Have you ever wondered who the Easter Bunny actually is, or asked yourself where he came from? Well for starters, he is not even a rabbit, she is rather a mysterious hare, ancient symbol of fertility and life, that originated in the south west corner of Germany. Our very own Queen Bee Fiona Haser Bizony has been exploring the mythology around the ubiquitous bunny this Easter.
"The origins of the bunny date back to a pagan festival which celebrated Eostre, a great northern goddess whose symbol was a hare. The festivals of our ancestors, that were celebrated for millennia without written notes, were cleverly incorporated, firstly into the Roman calendar and then into Christian doctrine. For conquering powers, adopting the traditions of the natives and changing them slightly to fit your own ideology was a common practice, making it slightly easier to subjugate new congregations. The whiff of familiarity made it just that bit easier to convert the masses.
But back to basics and the origins of the Easter Hare or 'Osterhase' as she is known in German. Why is this furry mammal depicted gifting us humans, eggs? Since when did hares lay eggs? Well of course the answer is, they don't, and they never will, but again the mix-up, or mash-up, of the egg and the hare is something that happened way back, in a time when fields weren't ploughed to within an inch of their lives, when there used to be open space, common space, that everyone had access to. Back in those days a person could roam on those open spaces and in the spring come across nest like structures built in the grass. Hares don't live in burrows underground like rabbits instead they live above ground and they make what is known as a 'form' which is a nest-like structure often lined with their own fur.
So, we are starting to form a picture. People back in the day, could see with their own eyes that hares have nests. For the next bit, imagine you are a pheasant or a lapwing strolling around on the common and you happen to come across one of those conveniently fur lined nests, wouldn't you just hop in and lay some eggs? I think I would.
And of course eggs symbolise fertility, life, spring, new beginnings. I donít know about you, but I would far rather celebrate spring with a chocolate hare than by thinking about a man being tortured to death. And funnily enough chocolate crucifixes never really took off, even if I did once exhibit a life size version of Christ on the Cross made in chocolate.
The final twist to my Easter Bunny story is that I lived in the Black Forest in the south west corner of Germany for twelve years. I married a native and took on his name, 'Haser' which it turns out is German for Hare. So I find myself back in the UK thinking about all these customs that form our culture and I'm referencing all the beautiful vintage Osterhase images that I've seen.
I can't do these things on my own, they're always a team effort. For this idea I worked with my longtime collaborator Ria Marshall, who created the willow basket for me using my father's old belts as straps. I commissioned Miles Ascough, a prop-maker usually found on the sets of giant film productions to create the hare mask. I'm always on the lookout for interesting costumes, the skirt is by Son de Flor and the blouse is by Darcy Clothing. And finally my lovely Piers Bizony took the photograph."