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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 ?
Bond, the farrier, came to look at the black horse that lay groaning on the grass, he felt him all over, and shook his head; one of his legs was broken.
How's a horse to keep his condition if he isn't allowed to sleep.
They made a halt for an hour to refresh their horses.
I should have liked to have made you the offer of these horses.
Because these horses are not to be sold," was the reply.
In an encampment, however, of such fancied security as that in which Captain Bonneville found his Indian friends, much of these precautions with respect to their horses are omitted.
So saying he turned the horses back through the thick of the battle, and with a cry that rent the air the Trojans and Hector rained their darts after them.
Among the parties which arrived was one that had been among the Snake nation stealing horses, and returned crowned with success.
Oh, but," thought D'Artagnan, becoming very anxious, "that is not a common horse M.
Rostov stopped his horse for a moment on a hillock to see what was going on, but strain his attention as he would he could not understand or make out anything of what was happening: there in the smoke men of some sort were moving about, in front and behind moved lines of troops; but why, whither, and who they were, it was impossible to make out.
After all his running down, Bambridge let it out in the course of the evening, when the farmer was absent, that he had seen worse horses go for eighty pounds.
First they brought him a steaming bowl of soup, which the horse eyed in dismay.