The hare was a sacred animal for the Celts, a symbol of abundance, prosperity and good fortune.
Our bronze sculpture and prints were inspired by the legend of Melangell, the patron saint of hares, a Celtic princess who escaped an unwanted arranged marriage. She took refuge in the Pennant Valley and created a place of peace and sanctuary for animals and people in need.
The story has been retold for us by local author and historian, Kevin Johnston:
KING JOWCHEL OF IRELAND HAD DETERMINED THAT HIS DAUGHTER MELANGELL SHOULD MARRY A NOBLEMAN OF HIS COURT. IT WAS A MATCH THAT WOULD BRING HER WEALTH AND SECURITY. BUT MELANGELL CARED LITTLE FOR WORLDLY POSSESSIONS AND PLEADED WITH HER FATHER TO LET HER LIVE A LIFE OF PIETY AND CELIBACY.
Her father was outraged and refused to hear her pleas. She had no choice but to leave her home and family. She took refuge in the Welsh Pennant Valley, a sacred place in the bronze age. Here she lived a solitary, ascetic life, eating nuts and berries, sheltering in a cave with only small creatures for companions.
One day Brochwel Ysgithrog, Prince of Powys, was out hunting. He startled a hare and with his howling hounds gave chase. They came to a thicket of brambles and thorns, Brochwel was astounded to see Melangell kneeling, deep in her prayer, with the hare calmly facing the hounds from beneath the hem of her cloak. The terrified hounds retreated, cowering in awe, refusing to attack the hare. The prince asked her how she came to be there and she replied that she had lived alone in this place since leaving her home fifteen years earlier.
Moved by her courage and compassion he gave her land in the valley to be a sanctuary for others seeking peace and solitude.
Melangell agreed on the condition that the land be not only a refuge for people but also for those creatures who like herself had no recourse but to flee when threatened. Melangell became the abbess of a small religious community and passed the rest of her days in this place. Many were the miracles she wrought for those who sought shelter.
Later a Christian church was built on the site, surrounded by ancient yew trees. Pennant Melangell has been a place of peace and pilgrimage for centuries.
Our latest hare sculpture (pictured below) has been created using the ancient lost wax method of bronze casting.