The Horses Are Calling: Time to Step Up Our Game

Male-Female Drama: On a cool and gray mid-September day, I arrived at Medicine Horse Ranch to begin making plans for the book that equine guided education facilitator Alyssa Aubrey and I are writing about women and horses. I was consumed with a familiar heartache—an old painful pattern my lover and I had enacted many times before—and that had previously split us up. Instead of my usual “healthy” green tea, I happily drank sweetened Dunkin Doughnuts coffee laced with thick heavy cream from nearby Strauss Creamery. I poured out my relationship drama to Alyssa before we talked about beginning our horse book. She shared some of her own relationship challenges. Conflict, retreat, respect, boundaries and unmet needs were all part of our coffee conversation.

Equine Equinox: Once we started talking about the book, several themes emerged—the historical subjugation and mistreatment of horses, women, and the earth, the emasculation of stallions, generational war trauma, and loss of wilderness. We also spoke of women inextricably drawn to be with horses and how the horses were calling us to be in right relationship.

I read to Alyssa from a written dialogue process I had done with the Horse Ancestors years earlier where they had asked me to bring people together to pray for the horses at the 2004 spring equinox. The Horse Ancestors had told me that focused prayer could right the ancient and current wrongs and trauma suffered by the horses, because prayer can move between the worlds, crossing time and space. Equinox celebrations in spring and fall traditionally celebrate and restore balance. Maybe it was time to do it again. Alyssa and I quickly formulated a plan to do a simple private autumnal equinox ceremony the following week, and gather a larger spring gathering with and for the horses.

Another Male-Female Drama: As we walked down to the barn, the skies had cleared and dog Lila ran ahead joyfully. We were quickly greeted by the curious interaction of two of the ranch’s retirement horses in the paddock. Navarro, a 17-hand Hanoverian was pestering the diminutive Arab filly Sueva by nipping her and backing her into the fence. Meanwhile Sage, the ranch’s lead mare had her ears back as she watched them. Tizzy, the sentinel and protector of the herd was the only other horse in evidence.  

Neck on the Line: After a few minutes we passed through the gate into the front pasture where Sage greeted us and faced due north, toward the road. In the medicine wheel, north is the place of wisdom, winter, the ancestors and Buffalo Calf Woman. As our attention turned back to Sueva and Navarro, a shift had taken place. Even after Navarro had stopped bullying her and left her alone, Sueva continued to push up against the fence, dangerously risking injury.

I realized that the exaggerated drama between Sueva and Navarro was keeping us both from paying attention to Sage. As we focused back on Sage still planted at her post facing north, Alyssa noticed that her neck was hovering dangerously close to the barbed wire.

She later wrote, “She stood stoic, her neck on the barbed wire fence, skin touching the wire just between the sharp barbs, near enough that it caught my whole attention and took my breath away. I could feel her insistence, her requirement to offer nothing less than everything—she had her neck on the line; she was telling us in no uncertain terms that she meant business and we were called here to step up our game.”

Sage’s Response to Our Plan: Alyssa asked Sage whether we should do horse equinox ceremony and embark on our planned work together. In that moment, everything changed. Sage came directly to me, then Alyssa, and then walked directly in between us, standing with us. In the west, all of the program horses—previously out of sight down the hill—were suddenly present and ready, summoned by their lead mare. Even more surprisingly, to the east, Sueva and Navarro calmly grazed together. The beauty and the blessing of that moment were staggering. With her eyes brimming with tears of gratitude, Alyssa told me, “I have never seen Sage stand for so long in the north.” Alyssa recognized Sage’s actions and this moment as an unequivocal affirmation of the importance of our new work together. Then, just as quickly, Sage and most of the program horses dispersed. Rosie came up to get some scratches, and then we had another visitor.

