Design a site like this with
Get started

Water Horses and Magical Mares

Venerated since antiquity, the horse long played an important role in the popular religious and secular traditions of Brittany. The beast was more than a mere symbol of power and prestige or a useful descriptor for the state of the ocean waves; it was an integral part of the farming unit and the object of unique rites, superstitions and enchantments. Many of the region’s legends associate the horse with water and death; just like the notorious water horses found elsewhere in the folklore of the Celtic fringe.

Regular readers will know that I am wary of making sweeping generalisations regarding early Celtic beliefs. However, it is fair to say that the Celts likely esteemed the horse a powerful and perhaps sacred animal. The Gallo-Roman god of horses, Epona, is believed to have been a Celtic god before becoming established in the pantheon of the Roman world as the patron goddess invoked for the care of horses as well as a protector of stables and cavalry. Some of the extant iconography and surviving dedications suggest that Epona was also considered a fertility goddess.

Epona - Horse Goddess - water horse - celtic

The horse as symbol of fertility, sexual vitality and power was noted as a prominent part in the coronation ritual of the Celtic kings of Donegal; a 12th century account relates that the king-elect coupled with a white mare in the presence of his people before bathing in a tub in which the sacrificed horse was boiled piecemeal. The king and his people ate the horse’s flesh but the king alone drank the broth in which he bathed. If this was indeed a genuine ritual; it was one rich in the symbolism of power.

However, we do not need to go as far back as the 12th century to appreciate the primeval power once associated with the horse. In 19th century Brittany, the most powerful talisman said to bring good fortune upon the household was the afterbirth of a horse, that of a white mare was held to be the most potent. Taken as soon after the birth of a foal as possible, the afterbirth needed to be placed around the base of the hawthorn tree nearest to the house to be most effective. Similarly, drinking from a bucket of water after a horse had drunk from it was thought to fight off a fever, while the milk of a white mare was considered a most effective remedy against whooping cough

Irish kingship ritual - horse Topographia_Hibernica BL_Royal_MS_13_B_VIII
© British Library Royal_MS_13_B_VIII

The horse was not only of itself a symbol of power but of wealth; the animal required attention, training and feed as well as a plethora of specialist equipment if it was to be utilised for warfare, personal transportation or even as a draft animal. Archaeological evidence suggests that horses were once revered enough to be the objects of sacrifice and worthy of quite elaborate burial rituals. Such reverence even included eating the animal’s flesh. A practice attested by the fact that several Popes in the 8th century instructed the bishops to ensure that their congregations in this part of Europe refrained from eating horses, jays, crows and hares – all then ritually eaten meats.

With ancient historical roots, the special affinity felt towards the horse in Brittany flourished during a time when the horse was a key part of the family and farm; an aid to labour, a means of transportation and a source of pride. Up until the Second World War, the horse was closely associated with all important life events and popular gatherings, such as weddings and funerals, church services and pardons, fairs and harvests. The horse markets of central Brittany always drew thousands of men from across the region and were an important rite of passage for boys keen to understand what made for a good horse and to learn from the horsemanship of others.

Trotting Horse_Bonheur - water horse - celtic

Similarly, the well-attended sacred celebrations known as pardons were always surrounded with secular elements such as ball games and horse races. Many pardons were specifically noted for the blessing of horses, such as at Gourin, Saint Nicolas-du-Pelem, Saint-Péver, Paule, Plaine-Haute and Plouyé: all in central Brittany. Other notable pardons for horses were held in Quistinic, Saint-Eloi, Goudelin, Plérin and Plouarzel. Each of these pardons possessed its own rituals that needed to be followed to ensure good health for the animal over the year ahead.

In some, the horse was led around the church or fountain three times before being forced to kneel before a statue of the saint being invoked; a horseshoe or length of tail being presented as an offering to the saint. In others, the horses were sprinkled with blessed water from the saint’s fountain or ridden through some deep pond fed by its waters. Sometimes, such as in Saint Nicolas-du-Pelem, water was rubbed into the horse’s ear or over its genitalia such as at Plérin. In Plouyé, the horses would be mated after receiving holy water; the mare being struck with a stick immediately afterwards.

Blessing the horses Brittany  - water horse - celtic

Another ritual horse bath was practiced in Pouldreuzic on Brittany’s west coast on the feast of Marymas (8 September), when hundreds of horses from the surrounding parishes were ridden into the sea in an annual ritual that was believed to bring them as much health as a priest’s blessing. Many have speculated that these water rituals are the remnants of ancient fertility rites that simply refused to die-away completely after the establishment of Christianity in the peninsula. It is worth noting that several examples of the ritual sea-bathing of horses at harvest-time were once recorded in other parts of the Celtic fringe.

