Horse Gods and Goddesses

Updated on May 4, 2018
kittythedreamer profile image

Kitty believes our ancestors' beliefs may still convey deep and profound meanings in our lives. She continually studies mythology.

The horse has long been a favorite animal, so it's no wonder many gods and goddesses are closely linked to this majestic creature.
The horse has long been a favorite animal, so it's no wonder many gods and goddesses are closely linked to this majestic creature.

Origin of Animal Gods

Gods and goddesses of the ancient world often held a connection with certain animals. Some say this is because the beliefs of our ancestors were animistic, meaning to believe everything in nature has consciousness and/or a soul. This would include animals. Wildlife was thought of as sacred in ancient times, and there are scholars who believe ancient land guardian spirits were once worshiped by tribes and would eventually rise to become great gods and goddesses. To find an image of a god or goddess in the likeness of an animal was commonplace. Some of the more obvious animal-god connections can be seen on the ancient temple walls in Egypt. For example, the ibis-headed god Thoth. Or the hawk-headed god Horus.

One of nature's most majestic and noble creatures is the horse. Dating back thousands of years are stories of these beautiful animals. All over the world, shamans of each culture have revered the horse for its swiftness, but also for their power and uninhibited desire for freedom. Horse medicine is strong medicine. The Celts and the Native Americans revered the horse, as did the Germanic and Norse peoples. All over the world we read legends and myths of heroes and their horses. The gods also had a strong connection to the horse.

Aine: The Red Mare Goddess

Aine is a Celtic Irish goddess who was known as a Fairy Queen who could heal and also grant great fertility to her followers. Her center of worship was in County Limerick on a hill known as Cnoc Aine in Knockainey. In ancient times, royalty would perform marriages at the top of the hill as a sacred rite to honor Aine and to seal the marriage and kingship. Aine's sacred lake, Lough Gur, which isn't far from Cnoc Aine, was used as a place of healing and transition from this life to the next. Aine was a fertility goddess, but also a goddess of healing, sovereignty, the otherworld, and abundance.

As a fairy queen, Aine had the ability to shapeshift like any other fairy. She was said to turn into the form of a large red mare, making her a sacred horse goddess. The color red to the Celts signified the otherworld, bloodline, and the mysteries, and so Aine was a guide or a psychopomp for those who followed her.

Ares and His Warrior Horses

Ares, the Greek god of war, who was mostly known for his destructive ways. Born to Zeus and Hera, Ares was said to have been the god that Zeus kept at arm's distance. While he was venerated as a god of war, the Greeks were rather wary of him as he could be a man-slaughterer with no regard to the consequences. Perhaps he is most well-known for his scandalous affair with the married goddess of love Aphrodite in which he was trapped in a golden net by Aphrodite's angry husband Hephaestus and humiliated in front of many. Following this event, Ares turned himself into a boar when he learned Aphrodite had fallen in love with yet another god - Adonis. Then he charged at the boy with all his might. So while Ares' animals include the boar, the vulture, and the dog, Ares is also closely linked to the horse.

Ares is said to have charged into many battles in a chariot pulled by two divine horses. On his shield was an emblem of two war-waging, powerful horses. And in parts of Greece, sacrifices of horses were made in Ares' vengeful name.

Epona was the Gaulish Celtic goddess of horses.
Epona was the Gaulish Celtic goddess of horses.

Belenus: The Shining Sun God

Belenus, also known as Belenos, was another of the Celtic deities who survived the Roman conquest and became part of the Gallo-Roman religion. He was mostly known as a sun god and solar wheels were sacred to him. He was the "Shining God". Apollo was his equal in Greek mythology. Some sources say Belenus came after Apollo and spread throughout continental Europe because of Apollo's origins; however, there are others who believe he was a Celtic deity first who might've originated at the same time or before the cult of Apollo.

Beltane, an ancient Celtic fire festival celebrated around the first of May, is said to be named after him as he was worshiped on this day. He was a sun god, and the beginning of May was once considered the official start to summer in Celtic times. He is sometimes depicted as being led by a horse-drawn chariot similar to Apollo. Another connection between horses and Belenus is in the offerings of clay horse figurines found at his shrine in Burgundy, France.

