Witches Familiars: Magic of the Horse

The White Mare of Britain

In April of 1996, I spent a full month traveling around the British Isles on what I called my “King Arthur Tour”, or my “Holy Grail Tour”.

The previous November, the visitations from the Tuatha de Danaan, or the Faery Court of Ireland,  had begun, plunging me into a life of altered realities: Grail Bearers processing through the house, portals opening in the aethers, visions of the Tarot cards as life sized holograms allowing me to enter and and return at will, etc. The Kingdom of Faery had moved into my house and had taken up residence there.

My eight year spiritual healing practice brought in a decent enough money for me to be able to travel to Europe. I was compelled to go to the Britain and ground my life-long obsession with the Arthurian Legends into my physical reality, as well as honor the sharp promptings of the Faery. So that April, I got on a plane to Heathrow and  landed in time for the sunniest April England ever experienced — I ended up living there for 9 years, so I should know! Having been warned about the cold and drizzle, I was always overdressed, but chic, I hope.

Part of my trip was to Cornwall to see Arthur’s birthplace, Tintagel Castle. It is a ruin of great antiquity that sprawls over the side of a cliff, crosses a channel, and continues up another cliff to the top where it overlooks the sea. It is park-like now, with green grass carpeting the ground between the rock formations of crumbled walls. You can look through loop holes and arches down to the rocky coast, or climb to the top of the cliff to sit in the remains of a walled garden. The sea surrounds you on all sides, waves crash and wallow in and out of deep caves, and drag away from the shore in a constant churning motion. And far below the castle, and deep under the cliff, is Merlin’s Cave.

I went down to Merlin’s Cave and went inside. It is quite a sensation to be a large cavern under the earth when you know an entire cliff and a castle tower over it, and that perhaps Merlin did indeed hide in this place. The cave looks very much like the painting above. It is a still, quiet haven at the edge of a tumultuous sea.

I tend to look for souvenirs from nature and found a nice, palm sized stone that had been worn down by the waves and by time, so that it looked a little like a fragment of solidified wave. Taking it outside into the light to examine it, I was amazed at what I saw! Traced in white crystals embedded in the gray stone was the head of a horse!

It looks more like a horse in real life, but it is definitely a horse!

Another syncronicity happened at that time. When Arthur was born at Tintagel Castle, it was said that a dragon tailed comet blazed in the sky to herald his birth. During the two days I stayed there, the Hale Bop comet floated in the sky  just above the water like a glowing golden ball in the twilight. It was a magical time.

Giant Horses Run Over the Hills

The British Isles are one of the most mystical places on earth. When one gets out of the smoggy, ghost ridden confines of London into the green hills of Wiltshire and Somerset, the train takes you through a landscape of green rolling hills, ancient villages crowned with tenth century churches, and endless populations of sheep.

Every now and then, the train rounds a bend and one sees a wonder. Little streams meander between rocky banks at the base of a crag, and in the near distance, a smooth, green mound looms, too perfect to have been made by nature. Is it the burial mound of an ancient King, or a Faery Rath, or a medieval storage unit? Then you will see more green hills and suddenly the White Horse, carved in the white lime rock of the land, gleams out at you. The more you travel, the more of them you see. What does it mean? Why do the English carve huge horses into the land that look like they are running over the hills?  When were they carved there? And why are they so carefully maintained? There weren’t always tourists coming through to see them. This is a land of sheep herders and farmers.

The Vale of the White Horse

The oldest chalk hill figure of a horse in Britain is the Uffington White Horse (see the top of the post). It is said to be between 3,000  and 10,000 years old. It is a a gigantic figure, 374′ in length, and was made of ditches dug into the hillside and filled in with white chalk. The stylized horse leaps across a steep hill above a lush, green, bowl- shaped valley called The Manger. According to local legend, on moonlit nights the horse leaves its place on the hillside to graze there.  (There has also been and annual cheese rolling festival there until recently).

