One of the most valuable lessons I learned from my horse Shadow related to the healthy development of my attitudes toward power and success. I love it that when the time came for me to address these issues, without any conscious awareness of the full import of what I was doing, I chose the animal whose essence is power to be my teacher.
Horses have the physical energy and motivation necessary to acquire worldly power, but they are also symbols of soul power. Jung asserted that horses express the magic side of Man, ‘the mother within us’, or intuitive understanding; and native teachers and healers Jamie Sams and David Carson tell us that “In shamanic practices throughout the world, Horse enables shamans to fly through the air and reach heaven.” Every power issue involves both of these dimensions, for it is by meeting and overcoming challenges in the physical world that we empower our souls; conversely, the achievement of soul power leads to successful living.
In most herds of horses one can observe both kinds of power. Explosive as lightning and disruptive as hurricanes, some horses use their physical power aggressively to dominate and get their way. Through kicking, biting, and harassing any horses in the vicinity, they protect their chosen territory and ensure that they are always first in line for water, hay, grain, or the choicest new grass. But there are other horses that use their power in calmer, wiser ways. Without making a big deal of things, they simply go after what they want as peacefully, consistently, and relentlessly as a gently flowing stream. Mark Rashid, author of Horses Never Lie, calls these horses passive leaders and reports seeing one who was new to the herd decide to eat at a feed trough where the most dominant horse and two of his cronies were eating.
In a tremendous display of energy, the dominant horse tore after the new horse with ears laid back and teeth bared, chasing it fifty feet or so away from the trough. The new horse trotted away quietly and then, when the dominant horse resumed eating, came right back to the trough to try again. After half an hour of this behavior, the dominant horse was so exhausted he finally gave up and the new one walked right up and started eating from his trough, something few other members of the herd had ever dared to do. Rashid reports that in no time at all several horses began to follow the new horse around in acknowledgment of its unusual power.
When I bought Shadow I had no idea I had power issues, but he showed me just how shrouded in shadows this area of my soul was. Through him I saw my confusion about the positive and negative aspects of power and discovered a strong tendency to surrender my power to avoid conflict and keep peace. Shadow made it very clear to me that this was not a good thing. If I could not assert myself through means that gained his trust and respect, I was giving him tacit permission to test his power in ways that could become increasingly dangerous to me and detrimental to our relationship. This lesson was particularly difficult for me, but over time I learned that 1) there are positive and negative ways to satisfy the natural drive for power and success, 2) it’s okay to stand up for myself honestly, 3) it’s healthy to ask for and go after what I need, and 4) a calm, quiet, and persistent approach will eventually produce positive results.
Who knew what power lurks in Our Lady of the Beasts? Who knows how sweet and gentle power and success can be? The Shadow knows!
Ego and God-Image: Part VI
[T]he most important relationship of childhood, the relation to the mother, will be compensated by the mother archetype as soon as detachment from the childhood
Jeanie, I really love this–especially “the Shadow knows!” part.
The the I Ching symbolism of ancient China, the Yang aspect is represented by a stallion and the Yin aspect by a mare. So the stallion is called The Creative and the mare The Receptive.
Such is the power of the horse symbolism that the two cosmic principles are related to its masculine and feminine counterparts (see the first two hexagrams of the Wilhelm/Baynes I Ching).
Here, the stallion leads and the mare follows. But if the stallion does not lead well, then the mare is lost and the stallion has no one to lead. Its highest function goes unfulfilled.
Likewise, the mare follows the stallion. But her power lies in being able to bring forth into the real world the next generation. By following, she manifests potential.
Obviously, we are talking here about the two halves of a person. The creative half must be able to lead off in new directions and explore individual potential. But it requires the receptive half if its explorations are to produce fruit.
Who knew Our Lady of the Beasts would saddle the horse with so much symbolism?!?!? Ah, yes, of course: the Shadow knows!
All The Best,
Thanks, William. So you remember that old radio program too? I was hoping someone would! I expect the writer must have been exposed to some Jungian thought!
If I ever knew it, I did not remember that the Chinese I Ching used horse symbolism. But such is the power of Horse that with any familiarity at all it simply cannot go unremarked.
Thank you for the reminder that integrating the opposites, whether of the physical, social, psychological, or spiritual realms, is the road to expanding consciousness and the most beneficial contribution one individual can bring to the ongoing processes of life. Nature has always known that, which, for me, helps explain why observing nature closely admits us into the realm of the Sacred.
Saddling up to seek more symbolism,
divine……normally people think positive is good and negative is bad….water is zero and neutral with positive temperature it becomes vapour thus forming clouds and with negative temperature it becomes ice thus forming glaciers . for river to flow you need both and two levels like birth and death to merge in sea before losing the identity.so normally what we talk positive and negative is talking about human attitude not the energies.
like in atom neutron which is neutral charge, proton which is positive charge now in electrons one has low charged negative electrons near to nucleus and high charged negative electrons away from nucleus ……it is like with low ego you are near to your center and then comes a point and that point is circle and the center at the same time and that is zero …..all numbers are lost …happiness beyond time
Thank you for your comments about positive and negative and the difference between human attitudes and the morally neutral physical energies of life. Your observations and those of William Horden (above), inspired me to write a new post about issues which, for me, are at the heart of psychological thinking and spiritual living. It will appear this coming Saturday evening, and unless I decide to change the title it will be called, “Whose God Is Right? The Shadow Knows.” I’ll look forward to your comments!
Thanks so much for your participation in this dialogue. It is wonderfully affirming.
With much appreciation,