For a long time I have thought of Epona and Rhiannon as the same being. I have in the past preferred to use the reconstructed rhythmic title of Rigantona in stress of Rhiannon and have combined the names as “Epona Rigantona”. A bit of a linguistic mess I know as Epona is Gaulish and Rigantona reconstructed Brythonic but that’s what I have done for a few years now.
For those less familiar with these names Epona translates to “divine mare”and Rigantona means “great or divine queen”. Rigantona is a reconstructed form of the Welsh name Rhiannon so that name also means great or divine queen. It is the stories of Rhiannon in the “Tales of the Mabinogion” that link that Goddess to horses.
As an aside if you are interested in reading more about Rhiannon I can strongly recommend the Pagan Portals book “Rhiannon” by Jhenah Telyndru.
Epona has links to being a queen via some of the inscriptions left during Roman times where she is referred to as “Epona Regina”.
For a long time when I prayed to Epona or Epona Rigantona I only ever received the impression of a single being so I thought of them as one horse goddess with different titles in different lands.
Now I’m not so sure.
I’ve always known of others that saw Epona as a separate being to Rhiannon or Rigantona. I’ve tried to keep an open mind on this by recognising and respecting that my experience is not the same as the experiences of others. Lately my feelings have changed prompted by something Kris Hughes wrote and I can’t remember whether that was in a personal exchange or on one of her blog posts so I can’t quote directly here. Essentially though she said something about the horse goddesses working together as horses do.
Horses are herd animals, they don’t like being alone. Why then would a horse goddess be on her own if she could choose otherwise? Epona is often depicted in human form riding a horse BUT her name means divine MARE, not human who takes care of horses or other equines. Yes, as Epona Regina as human guise makes sense but even so she is still mare and queen.
Deities are not fixed in physical forms, this was a lesson Epona taught me years ago and I felt her laughter back then when I finally understood. I felt her amusement again when I suddenly realised that I had been thinking it was either one thing or the other and deities do not have to be one thing or another they can be both.
Just as Epona can be both mare and human in form so I have come to understand that Epona and Rhiannon can be both a single being and two separate beings. Not either/or but both/and. They can choose to act as one or split into different and independent aspects. It maybe that they do this with other horse deities too and if they choose.
For me Epona and Rhiannon or Rigantona have now taken on a collective identity as the “Herd Mothers”. The “Herd Mothers” may also include Macha from Ireland but don’t haven’t had any direct experience of this as yet.
The Herd Mothers can act as a collective or as individuals, the presence felt can be both singular and plural now that I am aware of this possibility. It’s not easy to move beyond initial ideas of deity into deeper connections and possibilities, it takes time, sometimes a lot of time and it will be different for each person. It should be different because this is a relationship and deity is only one side of that relationship. We, as individuals, are the other side of that relationship.
Hail to the Herd Mothers!