Notice Me! Billy Brown, a tall, young black BLM gelding came up to us. Alyssa explained that he would test boundaries, and to hold firm as he advanced. I admired her horsemanship as Alyssa protected herself and me from him, but Billy still persisted even as she shooed him away using an energy technique. Finally, intuition prompted Alyssa to hold his big head in her hands and rock it gently and slowly from side to side. He then stood with us and I sensed his respect and support.

Honoring Without Emasculating: “I was thinking about how to claim my power without emasculating him as I rocked his head,” Alyssa later said. She also explained that between Sueva and Navarro, the petite mare had more rank and could have made Navarro back down at any time. As we discussed our learnings and what we witnessed, first one, two, and then three red-tailed hawks circled directly overhead as Rosie and Billy Brown peacefully groomed each other.

Gaining Human Insight from the Horses: The horses had spoken. We mused about how the horses had mirrored our own issues. In a short time, they had shown us conflict between the sexes, bullying, self-harming behavior, affirmation, distraction from purpose, mutual nurturing and much more. As I drove back home through the hills and craggy rock outcroppings, I mused at the parallels between my relationship issues and the behavior of the horses. In my desire to merge with my lover, I had overextended myself and not set boundaries. I was not taking care of my needs and staying true to my purpose. I am left with the following questions:

  • Where am I on the fence?
  • Where do I need to step up my game?
  • What is at stake and where am I putting my neck on the line?
  • How am I instigating and perpetuating my relationship drama with the man in my life?
  • What is distracting me from my highest purpose?

Clearly, following the call of and the wisdom of the horses is the way through, there is no time to lose and it’s time to step up.

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Dream Horse Women Interview: Kansas Carradine on Trick Riding, Cavalia, and What’s Next

Riding on U-Tube

After attending the 2008 Equine Guided Education Association’s Big Sky Horse conference in Valley Ford, California, I received a mesmerizing U-tube posting (see below) from conference participant Kansas Carradine. The video begins with the athletic and graceful Kansas doing expert lasso-work which is deeply sensual. The video then moves into awe-inspiring trick riding for Cavalia, including “Roman” riding—where Kansas stands atop two horses at once, with one leg on each horse. The footage where she is wearing red and blue shot outside in Australia contrasts with the dreamy sequences onstage in Cavalia.

Lifelong Love Affair with Horses

In a phone interview from her home near Lake Tahoe in early February 2008, the young mother told me, “I can not remember a time before horses.” By age 4 she was riding and from 5-7 she did gymkhana and trail riding. From ages 7 to 11 she was jumping horses and riding English-style. She has been performing with horses since she was eleven.

Going off to Summer Camp—for 7 Years

When Kansas was 11 years old, she left her Hollywood home for the Riata two-week trick riding camp in Exeter, California. The first thing they did was ride horses in the river. When she returned home, she announced to her startled father that she was moving there permanently. Within a few weeks, Kansas was living and working at Riata’s boarding school, as one of the performing “Riata Ranch Cowboy Girls.” Riata’s owners became her surrogate parents in what was then the only trick riding school in the U.S. Kansas thrived on the stability that the boarding school offered. Kansas recalls the responsibility instilled through working hard taking care of the horses, practicing, and performing. Kansas and her parents credit Riata and the horses for helping her navigate successfully through difficult adolescent passages such as her parents’ divorce and substance abuse.

 

Cavalia

 

From 2005-2007, Kansas performed in Cavalia, the dream-like theater and multi-media sensation that evokes the mystical, magical, and transformational relationship between human and horse. Kansas describes Cavalia, “I had always dreamed of it, but it didn’t exist yet. I had tears in my eyes the first time I saw Cavalia—being in Cavalia was a dream come true. Cavalia touches everyone. It transports people to another time. It is timeless, wrapped up in fantasy, mythology, and the collective unconscious. Knights, Celtic mythology, bareback riding, little girls—it is all there.” The performance schedule could be grueling with 7 shows a week and 250 shows annually in different cities and countries.

