The following is a guest post by Mary Sharratt’s Welsh mare, Miss Boo aka Queen Boudicca
The ancient Romans and Gauls knew something that many modern day humans have forgotten. Mares are divine.
The worship of Epona was popular throughout the Roman Empire. Epona was a Gaulish deity whose name means “divine mare” or “she who is like a mare.” Epona was the the only Celtic divinity to receive her own official feast day in the Roman Calendar: Eponalia, December 18, was celebrated on the second day of Saturnalia, the Roman midwinter celebration (December 17 to December 23). But as far as we horses are concerned, every day is Epona’s Day! Go out and hug a horse right now!
The patron deity of horses, ponies, donkeys, and mules, Epona also protected those who looked after equines or worked with them. Thus she was beloved of the Roman cavalry. Epona’s worship stretched from Roman Britain, across Gaul and Germania to Spain, Rome, and Eastern Europe. Not only did she have a temple in Rome and her own holiday, but there were shrines to her in almost every stable. Her altars were adorned with fresh roses. Horses and donkeys were adorned with roses for her processions.
Some modern humans are inspired by these ancient traditions. At midsummer, my human ties roses in my beautiful mane when we ride out together.
In her iconography, Epona is often depicted as a majestic woman riding side saddle, always travelling from left to right. In the image at the top of the page, “Epona from Kastel,” she is riding and carrying a round fruit or loaf. Epona is associated with abundance, fertility, and sovereignty.
A votive image from Budapest shows Epona as a great sovereign lady seated between two horses who feed from her lap.
In the Middle Ages, Epona’s archetype lived on in literary figures such as Rhiannon in the Mabinogian.
Epona was a nurturing mother figure, a giver of abundance and plenty. But what does this mean for us today? Anyone who has spent any time around us horses knows that we are capable of great empathy. Any person who is sad or depressed should spend some time just quietly grooming horses and being with them, and the healing will unfold. When my human is upset, I know right away and I’m especially gentle with her and give her lots of tender snuffles. I also love children and am extra careful around them. Here’s a picture of me with one of my little human friends.
People have reported great success using horses to treat autistic children and adults. Even people suffering from eating disorders can heal if they spend time with equines. Horses have huge hearts. Especially mares! We’re hard-wired to nurture.
Heartland Girls’ Ranch in Minnesota offers equine therapy to help heal sex-trafficked girls. Each girl is matched with a horse that she cares for and this partnership helps build back her sense of trust and self-worth.
The Romans celebrated Eponalia by giving every horse, donkey, and mule a day of rest. Modern humans who keep horses can observe this by giving their horses a day off and by offering them apples, which are sacred to Epona. Humans can also honour Epona by donating to equine charities, to Heartland Ranch, or your local horse rescue centre.
What would human civilization look like had there not been a millennia-long partnership between humans and equines? Have a heart for the horses who have carried their humans so far and so faithfully.
Miss Boo aka Queen Boudicca is a Welsh mare who lives in the Pendle region of Lancashire. A hereditary Welsh trad witch in the most archetypal sense of the word, Miss Boo lives in deep communion with the Earth and is a keeper of ancestral wisdom. Miss Boo is a committed feminist, and she and her herd preserve an ancient matriarchal social structure unchanged since the dawn of their species. Don’t mess with chestnut mares! She is the proud owner of the author, Mary Sharratt. All royalties from Mary’s book sales will go to keeping Miss Boo in the style to which she has become accustomed. Visit her human’s website.