Another steep hill ascends to what remains of Uffington Castle. It is one of the most gorgeous places in England. A friend and I did a ritual on top of a flat mound, called Dragons Hill,  in honor of the spirit of the Horse and the great Celtic Goddesses, Rhiannon and Epona who we suspect were revered there.

The other horses carved in the hills of England are more recent. One was created in Georgian times and others are Victorian. Though modern they are still in the spirit of the Uffington Horse, and are carefully maintained by English Heritage.  They were probably inspired by the Uffington Horse. I suspect crop circles may have a link to the Horses and other Hill Figures such as the Long Man, but who knows really…

The Horse and the Goddess of Sovereignty

It is said that horses existed in Britain before people. The small sturdy Dartmoor and Shetland ponies ran wild over the land. It isn’t strange then, for Sovereignty of the Isles of Britain to be symbolized by the Horse.

According to the apochrypha of Margaret Murray, the first human inhabitants of Britain were the Faeries. They tamed the wild ponies and stabled them in caves. The Celts invaded and, with their weapons of iron and their greater stature, overcame the Faeries, but the horse remained a sacred creature to them. To this day, the Irish are horse worshippers, as are the Gyspies who hold Horse Fairs in Britain during the summer.

Rhiannon, whom the Romans called Epona, was the Goddess of the Horse. The Mabinogian describes her as a Faery woman wearing a golden cloak and riding a white horse. The hero who follows her will never catch up, for she will stay just far enough ahead to elude and lure him into Faery.  In her story in the Mabinogian, Rhiannaon is put through a terrible trial that involves the sovereignty of Britain, in which she is forced to hand her power over to the men.

Spiritual Keys to the Land

If we consider how intimate humans and horses have been until very recent history, we may understand how the Horse Goddess can have been the Queen of the Land. Horses have been transportation, weapons of war, workers, slaves, food, muses, sacrifices, symbols of beauty, freedom and bondage. They have done our dirty work for centuries. Even now, they are hauled out at Christmas time to cart us around the city breathing the fumes from their mechanical replacements so their owners can make a little money and we can conjure up a little “Christmas spirit”.

As the indigenous creatures of the British Isles, horses were the first tribe. They therefore held the keys to the land. The Goddess, Rhiannon, whose name means Horse, was that key, was that interface with the land that grants rulership in a time when the earth was known to be alive and conscious. When nature and human interacted in deep relationship.

Therefore in old Ireland, the King had to marry the Goddess of Sovereignty, or Queen of the Land, in order to be endowed with the fertile power that was needed to rule. The ritual of Kingship is very strange and very old. In the occasion of his enthronement (a “renewal” of the world), the King would ritually mate with a mare, which was subsequently sacrificed. From its remains a broth was made, which was served communally to all.  This  sharing was how the population merged with the land, and mediated its fertility and power.

The White Horse and the Hill of Tara

I support the preservation of the Hill of Tara in Ireland as it is being threatened by development. The spiritual work being done there to claim it as a place of sacred significance is totally inspiring and awesome.

I am reprinting part of one of these rituals because the visualizations express so eloquently the power and magic of the Horse. It was led by Ireland’s Druid School and their website is at: www.druidschool.com.

Hill of Tara: Tara’s Celtic Goddess Dreaming

A suggested midnight visualization located in the high valley of Tara

“Tall leafy trees behind a Lady in White sitting on a White Mare; she leans forward offering a branch of thirteen leaves to three Celtic Women who open their hands to receive and reflect the old ways again. Eight Celtic Men form a semi circle around the three Celtic Women facing the Horse Goddess who emits a gentle white Light. Peace and Calm. Then, the neighing of a wild horse and the thunder of many hooves and the White Mare lifts her head to the gallop responding to the call to run free in the sacred valley… The ‘Three Ladies and the Eight Men’ of Tara step back enraptured in the graceful movement of the herd. This Fairy Host gallops along the entire Valley of the White Mare and down to the River of the Cow Goddess and back again, no fences or gates – just lush rolling grasslands edged by forest and overlooked by Rath Lugh and Rath Miles. Their free raw energy bursts through the mask of illusions every night at midnight. Light and freshness evolves in their space.”