 

Destiny

 

Kansas sees the hand of destiny in her work with Cavalia. While performing with Cavalia, Kansas met her future husband, artistic director Alain Gauthier. She credits fate for bringing her to Cavalia and to her new life as wife and mother. Kansas actually performed on horseback until she was four months pregnant. She and Alain left the tour from Brussels, Belgium when daughter Phoenix Rose (now two) was sixteen months old.

What’s Next

Now in her late twenties, Kansas shows the same courage and clarity about following her passion and taking the road less-traveled as an adult that she did as a pre-teen girl. She loves living in the beautiful Lake Tahoe area, and is a devoted mom to her daughter. There are, of course, horses in her life, including some Friesians (those magnificent horses that medieval knights rode), and she is learning dressage. A lasso act in Reno beckons, and she and her husband Alain are busy creating inspirational equine theater.

Kansas credits horses with lifelong learning. She recently began training with Ariana Strozzi, one of the founders of the Equine Guided Education Association, and is planning to get certificated in the program. Kansas credits the work with bringing her into even deeper relationship with the horses in her life. Kansas is also looking into working with horses and at-risk teens at a program near her home. For now, though, it is a deep pleasure to share horses with her two-year old and set down some roots. It is a safe bet that the coming years will include horses, learning, family, and of course following her passions.

Resources: 

U-Tube Performance: http://www.youtube.com/kansasanne 

Los Angeles Times article about Kansas: http://www.hughhart.com/stories_04/latimes_cavalia.htm 

Cavalia: www.cavalia.net 

Equine Guided Education Association: http://www.equineguidededucation.org/ 

Ariana Strozzi: http://www.leadershipandhorses.com/

  

 

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Flicka: A Movie Review

Mary O’Hara’s famous 1941 novel My Friend Flicka was made into a popular 1943 film starring young Rodney McDowell. In the book and the original movie, the main character is a young boy learning life lessons on a Wyoming ranch through his love for Flicka, a beautiful sorrel mare. There was even a My Friend Flicka tv series that ran in the 1950’s.

 The Girls Have It

In 20th Century’s 2006 Flicka, Ken McLaughlin has morphed into Katy McLaughlin, a teen girl uninterested in schoolwork. On her first morning home from boarding school, Katy runs out to the stables and dashes on horseback off into the spectacular Wyoming landscape. A wild mustang mare saves the reckless girl from a mountain lion attack, thus setting up a conflict between Katy and her dad. The glum quarter horse breeder, played by country singer Tim McGraw, doesn’t want a mustang on his ranch. Economic woes, a headstrong daughter, and the undeniable love of Katy for the beautiful black Flicka create the main dramatic elements in the film. Katy overrides her father’s orders and gentles the wild black mustang.

 What Happened to Ken?

The 2006 film has gorgeous footage and is sure to be a favorite of preteen girls. But what happened to Ken in this re-make? The reissue of this classic tale with a sex-change in the main protagonist reflects an important aspect of culture in the Western world. More women own horses in the U.S. and Canada than men, and women are now dominating most of the equestrian sports with the exception of racing and polo. The original novel and film were made at a time when horses were still the domain of the boys and men. In the 1950’s horses lost their primary jobs in agriculture and warfare, and since that time girls and women have increasingly dominated the stable. In the film, it is Katy’s brother who is interested in leaving the ranch to go to college, and Katy who is drawn to the land, the horses and the ranch.

 Catch the Ending

While there are many who fuss over the differences between the original story/movie and the 2006 version, most seem to agree that the cinematography in the recent film is spectacular, as is the landscape. Some reviewers have found the story too saccharine and trite. Of special note, though, is the very ending of the film. With beautiful footage of horses and her parents as a backdrop, Katy, played by Alison Lohman speaks:

 “I believe there is a force in this world that lives beneath the surface. Something primitive and wild that awakens when you need an extra push just to survive. Like wildflowers that bloom after a fire turns the forest black. Most people are afraid of it and keep it buried deep inside themselves. But there will always be a few people who have the courage to love what is untamed inside us. One of those men is my father.”  The last scene in the movie shows the exhilarated Katy riding Flicka. As the camera catches the ecstatic look on her face, Katy says, “When we’re riding, all I feel is free.” 

