There is a beautiful tradition in Irish farming: that for each cultivated field one must leave a corner wild- for the hare. Wild here doesn’t just mean the space for the untamed but for mystery and magic too; for the unknown which can arise at any time. The hare’s corner represents a doorway for transformation and possibility; a space for natural form to have its own ground so that wildness can have its way too.
The practice is simultaneously a nod to ancient folklore, for in Irish mythology the hare was seen as a shape-shifter, transfiguring from woman, to hare, back to woman, often at full moon. Endowed with magical powers, the hare was revered for agility and fertility; a speedy mystic who could, if not respected, lead one astray into who knows where- but that was the mystery of it.
While ancient, these stories and tales carry a deeper current still. As metaphors they help us to make meaning, and as carries of cultural tradition they raise questions about how we live our lives and the stories we tell of ourselves. They offer questions we can take to the mat also, inviting us to experiment with the metaphor through asana and then take that experience off the mat to see where it will lead us.
In our cultivated lives, bounded by concrete and cities, and even in our cultivated practices, we can, in this instance, ask the question, are we leaving room for the hare? Are we leaving space for wildness and the unexpected mysteries and magic that practice can reveal?
I asked myself these very questions recently and the answer lead me astray, in the best of ways.
I realised something in my practice had calcified and I was craving a dose of wildness and the unknown. No better place for this than the West Coast of Ireland whose unpredictable wild seas and coastline were calling me.
One afternoon, on a clear blue day, I hiked out to the ruins of a castle on a now uninhabited headland. There, looking out to sea, with the sun and the sky as my allies and the land holding me, I practiced. I could feel the calcification crumble and the deepest part of my bones become alive with the majesty of it all. And then, just as I was leaving, a hare darted out in front of me. No sooner had I turned to look at her again, and she was gone. Where? I have absolutely no idea.
Illustration by Clare Mulvany.