Saturday 2 December 2017

Winter spirit

Nestled in the Cotswold countryside, Chedworth Roman Villa has some of the most impressive in-situ Roman mosaics in Britain. One of these mosaics is this one known as "The spirit of winter". On it we can see a figure wearing a winter cloak. In one hand he is holding a dead leafless branch. In the other he is holding a hare. 

Gods never hold random objects in their hands. So, I believe that both of these two things that "The spirit of winter" is holding have a meaning related to winter. 

The dead leafless branch is an obvious symbol. Trees are leafless in winter. 

But there is another possibility, that this is not a dead leafless branch at all, but stag antlers. Considering that stags lose their antlers during the winter, this is another perfect symbol of winter...

But what about the hare? 

European hares have a prolonged breeding season which lasts from January to August. Peak reproductive activity occurs in March and April, when all females may be pregnant, the majority with three or more foetuses. The height of the breeding season, is known as "March madness", when the normally nocturnal bucks are forced to be active in the daytime. Female fertility continues through May, June and July, but testosterone production decreases in males and sexual behaviour becomes less overt. Litter sizes decrease as the breeding season draws to a close with no pregnancies occurring after August. The Male hares are infertile during September, October and November.


The mating period starts end of January, beginning of February and ends end of July, beginning of August. 

The end of January, beginning of February is the beginning of Spring, which is in the Celtic calendar marked by Imbolc, which is celebrated on the 1st of February, but actually falls on the 4th of February, which is the exact mid point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. 

The end of July and the beginning of August is the beginning of Autumn, which is in the Celtic calendar marked by Lughnasadh, which is celebrated on the 1st of August, but actually falls on the 2nd of August, whcih is the exact mid point between the summer solstice and autumn equinox. 

The most intensive part of the hare breeding season is known as "The March Madness". This is where we also find spring equinox, which later became Easter...

No wonder hare was in the past seen as a symbol of fertility...

You can read more about the Celtic calendar in my post "Two crosses". 

Interesting right? But here is something even more interesting. Right at the beginning of the hare breeding season, in January, is the best time to see the constellation Lepus, hare. 

Considering that we know that Pisces (fishes), Aries (ram), Taurus (bull) and Capricorn (goat) all mark significant events in the reproductive cycle of these animals on the yearly solar cycle, I am convinced that Lepus (hare) is not where it is on the yearly solar cycle by chance...

And this is why the spirit of winter holds a hare in his hand :)


  1. Very interesting. I have been looking at this Astro-Alphabet interpretation by Brian Pellar:

    Paleo-etymology & Zodiac-Alphabet-Star chart

    Brian Pellar's excellent work on the origin of "Phoenician" script:  2009  2014  2012  2016

    Your interpretations are very enlightening when compared with his!
    Could they both have been overlapping, one gatherer-grower, one hunter-herder?

  2. If Witzel ("The Origins of the World's Mythologies") is right, then some of these associations might go back to the European paleolithic, perhaps even the Cro Magnon era.

    1. I do believe that these markings are very old indeed...

  3. Which zodiac contains Lepus?

  4. Interestingly enough, hares are strongly associated with witchcraft. And as it is said, are linked to the Celtic creator/weather deity Cailleach the divine hag of winter.

  5. Just recently found your blog and looking forward to a good read.

    The minute I saw that small man with the hare and the stick I thought of The Hunters in the Snow, the great painting by Pieter Bruegel. So many beautiful images in that composition including one of the hunters with a hare over his shoulder and carrying sticks, surrounded by trees in bare branches. This may have been well-known iconography, as the painting was done specifically to depict the idea of winter

    1. Winter is the main meat and fur hunting season. This is why the first winter zodiac sign is Sagitarius, the hunter. I wrote about this in my post about Sagitarius.