The Easter bunny - The DM Collection

The Easter bunny

March 22, 2016

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Why does a rabbit bring us eggs?

 

The Easter bunny has its roots in the pre-Christian mythology and the fertility goddess Eostre, who was venerated at the spring equinox. The bunny in question is actually generally agreed to be a hare, not a common or garden rabbit, which was the companion animal of the goddess.

Why a fertility goddess would be associated with a hare must surely be down to biology - hares are prolific breeders and can even conceive a new litter while still pregnant! Their flamboyant antics during mating season could also have something to do with it.

Eggs are also redolent of new life, but leporids (both hares and rabbits) do not lay them, so still why does a bunny bring us eggs? The connection is perhaps best explained by this folktale:

The story goes that one snowy day Eostre came across a bird dying of cold in the woods. Taking pity on the bird she turned her into a hare, who has a lovely thick coat of fur to stay warm through the winter.

But the transformation was not a total success - although she now had the appearance of a hare, when spring came the bird (now hare) began laying eggs as she used to! Apparently not too bothered by this biological conundrum as the price of survival, she decided to give the eggs to Eostre as a sign of her gratitude.

She decorated the eggs beautifully and left them for the goddess to find, hidden in the woodland where they had met. And so, the first Easter egg hunt began ...  

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Gail Emerson
Gail Emerson

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