Horse Zodiac and Mythology

Hi my name is Emma and I'm a third year student studying Anthropology as my major and Food Studies as my minor. I have always been passionate about food, and specifically the intersection of food culture and science. This class has been incredibly fascinating to me as it has showed me so many new ways in how they are connected. 

I was born in 2002, the year of the horse, and I wanted to do my blog post on something which interested me on the Hox Zodiac site under the year of the horse. I wanted to do a deep dive into the mythology section as in class I was intrigued by how many places and cultures perceive different animals in the zodiac. I'm also taking a food studies course this quarter taught by Professor Joseph Nagy called Food & Folklore. From the Hox Zodiac website under horse mythology I noticed that one of the examples given was the myth "churning of the ocean" which comes from Hindu folklore. I remember studying several displays of this scene in an Asian Art History class I took, and I wanted to revisit it with a food lens as it is often interpreted spiritually. 

In this piece of folklore, several Hindu gods come together to create the ocean. They all meet on top of Mount Meru in search of soma (nectar of the gods). Though the gods are immortal, they still need soma, or nectar of the gods, to maintain their gift of immortality. Their soma is their essence of life, their life force. After a while of thinking of how to get more soma they had the idea of churning the ocean which would allow the soma to float on top of the sea. The idea of this stems from how butter floats to the surface when frothy milk is stirred. Cows and milk are incredibly sacred in Hinduism, so this imagery shows how holy and divine this action is. The milky ocean is created by mixing medicinal herbs and plants into the water, but instead of turning into a tea it becomes milky. All the original translations of the texts depicting this scene show that the milk was from the trees and herbs the gods mixed in, not from a cow or other mammal.

There are many animals who take part in the churning of the ocean. Vasuki who is the god of snakes, becomes the rope which is used to churn the ocean. The god Vishnu transformed into a tortoise to create a strong base for the bottom of the mountain. Milky buttery soma is what is consumed, but their are animal gods which help churn the butter, as well as animals who emerge from the sea once it is churned.

From what animals emerges from the sea include a white elephant, white horse, and a cow which can grant wishes. 

I also uploaded several pieces of artwork which depict this scene occurring. You can see how Vasuki was used to churn the ocean, as well as some of the animals emerging from the bottom of the sea. 

Samudra Manthan_Unknown (production) [Public domain].jpg


Here are the websites I collected my information from:


Hox Zodiac: 

Hox Zodiac Topic: