Sunday, February 17, 2013


The horse is an odd-toed ungulate mammal belonging to the taxonomic family Equidae. The horse has evolved over the past 45 to 55 million years from a small multi-toed creature into the single-toed animal of today. Humans began to domesticate horses around 4000 BC to 3000 BC on different continents.

Horses and humans interact in a wide variety of recreational pursuits, as well as in working activities such as police work, agriculture, entertainment, and therapy. Horses were historically used in warfare, from which a wide variety of riding and driving techniques developed, using many different styles of equipment and methods of control. Many products are derived from horses, including meat, milk, hide, hair, bone, and pharmaceuticals. 

Horses belonging to heroes, magical horses and part-horse, part other-creatures were favorite amongst the stories. Horses have always captivated our imaginations and have become woven into many legends and myths.  They can been found in folklore and legends in a variety of cultures – from the horse Gods of the Celtic lands to the pale horse found in Biblical prophecy.  Horses are known to be strong, freedom, swift, loyal, teamwork, journey and courageous and are one of the more spiritual amongst the animal kingdom.
Horses might be used in magic.  Divination was performed when a horse walked over two spears placed in the ground in front of a temple. The pattern in which the horse stepped over the spears – including whether or not a hoof touched the spears – all helped the shamans determine the outcome of the matter at hand. 

Even parts or images of horses have meaning.  A horseshoe found along the side of a road was particularly powerful, and was known to provide protection against disease.   But sometimes, a horse is representative of doom and despair. Death is one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and each of the four rides a different colored horse.  In the Book of Revelations, Death arrives on a pale horse.

During the Beltane season, there are Hobby Horse celebrations in many parts of the United Kingdom and Europe. Wiccan Beltane is a time of lust and sex and fertility, and few symbols are as representative of this as the horse. In England, the hobby horse tradition goes back to the island’s early Pagan roots, as the hobby horse welcomes in the fertility season.  These festivals are also tied to early pre-Christian fertility rituals, as the horse symbolizes the masculine energy of the season.
The Ehwaz rune e symbolizes inner strength, transportation and fortitude. It is a rune of strength, will and determination to perform one’s duties diligently. Ehwaz represents energy and motion and the force and power by which to achieve . Specifically, this is the rune of the Horse, or Horses. The Ehwaz rune represents ‘horsepower’ and the ability to work hard and carry heavy loads.  Ehwaz is telling you to always be proud of your achievements, whilst remaining humble. This will ensure that your travels will be swift, positive and rewarding.

In Norse mythology, Sleipnir is a grey eight-legged horse.  Sleipnir is God Odin's steed, the child of God Loki.  He is described as the best of all horses and is sometimes ridden into the land of death or through the air.  Sleipnir was swift, sure footed and could jump anything. Odin and Sleipner may have been the precursors to the modern tale of Santa Claus and his flying reindeer.   According to Icelandic folklore, the horseshoe shaped canyon Asbyrgi located in northern Iceland was formed by Sleipnir's hoof.   And a statue of Sleipnir stands in Wednesbury, England, a town which takes its name from the Anglo-Saxon version of Odin, Woden. 

There are also Skinfaxi and Hrimfaxi, the horses which bring daylight and night. Skinfaxi possesses a brightly burning mane to lit up the sky and Hrimfaxi sometimes sprinkles the ground with his spit as he runs through the night sky, which explains the source of dewdrops.
But this is not a complete list of horses in Norse lore, there is also Gyllir, Lettfeti, Arvak, Silfrtopp..., the list could go on for dozens more. 
For Old World Pagans who live in the country or on a farm, the power of a horse may be familiar.  They may have used them in the field or to ride to a friend's home.  A horse is loyal, swift, playful and strong.  A horse shoe is a good symbol.

But for Urban Pagans who live in the city or in a suburb, they may not have ever met a horse or even seen a horse.  I like to think of horsepower in those cases.  The horsepower of a car, train or airplane can be use to ride to a friend's home or to plow the driveway.  A car can be playful, travel, strong and comes in a variety of colors and sizes similar to a horse.  A wheel is a good symbol.  Both require feed (gas) and care (washing) - and both can kill you or cause other damage.

O Master - Feed me and care for me, and when the day's work is done, provide me with shelter, a clean dry bed and a stall wide enough for me to lie down in warm comfort.  Amen


O Master - Feed me and care for me, and when the day's work is done, provide me with shelter, a clean dry slab and a garage wide enough for me to rest in warm comfort.   Amen


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