By: Aisling Bronach of House Shadow Drake
Published in Traditions Magazine, Samhain 2004 Issue
Fairy horses are known throughout the British
Isles and Ireland by many names such as the Irish phooka, Manx glastyn,
and Scottish kelpie. These beings are fairy shape-shifters imbued with
the ability to take on both a human and equine countenance. Even when
within the guise of an animal they possess full command of the human
language and can therefore speak.
In such popular stories like that of Tam Lin or of Niamh and Oisín, the
fairy steed is depicted as a means of conveyance between the world of
mortals and that of the otherworld. The otherworld is a spiritual realm
that remains just outside of the known world and lurks hidden within
the mists, just beyond the shadows, beneath the water, or amongst the
clouds – beyond the boundaries of the human touch.
If we examine the places that are held to be the sacred homes of the
fairy horses of the British Isles and Ireland, we find them at home in
the traditional gateways to the otherworld: the high places on the
mountains, the lakes and waterways, the seas, and beneath the earth
Perhaps these fairy steeds are all that remains of a pre-Christian equestrian cult…..
Sometimes these fairy horses remain as spirits of a place and are
connected to the watery realms such as the Scottish kelpie and the each
uisgé. In lowlands of Scotland, the river spirit known as the kelpie
appeared in a variety of shapes. The most common was in the form of a
horse, and lived in running water. In contrast, the highlands of
Scotland referred to the water-horse as the each uisgé. The each uisgé
was in most ways similar to the kelpie but its home was made within the
lochs and the sea.
The kelpie is usually depicted as a black horse with staring eyes,
however, sometimes the coat is said to be white. A more fanciful
description from Aberdeen describes the kelpie as having a mane formed
of small fiery serpents that curl through each other and spit fire and
brimstone. The Eastern areas of Scotland depicts the kelpie as having
golden hair and there are even ballads and songs that are sung about
the golden-haired ones moving through the water and seaweed.
The kelpie haunted the fords of swollen stream and would lure any
unwary traveler to their doom. When a traveler came to the river at
night he would see only a horse, and if he were so unlucky as to
attempt to mount the creature the creature would kill its rider. The
cabyll ushtey is a Manx and Scottish name for the water-horse fairy.
Like the kelpie, it appears as a pale gray horse and will rush its
rider into the water killing them and then eating their bloodied
Deep pools in the river were believed to be inhabited by the kelpie as
a guardian spirit. It is said that a kelpie haunts the Loch Ness in
Scotland. The fairy appears in the woods as a finely decked horse and
would rush its victim into Loch-na-Dorb, Loch Spynie, or Loch Ness, and
devour them. One similar kelpie was said to have been previously
banished by St. Columba from the River Ness.
The each uisgé appears as a hideous shaggy young horse and was said to
eat humans, cattle, and sheep. Their eating practices were somewhat
gory and involved tearing the body to shreds and devouring all but the
liver which was left untouched and whole. Even the skin of the each
uisgé would cause human hands to become adhered to its surface allowing
the animal to carry the unwilling victim to a watery grave. The smell
of freshly cooked meat could entice the beast from the water, and it
could be killed but all that remains would be a starshine, a jelly-like
substance that is said to be made from the stars themselves, or a
puddle of water.
Although the kelpie is a water spirit, its home is in living water. The
kelpie is unable to go across stagnant or unmoving water. If needed,
all a traveler must do to escape the clutches of the kelpie is to find
and cross over a puddle or other form of stationary water.
Both the kelpie and the each uisgé are shape-shifters that are said to
possess the ability to assume human form and countenance. In human
form, the kelpie is able to have sexual intercourse with a woman.
Sometimes the identity of a kelpie can only be uncovered by the woman
if they discovery a piece of water-weed, or rush, in the kelpie's hair
that would give away their disguise.
There is a story about a young servant girl who allowed a man to put
his head upon her lap while she went to comb his hair. She found a
little bit of liobhagach an loch, which is a slimy green weed found in
the water, in his hair. She worked until the man fell asleep in her
lap, and then used her apron to gently lay his head upon the earth and
then ran away. When she looked back, she could see him chasing after
her in the guise of a horse.
However, in Loch Garve, Scotland, there was a kelpie who had a human
wife. He was quite loving and as most kelpies enjoyed the cold. He ate
cold fish and lived in an icy lake. After his wife complained about
their living situation and her discomfort, he made a bargain with a man
to build a hearth for his wife. She was henceforth very happy from that
point forward as she was able to cook her meat and heat their home.
