Sunday, 21 November 2010

Neptune - Equester

On our way down to Ilfracombe with Dave and Hannah, we drove past Dunster. From the road, you can see the Castle. The kids looked suitably impressed. Yes, it's a fairy tale castle. We decided to visit it on the way back. Dunster is just outside Minehead and I've subsequently discovered some great connections with horses about the place (that is feeding into the work Hippomania which will be appearing in the next Wyrd Tales).

Dunster is a medieval village and the castle dominates. On the other side of the village is a folly, in the style of a ruined tower - it's called Conygar Tower. Apparently there also used to be a huge statue of Neptune visible from the sea, in the same woodland. I've yet to find any depictions of this statue.

Last week, I was heavily involved in the writing of Hippomania  - the visionary phase of the process. One of the scenes involved the character discovering a drowned woman in a pond. Later returning to the pond there is a stone the shape of a horses head. It started getting me thinking about horses, water and drowning?

Of course there is the phrase "you can take a horse to water, but you can't make it drink". While this cliche has moral over-tones, it's also a great phrase to encapsulate the work of the imagination. The imagination will do what it wants to do, ultimately it's a stubborn mare that has its own agenda.

Kerenyi has a section on Demeter and Poseidon's stallion marriage.

"It was told that when Poseidon began to pursue Demeter with amorous importunities... Demeter turned into a mare and mingled with grazing steeds... Poseidon perceived the trick, and coupled with Demeter in the shape of a stallion... The wrathful goddess turned into Erinys, the goddess of anger, and was actually called Demeter Erinys until she washed away her anger in the river Ladon... She bore to Poseidon a daughter and at the same time the steed Arion, the horse with a black mane."

So, both Neptune and Poseidon are the "God of Horses", as well as the sea. Neptune Equester is the God of horse racing.

There is where it becomes interesting. Minehead, the neighbouring town to Dunster is famous for its May Day hobby horse ritual. The hobby horse is shaped like a boat. The hobby horse also parades through Dunster. Last year, the parade returned to Dunster Castle. There are some amazing old photographs of the ceremony here:

which suggests the origin of the hobby horse:

"... be in commemoration of the wreck of a vessel at Minehead in remote times, or the advent of a sort of phantom ship which entered the harbour without Captain or crew. Once the custom was encouraged, but now is much neglected, and perhaps soon will fall into desuetude"

"King Neptune" plays a central role in the long-standing tradition of the "Line-crossing ceremony" initiation rite still current in many navies, coast guards, and merchant fleets. When ships cross the equator, "Pollywogs" (sailors who had not done such a crossing before) receive "subpoenas" to appear before King Neptune and his court (usually including his first assistant Davy Jones and Her Highness Amphitrite and often various dignitaries, who are all represented by the highest-ranking seamen).

And this is where it gets crazy!

Davy Jones is really an epithet for the state of death of drowned sailors... possibly a corruption of Devil Jonah...

Davy Jones (the dimunitive singer with 1960's pop band Monkees), orginally harboured ambitions to become a jockey.

In July 1992, Hampshire-based Anita Jones, wife of said pop star Davy Jones, had two mares attacked within days of each other. One received a wound to the shoulder. One had her genitals slashed and a fence post driven inside her. This was perhaps the most infamous incident in the horrific phenomenon of horse mutilation.

For more on  horse mutilation see:

The following section is particularly interesting...

Clive Meux, senior lecturer at the Institute of Psychiatry and a consultant at Broadmoor hospital, believes the pathology of horse attackers is similar to that of sadistic killers who target people. "I think that many of these attackers get some sort of sadomasochistic pleasure from inflicting pain on animals," said Dr Meux. "You often find the human victims of sadomasochistic killers have wounds to their genitals and eyes. What we have with horse attackers is somebody with the same drive and passion but who chooses a horse rather than a human to fulfill sexual desires. But we cannot say whether they will eventually move on to humans."
In Germany, where there have been about 400 horse attacks since 1993,a former horse caretaker was arrested during the summer. He admitted attacking nine horses because of his hatred of women. The attacks bring a chilling reminder of Peter Schaffer's 1973 play Equus, where the main character, Alan, pokes out the eyes of horses, who for him represent love and sexual passion.
For psychiatrists, however, the continued failure to catch a real-life perpetrator means they are still unable to explain why horses in particular are targeted. There have been cases of geese, hens and even guinea pigs being attacked, but horses are the most popular victim. Dr Meux said: "It may be because of the symbolism of horses in mythology and their alleged magical powers."

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