The Colors of the Four Horsemen

I just gave a talk with Matthew Wood and Jon Baklund on a horse breeder’s view of the colors given for the Horsemen of the Apocalypse. I had been given an esoteric translation of the two-thousand-year old original Greek version of Revelations that was especially fascinating to me as it informed me that the original Greek word translated as Horseman in Revelations actually means Wind or Breath.

The word Apocalypse literally translates as ‘unveiling’, and the term most commonly translated as ‘wrath’ originally meant ‘active conscious working breath’. I read this version of the Revelations of ST John as a guide to breathing practices through which our awareness of true nature could be unveiled.

About this time in my research, I came across ‘Dancing With Horses’ by Klaus Hempfling. He quotes his teachers from the Iberian Penninsula, who claim that they have bred and ridden horses of Iberian and Barb descent in the Pyrenees from time immemorial, as saying  ‘We ride our horses by the transmission of our thoughts, an art that has flourished here unchanged throughout the centuries. It seems that these horses are partners in the search for enlightenment continues to this day.

As I explored the possibility that the expression of equine coat color genes of the five horses could be a guide to that color’s specific ‘Breath’ and it’s predictable effects on our consciousness, it became clear that whoever put this information together had to be horse breeders as well as riders. You will have to listen to the talk (click here) to get those fascinating correlations.

Because I went off on a different tangent and decided to compare Oglala Lakota visionary and healer Nicholas Black Elk’s vision and ceremonial Horse Dance with Revelations. Comparing Black Elk’s visionary Horse Dance with the story of Revelations offers some remarkable similarities. Some of the wording might be due to his biographer John Neidhart’s influence. But the imagery and sequence of Horse Dance as well as the differences are so well integrated into Black Elk’s, who was born 1863 and died 1950, personal narrative is compelling evidence that his traditions and those of the Horse Tribes who came to the New World intermingled.

It has surprised me how many times I have been asked why that seemed a reasonable and obvious course of action. I assumed that integrating the ceremonials and beliefs of the Horse Tribes who fled to the New World to escape persecution by the Spanish Catholic Crown was a given. But I have to admit my perspective may be a bit skewed.

I grew up with the little Black Horse dancing right along with the rest when my father took me and the rest of the family to Cochiti for their ceremonies. The entrance to the Cathiolic Church of the neighboring Pueblo Santo Domingo had Medicine Paint horses painted on each side of the doorway. And I grew up with four horses, each of a different color.

My father named the red horse Alazana, meaning red in Spanish. He named the black horse Medianoche or midnight in Spanish. He named the bay horse Zane, which is a shade of bay in Spanish. He did not name the palomino for his color though.

My father could have called the horse Guerro, or blondie. He could have called him Amarillento or yellowed. He could have named him Oro for golden. Instead, our pale horse was called Joker.

There are several different genes that dilute the base coat colors of red, black and bay into shades of buckskin, dun and palomino. Breeding for these colors is a challenge because the results are so unpredictable. These color genes really are the Joker in the genetic deck.

Asad and I admiring the gold highlights in his coat.

But there is an esoteric Joker as well. According to The Apocalypse Unsealed, there are actually Five Horseman of the Apocalypse,  not four.  Death rides a  Pale Horse. But he is accompanied by the Unseen Horse.  The literal translation for the Unseen horse that so easily disappears from our mundane view actually means mottled or spotted.

After the Baroque era (1600-1750), paint and appaloosa horses fell out of favor. The earliest European reference to the Medicine Paint horse I found are in the 10th century stories of the Grail Quest. Sir Gawain’s beloved mount Gringolet is described as a white horse with red ears. Gringolet is described a Grail Horse whose allegiance must be earned by those who seek the Holy Grail.

Once their allegiance is earned, the Grail Horse can carry his rider through the veil between realms to the elusive Grail Castle. The fifth horseman of Revelations holds the Key to the Unseen Realms. And the description of the Medicine Paint of the Plains Indians bears an uncanny resemblance not only to the Unseen Horse of Revelations but to the Grail Horses of that journey to enlightenment.

I do not think that it is a coincidence that the Medicine Horse of North America is a white horse with a bonnet and shield. It is no mystery that the horses that spread over the plains of  North America came in the same range of colors as the horses described in the ancient text of Revelations. Nor is it a coincidence that the Comanche had an elaborate and detailed vocabulary to describe coat color and marking just as the early Colonial Spanish Horse breeders did.

