Trois lapins pour le premier mai

It’s the first of the month, which I have learned to greet with three rabbits — by starting the day saying “rabbit, rabbit, rabbit”. More than that, it’s the first of May — by some cultural reckonings the beginning of spring in the northern hemisphere and also (in some countries) International Workers Day, so: dance around the maypole, set bonfires for Beltane or Walpurgis, prepare for outdoor bo(i)nking (rabbits again!), break out the lilies of the valley (muguets pour le premier mai), cue the choruses of L’Internationale, and march in solidarity with the workers. (Feel free to choose from this menu, as your taste inclines and your schedule allows.)

Into this rich multicultural stew, Julie Taaffe forwarded to me a Facebook posting for the day by John Forti, “the Heirloom Gardener”, whose centerpiece is this leporine re-working of Botticelli’s Three Graces from La Primavera (Spring):

(#1) Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit: Melinda Copper’s Dancing Graces

Forti’s comment (posted yesterday):

In order to usher in a month of good luck, remember to say ‘rabbit, rabbit, rabbit’ when you wake tomorrow. And while you are evoking ancient folk traditions of the Celts and Britons, make sure to get outside before you utter any other words, and wash your face in May dew to refresh and renew your beautiful face. Happy May and Happy Beltane friends!

… and rabbits symbolized fertility/abundance/luck

Now to elaborate on a few of these themes.

Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit. From my 5/1/17 posting “Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit: three cartoons for the 1st”:

It’s May Day, an ancient spring festival — think maypoles and all that — so, the beginning of the cycle of the seasons. (Everybody knows the Vivaldi. Try listening instead to the Haydn, here.) And it’s the first of the month, an occasion for still other rituals, including one that calls for everyone to greet the new month, upon awakening, by saying “rabbit, rabbit, rabbit” (or some variant thereof [there are a number]). There’s even a Rabbit Rabbit Day Facebook community, with this page art (not attributed to an artist):


The three-rabbit variant is the one I’m familiar with. (I got it as an adult from Ann Daingerfield Zwicky. Since she was from the South, I thought it was a specifically Southern thing. But today I learned, from an astonishingly detailed Wikipedia page, that that is very much not so.) [material from this page follows in my posting]

The Botticelli. My 2/28/18 posting “POP on the half shell”, on Botticelli’s  The Birth of Venus, has a bonus section on his (La) Primavera:

(#3) On the left of the painting the Three Graces, a group of three females … in diaphanous white, join hands in a dance. (from Wikipedia)

Basics from Wikipedia:

Primavera (“Spring”), is a large panel painting in tempera paint by the Italian Renaissance painter Sandro Botticelli made in the late 1470s or early 1480s (datings vary). It has been described as “one of the most written about, and most controversial paintings in the world”, and also “one of the most popular paintings in Western art”.

The painting depicts a group of figures from classical mythology in a garden, but no story has been found that brings this particular group together. Most critics agree that the painting is an allegory based on the lush growth of Spring, but accounts of any precise meaning vary, though many involve the Renaissance Neoplatonism which then fascinated intellectual circles in Florence.

And on the Graces, from Wikipedia:

In Greek mythology, a Charis (Greek: Χάρις) or Grace is one of three or more minor goddesses of charm, beauty, nature, human creativity, and fertility, together known as the Charites (Χάριτες) or Graces. The usual roster, as given in Hesiod, is Aglaea (“Shining”), Euphrosyne (“Joy”), and Thalia (“Blooming”).

They’re embodiments of aspects of cultural femininity.

Melinda Copper. Copper’s web studio is her Animal Masterpieces site, in which great works of art are affectionately re-conceived with anthropomorphic animals in the place of their human figures. The animal figures are drawn in rich detail, projecting strong personalities, so that her best works are not only witty commentaries on works of art but also character studies.

Her site comes in three galleries: cats; dogs; and frogs and friends (everything else, including rabbits). Occasionally, she re-does  an artwork with other animals, as in her frog version (Botticelli Frogs) of the Three Graces:

(#4) The rabbits were edgily sexual; the frogs are grave and thoughtful, stepping through a formal dance pattern (as around a maypole)

muguets pour le premier mai. That was the trois lapins, now for the rest. From my 5/1/19 posting “The May flower”:

(#5) Convallaria majalis

Yesterday, the flowers of the season were still yellow — les jaunes d’Avril — but today they are white — les muguets pour le premier Mai — also (on the plus side) delicately pretty and highly scented but (on the minus side) both poisonous and rampant, while conveying beginnings, affectionate respect, and the power of unions marching in the streets.

Ths posting has a section on the plant, its association with May 1st, and its use as a token of affection for family and loved ones on that day.

And so: three rabbits for May Day!

One Response to “Trois lapins pour le premier mai”

  1. 5/1 | Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] first of May. From my 5/1/20 posting “Trois lapins pour le premier […]

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