Dissertation Title:

Re-Storying A Sense of The Sacred With A Mythological Herd: An In-Depth Study of Horses In Mythology


Heather A. Taylor

Date, Time & Place:

April 27, 2024 at 1:00 pm
Hyflex defense


Stories and images of horses are present in the earliest recorded forms of human imagination, from paintings on cave walls in the Paleolithic era, to war horses depicted in Homeric epics, and sacrificial horse rituals described in sacred texts. Mythical horses carry gods, elevate heroes, and transport the sun across the heavens. Hindu and Indigenous mythologies incorporate metaphorical horses in stories of creation, embodying all the elements of the universe. Artwork and dramas amplify Greek stories of Pegasus, the winged horse, flying through the air, Hades’ black stallions erupting through the earth, and the goddess Demeter morphing into a mare. The Roman poet Ovid describes the fated moment Jove changes Chiron’s daughter, Ocyrhoe, into a horse for speaking prophecy. In Norse mythology, the eight-legged stallion, Sleipnir, is a shamanic figure born from the trickster. Common in all these stories is a connection to the sacred with horses symbolizing pathways toward balance, healing, and wholeness. 

In this dissertation, a Jungian depth psychological and comparative mythological perspective is applied to the significance of the horse in mythic and religious texts. The findings illustrate the horse’s prominent association with the sacred in cultures worldwide. The argument presented throughout the dissertation highlights how the contemporary emphasis on horses often focuses on the animal’s value in war, labor, or transportation since their domestication. However, by analyzing archetypal patterns portrayed in mythological tales, it is clear the animal serves an equally important role for balancing the emotional, spiritual, ecological, and psychological health, embodying a sacred purpose, connecting us with soul, the divine, and the primal energy of life.  

The contention presented in this dissertation is that mythologies about horses present a pathway to facilitating a more balanced relationship with the earth, each other, and ourselves. At a time when we no longer rely on horses to move us physically in the world, the conclusion asserted is that mythological horses symbolize the possibility of a shifting perspective and strengthening the life force by re-storying valuable images for transformation and consciousness.

  • Program/Track/Year: Mythological Studies with Emphasis in Depth Psychology, I, 2018
  • Chair: Dr. Glen Slater
  • Reader: Dr. Jonathan Erickson
  • External Reader: Dr. Susan Moulton
  • Keywords: Horses, Sacred, Demeter, Pegasus, Ocyrhoe, Chiron, Black Elk, Mythology, Sleipnir, Depth Psychology