The arrival of Christianity steadily transformed the ancient devotions by subsuming many into the cult of saints. Thus, it is not surprising that many Breton saints are closely associated with the horse. Chief amongst these are Saint Eloi who was most often invoked against diseases and at the birth of a foal and Saint Gildas who was called upon for strength and fertility. Other saints, such as Hervé, Herbot, Korneli and Nicodème were also petitioned by farmers anxious for the health of their horses. Those who relied on their mounts in the heat of battle solicited the support of Saint Solomon III; a ninth century king of Brittany considered a protector of horsemen thanks to his military prowess, or Saint Théleau whose legend claimed that if this stag-riding saint was invoked by horsemen before launching a charge, they were accorded the privilege of being seven times stronger than their adversaries.

Horses and Stable Breton farmer -  water horse - celtic

The loss of a horse amounted to a tragedy for a humble farmer but before the advent of professional veterinarians there were few ways to guard against it. Under these circumstances it is little wonder that yesterday’s Bretons called upon the power of the saints to protect their horses and to strengthen the effectiveness of these devotions with complementary practices like witchcraft. For many, there was no contradiction in the simultaneous use of the parish priest and the local witch; both invoked God and His saints, used the sign of the cross and attached certain numbers such as three, seven or nine, a special value. The witch or sorcerer was regularly consulted to heal sick animals or preserve them from harm; an ailing horse might have been the victim of a curse and so the witch would be called upon to cast the appropriate spells of disenchantment or to cast a malicious spell against the horse of a rival.

Witches were believed to possess the ability to control animals and it was thought they could revive a sick horse but also weaken it by transferring the animal’s power onto themselves. Sometimes, spells were cast through words and movements alone while other times saw enchantments placed in earthenware vases concealed in the ground near the stable or by the gateway to a field. The use of a clay or wooden effigy known as a dagyde was also popularly used; the effigy of the horse being pierced with nails in order to weaken the animal. It was also possible for an experienced spellcaster to rebound a spell by burning certain pieces of a horse suspected of having died due to witchcraft.

Pale Horse Brittany  - water horse - celtic

The health of the horse was also subject to a great deal of superstitious beliefs and practices. For instance, it was once believed that when horses were afflicted with colic, the only effective remedy was to have them change parishes. Warts were thought cured by a ritual that involved blowing on the affected area while making the sign of the cross and reciting certain charms. The sign of the cross was also used in the cure for sprains in horses but most healing remedies called for plant-based infusions and ointments such as that of Hawthorn to cure lameness.

To treat horses suffering from ulcers and tumours, a white cloth soaked in the water taken from a sacred spring was applied. If this treatment was unsuccessful, a mixture of saltpetre and water was smeared on as a lotion; very serious cases were doused with a tincture of Wolf’s-bane root that had been macerated in cow urine. A horse that had become overfed was treated with a drink made up of a handful of salt dissolved in human urine, while a drink made from boiled Boxwood bark was given to treat rheumatism.

In Brittany, the toad was frequently associated with the evil spells cast to injure livestock and in the west of the region one was often nailed to the stable door to ward-off evil, so it is interesting to note that some 18th century authorities recommended purging a horse by using toad venom to induce diarrhoea. In another remedy, horses suffering from worms might be cured if an excreted worm was pierced with a Hawthorn twig; all other worms infecting the horse would immediately die.

Horse skeleton -  water horse - celtic

Local superstition once attached some curious weaknesses to the powerful horse. It was said that if a horse ate a spider, it would die; a similar fate could be expected if it met the gaze of a fire salamander. If the foot of a mole was wrapped in a Laurel leaf and put into a horse’s mouth, it was said to immediately take fright. Moles were sometimes held to have once been fairies or princesses who had rejected the early evangelists and perhaps this helps explain the belief that if a black horse was washed with the water in which a mole had been boiled, the beast would immediately turn white.

Brittany has a number of, mostly malevolent, supernatural horses; the majority of whom were described as white. Around the Grand-Lieu lake in eastern Brittany tradition tells of a marvellous white steed known locally as the Mallet Horse. Only appearing after sunset, the horse appears perfectly bridled and saddled; a perfect lure for the exhausted and unwary traveller. Once mounted, the horse is said to gallop with the ferocity of a whirlwind; a ride that always ends with the death of the rider and leaving little trace save some torn clothing or scraps of bones.

The only way to avoid such a fate at the feet of the mallet horse was to travel prepared. Several countermeasures were once advised: six coins marked with a cross thrown across its path was said to stop it, as was making the sign of the cross and throwing holy water but the most effective protection was thought achieved by possession of a medal of Saint Benedict, popularly known as the Sorcerer’s Cross.

