The Rabbit in the Moon

Step outside, lie down, watch the clouds, and ride along with your imagination. Tell me what you see? If you can see faces, figures, landscapes, something significant, in the delicate blue, white and grey mist of the sky, then you are experiencing the phenomena of pareidolia. (now that’s a word I learned on Wikipedia…)

What do you see in a big full moon as it rises? a man in the moon (a face or man carrying sticks); a woman’s silhouette; a frog, moose, buffalo, or dragon? Or, in the overall dark and light regions of the moon’s face, do you see a yin yang symbol? Or perhaps you see a hare or a rabbit?

There is an old Chinese/Taoist tale of a rabbit (or a hare) who lives on the moon pounding magic herbs to make the elixir of eternal life. The hare is sacred to the moon and believed to live a thousand years, becoming white after five hundred years.

This belief was assimilated by the Japanese who also see a rabbit on the moon. Instead of pounding magic herbs, the rabbit pounds mochi or rice cakes associated with the rice harvest and the first full moon of autumn. (A Korean myth similar to the Japanese counterpart presents rabbits living on the moon making rice cakes (called tteok.)

Various Rabbits on the Moon
click pictures for a larger view
Make an Origami Chopstick Rest

Other Rabbit Myths:

In many parts of Europe a rabbit’s foot was/is carried as an amulet for good luck. In China, a rabbit’s foot was associated with prosperity, hope, fertility, abundance and good weather.

In ancient Ireland, a rabbit was the Goddess’ creature and represented the Moon, night and dawn; he was also associated with abundance (fertility), rebirth and release, symbolic of the ‘tween times, dawn and dusk.

In Native American Ojibwe mythology, Nanabozho (Great Rabbit) is a deity related to the creation of the world: hero, supporter of humans, bringer of fire and light, and teacher of the sacred rituals.

Some Native American tribes have stories about Rabbit, who like Coyote, Raven and Crow, is considered a trickster—he’s a clown, a thief, or a sly predator, an amoral animal dancing on the boundary between the positive and negative.

In West Africa, many tribes, have lore about a Hare trickster who is equally rascal, clown, and hero. In one, Moon sends Hare, her messenger, to earth to give humans the gift of immortality. Hare gets things mixed up, giving them mortality instead.

The rabbit as trickster appears in American popular culture; for example the Br’er Rabbit character from African-American folktales. The slaves mixed their rabbit tales with those of local Native American tribes. Br’er got himself into all sorts of problems, but, being clever, he could talk his way of his troubles.

The rabbit lives in stories from India: The Panchatantra fables portray Hare as a clever trickster whose adversaries were Elephant and Lion. In Tibet. trickster Hare outsmarts Tiger.

Information for this article came from:
and various Wikipedia pages about rabbit myths and stories, moon viewing in Japan
The origins of the rabbit depicted in the step folds is lost to time: I learned it years ago.

The orange moon with the white rabbit was designed by Tess bases on a model by Kunihiko Kasahara: Origami Made Easy By Kunihiko Kasahara
see some (casual) step-folds for it on page 2

2 thoughts on “The Rabbit in the Moon

  1. Oh my goodness!! I had to Google “Bilby”
    You Australians!!! So many unusually cute animals we don’t see anywhere else.

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