I remember looking them up in Animal-Speak by Ted Andrews a few years ago and just shaking my head, laughing at how I had more in common with them than not. I'm a herbivore, as are our rabbit friends, was born in the year of the rabbit, and my patrons are linked to the hare, all of which are linked to the moon: baby bunnies are ready to be on their own after 28 days.
According to Stories rabbits tell: a natural and cultural history of a misunderstood creature by By Susan E. Davis and Margo DeMello:
The Egyptian word for hare is "Un" or "open/open to/the opener." Hares were considered sacred to the Goddess Diana in her aspect as Lucina. In Sanskrit, the word for moon "cacadharas" means "one who carries the hare.
Mercury is added to the rabbit lore mix by virtue of his virility: A legend I've remarked on in the past: Both Apollo and Mercury wanted Khione. Apollo seduced her and she became pregnant. Later that night, Mercury did the same. And also impregnated her. The rabbit has the wonderful distinction of being able to become pregnant when it's already in the middle of a pregnancy!
Thanks to theoi.com:
Pseudo-Hyginus, Astronomica 2. 33 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Hare [constellation Lepus]. Some say that it was put there by Mercurius, and that it had been given the faculty, beyond other kinds of quadrapeds, of being pregnant with new offspring when giving birth to others."
Rabbits aren't nocturnal, but crepuscular: they're out and about during twilight. Because of this and their ability to create tunnels underground, they're associated with Fairies and the Underworld. Down the rabbit hole, anyone? ;)
The rabbit is also known as a trickster, like some God we know? ;) Back to our friends with the bunny book. They talk about how women and rabbits are closely linked, and not just in Goddess imagery:
The word "cunning" is derived from the Latin for the word "to know," cunnan, which is related to the word for rabbit, or cuniculus. From here we can leap to the english "coney" or "dupe/one who is fooled." The When the pronunciation rhymes with "honey" it becomes slang for vulva. They way they tell it, the pronunciation of "Coney Island" was changed to suit Victorian sensibilities.
The rabbit is still linked to fertility. Here's a link to the Snopes article on the origin of the phrase "the rabbit died." Oh great, now I've got Aerosmith stuck in my head!
I'm behind a night on posting. Tonight starts the Feast of Demeter, translated into the Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. Over the next few days I hope to post info on both the ancient and modern feast!