An Unlikely Battle Companion

Hare painting made out of meadow grass and flowers

How do you defeat those pesky Romans: with a broadsword, a throwing spear, a battle horse?  All of those sound like they could be very useful, but what you really need in your arsenal is a Hare.  Just ask Queen Boudica - and if anyone should know it would be this red hared heroine, who impressively managed to defeat the all conquering Romans in three separate battles.    

Boudica was the Celtic leader for the Iceni tribe who resided in the region now known as East Anglia.  The Celts were a superstitious lot, and stressful events like going into battle would have certainly called for a little help from the gods - especially Andraste, the Iceni war goddess.  Thankfully Roman historian, Cassius Dio, has given us the following account of Boudica’s pre-match talk:     

"Let us, therefore, go against [the Romans], trusting boldly to good fortune. Let us show them that they are hares and foxes trying to rule over dogs and wolves." When she [Boudica] had finished speaking, she employed a species of divination, letting a hare escape from the fold of her dress; and since it ran on what they considered the auspicious side, the whole multitude shouted with pleasure, and Boudica, raising her hand toward heaven, said: "I thank you, Andraste, and call upon you as woman speaking to woman ... I beg you for victory and preservation of liberty."

The Romans, for all their practical advances, were a superstitious lot themselves, and it is said that they used birds for divination the same way the Celts used hares.  Released birds who flew towards the right was an auspicious sign, where as left flying birds were sinister, an ill omen.   

So anyway, there you are side by side with Boudica, charging towards Roman centurions when you hear a woman’s scream.  But don’t worry, your dear leader has not been struck, neither is she suddenly having second thoughts, for it is the cry of a second hare hidden under her garment which she is said to have taken into battle for extra luck - an animal sacred to the war goddess, Andraste, and one that literally screams like a woman when they fear for their life!

And some of you thought the old rabbit under the hat trick was cruel!    

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