Like many of the shape-shifting fairies who marry mortals, the kelpie
is known to be capable of love.
The kelpie is not always male, and may also take the form of a human
woman. In this instance, the kelpie is often referred to as a water
wraith and is most often seen clothed in a green dress with a hostile
disposition. In some folklore, the kelpie will even take the form of a
great bird. The kelpie is also associated with the storm and it is said
that it the sound of its wailing can be heard on the winds of the
approaching tempest. Even the tail of the kelpie sounds of thunder as
it is submerged beneath the water. In some folklore, the kelpie is said
to be able to transform into a will o’ wisp and float along the bogs
and also to disappear in a brilliant flash of light when he dives into
the water. It is even possible given these descriptions that the kelpie
might even be a manifestation of the elements of a storm.
Another name for the fairy water-horse on the Isle of Man is the
glashtyn. The glashtyn is described as a goblin that often rises out of
the water and is similar in nature to the Manx brownie. Like the
kelpie, the glashtyn appears as a horse: specifically, a gray colt. It
is often seen on the banks of lakes and appears only at night.
There is also an Irish fairy known as the phooka, pouca, or puca, this
is very similar to the Welsh pwca. The Irish phooka derives its name
from ‘poc’ and refers to a male goat. It has also been speculated that
the name might also possess Scandinavian origins and refer to ‘pook’
meaning a nature spirit. This second origin would be congruent with the
use of the term phooka as it is sometimes used within Ireland as a
general reference to all fairies.
As a shape-shifter, the phooka is able to take on a variety of animal
forms including that of a goat, a horse, an ass, a bull, and an eagle.
In Co. Waterford and Co. Wexford, for example, the phooka appears as an
eagle with a huge wingspan.
The phooka has been described as a beautiful and sleek horse, dark and
wild in countenance, with a long mane and sulphurous yellow eyes. The
beast roams across the countryside at night wrecking havoc and mayhem.
If it rains and the sun is shining brightly, it is considered a sign
that the phooka will come out that night. Of course, it is not all that
unusual for the sun to be shining while it rains in Ireland so it must
be assumed that the phooka is out almost every night!
The phooka is said to tear down fences and gates, tramples and ruins
crops, and frightens the farm animals to the point where the chickens
will not lay eggs and the cows will not give milk. But, this is not all
without good reason. The phooka is mischievous and will call out
the name of those it wants to ride with him. If refused, the phooka
will revenge itself by damaging the landowner’s property.
Contrary to popular belief, the phooka was not always malevolent. In
times when the old traditions were still upheld by the people, the
phooka was venerated for his wisdom. The day that was held as being
most sacred to the phooka was the first of November. Mountains, hills,
and other high places – these were the sacred places where the phooka
could be found and rituals were performed in his honor.
The Púca na Samhna emerges from Croagh Patrick in Co. Mayo at
Samhain and will speak to people of the coming year and foretells the
events that might befall them during that time. In past times, gifts
were left for the phooka at the mountain. But, this tradition has
ceased due to the rise in Catholicism and the presence of the clergy.
In the case of the story of the piper and the phooka from the “Leabhar
Sgeulaigheachta,” the phooka conveyed the piper to the sidhe mound at
Croagh Patrick and back again without causing him any harm.
In Co. Roscommon the phooka is said to appear as a black goat with
large curling horns. However, in Killorglin, Co. Kerry, there is also a
three-day festival that is held in mid-August known as the Puck Fair. A
wild goat, or puck, is brought down from the mountains and is crowned
as king. The definitive history of the festival remains unknown, but
the fair has been held since 1603 and is probably older than that.
During the English occupation, it is said that a goat broke away from
its herd and alerted the nearby town of Killorglin of danger of an
approaching army. In that goat’s honor, the recent Puck Fair was
born. Perhaps we can speculate that it was indeed one of the phooka
that came to the aid of the people? We will never know…
Small mountain lakes and springs are sometimes known as the pollaphuca,
or the Phooka’s Pool. Many of these waters originate or are within
close proximity to the River Bann and the River Liffey. Many of the
pollaphuca have been renamed in more Catholic time to St. Patrick’s
Well. The poula phook, is the name of a waterfall that can be found in
the Wicklow mountains where the River Liffey flows, but it is also a
term that can be used to describe almost any cave or hole in the ground.
In Co. Fermanagh there lies the Binlaughlin Mountain is also known as
the ‘peak of the speaking horse’. In the south of the county
there was even a tradition of gathering at certain high places, such as
the tops of mountains, to wait for the speaking horse, or phooka, to
appear. This occurred on Bilberry Sunday, or what some prefer to refer
to as Lughnasdah.
