Finding Epona

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An article I wrote about Epona was included in the first issue of Air n’Aithesc in 2014. The article, “Finding Epona,” is about the search for Epona both from a spiritual aspect and looking for information about her in scholarly literature.

Aedui, C. (2014). Finding Epona. Air n’Aithesc, 1(1), 51-63

Here is the opening of the article:

My life has always revolved around horses. Horses are an extension of the divine present in my everyday life and part of my connection to Epona, the Celtic horse goddess. Touching my mare’s neck is like touching a piece of history.

When I was in college and first exploring pagan paths, my grandmother gave me a copy of Morgan Llewellyn’s The Horse Goddess, which tells the story of a young woman named Epona in 8th century Europe. I was enthralled. Who was Epona? Hodges Library at the University of Knoxville at Tennessee only had one hit for “Epona”: a recording by the Tanahill Weavers.

Since that time, my quest to learn about Epona has included research and personal gnosis, with the research inspiring everyday practice and intuition leading me to search for information in areas I might have otherwise overlooked. My emphasis has been on understanding Her by understanding Her cultural context.

New book about Epona

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Avalonia Press published Epone: Hidden Goddess of the Celts by P.D. Mackenzie Cook. I’ve received my copy and am looking forward to reading it. The initial flip through of the book is promising. The bibliography has many of the primary sources I’ve used in my own research.

The description of the book on the publisher’s site says, in part:

“Epona: Hidden Goddess of the Celts reflects the importance of gender in ancient religion, and the author explores the primacy of the Feminine through Epona’s sovereignty as Horse Goddess among the Celts; her identity as “Mistress of Animals” in her love affairs and working relationships, and the surprising role she apparently played in the ancient Greek and Roman Mysteries.

“P.D. Mackenzie Cook’s unique study of Epona positions her in a broad cross-cultural context. The story he presents is at the same time historical, speculative, and deeply personal – at once a scholarly survey, intriguing detective story, and spiritual message to be taken to heart. The author offers fresh and original perspectives on Epona’s historical origins and her “birth” in human form. He explores her early presence in southern Italy; investigates her probable identity as “Macha” in Ireland and “Rhiannon” in Wales as well as her indirect influences on the ideals of chivalry and courtly love in the Middle Ages. We are then introduced to Epona’s possible presence in a set of mysterious caves in the New World, and finally to her rediscovery by present-day equestrians, and in the personal lives and accounts of modern priestesses and men devoted to her.”

Book of Pagan Prayers

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prayer_book_coverMaya St.Clair of Air n’Aithesc has compiled An Leabhar Urnaí: A Book of Celtic Reconstructionist Friendly Prayers. Epona has two prayers in the book, including one by written by me to use before riding.

Here is the summary of the book from the AnA web site:

An Leabhar Urnaí: A Book of Celtic Reconstructionist Friendly Prayers was inspired by Ceisiwr Serith’s books and A Pagan Ritual Prayer Book.

This book offers prayers and invocations in Old Irish, and Gaulish, with their English translations; as well as prayers in English to Welsh, Irish and Gaulish Gods. The authors and editor also took the time to add a little information on the Gods they pray to and the reasons behind writing their prayers or invocations.

Happy Eponalia!

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Happy Eponalia to anyone who celebrates it! May Her day be blessed.

It has been raining constantly here. I’m going out to the barn tomorrow to celebrate. I’m going to pamper the mares, and if the conditions are okay, maybe get in a ride too. Later, I’ll make apple brownies and clean the altar.

Riding and honoring Her

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Over the past few years, the way that I honor Epona has evolved from being in front of the altar to being in the saddle. I have focused on having a connection to Her through my connection with horses. Standing in front of my altar, I feel Her strength and calm at the core of my being. That same core has become central to riding and connecting with my horses.

There have been times when I’ve put my foot in the stirrup and known I shouldn’t ride. I’ve felt that nagging anger that rises and spills over for seeming no apparent reason. It means my inner self is in turmoil and I have no business being on a horse. It’s not always a dramatic feeling. Sometimes it’s a little thing, like getting irritated when the halter clip doesn’t come undone or my mare’s tail swats me in the face one too many times.

These are all things that should just roll off and be let go. They shouldn’t nag at me like some three-year-old kid asking for the eight time for some candy at a checkout line.

It’s more than just being centered and grounded. It’s about being fully in the present with my horse. Fully with her and aware. Letting go of what happened at work (or recognizing when I am too wound to let those things go) and enjoying the connection with my girl.

That’s what is at the core of it. Recognizing when the mood is there and we are good to work — both for me and for her. She has days when she’s had that same look in her eye that I get when I just had a crappy day. We do something else on those days. Sometimes we don’t ride. Other times we go on a trail ride, or set up obstacles in the ring and have fun playing with pool noodles.

