In the film, the island people have many items depicting hares. At the begging we see a chocolate hare in the candy shop as well as a little girl that is drawing a hare. When Howie says rabbit, he is corrected and told it is a hare, not a rabbit.
We also see a hare later in the film when Howie goes to exhume what he was told is Rowan’s body. When he opens the casket all he finds is a dead hare. When looking at possible explanations and symbolic meanings of hares, I found that there are some Pagan sects that regard hares as a symbol of foolishness or trickery. This ties into them fooling Howie on several occasions like getting him to come to the island to search for Rowan, tricking him into thinking they were going to sacrifice Rowan, and having dress as the fool before the sacrifice.
Hare Information Received From: http://homepages.uwp.edu/martinm0/Spring2007/167/symbolism_of_rabbits_and_har.htm
At the end of the film when the island people were preparing to sacrifice Howie to their sun God, I noticed that the wind pushed Lord Summersile’s hair into a certain shape which looked very similar to their depiction of the sun God. The hair fans out around his face like the streaks faning out around the sun. This could symbolize him playing God in this scenario by sacrificing Howie.
In the film, one of the school teachers explains to Howie that they do not use the term “dead” as they do not believe anyone truly dies, only that when their human life ends their spirit life continues on in nature such as plants or animals When Howie visits what is like their graveyard, he finds young trees planted on all the graves. This symbolizes the concept of new life coming from the human body’s death.
“The Wicker Man” follows to story of a Scottish police officer, Howie Woodward, who is investigating the reported disappearance of a young girl, Rowan Morrison, on the pagan island of Summersile. While on the island the officer finds the people to have a heavy focus on sex and symbolism. The people consistently deny the existence of Rowan but eventually Howie discovers that they plan to sacrifice her to a pagan God so that they may have a good harvest in the coming year. Howie disguises himself and is able to get to Rowan before she is sacrificed. While they escaped rowan actually led Howie into a trap as he was the true sacrifice. The people held the belief that he was the highest sacrifice and planned to burn him in the wicker man, a large person shaped figure made of wicker, from the very beginning. Howie resisted but was subdued, had his legs broken, and burned to death along with some animals in the wicker man.