Sorcerer's Cross -  water horse - celtic

More commonly noted in the north and east of the region, is the Mourioche; a malicious spirit able to transform itself into any animal form but most often noted in the guise of a horse, particularly a yearling colt with muscular arms. The horse appears at night, waiting at a crossroads for the unwary traveller, its spine stretching to accommodate as many people as necessary. It took those foolish enough to mount it, straight to their doom; propelling them into a river or an abyss. At other times, it wrestles passers-by, grappling them with its strong arms and throwing them into water-filled ditches.

Like other creatures of the night, it was traditionally advised never to speak to the mourioche lest it mistreat you cruelly and drown you in a river. The beast’s only weakness is that it is confounded by anyone who does not show it fear. One story tells that it took a tailor into a lake but when the tailor threatened to cut its ears off, the horse immediately returned him to the safety of dry ground.

Mourioche - ghost horse -  water horse - celtic

Many legends tell of the painful pranks of the mourioche and the lives devastated by it. Near the northern town of Saint-Cast, a farmer once found the mourioche in the form of a lost sheep and took it home to his barn. The next day, when he went to check on his new sheep, he found instead a cow; the day after, it had become a horse. On the fourth day, it was a sheep again but this time it laughed and said: “Why do you check on me every morning? You are a strange one!” It was then that the farmer saw that all his animals had been slaughtered; he reached for his gun but the beast fled, destroying half the barn and taking with it the farmer’s three children.

During the nights of the new moon, it was said to follow people along the road, changing shape every time they turned to look at it, before jumping on a man’s back until he collapsed from exhaustion. However, one of the cruellest tricks the mourioche would play was to possess the body of a recently deceased relative to scream insults at the grieving family and chase the children present at the wake.

Legends differ regarding the origins of the mourioche. Some tell that it was once a person, versed in the dark arts, who sold their soul for a magical potion; others that it was a man afflicted by a curse similar to that of the werewolves, having the ability to change shapes but without control of his actions. There are even those who claim that it is the Devil himself.

Marc'h Melen - Fantastic Horse Breton lore -  water horse - celtic

Other horrible horses can be found across the region; in western Brittany, a stallion known as Marc’h Melen encouraged passers-by to mount him before trying to kill them. Around Carnac in southern Brittany, the Kole Porzh-an-Dro was a mischievous shapeshifter that mostly appeared in the form of a bull but it sometimes took the form of a horse; if anyone had the imprudence to climb on its back, it galloped towards the sea and once amongst the waves, vanished from under the legs of its rider. The same region also carries tales of a protean spirit known as the Gwrifer who often assumed the appearance of a horse to make mischief. Another notorious shapeshifter of Breton legend, the Bugul-noz was also said to occasionally assume the appearance of a horse but, like the White Mare of La Bruz, was more mischievous than malevolent; depositing those imprudent enough to ride it into the water.

Eastern Brittany was also the location of the Beast of Brielles who often appeared as a horse that terrorised travellers by blocking bridges or biting people, leaving behind only broken bones. Just 40km (25 miles) south lie the forests once ravaged by the monstrous Beast of Béré often described as indescribable, the creature was sometimes reported to have taken the form of a horse. Of immense size and strength, the beast was said to be immortal although, thankfully, no sightings have been reported this century. Further south, in Saint-Malo-de Guersac, a sorcerer was once said to terrorise children playing near the seashore by appearing to them in the form of a horse.

Supernatural Horses Brittany -  water horse - celtic

Predominantly, the supernatural horses of Brittany were most closely associated with water; some being highly localised. Near the village of Plouguenast, a horse was said to show itself to the local children before gently stooping down so that four or five might find a place on its back. Fully loaded, the horse sped off to drown all the children in the nearby ponds and rivers. Just 25km (15 miles) north, around the Bay of Saint-Brieuc, a local legend tells of horses that see the sea suddenly compelled to rush to the shore before disappearing into the waves, never to return. A little further along the coast, markings on rocks near Trestel beach were traditionally said to have been made by the Devil’s horse.

Around Gourin in central Brittany, the country folk once spoke of lands that seemed impossible to enter on certain evenings. The farmer, driving his cart, saw his horse rear-up and refuse to move forward as if it were presented with some fearful obstacle. The only thing that could be distinguished was the sound of galloping hooves turning in a great circle. The wise man did not force his horse to cross this magical ring but unhitched his beast and allowed it the shelter of a tree. After cockcrow, the path became free of all enchantments.

Local legend tells that no one has ever seen the shadow horse except an old beggar, a graceful man who shared his bread with those poorer than himself. One night he knocked on the door of a house in the village of Tréogan, eyes wild with fear he cried: “I have seen the shadow horse pass. It circled around the village ridden by a dead man.” The people of the house ushered him into their barn but found him dead the next morning.