The phooka, or aughisky, is said to also take the shape of a horse. It
is said the if a person is able to bridle one of the aughisky and keep
them away from the water that they make a most wonderful steed.
However, should the fairy horse see but a single glimpse of the water,
he would run at full speed toward the water plunging the rider into its
depths and devouring him. The bridles used are said in some instances
to belong to the phooka, but that seems doubtful. Some stories refer to
the use of three of the hairs from a phooka to be used in the making of
the bridle and that the power would be granted to person to capture the
creature – but the ongoing conflict to gentle the creature would still
be quite voracious.
The phooka is also said to induce children to mount him, and then to
plunge with the children over a precipice killing them. The Scottish
kelpie is also attributed with similar feats.
Some bits of folklore states that the phooka is only visible to the
person to whom it attaches itself. The phooka is also said to take the
form of the bogeyman and frighten children. This folk belief is still
commonly held in Co. Laois.
Some stories relate how the phooka is helpful and will assist with the
sweeping and cleaning of the house. In the case of the story of
the piper and the phooka from the “Leabhar Sgeulaigheachta,” the phooka
conveyed the piper to the assembly of the sidhe at Croagh Patrick and
carried him back again without causing the piper any harm.
In the rural regions of Co. Down, the phooka appears as a small
misshapen goblin and demands the ‘phooka's share' of the harvest that
remains on the ground. The folk custom of this area make the gate posts
of your land in such a manner as the right post contains a nice bench
for the benevolent phooka to sit and the left post has sharp rocks for
the nasty malignant fairies. The Mountains of Mourne are also home to
Throughout Ireland, the blackberries are considered to belong to the
phooka and that they are spoiled and no longer edible after the first
of November which commemorates the beginning of winter. Some say that
the phooka has spit on them, but this seems odd as the act of spitting
can be seen as a blessing rather than a curse. But the sentiment is
apparent in other bits of folklore that state that the phooka either
urinated or defecated on the blackberries!
In other areas of Ireland, the blackberries are considered to belong to
the phooka after Michaelsmas has passed. It is said that Michaelsmas
was the date on which the Catholic devil was thrown out of heaven and
landed on a blackberry bramble. In his anger, he cursed the bush and
performed several heinous acts that consequently made the berries
This depiction of the phooka also harkens back to the folkloric
depictions of the Catholic devil as a horned and cloven-hoofed creature
that appears as half-human and half-goat. In many ways this countenance
is also reminiscent of a satyr or the appearance of Shakespeare’s Puck
character in his play, “A Midsummer’s Nights Dream.”
The Welsh tradition of hodening was practiced most often during either
All Soul’s Day or the Christmas season depending on the particular
locale. The focus of the custom included a man who was covered with a
cloth, usually white, who would carry a horse skull, or an object made
of wood or other material made to resemble it, that was lit by a single
candle placed inside the cavity of the head.
In Wales during late December, the Gwasseilwyr was a wassailing party
whose appearance was dirty and dark. Each member of the processional
party carried sticks that they used to beat each other with. They wore
a dark brown cloth and carried with them a horse skull that was placed
on top of a pole. Also, in Kent, a similar ceremony is held using the
dark brown horse instead of the white horse found elsewhere within most
The Gwasseilwyr, another mumming procession that participated in
hodening, were often described as being similar to Punch and Judy as
they would strike each other with cudgel sticks. One of the
speculated translations of the term phooka refers to “a blow of the
cudgel.” This is interesting as it seems to relate to the Welsh
tradition of the Mari Lwyd, or gray mare, that appears during the time
of the new year which was also the time of the Púca na Samhna in
Ireland. In the older traditional reckoning, the new year began in
November but now the modern year starts in January.
In some areas, the procession is known as Hoen Dawnswyr or the Y Fari,
and includes two men who are dressed as Punch and Judy. Punch will play
mischievous tricks on people while Judy sweeps the hearth and anything
else her broom comes near. Later, Punch and Judy might even engage in a
dancing contest with the Mari Llwyd during a jig. It was not unusual
for fiddler to accompany the festivities with his music.
The mischievous duo also appear in Northern Wales as Fool and Cadi.
Whereas in the Southern Wales it is almost always Punch and Judy. The
popular puppets appear to be a more recent addition within the last few
hundred years and are not found in all of the traditions associated
with the Mari Lwyd.
