By Blair McKissock, MSEd, RYT
Horses are a large piece of what makes up legend, mythology, and history. At the beginning of the year in the time of winter, we confront the darker aspects of our inner self, sometimes referred to as dancing with your dark horse. During this time, we retreat inward, staying warm and secure literally living in darkness, with the longer nights and shorter days. As we turn the corner in spring, and look toward summer, we emerge from the darkness into the light half of the year, bringing with us the lessons we have learned from the shadow. Days are longer, we feel more joy, we are outside sharing in the warmth and renewal of this time of year in the presence of the white horse. Spring brings rebirth, hope, and an opportunity to continue growing as we transfer the learning we gleaned from the dark horse. In Shamanic traditions, the white horse symbolizes spiritual transformation, and the potentiality of the attainment of a higher state of consciousness. They also might represent a deepening of our intuition and self-awareness. In some cultures, they represented fertility returning to the earth, in line with the same themes of springtime. However, in other myths and legends, the white horse represented a warning.
Another archetype to consider for this time of year is the white horse that carries the rider or pulls the chariot. The white horse for some might represent the support or champion as the human tries to apply the newfound inner strength into the battle of everyday life. The Tjängvide stone is thought to depict Odin riding his white horse Sleipnir into Valhalla. This image feels full of strength and victory having emerged from the metaphorical battle with the self. This gives them an almost divine quality. In many stories, they pull the chariots of the Gods, and are even depicted as Gods. If you look at the Rider-Waite Tarot deck, the white horse appears in both the major and minor arcanas, perhaps symbolizing the purity of the transformation. White horses can also represent the purity of destruction. In the Christian religion, Revelations describes the four horsemen of the apocalypse that bring with them the end of the world. Conquest, War, Famine, and Death each ride a different horse, with Conquest or the anti-Christ, riding the white horse. Further into the chapter, Christ rides the white horse, leading God’s armies out of Heaven. Though these images may feel dark and scary, the purpose of destruction is to bring about rebirth.
In the Avalonian tradition this time is called the Station of Emergence, and coincides with the May 1st observance of Calan Mai or Beltane. In her book Avalon Within, Jhenah Telyndru describes our next step: “With this liberated energy at our disposal, we seek the vision of our Higher Self, made manifest, and plant the seeds of wholeness in the receptive and fertile soil of our souls.” When we emerge from the darkness into the light we have a job to do and a choice. The job is to apply the newfound wisdom, and plant it so that it may grow and fuel our transformation to what can be. We must make the choice to act, or the choice to continue repeating the same patterns of our life. Just as the white horse can bring peace and light, they also warn us of the consequences of our choices, and our karma. There is light and dark in everything. It is a continuous cycle affording us the opportunity to fulfill our purpose, to live in the light, and not to fear the dark but embrace it and understand its purpose in balance. She goes on to say: “Through the marriage of what is within to what is without as we straddle the worlds of Dark and Light, we work to make Unconscious, conscious, and seek an external manifestation of the true Self that was revealed in the darkness.” It is time to hear our call to action, and commit to our transformation and making a plan to plant, cultivate, then harvest the seeds of growth with the white horse at our side.
As you reflect back on your time in darkness, and process the aspects of the shadow confronted while dancing with your dark horse, what are three actions you can take in your life to move you forward towards your goals? The white horse can be a great gift on this part of our journey bringing us back into the light. Transformation and growth is hard work; the white horse will also offer support to us during this time. They can pull the chariot we ride into battle making us feel powerful, and that we have something we can call upon for strength. They can carry us forward in our life, like the hero riding the white horse carrying a banner of peace into a difficult situation. They can walk beside us freely and unrestrained, representing unconditional love and support. They live in our heart as a reminder of our own divinity and connection with all things.
Blair McKissock, MSEd, RYT is a speaker and author on experiential and nature-based learning. She loves sharing the amazing world of equine-assisted learning and therapies through her work at Strides to Success in Plainfield, Indiana, and through the HorseWork Equine-Assisted Learning and Therapy Facilitator training program. You can learn more about coaching, OmHorse mounted yoga sessions, and upcoming equine-assisted trainings at stridestosuccess.org.