Breton horses and water -  water horse - celtic

On the highest point of the road between Gourin and Spézet is a place that carried a sinister reputation right up until the First World War; horse dealers and farmers avoided the spot believing their horses saw things invisible to men’s eyes that caused them to bolt in fear. Not surprisingly, the behaviour of the horses was put down to a spell cast by the mischievous korrigans eager to see the horses race.

Some legends accentuate the close links between the little folk of Brittany and the horse. In the south west of the region, a korrigan-like creature known as the Fersé was believed to manifest itself as a colt or stallion demanding the bridle that had been taken from him. In the 19th century, it was widely believed that korrigans visited lonely stables at night in order to care for the horses there. They were also accused of taking the horses and making them gallop on the moors at night; how else to explain the lethargic or sweating horse found in the morning? Further proof of their mischief were the twisted hairs found in the manes which were said to have been plaited to form little reins and stirrups. Interestingly, mares with such “fairy knots” were once reputed to become good breeders.

Gauguin - White Horse -  water horse - celtic

Another group of Breton legends tell of characters that ride horses to whom they have given the power to walk on the waves. The people of Clohars-Carnoët said that Saint Maudez used to visit the chapel dedicated to him there by riding his white horse across the sea. A little further along the coast, it was said that when Saint Gildas was fighting a dragon, he commanded his white horse to leap to the island of Houat some 13km (8 miles) away. Such gifts were not reserved for the saintly as a sorcerer from La Tranche-sur-Mer, after picking some moss at the gate of the cemetery at midnight, was carried off on a white horse to the isle of Ré, 11km (7 miles) away, travelling so fast his mount barely skimmed the waves. In a modern re-telling of the legend of the sunken city of Ker-Is, the horse used by King Gradlon as he flees his damned city is named Morvac’h (horse of the sea).

Water sources and their associated deities were once venerated by the people of Brittany and it is therefore unsurprising that such mystical places were also associated with fantastic horses. In one legend, horses turn into fountains when a sorcerer’s daughter runs away with her lover. A spring near Cléden was said to be haunted by a spectral black dog, a fairly universal symbol of infernal powers, but tradition also held that a white foal also galloped thereabouts. Another ghostly horse was reported to roam the Roz-Vein moor where the sound of spectral children crying was also heard.

Phantom Horses France -  water horse - celtic

On stormy nights, frightful whinnies ascribed to the horse of Saint Roux are heard emanating from a fountain in the forest of Rennes. In Boqueho, local lore attests that, on certain moonlit night, horses come to drink in the stream near the menhir of Kergoff; their noise can be clearly heard but they are never seen. Another popular tradition, recorded around the Black Mountains towards the end of the 19th century, spoke of the ghost of the notorious 18th century bandit, Marion du Faouët, who prowled the area on stormy nights; nothing could be seen, only the sound of her galloping horse whose hooves, striking the ground, left a trace of blood.

The horse as guardian features in a legend of Duchess Anne, the last ruler of an independent Brittany. It tells that she escaped the aftermath of the battle of Saint-Aubin-du-Cormier in 1488 by having herself sewn into the body of a disembowelled horse which was carried on a dray through the ranks of the English forces hunting her. Symbolism aside, this legend is noteworthy because the 11 year old Anne was not at the battle and the English troops present fought on the side of Brittany against France.

Gwrac'h de l'île du lok -  water horse - celtic

In many of Brittany’s most popular old tales, the horse generally plays the role of the magical protector such as in Trégont-à-Baris where a magnificent white mare, capable of flight and covering a thousand miles in a day, counsels the hero during his quest. A similarly wise horse leads the hero through a series of adventures in Les Quatorze Juments, capturing the most powerful horse in the world along the way. In N’Oun Doare the hero is guided by a horse capable of travelling five hundred leagues in the instant a knot on its halter is loosened; the horse is eventually revealed to be a Tartar princess. In the Gwrac’h de l’île du lok, the heroine uses a magic wand and an incantation to summon a chestnut bidet (a Breton horse now extinct) that she uses to cross the sea to save her imprisoned lover from an evil witch. While L’Homme-Cheval tells of a nobleman cursed by a fairy to live as a horse until his marriage to a miller’s daughter; another version of the tale tells of a man born with the head of a colt.

Although most of the old ballads and stories that feature singular horses link them closely to water, there are also testimonies of diabolical horses and symbolic associations between the animal and death. One tale tells of a drunken blasphemer who invoked the Devil in jest only to sees the Devil’s horse with its red mane hanging down to the ground appear. Another tells of the Devil collecting souls while riding a horse that had, in life, previously been a woman. The cart of the Ankou, the Breton personification of death, was said to have been drawn by pale white horses that walked in step like those pulling a hearse. In times gone by, observing the behaviour of the horses that pulled a hearse supposedly allowed one to identify who, in life, had been a secret sorcerer; the horses being unable to move the hearse or else start running amok.

