Flemish Unicorn Tapestries
For today’s article I will be showing you famous (and not so famous) legendary and mythical horses throughout history. Whether real or not, they have inspired and continue to inspire generations. So, grab your sword and shield and jump on your unicorn or Pegasus, or Uchchaihshravas, or what ever magical steed you ride and join us for this journey though time!
The majestic unicorn has been in legends and myths for hundreds of years. It is said the the unicorn’s horn houses healing powers that can also purify water. Some people call them myth, while others call them real. Either way, they will never be forgotten. You can find hundreds of paintings statues, books, movies, poems, and of course, the famous Unicorn Tapestries.
Location: Pyongyang, North Korea
Artist: Unfortunately, I could not find the name of the artist that created this statue. If you know who it is, please comment or contact me.
Appearing in many East Asian cultures, “Chollima” literally translates to “thousand-li horse.” A “li” was a traditional Chinese unit of distance. In antiquity, a thousand “li” would equal about 248 1/2 miles. Therefore, the legendary winged Chollima could travel almost 250 miles in a single day.
The Chollima first originated around the 3rd century BC alongside Bole, a mythological horse-tamer and retainer of Duke Mu of Qin. However, the Chollima has gained notoriety in the past few decades after being adopted as a symbol of progress and economic development by the North Korean government.
The Bloody Arabian~ Arab
The Bloody Shoulder Arabian is a tale that has been past down for hundreds of years in the deserts of what is now the Arabian Peninsula, North Africa, Mesopotamia and Persia. It is said a Bedouin warrior saddled up his most prized Arabian mare that was with foal. During the act of battle, the mare gave birth to a strong healthy filly. Struggling to keep up with the mare and with the enemy quickly gaining on them, the warrior took his lance and pieced the foal through the shoulder. The mare understood the act and realized the foal would no longer be following her. Even though she was filled with grief, the loyal mare carried her warrior rider safely to his camp.
When the warrior awake from sleep, he noticed something astounding through the tent door– a day-old filly standing by the mare’s side. This was the same foal he had killed the day before. With no injuries, the foal carried just a patch of blood-stained hair across its shoulders. Believing the foal was a treasured gift from God, the warrior vowed to raise the foal and take special care of it. The foal’s blood-stained shoulder was never lost and she passed on these special markings to her offspring.
There are different versions of this legend as well as the various names used to described the blood-stained shoulder, i.e. blood marks, blood stains, blood markings, and bloody-shouldered Arabian.
According to Islamic tradition, Al-Burq is the steed responsible for transporting prophets. The name comes from the Arabic word “burq,” or “lightning.” The most famous story involving Al-Burq is found in the Quran where it carried the prophet Muhammad, accompanied by the angel Jibril (Gabriel), from Mecca to Jerusalem and then up to heaven to converse with Allah during the “Night Journey.” Though occasionally depicted as having a literal human face, Al-Burq is described as being white and having two wings on his thighs.
The Mares of Diomedes~ Greece
The four Mares of Diomedes, named Podagros, Lampon, Xanthos, and Deimos, were crazed, man-eating horses owned by the giant Diomedes. Their strange diet made them equal parts insane and ruthless in battle. As the eighth of his twelve labors, Heracles was tasked with capturing and taming them. Heracles only managed to complete this labor after feeding Diomedes to them. In addition to being figures in classical Greek mythology, it is said that Bucephalus, Alexander the Great’s horse, was a product of their lineage.
When people think of mythological horses, Pegasus, the white winged stallion sired by Poseidon, is one of the very first to come to mind. After helping the Greek hero Bellerophon defeat the Chimera, Zeus transformed him into a constellation and gave him a place in the sky. Pegasus is one of the most instantly recognizable mythical creatures, appearing in countless paintings, poems, songs, books, and films.
To see more of Pegasus in Ancient art, click Here.
Pegasus slaying A Dragon ~ Hallandale Beach, Florida, USA
Described as being “eighteen cubits (27 feet) in length from the nape of his neck, and of proportionate height…and white all over like a clean chank shell” according to ancient folklore (as translated in Trübner’s Oriental Series), Kanthaka was the favorite horse of Siddhrtha Gautama, the historical Buddha. Kanthaka was the horse Siddhrtha Gautama used to escape his family’s palace when he decided to become an ascetic. After dying, Kanthaka was reborn as a scholar who would later go on to achieve enlightenment.
Blue Horse Of India~
This painting is of Guru Gobind Singh riding his blue horse. It was painted in India in the 1800’s ~ the artist is unknown. Wouldn’t be cool if there really was a horse this blue coloring today?! At Hazoor Sahib, Nanded there are descendants of this horse that have a white/gray color but have lost mostly all their blue coloring . On the festival of Holla Mahalla or gurpurbs they are beautifully decorated with tassels and saddles but out of “respect ” these stallions are never ridden .
Four Horses of the Apocalypse
Symbolizing (military) Conquest, War, Famine, and Death, the Four Horses of the Apocalypse are mentioned in the Bible as being harbingers of the Last Judgment during the apocalypse. The four horses are respectively colored white, red, black, and pale/yellowish green. While some have interpreted them as symbols for events during the first century of Christian history, they are more widely interpreted as being prophetic in nature.
Uchchaihshravas (I dare you to say that three times fast:) is a white, seven-headed flying horse that serves as the mount for the Hindu god-king of heaven Indra and, in other stories, Bali, the king of demons. Uchchaihshravas was born alongside other mythical objects such as the elixir of life and Lakshmi, the goddess of fortune, from the Churning of the Ocean of Milk, an incident found in ancient Hindu texts.
What kind of creature could serve as the steed of Odin, king of the Norse gods, the Allfather? Try Sleipnir, an eight-legged horse borne of Loki that was so powerful that nothing could slow him down. Sleipnir was also capable of traveling to Hel, such as one time when Hermod rode him down to that region in order to try and rescue his brother Balder. Sleipnir was considered to be the greatest of all horses, a title which, considering his master, doesn’t seem so out of place.
I hope you enjoyed seeing and learning about these horses of myth! Which one was your favorite?
Huh? What? Well, I will believe that when I see flying Shetlands !
2 Comments Add yours
Did you know know that pegasus also have more the one birth stories? Yes it true.
Hi Melanie! Yes, I have done a lot of reading and research about Pegasus, it is so interesting! I love all things mythology. Thanks for sharing!:)