Hare

0
Hawkins, Jane (17th century)
Hand of Glory

In folklore, a witch’s familiar or a witch metamorphosed
in disguise (see metamorphosis). It is still
bad luck in the British Isles for one’s path to be crossed
by a hare.

Witches were said to be able to change themselves
into hares and other animals with magical charms such
as the following from the British Isles:
I shall go into a hare,
With sorrow and such and muckle care,
And I shall go in the Devil’s name.
Ay, ’till I come home again.

The hare supposedly was the favorite disguise of Isobel
Gowdie, a Scottish woman who voluntarily confessed
to witchcraft in 1662, astonishing her staid community of
Auldearne with her wild tales. Once while in the shape of
a hare, she said, she had a close call with some dogs. The
Devil had sent her, as a hare, to carry a message to neighbors.
Along the way, she encountered a man and a pack of
hounds, which sprang upon her. “I run a very long time,”
said Gowdie, “but being hard pressed, was forced to take
to my house, the door being open, and there took refuge
behind a chest.” The dogs pursued her into the house, and
Gowdie escaped only by running into another room and
uttering a “disenchanting” charm:

Hare, hare, God send thee care!
I am in a hare’s likeness now;
But I shall be a woman even now-—
Hare, hare, God send thee care!

Many stories exist in folklore of hunters shooting
hares, only to discover they had killed old hag witches,
who resumed their human forms upon death much like
the werewolf in disguise. The following Irish folktale,
from W. B. Yeats’ collection of Irish Fairy and Folk Tales
(1892), tells of the wounding of a witch hare:
I was out thracking hares meeself, and I seen a fine
puss of a thing hopping hopping in the moonlight, and
whacking her ears about, now up, now down, and winking
her great eyes, and—”Here goes,” says I, and the
thing was so close to me that she turned round and
looked at me, and then bounced back, as well to say,
do your worst! So I had the least grain of life of blessed
powder left, and I put it in the gun—and bang at her!
My jewel, the scritch she gave would frighten a rigment,
and a mist, like, came betwixt me and her, and I seen her
no more; but when the mist wint off I saw blood on the
spot where she had been, and I followed its track, and
at last it led me—whists, whisper—right up to Katey
MacShane’s door; and when I was at the thrashold, I
heerd a murnin’ within, a great murnin’, and a groanin’,
and I opened the door, and there she was herself, sittin’
quite content in the shape of a woman, and the black cat
that was sittin’ by her rose up its back and spit at me; but
I went on never heedin’, and asked the ould——how she
was and what ailed her.

“Nothing,” sis she.
“What’s that on the floor?” sis I.
“Oh,” she say, “I was cuttin’ a billet of wood,” she
says, “wid the reaping hook,” she says, “an’ I’ve wounded
meself in the leg,” she says, “and that’s drops of my precious
blood,” she says.
In Norse mythology, the hare is the companion of
Freya, goddess of fecundity.

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Hawkins, Jane (17th century)
Hand of Glory

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