Devil's Horse -  water horse - celtic

We now live at a time when the horse has virtually disappeared from daily life but the old legends continue to be told and new stories written that will captivate the next generation. Interest in the horse has not waned here and its place in Breton culture remains steadfast.


Published by Bon Repos Gites

Enjoying life in Kalon Breizh - the Heart of Brittany.

184 thoughts on “Water Horses and Magical Mares

    1. It is great that your sister still retains her love of horses. Riding lessons are likely the only real connection that townsfolk now make with horses and it is good to see such schools going strong! Well, the ones around here are! 🙂

      Liked by 4 people

  1. Horses are such gorgeous creatures. It is very sad that there are so few now. I remember seeing films of the wild horses of the Camargue and there are still a few wild horses, here and there. I hope that they remain so. I am not surprised there are so many legends. When I read all your stories of Brittany, I wonder if one needed to have a book of reference just for getting through daily life! Once again, brilliant. Thank you.

    Liked by 9 people

    1. Agreed, they are quite magnificent and it is quite easy to see how they would have fascinated our ancestors. Yes, let us hope that the few pockets of wild horses get the protection they deserve and are allowed to thrive. The Breton bidet (a horse) I was disappointed to learn only died out a century ago! We can’t allow such to happen elsewhere!
      Many thanks, I am glad that you enjoyed this one! 🙂 Haha, yes although I suspect that it would all be second nature as your family and friends would be telling you all you needed to know as you grew-up. 😉

      Liked by 2 people

    1. No, I would not like to come across those beasts in daylight let alone on a country track in the middle of the night!!
      I suppose folk needed some way of explaining the disappearance and unexplained deaths of travellers. What better than a wild and wicked horse!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Fascinating reading, the story of Duchess Ann reminds me of Childe, Lord of the manor of Plymstock, caught in a blizzard on Dartmoor he killed his horse, climbed inside the body to keep warm for the night but sadly it didn’t work for him.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. Many thanks!! I am glad you liked it! I was not familiar with the tale of Childe but now that you mention it, it does ring a bell or maybe I have seen something similar in a movie? I shall have to dredge my memory haha 😉

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Fascinating, especially reading about horses-spirits, and horses symbolising fertility and power. While reading your post, I could not help thinking about “The Hunchbacked Horse”, a fairy-tale I read and watched as a child. It was written by Yershov, but the character is part of the Slavic folklore. This is a horse having magical abilities, and in Lermontov’s “A Hero of Our Time”, horses are also status symbols. Stealing the best horse from one clan is almost tantamount to winning a war.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. Thank you! I am pleased that you enjoyed the read!! 🙂 I have not heard of either of these tales you mention but shall make a point to rectify that very soon indeed!! Thanks for the heads-up as I am always keen to learn more! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow!! loved this..From magical protector, to evil people saw, venerated and feared the magical horse is amazing.. I love horses..Growing up, they were my sense of pride, my transportation and my first love. We still believe in the countryside of Costa Rica, where I grew up, that horses were periodically ridden by witches on certain nights..You could hear them galloping in the pastures and in the morning, their manes were braided, perfectly braided(I saw this) Supposedly the witches did that to use them as reins when the jumped on them bareback:) Enjoyed your whole post and as always, your illustrations so much Collin!!

    Liked by 7 people

    1. Thank you!!!! I am very happy that you enjoyed this! Horses certainly exuded the power to be almost all things to all folk! 😉

      Ha, yes, your witches riding the horses at night is very similar isn’t it? And also not soo very long ago 😉 Even if one did not believe in witches or korrigans it is such a great magical bit of lore that I can see it still being said for years to come! 🙂 Hope you are fully recovered now! Keep well!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Great post. It made me think how during pioneer times in the US far west, one could get hanged for stealing a horse. Or how the many Aztecs upon seeing the first horseman believed that man and beast were one.

    Liked by 7 people

  6. The horse is no longer a part of my life in my American urban living spaces. In colonial British Guiana, my birthplace, the horse “was not only of itself a symbol of power but of wealth.” The mounted police brigade was present at all of our social and political celebrations/commemorations.

