Pegasus

When Perseus decapitated the gorgon Medusa, she was already pregnant by the sea god Poseidon who had visited her in the form of a stallion. As her body fell to the ground, the two offspring of this union, Pegasus and the warrior Chrysaor leapt fully developed from her body. Pegasus was a white stallion with a silky mane and golden wings. His warm breath smelt of wild flowers. He was a lunar animal and represented one of the aspects of the great goddess when, as the Mareheaded Mother, she was known as Leucippe, the white mare.

Pegasus instantly took flight when he first saw the sky above him: he rode the wind effortlessly as his glden wings carried him to Mount Helicon, the home of the Muses. Pegasus had the ability to cause a fountain of water to gush out wherever he stamped his moon shaped hoof, and his name actually means 'of the wells'. He created a fountain known as 'the horse well', for the muses at Hippocrene. The waters conferred poetical inspiration of all who drank there and Pegasus is also the inspiration of those who strive to perfect their poetic gifts.

The hero Belleraphon had been given the task of killing the evil Chimera and needed the help of Pegasus. He caught the magical horse by throwing the golden bridle, a present from the goddess Athene, over Pegasus' head while the stallion was drinking at Peirene, another of his wells. This caused the wild horse to become tame and obedient, and he willingly flew his master to the lair of the Chimera. The lithe stallion was much more agile than the ungainly monster and enabled Belleraphon to kill the beast by evading it's blast of flame.

The hero was so elated by his success that he vaingloriously rode Pegasus aloft to Olympus to claim a place amongst the Gods. Zeus was furious at his presumption and sent a gadfly to sting Pegasus under his tail. Pegasus reared, flinging Belleraphon back to earth again, but completed his flight to Olympus where Zeus now uses him to carry his thunderbolts.

In the state religion of Rome, Pegasus was reputed to bear the emporer on his back to the 'Land of the Dead' and images of Pegasus can be found on many Roman tombstones. The winged horse is symbolic of the combination of higher and lower natures, and of striving to acheive the higher.