To own a rabbit’s foot was once believed to provide the owner with protection against darker forces, but mainly serves to encourage good fortune. There are many theories as to why the rabbit this belief exists. Rabbits are born with their eyes open and therefore can begin to see the world in which they live immediately at birth. Some believed that this symbolised their ability to see evil immediately. Others have thought that purely because rabbits multiply in numbers very quickly that a parallel idea would successfully effect finances and personal gain.
According to rural beliefs and cottage gardeners, the foot was thought to be an excellent aid to transferring pollen between fruit trees. Poachers too were accustomed to carrying a foot in the pocket to encourage success n trapping and stealing animals, perhaps because they thought it would bring them good fortune but perhaps also because it was believed that the rabbit could sense danger very quickly and therefore foil discovery. To lose a rabbit’s foot was thought to indicate impending disaster.
In ancient Britain rabbits were seen as symbolic of the moon god and held to be so because of the way they seemed to love to play and appear beneath the moon. Brushing a new born baby with the foot or to have one suspended close to a baby’s cot was thought to aid protection from negative energies. Perhaps this is another reason why rabbit’s have long been popular as pets with children, often appearing in children’s stories.
In the British Isles there is still an active tradition of saying ‘rabbits’ on the last day of the month as one goes to sleep and ‘hares’ on the first of the month as one rises to ensure a month full of happiness and health. Another British tradition indicates that this would only be successful in bringing good fortune if repeated three times.
It was said that miner’s would not enter a pit if a white rabbit was seen on the way to the pit-head as it was considered to be an omen of disaster in many European countries. Fisherman about to set to sea, traditionally believed in many parts of Britain, that to say the word ‘rabbit’ was as dangerous as the word ‘pig’ (See Mystical WWW Mystic’s Menagerie : Pig) with the voyage being doomed to fail. To see one near a house was believed to indicate that death would befall someone in the household too.
In America and many parts of Europe the Easter Rabbit, like the ‘hare’, has long been associated with the advent of good fortune (See Mystical WWW Eggs).
It was said that a woman, Mary Tofts, from Godalming in Surrey, England (UK) gave birth to several rabbits in 1727. The birth was alleged to be overseen by a surgeon Mr Howard. She said she conceived when gardening and was startled by a white rabbit, being a bad omen, and went on over many months to cream of little else but rabbits. It later came to be a case that was exposed to be fraudulent, but only after many people had believed her story, to the point she received a royal pension after being seen by surgeon to the king Dr St Andre. Later the whole story became the focus of cartoons circulated around the country including ones drawn by the reputable Hogarth.