Sunday, June 13, 2010

Feast day of Epona, Celtic horse goddess

Epona ('mare goddess', known also as Edain) had two main celebrations: June 13 and the Festival of Epona on December 18. The latter was a Roman commemoration, the only major one in which the Romans honoured a Celtic deity. When Julius Caesar conquered Gaul in the Gallic Wars (58 BCE - 49 BCE), he allowed the Gauls to retain their religion and did not discourage the Roman religion from adopting and adapting Gallic mythology to its own purposes. His cavalry adopted Epona, giving her the name Bubona, and worshipping her as the goddess of horses and cattle. 

The horse was vitally important in the Celtic/Gallic world. The great chieftain of the Arverni, Vercingetorix (72 BCE - 46 BCE), who led the great Gallic revolt against the Romans in 53 - 52 BCE, in his last stand against the Roman army, sent the horses behind the lines and his army faced the Romans on foot rather than risk the slaughter of the beasts. 

Lucius Apuleius (c. 124 CE - c. 180) in his Latin novel Metamorphoses, better known as The Golden Ass, mentions Epona and provides some insight into her cultus.

In Celtic mythology, too, she was the goddess of horses and cattle, and moreover of donkeys, mules, oxen, springs and rivers. She was also a psychopomp, accompanying souls to the land of the dead ...

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