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Pan-Celtic Hoofbeats: Child of the Grey Mare

Pan-Celtic Hoofbeats: Child of the Grey Mare November 21, 2018

This is a guest post written by my friend Potia Pitchford, a long-time devotee of Epona. When I started blogging here I suggested to her that she might like to write a guest post or two, but then life happened and we forgot. Recently Potia asked me for an oracle reading, and when we talked about payment, I said, “Hey, why don’t you write that guest blog we’ve been talking about, and we’ll call it quits.” So here it is!

Potia Pitchford

Potia lives in Glasgow, and describes herself as a polytheist, neurodivergent mum and hearth druid. She blogs at Musings of a Scottish Hearth Druid.

I was given a challenge, to write. I didn’t have to accept this challenge but it came at a time I needed it and so I accepted it. The challenge was to write on a specific subject, one very dear to me but one I have for the past year struggled to write about, Epona.

Epona has been my most beloved Goddess from as soon as I learnt of Her. I have loved horses since I was a child although have not had the chance to spend much time with them until recently. When I found out about Epona as a newly minted pagan about twenty years ago I was immediately drawn to learning all I could about Her. I read everything I could find, which wasn’t much back then but I kept looking. One of the best online resources now available about Epona’s worship historically is Epona.net

Image by Tilemahos via WikiMedia. CC 2.0 License.

Epona was worshipped all over the Roman Empire but Her heartland was Gaul. Her name simply means “divine mare”. Not far from where I live was found an altar with Her name on it among others. It’s one of those on display in the Hunterian Museum at the University of Glasgow as part of the permanent display on the Antonine Wall. The details on the inscription can be found on Epona.net listed as the Auchendavy inscription.

Back when I was first looking for information about Epona I would find snippets about Her in various books and soon I began to pray to Her. I called out to Her and sought Her in my meditative journeys, sometimes I would get glimpses in the distance of a figure that I just knew was Her but I could never seem to come close.

For a while I was fixed on that particular image of Her in the distance. Eventually though I learnt the important lesson that our deities are not bound to physical appearance. I can still hear Her gentle laughter as I finally came to that realisation and knew She had been speaking to me all along just not in the form I had expected!

Having learnt that She was with me and watching over me all along I then had to learn how to hear Her in the mundane world. I had to learn to listen in the right way, to notice the signs of Her presence around me. I’m still learning to do that. I have also had to learn to trust that when I need to I could ask to see Her in my journeys and She would be there.

Epona by Christian Kipping via WikiMedia. CC 3.0 License.

As mentioned above although I have always loved horses it has only been in the last two years that I have been able to spend time working with them and learning more about them. I could have read books about them, learnt about the different breeds for example but that never appealed in spite of my deep love of reading. What I always wanted was to learn about horses by being with them. Being around real horses fills a need that I only vaguely realised was there. And somehow Epona is part of both that need and its fulfillment.

Experiencing real horses and ponies, learning how to groom them, how to put their tack on and even the bliss of finally having some riding lessons has changed my relationship with Epona. I think I understand Her a little more than I did before. I think I understand why She is as She is with me. From talking with others that honour Epona I believe my experiences are not that unusual for interactions with Her.

Her presence is a gentle one in my life, Epona has a light touch. She guides and leads but doesn’t demand. She calls but lets you choose whether to run to Her or shy away. She is patient and yet there is a fierceness to Her, a wildness, a well of deep strength. If you accept Her call She doesn’t suddenly change Her approach to you. Epona remains a gentle presence, one that softly guides and coaxes. Epona wants your trust, She wants your love and if you choose to give it She will not abuse it.

A few weeks ago I woke one morning from an odd dream some of which was very vivid. In that dream I was taking part in a closing ritual at a pagan event of some kind. It might have been a camp as I think it was outside but I’m not sure of that bit. I was chosen for the ritual to be the Mare. I was wearing a pale outfit, not white, maybe an ivory or bone shade and not something that I have in real life.

Camargue horse by Wolfgang Staudt via Flickr. CC 2.0 License.

Thinking about it I am reminded of a special rug one of the mares at the stable I volunteer for has which includes head covering as she has problems with fly related itches. Someone came forward and marked me on my face with a charcoal stripe running down from the middle of my forehead, over my nose and chin. I was infused with the presence of Epona and I began to move around the ritual space on hands and feet but much more smoothly than I can move normally. I moved around the circle and someone offered me an apple which I took, almost snatched, from them.

I don’t remember much more apart from the sensation of becoming more drained as the ritual ended and Epona left my body. It was at that point I woke up. In the hours following that dream I had a number of mundane reminders of my connection with Epona including 13 apples from our own little apple tree most of which had blown off during the winds that night and a Facebook reminder that it had been two years since I first became involved with the Glasgow Group of the RDA (Riding for the Disabled Association). That dream lead to this poem and the title of this post.

      The Grey Mare’s Child

      I am the Grey Mare’s Child
      Stumbling as a new born foal.
      I gaze around in wonder.
      I breathe deeply.
      I am the Grey Mare’s Child!
      Chosen; marked; I heed Her call
      Yet still I shy and falter.
      I learn slowly
      I am the Grey Mare’s Child.
      She guides me ever onward.
      Her touch gentle on my life.
      My love strengthens
      And I trust.

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