One custom in Mumbles, Gower actually involves the horse being
ritualistically beat to death by a mummer disguised as a coachman.
However, in most of the other examples of the tradition, the cudgel
beatings involved the mummers or the inhabitants of the house and not
the Mari Lwyd.
The appearance of the mummer dressed as a coachman or horse groom
probably has some relationship between the folklore of the Irish
dullahan as it seems to retain the same key elements of the headless
horse escorted by the dark coachman.
The entourage of those engaged in the tradition of hodening also
participate in the practice of souling. Souling involves the collection
of soul cakes that are made for those who have previously passed away
from the mortal realm. The mumming party, or sometimes the children,
collect the bannock that are made as soul cakes in exchange for prayers
that will be said for the departed souls.
The act of collecting soul cakes can easily be seen as a symbolic
portrayal of the ride of Gwynn ap Nudd, a Welsh god of the Wild Hunt or
Fairy Raid, as he rides out on his pale white horse to collecting the
souls of the dying.
The Irish Dullahan, known also as the Far Dorocha or dark man, is the
original headless horseman and gather of souls. He is also known to
drive a black coach called the Coiste Bodhar that is drawn by six black
horses and acts as a transporter of mortals to the fairy world. Another
name for the dark horseman is the Ankou, referring both to the man and
the black coach he is sometimes said to drive, and can be found in both
Ireland and Wales.
Other areas of rural Wales include the custom of the Mari Llwyd, or
gray horse, as they would go caroling throughout the village as a form
of a seasonal Eisteddfod. It should be noted that the Eisteddfod is
more than just caroling, but rather a bardic competition of music,
song, and dance.
This was a masculine procession of mummers performed by a group of
well-dressed men wearing all white and carrying torches. The person
chosen as the Mari Llwyd would wear a white cloth and carry a horse
skull on the top of a long pole or pitchfork. The skull was decorated
with brightly colored ribbons, bells, and other beautiful adornments
that were often gifted by the women and girls of the area for the
purpose. The jaws of the horse were made to open and close so that it
made a snapping sound. The man chosen as the Mari Llwyd was then able
to ride on the pole in much the same fashion as a ‘hobby horse.’ The
younger boys of the village might join the procession disguised as
hares, foxes, squirrels, bears, and other forest creatures.
The doors of the village houses were all firmly shut and the mummers
would sing songs about the hardships of winter and of the people. As
the procession moved from house to house, they would knock and beg for
The meeting of the processional party with the inhabitants of the house
was often confrontational and sometimes involved contests of song, wit,
agility, and even symbolic physical abuse. A contest of rhyme was
the most common and the inhabitants of the house would not let the
processional party inside until they were outwitted. However, in South
Glamorgan the processional party was admitted as soon as they arrived
with no contest needed to gain entry.
As soon as the mummers were inside the house, a feast was presented
complete with ale and cakes. During the celebration, the Mari Llwyd
would attempt to bite people and those who were bitten had to pay a
fine. The money collected was placed in a bag. The bite of the horse,
though, was deemed as a sign of luck and fertility in the year ahead.
Although this ritual took place during Christmas and New Year’s eve,
the original procession most likely was held on what is known as
Halloween as that is the date of the old year. The horse was also
sometimes known as Marw Llwyd, or the gray death, and was a symbol of
the old year.
The appearance of the horse skull used in the procession varies from
area to area. In Pembroke, the horse skull is not a skull at all but is
instead made of cloth and filled with straw. The horse skull that was
used at St. Fagans is decorated with bottle ends that have been set
into the eyes, and even has ears made of cloth.
The horse skull on the pole is also known as the aderyn bec lwyd or the
bwca lwyd. Translated from Welsh, this means the bird with the gray
beak and the gray puck. These terms are important as they demonstrate a
clear relationship with the appearance of the phooka of Ireland as it
is capable of appearing as both a great bird, a horse, and a male goat.
The puck that is referred to in the bwca lwyd if you recall that the
“w” is cognate with “u,” “ou,” and “oo,” and that the “b” and “p” are
sometimes interchangeable within the Irish and Welsh language.
In the Cheshire area hodening and souling processions, the horse skull
was known as Old Hob. Old Hob was a nickname of sorts and referred to a
goblin or fairy. This also seems to support the similarities between
the traditions as they are practiced within both the British Isles and
Ireland and thus are most likely derived from a common origin.
White horses are inscribed within the very land of the British Isles.
The ancient tradition of carving chalk white horses into the hills of
the British countryside is quite ancient.
