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Epona's Wild Daughter paid me a visit...

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Epona's Wild Daughter paid me a visit...


This one is going to sound strange, but in the realm of Faery, perhaps nothing is.

I don't sleep with my decks. I don't keep a card under my pillow or dream about them. But sometimes before going to sleep - while in bed - I'll do a quick reading - note it down thn put the deck and the notebook on my bedside table and pick up my book.

Last night I had a terrible dream. I dreamt of a dear friend of mine had committed suicide because he had forgotten himself one night with another woman, the other woman had told his wife who had left with their baby. It was an awful dream and I couldn't get out of it - I remember ringing around desperately trying to have the news denied, only to find out it was all too true. A mutual friend of ours, Tom (both of them were my flatmates for several years in London in the 90s and we had some wonderful times together and all grew very close) - broke the news, and Tom doesn't know how to lie. He was distraught.

I finally woke up. It must have been about 5 am. I switched on the light, and just by where my head had been lying I saw a faery card. I turned it over - Epona's Wild Daughter. Glinting in the night, the lady of nightmares. All the other cards were on the table, she had stayed behind (and she was not a card I drew last night - she must have been at the bottom of the pack).

There's a figure on the card - bent over, with her head resting on her legs - but she appears to be asleep. Epona's Daughter (Dorcha) - rests her arms on her. I think this is what happened to me.

I don't often have nightmares, but when I do it is about things I saw and lived through in places I worked - like Rwanda, Congo or Iraq. When I dream about my friends, it is always friendly visits. So I was - am - very disturbed. I am hoping this is just some trick of this faery, not a premonitary dream; or most likely a sign I ought to get back in touch with this friend and his wife.

I put the card back with the others and fell back to sleep. My next dream was vivid but jumbled - totally chaotic. This morning when I woke up for good, I thought - Epona's Wild Daughter has visited me with a nightmare, and left confusion behind her.

And yet - look at her: she seems so harmless and enchanting, this shining blonde faery, crowned with stars and hoofed - her mother's heritage.

I don't know that much about Celtic mythology, so I went hunting. Epona was a great horse goddess, worshipped most particularly in Gaul - and, interesting for me! - in the part of Gaul that was called Helvetia - that is, Switzerland. She seems to have been the special protector of the Gallic cavalrymen that fought against the Romans (and later, with them as auxiliary troops, once Gaul had been "pacified" by the Roman legions). Later she evolved into the Welsh Rhiannon (the full name of Epona was Epona Rigatona - Queen Epona - when Gaulish eventually evolved into old Welsh, consonants were dropped or softened).

Nightmares are the mares that visit you in the night - it's a play on words, because the etymology of "mare" as in female horse is not the same as "mare" that makes up nightmare (the latter comes from the Old English meaning incubus - which is the latin for nightmare).

I don't know what to think of all this. I will look for more traces of Epona, the horse goddess. As far as I know she had no daughters, so Dorcha is a poetic licence from Brian Froud - but of genius! Now in the light of day, I am intrigued by this visit. Horses were immensely important in Gaul - indeed, in the whole Celtic world. Like many mythological creatures and divinities, they have a dark cthonian and a light "Mother-goddess" element to them. Horses are bringers of death and of life; there are many legends of cursed horses that announce death; and equally, horses were seen as the ultimate life-force; and mares, as the model mothers.

In medieval Ireland, when a new king was crowned, he had to take part in a strange ritual. He had to mate with a white mare who was later sacrificed and her flesh boiled in a large cauldron. The new king then had to bathe in the stock made from his mare-lover.

This ritual, which seems so hideous to us (and must have seemed terrible even then) belongs to Dorcha, Epona's Wild Daughter. Terrible, mysterious - an initiation which touches the very source of the divine darkness: and yet leads to light, because the Mare represents Mother Earth, with whom a human has mated and in whom he has gestated - by which means he can bring fertility and abundance to his kingdom. When the king emerged from his dreadful bath, he was renewed, divine, fertile, bringer of joys and fruit, full of the life-force. He was one with the Horse, with the divine, with the mysteries of life and death.

