The Red Medicine Horse

Black Elk says:

Next they sang:

  • Where the sun shines continually they will appear
  • May you behold them
  • A horse nation will appear
  • A buffalo nation will appear
  • May you behold!

The four red horse riders were painted red with straight black lightning on their limbs and breasts

Revelations says:

  • I heard the being saying ‘Come’
  • and Behold! a fiery red horse came out
  • To the Divinity who was riding him
  • authority was given to take away peace form the earth
  • that men should slaughter one another
  • and to him was given a great sword

Most of my Spanish mares were sorrels descended from the Romero McKinley herd of little red horses that had been running in the badlands of central New Mexico. The story Weldon McKinley told me about his horses when I took my mare down to breed to his stallion was that the McKinleys bought the ranch from the Romero family. The Romeros were long time Hispanic sheep herders that were losing their land to back taxes sometime in the late 1940’s.

Once all the paper work was completed D.D. Romero looked up at Weldon (because D.D. was a short slight Hispanic and Weldon was a 6+ foot 200 lb Anglo) and said ‘You know there are Spanish horses running on my land.’

Weldon was not particularly tactful so his response was ‘How do you know that the horses are Spanish?’

D.D. Romero’s reply was “Because I shot any goddamn Gringos and their horses that came on my land!’

Weldon went on to say that  while they saw hoof-prints and droppings occasionally, it was a couple of years before they saw the horses themselves.  Once they knew where the horses were, they decided to catch a few by running the herd down a box canyon. They had to set up relays of ranch horses to keep up with the wild herd, and were startled and impressed when the horses  simply went up the sides of the box canyon like deer and disappeared into the distance. There were only few young foals that had gotten tired  and slowed down enough for the cowboys to rope them. Those foals became their breeding stock.

My first Spanish mare was also a sorrel, most likely descended from Gilbert Jones’ red Spanish stallion Cedro that he had acquired from a Hispanic rancher in the Manzano Mountains near Albuquerque. When it turned out that the descendants of those herds of Spanish horses bred by Hispanic families were predominately sorrels, I again had to look to Black Elk and Revelations for clarification. Black Elk says that the Red Horses and the buffalo nation appear together and there was as special class of Hispanic buffalo hunters, the Ciboleros, who were held in high esteem. Like the still thriving Doma Vaquera of Spain (click here), their traditional outfits included a flat-brimmed straw hat, a fancy leather vest, and their only weapon was a single long lance. Until the late 1800’s they went out to hunt buffalo and war with the Horse Tribes with an entourage of as many as 150 people.  Each cazadore or hunter might kill any where from 8 to 25 buffalo depending on their horse’s speed, agility, and skill, and they needed the followers to butcher the animals and cure both the meat and the hides.

Then I found that the saint that rides a Red Horse and carries a single long lance like the Ciboleros  is Saint George the dragon-slayer. The fiery-red Dragon in Revelations is , of course, an aspect of Babylon and is the mount that the Scarlet Jezebel rides. The Spanish bulls and the buffalo can be seen as the Dragon or the Beast, the embodiment of passions and the material world. While the Whore of Babylon has really not been a subject I’ve wanted to tangle with, the place where I can come to grips with the subject is understanding that the whole description is really a guide to the woman’s initiation.  A study from the late seventies gives me some basis for understanding why the Dragon and the Jezebel are described as violent, manipulative and deceptive. In the seventies, feminism was rather militant and there was a not-so-subtle pressure to blame testosterone for all  violence. This study looked at a large number of repeat violent offenders in the penal system with the hypothesis that these men would have elevated levels of testosterone. When the results of the tests for hormone levels came back it turned out that the men had elevated levels of estrogen. This was  disturbing and unforeseen information, so the researchers looked a little deeper. Then they found that a remarkably high percentage of the repeat violent offenders not only had high estrogen levels, they were genetically XXY instead of XY. They not only had elevated estrogen levels, they had an extra female chromosome.

