Epona: Hidden Goddess of the Celts
By P.D. MacKenzie Cook
234 x 156 mm Perfect Bound (Paperback), 328 pages, RRP 17.99, ISBN 9781905297962
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About the book:
Epona: Hidden Goddess of the Celts reflects the importance of gender in ancient religion, and the author explores the primacy of the Feminine through Epona’s sovereignty as Horse Goddess among the Celts; her identity as “Mistress of Animals” in her love affairs and working relationships, and the surprising role she apparently played in the ancient Greek and Roman Mysteries.
P.D. Mackenzie Cook’s unique study of Epona positions her in a broad cross-cultural context. The story he presents is at the same time historical, speculative, and deeply personal – at once a scholarly survey, intriguing detective story, and spiritual message to be taken to heart. The author offers fresh and original perspectives on Epona’s historical origins and her “birth” in human form. He explores her early presence in southern Italy; investigates her probable identity as “Macha” in Ireland and “Rhiannon” in Wales as well as her indirect influences on the ideals of chivalry and courtly love in the Middle Ages. We are then introduced to Epona’s possible presence in a set of mysterious caves in the New World, and finally to her rediscovery by present-day equestrians, and in the personal lives and accounts of modern priestesses and men devoted to her.
Written by someone whose “Celtic bones” resonate deeply with Epona, his talents as scholar, story-teller and poet-seer all contribute to this, the first full-length book in English devoted entirely to this fascinating Goddess. Epona: Hidden Goddess of the Celts is dedicated to the hidden goddess in every woman, and to men who genuinely love them in all their depth, complexity and nuance.
About the Author:
P.D. MacKenzie Cook was born into a deeply pagan and matriarchal Celtic family, very much in tune with Nature and the Sacred Feminine. It was his grandmother who first began to nurture his love of the Goddess, teaching him to feel the divine in the caress of water, sun and wind, in the soft quiet of the night. He was also fascinated by the beauty and power of the women in his life, and often stayed up late into the night to watch and listen as they talked together in the firelight.
While still very young, his mother (an initiate of several traditions) introduced him to the realm of faerie, and later, after his grandmother had introduced him to divination and the uses of healing herbs, his mother gave him his first crucial lessons in the polarity dynamics of the Tree of Life. These powerful childhood experiences were strongly reinforced and deepened by Peter’s father – a war-hero with big healing hands who had saved lives by dismantling bombs and mines – who set a constant example of chivalrous and deferential reverence for women, and later passed on spiritual teachings he had himself received from his mother.
In 1968, at seventeen, Peter answered an inner call to Britain where he trained with a druid shaman, also studying astrology, tarot, mythology, sacred geometry, kabbalah and Hermetic philosophy. Later his interests focused on healing, and he began a nine-year apprenticeship in natural medicine. In exploring the ancient history of medicine, his studies brought him back to the healing alchemy of the ancient Goddess-centred Mysteries which he began to see as a living, though well-hidden, tradition: he was then fortunate enough to meet a young Priestess who led him into a deeper personal relationship with the Goddess, helped deepen his appreciation of the Sacred Feminine, and inspired his quest to know more about Epona.
Now, at sixty-four, Peter is firmly rooted in the ancient healing discipline of the Goddess and continues to learn her “deeper secrets”.
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Excerpt from the “Prologue”:
“By contrast, Epona was an extremely popular and well-known goddess – especially during the Roman period when she became the darling of the Legions. Although the Celts left no writings about her either, she was extensively depicted in richly-varied artwork; named and described by epithets in inscriptions; and mentioned by several Greek, Roman and Christian writers in various contexts. Relatively speaking, this means there is an enormous amount of information available about her. Paradoxically, however, even at the height of her greatest popularity during the Roman period, Epona was more deeply hidden than any other Celtic deity. Although evidently known universally among the Celts (a most unusual thing in itself), her origins in terms of her identification with horses were lost in the mists of time. Her “birth” in human form was also mysterious: the little myth describing it contained several (apparently deliberate) riddles. Literary and artistic clues also tell us that Epona was involved in the ancient Mysteries. Not only were the details of these Mysteries themselves secret (the penalty for revealing them was death), but the nature and extent of Epona’s involvement was also hidden.
For these reasons alone, it would be accurate enough to call her “the hidden Celtic goddess.” But there are a number of other ways in which that title is also appropriate. Although there is no way to prove it, for instance, Epona may have been known as “Macha” among the Ulaid in Northern Ireland and as “Rhiannon” in Wales. Without her original name, or proof of the transition, her presence shimmers in the details while her true identity remains hidden. In a similar way, her influence on the medieval ideals of chivalry and courtly love hovers hidden in the shadows of history. Her depiction – or seeming depiction – in a petroglyph located in a set of caves in Oklahoma is also shrouded in mystery and controversy.
Even today, Epona remains largely hidden. Being a “Horse Goddess” in an age of trains, planes and automobiles does not help, even though archaeologists have been finding and recording evidence for her since the early 1800’s. As new evidence has come to light, perceptions of the Horse Goddess have changed markedly – even since the 1950’s. Now, by gathering all the evidence together, we can get a fairly reliable picture of Epona herself and begin to see the outlines of her larger story. But this is not as easy as it might sound. For one thing, the evidence is scattered in books and obscure journal articles published in several different languages: a fact that has tended to keep Epona hidden, at least from the ordinary (non-academic) reader.”
Extracts from reviews:
This fascinating exposition has many layers. On the surface, it reveals the history of worship of the Female Principle in the ancient world, through the prism of the goddess Epona. Patriarchy has been the dominating narrative in the modern world, which makes this history – which has been meticulously researched and presented – utterly compelling. There are, however, further layers to this book. It uncovers the wisdom appreciated by those early cultures but largely forgotten today: that the life force is only fully realised by means of the balanced power of the Female and the Male principles; that the powerful union between these equally important trajectories cannot reduce either one to a supporting role. Both must be equally powerful in order to maintain the highest order, and the subjection of one leads to the impoverishment of the entire polity. To attempt to subdue and reduce the intense powers of the Female principle by undervaluing its purpose and value in society leads to the downfall of the Male principle too. Which leads to the final layer of the book: the anecdotal accounts of the modern priestesses and their endeavours to re-discover and embody the Feminine Principle and the true power of union with their male consorts or acolytes. Practises which the priestesses undertake to reassert the balance of power between female and male are broadly outlined but without prurient detail, providing a fascinating insight into one avenue being taken to restore a creative and dynamic balance between the genders. – A. Appleton, Amazon reviewer