Don’t Miss the Horse Girl Photos

As the credits roll, dozens of photographs of girls and horses reinforce the deep kinship so many girls have for their horses in a beautiful photo montage. When I saw Flicka in the theater, a young girl gasped as she saw her own picture on the screen. Promoters of the film had collected photos of girls and horses nationwide, and hers had been selected.

 Conclusion

The gender change of the main character shows an important cultural trend (as well as savvy marketing.) In the last five minutes, the filmmakers have evoked an important aspect in the psyche of horse girls. Indeed horse girls and horse women do seem to be able to hear that primitive and wild force that Katy describes. If horse love is an important developmental stage in girls’ emotional growth, as Diane Ackerman says in A Natural History of Love, Flicka certainly captures it ably. Katy’s love for the wild Flicka helps her take risks, demonstrate responsibility, and experience the heady taste of freedom. I personally enjoy movies with independent heroines that have upbeat endings, and the last five minutes is worth the price of the video rental.

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Horse Girl: A Poem

I wrote this poem in 2002. It became the basis for my doctoral dissertation from Pacifica Graduate Institute in Depth Psychology, entitled Horse Girl: An Archetypal Study of Women, Horses, and Trauma Healing.

Horse Girl by Catherine Held

At the edge of the world, Horse Girl paws and snorts. She was exiled 40 years ago. She was exiled 5,000 years ago. Kurgan men who conquered horses rode over the Russian steppes and slew the Goddess. 

When I was six I was an Indian girl. I led my Palomino pony down to the ravine where we put our long necks into the water and drank from the creek. We tossed our manes at the same time. Palomino. Pal o’ mine. Pony. Pony up.  

At the edge of the world, Horse Girl paws and snorts. She dreams herd dreams. She dreams of the Girl, exiled in her strange land and longs to meet her. 

My pony was a raffle prize in the Chagrin Falls Fair. I had the winning ticket. My pony, my companion. Heartbreak. Sick. Envy. Not fair. My horse. Just next door. Wrong girl. Moved away. Horse gone. 

Mare. Nightmare. “Don’t be on your high horse.” “No more horsing around, young lady.”  

“Wild horses can’t make me!” 

Horse. Horse sense. Horse laugh. Horse power. Breaking a horse. Horse whip.  Bridle. The old gray mare just ain’t what she used to be. 

I have been bridled twice now. They tried to break me but I bolted my corral. I roam the world, sometimes leaving my colts behind. 

At the edge of the world, Horse Girl paws and snorts. The rest of the world is getting closer now.  She whinnies and then stops to listen. 

Brood. Brooding. Brood mare. Skittish as a mare. Runaway horse. Runaway bride. Stallion. Black Stallion. Prince on a white horse. 

One night a stallion makes love to me in my dreams, then holds me with human arms in the night. When I awake, I hear a sound, a distant sound. 

On that day, 8 million women swallow pregnant horse urine.

On that day, 75,000 foals are slaughtered to serve those 8 million women. 

On that day, the Chairman of the Board reports to the AHP stockholders that the Premarin family of products broke the $1 billion sales mark. “The future for Premarin—the most prescribed medication in the U.S. remains highly promising. Research continues to reveal new ways in which conjugated estrogens can contribute to the well being and longevity of postmenopausal women.” 

On that day a Tennessee Walking horse has kerosene poured on his fetlocks to make his distinctive walk. 

On that day I meet a woman who rescues horses. Or does she rescue women? They are called throwaways, discarded because they cannot be ridden or bred. 

On that day, at the edge of the world, Horse Girl waits with quiet expectation. She knows I am finally coming.