There is an owl on the card - a sign of night, of course, but also of wisdom and knowledge - the light of druidic conscience in the night. Epona's Wild Daughter never comes without some means to encounter her. The owl is what helps us from loosing our minds.

I'll make very sure I don't sleep next to Epona's Wild Daughter again, however!
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I am sorry you had the Nightmare, but I am very pleased with all the info from your post. I am from Celtic stock and no very little about the mythology of my forebears. I know a little about The Celtic tales of King Arthur and have often been surprised with the similarities to the myth of Osiris. I will now go, having been prodded by your post to discover new territory to me. ~Rosanne ps. Have taken a look at your mare of a card as well.
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You're welcome, Rosanne.

They are very interesting tales, and deep. As I mentioned- this is a new topic for me as well. I am becoming interested because of the DruidCraft, the Tree Oracle and some of the Faeries.

I am convinced that many customs, images ans stories still in use in Western Europe are Celtic in origin- at least in part. I am also convinced that they have entered the unconscious of Europeans (and those of European descent) and influenced our idea of the divine, our ideas of death and life. That's why I find Epona's Wild Daughter so fascinating (now I've met her and she's given me a nightmare!)

By Celtic descent - you mean Irish, Scots or Welsh? But "Celtic" is actually much greater than that. Gaul, Helvetia, the whole of Britain, much of Spain and Northern Italy and in fact - much of Western Europe South of the Rhine was Celtic (the Romans were not, as far as I know, nor, of course, were the Greeks). So in fact, Europeans from the Central area are of Celtic descent - even if mixed with others (Romans and Germanic/other barbarian tribes that invaded at the end of the Roman Empire). Those Celtic peoples who kept their language (the Bretons, Irish, Scots, Welsh and Cilicians) are also all mixed up with other peoples (like the coastal Irish, Scots and Welsh with the Vikings, and the Irish with the Normans). In fact, even during the great Celtic period before the Roman Empire spread, there were already many mixes. This influenced the mythology and iconography of course - and it's fascinating to follow the threads.

Romantic Celtic revivalists don't like to think of the synchretism and mixing that the Celts, like most peoples in the world, benefited from. Many of them ascribe all evils to the Roman Empire (still!!!!), closely followed by the British Empire; some arguments I have read even verge on the racialist - arguments for a pure Celtic race, history and myth and all that - to the point of distorting history and facts: so I would be very careful and use your sceptical mind when reading up on the Celts!
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Helvetica
In medieval Ireland, when a new king was crowned, he had to take part in a strange ritual. He had to mate with a white mare who was later sacrificed and her flesh boiled in a large cauldron. The new king then had to bathe in the stock made from his mare-lover.

This ritual, which seems so hideous to us (and must have seemed terrible even then) belongs to Dorcha, Epona's Wild Daughter. Terrible, mysterious - an initiation which touches the very source of the divine darkness: and yet leads to light, because the Mare represents Mother Earth, with whom a human has mated and in whom he has gestated - by which means he can bring fertility and abundance to his kingdom. When the king emerged from his dreadful bath, he was renewed, divine, fertile, bringer of joys and fruit, full of the life-force. He was one with the Horse, with the divine, with the mysteries of life and death
I just want to point out that this is medieval, Christianized Ireland. The killing of the mare is representative of the murdering of the Goddess aspects of the old religion. I know it's nitpicky, but this is a sensitive issue for me. The ritual didn't belong to Dorcha, it belonged to the Church.

