Ancient Ties to Good Fortune
In ancient times, rabbits held a special place in various cultures. Germanic goddess Eostre, linked to the dawn and fertility celebrations, had rabbits as companions. Chinese astrology also associates rabbits with qualities like wit and quick-mindedness. Egyptians revered rabbits as messengers of the goddess Isis, tied to birth and healing. Unut, known as “the rabbit goddess,” symbolized the new year, fertility, and the start of new life.
Rabbit’s Feet Through Time
Today, the belief in lucky rabbit’s feet likely stems from a mix of ancient superstitions and forgotten folk magick, possibly rooted in European traditions and African American customs.
The Hand of Glory Connection
Historical accounts trace the lucky rabbit’s foot back to the medieval symbol of the “Hand of Glory” – the severed hand of a hanged criminal. Originally a magical token to keep homes safe from trespassers, this practice may have been influenced by ancient laws, such as the Babylonian Code of Hammurabi, making its way into Christian medieval Europe.
Renaissance Art and Symbolism
During the European Renaissance, rabbits found their way into artwork, symbolizing purity, fertility, and death. Paintings like Titian’s “Madonna of the Rabbit” depicted Mary with a white rabbit, suggesting a connection between the rabbit and fortuitous, holy sacrifice.
A Peculiar 1908 Account
Penn State professor Bill Ellis uncovered a peculiar 1908 account in England, marking the first recorded mention of a rabbit’s foot connected to luck. This account described rabbit’s feet as a magical product, shipped from the U.S. and marketed with an intricate set of circumstances involving a cross-eyed, left-handed, red-headed bow-legged figure on a white horse.
Black American Communities and Esoteric Customs
Professor Ellis speculates that the use of lucky rabbit’s feet might have originated from a misinterpretation of esoteric customs within Black American communities. While it remains unclear if these customs have ties to ancestral practices in African tribes, it’s known that in the New World, traditions blended African heritages with European folklore.
Just as New Orleans Vodou fuses tribal ritual with Catholicism, the use of sacrificial white rabbits may have seamlessly integrated into people’s lives, becoming a cherished token of good luck.
In the end, the rabbit’s foot, with its rich historical tapestry, continues to be a symbol embraced for its connection to ancient beliefs, cultural intertwining, and a touch of mystique that adds a dash of magic to our everyday lives.