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Return to Freedom American Wild Horse Sanctuary

Nestled into the rolling hills outside of Lompoc, California is the Return to Freedom American Wild Horse Sanctuary. Home to 200 horses living in family herds, the sanctuary tends wild (feral) horses and burros while advocating and educating about their precarious living conditions and need for preservation. In late August, I scheduled a trip to southern California around their 10:00 am Living History tour. I stayed overnight in nearby Buellton so I could catch the tour on my way back up to my home in northern California.

 

Wild Horses and Transformation at Return to Freedom

I first heard about the wild horse sanctuary five years ago from graduate student Sandra Easter who shares my interest in women, horses, and healing. She had gone to Return to Freedom (RTF) when her life was swirling in the turmoil surrounding her divorce, a move, and her unknown future direction. Sandra had stayed at the sanctuary (in a facilitated experience) to just “be” with the horses, and found tremendous peace, acceptance, and personal insight. As she described her experiences, there was clearly a mystical or spiritual quality to her time watching and being with the horses. Sandra said that being with, or even being near the wild horses was very different than being with domesticated horses. She found it difficult to express her powerful experiences in words, yet her experience was transformative, with long lasting healing effects. A few years later, I found mention of Return to Freedom in Carolyn Resnick’s fascinating book, Naked Liberty, about her experiences with wild horses, and I wondered again about RTF. I was especially curious to meet Neda DeMayo, the founder of the sanctuary and was pleased to learn that she would lead the tour. As she greeted the visitors, Neda impressed me as someone very comfortable in her own skin. Neda has the build of an athlete, with thick chestnut hair, and eyes that are warm and watchful.

 

Living History Tour

Grandparents with their horse-crazy granddaughter, a middle-aged woman who felt compelled to come, and a mom and her daughters on their way to a pioneer camp made up our group. In the barn, surrounded by stacks of hay, we watched an introductory video made in 2004 that eloquently outlines the plight of the wild horses and the daunting challenge of RTF. From 2 million mustangs in the 1800’s, only 32,000 remain, mostly on U.S. government lands, after millions were brutally rounded up and slaughtered. Of those that remain, 22,000 of the mustangs are penned up in holding tanks, often for years at a time. Many of the horses left in the wild or in the unscrupulous hands of people that “adopt” the horses suffer from emaciation and disease.

 

A Pioneer Standing up for Wild Horses

In a thoughtful discussion after the video, Neda’s role as an advocate became clear. Even with all of the daily chores of caring for 200 horses and burros, running an organization, and fundraising, one of Neda’s most important duties is political advocacy. She pioneered the concept of placing family groups and herds rather than breaking them up. As herd animals, horses suffer when they are alone, because to be alone, or separated from the herd, is to be in danger. Her eyes cloud over as she laments the loss of individual species and the abuse she has witnessed. Neda’s years of fighting for the mustangs has led her to understand the painful truth that mustangs are at risk of dying out simply because they have little financial value.

 

She told us that that the very best way to protect the wild horses is by educating and rallying public support to ensure protection. DeMayo has taken the plight of the horses into the court of public opinion by garnering Hollywood attention and support for the important RTF programs and advocacy work.

 

After the tour and our questions, Neda introduced us to some of the many horses and even burros that live at the Sanctuary. We met “Spirit,” the mustang that was the prototype for the Dreamworks animated film by the same name. We met different rescued horses and learned their stories, as we had a chance to pet them. We walked up the hillside and into the area with the wild horses who came to inspect us quite readily. It made my heart glad to see other nearby family herds roaming freely.

 

Challenge and Hope

As the tour came to an end and I headed back through the winding roads to the main highway, I was awed by the enormity of the work that lies ahead to preserve the American wild horses. I was also filled with hope as I recalled the before and after footage of Paloma from the video. The video chronicled the emaciated, white pregnant mare that arrived at the Sanctuary, with the future for herself and her unborn foal uncertain.The “after” footage showed a vibrantly healthy mother parenting her foal Francesca Rose. The beautiful white Paloma (dove in Spanish) is a wonderful symbol of the hundreds of horses that have passed through the sanctuary. Paloma has even taken in orphan foals to mother them as well.