</rant>

Respectfully,

Kim
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ncefafn
I just want to point out that this is medieval, Christianized Ireland. The killing of the mare is representative of the murdering of the Goddess aspects of the old religion. I know it's nitpicky, but this is a sensitive issue for me. The ritual didn't belong to Dorcha, it belonged to the Church.
Well, the mythologists I have read (in French) mention it as a cthonian-ouranian ritual (you bet!). Horse and other sacrifices (and even human on rare occasion) was common in the whole ancient world, not only with the Celts. Read the rituals of samhain - and the Roman and Greek rituals. Sacrifice of animals is still practiced in Voodoo. So its origin is probably pre-Christian - although the bath bit I don't know. I find it fascinating, regardless. And to say - it belongs to the Church - would be false, even if it is a ritual of the Christian era. I very much doubt the Church had anything to do with it, even if it was unable to put a stop to it and probably came to some sort of accommodation. Eventually it did put a stop to sacrifice.

The Celts also used to sacrifice animals TO the Horse and to Epona, as well as bring her apples and flowers.

Sacrifice is a very interesting subject, btw - if it niggles you, I recommend Blood Rites, Barbara Ehrenreich's masterful book on sacrifice and war. Very readable.

I've been thinking of sacrifice in relation to my nightmare. Violent death - and particularly suicide - always carries some sort of sacrifical element. I think there is something for me to dig there.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Helvetica
Well, the mythologists I have read (in French) mention it as a cthonian-ouranian ritual (you bet!). Horse and other sacrifices (and even human on rare occasion) was common in the whole ancient world, not only with the Celts.
I'm not disagreeing that blood sacrifices took place. The point I was laboring towards was that this was a complete reversal of the old sacrifices. Traditionally, the king was chosen for a year and a day. At the end of his term, he would be sacrificed to ensure a good harvest for the next year. The king was in service to the land and to the Goddess; he was the human consort, the representative of the God. When Christianity and patriarchal religion began its insurgence across the west, the goddess aspects of the old religion and the equity of the sexes threatened the power structure of the Church. Thus, the old goddesses and gods were demonized: Lucifer, the God of the Morning Star, became Satan, the fallen angel; Cernunnos, the horned god, became the horned devil; the goddess in her many aspects either became a succubus, like Lillith, or was Christianized into the Catholic pantheon, like Brigid and Lucia.

For a little more info about this -- granted from a website, but I can't very well send out books -- take a look at this site:

http://www.uidaho.edu/student_orgs/a.../celtic/women/

Here's a selection from it about Macha/Epona:

Quote:
What appears to have dismantled this society was the warrior culture and the spread of Christianity into Ireland. The story of Macha is an instructive example of the "fall" of the Celtic goddess and in some sense the fall of the Celtic woman. Macha (Ulster Epona, the horse goddess) marries Crunnchua mac Angnoman a rich widower. The two prosper together until one day, Crunnchua wishes to go to the annual assembly of the Ulsterman. Macha pleads with him not to go, but Crunnchua insists. While at the assembly, Crunnchua witnesses a horse race. Those in attendance with him, including the king himself, declare that none can run faster than these horses. Crunnchua knows that his wife can outrun these horses with no problem and decides to challenge the declaration. The king, angered at Crunnchua's arrogance insists that Crunnchua bring Macha to them for a match. Macha comes reluctantly, but before doing so, pleads, "Help me, for a mother bore each of you. Give me, oh, King, but a short delay until I am delivered." Macha is pregnant. This request and the king's subsequent refusal are striking reminders of the changes that took place not only in the Irish sagas such as this one, but also the changes in the societies that "authored" such work that became, significantly, myth. The king's ultimate responsibility was to allow the "creativity of women to prosper." Kings were to promise that no one would die in child birth, food should grow plentifully, and the traditional dyeing (a woman's art) would not fail. These promises were related to the "needs and concerns of women, and unless the king could be seen to take care of the cultural and fertility needs of the clan, symbolized by these women's activities, the king would be overthrown" (Condren, 33-4). The king as evidenced in this story, violated the promises he made and instead of being overthrown, is permitted to continue his reign with no apparent resistance from his constituents. This portrayal of Macha is actually the last of three major cycles. In the first she is a brilliant, strong mother-goddess. In the second she is a helpless (but wise) wife, and the third she is relegated to an existence of shame and forced to abandon her life-giving gifts, adapting to the new warrior ethos. This is how she had traditionally become associated with the three war-goddess spiral, joining Badb and Morrigan. The appearance of the war-goddess appears to develop as a result of the change in Celtic society to one of violence and paradoxically, Christianity.
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Thanks for the references, Kim. I'll look them up. I am still at the beginning of this quest...

