurge,
Hero of the Dawn, personification of Light; the Great Manitou who lives in the moon with his
grandmother and is 'provider of all waters, master of winds and brother of the snow'. As trickster
it is also nimble mind outwitting dull brute force. Buddhist:The hare in the moon was uplifted
there by Buddha and symbolizes total sacrifice of the ego, since when Buddha was hungry, the hare
offered itself as a sacrifice and jumped into the fire. Celtic: An attribute of lunar and
hunter deities, often held in the hand of hunter gods. Chinese: The moon; a yin animal; the
feminine yin power; the imperial female consort; longevity. The hare is the fourth of the symbolic
animals of the Twelve Terrestrial Branches. The hare in the moon, with pestle and mortar, mixes the
elixir of immortality. The white hare is divinity; the red, good fortune, peace, prosperity and
virtuous rulers; the black, good fortune and a successful reign. Figures of hares or white rabbits
were made for the moon festival. Christian: Fecundity, lust. A white hare at the feet of the
Virgin Mary depicts triumph over lust. The defenselessness of the hare represents those who put their
trust in Christ. Egyptian: The dawn; the beginning; the opening; uprising; periodicity;
an emblem of Thoth; also associated with the moon. European: The Easter hare, rabbit, or
bunny symbolizes dawn and a new life; it is an attribute of the hare-headed moon goddess, probably
Oestra (Teutonic) or Eostre (Anglo-Saxon) who gives her name to Easter; hence rebirth and resurrection
as the rebirth of the moon. The Easter hare lays the Easter egg. Greco-Roman: Fertility;
lubricity; a messenger animal; attribute of Hermes/Mercury, also of Aphrodite and Eros. Cupids
are often portrayed with hares. Hebrew: The unclean. Hindu: Appears with the crescent
moon in Hindu and Buddhist art. Scandinavian: Freyja has attendant hares. Teutonic:
Holda, Harke, or Harfa, the moon goddess, is followed by hares as a train of torch-bearers.
The Easter hare is connected with Oestra. (J.C. Cooper, An Illustrated Encyclopedia of
Traditional Symbols, Thames & Hudson, London, 1978, pp. 79-80),
(Image: Hare and the Moon by Claire Barker)
rabbit's rapid offsprings in spring
Rabbits and hares are both prolific breeders. The females can conceive a second litter of offspring
while still pregnant with the first. This phenomenon is known as
Lagomorphs mature sexually at an early age
and can give birth to several litters a year (hence the sayings, "to breed like bunnies" or
"multiply like rabbits"). It is therefore not surprising that rabbits and hares should become
fertility symbols, or that their springtime mating antics should enter into Easter folklore.
Female rabbits do not actually ovulate until after mating. They have a bifurcated uterus and
often, mating can involve multiple acts that can result in multiple impregnations from different
bucks (male rabbits). A litter of rabbit kits (baby rabbits) can be as small as a single kit,
ranging up to 12 or 13; however there have been litters as big as 18. The gestation period is 30-32 days.
[Image: A Young Hare (1502)
by Albrecht Dürer, Albertina Museum, Vienna, Austria]
Pounding the Elixir of Immortality
Elixir of immortality, also known as Elixir of Life,
and sometimes equated to the Philosopher's Stone, is a legendary potion that grants the drinker
eternal life or eternal youth. Many practitioners of alchemy pursued it. The elixir of life was
also said to be able to create life. The ancient Chinese believed that ingesting long-lasting precious
substances such as jade, cinnabar or hematite would confer some of that longevity on the person who
consumed them. Gold was considered particularly potent, as it was a non-tarnishing precious metal;
the idea of potable or drinkable gold is found in China by the end of the third century BC.
A Chinese alchemical book, Tan Chin Yao Ch'eh ("Great Secrets of Alchemy," circa 650 AD),
discusses in detail the creation of elixirs for immortality (mercury, sulfur, and the salts
of mercury and arsenic are prominent) as well as those for curing certain diseases and the
fabrication of precious stones. Many of these substances, far from contributing to longevity,
were actively toxic. Jiajing Emperor in the Ming Dynasty died from ingesting a lethal dosage
of mercury in the supposed "Elixir of Life" conjured by alchemists.
