Pub Names

It was on a trip to Glastonbury in 1994 that we were first alerted to the significance of pub names. We had decided to take the most direct route which took us across country. To our surprise, we discovered that from Daventry, roughly in the middle of England and due west of Northampton where Cassie lived, the A361 took us all the way there, as if it were on a pilgrim route. Outside the town of Banbury we spotted a pub called The Three Pigeons. At the time Cassie was immersed in researching the pagan fertlity cults.  From this she had learned that the Goddess was widely worshipped as The Triple Goddess and that pigeons were sacred to the Love Goddess, Aphrodite. We wondered if the name could in anyway be connected with the old pagan religion which had the Great Triple Goddess at its centre?

A few minutes later we saw another pub called The Three Horseshoes. As many people know, the Goddess of these shores was widely worshipped as the Mare Goddess, Epona. Our curiosity was fully aroused by now and we kept an eye out for pub names from there on.  A little further down the road was a hotel called The White Hart.  However, what really caught our attention was that the stag depicted on the hanging board wore a golden crown around his neck. Cassie had not long learnt from Robert Graves’ The White Goddess that the stag was one of the animals sacred to the Sacred King who was consort of the Queen – who ruled in the name of the Great Triple Goddess.

We were travelling around the countryside at this time clearing sites and it seemed to us that the names of many pubs accurately reflected the main elements in the pagan cult.  For one, we noticed that animals sacred to the King, such as the lion, stag/hart, golden fox, bull or cockerel (note the magnificent plumage) were often prefixed by, either white, red, or black, hence pubs commonly seen such as The White Lion, The Red Lion and The Black Lion.  But these, we mused, were the colours of the Triple Goddess in her three aspects of Maid, Queen/Mother, and Wise Woman – white for the Maid, red for Queen and black for Wise Woman or Crone.  They were not associated with kingship whose colour is gold and one of whose sacred animals is the golden lion.  So why was there not a commonly named pub called The Golden Lion?  Why were they, without exception, prefixed by either white, red or black, the colours we knew to be associated with the Triple Goddess?

Gradually, the scenario became clear. When the King overthrew the Queen/Goddess he usurped her powers and her titles. As Robert Graves so succinctly puts it:

Conquering kings their titles take

From the foes they captive make 

By prefixing his own sacred animals with the colours of the Triple Goddess, the King was clearly showing the world that he had annexed her powers.

This theory was substantiated by the fact that those colours were also  found attached to the names of animals associated with the pagan Goddess – as you would expect –  namely pubs called The White Horse, The Red Horse and The Black Horse. In fact, it was on the original journey to Glastonbury that we drove past a pub called The Red Horse. It is in the village of Shipton-Under-Wychford in the Cotswolds, Oxfordshire. We immediately knew it was the proof we needed which confirmed our suspicions.

Further proof came from the fact that the name, The Red Horse, is rarely seen. This is because it is this aspect of the Queen/Goddess which Sacred Kings feared the most. For, when the Queen changed her colour from White to Red, when spring turned into summer, it was a sign to the ‘King of the Waxing Year’ that the time of his sacrifice was drawing near. It would therefore follow that any hostelries/public houses of that name would be blotted out when the Queen was overthrown as they were a truly terrifying reminder of his cruel end. However, in the remoter parts of the countryside, or where the former pagan cult still lingered, the name of the Red Horse, particularly as ordinary people were the beneficiaries of the old pagan ways and not its victim like the Sacred King.

However, there was a pub east of Daventry which puzzled us greatly.  It was called The Red House.  The house was most definitely not red and, besides, its name did not accord with most other pub names. Then we realised that by changing just one letter –  the letter ‘u’ –  House turns into Horse and we knew we had our answer.  When the conquerors of the Queen/Goddess were in the neighbourhood, those still faithful to the old ways hastily turned ‘R’ into a ‘U’ and when they were safely away, they probably turned it back again.  This odd name for a public house is quite common: there is a Red House in Lemington Spa and one a few miles north of Northampton on the Kettering Road, as well as a Red Lodge. Finally, we came across a pub called The Three Houses which is odder still and was, for us, real confirmation. It was only natural that the Triple Goddess would have a hostel named after her sacred animal, the horse ie The Three Horses. People are lazy and therefore our hypothesis was that when the publican was ordered to eradicate the cult animal of the Goddess, he did the easiest thing: he simply changed one letter.

C A Martin

April 1995

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