The theme of the white horse began for me as a small child and the haunting but compelling tune of ‘White Horses‘ (from the old BBC children’s programme, sung by Jackie Lee) that I played over and over again on my parent’s record player. I didn’t understand the fascination, nor did I ever want to ride a horse as many other girls did; what I loved were images of wild horses, manes a-flow, as they galloped across plains, representing for me absolute freedom to be. The metaphor of the horse as a symbol of the freedom to harness personal power is widespread; from the ancient horse goddesses Epona and Rhiannon to the Windhorse of the Buddhist tradition; the white horse is archetypal and powerful.
In the Celtic myth of Old Briton; the 13 Treasures, it is the 5th treasure which represents the theme of today’s show: the Halter of Clydno Eiddyn could bring any horse to us to take us swiftly to where we want to go. Back in the Bronze Age when wild horses were first being tamed an unparalleled phenomena was taking place across Eurasia; millennia old wandering tribes of Hunter Gatherers and settling farming communities were beginning a long process of assimilation and change. As the two peoples met and separated at the edges where hunting and foraging grounds met territorial boundaries of villages, then towns, then cities, difference began to emerge, not as a thing to be celebrated, but as a cause of disconcert, unease and fear.
It is said that the biblical tales of Eden and the notion of Other, and of good and bad began there, as the farming settlers troubled by every nuance of climate from a flash flood or a drought to climate change on a grand scale, began to both resent and despise the freedom of the wandering tribes, who in turn, as the settlements grew ever larger to incorporate more and more growing land on which to guarantee a good harvest to feed an ever growing populace, seemed ever to remove from their lost Eden more and more of the landscape the Nomads held sacred & revered. It could be said that it is here that fear took a hold of our ancestors in such a way as to be overwhelming, to be held back and repressed lest it reduced them to powerlessness.
And so it was that by the Age of Chivalry the Arthurian cycle of tales told of the wounded masculine, the Fisher King, the forever wounded monarch and consort of the land.
On a magical journey with a siblinghood of fellow seekers at the Elmhirst Centre on the Dartington Estate our bard sang to the ancient old yew grandmother. …
We sing beneath
2000 year old yew
But I am drawn
To her son
A magnificent specimen
Just there to one side
He speaks to me
Of a connection to be made
I speak to Yew
It is I who am sick
The castrated male
So that I may know myself
From the inside
In the gardens I wandered on a shamanic journeying to feel into the deepest roots of the unfeeling pain of our times. I entered an old oak split by lightening, stood in its centre, & picked up from where he had fallen a broken branch, the castrated male within. Took him home and placed him in the midst of the large tropical love plant that grows toward the light on my stairs, there to ponder daily, this question, this piece of our wholeness I have felt called to find.
The sacred feminine is not dead, she merely waits, bides her time, for the king, her consort to be healed and the land replenished by his grace, his humility, his love.
In the myth of Parzival we find the answers to this eternal dilemma. Parzival is young, impulsive, rash and foolish; the perfect young fool; hero in the making. He leaves the woman he loves to roam the lands as a knight, seeking out fights, chopping off heads at the slightest provocation, looking for his glory, seeking fame and honours. So head strong and ego centric is he that even though he is chosen to enter the kingdom of the grail, where none but a few are called, he fails to carry out the task he was destined to undertake; to ask a question of the ailing fisher king.
Many there are that seek to tell of why the consort of the land incurred such a wound, in his groin, that would not heal, caused him endless pain, yet did not kill him but I like the interpretation of Irish wise woman Sharon Blackie who tells of the Well Women, the keepers of the sacred waters of the earth and of how they, free, virgin, sacred servers of the feminine grail, were raped by the masculine warriors who had lost their senses; that rather than guardians of the land their sovereign, they served their own desires instead, and the balance of the world was lost. African myth tells us that fire, the element of the warrior, is ever in relationship with earth, the element of the sovereign, and only when fire serves earth is balance restored.
