Various interpretations have been given of the horse-headed form of the Black Demeter: (I) that the horse was one of the forms of the corn-spirit in ancient Greece; (2) that it was an animal " devoted " to the chthonian goddess; (3) that it is totemistic; (4) that the form was adopted from Poseidon Hippios, who is frequently associated with the earth-goddess and is said to have received the name Hippios first at Thelpusa, in order that Demeter might figure as the mother of Areion (for a discussion of the whole subject see Farnell, Cults, iii.
It was rather of the nature of the savagetaboo, the outcome of totemistic beliefs or a mode of averting the contaminating presence of djinns and demons.
The latter offers a cannibal-meal to the disguised God, who turns him into a wolf for his sins; and the later Arcadian ritual in honour of this God betrays a hint of lycanthropy; some one who partook of the sacrifice or who swam across a certain lake was supposed to be transformed into a wolf for a certain time.4 Robertson Smith 5 was the first to propose that we have here the traces of an ancient totemistic sacrifice of a wolf-clan, who offered the " theanthropic " animal " the man-wolf " to the wolf-God.
The totemistic theory in its application to Greek religion cannot be here discussed; but we may note that there is no hint in the story that the wolf was offered to Zeus and that the name AvKaios could not originally have designated the " wolf "-God: for from the stem Xveo- we should get the adjective XvKEGOS, not XvKacos; the latter is better derived from a word such as XvKn = " light," and may allude to the God of the clear sky; in fact the wolf, which was a necessary animal in the ritual and legend of Apollo AuKeIOS, may have strayed casually into association with Zeus AvKaios, attracted by a false etymology.
His symbols from the animal kingdom were the bull (perhaps a totemistic attribute and identified with him), the panther, the lion, the tiger, the ass, the goat, and sometimes also the dolphin and the snake.