 

Next Steps

As I recall my morning at Return to Freedom American Wild Horse Sanctuary, it is clear that the task requires the same qualities of the wild horses themselves: tremendous strength, endurance and persistence. The RTF Sanctuary is an important model, but its acreage is not enough to feed the horses it serves without supplementation. Herd sizes are maintained with non-hormonal birth control. In the summer months, feed alone costs $10,000 a month. We must be the voice for the horses and we must act now with all of our courage and strength.

 

There are many ways to support this vital work, including donations, purchasing books and gifts from the RTF store, and writing letters to our representatives in Congress and the U.S. Senate. For more information about Return to Freedom, and to support the work of RTF, please see www.returntofreedom.org.

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Saranyu: The Runaway Horse Goddess: Part II

In Part I, I described the Hindu horse goddess Saranyu who left her husband, the sun, by turning herself into a mare and running away. When Saranyu ran away, she left a double—an imposter wife—behind. The imposter took care of the husband, Surya, and even had more children with him. In this conclusion to the story, we learn what happened to Saranyu and why her story still resonates today for modern women, 3,000 years later. 

Born into Illusion 

The imposter or shadow wife left behind gave birth to Manu, a son whose name is the derivation for the English word human. In the ancient Hindu Rig Veda, Manu was the father of the human race. In Hindu understanding, Manu, as the child of the false wife, was thus the result of an illusion, underscoring the belief that as humans, we are born into illusion, and our task is to awaken.

 “She is Not My Mother”  

In Part I, I described how Surya did not notice that his real wife had left and what a poignant metaphor that is for modern women who often must repress their true selves to stay in their marriages. It was actually Saranyu’s young son who noticed the deception when the imposter wife/mother mistreated him. The young boy knew that the imposter was not his mother and complained bitterly to his father. As soon as Surya learned the deception, he turned himself into a stallion and ran off to reclaim his bride.

 Desire or Curiosity? 

There are different translations of the ancient Rig Veda, leading to alternate interpretations of what happened next. They do agree that Surya, as a stallion, found Saranyu the mare. In his excitement at seeing her again, Surya spilled his semen on the ground. She sniffed at the semen which entered her nose and impregnated her. Saranyu had a second set of twins, Nasatya and Dasra, known as the Asvins.

Where the interpretations differ is whether Saranyu’s curiosity caused her to smell her husband’s semen, or if she purposely chose to smell the semen because she desired more children. The myth is curiously similar to the Greek Persephone who bent down to smell a flower. Her action caused her to be abducted into the Underworld by Hades on horseback.

 Important Themes 

Consciousness

Birthing of a new consciousness is one theme in the story. The Asvin twins born from the joining of the mare and stallion were physician-gods that appeared in the heavens in the dawn to guide their father’s solar carriage. Their purpose was to “protect humanity from suffering and misery and guide human beings to enlightenment.”[1] They were also the gods of agriculture. Just as their big brother Manu brought the birthing of humanity, the Asvins brought healing. Without Saranyu’s bid for freedom, neither humanity nor healing would have been brought to the earth.

Splitting

Another important theme in the story is that of splitting. Saranyu shape-shifted into two forms: a mare and the imposter or shadow wife. As a mare, she was wild and free in a way that she was unable to be as the wife of the sun god. In psychology, splitting is an important concept that often happens as the result of a trauma. A false self often arises to appease the world and protect the “real” self. How often do we do that as women even when no trauma is evident? How many times do we tell others, “I’m fine,” when our heart is broken, our world has been shattered, or we can hardly face the day and we don’t even know why?  

Solar Consciousness

Solar consciousness and its effects are another important facet of this potent myth. If we had all sun and no rain, the earth could not survive. Just as global warming threatens our very planet, the kind of consciousness that does not recognize and value the dark, the natural world, the importance of the feminine, and the mysterious is lopsided. Death, decay, aging, suffering, illness, and loss are all facets of life that our solar culture often avoids at all costs. When my father died, for example, he requested that there be no memorial service. He wanted to spare us our grief. Yet there was no opportunity for the extended family and community to cry together share our grief, which made his passing harder to work through.