I don’t know what kind of follow-up there was to the study, but it made me think about women, hormones, and violence. One day I finally had the insight that the single most dangerous wild animal of any species is a mother with new babies. Elevated levels of estrogen are associated with parturition in mammals. The new mother, regardless of species, is imbued with a completely and overwhelmingly aggressive territorial compulsion to protect and take care of her new babies. The whole sequence with the Dragon in Revelations begins with a woman giving birth, and the Semitic cultures of the time really emphasized the purification of new mothers. Since human women have constantly fluctuating hormone levels as long as they are menstruating and/or bearing children, one of their inescapable spiritual tasks is to become aware of how those changes affect their thoughts and behaviors.  It has been politically incorrect not just to acknowledge the devouring feminine, but for women to seek a way to transform and heal it in themselves, and the cultural cop-out has been both men and women reducing women to labels. They are either the Madonna or the Whore.

I experienced the truly devastating destruction this attitude causes first hand. In one of my mother’s more telling confrontations, she informed me that she was able to pick up enough information about any subject to pass herself off as an expert in six weeks or less.  She was furious with me for having too many red horses because she could not tell them apart, and that shattered her facade of expertise.  This was truly the delusion of the Dragon that left her, as she described it to me, with the hollowness a lifetime of pretense engenders. My suggestion at the time, which did not go over well, was that she spend enough time with the horses to get to know them. I eventually came to understand that fragile facade of my mother’s world was dependent on frozen images carefully categorized and labeled, and it collapsed in the face of truly  interactive relationships.

My first vision when I began breeding the Spanish Colonial horses of New Mexico was to have a herd of red mares and a yellow stallion. One spring day I looked out my door and saw my herd of red mares and my buckskin stallion through the blossoming fruit trees exactly as I had dreamt it. What I realized at that moment was that my vision was a still photo, not a movie. My next task was to see through that frozen image into a dynamic future. If I was going to be producing foals, I needed to be looking 30 years into the horses’ futures as well as my own. And I realized I had no practice in doing this. Both my parents were masters of the still shot, and were unable to see their own evolving future, never mind support their children’s future.  Rather than take the easy road of condemning them, my question has been how does a community prevent such spiritual and psychological disorders? My relatives’ behavior may be extreme, but it is by no means unique. Grasping for the frozen image is always dissatisfying as it vanishes like mist in the hand, engendering endless attempts to fill the inner abyss. This is the insatiable disease of our culture of consumerism and addiction.

 Intense shamanic ceremonies such as the Horse Dance are intended to address the deepest dysfunctions of the human psyche. A genuine female lineage does not abandon its medicine women to PMS, postpartum depression and psychosis, or menopausal meltdowns. When I looked at opening the seven seals, the scourges,and the libations of Revelations as the description of the ceremonial and shamanic process Mary Magdalen experienced when Jesus took her through the clearing of her seven seals, that part of Revelations began to make sense to me. Revelations begins with the perfections that must be attained, and ends with the Bride. It is a story of personal transformation from the pretense of the Whore into the virginal and authentic Madonna.

Our most famous Red Horse is Parzival’s first horse. he longs to be a Knight and arrives at King Arthur’s  Round Table just as the Red Knight steals the cup of the Holy Grail. Parzival manages to kill the Red Knight by piercing him once in the eye. He then puts on the Red armor and mounts the Red Horse. But as he has no idea how to ride it is the Red Horse that is his guide, taking him where he needs to go on his initiatory journey. When the Round Table is shattered, sending all the Knights off on their own journeys it is because they give Parzival a seat at the table when he has failed to recognize, never mind heal, the wounded Fisher King that guards the Grail Castle. Like the Whore, the problem is pretense and deception. The Table can only be mended Parzival returning to the Grail Castle and healing its King.

The Red Horse is an appropriate the symbol of that spiritual cleansing, as this is the one coat color where what you see is what you get.

  • Red is a recessive gene (e/e), so two Red Horses will always breed true, producing only red foals.

 It is the Red Horses’ purity that allows them and their riders  to confront and overcome the Adversary that deludes the inhabitants of the earth. The Red Horse, like Black Elk’s Scarlet Virgins, is then the worthy vessel to carry the future of the nation on their backs.

(click for the scarlet virgins or go back to the beginning)

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