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The Salisbury Hare is an English folk legend originating from the county of Wiltshire. The legend tells of a hare that dances during a full moon, and that anyone who sees the hare is said to have good fortune for the rest of his or her days.
The Salisbury Hare folk legend is believed to have originated in pagan Anglo-Saxon England. Some sources contend that the legend dates from Celtic times, as the hare is linked to the goddess Ceridwen.
The first known recorded mention of the Hare is from 1318 AD, when its appearance to John Godwin, a shepherd on Salisbury Plain was noted in the Parish church records of Imber. The form of the Hare's dance according to Godwin's account, was one of ever increasing speed in which the Hare would stamp its hindquarters whilst continually encircling him. The Hare is believed to appear only to those of an innocent nature, these people the Hare sees as vulnerable to tricksters and therefore in need of its protection. An alternate interpretation is that the Hare is sent by God to those who are of "troubled spirit", its dance being designed to lighten the soul. This though is likely a Christian attempt to overwrite earlier pagan beliefs. The Salisbury Hare remained a popular Wiltshire folk legend for over 500 years, frequently being mentioned during wassailing, its invocation was used as blessing of good fortune. The Industrial Revolution led to a rapid decline of local folk legends, the Salisbury Hare was no exception.
A dancing hare is also mentioned in a Native American Zia folk legend. The tale of Coyote as a hunter, originating from the New Mexico area. Welsh artist Barry Flanagan created a bronze dancing hare sculpture specifically based upon the legend.
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- Leach, Maria; Fried, Jerome (1949). Funk & Wagnalls Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology and Legend vol.1.
- Johnson, Paul (7 May 1967). "Hare we go, a strange encounter". Salisbury Journal.
- Berry Judson, Katherine (2009). Myth and Legends of California and the Old Southwest.
- Flanagan, Barry (1983). Barry Flanagan: recent sculpture, October 28-16 November 1983.