In Celtic mythology Epona was a horse goddess. Other names she is known by are the Equine goddess and the Divine White Mare. She is often associated with horses and fertility. As the early Roman Empire spread, the Celtic speaking Gauls were introduced to the Roman and Hellenistic religions under Roman Imperial rule. As a result many of the Gaulish gods were used as by-names for Roman gods. Some of their female gods were also paired with a male Roman gods. The Celtic goddess Epona though was outright adopted by the Romans. She was eventually incorporated into the Imperial cult by being invoked on behalf of the Emperor, as Epona Augusta.
To the Romans Epona was commonly seen as a protector of horsed, donkeys, and mules. This was especially true among the Roman cavalry. As the Roman Empire continued to spread, the Roman cavalry continued to spread the cult of Epona. Eventually Epona’s sovereign role evolved into a protector of cavalry. Small images of Epona have been found at many of the location where Roman stables and barns once stood.
Epona’s influence today
- Some believe that Epona’s influence may be why many cultures do not eat horse meat.
- The Legend of Zelda a once very popular video game had a horse in it named Epona
- In the novel The Horse Goddess by Morgan Llywelyn, an American born Irish author, Epona is a Celtic woman with Druidic powers.
- The novel Sun Horse, Moon Horse, the White Horse of Uffington was written as an invocation to Epona.
- There is a song titled Epona by the Irish songwriter and singer Enya.
- There was an experiment named Epona by the Irish Scientist that was a part of the European Space Agency’s Giotto Mission to Halley’s Comet.
- In the United States on Mackinac Island, Michigan, personal cars are prohibited so horses still remain a primary source of transportation. Every June Epona is still celebrated with a blessing of the animals, stable tours, and a parade.
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