Why we're here

We are taking a stand against horse slaughter returning to the US and are striving to stop the transportation of horses to other countries for slaughter. Some of us are working in those other countries as well.

We are taking this stance as Pagans and Heathens, at a time when it seems some have decided that eating slaughtered horse meat in ritual is somehow cool, edgy and "ancestral." Therefore we want to show that that minority does not represent all of the Pagan and Heathen communities. Many of us worship Horse Deities, many of us are horse people who may see our horses as sacred charges who we care for to honor these Deities. Not by killing but by striving to give them good lives.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Horse racing at Lughnasadh

 Seriously, stop spamming this with race wagering sites! This is an anti-racing post, so that's just insane! Stop!

As we approach the Gaelic holiday of Lughnasadh or Lùnasdal, one of the things that comes up is the association of the holiday with horse races.  The key event at this time was the assembly known as "óenach" which is glossed as "a contention of horses" and included swimming and racing the horses (Patterson pg 144, O'Donovan, pg. 127-128). These events probably were centered around people proving their horse stock, for sale or prestige, and in Ireland fairs held at this time, such as The Puck Fair, still involve horses. One famous horse race in Ireland was during Conchobar's assembly where Macha was forced to prove her husband's boast that his wife could outrun the king's horses.(The Metrical Dindshenchas (English) Irish). Horses were an important part of the culture, so horses as an important part of such events is not surprising.

Through the past couple of decades I have seen several Celtic Polytheists of various types suggest that this connection means that attending modern, professional horse races is a way to relive those old assemblies. I have even seen it suggested that this in some way honors the Horse Goddess. This concept troubles me deeply, for while it may not be on the same level as those who suggest eating horse meat the reality is there that, if nothing else, going to races supports an industry that routinely slaughters horses and use nurse mares whose own foals are killed at birth for "pony skins."

Explain to me how that is honoring a Horse Goddess? I suppose it replicates the horror that Macha and her twins suffered but do you want to be on that side of it? There are other ways.

Never mind that the atmosphere at these events is far from that of an ancient gathering.  

Saorsa has been practicing for
Obviously, not many Pagans have their own horses to race for fun or to "unrace" (we have long joked that we have unraces, we just make sure to take time to just hang out and watch our horses be horses...however, we may be doing some run racing soon, including water races although Saorsa may be the only one willing to go in). To replicate these horse races what can one who doesn't have their own horses do?

Personally, I favor taking time to volunteer at a horse rescue. Lughnasadh is often a time when hay is coming in, but help is needed in all situations by most rescues. If you can't volunteer, consider taking up a collection for a local rescue. Many Pagan groups today collect food or other items for charity when they gather, why not do so for horses. Perhaps even towards an ex-racer and/or nurse mare foal focused group?  Perhaps also take time to write to your congress people and try to end horse slaughter.

Consider attending county fairs. While I'm not crazy about either showing or racing at all, the level at fairs is far different from professional race tracks especially at the smaller fairs. Please consider still making that donation and writing those letters, as some of the horses in the show ring will end up in rescue or on the road to slaughter too.

Of course, for your own games I know many groups who do hobby horse races.  Often there are kid races where most of the kids old enough to walk think it's totally uncool and adult races where the adults have a blast proving to their kids how uncool they are. It brings "the horses" home. And make those donations and write those letters just because it needs doing.

If you want to honor the Horse Goddesses, save the horses. If you want to have a feel of ancient times by being around horses be around horses that need you. Do not think for a moment that there is anything but corruption at the race track or that it's somehow holy. The horses deserve better, the Horse Goddesses certainly do.

Nerys Patterson. Cattle Lords & Clansmen: The Social Structure of Early Ireland, Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame, 1994
 John O'Donovan, ed. and trans. (with notes and translations from Whitley Stokes) Sanas Cormaic Calcutta: O. T. Cutter for the Irish Archeological and Celtic Society, 1868,