Tuesday, July 27, 2010

the hum of horses

Margolove from Etsy's "Oh, Bye" print

"The wind of heaven is that which blows between a horse's ears." -Arabian Proverb

Riding with the wind, the horse has long been a symbol of greatness, of life and freedom, in many cultures. To the Celts and Romans, the horse was a symbol of war. To Native Americans, the horse was a symbol of the spirit world, of the wind, and of wisdom.

Horses move more nobly than most creatures on this earth. Any who look into a horse's eyes see slivers of another world. A whole world of wild wisdom waits to be unleashed.

In Welsh mythology, Rhiannon was first seen on a white mare. She wore a golden dress, and looked a bit like an angel as she galloped, outrunning Pwyll, a lord of Dyfed, and all his grand horseman. When Pwyll yelled after her, asking her to stop, she stopped. She told him that she was to be married to an awful man and offered to marry Pwyll if he would help her escape from her hellish arrangement. The two schemed a magical scheme, and soon the mystical lady of the horse married the lord Pwyll.

Alan Lee's Rhiannon

Years later, when Rhiannon's newborn son disappeared from her room, her ladies-in-waiting planted false evidence (blood) and accused her of murdering him. As punishment, Rhiannon was forced to tell her story to any incoming traveler, and, should the traveler acquiesce, she was to carry them wherever they wanted to go in the city. Like a horse.

Seasons passed into years of toil, but the son eventually reappeared and all was put right. Knowing her horrible punishment, however, makes the golden image of Rhiannon on her white mare all the more beautiful.

While Rhiannon is little more than a beautiful, otherworldly woman in the Mabinogi, she was often linked to Epona, a Celtic horse goddess. Questions about Rhiannon's divinity abound, and many scholars speculate the myths represent a fraction of the pre-Christian honors given to her: Rhiannon, the woman who once might have been worshiped as a goddess.

Paul Borda's Rhiannon Wall Plaque

Throughout Britain, chalk drawings of white mares can be found in the countryside. The Uffington horse is supposed to be particularly spectacular. For a magical account of an experience with this mare, check out this article from Winterspell.

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