The horse has a long history with the Celtic people, and at times was a deity unto itself-perhaps even the first Celtic deity. Horses were associated by the Gauls with several gods and goddesses, and were emblems of the sun. The horse was a tremendously important animal to the Celtic tribes, and its domestication transformed the Celtic culture Horses were used for meat and milk and provided labor for farming and transportation, making for huge advances in hunting and war-making. The horse was so important to the Celts it was associated with the sun god, who often appeared as a horse with a human face.
The horse is also linked to a number of ancient war goddesses Perhaps the best-known horse deity of the Celts was the Goddess Epona (Gaulish, “mare”), the horse-mother, a favorite goddess of warriors who was so popular, she had the singular honor of becoming the only Celtic goddess worshiped within the borders of Rome.
|Teutates||Entwined water horses, from a Pictish carving|
The father-god Teutates often appears in art as a bearded horse, and one of the names of Im Dagda, “Eochaid,” means horse or horse-father. The triple war goddesses associated with sovereignty and kingship were closely associated with horses (as well as ravens), and the divinatory king-making ritual of the Druids involved a prophetic sleep sewn inside the skin of a sacrificial mare.
The tragic goddess Macha had shapeshifting ability, and one of her three aspects appears to have been a horse. The wife of Otherworld god Midir is Etain, whose aspect was originally equine.The Welsh worshipped a goddess similar to Epona, called Rhiannon, who could appear as a horse, and is the mother of Peredur, who became a legendary rider in Welsh tales (and later, a knight of the Round table.)
Horses also figure in Irish and Scottish fairy lore. Most notable is the Puka or Pooka horse, a dangerous fairy-creature who lures unwary travelers to their death. Another is the water-horse, a sort of mer-creature associated with the sea god Manannan Mac Lir.
More Celtic Symbols