Many animals appear in folkloric writing and often embody aspects of hybridity, supernatural abilities, and exceptional powers. It is no surprise that horses are a favorite due to their beauty, relationship with humans, and shear force. It seems that writers and dreamers of yesteryear had an amazing experience conjuring up fantastical beasts that resemble horses. Some are still known today and have become cultural icons, whereas others have passed out of cultural memory over the centuries. Here are a few fantastical horse characters from various supernatural texts.
Epona, The Goddess of Horses
Epona was a strong Celtic deity who became an
international sensation. She was celebrated every year on December 18th or what was known as "The Festival of Epona," where worshipers venerated horses, made offerings in temporary shrines, and paid respects to all horses in the name of their Goddess. Epona was worshipped as far away as Italy, and historians believe the reason why Epona became popular among Ancient Romans was because they already had a strong connection with horses and had their own form of horse temple.
The legend of Epona states that she was born to a white mare who was impregnated by a man who did not have a liking to human women. Epona was a symbol of fertility and wealth. She is represented as a side-saddle riding beauty or as lovely lady taming a wild horse. She was venerated by many Celts who kept horses and donkeys.
Odin's Magical Horse
In ancient Nordic mythology, Odin was the father of all gods, and road upon an eight-legged horse named Sleipnir. Images of the powerful duo date back to the eighth century and scholars believe that they originally held a high spot in shamanic journey.
The most well-known supernatural equine is the unicorn. Depicted as a a horse with a spiraling forehead horn, this beast has become a cultural icon over the last century. Images of unicorns have been found in ancient Indus Valley and Greek ruins and became a household legend in Medieval England.
Unicorns were a symbol of purity and grace and legend states that they could only be captured by virgins. Their horn had the magical power to transform poison into medicine and sadly, narwhal's were hunted down for their horn which closely resembles that of a unicorn and were sold in European markets for medicinal purposes.
Image from flickr.com