When you commune with a deity, you don’t force the connection. You ground, center, and let go into the presence of your god(s). It’s like releasing into yourself to connect to the divine by traveling through your perceptions: a reaching in to reach out to Her.

It’s the same with riding. You have to listen to where you are emotionally and physically, and pay the same attention to your horse’s state as well. When you do, then it’s like magic because you work together, you connect and things that seemed more difficult because of poor communication are within reach.

This past year my mare and I have made more progress than we have in the past three years combined. We had a lesson a few weeks back and my girl suddenly started engaging her hindquarters so her impulsion increased. Her trot went from silky smooth to feeling like a bouncing ball.

And I laughed for the sheer joy of feeling her move and how we could work as a team. How we could be connected.

It was a ridden prayer to Her.

Finding names

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For a long time, I went by the nickname Sena, a Gaulish word I thought meant priestess. Actually, nope, sena means old. Once I realized that, I decided to look for a different name to use that would honor Her. Something with horses, I thought. You know, like the feminine form of machis, the modern Gaulish word for horseman or horse rider.

Instead, I found the name Épasias in a list of ancient Gaulish names that are attested to in historical writings. Épasias is a name for a female follower of Epona.

When I saw the name, I felt that tingling at the back of my neck. Yes, this was the right name.

New magazine Air n-Aithesc

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airnaithes-logo
Here is a happy announcement! The first issue of Air n-Aithesc(which means “Our Message”) went live on February 11th! Here’s the blurb from the journal’s web site explaining the purpose:

Air n-Aithesc: Our Message is a peer-reviewed magazine that hopes to offer well researched material for Celtic Reconstructionists and others who value the role of academics as much as they value the role of the spiritual in their practice.

The magazine’s main aim is to offer as many resources as possible, from research articles to in depth explorations of how personal experiences fit in with the sources,  book reviews, and much more.

airnathesc_frontcover

I was incredibly honored to be included a staff member and as a contributor for this issue. The other committee members and contributors are people I greatly respect. It is an honor to be amongst such fine company.

What’s in the first issue? Lots of goodies! Including an article on Epona by yours truly. It was an amazing experience to write it. (Processing the research will be another post, I think.)

Wander on over to HP MagCloud and take a sneak peek. Maybe buy a digital or hard copy and support a fine cause.

You can also follow the journal on Twitter and Facebook.

Summer of the Mares

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My calf injury seems to be a way of slowing me down — as if to say, hey you need to look at this other thing… Instead of always being the one putting out energy, I should let my own energy be replenished by the horses

Suddenly I find myself with five mares to play with. So this summer, my horses are my teachers. I have these gifts in the pastures and they are my opportunity to learn more.

I started reading again. I’m several chapters into Zen Mind, Zen Horse. It is so nice to feel excited about reading and learning and knowing I have this great adventure awaiting me this summer.

This summer of the Mares.

Insights when gimpy

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I had a very interesting discussion with the barn owner last night. I explained how I felt about teaching and that I felt conflicted because I want my former students to have the training they deserve (even if I’m really not the right person to teach them any more).

The barn owner kept me company while I was treating my mare’s back for the nasty case of rain rot she had. Because I injured my calf a few weeks back, I was gimping around and my poor mare was cringing from me washing her back.

The barn owner noted that she thought that there was a connection between my calf injury (which inhibits my mobility and causes me to slow down), what was happening with the horses (which means I can’t ride or do much with them), and what was happening in NorthWind.

She said that she felt that I needed to focus on the horses. I suddenly have Mom’s mares at the barn plus my own. And that I needed to enjoy the energy of my horses and let them replenish me.

I can be so stubborn some times that I don’t always hear the message She is giving me. It takes talking to someone and hearing another perspective for the light to click on.

And the light did click on in a big way. I’ve had this large stack of books to read but haven’t started reading. It was as if I was blocked from reading, like I didn’t want to take on another project.

It’s coming together for me now. I am blessed with three of my own mares and two additional gorgeous mares to learn from this summer.

By the end of the evening at the barn, I hadn’t worked any of my girls, I had only tended to their rain rot and talked with a friend. I felt refreshed and like a weight had been lifted.

That night, I read several chapters in Zen Mind, Zen Horse.

Epona article by Reinach available online

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When I’m doing heavy research, I use JSTOR, Library of Congress, and the Biblioteque Nationale de France (BNF). The BNF is a great resource. If you haven’t been to the library’s site, go visit.

Imagine my surprise (and great delight!) to discover that they have an electronic copy of Salomon Reinach’s Epona, La Deesse Gauloise des Chevaux. Not only is the whole book available online, you can embed a copy of if on your web site.