Parzival, having failed to do the deed he was called to do must leave the wondrous kingdom of the grail, where the lands have lain barren and dead, since the time of the king’s wounding and wanders ever more dismal till he meets an old hermit with whom he stays and learns many truths till he is dejected and finally ready to listen to advice.
Did you ask the Question?
No, I did not.
Things go and things come as they are wont to do in story and by and by Parzival finds himself back in the realm of the grail and once more before the fisher king.
“What ails you uncle?” asks he
And at once all is well. The old king is healed of his wound and the land all around begins immediately to lose its pallor, new shoots spring, and life has returned to the kingdom of the grail, and more, Parzival is its new king, is reunited with the woman he loves. who has waited for him, and all is well.
The myth speaks of the hero’s journey from fool to king. It is only when the warrior learns humility, to act out of love for others, nor fear and rash violence, that things change, the earth has her consort once more and the true nature of courage, as inner surrender, is learnt and balance restored.
Could to do nothing
Be the greatest act of all?
Could to stand witness
Be sacred work?
To then let the joy
To play our part?
We venerated you
And you still stand
We exist to feel
To feel, my friends
To feel our connection
And then to joyously
Connect with all our glorious physicality
The hairs on the fox’s paws
Shiver in resonance
You get it
This is it
To life itself
‘Twas your control that
Your fear of annihilation
Brought iron clad prison walls
You feared the deluge
The flood and the desert
You feared the fire and brimstone
The earthquake and the tidal wave
Cyclone and dust bowl
Landslide and mudslide
You feared for your life
And in doing so
Took it yourself
You locked away every last cell of magic
From yourself and your kin
And their children’s children
You took imagination
And twisted it unmercilessly
Into a parody of itself
And places to hide
From your self made fear
We are here to feel,
And to die
On the edge
In every moment
The enemy, my friend
Lies not in politicians’ words
Subcontractors rude actions
The steady onslaught of technological progress
The enemy lies within
Loose your fear onto the world
Let it show
And let it feel
We are small vulnerable creatures
We bleed, we bruise,
And that is our power
We feel the rawness
Of a January day
We feel the
Cold slippery mud
Look at it
Of what are we afraid?
To lose that tender sensation of exquisite sensitivity?
Hasn’t it gone already?
What have we got to lose?
Only our fear, my friends.
We cling to a parody of life
For deep down we deeply honour this
Time in our bodies
We know its precious vulnerable essence
We protect it in iron clad prisons
We may as well be dead
We are our own gaolers
And how well we perform that role
Wail at the loss of beauty
Till you are spent
Then feel your passion rise
The dance of life itself
It will tell you all you need to know
Is wrapped up
In one precious moment
Storyweaver Clarissa Pinkola Estés, in her Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype: “Women Who Run With the Wolves” has this to say:
The doors to the world of the wild Self are few but precious.
If you have a deep scar, that is a door, if you have an old, old story, that is a door.
If you love the sky and the water so much you almost cannot bear it, that is a door.
If you yearn for a deeper life, a full life, a sane life, that is a door.
And Derek Tasker this:
I wonder what would happen if
I treated everyone like I was in love
with them, whether I like them or not
and whether they respond or not and no matter
what they say or do to me and even if I see
things in them which are ugly twisted petty
cruel vain deceitful indifferent, just accept
all that and turn my attention to some small
weak tender hidden part and keep my eyes on
that until it shines like a beam of light
like a bonfire I can warm my hands by and trust
it to burn away all the waste which is not
never was my business to meddle with.
Romeck van Zeijl posted on facebook that we have the power to make things worse in every moment. Fitting words for a Fisher King blog. Here he is in conversation with me on this month’s “Stories with Steph” talking about Circling, Trauma and Ecology, and authentic relationship.
In every moment we can choose fear or we can choose love; re-visioning ourselves with every breath. Perhaps when we understand that both change the world, and it is our choice what changes happen, we will realise our divine natures and act responsibly.
Thanks to Romeck van Zeijl
Michael Holt Music
Lua Maria Wild White Horses
and Clarrissa Pinkola Estes “Women Who Run with Wolves”