(Image: Hare in the Moon Making the Elixir of Immortality,
from an 18th-century embroidered Chinese emperor's robe. Reproduced in Anthony Christie, Chinese Mythology, 1983, p. 63)
he reminds us of Moon's eternal return
from emptiness to fullness, her death
for three days in the night sky before
her rebirth as the crescent New Moon
Lunar phase or phase of the moon refers to the appearance
of the illuminated portion of the Moon as seen by an observer on Earth. The lunar phases vary cyclically as
the Moon orbits the Earth, according to the changing relative positions of the Earth, Moon and Sun. One half
of the lunar surface is always illuminated by the Sun (except during lunar eclipses), and hence is bright,
but the portion of the illuminated hemisphere that is visible to an observer can vary from 100% (full moon) to 0% (new moon).
When the Sun and Moon are aligned on the same side of the Earth the Moon is "new", and the side of the Moon visible
from Earth is not illuminated by the Sun. As the Moon waxes (amount of illuminated surface as seen from Earth
is increasing), the lunar phases progress from new moon, crescent moon, first-quarter moon, gibbous moon and full moon
phases, before returning through the gibbous moon, third-quarter moon, crescent moon and new moon phases. The time
between two full moons is about 29.53 days (29 days, 12 hours,
44 minutes) on average (hence, concept of a period of time of an approximated month was derived).
This synodic month is longer than the time it takes the Moon to make one orbit about the Earth with respect to the
fixed stars (the sidereal month), which is about 27.32 days. The
Dark Moon refers to the New Moon that is not
visible for three days at night when the Sun and Moon are on the same side of the Earth.
(Image: Grand Crescen Moon Sunset
in Socorro County, New Mexico, by Fort Photo)
Moon Phases as seen from the Northern Hemisphere. Southern Hemisphere sees each phase rotated 180o
much like Christ's entombment in the cave
before his resurrection on Easter Sunday
Christ was placed in a cave tomb after his crucifixion on Friday before his resurrection on Sunday.
Christ's entombment has been portrayed in paintings
and is covered in Matthews 27.63: "After three days I will rise again."
In The Power of Myth PBS television documentary (1988),
Joseph Campbell tells Bill Moyers about the metaphor of resurrection, tracing its history back
to the ancient Egyptian myth of Isis and Osiris.
Bill Moyers: The Christian fathers took the image of Isis?
Joseph Campbell: The mythologies have referred to were of the dead and resurrected god:
one after the other. The death and resurrection of the god is everywhere associated with the moon, which dies and is
resurrected every month. It is for two nights, or three days dark, and we have Christ for two nights, or three days
in the tomb. (Joseph Campbell, Power of Myth, Doubleday, NY, 1988, p. 179).
There is a cylinder seal
(300 A.D.) with Orpheus-Bacchus crucified. It is a metaphysical symbol Orpheus in the same sense as Christ,
and he goes to the cross like a bridegroom to the bride. Atop the cross is the moon and above that, seven stars
of the Pleiades, known to antiquity as the Lyre of Orpheus.
(Image: "Orpheus-Bacchus Crucified" from cylinder seal of 300 A.D. Joseph Campbell,
Transformations of Myth Through Time, Harper & Row, 1990, p. 207). While walking around Stanford's Lake
Lagunita on Friday, April 16 around 7:30 pm, Venus shown brightly below the crescent moon.
Upon checking Sky & Telescope's Sky at a Glance, Dusk, April 15-17:
"Look west in twilight for the thin crescent Moon above Venus. As the sky grows dark, the Pleiades
glimmer into view just above the Moon." The position of Pleiades-Crescent Moon-Venus matches
the 300 A.D cylinder seal, where Joseph Campbell
links Christ to Venus and love
pouring forth into the world.
Peter Y. Chou
Mountain View, 4-18-2010