Epona, Celtic Horse Goddess was worshipped by the Gauls (the Celtic French). Her worship spread to Britain and Rome from Western Europe. Hundreds of statues and shrines dating from between the first and third centuries CE have been found in France alone.
Today we can understand Epona mainly from her images, as few stories of her have survived. She is often shown either riding a white horse side saddle or standing or sitting between two horses. Many images show her feeding mares and foals from a cornucopia or a basket of fruit.
The mare being an ancient symbol of fertility coupled with Epona’s cornucopia and fruit basket are evidence of her role as a fertility Goddess. Epona means “Divine mare” in Gaulish. In her role as “Divine Mare” she can be seen as a parallel to Rhiannon, the Welsh Horse Goddess of the Mabinogion.
Epona is also depicted with keys, which together with Her horses as messengers, link Her to the Underworld and the dream world.
In addition to horses (particularly mares and foals), dogs, birds, ravens, and geese are sacred to Epona and are given Her protection. Other things sacred to Epona are roses, apples, carrots and oats. Her shrines were often decorated with garlands of roses. A Roman festival was held on December 18 to honor Epona.
Macha, from the medieval Irish legend, is seen by many to be a manifestation of Epona. Macha appeared to the widower Cruinniuc, an Ulster farmer, and without speaking began acting as his wife. After his joining with her, his wealth increased and continued to increase. Macha/Epona warned him that he must not speak of her to anyone.
But alas his pride got the better of him. During a chariot race organized by the king, Cruinniuc boasted that his wife could run faster than the king’s horses. Hearing this, the king demanded that she prove her husband’s boast. Macha/Epona begged for a postponement as she was heavily pregnant. The king refused and the race was held. Macha/Epona won the race and gave birth to twins at the finish line, only to die shortly thereafter.
With her dying words, she cursed the men of Ulster, saying that in the hour of their greatest need, they would suffer pains like hers, rendering them as incapacitated as a woman in labor. The people, in an effort to alleviate the curse and appease Macha’s spirit, named the site Emain Macha (“twins of Macha”).
This story illustrates the changing status of women during this period of Celtic history. The Goddess was still important but Her power was diminished. Macha/Epona was powerful but the fact that a king could force her to race shows that her position in society (and that of women) was becoming weaker..
Call on Epona for protection (especially for animals), for fertility of body, mind, and spirit, and for dreams to guide you on your life path. Epona also teaches women of their strength and sovereignty, helping women discover their wholeness within themselves.
Judith’s deck of Celtic Goddess Oracle Cards is available now. You can order your deck on Judith’s website. Experience the wisdom of the Celtic Goddesses!
Judith Shaw, a graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute, has been interested in myth, culture and mystical studies all her life. Judith makes art, dances with abandon and experiences the world through travel and study. Her work, which expresses her belief in the interconnectedness of all life, can be seen on her website at http://judithshawart.com
14 thoughts on “Epona, Celtic Horse Goddess by Judith Shaw”
Reblogged this on Journeying to the Goddess and commented:
Aahhh…my sweet and beloved Goddess Epona…”Call on Epona for protection (especially for animals), for fertility of body, mind, and spirit, and for dreams to guide you on your life path. Epona also teaches women of their strength and sovereignty, helping women discover their wholeness within themselves.” ~ Judith Shaw
Thanks for reblogging. I’m really loving exploring these Goddesses deeply and hope that others resonate with their wisdom.
I love Epona, and have a postcard showing a relief of her (I think I got at a Museum in Trier, Germany, years ago) which spoke to me long before I began any conscious process of apprehending Goddess as a way contemporary women could connect to divinity. Thank you for your words, Judith, but even more for your images. They have such a direct appeal, right through the eyes to the spirit and heart.
Onoosh, it’s so wonderful to hear of your experience and connection with Epona. The Goddess is truly being reborn, remembered and renewed in these times of transformation. I was connected to the Eastern Goddesses for a long time and am just now discovering those of my own ancestors. She is everywhere.
Judith: I can relate to your connection to the Eastern goddesses: your image of Innanna before Ereshkigal really resonated with me after experiencing something of my own “underworld journey” in the past year or so.
Words are vital–Carol Christ, for example, has been, and remains, a guide who, like so many other “foresisters,” has helped to shape my understanding–and I love the conversations here at FAR: but images like yours have been equally critical. When I first began exploring, the discovery of Goddess images provided moments of recognition and deep illumination that penetrated far below the surface. Perhaps this was partly because my background is in art history and the humanities, and I harbor a feeling of awe of those of you who can “do.” ;-)
At any rate, I think this question of the need for images of Goddess is an important one, relating closely to Carol’s contention that women need Goddess, period.
Onoosh, So very true – both words and images are important. And Carol has most certainly been a guide for many of us. I have the good luck of having Carol as a friend. We became friends when I lived in the same Greek village where she still lives. It was during that period that as a young artist I discovered my voice. I was already on the Goddess path but I’m sure my friendship with Carol help me to step outside of the mainstream art world and allow the Goddess to appear in my work, .
Thank you for this wonderful, inspiring post. I am taking your words and Epona to heart!
And I enjoyed my visit to your website. What vibrance!
Thanks Elizabeth – and I am looking forward to reading your work The Maeve Chronicles. It’s so exciting to connect with the great community of women here on FAR.
Thank you for this. Epona is my main guide, and the goddess who helped us conceive our magick baby. She is the first goddess I connected with when I started down my path, and always remains close to my heart.
That’s funny because I first connected with Epona long ago, long before I started my inquiry into all the Celtic Goddesses. Glad you enjoyed.