Pegasus is a flying horse from Greek and Roman mythology. He is
generally pictured as white, sometimes with golden wings. Pegasus
appears again and again throughout mythology. His name is possibly
derived from 'springs of the Ocean' (pegai) or 'of the wells.' It is a
variant of the Greek word pege which means "spring" or "fountain" and
the form sus is pre-Greek in origin - it means "bridled horse" referring
to the figurehead of a ship. Thus Pegasus can literally mean "Fountain
Horse." Pegasus is a symbol of knowledge, glory, and inspiration.
Pegasus was born of the great sea god Poseidon and Medusa, who was
at one time the most beautiful woman in the world. Poseidon
approached and made love to Medusa in the form of a horse. The
couple foolishly consummated their relationship in the temple of
Athena, the shrine of the goddess of war who sprang from Zeus' head.
Athena, enraged at having her temple defiled, turned Medusa's
beautiful tresses into snakes and made her face so hideous that anyone
who was unfortunate enough to look upon her was cast into stone. She
became a cruel monster, unmerciful to everyone but the Gorgons with
whom she came to live. Some time later, the great hero Perseus
promised Medusa's head as a wedding gift to the king, Polydectes. With
the aid of Athena, Perseus slew and decapitated the monster Medusa,
using a mirror to safely view her. With one blow, the great hero struck
off Medusa's monstrous head and the blood sinking into the earth
produced the magnificent winged horse, Pegasus.
The mating of Medusa and Poseidon as horses represent strength and
sexuality. Horses are a recurring symbol in Greek mythology as heroic
and loyal, displaying bravery and courage such as the hero's spirit.
When Medusa is cursed by Athena, one might say she is set free from
her punishment when Perseus slays her. Through flight, Pegasus
symbolizes the ability of one to transcend the weight of earthly burdens
and rise above them into the air. Medusa, who was once the most
beautiful woman in the world is now freed from Athena's cruel
punishment of turning her into a hideous monster.
Ancient Greek legend tells us that Pegasus often wandered, stopping to
rest on Mt. Olympus. One day, when his hoofs touched the ground on
Mount Helicon, four sacred springs of water formed and from these
springs the Muses (goddesses of inspiration) were born. The Muses
were the nine beautiful chosen goddesses that reigned over the liberal
arts and sciences, especially music, poetry, and all of the visual arts.
Athena caught and tamed the wild Pegasus and kindly presented him to
the Muses. One day the muses began to sing on Mt. Helicon. The
mountain, so filled with ecstasy, it rose to the heavens until Pegasus,
under Poseidon's command, kicked his hoof, stopping the mountain's
upward progress. A fountain of water gushed forth called the Fountain
of Hippocrene. The fountain was sacred to the Muses and is believed to
be the source of music and poetic inspiration. According to legend, the
birth of both wine and art occurred when Pegasus' hooves unleashed
the sacred Spring of the Muses.
Pegasus, being the horse of the Muses, has always been at the service
of the poets. Schiller tells a story of his having been sold by a needy
poet and put to the cart and the plow. He was not fit for such service,
and his clownish master could make nothing of him. A youth stepped
forth and asked leave to try him. As soon as he was seated on his back,
the horse, which had appeared at first vicious, and afterwards spirit-
broken, rose kingly, a spirit, a god. He unfolded the splendor of his
wings and soared towards heaven. He can still be seen as the star
Urania, the Muse of Astronomy and Universal Love (also an aspect of
Aphrodite) showed the most interest in his rearing. Prophesying of his
future heroic deeds and eventual celestial honor she grieved the most
when Bellerophon, at Athena's beckoning, came to take Pegasus away
from Mt. Helicon.
Bellerophon, the prince of Corinth wanted to ride the magnificent but
untamable Pegasus, but he knew it was impossible. Each time he
approached the creature, Pegasus quickly galloped away, avoiding
capture. With the advice of the seer, Polyeidus, the ambitious man
spent a night at an alter to Athena. That night, Athena, also the
goddess of reason, appeared to Bellerophon in a dream. She said to
him, "If a human wishes for something impossible, he will not get his
wish. But, a goddess or god can make the wish possible." A golden
bridle which would tame Pegasus was given to Bellerophon by the
goddess soon afterward (Chalintis: Gift of Athena). Bellerophon found
Pegasus drinking at the well of Pirene and was able to capture and
tame the creature easily.
Pegasus became the horse of Bellerophon, and they had many
adventures together, including the slaying of the Chimera. Horse and
rider seemed a perfect match, and the two were a familiar sight in the
sky. Many exciting and successful adventures took place, but
unfortunately for Bellerophon, he was determined to be a god himself.
One day he leaped onto Pegasus and dug in his stirrups. "To Olympus!"
he cried, and urged the horse upward to the home of the gods.
Pegasus was wiser, and for the first time would not obey. He threw his
rider to the ground and flew way. Bellerophon, whose ambition had
grown too great, wandered on foot for the rest of his days.
After the many long years of heroic deeds Pegasus had accomplished in
the companionship of Bellerophon, Urania was enraptured by Pegasus'
triumphant arrival to Mt. Olympus. Contrary to the unfortunate fate of
Bellerophon, Pegasus was permitted to spend the rest of his days in
Mount Olympus in the presence of the gods. He was entrusted with
bringing lightening and thunderbolts to Zeus, the most powerful of all
gods. It is said that Pegasus' own hooves could be heard thundering
across the skies in a storm. As a tribute to his exceptional life and
heroic deeds, Zeus honored Pegasus with a constellation in the sky. He
was also used occasionally by Eos (Aurora) for her drive across the sky
at dawn and Apollo (Phoebus) during his daylight drive across the sky.
According to a collection of myths from Cheiron's progeny, Pegasus
continues his story by obtaining a wife, Euippe, and two children, Celeris
constellation of PegasusToday, Pegasus, is still honored for his earthly
and heavenly deeds, as a constellation in the sky. The transformation
of Pegasus into the stars represents the evolution of change, a natural
occurrence in everyday life. The cluster of stars is located in the
Northern Hemisphere near Aquarius. However it must now share the
northeast corner of the square with Andromeda: delta Pegasus was
given to Andromeda, to provide the lady with a head. Pegasus, the
Winged Horse, is visible from August through December. Ancient
astrologers believed that all the stars of Pegasus protected horsemen in
battle. The winged creature is seen as the symbol for the immortality of
the soul, and as the carrier and protector that guards the spirit in its
journeys into the stars.
The Winged Horseshoe is the sigil (graphic cypher or symbol) of
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