 Saranyu’s Choice

Whatever the reason Saranyu sniffed the semen, it was a very sensible thing to do. Smell is an important sense in our daily lives and also metaphorically. We use expressions like, “something just doesn’t smell right about the situation” to discern the truth. In the wild, it is the mare in estrus that chooses her mate. I prefer to think that Saranyu chose to smell the semen knowing the consequences, and that she chose willingly, and on her own terms.

 Running Away as Running To

Finally, we often consider running away as a poor alternative to facing the obstacles in our path. In this case, Saranyu’s running away led her to birth humanity and healing. More women, even mothers of young children, leave their marriages in the U.S. today than men. Saranyu’s story points out why: women often cannot express their authentic selves within the confines of traditional marriages and so they are leaving. Rather than scapegoating women as failures when they initiate divorce, we must examine marriage and our assumptions about marriage. No one seems to be asking the important question, “Why is marriage failing so many women, and especially mothers of young children?” Saranyu’s running away is a “running to” the authentic self that was vital to humanity.

 Conclusion

The story of Saranyu is a potent story for women in our time as we juggle multiple roles and demands. Our deepest desires for authentic relationships—with our mates, our children, and with others—can go unsatisfied unless we undertake the often-difficult journey to know ourselves. Just as Saranyu needed to leave her husband and children behind, we need to find ways to be true to our authentic needs and create openings for soul to come shining through. There are many pathways—therapy, journal writing, women’s circles, retreats, meditation, being with horses and other animals—that help us to hear our own true soul voice. Make a date with yourself today, and keep it. The world will be a better place because of it.

        


[1] Fischer-Schreiber, I. (1989). The encyclopedia of eastern philosophy and religion: Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, Zen. Boston: Shambala.

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Saranyu: the Runaway Horse Goddess: Part I

What can an ancient Hindu horse goddess who was the mother of the human race teach modern women today? In the Rig Veda, composed more than 3,000 years ago, is a potent story of a runaway wife and the rebirth that resulted. This two-part article tells the story:

Saranyu

Saranyu was given in marriage to Surya, the solar god, who daily rode through the sky in a chariot drawn by seven red mares. She was young, beautiful, and fertile, and her name meant, “flowing.” Saranyu gave birth to a set of twins and, according to the Rig Veda, Saranyu was overcome by her husband’s “heat.”  Perhaps this means that Saranyu did not share the same sexual attraction that her husband exhibited. More likely, it was Surya’s solar consciousness that was too much for her to bear. Being with her powerful husband was like having the sun constantly bearing down; powerful, oppressive, drying up the very life forces that need wetness, darkness, and shade.

Two Selves

Saranyu did the only thing she knew to do—she turned herself into a horse and ran away. First, though, she split into two beings by creating an exact double that stayed behind. The imposter, known as “shade” or “shadow,” took care of the children and shared her husband’s bed. As Saranyu breathed in the moist air of freedom and grazed in the deep grasses, her other self continued on in the old life.

I remember the feeling of that very split when my children were very young and I was still married. There was my “real” passionate life that I hungered for, and my life subsumed in the needs of my children, work, and husband. Time spent with women, making art, or just being alone in the quiet hours before my family awoke were drops that filled an aching well of need. I felt unseen.

Waking up the Husband

Although it may seem curious, many women will resonate with the next part of the tale: Saranyu’s husband never noticed that his real wife had left. Surya was so busy getting the sun going every day, that as long as his meals were provided, children tended and sexual needs met, he was satisfied. He even had more children with his shadow wife.

Stay Tuned for Part II:

  • Does Saranyu reunite with her husband?
  • How does the human race get born?
  • What can an ancient horse goddess myth tell us today?

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