Tara’s Celtic Goddess Heritage Park

“Join the visualisation / meditation / journeying at 23:59 Irish time, every night and heartlink to the Dreaming. The White Mare’s name is Edain Echraidhe and she lives in Ireland’s Celtic Goddess Heritage Park in the sacred valley of Tara. We suggest Rath Lugh as a focus for sending to. The co-ordinates of Rath Lugh are 693,829 / 761,317 and this magnificent monument is covered in trees, many of which are huge oaks and beech.
This desire dreaming of a Celtic Goddess Heritage Park around Tara’s sacred valley is to give substance to the White Mare as an expression of the Celtic Horse Goddess who then exposes those who seek to destroy the High Valley of the Royal City of Tara. But the night Mare is also kind and gentle and she will offer a lift to those who seek a return to the Light again, if asked properly.
Sunrise on Friday 22nd June”

Also, you can join the Hill of Tara at www.hilloftara.org and help save the Faery Halls!

Please let me know what you think and if I got all my details straight. this is a deep topic and I have lived with this knowledge for many years. Things expand as scholarship grows and I would love to know what you know and can add to the conversation.

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11 thoughts on “Witches Familiars: Magic of the Horse

  1. Pingback: Witches Familiars: Magic of the Horse | Y2W My Lounge For every body

  2. hi
    i read your account in tintagel and found it very interesting.i undertook a similar journey myself. the reasons were an attempt to find a treasure. what treasure i don t really know, but i guess it was an attempt to recover my spirit simply. Merlin has been apearing constantly on my path since 2004 when i lived in Broceliande even in london. it was an impulse that i followed.unfortunately, this journey i undertook was doomed to failure as i travelled with an interference in my heart and so tried to compensate for it with an outside element.what i mean is that if id go there again in the same spirit i d discover something completly different.Tintagel castle, i spent 2 days there in 2006. it was part of a journey who then had to take me to the tor o the 21 st precisely of june and then through stonehenge and avesbury. i just went by bus to cornwall and did all the journey back on foot and hitchhiking. everything was well timed>But the castle made me think of a head , with loads of tunnels inside.But what really interested me were the numerous caves and of course the cave of Merlin.So this layed the foundation to my healing that was actually going to fail.every cave is supposed to represent an inner world, where a riddle has to be solved. i also went tyhere to find the grail, the sword the shield and the wand. but those where hidden in caves on the otherside side of the castle which were simply unnattainable to me, i would have needed a boat, or so my imagination told me, but also this is how you respect the way things are to be done, and that certain things remain to be hidden from you.But i was more interested in the sense of adventure.i remember the cliffs beig covered with eyes and that is how i knew how to look.i remember seing boats delivering goods to the castle, but also i remember the knight templars taking the four elements with them on boats. it is my imagination maybe. i always got one rule to be sure not to be influenced or be in an illusion which is to do everything bare, without any researc to see if i find correspondances afterwards cause i don t really want to look like i make everythng up.certain things that came out i don t know where they came from i just know they came out, and live on. why not it is their right.obviously everything happened in my head, cause i said there was an interference in my heart, so the moon ends up casting different shadows on the wall.the aim here was to find the door and go through through an amourous interplay between the outside and the inside, lke a ritual that is alive, and that takes shape as i go along. but i don t decide.the picture on top looks like the big cave under the castle, i remember thaT WHEN YOU WENT THROUGH YOU VE GOT THIS OTHERCAVE THAT GOES THE OTHERWAY AND IT FINISHES IN A DEAD END BUT YOU HAD QUITE A WAY TO GO. THAT WAS THE CAVE OF THE CRYSTALS. THE WAS AN AREA COVERED IN CRYSTALS, I DIDN T PICK UP ANY CAUSE I THOUGHT ITIS NOT TIME BUT WHEN I FELT I WAS FINALLY READY, I COULDN T FIND THE PLACE AGAIN AND THE WATER WAS COMING UP SO IT ADDED TO THE ADRENALIN.BUT THERE YOU VE GOT THE INTERFERENCE.THE MAGIC IS THERE BUT THE DOOR ISN T COMPLETLY OPEN. THE SECOND CAVE WAS INTERESTING IT IS THE ONE AFTER THE PICTURE ON THE LEFT. YOU ACTUALLY HAVE TO MOUNT A FEW ROCKS. JUST BEFORE I WENT THERE I SAW A RAINBOW COMING OUT OF IT, AND SAW I EXPECTED TO CROSS A BRIDGE. SO I WENT IN THAT Cave. all those caves are covered with people animals, vikings gods and godesses, obviously i guess a reflecton of my own heart nevertheless, still in quest to recover my treasure, i went there and at the bottom of it was a wooden box, it was unattainable and broken, so the link was made i had found my treasure. so i talked a little bit to the spirits on the walls and they directed me in the cave and i found a bracelet with a rainbow on it. and so it became