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the archetypal mythology of horses

2004-2022 Beverley Kane, MD 
Page 8 of 20
from a primarily feminine, or yin, perspective:
As a result, the species is a living example of the success and effectiveness
of feminine values, including cooperation over competition, responsiveness
over strategy, emotion and intuition over logic, process over goal, and the
creative approach to life that these qualities engender.
Especially when gender-based philosophies such as feminism, as in Kohanov's
case, are the framework for one's observations and interpretations, it is tricky business to
map masculine and feminine onto men and women, much less onto mare, gelding, and
stallion. Labels aside, we observe that horses exhibit behaviors that, even within a single
horse, seem to be paired opposites: big and strong, yet shy and fearful—always a prey
animal, never a predator; stubborn and headstrong yet willing and large of heart; hardy
yet sensitive; easily domesticated and trained, yet (except when abused) forever wild,
free, and unpredictable; quick to take "offense," yet immediately forgiving.
In equine-assisted psychotherapy and equine experiential learning, patients and
participants are frequently, and usually unconsciously, drawn to horses that mirror some
aspect of the person's gender-complement relationships. These affinities, which can be
mutual from the horse's point of view, often enact the archetypal dramas of the human
relationships. For example, Kohanov presents the case of a smart-women-foolish-
choices type of client named Joy. In Joy's initial equine-assisted psychotherapy session,
she has "an overwhelming attraction to a horse who mirrored the traits of aggressive men
in her life, and [an] initial inability to recognize the danger this horse represented." 
A striking enactment of the anima/animus dynamic with horses was the elaborate
and, to the modern mind, gruesome and grotesque ritual of the asvamedha and its Roman
derivative, the October Equus.  Dating from thousands of years ago, and last performed
in the 18th century, the asvamedha is described in the Rg Veda as the merging with—in
some retellings, copulating with and then devouring—the sacrificial horse.
In this ritual, a stallion is set free for the period of one year. It roams far and
wide, accompanied by 400 of the king's warriors who assure his freedom to wander at
will and at the same time prohibit him from mating. At the end of the year, the stallion is
ritually killed and the king's favorite wife is placed under wraps with him. She lies with
the dead stallion for a full day and mates with him. The next day, the stallion is
dismembered into three parts –for each of three classes of society: warrior, priest, and
herder-cultivator—and roasted. Portions of the meat are sacrificed to the gods and
portions are eaten. Thus the king's wife not only ritually integrates her own animus
archetype of male potency, but the king himself courts power, fertility and abundance
vicariously through his living anima.
T.C. Lethbridge describes the complementary ritual, which he personally
witnessed in Ireland in the 17th century, wherein the king physically mates with a mare in
an enactment of union with the Divine Sovereign Goddess. In this Ulster ritual, the mare
is also divided into three parts, which are boiled to form a broth in which the king bathes
and which are then consumed.
The Proto-Indo-European root word ekwo-meydho, or horse-drunk, contains the root of our word "mead"
as an alcoholic beverage, and suggests that such horse rituals antedate even the antiquity of the Vedas.
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