    Liked by 7 people

    1. Isn’t it remarkable that in just a few generations we have gone from cities full of horses and manure, to cities full of cars and pollutants and those likely replaced with electric cars within the next generation!
      I can understand why many police forces retain a horse squadron – far more imposing than a mini-van!! 😉

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Amazing that people imbued horses with both good and bad traits. I guess horses have long symbolized mysticism from Pegasus to Bucephalus to Silver and Trigger in American westerns. Horses hold a fascination for many, including my sister who got her first horse at the age of 11. Thanks for sharing. Allan

    Liked by 6 people

    1. You are very welcome!! 🙂
      Exactly so and as I am sure your sister told you – when a human stands next to a horse, they cannot but feel humbled that such raw power is controllable by one so slight! 😉

      Liked by 2 people

    1. I am very pleased that you found it interesting! Thank you! 🙂 Ha, yes, they are aren’t they?
      Perhaps I should google it but do you have any wild horses in your part of the world? It would be wonderful to think that the farm horses who had escaped had bred and managed to survive and thrive!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. On the sheep station where I grew up there were brumbies (wild horses) and there are many that roam free in the mountains in NSW too. A wonderful poem “The Man from Snowy River” which I cannot read without getting choked up was about a young man mustering wild brumbies. It was made into a great movie that you could watch too.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. That sounds wonderful!! I believe that there is only one horse in the fields around and about me here. All tractors and quad-bikes now! 😦
      Thanks for taking the time to read this and I am pleased you liked it! Keep well! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  8. A wonderfully entertaining and interesting narrative Colin. Horses are considered one in the most beautiful animals ( or maybe it’s just me). So regal and elegant. The ancient beliefs held about the horse surely has to do with their mysterious nature compared to other farm ( or wild) creatures and as you point out the additional care and expense required to maintain horses. Enjoyed this thoroughly! Have a wonderful evening 😊

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Many thanks Holly!! You are right, horses do posses a quiet majesty that, say, the ox does not. I can quite see how our ancient ancestors might have been in awe of them. Imagine how they must have felt having tamed one!!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Agreed. I think that would have to be in any list of humanity’s pivotal moments! You’re right, they have certainly served us well – it is a source of shame that we have not always returned the favour!!

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Another outstanding post with so much information, history, and images about these beautiful animals and the lore surrounding them!
    Thank you so much for sharing the fascinating fruit of your valuable research

    Liked by 4 people

  10. Isn’t it interesting that when humans become depenedant on an animal- like horses or dogs these same animals that we care for, love, train somehow become ‘monsters’ too? Anyway, that was just a thought. I enjoyed this article VERY much!

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Haha, yes, that is an interesting point!! I wonder whether it was a case of familiarity breeding contempt or a massive amount of respect that said – these creatures are amazing and there is no way that we can totally tame them!?
      Many thanks Anita! I am pleased that you enjoyed the read!! 🙂 🙂 best wishes, Colin


    1. Thank you Diane! I am glad you found it of interest! I have often heard it said that horse’s can develop an affinity almost like a sixth sense about their owners! Maybe there is something in that?!


  11. I was surprised that there were legends of diabolical horses when most farmers would have worshipped them. They are such elegant animals as is your writing.
    My husband was treated to a tribal feast when working in Kazakhstan. All of the food was parts of the much revered horse. Thank goodness the local vodka was very strong… He came back from that management trip with a black eye. What happens in Almaty stays in Almaty.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, I suppose it was their raw power that was behind the early legends. Maybe they thought we have tamed this beast who, in an instant, could destroy us if it chose? Or maybe just the biggest and cleverest animal they could think of to scare kids away from riverbanks? 😉

      Haha, that made me laugh!! I have been to Almaty once, when it was still the capital. I can attest to the presence of many peculiar nocturnal creatures. Now, whether they bore horse meat, I do not know and shudder to think! 😉 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  12. Fascinating horse lore. Having been chased and bitten by a horse when I was 7, I am not terribly fond of them so I enjoyed this post all the more for the horses being on paper (as it were.) I particularly enjoyed the section about Duchess Anne being sewn into the body of a disembowled horse and can only imagine the smell. Well, we do what we have to in life to survive. I suppose she couldn’t have taken a page from Cleopatra and escaped in a rug instead. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  13. Oh no thank you, on eating horse and drinking any bath water 😝

    Oh their rituals lol

    That mourioche was very bad at wakes 😮 that would be horrifying

    I like the magical horse legends

    We have Mr. Ed ✌️ … and in Old Sacramento – once a year, they turn streets into what once was … and we have Horse draw carriages and everything ❤️ is awesome 👏 like you step back in time ❤️

    One of the funeral homes photos is from their turn of century horse drawn hearse – is the fanciest funeral home ❤️ very beautiful!

