Epona’s Ride

Filled with Symbolism, this piece represents the Celtic Goddess Epona, on her white horse/carriage ride home.  Her clothing has absorbed each of her flowing chakral energy colors.  She holds the vessel of the universe on her lap.  Spirit (crow) stays close to her, and the sun represents her light, and ability to befriend all the people she encounter.  She passes through the Blue Ridge Mountains (my home).

 

Epona was a Celtic goddess. Her name contains an allusion to the horse: in Celtic, “epos” means “horse” and the suffix “-ona” affixed simply means “on”.  Epona is the patron goddess of mares and foals.  Carried by a horse, she can act as a funerary symbol: on some steles, it is clear that she evokes the journey of the soul to the underworld (the representation of a woman to symbolize the soul of the deceased is consistent with folklore of ancient religions).  In another type of representation, the goddess is surrounded by horses (which she sometimes feeds). There is yet another way to represent Epona: she may be lying on a horse, half-naked (as found in Allerey, Burgundy). Her attributes are usually the cornucopia or peg. She is sometimes accompanied by a dog and is sometimes accompanied by gods, goddesses or spirits.

The protector of horses, mules, and cavalry, Epona was one of the only non-Roman goddesses to have been wholly adopted by the Roman Empire.  Often depicted astride a horse, Epona resonated in the forces of the Roman cavalry as an inspiration and guide through even the darkest of battles, and she remained one of their most worshipped goddesses between the first and third centuries AD.

Interestingly, Epona was also seen as a goddess of fertility, accompanied in many of her depictions by grain or a cornucopia. Coupled with the worship of her equine prowess in the military, it is evident she was seen both in Gaulish and Roman cultures as a deity of prosperity within the equestrian home and on the battlefield.

It has also been argued that Epona served as an escort for souls into the afterlife. The presence of a statue of Epona in her horse form was found in the grave of a young girl who died in the 2nd century and seems to support this notion. That burial was discovered in Godmanchester (Roman Durovigutum), in the Huntingdonshire district of Cambridgeshire, England.

Originally from Gaul, Epona was worshipped in Britain throughout the Iron Age, coming to the continent during the time of the Romans. As far as modern scholarship can tell, her worship extended as far north as the Strathclyde Region in Scotland, with depictions of her found on the Roman wall forts of Hadrian and Antonine, but her veneration stretched no further than the farthest reach of the Empire.  There is no evidence of Epona in the Near East – an understandable lack, as the Romans were never able to conquer or occupy the Persian Empire. It is unknown from where, exactly, Epona originated but she was prevalent throughout the tribes of the Celts and quickly became widespread throughout the Empire as well.

Epona made her way to Rome through the aid of the Roman military. The Roman cavalry was formed of foreign auxiliaries from groups and tribes conquered by the Empire.  Though many of these men were not citizens, citizenship could be attained after a certain number of years in the military, which meant that the Roman forces were exposed to foreign religions quite often and for long periods of time.  Even though Gauls were not one of the prominent groups in the cavalry, Epona was introduced to this amalgamation of men during their time fighting in Gaul. With so many men from so many different cultures gathered together with such a prestigious equestrian duty to perform, it is natural that they would desire their own religious spirit or guide. Upon discovering her impression in Gaul, Epona became the perfect choice.

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