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page title

line drawing of Pegasus

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 magnificant 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 plough.  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 splendour of his wings and soared towards heaven.  He can still be seen as the star constellation, Pegasus.

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 and Melanippe.

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 occurence 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 Pegasus

The staff behind the name of Pegasus.Return to Mount Olympus
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