The essential joy of being with horses is that it brings us in contact

with the rare elements of grace, beauty, spirit and freedom.

— Sharon Ralls Lemon

Epona: The Celtic Goddess of Horses

No deity's name evokes the image of a horse like the name of Epona. Epona was a widely-worshiped equine goddess of the continental Celts who lived in the region that is now present-day France and Germany. Her cult survived the Roman conquest and became a part of the Gallo-Roman religion with her name spreading into what is now modern-day Italy. Sculptures and artifacts depicting Epona and her horses have been found all over what was once the Roman Empire. Her name literally means "Great Mare".

Epona was a goddess who ruled over horses and other equine animals like donkeys, ponies, and mules. She was most likely a fertility goddess, because in addition to being flanked by horses she was seen carrying cornucopias, sheaves of grain, and was flanked by foals. Epona could be viewed as a young maiden or as a mother ripe with life in her womb. There is some speculation that Epona was worshiped in Britain under the name of Rhiannon.

Horses are sacred to Rhiannon, the Welsh Fairy Goddess of Strength.
Horses are sacred to Rhiannon, the Welsh Fairy Goddess of Strength.

Rhiannon: The Welsh Fairy Queen

Rhiannon is a mythical figure from the Welsh prose story The Mabinogion. She is a beautiful fairy maiden who marries a mortal Welsh king. Her story is a sad, yet inspiring one. Her son is kidnapped by an enemy and it is made to look like Rhiannon murdered her own child. She is then punished by being stripped of her dignity and made to carry each guest that arrives at the castle on her back like a horse. Rhiannon never runs away and never complains, as she has faith that her name and good character will be restored. Her story is one of hope and strength and is empowering to women.

Rhiannon is a fairy queen and therefore has dominion over all wildlife, but her favorite animals are birds and horses. In the Mabinogi, Rhiannon is portrayed as a mare and her son as a foal. She is so strongly related to horses that some scholars believe she could be the Welsh version of the continental Celtic horse goddess Epona, though this is strongly debated by others. The fact that she carries people around on her back like a horse is strong enough evidence, in my humble opinion, to relate her directly to horses. Not to mention when her mortal husband first pursues her, she is said to ride her fairy-horse slowly yet always somehow escapes his reach.

Shango and the Black Horse

Shango is a god in the Yoruba religion. He is known as an orisha of thunder, justice, virility and fire (among many other things). In legend, he was the fourth king of Oyo, the second dynasty of Oduduwa in the Yoruba empire in West Africa. His consorts were Oshun, Oya, and Obba. He was son to Oddumare in some legends, and in others he was the heir of Obbatala and Oddua. His sacred number is six, his colors are red and white, and his sacred day is December fourth because of his comparison to Saint Barbara.

Sources say tools to put around Shango on a shrine include a black horse. There are sculptures from the early Dark Ages found in Africa that depict Shango riding a black horse. In many places in Africa in ancient through Medieval times, horses were seen as powerful figures because they were mostly owned by warriors and royalty. Because of Shango's kingship, he has a close association with horses but also because of sacred rituals.

The horse is a majestic creature and was sacred to many deities in ancient times.
The horse is a majestic creature and was sacred to many deities in ancient times.

Participate in a poll:

Which of the horse gods is your favorite?

See results

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Kitty Fields

    Comments

    Submit a Comment

    • kittythedreamer profile imageAUTHOR

      Kitty Fields 

      7 months ago from Summerland

      Peggy - Thanks so much for reading! I think you're right. Every culture has its love of horses.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      7 months ago from Houston, Texas

      This was interesting to read about horse gods and goddesses. Horses throughout the centuries have represented different things to different people. Buddhists relate to the horse in a particular manner as do the Chinese and Native Americans. Horses are beautiful animals. Some horses also serve to heal people therapeutically who may suffer from physical and/or emotional problems.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, exemplore.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://exemplore.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)