Rabbit or hare?

I decided to go hunting… At the beginning I really didn’t mean to. I thought that finding an explanation to the “Easter Bunny” would be easier. However, I’ve come across the most interesting things.

Easter Bunny close to Bamberg, Germany

Easter Bunny close to Bamberg, Germany

The first thing that caught my attention is the fact that sometimes rabbits were used to symbolize “Christ” in early Christian times. This convention was continued and was even used in the decoration of some churches, e.g. the three hare window in the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Paderborn, Germany, where three rabbits or hares are united in a triangle with only one ear of each showing. They are meant to symbolize the Trinity.

http://www.american-buddha.com/cult.hieronymusbosch.plate9.htm

If you’re interested in this topic you may want to take a look at The three hares project of Chris Chapman. He shows different versions of the motive and its depiction in Medieval Europe basing its origins in Asia.

http://www.chrischapmanphotography.co.uk/hares/index.html

In the late 15th century and beginnings of the 16th some famous painters included rabbits or hares in their religious painting, such as Albrecht Dürer on his woodcut The Holy Family.

Albrecht Dürer's The Holy Family

Albrecht Dürer’s The Holy Family

He also created the most detailed painting of a hare, his famous Young Hare (German: Feldhase) in 1502 in watercolors.

A very informative page is http://steadfastlutherans.org/?p=28531 where you can read a very interesting, however personal view of Easter and its symbols.

 

Going back to the “Easter rabbit”, that by the way was a hare, like Bugs Bunny and not a sweet fluffy rabbit, it is usually seen as a symbol for fertility.  Hares and rabbits are very prolific and can give birth to several litters a year. They are very early sexually mature and can conceive the second litter while still pregnant with the first!

 

In the early 19th century, Jakob Grimm, tried to explain the myth of Easter, the eggs and the bunny. The idea of the German goddess Ostara became popular with his version. She wasn’t really well known or popular before that. Grimm based his version in some medieval writings, some from the British Isles, and word semantics from German and other northern languages. However, up to now nothing has been scientifically proven.

Another interesting fact I found in my hunt was this image:

Ixchel_Rabbit_maya

Ixchel with rabbit husband

It has been sometimes used to portrait the goddess Ostara and his mate, the rabbit or hare!  If you look very carefully, especially for those of you acquainted with Mesoamerican art, you will recognize some facial traits… Yes, indeed! This is a Mayan sculpture representing the Mayan goddess of fertility, Ix-Chel. She was the goddess of fertility, motherhood, the moon and the menstrual cycle. She was mother of all. In other representations she holds a rabbit in her hand as a symbol of fertility while sitting on the crescent moon.  On this image she is standing with the rabbit at her side to symbolize fertility.

As you now know, this image has nothing to do with Ostara, the Old German goddess!

The Aztecs, another Mezoamerican culture,  used the rabbit for the name of a day: “tochtli”. http://www.azteccalendar.com/day/Tochtli.html

 

Are there any other rabbit or bunny versions? Many for sure…

In conclusion,  the version of Easter as we know it,  with colored eggs and bunnies, is the one transmitted from German and Swedish cultures to other European countries and brought to the US of America in the 18th century mostly by German immigrants, many of them Lutherans.  This tradition has now extended to many parts of the world without really knowing what it stands for.

Does it really matter? Enjoy your chocolate eggs and rabbits… though I prefer chocolate hares as they have longer ears 😉

Happy Easter! 

red egg

The Egg

Spring has arrived with its milder weather, birds tweeting (twittering? that word has now got another meaning… should I better say chirping to avoid confusion?) and flowers blooming. Yes, its my favorite season!

Everywhere you can find splendid flower arrangements, rabbits, birds nests and eggs!

Eggs are a symbol of fertility and new life.  We can find them all around and in all forms and colors. The real ones, boiled and painted, chocolate ones in foil paper, fondant ones in the classical ovoid form or as sunny side up eggs, nicely painted wooden ones, plastic eggs, and, and…

The tradition of decorating eggs and eggshells is ancient and has been practiced all along history by many cultures. I’ve just found out that the Egyptians used to put them in their tombs. The early christians used to paint them red to remember the blood of Christ.

