In April I was interviewed about my books by Damh the Bard for the Druidcast, and not long after, Phillp talked of Stonewylde in one of his blogs. I was then invited to contribute here, and when I looked back at other guest-bloggers’ entries, I noticed ‘The Hare’ written by Penny Billington in February. Penny referred to the possibility of a “totem of the zeitgeist, the spirit of the times” and asked, “Has the whole of the UK gone gaga about hares?”
She’s so right. A few years ago hares were quite obscure, but now they’ve gone the way of dragons and fairies – they’re everywhere! The story I want to share with you starts about nine years ago when hares were certainly not everywhere. They knew their rightful place in the year 2000. If you were very lucky you might see one or two in the far distance in a field, hiding amongst the furrows or skimming across the grass. Hares are understandably very wary of humans and it’s rare to see one close up. You definitely didn’t see them in every gift shop from Glastonbury to Glasgow.
This event happened at a time in my life when I was at pretty low ebb. It was summer and my mother had recently died after a long battle with cancer. My life was directionless and desultory. Nothing was right. It was a beautiful sunny day and I was walking in some woods on my own. Shafts of sunlight shone through the high canopy of beech trees, creating pools of light on the path ahead. I was lost in thought when suddenly, right in front of me, I saw it. A great golden hare sat completely motionless about two metres away, staring straight at me. I froze, fully expecting it to leap out of sight. But it didn’t. It just sat there and looked me in the eye. The sun glinted on its fur, picking out all the gold and making it appear to gleam. Its huge ears were very pink where the sun backlit them, and I could even see the blood vessels in the thin membranes. Its eyes were like amber lozenges and its nose and long whiskers twitched. I could hardly breathe, terrified of moving and scaring it away.
The hare and I gazed into each others’ eyes for a good couple of minutes, maybe longer. I’d barely ever seen a hare before this and never close up. It was absolutely amazing. Then, slowly, it turned from me and loped off down the path. I watched until it was out of sight, and then took a deep and very shaky breath. I was immensely moved. I felt so privileged, but more than that – I felt changed. Something quite profound had happened to me in those few minutes.
I since discovered that the hare is a creature of transformation. In folklore it’s a shape-shifter and has strong links with both druids and witches. There are many tales about the hare, and of course it was also an integral part of the Spring Equinox/Ostara celebrations, later to be downgraded to an Easter bunny. I didn’t know any of this at the time, but I certainly felt transformed by my encounter. I began to research about folklore, nature, local history and my life started to change and open up. There’s more to this story of course, but it was that magical golden hare that set me straight on my path at a time when I needed a new direction and sense of purpose.
I’ve heard that many people have a life-changing encounter with some form of wildlife. There’s something about that level of intimacy and understanding with a wild creature that alters ones perception. You feel both humbled and elevated at the same time, and very much part of the web of life. It’s hard to describe but I know now that I’m not alone in this. Based on my experiences, and the enthusiasm and interest in Stonewylde I’ve encountered during my travels and dealings with folk, I’m launching a new project soon called “Reconnecting with Nature”. It seems to me that many people feel a deep need for this in their lives. The time has come for those who’ve lost touch to get back to living closer to the Earth – to be aware of the seasons, the weather, the beauty and power of nature.
One of the reasons I believe Stonewylde has found such an ardent and fast-growing following is because it reveres our deep connection with nature. It portrays a community where, without any sentimentality or pomp, nature and the Earth are honoured above all else and everyone lives close to the land. The popularity of the books amongst non-pagans has made me realise just how much people want to rediscover simple pleasures such as lying on your back watching the clouds or feeling dew on your bare feet. As Philip himself says, “We draw inspiration and spiritual nourishment from Nature.” I think many now appreciate just how much they need this spiritual nourishment. We live in a time when it’s becoming increasingly apparent how living in a materialistic world is shallow and unsatisfying. And damaging to the soul.
I’m hoping my project, which will initially comprise of a website and talks around the country, and maybe a book in the future, will help ordinary folk to reconnect and rediscover these rich experiences. I’m looking for anecdotes such as my encounter with the hare and would love to hear anyone’s story, however simple. Please contact me via my website www.stonewylde.com and tell me your tale, in confidence of course, with anonymity assured. I’m hoping to launch the new Reconnecting with Nature site at the Summer Solstice so do get in touch with me soon. I think Penny Billington was right – the hare is the totem of the zeitgeist, the spirit of the times, because we’re living in a period of huge transformation. For everyone whose life is lacking it, there’s Green Magic a-plenty to share. Join me and follow the Golden Hare.
Kit Berry, author of The Stonewylde Series Web: www.stonewylde.com