Healing and Heresy

Horses and horse people appear to love pageantry and celebration.   For contemporary horse blessing, take a look at this you-tube of a Tibetan Horse festival on their way to bless the fields.An ancient and  dramatic pageantry that can lift people up and carry them into a different way of being and awareness of the world is a great gift.But, instead of coming together in modern competition, the human desire to win at all costs destroys any sense of harmony and often the horses themselves.The world is in great need of harmony and healing and people need to know that it is possible to come together in a glorious ceremony that ends with healing and harmony between worlds, and between horses and riders.

Black Elk’s Six Grandfathers hold the same positions as the Seven Divinities who open the seven seals in Revelations. The Grandfathers represent above and below as well as the four cardinal directions. The unmentioned seventh grandfather has been helping Black Elk all along. I am going to keep on with the descriptions of the actual dance, but now when I look for correspondences with Revelations, I know that their four divinities are Black Elk’s four good and beautiful virgins, their seven divinities are his grandfathers.

Black Elk says:

  • The four virgins went forth four abreast
  • I followed them, mounting my horse and standing behind them facing west.

Revelations says:

  • I saw four divinities standing at the four corners of the earth,
  • And I saw another divinity ascend from the birthplace of the sun.

Black Elk says:

Next the Six Grandfather came forth and stood abreast behind my bay, and they can began to sing a lively song to the drums like this:

  • They are dancing
  • They are coming to behold you
  • The horse nation of the west is dancing
  • They are coming to behold!

Revelations says:

I saw when they opened up the sixth seal …and they kept saying to the mountains and the crags

  • Fall on us and hide us from the face of the one seated on the throne
  • and from the passion of the Lamb!
  • For the great day of his passion has come
  • and who can stand firm?

Black Elk says:

When we were all in a line facing west I looked up into a dark cloud that was coming there.

Revelations says:

the sun became dark as a sack woven of camel’s-hair

Black Elk says:

all the people became quiet and the horses quit prancing.

Revelations says:

no wind should blow on the earth or the sea or any tree.

Black Elk says:

And when there was silence but for a low thunder yonder, I sent a voice to the spirits of the cloud, holding forth my right hand thus, palm outward, as I cried four times:

“Hey-a-a-hey! hey-a-a-hey! hey-a-a-hey! hey-a-a-hey!”

Revelations says:

The Divinity who I saw standing on the sea and on the earth raised his right hand to the sky.

And he cried out with a great voice to the (four) divinities.

Black Elk says:

Then the Grandfathers behind me sang another sacred song from my vision, the one that goes like this:

  • “At the center of the earth, behold a four-legged.
  • They have said this to me!”

Revelations says:

Said the One seated on the throne

  • Behold!
  • I am making a new universe

Black Elk says:

And as they sang, a strange thing happened. My bay pricked up his ears and raised his tail and pawed the earth, neighing long and loud to where the sun goes down. And the four black horses raised their voices, neighing long and loud, and the whites and the sorrels and the buckskins did the same; and all the other horses in the village neighed, and even those out grazing in the valley and on the hill slopes raised their heads and neighed together.

Revelations says:

I heard the number of those who were sealed, the twelve tribes of Israel. After these I saw  a vast multitude which no one could count. They kept crying out with a great voice, saying:

  • The deliverance is to the master seated on the throne, and to the lamb

Black Elk says:

Then suddenly, as I sat there looking at the cloud, I saw my vision yonder once again–the tepee built of cloud and sewed with lightning, the flaming rainbow door and, underneath, the Six Grandfathers sitting, and all the horses thronging in their quarters; and also there was I myself upon my bay before the tepee.

Revelations says:

He carried me away in the breath-trance to a mountain great and high and showed me the holy city Jerusalem, coming down out of the sky from the God and having God’s glory. I saw a new sky and a new earth, for the first sky and the first earth have passed away and the sea is not any more. I saw the holy city , new Jerusalem, coming down out of the sky-from the God- made ready as a bride bedecked for her husband.