the cave of the rainbow. the riddle was solved and so i got out again.the idea was to cross the real raibow obviously, but everything was out of place, there were a few mirrors that weren t broken. but the sense of adventure and magic was there. but the moon wasn t full. i kept on going like that through all the cave, opening doors. On the left you went down the stairs and the first cave was strange.i heard a story some tme ago about a tribe of indians being transformed into wolves. i don tknow if it is true as the source is very dubious.i nevcer found anything about it. but also i didn t expect anything about it to happen. but i went in that cave and i was surrounded by indians and wolves with shiny yellow eyes,they were old ancient and dark, maybe they were like cursed. the interpretation is according to my own heart. i even thought indians might have come here in the past.i am very paranoid in the sense that people even good intentioned might be wrong without knowing it. for me everything is open. so i went up a little promontoir and lay among them because felt that this what i had to do but it was weird , cold and i felt a strong sadness overcoming me.about this kind of paranoia, the thing is that i heard this sotry from someone, and it chose resurface there, cause people got many caves inside them, and sometimes it is time to lit them up. it is time for the godess inside you to give birth. so many wombs to go through.i heard about merlin s cave there. but again i didn t know which one it was.so i don t know if you went into the same one. on the right the last cave is the biggest. you go through and actually on the other side you ve got the sea, and on the otherside further right you had what was for me merlin s cave , unattainable. if you go a little bit back in that cave, it seperates in a second one, again you go through an you come closer to merlin s cave, but you have to go through a very narrow passage. durig the time i spent there, i watched the tide, but eventhen you had to go through the water, or from the tops with some rope equipment, but no way. anyway this was supposed to be the end of the journey. but i wa svery scared, cause something ominus lurked there, or maybe i knew i was going against the tide.at the end of that cave i am talking about just before you swim to the entrance of merlin cave were 2, or three mermaids singing. so i crossed to the other side. i had taken a candle with me cause i wanted to pay tribute to his soul. i want to go in to that cave and shed the light.it wass dark and you couldn t see anything, and was covered with birds nests. so i found myself at the end and there was a kind of altar and merlin was sitting behind. he was lonely, worn out and his eyes were very dark. i payed him my respets and asked for my life to flow free again. i lit the candle and put it in front of him. and again payed him my respects. he smiled.on the left side of the cave a door opened and i understood it to be the door to fairies, but i couldn t go through, i went back out of the cave, and all of a sudden my soul was filled with light, i felt a strong light iradiating me.and i felt happy, more than i had since some time. unfortunately, this is where my mistake came back to haunt me. the thing is that i did this trip with a kind of morgana, whether it was her or not i don t know, all i know is that when i laid my eyes on her the name rang through my own caves. the idea was also to help her to freedom.whether it is sympathetic magic or not, i don t know, but i wasn t obvously clean myself. but she looked at me and saw my well being and flew in rage, and everything was broken, i paid for my mstake. the truth is that dark part of my heart wasn t resolved, and it showed through her.obviously it wasn t necessary to go there all the way, all youhad to do was to visit your own inner caves and open thewm ones and for all, so that what has to be born is born. but it was an interesting adventure. but i can t help thinking that i should ave gone there alone or with the moon when it had learned to dance with its dark side.so i t is a failed rituasl but interesting experience.
    your story about the horses is very interesting. i ve been working with them for a year and a half in broceliande, and the one thing i ve learned about them is that they are free spirits and that you have to be allowed to ride them cause they come and ask you and take you with them. they have such purity of purpose, that you feel inspired to be like them they actually center you, and once you are centered then the horse comes and tell you ride me.i met this writer there, mr weingarten, meaning garden of vines, very mercurial, actually his family considered him mad,and he told me that man just wants to be horse and that the horse just wan ted to be aman. i understood it was to recover the spirit of oneness.the idea really being to mount the horse and let him take you with him you don t really need the reins, the horse knows you are going to fall, it will therefore take care of you.he actually takes you to the otherworld i spent my time playing running with them and lying with em. people who put them behind fences don t really take those things kindly, so you hear things like you re not a horse don t behave like one, the