Posted by Sheila Connolly
I was going to write about this in a timely fashion last week, but Mr. Peet's demise intervened. However, this odd piece of lore has intrigued me for a long time, and this seemed an appropriate time to pursue it, as you will see.
How many of you subscribe to the practice of waking up on the first day of the month and saying "rabbit, rabbit" before anything else?
For those of you who have never heard of this peculiar tradition, you must think I'm nuts. But Wikipedia says it's a common superstition, with a whole lot of variations which I am not going to enumerate here. It also has a very long history: apparently it appeared in print as early as 1420. The common thread seems to be that saying one of the many variants confers luck upon the speaker. We can all use a little luck, so what's the harm? Unless, of course, your partner, awakened from a sound sleep, decides you are mad.
I was first informed of this charming tradition by a colleague at the institution where I worked more than ten years ago, and I have been practicing it ever since, whenever I remember. Has it brought me luck? Got me. But hopes springs eternal.
This month (yes, I did remember to say "rabbit, rabbit" at six-something in the morning), I decided to take it to another level altogether. September 1st was the day of the Middleboro 4-H Fair. I had never attended one, here or anywhere else, but since the possible advent of a mega-casino may alter forever the bucolic nature of this town, I thought I had better see one while I still could. I drafted my reluctant daughter as a companion and I sought out the fair, and found they had: a whole lot of rabbits. On the first of September I was hip-deep in rabbits.
This was a relatively small event. I didn't do a full count, but I can attest that there were only two cows (Highland cattle!), three goats in the one judging that we watched, perhaps ten pigs. There were, however, two full tents of rabbits.
I had never known there were so many kinds of rabbits, or at least I'd never given it much thought. Small ones, large ones, fuzzy ones, sleek ones, old ones, young ones. Lop-eared rabbits, Himalayan rabbits. One bunny with extraordinarily short ears. Each one cuter than the one before (why are rabbits so cute?). My daughter, who is twenty-something, started lobbying to bring home a pet rabbit. I resisted successfully, largely because I don't know how easy they are to housebreak, and I've got enough to clean up with three cats. Although I must admit it would be fun to see how those cats reacted to a rabbit in their midst. (No, none of them would attack a rabbit. One would ignore it, one would hide from it for months, and the last would turn it into a buddy.)
So while I have now seen and patted enough rabbits to garner years of good luck (or maybe I should buy a lottery ticket and try to grab it all at once), it is still no clearer to me why a rabbit is supposed to bring me luck. The Easter mythology I can understand (it's spring, and we all know what rabbits do–yes, even at 4-H fairs), but mostly they eat our gardens and crops, and taste pretty good in stews. So I'm mystified–but I'm not about to give up the superstition.
At least this post gave me an excuse to use my cute rabbit pictures. I was also partial to the chicken with the fuzzy head–I have no idea how she sees where she's going, but I can certainly identify with her.