Black Elk says:

I  looked about me and could see that what we then were doing was like a shadow cast upon the earth from yonder vision in the heavens, so bright it was and clear. I knew the real was yonder and the darkened dream of it was here.

Revelations says:

Behold! the tent of God is with men, and he shall pitch tent with them. They shall be his people and the God himself shall be with them- their god

The next phase of the horse dance continues to be heretical, because it describes how in participating in this ceremony, the participants become sacred beings and the spirit world may be experienced here on earth. This is not and has not been a popular stance with the institutionalized church for  millenia. For the scarlet women  (click here and here) to be receiving offerings and blessing the  people in return is especially unthinkable for them.

Black Elk says:

And as I looked, the Six Grandfathers yonder in the cloud and all the riders of the horses, and even I myself upon the bay up there, all held their hands palms outward toward me, and when they did this, I had to pray, and so I cried:

  • “Grandfathers, you behold me!
  • Spirits of the World, you behold!
  • What you have said to me, I am now performing!
  • Hear me and help me!”

Revelations says:

and (the Divinity) swore by

  • the one who lives throughout aeons of aeons
  • who brought into existence the sky and what is in it
  • the earth and what is in it
  • the sea and what is in it
  • that Time shall be no more
  • but in the days of the voice of the Seventh Divinity
  •  who is about to give the trumpet call
  •  the Mystery of God shall be made perfect

Black Elk says:

Then the vision went out, and the thunder cloud was coming on with lightning on its front and many voices in it, and the split-tail swallows swooped above us in a swarm.

Revelations says:

The adytum of the god in the sky was opened and in his adytum was seen the ark containing the symbols of his compact; and there came to be lightnings, voices, thunder, an earthquake and great hail.

Black Elk says:

The people of the village ran to fasten down their tepees, while the black horse riders sang to the drums that rolled like thunder, and this is what they sang:

  • “I myself made them fear.
  • Myself, I wore an eagle relic.
  • I myself made them fear.
  • Myself, a lightning power I wore.
  • I myself made them fear,
  • Made them fear.
  • The power of the hail I wore,
  • I myself made them fear,
  • Made them fear!
  • Behold me!”

And as they sang, the hail and rain were falling yonder just a little way from us, and we could see it, but the cloud stood there and flashed and thundered, and only a little sprinkle fell on us. The thunder beings were glad and had come in a great crowd to see the dance.

Revelations says:

  • I saw the Divinity coming down out of the sky,
  • wrapped in a cloud
  • and a rainbow was on his head
  • His face was luminous like the sun
  • and his feet like pillars of fire
  • he placed his right foot on the sea
  • and the left foot one the earth
  • and cried out with a great voice
  • as a lion roars
  • and when he cried out
  • seven thunders uttered voices of their own
  • and when he cried out
  • the Seven Divinities uttered voices of their own.

Black Elk says:

Now the four virgins held high the sacred relics that they carried, the herb and the white wing, the sacred pipe, the flowering stick, the nation’s hoop, offering these to the spirits of the west. Then people who were sick or sad came to the virgins, making scarlet offerings to them, and after they had done this, they all felt better and some were cured of sickness and began to dance for joy.

I was very happy to see that for Black Elk the Horse Dance is a ceremony of healing, empowerment, and purification. Seeing all the gory details Revelations goes into on scourging and flailing and so on as metaphors for clearing away sickness and negativity puts a very different spin on them.

if we could look at Revelations as a ritual of healing and transformation, and as Mohammad often writes he was carried to his visions horseback, perhaps the Horse Dance can be focal point for healing for all the children of Abraham. If they were willing to embrace their indigenous roots, peace could be so simple as to realize that they each hold a vital piece of a greater wholeness. Just as indigenous peoples have clans that are responsible to and for certain aspects of the greater ecological community, the Jews could be people responsible for the well-being of the land, the Christians could be responsible to the sea, and Islam could be the responsible to the air and the horse!

(click for next or go back to the beginning)

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