Please don't take this personally! I approach ALL subjects - and all scholars - sceptically. I am a curious person, if I didn't use scepticism I'd end up believing anything and everyone!!! This goes for Christianity (I am not a Christian, btw) - and for Celtic or other civilisations and myths. I will read and think - and try and find out more about Gaulish and other Celtic myths.

BTW -I have been looking a lot into Cernunnos - quite a figure! - fascinating -another cthonian-and-fertility god: and have a look at the horns on the Diable in your Hadar...
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Y'know, I probably overreacted. That's a sore spot for me. Sorry if I got my panties in a bunch.

Kim
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The cooptation of the Goddess started happening long before Christianity. It happened in Judaism, 4000 years before Christ. Patriarchal religion is the cause in all its forms. The stories are told in every corner of the earth how the male gods overtook the goddesses and turned the old stories on their heads. Athena being "birthed" from Zeus' head is one shining example of the male cooptation of the female birthing process, as is the story of Eve coming forth from Adam's body.

Christianity, I do not believe, was intended or begun as a patriarchal religion but given that it was heavily influenced by a patriarchal society well used to patriarchal religions (even those that still worshipped the Goddess by that time in that region did so in tandem with gods or even as an aside, not with the Goddess as the main focus) that it quickly became one of the greater forces of domination and quickly finished the job of "murdering" the Goddess in total from the known world religious practices at the time. It only took a mere 400 years.

It's a sore point for me, too, Kim. If you haven't already read it, you may be very interested in Rosalind Miles book, Who Cooked The Last Supper also known as Women's History of the World. It's one of the best yet most heartrending accounts of women's history from prehistoric times until the present.

Edited to add: After reviewing what I said up there about Christianity not being intended to be a patriarchal religion I see that as totally erroneous given that it is an offshoot religion of Judaism, a patriarchal religion. Any religion that worships a supreme male deity would obviously be patriarchal and since Jesus referred to God as "Father" -- well, there ya go. I think what I would rather mean to say was that it was less sexist than its predecessors and sought for more equality and balance between the sexes than its surrounding religious neighbors. However, even that noble cause was quickly overtaken.

End thread drift. We now return you to your regularly scheduled thread about Epona.
~Mercy
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Sacrifice and suicide


Well, sorry to interrupt this interesting discussion - but to come back to Epona's Wild Daughter and my nightmare...

...I have had further thoughts. My nightmare was about a sacrifice - a self-sacrifice - in blood. I forgot to say that in my nightmare my friend committed suicide by slicing his veins and letting his arterial blood flow. I can't think of a greater sacrifice than suicide.

The link with Epona is very obvious here. Our ancestors sacrificed animals - and in some cases other humans - to goddesses. They did so by cutting the arteries. This practice still takes place in the few remaining religions of animal sacrifice, and of course both Judaism and Islam practice ritual killing for the meat to be kosher or hallal. The cult of the Goddess among our long-ago forbears was one very bloody era, as very old matriarchal art and (later) writings have testified (though it was not, of course, solely about sacrifice!). Male gods too demanded sacrifice - but Epona is female.

Sacrifice, of course, serves many purposes. It is a propitiatory act, meant to pacify the divinity. The ancient Goddess cult was extraordinary in that it joined - in ONE figure - the darkness of death and the light and promise of life: most fertility goddesses (or the Goddess in her many guises) started off as mainly cthonian goddesses, who had to propitiated so that she would not ravish us and take us to her underground realm too soon. So we sacrificed another human being (one to replace all) or an animal, to say to the goddess - "here - take this sacrificial being, we respect your kingdom of death, but leave us alone for now."

