Article ID: 15006
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 742
Times Read: 2,376
RSS Views: 20,188
Author: Kris Hughes
Posted: April 8th. 2012
Times Viewed: 2,376
A couple of years ago, my beloved friend, a mare called Iona, ran over me as I opened a gate, and broke my arm. The injury healed and our friendship is still strong - but the broken arm forced me into a position of taking more time for reflection than I was used to. During that time of soul searching I made a decision to bring my rather patchwork Pagan spirituality more to the fore of my life. It has been a difficult and rewarding journey - one I am just starting out on. I think maybe Epona decided to get my attention that day when I got trampled. It has certainly changed things, in a good way, even though the process of coming into some sort of spiritual alignment can be a painful one at times.
I was the horse-mad little girl who had no horse. The daughter of a mother who talked about her own girlhood with horses endlessly, but who was too overprotective, preoccupied (and possibly too tightfisted) to allow me to have one. The first ride I remember was on a Shetland pony at a local fair. The poor animals were tied to a sort of horse walker and walked round and round with their child passengers. I loved the smell of them, the way their necks twitched if you touched them. I kept that smell in my mind from one year to the next. I had touched Epona!
My grandfather had horses, and he and my mother's much younger stepsister rode. I was rarely in the right place at the right time to be able to gain contact. Among my prized possessions are photos of my grandfather as a young man, sitting on the rump of a horse ridden by one of his brothers, his hat cocked at a rakish angle, and another of my mother, in her high school graduation dress, riding a gray horse bareback.
In the first grade, I made a brief friendship with a girl called Inga. She loved horses, and seemed to know all about them. The fashion of the day for little girls was cotton dresses with two belt pieces that tied in a bow behind. At playtime, these were our reins and Inga wrote the script of our pantomime. "You be the horse. Run away with me and I'll try to hold you. Run! Run faster!" "Now, I'll be the horse. I'll try to kick and then I'll run. You won't be able to hold me, and if you lose me, you'll never catch me." "Oh, there now, pretend you have a sugar lump and I'll come back to you."
I was given a gift of a sort of rocking horse on springs, mounted on a metal frame. He had a horrible hole drilled through his mouth to accommodate the bit and two wooden handles that stuck out of the sides of his head. I named him "Pow" and averted my eyes from his disfigurement. I rode him by the hour in front of the TV as I watched Fury, Trigger, Silver and Champion carry cowboy heroes through their adventures. I knew that this would never be me, as my family life began to disintegrate around me in the wake of adult problems, and I took refuge in music and books.
As a young woman, I remember feeling very jealous when an ex boyfriend married a woman who had horses. Oh, to change places! Another boyfriend had a sister who had horses. We visited her once, and I was dumped in a stubble field because the cinch was too loose. Hadn't my mother told me always to check that? Even though she never once took me riding? How odd.
Later, I was travelling in England. On a summers night I went for a walk on the south common in Lincoln, where I saw a white mare running around loose. She was beautiful. I can't remember whether I was able to touch her or not. Somehow, she led me to a little circle of people sitting on the ground. They turned out to be a little Pagan group having their regular meeting. They welcomed me, and I met with one or two of them again during that year. Brief acquaintances, but they meant a lot to me. I was looking for that path, but unsure whether I was on it. Spending time in southern England I saw the chalk horses, and through reading and talking with folklorists at home in Scotland, I learned of the hobbyhorses of Cornwall, and other things. It made sense. Epona was calling me again, but I was still half asleep.
Some years later I made the decision to learn to ride, to spend time with horses, and eventually to own horses. At first it was an unfulfilling and mechanical exercise - visiting riding schools, being told to do things to horses that didn't feel right. In time it changed my life beyond belief. (I even had the pleasure of finally riding with that aunt, my mother's stepsister, once or twice.) I began to hear Epona's name. I began to wonder...
With my horses, I journeyed through life. My faith in the God and Goddess, and my observance of the Wheel of the Year stayed with me, in a quiet way. The wonder of longstanding friendship with a real mare, the thrill of flying down a beach on a horse's back or beginning to know how it feels to be a horse have all been spiritual experiences beyond description. My recent life has not been easy. Perhaps there is some lesson that I am resisting. This has caused me to put more value on spiritual things, for without them I get lost. This side of my troubles has turned out to be a blessing, and I know that things will improve as a result. I have finally heard Epona's call, and now I try to listen. Even to answer. I honour her and ask for the bravery to fulfill whatever task I have before me.
In Wales, at Midwinter, there is a horse tradition. The Mari Lwyd or gray mare. This is a puppet horse, made from a horses skull fixed to a pole, hung with white cloth with a person hidden beneath. The Mari Lwyd is carried from house to house and a long dialogue of traditional and improvised lyrics are spoken through the closed door, between the Mari Lwyd party (which may include a Punch and Judy, and other mumming characters) and the householders within. There is often a sense of fear or uncertainty on the part of those within - perhaps because once admitted the mummers can be rather boisterous - and the householders require some convincing. There are even special verses built into some local traditions, in case the negotiations reach a stalemate, which allow the Mari Lwyd to be brought in without either party losing face. That the mare is allowed entrance is important, as she is the bringer of luck and fertility to the household for another year.
My dialogue with Epona has been similar. Letting the mare into your life, into your heart and hearth, requires courage. She is powerful and things will never be the same. However, if she is at your door, you have an opportunity before you. I decided to open the door. I welcomed Epona just as the Roman cavalrymen once did. For they looked to her as a ally in a life that depended, very literally, on horses.
Yes, I know, many little girls are mad about horses, many grown up women, too. It's an industry; it's the subject of an entire shelf at your local bookseller. Does this make my story less about Epona, and more about a simple phenomenon in our culture? Perhaps. Or perhaps, Epona is calling us all. Perhaps without a little knowledge of her traditions and meanings, this is our culture's best attempt to make sense of that call. If you think there's a chance I'm right, spread the word!
Location: Manzanola, Colorado
Author's Profile: To learn more about Kris Hughes - Click HERE
Bio: Kris Hughes is an author, journalist, musician, farmer, horsewoman and cartomancer who currently resides in SE Colorado.
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