great marriage takes place with everything that is. these people obviously lost the connection to the land, and when rhiannon was forced to give over that power, the sacred marriage with the land got lost, and the faeries drifted away behind a veil that is probably thinner in a certain places , but in the end evrything got displaced.so the marriage between the king and the mare is the way i read it. people don t mount horses they use them, the oneness got lost and created a relationship of dominant and dominated. it is the same with people, that is how they deal with each other. i guess that the true feminin and the true masculin got lost. it the hall of mirrors. the hall of mirrors happens when your feelings aren t in tune with what you are, so your soul get seperated endlessly. it s like the ego getting seperated again and again and again, forever.or it is like the scientist looking for the smallest particule forever and forever. as to the fact that this the land of horses i do believe it. england or angleterre in french means land of the angels, or angles according to Dee. the queen definitely was a faery, the angles are there because the seperation is manifest. angles ae created by the light that is reflected. reflection is mirroring. mirroring is illusion, and mirroring means walls and so it means that certain places within all of us are closed, resulting in casting shadows or false prosperity which is the same. it all disapears when the dark and light becomes one, in faery. Mounting a horse is a ritual, but before it is a ritual it is nature. a ritual means already that the knowledge is lost. it is not like that for all rituals casue they have to permit pou to evolved backwards to go back to the roots.. i feel very supportive of all things loike tara s hill. unfortunately, i feel it is very hard and unnatural. when faery drifted away, man drifted away. for me the horses they draw are just the horses they can t see anymore, nature takes care of itself, only the artificial like a drawing needs to be taken care of, or restored.it is strange this idea to worship what is forgotten and lost. thast is how it sytays forgotten and lost. what irony. the idea would be to bring it back into this world, so that the balance is recovered. as to the hills and all kind of other sites it is a shame, but i think what fairies really ask you to do is to let them back in to this world.Rituals have to be alive like rhiannon riding her horse, her rituals constant and therfore has become natural. if she lost her heart just as she was forced too the rider is dismounted and then everything becomes a ritual cause everything is watched as in the mirror.i believe strongly in all that stuff. but even where i am i try strongly to go back home and this how i feel i help the hill to be there. it is dangerous to say that things a re forgotten.the few links left to fairy the few traces are th epath each one of us has to take to keep such sites alive, so i am sorry to say that rituals of this kind are alomost useless, as fairies don t do rituals, they ask for the reunion of the king and the land within each of us. but i am not saying don t do it, cause it is still definitely worth it, there is just more. this kind of thing is not a game or a pastime, it is something real nwhere something is a t stake, and this can be buried, not lost. nothing is lost it is always buried.i d be the first one to give my life to get all back, because things seem to go nowhere at the moment.people talk about what is lost and forgotten, it is not a trend. it is the path of the solitary. it is just buried under things like christianity for example. also it is inteesting that fairy can only go as far as being lost, when you take other movements like christianity or that story about the celts, they are based on the ego, they ll never be lost or forgotten cause they are just illusions, they will always eat themselves up in the end, and be as they had never been, cause they are not real.it is about the hills of tara and all such sites. finding back the roads of that lead to the heart instead of finding, instead of building roads that lead to illusions and that cover the traces of the ancients. the world outside is saved if you save your inside world.and there tatra will be saved.so save yourself.
    i am obviously not really in balance so maybe certain things i have been writing are maybe contradictory, but this also how the road is found again, but still i strongly believe in such things, and i wish faery came back in this world, like before, and that it doesn t stay forgotten or in a book, but that it is real and alive, and that the horses really roam the fields again, caus e i don t wan t to spend my time drawing them, i want the drawing to move, and then i wan t to go inside.art has to nourish and not create money so i can buy food.people eat too much.all those place s have their own history but you always find the common thread that is the inner marriage of the king to the land. aliitle bit like a scarecrow.i am happy to read those things on your site, and i know you are doing the best you can to make the roots grow trees again. so everything i said wasn t to put a shadow on your post, cause without that nothing would have come true.thank you.

