The motif of the “Lady of the Animals” lives on this religious depiction. Flanked by two horses, Epona is shown sitting on a throne holding a fruit basket on her lap. The Celtic goddess was revered as the patroness for wagoners. She was also popular among the military. The images was mainly occurred in the provinces of Gaul and Germania. Image credit: Rosemania – Flickr
Epona – One Of The Oldest And Widely Known Celtic Deities from ancientpages.com
Epona is the Gaulish goddess of horses, donkeys, and mules. She was one of the oldest and most notable Celtic deities and was worshiped in ancient Rome.
Her name, ‘Epona,’ means ‘mare,’ and she was believed to be the protector of horses, donkeys, mules, and ponies.
As involved in ancient beliefs of many cultures, some scholars do not exclude that this goddess was often associated with death, similar to other mother goddesses. In that case, her symbol was a crow, a raven, or a dog symbolizing the afterlife.
As the guide (or companion) of souls, leading the deceased to the land of the dead, Epona had a mysterious key to opening the underworld (otherworld).
No doubt, Epona was a very popular deity in the Roman Empire, but as we said, she was not of Roman origin, for there were no such equestrian goddesses in the pantheon of these people. The Roman army adopted her worship and spread her cult throughout the empire. She was the only Celtic goddess granted a feast day (December 18).
The greatest concentration of inscriptions to Epona, along with altars and depictions of her, have been found in Roman Gaul, especially in Burgundy, and in the Metz-Trier and Meuse valley regions of Germany, Britain, Bulgaria, and North Africa as well.
In Celtic Gaul, Epona was initially associated with the beliefs of the tribe of Aedui, who inhabited the regions between Liger (Loire, the longest river in France) and Arar (the modern Saone river of eastern France).
In historical records, these people were remembered as allies of Rome, who in time supported Vercingetorix, a brave warrior who gathered an army of Gallic people against the Roman Empire and in 52 BC was defeated by Julius Caesar. At the same time, the Aeduians were incorporated into Roman Gaul.
Despite Epona’s wide popularity in ancient times, very little is known about her. Many believe this goddess had many local incarnations and appeared under other names.
However, there is one interesting mythological story about when our planet Earth was almost empty. There were no gods or humans, only the sea and the land. When the sea met the ground, a white mare, Eiocha, made of sea foam, was born.
In the vicinity of this critical event, a strong oak tree grew, giving support to “a plant with white berries of “foam tears” from the sea. The white mare, Eiocha, ate the berries and grew heavy with the child. She gave birth to the first god, Cernunnos. The birth was painful, and in her struggle, Eiocha ripped pieces of bark from the oak tree and threw them into the sea, thus creating the Giants of the Deep. Cernunnos was lonely and coupled with Eiocha to produce other gods: Maponus, Tauranus, Teutates, and the goddess Epona.” 1
Horses for the Celts were vital because they were used for transport. In war and agriculture, it is only natural that the cult of the goddess – patroness of horses- constituted an essential part of their religious views. She was usually depicted on a horse, feeding a horse from her hand, leading two horses, or standing with horses around her.
Other attributes were a horn of plenty and a loaf of bread, which means she was also worshiped as a fertility goddess.
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