It has been theorized that the black horse was the symbol of the
Arthurian Britons and the white horse was the symbol of the Saxons. In
mythology, the white horse was thought to be a symbol of the Welsh god
Gwydion who was believed to be a skilled shape-shifter and magician.
Most people are familiar with the popular white horse at Uffington;
however, there are many such carvings across the countryside. The
Uffington horse carving is believed to be female and this could
potentially be linked to the white mare and her relationship to land.
Although most of the hillside horse carvings are white, there was also
the red horse that was carved into a hill just outside of Warwickshire
called the Red Horse of Tysoe. The carving is believed to belong to the
14th century, however, there no records of its existence before 1607
A.D. There are actually five such horse carvings that have been
discovered in the same area but they have become overgrown due to lack
of maintenance. There is also evidence of a figure of a man and another
of a bird that was once carved farther down the hill.
It should be noted that these carvings usually appear on hills. The
reasons for this could simply be that the hill represents the best
canvas for carvings the horses and great visibility. Or, the
significance could be similar to that of the appearance of the Irish
phooka on the tops of mountains and hills. Of course, it should be
noted that if there ever were any horse carvings in Ireland they would
have faded due to the heavy peat layers.
Even in Britain, the figures must be re-cut or chalked on reoccurring
basis to keep them visible and prevent them from becoming lost. The
process was usually repeated on a set date around May Day every year;
or sometimes once every seven years depending on the particular figure.
Like most festivals, this scouring of the figure was filled with games,
dancing, music, drinking, and other revelry.
White Mare of Sovereignty
The hag, or Cailleach, is also linked to the sovereignty of the land as
is demonstrated in the Arthurian story of Sir Gawain and Lady Ragnell
the Foul. Or, in the Irish story of Niall of the Nine Hostages he
bestows a kiss upon an ugly hag and through that act gained the
blessing of sovereignty. These stories may also be linked to the
equestrian marriage ceremonies wherein the chieftain marries a mare and
thus symbolically also the goddess of the land.
Geraldus Cambrensis states that until the 12th century, the Kenelcunill
of Ulster maintained an inauguration ritual that involved a white mare.
The people were assembled and the man who was to be king presents
himself as an animal and has sexual intercourse with the horse. The
mare is then sacrificed, butchered, and then boiled in water. Before
the assembly, the beast-man bathes in the water and both he and the
people consume the cooked horseflesh. He then drinks the broth by
lapping it up directly while he sits in the pot with the horse soup.
After the ceremony is completed, the sovereignty including the rite of
kingship and dominion over the land are conferred upon the man.
Gods and Horses
The horse of Manannan mac Lir is often shown as being white in color
and is capable of riding across both land and water. Aonbharr, the
white mare, was said to be swifter than the spring gales and that no
rider was ever killed while riding astride her back. Aonbharr was a
magical horse and was capable of raising great tempests or calming the
seas. The fishermen of the Irish Channel were said to watch the white
of her mane as it would crest the tops of the waves near the Arran, the
Firth of Clyde, and the Isle of Man. She was later presented as a gift
to Lugh, the foster son of Manannan.
The Dagda, an Irish god, was said to wear boots made of horse skin and one of his epithets, Eochaid, alludes to a horse.
A white horse and a wheel also symbolized Beli Mawr, a Welsh god and
giant. This is most likely a solar reference to the sun. The same is
most likely also true of the Rhiannon, a Welsh goddess, who first
appears on a swift white horse that seems to travel at the same speed
and yet cannot be caught.
Death and Immortality
Yet, in other instances the white of the horse is a sign of its
associations with death and the otherworld. The equestrian steed of
Gwynn ap Nudd is a white horse. Geroid Iarla, the son of the
fairy Aine and the Earl of Desmond, is said to live under a lake and
emerge from the water every seven years riding a ghostly white horse.
Even the phantom appearances of the White Lady often show her mounted
on a white horse.
The Welsh Gwragedd Annwyn were beautiful lake maidens with golden hair
that lived in the Black Mountains. They too were said to sometimes be
seen riding on milk white horses and occasionally married mortal men.
Like the story of Tam Lin and the young maiden Janet, a mortal could be
returned to the human world if, at midnight at the fairy fort, the
human was pulled down while riding a white horse.
If a fairy, or someone who had become like the fairies by living with
them, they usually returned to the mortal realm astride a white horse
and were forbidden to touch the ground lest they become bound to the
world of humans and lose the part of them that is fairy.
