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24 September 2014

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Three Hares and Green Man symbols, Throwleigh

Three Hares and Green Man, Throwleigh

On the trail of ancient symbols

From Three Hares to the Green Man...a Devon researcher is out to unravel what lies behind these ancient symbols found across the county.

A Devon woman whose interest in an ancient mysterious symbol has seen her travel as far afield as China, has now been inspired to go back to university to research other historical symbols closer to home.

Sue Andrew, from Walkhampton, developed a fascination with pictures of the Three Hares, which are found in 17 churches in Devon.

Three Hares at Spreyton

Three Hares at Spreyton

Together with fellow reseachers, photographer Chris Chapman and archaeologist Dr Tom Greeves, Sue has now traced the image of the interlinked hares across Devon to France and Germany, eastwards to Iran, and even China.

They launched the project in 2000, hunting for the symbol which features three of the animals running in a circle, sharing three ears between them which form a triangle in the centre of the design.

"It's changed the course of my life to be absolutely honest," said Sue. "I've gone back to university on the back of the Three Hares Project, and I'm widening my remit now.

"I'm looking at the medieval figurative roof bosses of Devon parish churches.

Three Hares at Throwleigh Church

Three Hares at Throwleigh Church

"Obviously the Three Hares is a key part of this, so I'm running that project and I've got this other study going on alongside, but it's great because it means I can look at the whole Christian context of it."

One of the key images which seems to sit alongside the Three Hares in Devon is the Green Man, which also is surrounded by mystery.

The picture at the top of this page combines the symbols of both which can be found in Throwleigh Church, Devon - they are also shown separately.

Sue said: "There's no written evidence that we know of which tells us what the Three Hares mean, and there's lots of speculation on what the Green Man may mean, but nobody seems really to have come up with a really good definition of what he meant in late medieval times."  

Green Man symbol at Throwleigh Church

Green Man symbol at Throwleigh Church

Like the hares image, the Green Man symbol seems to cross religious and continental borders, appearing in European and Indian cultures.
 
Now Sue is keen for any help in identifying where in Devon the Green Man appears on medieval roof bosses, especially because they're not in the most prominent of positions.

"People see the stained glass windows, they see the light things, but these are hidden, tucked away in dark recesses.

"So what I'd like people to do is go out there with their glittering eyes and their torches, and hunt around, to see what they can find!"   

So, if you can help Sue in her hunt for the Green Man for her research at the University of Plymouth, you can email her at threehares@walkhampton.freeserve.co.uk

And for more on the Three Hares project, visit the website linked from the top right of this page.

*All photos used courtesy of The Three Hares Project/Chris Chapman.

last updated: 21/02/2008 at 16:50
created: 16/02/2006

You are in: > On the trail of ancient symbols

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