Epona or Bunbona was the Scottish horse Goddess of War. Ponies
get their name from her. Called 'Mare' (MAH-ray) by the
Irish of Dalriada, she was the bringer of dreams good and bad.
The English word 'nightmare' is derived from her Irish name.
The English artist Henry Fuselli used this belief as the basis for
his famous painting, 'THE NIGHTMARE'. The Goddess was
even adopted by the conquering Romans whose cavalry called
upon her to aid them before a charge. She was the only Celtic deity
to have been enshrined and worshipped in Rome, where they saw
her as the Triple Goddess Eponae. The Romans may have held
the lore of Epona in a pure form, before the coming Christians
began to bend the auld stories, for Epona is likely the 'mother
face' of the Triple Goddess, Elphame the maiden or bride
symbol, with The Cailleach completing the cycle of the pagan
drama of life, death and rebirth.
She was the Goddess of Summer and fertility and abundance.
She is often depicted as riding a white horse, but I think this is
a combining with the myths of Elphame the maiden, and is
more accurately shown riding a black horse, a symbol of all
powers of Annwn, The OTHERWORLD, of magick fully
realised. The Cailleach, in reference to her 'age', rides a grey
stallion. It is pertinent to note the women ride stallions, a reference
to male potency. By the women riding them, they control all
the male forces in nature. Other horse Goddesses likely sprung
from her tales, such as Macha, Edain, Rhiannon and Maeve
- even to Lady Godiva - since Jean Marcela, author
of the superb work on Celtic Goddesses,
THE WOMEN OF THE CELTS,
believes she may have been the first 'Mother' Goddess of
the Picts and the Celts, even to predating Dana
(Bride or Brid), Goddess of the Tuatha de Dannan.
She opens the gates of Beltaine for Elphame to rule as
Queen of May, and closes them on All Souls' E'e to hand
the rule to The Cailleach, Queen of Samhaine, then carries all the
souls to Sommerlands to be reborn again come the Spring.
The ancient hill cutting of the Chalk Horse of Uffington,
England is assumed an auld shrine to her, as well as similar
cuttings. Even the Anglo-Saxons may have worshipped her
in the form of their horse Goddess, Horsa. This wide spread
veneration of the animal as a sacred symbol of Epona, of
the Triple Goddess, is often sighted as a possible reason for
the British reluctance to eat horse flesh, a revulsion that
has passed on in the beliefs of her colonies, and may be the
root of the core at English's dislike of the French, since the
French will consume it.
Her symbols are ravens, apples, balefires, the sun, pregnancy,
the colours green and deep blue, John Barleycorn, grains
and the numbers 5 and 7.
Continue on to The Cailleach
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