September 18, 2016

Pegasus the Horse of Thunder, Lightning and the Muses

Pegasus means "spring forth" or "of the springs." Pegasus is an immortal flying horse with close ties to fresh water springs. Only in later myths is he described as having wings. Today, his wings are most often white but that may be a very recent color change. There are quite a few divine horses running around the Greek sky. They are usually descended from the Gods of the four winds or the spirits of storm winds. Pegasus’s parents, however, are most often Medusa and Poseidon. He "sprang" from Medusa’s neck when she was killed. In older stories, Pegasus carried thunder and lightening for Zeus. The constellation Pegasus rises in the spring, bringing warm weather and rainstorms. Eos the Goddess of dawn also got along well with Pegasus. Each morning they traveled across the sky, Eos’s torch lighting the sky before the sun rose.

In the more adventure oriented stories, Athena Chalinitis, "the horse bridler," tames Pegasus with a golden bridle and gives him to the hero Bellerophon or she tells him how to tame the horse. Bellerophon rides Pegasus into battle with the Chimaera. Some people say this is a myth about the spring storms defeating the winter season. Unfortunately, Bellerophon doesn’t stop at using a winged horse to win battles and tries to fly to the Gods’ home. Pegasus throws him to the ground, usually at the request of the Gods and returns to flying wild.

Pegasus also appears in the contest of the 7 Muses of Pieria and the 9 Muses of the Olympians at Mount Helicon. The mountain rose up into the sky during the singing contest and Poseidon sent Pegasus to stamp the mountain back to the ground. The four springs of the Hippocrene fountain "horse spring," appeared where Pegasus’s hooves struck the mountain. The Muses promptly added this fountain to their collection of sacred springs of inspiration. Pegasus could almost be tracked by the springs his hooves created across the land (maybe he got thirsty easy) and most of these springs ended up being linked to the Muses, prophecy and ritual cleansings. Pegasides is a term for nymphs of springs and fresh water streams and is one of the many group names for the Muses. All of this may be why in later stories, Athena again tames Pegasus and this time gives him to the Muses.

The constellation called Pegasus has a few more stories linked to it. Chiron the healing Centaur had a daughter who had the gift of prophecy but she told too many secrets and was transformed into a mare (usually black) by Zeus. Artemis however stepped in and placed her in the sky as the constellation Pegasus. The Centaur’s daughter has a confusing list of names. Euippe or Hippe, "the good mare," and Ocyrhoe "the swiftly flowing" seem to be the most common but she is also called Melanippe "the black mare" and even Antiope. Intriguingly, the 7 Muses of Pieria are sometimes said to be the daughters of a nymph name Euippe or Antiope. One final horse and Muse related name to end with; Aganippe "the gentle horse who overwhelms" is the title of Demeter as a black horse with wings. Aganippe is also the name of a nymph who raised the Olympian Muses and gave them her spring which was known for inspiration.

Pegasus soars through the black sky filled with stars, leaps in the dark clouds filled with rain and brings inspiration and prophecies from the dark earthy source of sweet spring waters.

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