One of the things I really appreciate about these Grail horses is their ability to function in both mundane and mystical realms. And apparently Asad takes his responsibility for keeping me grounded in physical reality no matter how far I might roam metaphysically very seriously. As soon as Matt, Jon and I had finished laying out how our talk was going to go, Asad let loose with a trumpeting bugle call that was as loud as the sirens at the fire-station.

I levitated out of my chair and tore outside to see what was happening. I expected some sort of uproar, but I found Asad calmly eating. I can only assume that he was responding to the atmospheric energetic shift with his own call to action. His call made me think of this passage from th book of Job:

  • “Do you give the horse his might?
  • Do you clothe his neck with a mane?
  •  Do you make him leap like the locust?
  • His majestic snorting is terrifying.
  • He paws in the valley and exults in his strength;
  • He goes out to meet the weapons.
  • He laughs at fear and is not dismayed;
  • he does not turn back from the sword.
  •  Upon him rattle the quiver,
  • the flashing spear, and the javelin.
  • With fierceness and rage he swallows the ground;
  • he cannot stand still at the sound of the trumpet.
  • When the trumpet sounds, he says ‘Aha!’
  • He smells the battle from afar,
  • the thunder of the captains, and the shouting.
  • Job 39-19-25

One of the peculiar images repeated in Revelations and echoed in the Book of Job is horses described as locusts. They are caparisoned like locusts, and it is intriguing to think that the basic design of horse armor is based on the carapace of insects. The horses also swarm like locusts, and most importantly to a horse person, they leap like locusts.  People don’t often compare horses to insects, so I became curious about where this all began. Equine biomechanics are a whole other post, but the conformation of the horses of Revelations is as informative and transformative as their colors.

For now, I will just say that that the oldest images of horses dating back 25,000 years we are aware off are found in the caves of the Iberian peninsula (click here). We also know that while horses make up as much as 35% of the bones in prehistoric human food refuse in other areas, in the Iberian region less  than one percent of all bones found in cooking refuse come from horses. Something about the relationship between horses and humans was clearly different , and among indigenous cultures today it is still common for those who have a particular affinity with an animal to refrain from eating it.

A timeline for the peoples of the Horse Clan and their Leaping Horses looks something like this:

  • 30,000 bc people painted horses in the caves of Iberia
  •   8,500 bc Iberian horses and people migrated to North Africa due to climate change,
  •   5,000 bc an exceptional stallion is born to the horse tribes, who then begin to ride their horses, and trade the colts.
  •      200 bc  The Numidians are the finest light horse cavalry ever seen. They ride with only a neck rope, their weapons  are a javelin, and a short sword with a small round shield for protection
  • 40-44 ad St. James, the Patron Saint of Spain and Equestrians, sets the foundations for the Way of St James
  •  65-95 ad Revelations is recorded for posterity
  •    400 ad Revelations is included in the official cannon of the Catholic church, although it was and is contested material.
  •     711 ad Tariq and his Berber light cavalry conquer Spain. Crossing the distantly related Spanish and Berber horses over the next 800 years produces exceptional animals
  • 1200 ad Wolfram writes Parzival whose initiatory journey is guided by his Castillian Grail Horse
  •  1,458  ad Pope Calixtus III was troubled enough to forbid the Spanish locals their rites in caves that were painted with horses
  •    1,500 ad Iberian horses and their people arrive in the Americas
  • 1680 ad Pueblo Indian Revolt triggers the Great Horse Dispersal
  •    1,800 ad the Horse Tribes of the North American Plains are described as the finest light horse cavalry ever seen. Some use Spanish saddles and bridles, most  ride with no tack carrying a small round shield and hand weapons, uncannily much like the Numidians

I’d like to conclude that as humans begin to remember and recognize the horse’s original role as guide to our own inner alchemical and spiritual transformation, they realize tht the physical and mental attributes of these exceptional horses make them priceless jewels. But in fact, these horses are endangered, losing both numbers and invaluable genetic diversity every day. Breeders are few and far between and the population of free-roaming horses and burros on public lands has been decimated by the Trump administration. So here is hoping that many people respond to Asad’s call for action, by seeking out, adopt and perpetuating those few Grail Horses found in the Bureau of Land Managements adoption sites

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