About The Three Hares Symbol and Trail


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This fascinating and ancient symbol of three hares, or rabbits, running in a circle and joined by their ears forming a triangular shape giving the illusion that each hare has two ears when in fact they only have one, has been discovered in various places all over the world. The earliest dating back to 581 AD were discovered in Buddhist caves in China, however they have also been found in Nepal, Iran, Southern Russia, Switzerland, Germany and France. They are thought to have been brought on the silk route to Britain where they are found mainly in Medieval church roof bosses of which Devon has by far the most with seventeen churches containing a total of twenty nine bosses, plus other places where the image is depicted in plaster and glass.
 
A love of hares and a fascination for the three hares image was one of the reasons I was drawn to Chagford on Dartmoor where the church of St Michael has two beautifully carved examples of this image and the symbol can be seen throughout the small Stannary town where it is known as the "Tinners Rabbits".

The symbol that I have created for Devon's Nature In Art is entirely unique. I have painted the border to look as if it was made from the lichen covered granite of the moors and also painted four different scenes behind the running hares. For the winter scene I have chosen a view of the ancient leaning cross on Week Down. Spring shows the tall spire of the church at Widecombe In The Moor peeping out from the freshly leaved trees. For summer I have chosen the heather clad Prestonbury Hill Fort above the beautiful Fingle Bridge and for autumn a distant view of Haytor as seen from Meldon Common. I have placed the whole symbol on the newly created Devon flag with it's green colour of the Devon fields and black granite of the moors.

No one is quite sure of the meaning of the Three Hares image, however the hare with its illusiveness and unusual behaviour has a reputation as a magical creature and is strongly linked with mythology and in ancient times had divine associations with the goddess Oestre and rebirth, also the female cycle and the moon which governed it. In Christianity it may be associated with the Holy Trinity.
I have visited every church with this symbol in Devon and done an oil painting of each which includes a detailed study of each boss and every one of the twenty nine is different! Most of my paintings include the moon because of its association with hares and recognisable constellations; if you look at the paintings on this website and click to enlarge them you will find a written explanation at the bottom of each.
 
I have made trail leaflets which are available from my gallery in Chagford, or can be found in most Tourist Information centres or at the churches themselves. You will need a car to get to most of the locations but most are within easy driving distance of each other. I hope on the way you will be able to enjoy some of the beautiful Devonshire scenery and explore the pretty villages where the Three Hares are found, there are some lovely walks and great places to eat at nearly all of the places on the trail. It is advisable to take a torch as some of the roof bosses are in dark places!
 
I have a
blogspot with a lot more information about this subject.
Click here to go to my blog.
 
I hope you enjoy the trail and come and see the original paintings in my gallery

I have had a fascination for this mythical symbol for some time now and here in Devon we are lucky to have 17 churches with a total of 29 carved roof bosses showing the Three Hares running in a circle with their ears joined in the centre forming a triangle which gives the illusion that they each have two ears when in fact they only have one!
I have visited all seventeen churches and have done an oil painting of each which includes every boss. From this I have made a trail map and leaflet so others can find these intriguing carvings.
Please click on the link below to view the paintings

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