The Unseen Medicine Horse

Black Elk says:
Next they sang:
He will appear
May you behold him
An eagle will appear
for the eagle nation
May you behold!

My bay horse was painted with red streaks of lightning on his limbs,

and on his back where I sat

a spotted eagle with its wings stretched was painted.

I wore a black mask

and a single eagle feather hung across my forehead.

Revelations says:

Behold! a dun horse came out…And the Unseen went along with him

I saw a divinity ascend from the birth place of the sun


I saw and I heard a lone eagle flying in mid-sky

The Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse, the Unseen Horse and his Rider are, understandably, often disregarded. When they are mentioned, their role is misdirected and associated with Hades, the realm of the dead and the responsibility of the Pale Horse and his rider, Death. What the Unseen Rider actually says at the beginning of Revelations is:

Be not afraid
I am the first Adam
and the last Adam
He who is Alive
I became a ‘dead’ man
and Behold
I am Alive through the aeons and aeons
and I have the keys of Death
and of the Unseen

So the Unseen Horse and his Rider appear at the very beginning of the book. They have the Keys and are the guides for the whole journey. Black Elk agrees:

Black Elk says:

All I carried was a red stick to symbolize the sacred arrow

the power of the thunder beings of the west.

While Revelations says:

There was given me a reed like a wand

to measure the adytum of the God, the altar, and those worshiping in it.

The Unseen Horse is also described as mottled or spotted which takes us  right smack into color coat genetics again.  There are some mottled and spotted color patterns that are predictable and fairly common.

  • Tobiano  is a simple dominant producing large solid patches of white and colored hairs (To/to)
  • Leopard is a simple dominant producing dark egg-shaped spots distributed evenly over a lighter coat (Lp/lp)
  • Overo is a simple dominant that results in lacy splashed patches of white on the horses sides (O/o)
  • Roan is a simple dominant producing white hairs scattered evenly throughout the coat (Rn/rn)
  • Champagne is a simple dominant that produces mottled pale skin especially around the eyes (CH/ch)

But there are other patterns that are so difficult to predict that researchers are calling them polygenic, where it takes a combination of several different genes working together to produce the color patterns. These are more likely candidates for the Unseen Horse as the color may suddenly appear when both parents are solid, and two horses fully expressing the gene complex may produce solid colored foals.

  • The blanket Appaloosa is a solid or roan horse that has a white ‘blanket’ with dark spots on its hindquarters.
  • The Sabino paint has white and roan patches that may range from a few lighter spots on the belly and chin to mostly white

Although Black Elk doesn’t tell us if  he painted the spotted eagle on his horse’s back or it was born that way, I am going to assume he knew about the blanket Appaloosa color patterns. While it was the Nez Pierce in the North West who became famous for their Appaloosa horses, those horses had to get there through the plains area.  In  Europe leopard Appaloosas are still found in the circus, but paintings of blanket Appaloosas are often associated with royalty. Like Black Elk’s bay, they are fit ‘peacock thrones’ for the alchemical kings and those anointed in ceremony.

The most dramatic phase of the Sabino paint is the Medicine Horse. These horses are widely known to be sacred to the Plains Indian tribes, as they are born ready for war complete with bonnet and shield. They are predominately white but have  roan patches around both eyes, on the top of their head including both ears, and on their chest. Most of these horses are red roans, although occasionally a black one will be born. Looking down the exoteric path, I had come across an unexpected answer to a question I had never fully verbalized even to myself.  My unspoken question was how would the Plains Indians, who had never seen a horse before, know that the Medicine Paints were ‘Spirit’ horses?

A thousand years ago a German knight named Wolfram Von Eschenbach wrote Parsival,  one of the most complete and enduring versions of the quest for the Holy Grail. In it he describes the Grail horse as white with red ears just as the Medicine Horse of the Plains Indians is marked with a bonnet of red ears and a shield on its chest. He writes that Gawain, a Knight of King Arthur’s court, is overjoyed when he is reunited with his red-eared steed, Gringolet, because he is a beloved friend and knows the way to the  Grail Castle. The star that guides the Unseen Medicine horse’s rider is Rigel, Orion’s left heel.

Gringolet was not unique, for it is said that he came from the lineage of the Grail Horses who all knew the way to the Castle where the Holy Grail was kept. Spanish horses were treasured in the early royal courts of Europe and the Grail itself is said to be held in the Cathedral in Saragoza, Spain.  Although the most famous Medicine Horse of antiquity carries one of King Arthur’s Knights. I find it interesting that according to Revelations the original Medicine Horse is ridden by ruddy King David himself.

