Horse Tales: Myth and Magic

halloweenhorse1With Halloween just around the corner, we’re sharing some of the tales of magic and horses.  Horses have figured into lore and legend for literally thousands of years – starting somewhere in the 5th or 6th century B.C. with the Greeks.  The Greek Gods “owned” some of the most famous horses.  Probably the best known is Pegasus, the immortal winged white horse. Bellerophone wanted to ride him, but didn’t know how to capture him.   He dreamed of a golden bridle and when he awoke, it was beside him.  He put it on Pegasus while the horse drank from a fountain and successfully rode the winged horse into battle.  But as often happens with Gods, Bellerophon fell out of favor and Pegasus returned to Mt. Olympus alone, where he was welcomed.  He was then given the job of carrying thunderbolts and today is a constellation in the spring sky.

The Greek sun god Helios also had immortal horses and used four to pull his chariot.  Not to be outdone, Poiseidon, the god of the sea, had eight horses to pull his chariot.  Ares, the god of war, had fire-breathing steeds.  And, of course, Zeus, the king of all the gods, not only had 4 horses pulling his chariot, but these horses were actually the four winds as well.

rhiannonWhile the Greek gods used their horses as beasts of burden during their mythical undertakings, the Celts recognized the horse as more of a spiritual being itself.  Epona, the Celtic goddess of fertility, is the protector of horses, mules and donkeys.  She is also the goddess of horse breeding.  She is most often pictured riding a white horse. Her horses also were used to guide souls of the deceased and provide safe passage to the afterlife.

Horses, especially white horses, figure in many other religions as well.  In Hindu, a white horse is believed to be the last incarnation of Vishnu. As a Native American symbol, the Horse combines the grounded power of the earth with the whispers of wisdom found in the spirit winds.  In most religions, the horse symbolizes power, grace, beauty, nobility, strength and freedom.

Horses also have their place in magic and superstitions.  Perfect to share on Halloween, here are some:

  • The tail of a horse was plaited with ribbons to keep it safe from witches.
  • In most of Europe protective horseshoes are placed in a downward facing position, but in some parts of Ireland and Britain people believe that the shoes must be turned upward or “the luck will run out.” A horseshoe found along the side of a road was particularly powerful, and was known to provide protection against disease.
  • The “Nail Test” is supposed to predict what sex foal a mare is carrying. You take a hair from the mare’s tail, and tie a nail to it. Then you hold it above the mare’s hips… and if it doesn’t swing, she’s not pregnant. If it swings in a circle, she’s carrying a filly; if it swings straight, a colt.
  • Horses standing with their backs to a hedge mean it’s going to rain.
  • If you break a mirror the misfortune can be averted if you lead a horse through the house. Same applies if you spill salt in the kitchen.
  • Gray horses and horses with four white feet are considered unlucky in racing.
  • A horse’s tail, if placed in water, will turn into a snake.
  • Copper pennies in a tank will prevent moody behavior in mares.
  • It was once thought that whooping-cough could be cured by going to the stables and inhaling the breath of a horse.
  • The deeper a horse dips his nostrils while drinking, the better sire he will be.
  • It was thought that warts could be cured by circling them in horse hair.
  • Horses disturbed and restless in the morning and with their manes and tails tangled and twisted are supposed, according to old English legend, to have been ridden in the night by the pixies.pixie-and-horse

 

Have a fun and safe Halloween!

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