I recently saw a post on Facebook from a friend who owns a riding school. She had discovered two of her horses with single plaits hidden in their manes when she brought them in from the field one morning recently. She immediately panicked as it has long been believed that such plaits are put in horses’ manes by gypsy horse thieves as a marker for animals they are targeting. But is there any truth in this or is it just an urban myth?
Fact or Fiction
Despite many reports of strange plaits being discovered on horses in locations across the UK, there have never been any reports received by the police or Horsewatch organizations of those horses subsequently being stolen.
Often this odd phenomenon can be associated to ‘wind tangles’, particularly in long, unkempt manes. However, a recent investigation by Surrey Horsewatch produced some interesting findings.
Several weeks would pass with no reports of mysterious plaits and then suddenly dozens of complaints were received within days of each other. There would then be nothing further reported for the next few weeks. This seemed extremely odd and became weirder still when it was found that the dates when reports of rogue plaits peaked coincided with Wiccan Pagan festival dates:
- February 2nd – Imbolc
- March 20th – Vernal Equinox
- May 30th – Beltane
- June 21st – Summer Solstice
- July 31st – Lughnasadh
- September 21st – Mabon (Harvest Festival)
- October 31st – Samhain (Halloween)
- December 21st – Winter Solstice (Yule)
Surrey Horsewatch contacted a local Wiccan woman who explained the dates are significant to Wiccans and witches who practice magic at these times. Spells are also cast to coincide with full moons which could explain why there are reports of plaiting at these times too. She explained that the Wiccan religion is based on the worship of nature, the environment, and the seasons. Some Wiccans might place a plait in a horse’s mane as part of a special incantation they are working to celebrate a particular festival, much as a Christian worshiper might choose to light a candle in their church for a particular prayer to be answered.
She stressed that there was nothing to be concerned about and that no malice was intended to the animals or their owners. The spells cast by witches are just the equivalent of prayers said by followers of other religions and are in no way dangerous or harmful. Wicca is a peaceful religion. The spells worked are for the benefit of others and Wiccans do not practice black magic.
The spokesman from Horsewatch asked the woman why those who wished to place a plait in a horse’s mane didn’t just ask the owner. Apparently the reason for this is that it would weaken the spell if it were to be discussed openly, but it should be stressed that there is never any malicious intent and there is no reason whatsoever for horse owners to be concerned.
It seems that the urban myth of gypsy horse thieves marking target horses with a plait might just be dispelled and replaced with something even more mysterious. It would seem that there is nothing for horse owners to be worried about, although it might be prudent to step up security around your equines, just in case.
Image source: theequineinformationexchange.com