I know that lineage of Grail horses came to New Mexico with the first horses as the church at Santo Domingo Pueblo here in Northern New Mexico originally had Medicine Horses painted on it. Sadly, the painted horses are now Appaloosas and the Medicine Horses are gone from the land. However, the stallion that all Medicine Horse mustangs trace back too is named San Domingo because the pueblo is where the Brislawn brothers found and bought him.  My Medicine Horse stallion, Apache, brought me the story of his lineage through Martin Prechtel. I had put up a poster of Apache at the feed-store and Martin came by to see the horses when he saw it. He knew about the horses because he had grown up in the pueblo.

As I remember the tale, the Santo Domingo say that when Jesus first showed up he was friendly and traded all sorts of goods with them.  For many years it was a good relationship. He had new plants to share including wheat, grapes, peaches, and apples. He shared his animals, including chickens, pigs, goats, sheep, cattle, dogs, cats, and of course horses. He shared what he knew about weaving both wool and cotton, and working metal, and making leather. He married their daughters and established his village on the other side of the river. And he shared his ceremonies and spiritual practices. Then more of his people came and they became very unpleasant and demanding. So the pueblos all got together and decided to chase him and his friends  back down the direction they had come from.

Eventually Jesus returned, but was much more subdued. The Pueblos made sure he knew his place, and while he was allowed to restore his homes and his churches, the Santo Domingo’s kept his horses for themselves. Historians call this last episode the Pueblo Indian Revolt and the Peaceful Reconquest, but rarely tell it from the Pueblo point of view. Their point of view is that the Pueblo Revolt was provoked by the Church sending  what were essentially its inquisitioners into the area. When the Spanish Governor attempted to moderate their attacks on the freedom of the Pueblos and the lay brethren, he and his lieutenant were arrested, sent to Mexico City and executed. After the revolt, the mainstream Catholic Church remained troubled by the state of affairs in this area, but it took another couple of hundred years to act.

In the late 1800’s Archbishop Lamy was sent to Northern New Mexico with the goal of reforming the practice of Catholicism here. He did manage to build the Saint Francis Cathedral in downtown Santa Fe, but was unable to seriously affect the outlying villages. Northern New Mexico has two Saints who came from Spain with the original settlers. One is La Conquistadora (recently renamed Nuestra Senora de Paz). She has an alcove dedicated to her on one side of the cathedral. The alcove on the opposite side was built for the Santo Nino.  His preferred home is the Santuario in Chimayo and every Easter  it is the focus of the largest Catholic pilgrimage in North America. Archbishop Lamy brought the statue to the cathedral and installed him in his new home with great pomp and ceremony. But in the morning the Santo Nino was gone. He soon reappeared in his own chapel with his shoes worn ragged.

The Archbishop tried a few more times, but eventually had to give up as the Santo Nino always deserted the cathedral. He persisted in returning to the lay brethren who keep their history and their practices alive within their adobe moradas or gathering halls and  tend to their land and their communities in the smaller villages to this day. While the details are still held secret, one group calling themselves the Penitentes are renowned for their re-enactments of the crucifixion. A few years back when a local priest participated in a world-wide conclave for these brothers, it turned out he had the only written documents still extant for the practice.  All the other copies had been purged, and  Northern New Mexico was the only place where they survived.

Now, many descendents of those who came to this area have realized that their ancestors were Sephardic Jews escaping the Spanish Inquisition and the Unseen Rider concludes Revelations by saying:

I, Iesous,
have sent my divinity to you
to give evidence to you of these works
depending upon the societies
I am the Root and the Offspring of David
his bright and Morning Star

Revelation’s ‘Iesous, offspring of King David’ is not only Jewish, but sounds an awful lot like the Jesus the Santo Domingo’s speak of, and the lay brethen sound an awful lot like the societies the Unseen Rider speaks of. Add in the 15th century horse armour  at the Albuquerque History Museum that is displayed on a model based on my horses that were linebred to the Medicine Horses of Santo Domingo Pueblo, and I start seeing a definite pattern here. Like the search for the Holy Grail, the search for the Seven Cities of Cibola was a spiritual search as much as a material one and these people, their horses, and their spiritual practices not only arrived and survived in what is now Northern New Mexico, they thrived.

(click for the black medicine horse or go back to the beginning)


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