Prints with a tale to tell

tamar tales, calstock in grey

Tamar Tales Print

All my design inspiration starts with a local tale, a fragment of legend still floating about in the modern day.

My Tamar Tales print tells the tale of witch bitten fingers, poison paint, and a William Morris scandal.

His famous arsenic paint wallpapers were slowly poisoning people until it was discovered how dangerous this mineral was and mining for arsenic finally stopped.

His poison papers left a scare on the Tamar valley landscape with vast contaminated woodlands still dangerous to this day. The great consol mines on the Tamar trails lay testament to this deadly industry.

There are also witch burnings, murderous monks and not so friendly fairy folk tales around Tavistock and the surrounding moor.

 Tamar Hare Print

You might not realise that the beautiful hare was once a common sight along the Tamar, They were however hunted by the Duke of Bedford estate, to near extinction locally, as they were believed to be witches that had transformed into hares as a means of disguise and a fast escape. They were blamed for the gangrene fingers of the arsenic miners, known as witch bitten fingers. The miners and local townsfolk could seek some consolation by eating the hare in pies and pasties.

tamar hare pattern


The Tinners Hare Print

My interpretation of this circular motif tells an interesting tale, not just locally but it goes very far back to the ancient Silk roads and trading posts of China.

No one actually knows its origins but it has been adopted by many including Buddhist monks, Christianity and also the Tin miners ( hence the tinner’s hares or also known as tinners rabbits ). Many Devon churches have used it as decoration, seen as the three holy trinities

Each of the ears is shared by two hares so that only three ears are shown. Although its meaning is apparently not explained in contemporary written sources from any of the medieval cultures where it is found, it is thought to have a range of symbolic or mystical associations with fertility and the lunar cycle.

tinners haresMy design brings in a few other interesting tale aspects.

The William Morris ode to his famous clover print, ( seen in the background ) as I feel the link with local devon hare cullings due to Morris’s arsenic paints is intertwined.

Also the fact that miners use the symbol, again intertwined with the witch bitten miners fingers as explained above.

I also wanted to add the circle which indicates the Buddhist links to the hare. They have a belief in hares being intertwined with the Luna Cycle. They see the hare as a symbol of fertility and rebirth as the hare’s gestation period is the same as a full lunar cycle.

I could go on……the subject of these three hares is fascinating and whole books have been written on the matter.

My personal belief is that its origins can be traced back to the Vikings ( Norsemen) that invaded Britain.

The Norsemen would have traded their amber on the silk roads in China long before invasions of Norsemen hit the British shores and in their religion, they had three Norms (three witches) that lived in the roots of their world tree (Yagisdril). these three norms shared an eye (Shakspere link?), which to me represents the central point and these norms would transform into hares?….now that seems like an interesting coincidence ) As the Viking religion is one of the oldest known religions ….long before Buddha or Christianity was formed I believe that its root could have started from here, but with no real evidence, only an educated guess is all I can base this on.


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