Rabbits have been symbolically hopping around with humans for thousands of years. In the past two thousand years of Christian art, rabbits have flip flopped as both negative and positive symbols. Today we see the rabbit as more positive. During medieval times, the rabbit was associated with witchcraft and shape shifting. Rabbits were seen as symbols of wanton, unbridled sexuality which used to be considered a no no. Rabbits do very weird things under the moonlight during their spring mating rituals and humans want to explain everything, so what else but the devil could have been involved during the Dark Ages? Demonic rabbit gargoyles carrying off virtuous maidens exist on some Christian cathedrals prior to 1500.
Strangely, or maybe predictably, the rabbit then became more positive during the Renaissance (1500s and onward) as the rabbit was viewed as a symbol of virtue and rebirth. How? It was believed that the female rabbit could conceive and give birth without contact with a male rabbit. I guess someone wasn’t paying very close attention! White rabbits as symbols of virginal birth of Christ appeared in paintings. Even the name Renaissance means “rebirth.” The Renaissance brought a more positive world view as the Dark Ages waned into history.
Today we think of rabbits as the Easter bunny. Today’s Easter bunny evolved from the pagan, medieval, and Christian ideas of the past. Nothing we do today appears out of a vacuum. It is all descended of past ideas. Past ideas get blended with current ideas. Rabbits today still have connotations of sexuality and good luck. But now it seems rabbits are more loved for the superficial facts that they are cute, furry, and playful. Don’t let that stop you from looking deeper into the meaning of the hare.