In East European Countries like Romania, Russia, Ukraine they decorate them with filigree patterns creating small masterpieces.

In Greece, they bake a rich yeast bread usually with a red egg in it, it’s called tsoureki. Other countries like Hungary have a similar bread with eggs for Easter.

pangriego1

Greek Easter bread

What came then first the egg or the hen? It’s a never ending discussion. It depends on the starting point of the discussion and of the participants…

egg or chicken

Who came first?

 

 

 

 

 

The egg has been inspirational for many ideas, not only coking. There is a famous nursery rime “Humpty Dumpty” by Mother Goose. If you want to have a look at the writer ;-), you can check it here:

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/mother-goose

Does it have a meaning or is it a simple a word game?

Humpty Dumpty was a colloquial term used in fifteenth century England describing someone who was obese. The image of Humpty Dumpty was made famous by the illustrations included in the ‘Alice through the looking glass’ novel by Lewis Carroll. However, Humpty Dumpty was not a person.

(http://www.rhymes.org.uk/humpty_dumpty.htm)

In nature there are thousands of different types of eggs. We usually think of the ones we know like chicken, duck, goose and maybe quail among others. There are beautiful colored ones from little birds like the blue ones of a finch.   But not only birds lay eggs, fish also produce them. We enjoy them ( or rather not… yuk…) as the famous caviar. The most expensive one is the Beluga caviar form the beluga sturgeon in the Caspian See.  Other types of fish caviar are also enjoyable, for example those of salmon or trout.

Moving up in the zoological scale we find humans on top. Although a woman’s ovary has about 1 million oocytes or eggs at birth, only about 500 (about 0.05%) of these ovulate while the rest are wasted. If we imagine that a healthy young man with a typical ejaculate usually produces 300-500 million spermatozoa, that would create a lot of children!  However, we know that it is not that easy… Only a couple hundred spermatozoa survive in the acidic environment of the vagina to be candidates for successful fertilization.

This reminded me of Woody Allen with his always funny to watch “Everything you always wanted to know about sex…” (1972)

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0068555/?ref_=nm_flmg_wr_50

Continuing with fertility, sperm cells cannot divide and have a limited life span. After the fusion with egg cells during fertilization a new organism begins developing, starting as a zygote.  Funny name for a baby 😉

Where does everything begin where does it end?  Great thinkers like Aristotle and Plutarch proposed their own ideas on the puzzle. According to Stephen Hawking and Popular Science (the magazine), the egg came first as it evolved prior to birds.

Coming back to the egg and the hen I visualize the symbol of eternity:. A world egg or cosmic egg is a creation myth of many cultures and civilizations linking the egg to birth. It embodies the idea of a silent universe, all at one bursting into activity and chaos. There is no “first” in a cyclical view of time characteristic of many cultures and religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism, as well as other Dharmic religions. The belief of the wheel of time which regards time as cyclical and with repeating ages is also found in other cultures such as Mesoamerican (Aztecs, Mayan) and some native American Indians.

Let`s  continue enjoying the egg in all its forms, especially in mouth watering recipes for Easter.  How about…

…some eggs bendedict?

http://www.yummly.com/recipe/Eggs-Benedict-The-Pioneer-Woman-287104?columns=4&position=1%2F45

… some asparagus with sauce hollandaise?

http://www.yummly.com/recipe/external/Best-Basic-Hollandaise-Sauce-511714

… a tasty tortilla española

http://spanishfood.about.com/od/tapas/r/tortilla.htm

… Or an italian frittata?

http://www.incredibleegg.org/recipes/recipe/simple-frittata

Decide for yourselves, invite some friends, cook together and enjoy 🙂

Oh, dear! I almost forgot “the bunny”!  Don’t worry, you may read about “him” next week.