    And then there is a saying but – I don’t wanna say it lol ✌️

    But would explain why is fertility symbol also

    Very interesting way they think things

    But if is unknown – it’s left up to imagination to fill in blanks 😊

    They would probably think I was a witch – I don’t follow society and things. Plus that would be a lot for me to remember – I would forget a step … I would need a book or something

    Horses are beautiful and fun though – I love horseback riding ❤️

    I’m not typically around horses too much but here in country they little more prevalent – on farms and brought into town for festivities … also people ride them in town sometimes

    Not in city – just country lol

    In city it would be horse power – varroom varroom 🚘

    I would LOVE to have horse drawn hearse ❤️ 😮 that would be stunning ❤️

    Liked by 2 people

    1. No, bathing in horse soup is not for me too but then I would not want to mate with it either!
      You’re right some of the legends are illustrating a quite spiteful being. The appearance at the wake being rather terrible.
      Yes, I have often loved the imagery of a horse-drawn hearse and I would like to think that the horses would behave as I am no sorcerer haha 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have a beautiful picture of one from one of the funeral homes of a horse drawn hearse they had. I will post it later 😊✌️

        We use for their symbol – cause it classic and beautiful ❤️ we care for you for very long time 😘✌️

        Hahaha well I am no magical… oh wait I have that white wand – I could probably handle that lol 😉✌️

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Thanks! It looks great! You sometimes still see them here but I think only a few undertakers have them for very special (expensive?) occasions!
        Hope you can use that wand of yours to keep cool!! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Oh yes – I’m sure that would be a pretty penny!

        We do not have that at any of the locations. But if a family can pay for that and requests it – we will find one for them.

        The city locations have fancy Cadillac hearses

        This new one little older. But decent and still beautiful.

        Ha! If it had a fan with a water sprayer on it – maybe lol

        It must be technology based and glitching 🙄😘

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Yes, funny how times change! I think there is little more dignity in a horse-drawn carriage than having your ashes blasted over the sea but then funerals are for the living rather than the dead! 😉
        Hope that pesky want starts working again soon! ;-p

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Ahhh … yes. Funerals ARE for the living.

        But also some want their funerals a certain way so they plan ahead and lock in prices and then never have to worry someone cheap out on them lol ✌️

        I’ve seen some pretty devastating situations – so it can be smart

        And you would be surprised with what we able to do for you? What you want? You wanna be a diamond 💎 – I can make you a diamond lol ❤️

        We can do some pretty serious shit now!

        Also… I have seen some pretty beautiful amazing funerals – large and small – both ways

        I’m pretty sure I would like burial 🪦… but I go on the fence sometimes. I be dead yes, but I have hard time with the whole burning thing ✌️

        I used to want Egyptian burial as a child 😄😄 how funny is that lol … I loved their practices!

        But I dunno 🤷‍♀️ I see a lot so I dunno.

        I flip flop here! But I will have to have it solid shortly 😮 I gonna lock that shit up soon. I haven’t yet. Maybe for Christmas ❤️

        You buy a car in life, and a house and things… death is part of life – so why not plan that too.

        Yes is for the living lol

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Yes, that is true! Like you, I flip between “who cares” and a burial! But then I wonder am I just being silly wanting to stay in the cold ground in a small cemetery on a hill! Oh and the horses and the rain!! Yeah, it’s like some Gothic horror movie haha

        Liked by 1 person

      7. Well “final resting”
        🪦 – a place for people to visit, respect and maybe descendants come?

        If I am in urn? What they gonna do with me? And I just have problem being burnt for own self

        If they give me big enough discount, I would look at mausoleums lol ✌️

        I would totally do that!

        I would like overcast-ish day so people can have respects but not be so sunny ☀️ if I could choose that lol

        Mine would not be horror film. Mine would be comedy/tearjerker lol

        I would definitely want to give one last laugh 😘 before anyone cries for me – I also have soundtrack for it too lol ❤️✌️

        I am in the dark – but I am more sunny than I am dark lol ✌️😘

        I do have odd little sense of humor so lol 🙌 we see ❤️

        Liked by 1 person

      8. Hahaha well I just went and looked at price lol 😮 yikes

        One of my job “perks” is that I get massive discount if I die or write my preneed✌️ 75%! 😮

        So … I need to do that… write my preneed – not die lol … I do plan to live forever … but having back up plan because “life” lol ✌️

        Even with that discount I could not afford by myself unless I win lottery

        So if I win lottery – that’s happening.

        Otherwise I still thinking what I want 😊

        Liked by 1 person

      9. Well I won’t be in tornado of grief – but I DO want to make sure my kids do not have my burden. And also to make sure I Rest In Peace way I wish to.

        And yes – with that discount is smart to lock it in and be done with it – one less worry and will make death little less unknown.

        But yes… when in grief is like a fog. If is mapped out for you – it’s easier and family can grieve peacefully – not stressed, and no one has to worry about how to pay for it.

