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Mystery creature favoured by gods

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'Ostara's favoured animal was the hare, Lepus timidus, which carried her lights as Goddess of Dawn.'

'Ostara's favoured animal was the hare, Lepus timidus, which carried her lights as Goddess of Dawn.'

'Ostara's favoured animal was the hare, Lepus timidus, which carried her lights as Goddess of Dawn.'

"Joe, summer's in," Seamus Heaney wrote on the flyleaf of my copy of Wintering Out. He chuckled, "unsigned books will be more valuable", as he patiently signed his name for respectful admirers. It was his birthday, an event where the country schoolmaster, as he described himself, talked and read. I was with another poet over whose scribbling crouch by a cottage door a hare had once jumped.

An Giorra, the mad March hare, boxer and dancer, a lanky, bony fellow, is the true Easter bunny. The fluffy rabbit of merchandising is a cuddlesome cod, although a chocolate figurine is usually pleasantly acceptable.

The hare at Easter is a creature of mystery favoured by ancient gods, or, rather, one particular goddess. And, curiously, a Christian monk, the Venerable Bede, cast light on such pagan origins in the 8th century at his Benedictine retreat in Northumbria.