  3. i think it is quit e hard to be with the rider but the they definitely want to be reunite.when the king and queen of faery come back, nothing will break faery again.


  5. Ow, I absolutely love this post! Horses have always been of great importance to me, and I love the old celtic myths about white horses in particular. Lovely post!!

    Izile’s last blog post..Potential

  6. I am happy this post has moved you both so much! It is such a powerful topic that I may write another Horse post. For the Horse carries us to the Otherworld in so many ways. I love how Alex says they invite you to ride them. Like most animals, if they sense you have a heart they are not afraid.


  8. Wonderful post. I saw the ancient chalk horse last summer when I did a whirlwind tour of the British Isles. It still shines in my memory, and I definitely want to go back and spend more time there. Your post has given the chalk horse new life in my mind. — I’ve been working with horses a lot this year, learning to call them telepathically and with body language and having them walk with me without ropes. It is an awesome experience to feel that bonding where you become like the hub of a wheel that the horse follows, very healing. I love their connection with the world of faery. I hadn’t realized before that horses were living in the British Isles so long ago. Thank you!

  9. Very cool, Bernadette. I wish I had a horse. I find they always come running and are very communicative telepathically too. I relate to them a lot. We humans owe a great deal to horses.

  10. i just thought again about the horse on the hll and it made me think about that article you wrote on your friends site about that painter who took laudanum. so i was thinking that maybe if he took drugs it was to overcome soul troubles, so maybe he could really see fairies without that drug if he had been sorted. i m not saying he was wrong cause his paintings show that fairies exist for people who d forgotten about them. so i thought he painted in a prison what he couldn t or wished he could have seen alive, all the time, just like you say you do.ansd so i kind of thought it was the same for the horse. my grand father used to have on his desk a stone that as a skull. he just drew the contour of the eyes to make it come out. so maybe the same applies to the horse. now you ve got that stone wiith a horse on it that on the other side has been painted by the moon on it, so i thought the horse on the hill was something in between. also i am thinking the holes where there and so they just put the white. but it also makes me think that the size, just like the crop circles has to be seen from above or from a high point. at the time they were no planes, but it makes me think of rituals to the sky and the moon where people actually danced around the horse for the stars and the gods.then the cavemen painted horses on the walls of the womb and it really looks like the horse really got out of its cave somehow.i know that somewhere the truth is not interesting without imagination, but i thought it was a really interesting link you ve made with the horse on the stone and the horse on the hill.

  11. it is just an anecdote, but 2 days ago i wa s walking a clear path in the forest and and a lady on a horse came along, so i stopped to look at the horse passing me, and the horse started to stop and turn its head slowly, when the lady started to give him stronger reminders to move along, so i laughed for the woman cause if the horse had got rid of her she would probably gotten lost , but i felt sad for the horse, cause he wasn t happy with her on his back, but i couldn t really do anything so i didn t stay that long cause she was becoming really fretful, but i wished the horse was recovering his spirit somehow.so maybe he is going to think about it now.

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