Since my visit to the Sundog Drift Ranch, where I met a couple of powerful horses (click here to see Jo’s amazing horse photography) I have come across pictures, articles, etc. of horses regularly. The horse’s main symbolism is freedom, endurance, stamina, power, and strength, which is quite fitting for what I have been experiencing in my life. This is also the Chinese Lunar Year of the Wood Horse (beginning on last January 30/31), which indicates a very active and fast paced year. Being a Wood Tiger, this should be a busy, freeing, and auspicious year for me.
Horses have been long respected creatures, and their symbolism is very ancient. Their images can be found across the globe: In southern France horses are depicted in the Lascaux Caves; on a hill in England there is the chalk Uffington Horse; in California a horse is etched into the earth.
Horses have long worked together with man and have greatly contributed to the growth of human civilization. They represent controlling the environment, such as through their assistance with farming and agriculture, but also through their use in war. Ancient cultures, from the Celts to the Greeks to the Mongolians, greatly utilized horses to control their empires, conquer other lands, and expand their domains. Even up to the last century, the Pegasus, a winged horse, was used as an emblem for the British Airborne Forces. (see above)
In spite of their association with war, horses have more profound symbolism. In Native American cultures, they are considered messengers of spiritual knowledge. In Norse mythology, the god Odin rode an eight-legged horse called Sleipnir. Though he did ride him into battle, Odin was a shaman, and horses are a common animal spirit guide for a shaman’s journey between realms.
Black horses and white horses also have their own layers of symbolism. The black horse equates to yin and feminine aspects: darkness, occult knowledge, the night, and death. The white horse equates to yang and masculine aspects: light, enlightenment, the sun, birth, and resurrection.
Horses in general also symbolize nobility, travel, and the passing of time. They are associated with the wealthy and powerful, and the gods. In Hindu mythology, the Sun god Surya rides a seven-horsed chariot across the heavens. The seven horses are thought to symbolize the seven colors of the rainbow (of visible light) and the seven chakras. This chariot of Surya, and all that the light of the Sun represents to us, is venerated in the Gayatri Mantra (click for meaning of the mantra):
The Horse symbolizes:
- Power, Stamina, Endurance, and Strength
- Grace, Beauty, Nobility
- Freedom and Expansion
- Travel, Swiftness, and Astral Travel
- Messengers of Sacred Knowledge and Guides & Guardians for Shamans
- Interspecies Cooperation and Communication
- Control of Environment