The Horse Goddess of Winter
The horse has long had a place in folklore around the world. From the horse gods of the Celtic lands to the pale horse found in Biblical prophecy, the horse has enjoyed a special place in people’s hearts.
Epona was the goddess of horses, donkeys, and mules and was often depicted either riding, usually side-saddle, or taming a wild horse. She was honored by the Gauls who depended heavily upon horses and she was one of the few Celtic deities celebrated by the Romans. The early Romans recognized the horse as a symbol of fertility as well as a messenger from the spirit world.
In fact, the Romans had an annual festival every December to worship her and pay tribute to horses in many ways. During the Festival of Epona people built shrines and stable altars. They believed the goddess and the horses represented by symbols of fertility and abundance.
It is also important to note that in some afterlife myths, souls ride horseback with Epona to the next world.
Today Epona is still part of a special animal blessing that takes place in Michigan each year. The island resort on Mackinac Island hosts an Epona parade and stable tours. This Epona Festival is fitting as horses are this island’s primary source of transportation.