        You can pay over time, so that also helps. I just have to stay alive til I pay it off lol

        It be best for me to do that anyway 😊 I like to be prepared

        I know be someday and is part of my life/death. I don’t want to depend on anyone to know my wishes, so I write them. 😊😘

        Liked by 1 person

  14. Always such fascinating information from you! The last painting is so eerie but SO beautiful, btw.
    I find it interesting that in Brittany they accepted “witches” for who they were, apparently? Did they ever go through a persecution of them like other places, or were did they bypass that entirely?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you!! I am glad you enjoyed it!! 🙂
      Yes, witches were not really bothered by the community here unless their healing started to impinge on the doctors’ revenue and then one would get arrested and tried for practising medicine illegally or for fraud.
      The mass persecutions seen in Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries certainly affected some parts of France but made little impression in Brittany. There were a few high-profile trials in the cities near the old border with France but no mass witchhunts. One reason for this might be the influence of the Jesuits who launched a mission lasting almost a century here at that time – while they said that there were worshippers of the Devil here, they thought that re-education more likely to succeed than persecution. I can put-up a link if you want to read a bit more 😉

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Ah! I love the enlightened viewpoint in Brittany! Yes, please include a link when/if you get the time! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hehe ok – the first hopefully shows how/why folk saw no difficulties in alternating or even combining loyalties to priest and witch :

        This second one highlights how the witch-hunting mania of yesteryear did not really catch on here and how the Church viewed the area not so much as ungodly but uneducated :


        Liked by 2 people

    1. Many thanks! I am glad you enjoyed them! Funnily enough, there are many sources that claim that Breton legends contains headless horsemen and I wanted to include one here. Sadly, having trawled through scores of legends and old ballads, I could not find a single trace. So, unless I was amazingly unlucky, it’s another bit of fake-lore to add to the pile 😦
      The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is a wonderful example of the old type of supernatural story that I like! – thank you!

      Liked by 2 people

  15. What a fantastic read, thank you. I especially loved the fairy braids in the horses manes and returning them exhausted and sweaty.

    I wonder how long it will be that people in the countryside regret doing away with horse transportation and relying mostly on fossil fuels as a litre of petrol is now £1.89 and new battery cars are unaffordable. Mind you the price of electricity is going up by 80% too so we’ll all be walking or cycling perhaps. Too many people now to make room for the horses.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You are most welcome! Thank YOU for reading it – I am pleased that you enjoyed it! 🙂

      Yes, fuel prices are crazy – it is €1.98 for a litre of diesel here – a little cheaper if you drive to a big supermarket. Ha, yes, a return to horse-drawn transportation would be strange wouldn’t it? Not only for the road space but also the areas we would need to set aside to grow fodder and then we would need to re-train a whole bunch of carters, farriers, grooms etc! Hopefully, electric or hydrogen-powered cars will start dropping in price soon!

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much!! I am very happy to learn of your love of horses and am really glad that you enjoyed these stories of them!!
      Stay well and hope you settle back into things without missing your holiday too much! 😉 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I am very pleased that you liked it and appreciate you saying so!! 🙂 As to how I choose a subject, well, I have a list of sorts 😉 The idea was to follow it but sometimes I get sidetracked and decide to write about something else. I wrote this one because I realised while writing other posts that the horse seemed present – even if in the background – in many old tales, so, clearly was once an important symbol. Thus, I thought it deserved a post of its own. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  16. You never disappoint! I was excited to read this one because I love horses. I hate to admit it but they do seem magical and like there is something more to them than meets the eye. Now I don’t think a woman can become or has any evil intent.
    Fascinating about the story of the horse talking to the owner. Reminded of Mr. Ed!

    Another great one my friend.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I am very pleased that you enjoyed it!! Yes, I know exactly what you mean! Somehow, horses really do exude some special quality, so, I can quite easily see why our ancestors ascribed magical qualities to them! 🙂
      I have just looked-up Mr Ed!! 😉 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Can definitely see some similarities to the Scottish Kelpie and Each Uisce. In the seaside town of Whitby, legend has it that any sailors born on the land have their souls taken from the church yard by a phantom coach pulled by four headless horses; taken down to the sea to join the other sailors who died out their for judgement day.

    Even though it’s thought to be a story to stop children looking outside at night and witness any smuggling activities, I do find it interesting that there is a connection with the sea and horses….. possibly the echoes of previous beliefs, most probably something inspired by talking with other sailors from the Celtic Fringe- especially as the North Sea has trade routes with Scotland!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That is a legend that I had not heard before, so, thank you for sharing that!! Agreed, it does have that “watch the wall, my darling” feel to it but it is interesting to wonder where the inspiration came from!!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re very welcome, although I’m of the thinking that sea-folk have their own ways and associations that those of us “land lubber” can only guess at. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: