“Wait, Ruth. What do bunnies have to do with Jesus?” I’m pretty sure the junior high boy at church who asked me this question last year quickly wished he hadn’t, because before he knew it, I was giving him some wild, off-the-cuff explanation connecting Jesus to fertility to eggs to sex. He sat there quietly, looking down at his feet and up at the door. I’m pretty sure he left the room before I was finished.
This particular bunny, who wishes to remain anonymous, probably isn’t getting much sleep these days because every year in winter and early spring, this bunny is busy painting between 90-100 eggs to “hide” early on Easter morning in a six-block radius in Stockbridge, MA. I put “hide” in quotations because they are hidden in plain sight for the public to enjoy and take home (hopefully no more than one egg per person). If you consider the sheer beauty of these eggs and the time it takes the bunny, this is like receiving a $100-400 surprise gift on Easter morning. Even though The Guerilla Bunny wouldn’t say this, to me it all sounds so biblical—like the women who traveled to Jesus’ tomb before dawn, and who had quite a beautiful surprise waiting for them.
The Guerilla Bunny tells me that the art of painting eggs goes way back, perhaps one of the oldest known decorative arts. Painted ostrich eggs, for example, believed to be from 65,000 years ago, have been recently discovered by archaeologists. The decorated egg, writes Stephanie Hall, “has been an important symbol in many cultures. They are part of the creation myths of many peoples, the ‘cosmic egg’ from which all or parts of the universe arises. They often symbolize life, renewal, and rebirth. They figure in much of human folklore, used for healing and protection.”
As is the case with most traditions, the tradition of painting eggs spread and was adapted by people of different religious beliefs. Within the Jewish tradition, a pure white roasted egg is often part of the Passover Seder meal. Then Orthodox Christians in Mesopotamia took this tradition and dyed the egg red as a symbol of Christ’s blood. These red eggs are still prominent in the celebration of Easter in parts of the world. You can read more here: https://blogs.loc.gov/folklife/2017/04/decorating-eggs/
Back to The Guerilla Bunny. This particular bunny began the tradition of giving away beautifully painted eggs in 2008. Why? In part, because the bunny struggled to relate to Easter in any kind of meaningful way. The bunny wanted to go beyond the usual pastel colors and symbols of traditional, orthodox Easter and reach deeper into the deep and rich symbols of dying and rising, death and renewal. When I pressed with more questions, the bunny said that ultimately it’s about adding some spark and light to a world that is often full of grimness. The bunny has always tried to address the scary, violent things in the world through and in art. It’s also a wonderful way for the bunny to get to know other cultures, and the images, colors, symbols and patterns particular to each people and tribe. As the bunny paints each egg, the egg becomes its own, guiding meditation point as the bunny hopes that the right egg will end up in the right hands. It’s also an exercise in giving birth to something, and then letting go of what is born. Each egg is carefully and lovingly painted, never to be seen or held by the bunny again. The bunny leaves no trace of authorship and the bunny expects nothing in return. Amazing.
As Suzy Banks Baum has commented, “The Guerilla Bunny believes that random acts of beauty lift people up. And that people could use a good bit of lifting up these days.” Indeed.
Maybe, just maybe, the bunny will be inspired someday to paint a Rainbow-striped egg.
Speaking of Rainbow, all are invited to our annual Easter Egg Hunt in Whitmore Playground on Saturday, March 31 at 10:30am! We have our own one-of-a-kind Easter bunny!