Animal Symbolism of the Rabbit
Symbolic rabbit meanings deal primarily with abundance, comfort, and vulnerability. Traditionally, rabbits are associated with fertility, sentiment, desire, and procreation. Rabbit meanings are also closely linked to the seasons, the changes of Mother Earth, and specifically Springtime. Have you ever heard the term "madder than a March hare?" I have (my mom says it). It has to do with rabbits going bonkers around this time of year. They feel the call of spring just as strongly as everyone and everything else - perhaps moreso. Creatures of all kinds feel the tremors of springtime's return and respond to it in wild courtship. It's a celebration of life, and bunnies bounce right back into the swing of spring.
All of us know the power of population the rabbit has - they are legendary for their ability to reproduce fast and furiously. For that same reason, the rabbit is a perfect symbol for this spring which is fertile with themes like: New life, New beginnings and the undeniable current of growth. The rabbit is also a symbol of Ostara (see "Rabbit Meanings Around the World" below), an ancient fertility goddess whose symbols are rabbits, various flowers and eggs (more life/growth/fertility themes!).
A mother rabbit can have forty or more babies a year. That's symbolic of the cycle of life, and they way life carries on generation after generation. This could hearken to our ideals of ancestry. Indeed in many cultures (Asian, for example) the rabbit is a symbol of longevity and a long family line. Rabbits' renowned ability to have large litters of babies is also symbolic of creativity/creation.
Rabbits love to chew, and their teeth never stop growing. Symbolically, chewing implies repetition, contemplation, and breaking concepts down into component parts. Their diet is light and green, which implies symbolism of health and prosperity.
Rabbits are burrowers and their deep, maze-like tunnels symbolize connections with primal energy as well as Mother Earth energies. The rabbit encourages us to retreat within, get warm, and collect ourselves.
They also prompt us to connect with the Mother in deeper ways. Rabbits prefer to be on the ground; they are true earth element animals. We cannot help but be reminded of groundedness in their presence.
Rabbits and hares are nocturnal and share the same lunar symbolism. The moon is often depicted as a rabbit in many cultures, thus lending associations of deep intuition and emotionality. For sure, the rabbit symbolizes reflection.
In Buddhist culture, it is said that the Buddha, disguised as a hare, threw himself in a fire as sacrifice to the god Indra. His reward was to live an eternal life as the moon.
The ancient Mayans thought the moon's change of phase resembled the motion of a jumping rabbit. See more Mayan symbols here.
In Mesopotamian myths, the rabbit was associated with feminine power because of their ability to procreate quickly and easily. They were also aligned with the triple goddess within their pantheon because of the rabbit's triangular teeth, and commonly having litters of three.
Rabbits are historically tied to the celebration of Easter and its' implications of sacrifice, redemption, and resurrection. Rabbits represent the freshness of spring and the promise of wonderful things to come.
The rabbit is sacred to Ostara (or Eostre), a Germanic fertility maiden Goddess. She is the epitome of celebrating new life. She is the expectant one - and her vision only sees potential. In every nuance of experience, Ostara sees indwelling life, and keeps her attention honed there. She's the reason spring unleashes its vitality - because Ostara has kept her light bright, her vigil of life strong and her focus of promise remained stoic even in the leanest months of winter. Trace your history and you will find this nurturing goddess at the prime root of the festival of Easter, and her sacred rabbit has been morphed into the Easter bunny over the centuries because she had the head of a hare, and the body of a goddess. Ostara is also connected with the vernal equinox (by the same name) which occurs March 20-21st.
In Native American folklore, Manabozho is the Great Hare, a trickster god. He is a shape-shifter and by his tricks, helps to spawn creation. The rabbit is a powerful and well-respected animal totem for these cultures. See more Native American symbols here.
The rabbit is the fourth animal in the Chinese astrological chart. Those born under the sign of the rabbit are conservative, friendly, and deeply compassionate. They are creative and active and avoid conflict. View Chinese zodiac symbols here.
Rabbits are highly social animals, displaying genuine feelings of happiness and affection. Vice versa, they can display aggression, jealousy, and hostility in their social environment. These kind of behaviors are common in every family and community and as such, the rabbit is a symbol of working out social differences and getting along with our fellow society members.
These animals are about body and soul. Consider the amazing perceptive abilities of the rabbit. Radar-like hearing and near 360 degree vision speak of sensitivity. The rabbit reminds us to examine and utilize the tools we have within ourselves. Although our instincts are innate, they also need nurturing and development.
If you've held a rabbit, you know their hearts beat very fast and hence they are often associated with people who have highly sensitive, extremely alert, and very cautious personalities.
Rabbits are all about hopping and jumping, in fact, they are known to leap over nine feet high! As children, we appreciate and embrace these playful movements. As adults, we should herald the frivolity and enjoyment of such a relaxed and uplifted spirit.
Rabbits are magical and mysterious and those relating with this animal totem are full of life and possess a deep connection with the sacred, eternal spirit of the earth. See more Earth symbols here.
Rabbits are diverse creatures, packed with symbolic potential. Thus, there's tons more rabbit meanings available to us, if we just tap into their energy, and add a little more research in getting to know them on a deeper level. Check out the links at the end of this page for more information.
Photo credit: Thanks to The Busy Brain on Flickr for the top rabbit image.
An Important Note About Signs, Symbols and Their Meanings
Signs and symbols cultivate their meanings according to culture, context, passage of time in society as well as mass societal opinion. What's cool and highly important is that signs and symbols earn their most powerful meanings from our own personal perspectives.
This website strives to provide you with the best, time-honored information when defining signs and symbols. However, in the final analysis, "Beauty (and symbolism) is in the eye of the beholder."
Having said that, it's in our best interest to invest the time to do personal research on symbolic events happening to us. This website is just one perspective in an ocean of variety and diversity in the realm of symbolism. So dive in! There is a whole universe of deeper meanings to explore! You can start your research by clicking on the links at the end or to the side of this page. Odds are good I've got a follow-up article about this symbolic topic. ;)
As always, thanks for your willingness to learn more about the language of symbolism. It's a language that is universal and everywhere. It's super-groovy to travel with you on your symbolic path, and maybe offer a little translation along the way. Thanks for reading and exploring!