White horses have long held a mystique in the history of human culture. They are part of many mythologies. Some of the greatest gods and warriors in history are said to ride white horses, including those who would return to save humanity from an apocalypse. In England, the Uffington White Horse is a hill figure that is over 3,000 years old, but the mythology of white horses goes even further back.
In most instances, grey horses are treated the same as white horses for what they have come to symbolize.
European Symbolism for White Horses
The Slavics believed that white horses could help humans gain insight into what the future would bring. Priests would observe a white stallion’s movement between a series of fences. By seeing which leg would step first through each fence row, future events could be divined.
In Celtic mythology, the white horse is associated with Rhiannon. She is linked to the horse goddess Epona, associated with fertility. Many would draw figures of white horses to encourage families who wanted to have more children.
Ancient Hungarians would actually sacrifice white horses to their god because they were a symbolism of wealth. These horses were often sent in exchange for payments or debts and could bring a better harvest.
In Scottish mythology, a white horse is associated with a water demon. The creature would be found in the pools and lochs around the country and has the ability to shapeshift into other forms as well, including humans.
The Greeks associated white horses with Pegasus, who was sired by Poseidon while in the role of being a horse god. The mother of Pegasus is Medusa. As the myth goes, Zeus transformed Pegasus into a constellation to be forever remembered in the sky.
Religious Symbolism for White Horses
In Christianity, Revelation 19 describes a white horse. “Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself.”
Christianity also describes the First Horseman of the apocalypse riding a white horse, given the task of “conquering and to conquer.” Saint James and Saint George are also directly associated with white horses.
In Hinduism, white horses appear many times. One of the most precious objects that came from the battle between the demons and devas in the churning ocean was a white horse with 7 heads, sometimes ridden by Indra. Surya rides a chariot that is drawn by 7 white horses. Kalki, the tenth incarnation of Vishnu, is predicted to appear riding on a white horse as well.
In Buddhism, Kanthaka is a white horse that is described as being the loyal servant of Gautama Buddha. Kanthaka is part of every major event before the renunciation, which is said to have caused the white horse to die from a broken heart.
Islam tells of a creature named Al-Buraq that is often described as a “beast,” “steed,” or “mount.” Artwork depicts this white horse as having the face of a human, though such a description is not included in the writings of the religion. It is said that Al-Buraq helped to take Abraham when he left to visit Hagar and Ishmael. Al-Buraq only appears in some hadith literature.
Certain Shi’a traditions also have Mahdi appearing one day while riding a white horse.
In Judaism, white horses are included with horses of other colors to represent the spirits of heaven. Zechariah describes these horses as being teams that go forth and patrol the world, doing their best to keep things peaceful.
Far Eastern Symbolism for White Horses
In Vietnam, a white horse serves as the patron saint of Hanoi. The Bach Ma Temple, or “White Horse” Temple, is specifically dedicated to the spirit of this creature. In the 11thn century, the king said that he had a vision of a white horse which represented a river spirit. It guided him to the place where he was to build his citadel.
In the Philippines, a white horse serves as the symbol of the city of Pangantucan. It is said that a white horse helped to save a tribe from a massacre because it uprooted bamboo unexpectedly and that warned the people that an enemy was approaching.
In Korea, a white horse is part of the Kingdom of Silla story. As people come to gather to say prayers for a king, the white horse emerges from a bolt of lightning. The horse then bows to a shining egg before flying back into the heavens. The egg opened and a boy, Park Hyeokgeose, emerged. The boy grew up and united the warring states.
White Horses in Dream Symbolism
Many people will also dream of white horses. When white horses are seen, it is often an indication of being spiritually aware. It can symbolize innocence and purity, be a symbol of good fortune, or even represent prosperity.
Being chased by a white horse in a dream can be a reflection of relationship issues. The dreamer may feel like they are unworthy or incapable of being a supportive partner within an intimate relationship. This is reinforced if the white horse is a wild horse.
White horses that are dead within a dream can be symbolize the ending of a friendship. It can also be an indication of an upcoming change in life circumstances. Sometimes, this type of dream can be interpreted as a way to encourage the dreamer to move on to another phase in their life, such as a new career.
Dreams that involve white horses being pulled by the individual symbolize feelings of repression and control. It is a desire for the inner person to break free of the daily pressures that are so bothersome.
Mounting a white horse is a representation of upcoming wealth. Riding a white horse without a saddle with the opposite sex can be an indication that sexual desires are not being fulfilled or that prosperity might be fleeting. Riding without a saddle with the same gender can be a reflection of abundance. For those in the LGBTQIA+ community, the opposite of these interpretations may also be true, depending on the orientation and perspective of each individual.
What Does a White Horse Symbolize to You?
White horses have symbolized many different things to cultures and religions throughout history. What is most important, however, is what they symbolize to each person. They may represent strength, beauty, passion, or other powerful aspects of life that can inspire greatness in each person.
A white horse is a special creature. Let us treat them with the respect they deserve each day.