In Greek Mythology, Pegasus was a mighty winged horse that was born from the decapitated head of his mother, Medusa, after Perseus beheaded her. His father was Poseidon, and no he didn’t have his way with Medusa when she looked all snakey and stuff, although it would have probably served him right considering the outcome of his indiscretions. When will these guys realize that doing “it” in a goddess’s temple is a sure way of having a curse placed on their latest plaything? Anyway, the story goes that Medusa was pregnant when Athena heard about Poisiden doing the dirty in her temple, and took revenge by turning Medusa into the hideous monster we all know and love.
Pegasus also had a brother born at the same time, Chrysaor, who looked nothing at all like the majestic white being that sprung from their mother’s neck. He was known as a stout warrior, one who carried a golden sword, but other than that not much is known about him. Seems he was doomed to live his life in the shadows of his brother’s limelight. Makes me want to dig a little deeper into his past since I believe he just may have a story to tell, but I digress.
Pegasus had a cool ability to create streams from pounding his hooves and two of the water sources in Greece named Hippocrene (Horse spring) were believed to be created by him. One of these streams was located on Mount Helicon where the Muses made their home. It was said that anyone who drank from the waters would soak in creativeness and inspiration. As a writer, I could definitely use some of that from time to time.
The winged horse was happy to remain wild and free until Bellerophon was able to tame him. He didn’t do it by himself and was helped by no other than Athena, the goddess who owned the temple where Poseidon was getting it on with Pegasus’ doomed mother. Poor Medusa. Anyway, Athena just so happened to have a golden bridle lying around that helped Bellerophon rein Pegasus in. How convenient.
While there are many accounts that describe the battles that Bellerophon won while riding on the back of Pegasus, the horse was still unpredictable and was known to toss riders off his strong back. After Bellerophon got a bit full of himself and upset no other than Zeus himself, a gadfly was sent to irritate poor Pegasus who promptly bucked Bellerophon off his back and he fell to his death.
Zeus stabled Pegasus with the rest of his stallions in Mt. Olympus, and for a time the winged horse pulled the chariot from which the King of the Gods threw his thunderbolts. After many years of service, Zeus gifted Pegasus with his very own constellation, something that we can all enjoy to this very day… or night if I’m to be specific.
While the stories of Pegasus are from Greek Mythology, the idea of a winged horse is rooted in cultures all over the world. The Valkyries rode them to pick up souls of the dead and return them to Valhalla to prepare them for battle. Al-Buraq was a steed described to have carried the prophet Mohammed in Islamic tradition, and a Chollima is a winged horse that originates from the Chinese classics.
It seems that Pegasus, or winged horses, have worldwide appeal, as the stories deeply embedded in our literature continue to be told. Are there versions of a winged horse in your culture? If so, tell us about it in the comments! In the meantime, I will leave you with my all-time favorite depiction of Pegasus.
Happy Writing! XO