Horse and Its Role in Slavic Culture
By Olga Stanton ( Facebook page MegPies Corner)
Horse is more than just humans’ friend. Ancient people have long seen the Divine expressed through this hooved animal. In Slavic folklore, a horse or even its head symbolizes the Sun. Those familiar with traditional architecture would notice that carved horse heads commonly served as ornaments on the roof of a Russian cabin – like the sun shining from the sky, the horse head was watching over the household and its inhabitants “from above”. Horse skulls stuck on fence poles surrounded a sanctuary devoted to Deities like Dazhbog. In fairytales, three horsemen – one black, one red, and one white serve as mythological representations of night, dawn or dusk, and day, i.e. daily change of time.
In Western Slavic lore, black and white horses were believed to be created by Chernobog and Belobog, respectively. The Sun itself was thought to travel in a horse-drawn chariot during the day and in a boat drawn by ducks at night. Many male Deities (examples, Yarilo, Sventovit, and Perun) and some female (examples, Morana and Dziewana) are portrayed riding a horse. Stribog and His grandsons, the Winds are also sometimes portrayed riding a black horse. Horses that belong to the Sun, however, are traditionally white with golden manes. Researchers notice that Yarilo (Christian Saint George) typically rides a chestnut-colored horse. Morana is believed to specifically prefer “pale” horses, and Dziewana is usually envisioned riding a chestnut or dark bay horse. Svarog, the Heavenly Smith, is also associated with horses, particularly bay and chestnut-colored ones. A skeletal horse (Morovitsa) sometimes accompanies Koshchei or Death and represents Animal Death.