Friday, February 4, 2011

The Year of the Rabbit God

This is the Chinese Year of the Rabbit. Small, wily and fast, rabbits are underrated and I feel this is quite unwise. Rabbits have staying power and there are always a lot of rabbits around. It set me wondering if there had been a Rabbit deity of any kind - in ancient times perhaps. In my researches, I discovered a rabbit! Unut was a powerful rabbit-headed Goddess who currently stands at the left hand side of the statue of the King in the ancient Egyptian city of Hermopolis. On the other side stands Thoth, God of Wisdom, all discovered relatively recently. Of course, the Rabbit Goddess is of fertility and the spring. Yet ultimately she is celebrated for her speed and she is known as The Swift One. In Celtic mythology, the rabbit can appear and disappear at will. Because of its zig-zag motion, the rabbit can evade predators by changing direction with astonishing agility. It's also a bit of trickster. In one of Br'er Rabbit's adventures, he escapes by persuading his captor, the fox to throw him into the briar patch. "Whatever you do, don't throw me into the briar patch!" In fury, the fox duly does so and of course, that's where Br'er Rabbit lives! It is fitting that Unut should be discovered in a city named after Hermes, the archetypal trickster. But what of our photograph? I took this detail of an Egyptian obelisk in Rome with a long lens and to my surprise, I could see rabbits. Can you spot Unut? I can. Happy Chinese New Year!