I’ve just started to read the  historical novel by Edward Sutherfurd called the Princes of Ireland.  On page 47 I come across this partial paragraph which is about the ceremony for a new king:

White Mare

White Mare

The initiation ceremony where a great clan elected a new king went back into the mist of time and belonged to a tradition found among the Indo-European peoples from Asia to the western outliers of Europe. In this ceremony, after a white bull had been killed, the king to be must mate with a sacred female horse. Held by several men a small, her hind quarters adequately spread, she was presented to the future king to couple with.

Ok…after I reread the passage a couple of times to make sure I understood, I decided I had to learn more about this crazy and I must say ridiculous ritual. You can bet it wasn’t a women who thought of this one!

Well amazingly this ritual or one like it comes from India called Ashvamedha or horse sacrifice. In this version the horse must be a stallion and between 24 and 100 years old.  The queen is involved in this one, but not sure whether it’s  real or pretend. ( I’m assuming pretend, because I don’t know how womanly possible it would be??) Let’s not go there…

This is a very difficult ritual often performed by the rulers of ancient India. This ritual requires a year to complete. A fine horse is selected at the beginning of the year and then released and allowed to wander free. It is accompanied by soldiers. Everywhere the horse goes is said to be under the jurisdiction of the ruler. As a result, any territory that the horse wanders into that was not previously under his jurisdiction is either required to submit or fight. Great way to acquire some land! If the horse makes it through the year, it is returned to the city where it is sacrificed in a three day ceremony, cut up, eaten and offered to the gods through the fire.  There are many other animals included in this ritual.

Well that doesn’t say anything about Ireland’s horsing around.  Found this in Medieval Manuscripts in the British Library:

Irish Horse Ritual

Irish Horse Ritual

The manuscript is more than a mere description of the ‘marvels of the west’, however.  Gerald wrote his book as a propaganda tool in support of the English conquest of Ireland, and dedicated it to Henry II of England, who he described as ‘our western Alexander’.  Some of the marginal images reflect this slant (and are far beyond any sense of ‘political correctness’).  Here Irish king-to-be is immersing himself in the broth of a slaughtered white mare, with which he has just had sexual intercourse .  This example of the purported bestiality and immorality of the Irish people were intended to serve as justification for the planned English invasion of Ireland.  I never leaned that one in history class to be sure, but I think I would have paid more attention if it had been!

In searching for more information, I began to realize that the horse is very symbolic in medieval times and was used ritualistically in many cultures.  It hard to know if these things are myths or tales, symbolic or true.  It’s kind of crazy the things that humans do to try to get the upper hand, change the future or just feel good about life…never mind that the animals should enjoy life. Don’t you just love religion!  You can have all your warped sexual imaginings under the religious blanket. You can have your horse and eat it too!

For more info check out The Horse Sacrifice.

 

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