Epona is a Celtic goddess widely worshipped in Gaul and Britain. She is best known to us as a goddess of horses, and indeed she was and is this–a number of her inscriptions have been found in places such as stables, barracks and racetracks and was particularly dear to the soldiers of the cavalry. She is also a benefactor of donkeys and mules.
Her presence at healing springs attests as well to her power as a healing goddess
Depictions of Epona often show her seated among horses, feeding them, or riding a horse, often accompanied by a dog; she is less frequently shown driving a chariot. In any case she is always accompanied by horses.
She sometimes carries fruit or corn, symbols commonly held by deities of abundance.
Epona received votive and dedicatory offerings from her worshippers; apart from this, little is known of the specifics of her native cult. She was honored in temples as at Entrains, France; in barracks as a patron of soldiers; and in homes as a beloved house deity.
In Rome she was honored at the festival of the Eponalia, which took place on December 18.
Epona’s name derives from the Proto-Celtic *epos or “horse,” in turn derived from the Indo-European *ek-wos, also meaning “horse.”
Epona was honored widely within Gaul and Britain, was worshipped by numerous Celtic tribes and even made her way into Rome itself–exceptional for a Gaulish deity during the Roman era.
- The Roman poet Juvenal, in his Satires (1st-2nd century CE), mocks an aristocrat for swearing his oath by Epona, as a common stableboy might.
- Ovid, in his Metamorphoses, (2nd century CE) speaks of an image of Epona in a stable, bedecked with flowers.
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