Monday, November 30, 2009

Monday's Myths--Epona

Today's Monday's Myths is brought to you by Jaleh Dragich (bio below).

Horse lovers and writers of horse-centered fiction may wish to pay a nod of respect to Epona. This goddess is the only Celtic deity to be revered by the Romans and adopted into their religious calendar. This may be because, as the patron of horses, donkeys, and mules, she appealed to the Roman cavalry, who spread worship of her all across Europe and erected statues to her in their stables. She is also considered the patron of fertility, with the prevalence of cornucopia, ears of grain, patera (a shallow dish), and foals being featured on her statues and reliefs.

She is often depicted as a mare or woman seated side-saddle on a horse, often accompanied by a bird, dog, or foal. The British Museum has a 7.5-cm high Roman bronze of Epona sitting with a small foal and stallion on either side. Large ears of grain rest on her lap, on the patera in her right hand, and in the mouths of the horses flanking her. A yoke sits over her left arm, rising above her shoulder.

One legend tells that she was the daughter of an unusual pairing. Stellos hated women. For some bizarre reason, he mated with a mare, which bore a lovely maiden given the name Epona. Other stories compare her to the Welsh goddess Rhiannon and the Irish cult of Macha, sharing many of the same traits.

Epona has served as inspiration for modern creative works. Morgan Llywelyn features her as a Celtic woman with Druidic powers in The Horse Goddess. Link, in the Legends of Zelda games, rides a horse named Epona. Enya, Omnia
(a Dutch PaganFolk Band), and Heol Telwen (a French folk/black metal band) each have a song in tribute to her. Scottish author Patricia Leitch features her in the “Jinny and Finmory” children’s book series.

Even science and science fiction have paid their tributes to this Celtic goddess. Irish scientists from St Patrick’s College, Maynooth named an experiment after her
(the Energetic Particle ONset Admonitor), which was part of the European Space Agency Giotto Mission to Halley’s Comet.

The Epona Project, a world construct presented to the Contact Conference in 1995, took three years to develop. It was later written about in Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine and used in a science special on TV.

Acorna is referred to as Epona by many of the children in the first book of Anne McCaffrey’s co-written Acorna series. She blends traits of both Epona and many of the unicorn legends. Though the focus is on the unicorn traits, I think it interesting how well the two legends dovetail.

So whether writing fantasy or science fiction, you can create your own variant of Epona or one of the related goddesses. She may take you somewhere unexpected.

Jaleh Dragich is an avid reader and aspiring author of fantasy and science fiction. Her interest in the genre covers more than the written form to include music, movies, games, and visual art. She is now sharing her passion for the subject on her blog, Ex Libris Draconis.

Thanks, Jaleh!


  1. Epona is also featured in P.C. Cast's book DIVINE BY MISTAKE, about a woman who finds herself switched with a queen/priestess from a mystical realm and facing ritual marriage to a centaur. Fun times! Seriously, it's a great book. :)

  2. That does sound like a great book. I'll have to look for it the next time I'm at the library.


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