Gods and Goddesses

Horse Gods and Goddesses of the Ancient World: Celtic, Greek & More

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, cultures have revered the horse for its swiftness, but also for its power and independence. Horse medicine is strong medicine. The Celts and the Native Americans revered the horse, as did the Germanic and Norse people. The gods had a strong connection with the horse. Here we examine the horse gods and horse goddesses of the ancient world.

Aine: The Red Horse Goddess

Aine is an Irish Celtic horse goddess and Fairy Queen who healed and granted fertility to her followers. Cnoc Aine in Knockainey was Aine’s center of worship. In ancient times, royalty performed marriages on top the hill to honor Aine and to seal the kingship. This act means Aine was an important sovereignty goddess. 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’s Magical Abilities

Aine was a fertility goddess, but also a goddess of healing, sovereignty, the otherworld, and abundance. As a fairy queen, she could shapeshift like any other fairy. She often turned into a large red mare, which made her a sacred horse goddess to the Celts. The color red signified the otherworld, bloodline, and the occult mysteries, which makes Aine a psychopomp to the afterlife.

Horse gods were often warrior gods.

Ares the Horse God & His Warrior Horses

Ares, the Greek god of war, was well-known for his destructive ways. Born to Zeus and Hera, Ares was a god that Zeus kept at arm’s distance. The Greeks were wary of Ares, as he had the reputation of being a cruel man-slaughterer. Ares is well-known for his scandalous affair Aphrodite. In this myth, Aphrodite’s angry husband catches Ares in a net and humiliates him in front of the gods.

Following this event, Ares turned himself into a boar when he learned Aphrodite had fallen in love with another god – Adonis. Then he charged at the boy with all his might. Ares and the horse are closely linked, as well as other animals like the bull and dog. Ares charged into battle in a chariot pulled by two divine horses. On his shield was an emblem of two war-waging, powerful horses. And the ancients sacrificed horses in Ares’ name.

Horse goddesses were often fertility and life cycle goddesses.

Belenus: The Shining Sun God

Belenus, also known as Belenos, was a Celtic horse god who survived the Roman conquest and became part of the Gallo-Roman religion. As a sun god, solar wheels are sacred to Belenus. Belenus lends his name to the ancient Celtic sabbat Beltane . He was a sun god, and the beginning of May was once considered the official start to summer in Celtic times. He is sometimes depicte in a horse-drawn chariot similar to Apollo. Clay horse figurine offerings inundated his shrine in Burgundy, France.

Epona: Celtic Goddess of Horses

No deity’s name evokes the image of the horse quite like the name Epona. Epona was a widely-worshiped Celtic horse goddess in the region that is present-day France and Germany. Her cult survived the Roman conquest and became part of the Gallo-Roman religion. Her name literally means “Great Mare”. Epona the horse goddess ruled over all equine animals including donkeys, ponies, and mules. She is a fertility goddess who carries a cornucopia, grains, and is accompanied by foals.

Freyr: Norse God of Peace and Prosperity (And Horses, Apparently)

Freyr is the King of the Vanir, the Norse god of peace and prosperity. And while most associate Freyr with his sacred golden boar, he also has a horse ally named Bloody Hoof. In the Poetic Edda, Freyr gifts a divine horse to his messenger. This horse may have been Bloody Hoof, though the poem doesn’t clarify. In the Icelandic sagas, Freyr is closely associated to horse cults in the new settlement.

Rhiannon and Epona were two horse goddesses of the ancient Celts.

Rhiannon: Welsh Fairy Queen & Horse Goddess

Rhiannon is a Welsh mythical figure from the The Mabinogion. She is a beautiful fairy maiden who marries a mortal Welsh king. Her story is a sad, yet inspiring one. Rhiannon is blamed for murdering her kidnapped son. She’s punished in a horrifying manner, while also grieving for her lost son. They strip away her dignity and force her to carry the castle’s guests on her back like a horse. Rhiannon never runs away or complains; she believes her good character will be restored. Her story is one of hope and strength and is empowering to women who have been oppressed or abused.

Rhiannon’s Connection to Horses

Rhiannon is a fairy goddess and therefore has dominion over wildlife, but her favorite animals are birds and horses. In the Mabinogi, Rhiannon is a mare and her son is a foal. She’s so strongly related to horses that scholars believe she could be the Welsh version of the continental horse goddess Epona. The fact she carries people around on her back like a horse is strong enough evidence to relate her to horses. Not to mention when her mortal husband first pursues her, Rhiannon escapes on her fairy horse.

Shango is an Orisha with a connection to horses.

Shango and the Black Horse

Shango is a horse god in the Yoruba religion. He is an Orisha of thunder, justice, virility and fire (among 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.

Shango’s Black Horse

Sources say to place a black horse statue on Shango’s shrine. Shango rides his black horse in ancient sculptures all over Africa. In Medieval Africa, people saw horses as powerful figures – they were owned by warriors and royalty. Because of Shango’s kingship, he has a close association with horses but also because of sacred rituals.

More on Gods and Goddesses:

Leave a Reply