The Uffington White Horse

Let’s imagine today that we are traveling through the green, rolling hills of Oxfordshire, England. There on a far hillside we see a white horse. At least, we see a free-flowing, dynamic outline of a creature in motion that is usually viewed as a horse. Now imagine being of a time long ago when people were not exposed to media as we are today. It must have been an even more awesome and wonderous sight.

The Uffington White Horse is a highly stylized prehistoric hill figure, the times the length of a football field. It is hard to believe that it was created over 3000 years ago. It was explained to me that its location on grasslands along a chalk escarpment allowed its originators to dig down to the chalk and/or dig trenches and fill them with chalk pieces to create the outline. Maintenance requires that the grasses which grown back over the outline be removed every few years. So, it is even more astonishing to think about the number of generations over the centuries that have seen to its preservation.

I still have trouble imagining how something free form of this size could be accomplished-without drones or other high-tech equipment to guide the process. My incredulousness simply adds to its sense of magic.

Since Medieval times the figure has been referred to as a horse.  Coins, folklore and the importance of horses in those times reinforce that belief. The horse -goddess Rhiannon, the Gallic version named Epona, and a sun god who is said to have ridden a horse while drawing the sun across the sky at sunrise and sunset all come to mind. There is, however, speculation that the glyph actually represents a dragon. In Ancient times and through to Medieval times, this too was a powerful symbol.

A ring fort called Uffington Castle on top of the hill, a long barrow passage tomb a couple of miles away, and an ancient track and long-distance footpaths extending to Avebury suggest that this entire area had a rich significance to the Ancient Ones. The fact that the hill across from Whitehorse Hill is named Dragon Hill certainly attests to the importance of both symbols.  Who knows? Perhaps, the figure is purposely ambiguous.

My friend and I stood on the flat-top of Dragon Hill and felt the power of the landscape. Legends of St. George and the dragon flooded our memories. As we contemplated the power of dragon energy, a military helicopter arose from somewhere in the valley and seemed to circle us, as if checking us out. The experience was surreal. Legend has it that the horse comes down into the valley (called The Manger) to graze at night. Now we had a new story to add.

We then went over and up to the white horse itself. The closer we got to the outline, of course, the more excited I became. Yet, it became harder and harder to recognize the glyph’s shape. Signs instructed us to resist our urge to stand inside the figure itself. But we walked the outline and we marveled at the experience.

Images of power change over time; energies are amplified and experienced in different ways. We do not know what was in the hearts and minds of the Ancient Ones. We do know the importance of honoring seen and unseen forces in our lives that remind us there is something greater than ourselves. I stood in awe of the Uffington Horse. I did not need a thesis on its origins nor theories on its significance. It simply was profoundly moving.

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Jeanne CraneComment