By Gerald Hausman
Santa Fe, NM, USA

Mythologists like to say, when speaking of our favorite animals, that the dog and the cat became one with us so long ago we can’t trace it. We seem to remember that the dog’s wet nose came from plugging a leak in Noah’s Ark. And the cat came to life when the lion sneezed.

Ah, but it was the horse, they say, that got us into the gloried and storied magic of the clouds. And we have not come down since.

Gerald Hausman

There is the myth of the turquoise horse that figures so importantly in Navajo sagas, poetry and song, says it all:

I am the Sun’s son
I sit upon a horse at the opening of the sky
My horse walks upon terrifying hooves
And stands on the upper circle of the rainbow
With a sunbeam in his mouth for a bridle.
My horse circles all the people of the earth.
Today I ride on his broad back and he is mine.
Tomorrow he will belong to another.

It is this sense of sharing, of communal horsemanship, that makes the equine myths so exceptional. But we do not find it only in native literature of the Americas, for it goes far back in time.

The Arabian horse has often been called “the healer of nations.” In Arabic tales it is said that the mother of blooded foals united all beings. These included stallion, mare and foal; but man, woman, and child as well.

Horse races on the desert sands of Arabia, far from dividing people, brought them together. And it was a tradition that the winner of races got the finest stock from the loser’s herd. Such diversity created champion racers, horses of myth. As an Arab poet once wrote long ago:

The nostrils of a racer
Are like the petals of a rose.
The neck is an elongated wave
From which floats brilliant ripples
Of silken mane.
The ears, inward pointing,
Are lilies in trembling water
And the entire body of the horse
Sways with the strength
Of wind, sun and sand.

King Solomon himself disregarded the Israelite law that forbade the breeding of horses. Instead he built stables for 40,000 horses of Arabian blood. Some of these were taken by Solomon’s son, Menyelek, who bore the sacred Ark of the Covenant from Judah to his home in Ethiopia.

In the African version of the Bible, Menyelek’s caravan traveled upon the wind. This great book called The Kebra Nagast or, translated, “The Glory of the Kings,” tells us that the men of the caravan were watched over by angels.

Observers said the caravan was made up of men and horses that they said were “Eagles of Heaven.”

Mythology of course has woven a web of mystery about this miraculous event. King Solomon himself had to break the decree of Moses not to breed horses. But we know from historical accounts that when he married the Pharaoh’s daughter, Makeda, she worshiped not only golden insect idols, but golden horses as well.

Sunlight and horses are symbolic in Arabic literature. The horse of the sun, therefore, is not only a figure in Navajo heroic poetry and song, but also Arabic as well.

There is an almost dizzying complexity to horse myths of all nations. To the Dakota the horse was sunka wakan, which translated, means “mystery dog.”

To the Shawnee the horse was mishawa or elk.

When the conquistadores visited Hopi Mesa in 1583, tribal people spread cotton scarves on the ground for the Spanish horses to walk on.

For comparison, we may look at canine mythology which states that God seeing man was so feeble, He gave him dog, so he would not be so lonely. Feline mythology suggests that human could not see God, but we could see and worship cat wherein God dwelt. The five-thousand-year cycle of stories that praise cat, dog and horse, do not fail to say that human beings could not survive without them.

Ancient parables from all nations under the sun say that man was once a horse. And that is just the beginning of the story. In more recent times, as man and woman became accustomed to riding on horse’s back, followed by dog and carrying cat, it turned out that human treasure-seekers were sitting on the thing they were searching for.

The treasure therefore was horse. In literature, whether Don Quixote or Jeanne d’Arc, the human race is always saved by a horse. When this balance goes awry due to human malfeasance, there appears that mythical thing called nightmare. This is the uncontrollable horse of darkness that takes us on a wild, unremitting ride through the fearful lower level of human consciousness.

It is no wonder though that so much of the magic of the horse is conferred upon us in poetry. As the modern poet James Wright tells us in his epiphanic poem, The Blessing, a human being is transformed by merely touching a horse:

Her mane falls wild on her forehead,
And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear
That is delicate as the skin over a girl’s wrist.
Suddenly I realize
That if I stepped out of my body I would break
Into blossom. 



Gerald Hausman is an award-winning, bestselling author and storyteller.  His new book, Mystical Times at Noel Coward's - Nights and Days in Jamaicawill be released in the summer of 2020.

All opinions expressed are solely those of its author and do not reflect the opinions of Stay Thirsty Media, Inc.