Pegasus Class Takes Wing
Nandita Singh '03
For nearly one hundred
years, Mount Holyoke classes have affiliated themselves with particular
animal emblems. It is not clear exactly why. The class of 1905
selected a lion, a fitting choice for a College that boasts brave
and strong Lyon athletic teams, but a pick made with no more (recorded)
explanation than the adoption of the unicorn, tiger, or dragon
as symbols by the classes of 1906, 1907, and 1908 respectively.
In 1909, according to The First One Hundred Years 18721972
by Mary Higley Mills '21, the griffin, Pegasus, the sphinx,
and the lion became new MHC standards, along with the colors green,
red, yellow, and blue. These creatures have represented MHC's
classes on a four-year rotation ever since, the mystery of their
origins as symbols only adding to their appeal. As they prepare
to take wing on May 26, members of the class of 2002, a red Pegasus
class, should have a bright future in store. What else would you
expect from a class that has for its emblem a golden-winged horse
long known as a symbol of fame?
Greek mythology gives
us many stories about Pegasus, the most common being that Pegasus
arose from the blood of the dead body of the Gorgon monster Medusa,
when she was beheaded by the hero Perseus. Initially wild and
free, Pegasus was ultimately tamed by Bellerophon, who was given
a magical golden bridle for this purpose by the goddess Athena.
In one story, it is said that Bellerophon tried to ride the winged
horse to Mount Olympus to become a god. Pegasus refused to be
party to Bellerophon's act of prideful ambition and threw
him from his back (in another version of the tale, Zeus sends
a gadfly to sting Pegasus, who then bucks Bellerophon off). To
reward his courage and goodness, the gods named Pegasus the horse
of Zeus, and raised him to the heavens, where he appears as a
northern constellation. According to another legend, a kick from
his hoof opened the fountain Hippocrene on the Muses' mountain
Helicon. Hence, the winged horse has often been associated with
the arts, especially poetry. The sixth-century mythographer Fulgentius
connected Pegasus with another winged creature of antiquity, the
female figure of Fame.
Whether she and her
fellow graduates will go on to fame, creative genius, or great
acts of courage and goodness, Lauren Snead '02 cannot guess.
But, like so many MHC artists before her, the theatre major and
studio art minor felt inspired to express her classmates'
unique qualities by giving new form to her class icon. She created
an abstract, woodcut-style Pegasus design, which last year decorated
the banners at Junior Show and this year graces the College's
commencement handbook. "While the Pegasus looks ready to
take flight, it is also contained within a circle, which for me
represents community," said Snead of her design. "Circles
are never ending, which give them that sense of movement, motion,
and energycharacteristics that not only describe the Pegasus
symbol, but our class, full of energy and motion, ready to take
flight, yet held by and part of this great community."
Left: Emblem designs through the ages, from top to bottom:
1946, 1954, 1958, 1962, and 1986