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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