The animal most associated with witches is the cat. But in tradition it wasn’t the cat at all who served witches as familiars and messengers: it was the rabbit. It has also been recorded that on occasions said to have transformed themselves into rabbits.
There are clear associations here with older fertility and witch cults, concepts going beyond the malevolent perversion of witchcraft in the Christian Middle Ages. Rabbits are clever, fast, coming and going as if by magic. Their defences are limited to quickness of wits and of movement. They thrive by fecundity, and are everywhere associated with sex, fertility and the moon. They are the classic tricksters, representing the triumph and joy in life, representing success, the primal stimulus for magic and witchcraft.
Central Americans associate the moon with rabbits. The Maya depicted the moon goddess as a beautiful young woman holding a rabbit in her arms. The goddess Ixchel has a consort who is a man-sized rabbit.
Chinese people associate rabbits with witchcraft, sorcery and alchemy. One classical myth echoes the iconography of the Maya, depicting a rabbit as the companion of the Moon Lady, one who prepares the elixir of immortality.
Africans see the rabbit as the great trickster spirit, one whose story was carried by the slaves to America, where he eventually took the shape in the folklore as the wonderful Brer Rabbit and more recently as Bugs Bunny. Both in their different ways represent the intelligence, the curiosity and the magical quality of their kind: no matter how much trouble they get into they always manage miraculously to slip away. Just like a witch!