My paintings are a projective experience much like clinical psychology’s Rorschach test. I paint a background of an undefined and ambiguous scene. I then paint the images that I see emerging from this undefined space. As I interact with the images, painting them, amplifying them, dialoging with them, listening to their personal and archetypal meanings, I reveal unconscious forces at work in my own mind. Since the mind has a tendency “to structure ambiguous scenes into personally meaningful images that symbolize underling motives and emotions” (Walsh, Shamanism, p. 202), my paintings are a kind of witness that speak to my life condition, a kind of shamanic journey for healing and insight.
In a recent painting a large rabbit, known as the Hare, showed up. For several days I resisted putting the Hare into the painting, thinking “a Hare isn’t going to make a very desirable painting.” So I continued journeying and looking for something else to appear. But the Hare persisted. So I overcame my resistance and painted the Hare.
Shamanic journeying is an important tool for accessing the deep inner wisdom of the Spirit that lives in all things. It allows one to access intuitive and instinctual information that lives in the larger field of non-ordinary reality. In this altered state of consciousness, beyond time and space, there are a variety of helping spirits where we can get information to help us better understand a situation, uncover the sources of a problem and access avenues for healing which allows us to find greater wholeness, balance and harmony in our lives. (The Shamanic Journey, Center for Shamanic Studies)
Animals are helping spirits that we often meet on a shamanic journey. Each animal has its own medicine that it brings to a situation. In this painting-journey I met the Hare. Since the intention behind my paintings is for personal healing and insight, I wondered what healing and insight Hare had for me. While it was tempting to look up the meaning of Hare in some book or google its meaning on the web, I think it best to first ask the animal directly. On occasion I have found that the particular medicine or assistance that an animal had for me was not one commonly or universally associated with that animal.
Some days after completing this painting, I sat to meditate. One of my meditation practices is to journey into and through a portal that opens in my medicine bag. On this particular occasion I found myself pulled to journey through this portal and found myself among great boulders. Five of those boulders began to shape-shift and formed a circle, looking much like the petals of a flower. The center opened and I journeyed into this center. As I did I looked up and there were hundreds of Hares, standing up looking at me. As far as I could see there were Hares. In fact they were all around me—north, east, south and west. I was quite surprised by the number. Immediately I heard the word “abundance.” It was like the whole space was vibrating with “abundance.” The Hares told me that they are “abundance” and that “abundance is mine.” Abundance is the medicine that they bring to me, and that I am to bring “abundance” to my world and to wherever I am called. They tell me that abundance is anything that someone needs. It is the capacity to bring into existence whatever it is that anyone needs….everything is available…there is no lack. Lack is a state of mind.” The Hares told me “we are abundance. We are the creative instinct, the capacity to produce and create whatever is needed.” They tell me that through my painting I have journeyed into the place of the Hare, the place of creativity, fertility and abundance. This is the medicine of the Hare.
With that information I decided to research the Hare and explore other aspects of Hare that might be useful. According to Ted Andrews (Animal-Speak) the Hare provides one with the ability to possess the power of the moon. It is associated with fertility and new life and can assist one in becoming sensitive and artistic. The Hare is imbued with ambition, finesses, and virtue. It is known for its ability to procreate, its fleetness and its ability to make great leaps and hops. The Hare helps one take advantage of opportunities that may only present themselves for brief moments. (Pp.303-304.)
Ina Woolcott, in her blog post “Rabbit Power Animal: Symbol of Creativity, Intuition, Paradox and Fear,” points out that the rabbit or Hare is also associated with fear. “According to certain Native American traditions, rabbit is known as the fear caller. According to the tradition, the rabbit projects its fear of those wishing to eat it, and thereby attracts the predators it fears. Rabbit teaches us that if we are always afraid of something then we may draw or create the very experience we are afraid of into our lives.” Rabbit medicine also shows us “how to attract love, abundance, health and a warm dry burrow.” With the help of Hare, “we are guided to move through fear, living by our own wits, receiving hidden teachings and intuitive messages, quick thinking, strengthening intuition and paradox. Rabbit represents humility, being quiet and soft and not self-asserting. If you see rabbit, this may be a sign for you to wait for the forces of the universe to start moving again, to stop worrying and to get rid of your fears.” According to Woolcott, “rabbit always indicates a need to reevaluate the process you are undergoing, to rid yourself of any negative feelings or barriers and to be more humble.” Reading what others have to say about the meanings of a power animal can be useful in that it provides us opportunity to reflect on other messages that an animal may have for us.
The Hare is also associated with various goddesses. Taking off my “shamanic hat” and putting on my “psychotherapy hat” the ancient gods and goddesses of mythology can be understood as archetypal images and concrete forms in which the primitive mind conceived certain qualities, states, and affections to exist and operate. They are symbolic of the various expressions of psychic energy.
In Celtic tradition, the hare is sacred to the Goddess and is the totem animal of various lunar goddesses, The Goddess most closely associated with the Hare is Eostre or Ostara. Eostre or Ostara is the Goddess of Spring and heralds its beginning. She is the Maiden Goddess, full of potential, representing the opportunity of growth and rebirth after the stagnation of winter.
The owl also appeared in my painting. I discovered in my readings that the snowy owl is associated to the Hare. The Snowshoe Hare is strongly linked to the Snowy Owl population, such that when hare populations are down, the owls stop breeding, and even die from starvation. The Owl is also a symbol of the Goddess and is particularly associated with Athena as the goddess of wisdom. Owls have the ability to see in the dark and fly noiselessly through the skies. They bring messages through dreams. The Owl is the bird of mystical wisdom and ancient knowledge of the powers of the moon.
Both the Hare and the Owl are associated to the goddess and to the moon, to the power, the wisdom and the creative energies of the feminine. Everything has meaning and purpose in the ecology of the whole from the smallest organism to the most advanced. We are connected to and a part of this whole. When we are in need of some particular information or healing, the part of the whole holding that particular medicine will often show up in our lives. In some cases it may be an animal that shows up in journey, in a dream, in meditation, in a vision or in an actual ordinary world encounter or in this case, in a painting. From my own journeys to Hare and from my collateral readings on Hare and Owl this painting is an invitation from Hare and Owl to step into creative power and abundance of Hare medicine and the wisdom of the owl.