Saturday, October 22, 2016

August Totems: Horse

In our tradition we divide the year not only by eight solar and agricultural holidays, but also by the Kalends. We celebrate twelve months of the year by the common calendar, plus a special thirteenth month for Samhain.  These month cycles are associated with different totemic spirits. Each month is assigned an animal, a bird (or other flying creature), and a tree. August's totems are Horse, Apple, and Swan.

The totemic associations are as follows:

Horse (Each) – travel, power, freedom, civilization
Apple (Quert) – beauty, choices, love, inspiration
Swan (Eala) - shape-shifting, love, grace, beauty


The Horse is associated with the female Divine, the land, and travel both on the inner and outer planes. It is connected to the Sun and is a symbol of sexual desired. Furthermore, it is associated with power and freedom, divination, the spread of civilization, birth. Wind and sea foam often signify the power of the Horse.

The Horse’s skills for hauling, hunting and battle have made it an animal that has been a true partner to mankind in many respects. It has been connected to head hunting due to the fact that warriors would frequently hang the severed heads of defeated opponents about the necks of the horses. Horse gear and/or parts, like the teeth, as well as whole horses were often interred with their masters upon the human’s death. Horse bones found in the foundations of houses to bring good luck, like horse shoes today. These findings indicate a long history of the Horse in connection to the burial rites of the Celts and other cultures.

Epona, Rhiannon and Macha are all Celtic Horse-Goddesses. In some images a Mare holds a key to the Underworld or Otherworld. Rhiannon is seen riding out of the Otherworld on a white horse. A common activity at Samhain and Beltane is the riding hobbyhorses.  The Horse is often a phantom creature or provoker of nightmares, who get their name from her, as Mare is an Irish Goddess.

The Horse is associated with freedom because it allows us to move without restriction from place to place. However, this freedom often comes without proper restraints, which can lead to trouble for the rider. The connection to freedom is also echoed in the poets’ tendencies to liken horse-riding to flying.

Sovereignty is another aspect of the Horse. In Ireland the kings performed a symbolic marriage with the horse to secure their rule and connection to the land. The Horse was then slaughtered, its blood spilling upon the ground, and its meat eaten by those in attendance. This is a version of the Sacred Marriage.
You can learn more about our tradition's wheel of the year through this link.

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