However, separating a mortal from a fairy steed could be dangerous and
even deadly for the human. In the story of Oisín and Niamh, when Oisín
returns from the lands of the fairy and finds that three hundred years
have passed he steps down from his horse and the years come upon him
all at once killing him.
In Ireland, the Far Dorocha, or dark man, rides upon a black horse and
is a messenger of death who calls out the name of the person who is
about to die. The fairy steed dispenses fire from its nostrils as it
races through the night with its galloping of its hooves sounding as
thunder. As the Far Dorocha rides across the Irish countryside, the
hedgerows are sometimes set on fire by speed at which the equestrian
and its rider pass. The Far Dorocha is also reputed to abduct mortals
and bring them into the other world of the fairies. However, usually
the journey was considered to be one way only.
The sound of the horses of the Wild Hunt was always believed to be
accompanied by the jingling of bells that were hung from their horses –
especially in Scotland.
The fairies of Orkney folklore ride forth at midnight and fly through
the air on white horses during the festival nights associated with the
changing of the year such as Halloween, Christmas, and New Year’s eve.
It is difficult to imagine a hunt venturing out without dogs or horses.
Most of the stories and folklore concerning the Wild Hunt include the
terrible sound of the hooves galloping across the land or through the
night sky. The huntsman is described as riding upon a horse that
is white, black, or gray in color. The sound of the hunt as it passes
is filled with shouting, barking dogs, and the blowing of horns; and is
often said to come on the harsh winter winds.
Similar in nature to the Death Coach and its rider, the huntsman also
sometimes appears as headless. Both the Death Coach and the Wild Hunt
include processions of the souls of the dead, although those who ride
in the Wild Hunt are often thought to be restless or cursed.
In some stories, the huntsman’s horse might be either a black horse or
a black he-goat. The interchangeable nature of the horse and the puck
are found throughout the folklore of many of the Western and Northern
Witches and the Sabbath
It is not unusual to hear stories or read about the appearance of the
medieval witch who rides upon the back of a goat as she travels to the
sabbat. Satan was also said to appear at these sabbat gatherings in the
form of a satyr or goat.
In Germany there are stories of witch women who transform themselves
into black horses and fly to Block Mountain, a reputed place where the
sabbat was held on May Day eve.
England also has stories of men and women who are transformed into
horses by the use of a magical bridle. The person who is transformed
into a horse might be used to travel to the sabbat or fly and meet the
Queen of the Fairies. Sometimes, the transformation suits personal
needs and the horse is sold for money or used for revenge, sexual
favors, or physical labor.
Irish folklore has it that the witches broom was called a ‘fairy
horse.’ This is yet another indication that the horse was a means of
traveling to the otherworld.
Of course, there are also the many stories about fairies stealing
horses and riding them to the point of exhaustion almost killing them.
During the winter months, the Cailleach is said to be responsible for
the knots that occur in the manes of horses and are called ‘hag knots.’
These knots reputedly act as stirrups for witches and fairies as they
ride the horses at night.
If the hag mounts or sits on the chest of a sleeping human, it is said
to cause nightmares. The nightmares, although disturbing, are believed
to be visions from a horse goddess. Scandinavian folklore referred to
the nightmare spirit as Mara and it was thought that being ridden by
the mare could cause fear and even death. Interestingly, a hagstone, is
believed to ward off nightmares if hung near the bed and to prevent
fairies from riding horses at night if hung in the stables.
Cornish folklore focuses on the pixie. The pixie was a trickster that
would steal horses and ride them throughout the night. A colt pixie is
a pixie that has taken the shape of a horse and enjoys playing tricks
such as neighing at the other horses to lead them astray. Pixies, like
most of the fairies of their ilk, are not always nasty but also help
around the house by cleaning and helping with the chores. They have the
ability to turn themselves into hedgehogs and
Now, some might question relationship between a shape-shifting goat and
a horse and how these fairy creatures could have any relevant
connection. The key here lies within the function of these fairy
steeds. In all instances, they serve as a way for mortals to travel
between the two worlds and are capable of providing wisdom and guidance
to those who seek it. By marrying the king to the white mare, he gains
dominion over the land and the blessing of the fairy realm.
The horse within the British Isles and Ireland guaranteed the fertility
of the land and was celebrated at the times of the year during which
the fairy and mortal realms converge upon each other. As a protector,
the bones of horses were buried within the walls and foundations of
houses. The sacred nature of the horse is an undeniable aspect of
pre-Christian folk traditions and beliefs that have continued into the
modern era but like many of the equestrian chalk figures are beginning
to become lost and fade from memory.
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