These cthonian goddesses (and the gods too - like Cernunnos in Gaulish mythology) evolved into fertility goddesses - while still keeping their cthonian element. Epona is one of those. This is what has prompted modern pagans to define the Goddess in terms of the cycle of life-death-life and the triple Maiden-Mother-Crone. These are modern definitions, of course, but they tap into the double cthonian-fertility rites. Fertility goddesses also had to be sacrificed to, with animals and produce. As I wrote above, Epona's worshippers brought her apples and flowers as well as killing animals for her. The reason for those sacrifices were to ensure good harvest and plentiful birth of foals, calves, etc.

Sacrifice is deeply magical and religious and I can't think of a single religion that doesn't have it. Modern Pagans, though many do not practice ritual sacrifice, still sanctify the athame and the cup. In the Christian religion, sacrifice has remained a central theme, and is re-enacted every time people participate in the Eucharist.

I witnessed ritual sacrifice of an animal in Congo. It was a deeply holy moment, to me rather frightening and off-putting, but very powerful. The witch-doctor was trying to propitiate a Spirit that was haunting a village and had destroyed crops. The Spirit was female. She was not an evil spirit (I was told) - she had done good things for the village before - but she was very powerful: and she had been wronged. The witch-doctor was trying to right the wrong.

I believe this nightmare is about a sacrifice I am asked to do - and about how far I am ready to go. Am I ready to give my blood for what I am going to do - my plans after my job ends in a week? Am I ready actually to die for it? These are two different questions.

(at this stage, I am not sure why it is my friend who was involved in this dream, slitting his arteries. I am going with the idea the dream was about me).

There is also - running parallel - the whole notion of self-sabotage. Epona's Wild Daughter digs deep and asks us to follow her, so bear with me. In lunar-rabbit's reading for me, she saw my nightmare as a test - or rather, showing a test I would be going through. Where is the demarcation between sacrifice and sabotage? Between giving and empying yourself? Between propitiating and colluding with murder? I am not sure. Epona, unlike her wild daughter, is always shown on her horse walking sedately - no mad gallop for this goddess. Perhaps I am being drawn to this - notion of fertility - mixed with going to the limit (the cthonian element) - but pacing myself. Sacrifice is NOT sabotage - but in order not to cross the line, one must advance securely.

There is also the other form of sabotage, far more pernicious - and for me, more dangerous: the one that come from not performing the necessary sacrifice. Suicide is often a result of wrong choices - or no choices. Sacrifice automatically gives you a choice - if I sacrifice this I shall obtain that. Now in the ancient world suicide was not always the choice of despair - but it was the act of those that had sacrificed everything, made the wrong choices, and were up against a wall: in honour they had to die (read the stories of Cicero's and Petronius's suicides for an illustration of this - Petronius especially touches me at this moment: he died by slitting his own arteries, after he realised his Emperor, Nero, had gone totally mad. Up to then he had done much to temper Nero's craziness - sacrificing his conscience in doing so). But in some cases, suicide was a sacrifice so that others may live and thrive.

We can say then - that there are times when suicide of some part of the psyche - or some element of the person's life - is necessary for the others to live.

Again, I am hoping Epona's pace will help me walk securely through this time: but I know shall have to sacrifice to her. The alternative will lead to despair - the depression that comes from not doing what we are called to do, which even when we do not top ourselves, is also a form of self-sabotage. This is the test lunar rabbit was talking about. Yet I know that some part of me might also have to commit suicide - sacrifice itself willingly and die for the rest to thrive. Now I must find out - which part?

Can I say, therefore, that the suicide of the whole is what happens when insufficient suicide of parts have taken place?

One more thing: sacrifice is a lonely act. Even when it is practiced with a thousand other worshippers around, the one being sacrificed and the one doing the sacrifice are alone in a circle - together yet separated by the knife.
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