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(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea, was said to have created the horse—whipping up the wave tops, the thunder of the surf sounding like the thunder of hooves. Many gods and goddesses have been associated with the horse. Demeter, the Greek goddess of fertility, was sometimes represented as having the head of a horse. Epona, the Celtic goddess, was almost always depicted riding side-saddle on a white horse. She was adopted by the Roman cavalry as a protector of horses. The famous White Horse of Uffington, in Berkshire, England, which was cut into the chalk scarp near a pre-existing Iron Age hill fort in the first century CE, was of cult significance and probably marked a site sacred to the horse goddess Epona.

The Norse god Odin had an eight-legged stallion named Sleipnir, regarded as the finest of all steeds. It could carry him to the land of the dead and back. The god Hermod once rode Sliepnir down to Hell to rescue Balder from the Underworld.

In many areas, the horse is considered a fertility symbol. In parts of Germany,

the last sheaf of the gathered harvest is called the "Oat Stallion."

Martingales were hung from horses to protect them from evil and to promote health, strength, and fertility. These were lengths of leather onto which were fixed brass talismans of different shapes, known as horse brasses. The symbols used included the sun and the crescent moon, horseshoe shapes, stars, acorns, oak leaves, trefoils, and hearts. Martingales and individual brasses can still be seen worn on horses throughout Europe and elsewhere.

The martingales were important, because it was believed that witches would steal unprotected horses to ride to the sabbat. The animals would be found in the morning, exhausted and covered with sweat. They were referred to as "hag ridden." A stone with a natural hole through it, known as a "hag stone," was often nailed up in the horse's stall to protect the animal from theft.

It was also believed that a witch could turn a person into a horse. In 1633, in Lancashire, England, an eleven-year-old boy named Edmund Robinson encountered two greyhounds that later changed into a woman and a young boy. He recognized the woman as Frances Dicconson, a neighbor's wife. The woman offered him money to keep quiet about the incident, but he turned it down. She then changed the accompanying boy into a horse and forced Robinson to ride the animal to a gathering of witches. The usual way for a witch to turn someone into a horse was to throw a magic halter over the head of the desired changeling. This would immediately transform the person into a horse, which the witch could then ride. If the person was quick enough, he could pull off the halter and throw it over the witch's head, in turn changing her into a horse.

Hobbyhorses were a part of many old Pagan rituals, some of them extant today. The hobbyhorse is a wooden or wickerwork frame, draped with cloth, carried by a man who stands inside it. It includes a simulated horse's head—which may even be an actual horse's skull—and a tail. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, it "is a fertility animal disguise that appears at a change of season. . . . To stimulate renewal of life it chases women and brings `luck' (i.e., fertility) to the houses it visits in exchange for food or money." There are hobbyhorses found all over Europe. In England, the best known are the "Old Hoss" at Padstow, Cornwall, which participates in the May Day revels, and the Minehead horse in Somerset, which is "ridden" by a man in a tall pointed hat who wears a metal mask. Some Morris Dancers' sides feature a hobbyhorse. Many early ecclesiastical prohibitions mention the hobbyhorse specifically, due to its Pagan connections.

References in classic literature ?
The maddened horse gained twenty toises, and came up within pistol-shot of Fouquet.
the white horse will perhaps grow weaker, and if the horse does not fall, the master must pull up at last.
Pasture, of course there is none; if cattle or horses once enter the bed, they are for the time completely lost.
A troop of wild young horses is driven into the corral, or large enclosure of stakes, and the door is shut.
The last of the Horse Guards, a huge pockmarked fellow, frowned angrily on seeing Rostov before him, with whom he would inevitably collide.
They glided from tree to tree till they arrived at twenty steps from the house unperceived and saw by means of a lantern suspended under a hut, four fine horses.
Then the servants heaped a lot of rugs upon the floor and the old horse slept on the softest bed he had ever known in his life.
Each family then drives its horses to some eligible spot, where they are left to graze unattended.
The master said that `if horses had been used to them, it might be dangerous in some cases to leave them off'; and John said he thought it would be a good thing if all colts were broken in without blinkers, as was the case in some foreign countries.
But Vasili Andreevich did not answer and touched up the horse.
And so the poor old horse had plenty to eat, and lived--till he died.
His horse was drifting up the street in the most mysterious manner--side first, with his head towards one side of the way, and his tail towards the other.