Energy and Action in the Year of the Horse
“When I bestride him, I soar, I am a hawk: he trots the air; the earth sings when he touches it; the basest horn of his hoof is more musical than the pipe of Hermes.”
- Shakespeare, Henry V
January 31st is Chinese New Year, ushering in the Year of the Horse, and it is followed one month later by Losar, the Tibetan New Year. As I’ve done the last few years, over at BellaOnline I’ve offered an overview of some of the traditional interpretations of the Year of the Horse, drawn from Chinese astrology. Here at Mommy Mystic I’m doing my own take, based on the symbolism of the horse in various cultures and time periods. This is part intuitive read, and part symbolic play.
I hope you enjoy it and feel inspired by the energies available this year, because if there is one prominent theme in 2014, it is that energy is in abundance. It’s a year for decisive action – no whinging, and no holding back!
Horses are noble, grounded, powerful, spirited, and independent. In virtually every culture, they are symbolic of freedom and passion. But they are land-based animals, so this freedom and passion is based in this world, defined by action – a very different feel than last year’s Water Snake energy. Perhaps for this reason, as I looked for images to feed my intuitive meanderings, I was less drawn to symbolic representations of horses, and more drawn to photos of actual ones. This beautiful shot captures perfectly the energies that feel on the upswing to me:
You can feel the strength, grace, and power in this stallion, but also there is an appraising quality, a keen intelligence. Horses do not blindly grant their loyalty. It must be earned, and if you do not keep up your end of the bargain, they will let you know. I remember a friend whose horse used to butt her with his head as she groomed him whenever her attention wandered. As she saw it, he was better than a Zen master at keeping her focused.
I think this notion of feedback is relevant to 2014. It’s a year for taking some risks and trying things out, and if you do this, you will receive feedback from the universe. Things may not turn out exactly as you planned, but whatever happens you will receive definite guidance on where you’ve gone wrong, and what you can fix. You will learn – about yourself, and about the world.
Another important aspect of horses is that they are social, and the power of group action is a common theme in astrological forecasts for this year. Joining together with others for a common purpose, especially a purpose that is based on strong shared values, is especially empowered this year. I think we will see this play out in a variety of social and political arenas, and with the strong force behind such actions, there will inevitably be conflict.
But this group bonding energy can also be harnessed spiritually. The idea of ‘sangha’ or spiritual community is very important for many of us this year. In a true sangha, the strong intent of the many catapults everyone much further along on their path than any one participant would go on their own. While 2013 felt much more introverted, in 2014, it’s time to reach out and combine efforts.
Horses also have an innate competitive spirit. Even wild horses have been known to race, and will compete fiercely for the lead. It’s a very assertive, yang energy, and in the Chinese system this is also a ‘male’ year (after last year’s female one.) The energy of this can be encapsulated in one simple, trendy phrase: LEAN IN.
Don’t hold back your ideas, and don’t hold back yourself. Don’t shy away from challenges – lean in to them. This isn’t always easy, as it triggers all of our deepest fears, but that is part of the point. This is a year when leaning in will pay off in success and/or increased self-awareness (and self-awareness is the best kind of success, right?) Even if you don’t get what you want, you will grow (and often you will get what you want!)
I think there’s one point of caution related to the energy of this year though, and it’s represented by a herd of galloping horses, which at some point can escalate into a stampede. There’s a risk of unpredictability, or of things getting out of control. Staying balanced and centered is key. When we do this, we can change direction quickly, staying nimble and able to heed our intuitions as they arise.
It’s really all about flow –being able to sense the movements and shifts as they occur, and respond immediately. When you are in the flow, there’s no time to think, you just have to react, from the part of you that knows. (I found an excellent description of this in this article Zen and the Art of Snowboarding, about Olympic hopeful Jamie Anderson. )
Shifting to horse mythology, we find all of the same themes of drive and passion, but expressed a little more esoterically. Pegasus, the winged horse-god of the Greek pantheon, has come to represent both poetic inspiration and spiritual help. According to legend, Pegasus allowed the hero Bellerophon to ride atop his back to the top of Mount Olympus, but only so that Bellerophon could slay monsters hiding there. Pegasus was a carrier in this story, and so Carl Jung and others have equated him symbolically with the spiritual drive that carries us though obstacles. Springs also were said to spring forth from the earth wherever Pegasus stamped his hoof, representing his connection to the land and abundance.
Another mythological horse-creature is the unicorn, descriptions of which appear in cultures from the Indus Valley, to the Greeks, to the Chinese. In the medieval ages, the unicorn became a symbol of purity and grace, and only a virgin was pure enough to capture one.
I’m obviously not a fan of equating virginity with purity (because it means sexuality=impure) but I do think there is something energetically to draw upon here in terms of integrity. Horses do have a nobility and integrity to them, and this is what fuels their action. The element this year in the Chinese system is ‘Wood’ (it is the year of the Male Wood Horse), and wood in this system is associated with ethics and integrity. I think a purity of heart, and checking in with the purity of our intentions, goes a long way towards balancing the fast-paced, wild aspect of horse year energy. When things are moving fast this year, and you feel uncertain, go inwards to your heart, and ask ‘what is right?’ Your inner compass will guide you.
Another big theme this year is groundedness, which I harp on about quite a bit in my teachings and writings, and I think this year is asked for even more. One representation comes from Celtic culture where the horse goddesses Epona and Macha protect the land and harvest. Horses are muscular and strong, with feet on the ground. So too, success this year is based on staying grounded.
From a spiritual perspective, one insight that came to me is that it’s a year to really watch out for spiritual disassociation – the use of meditation or other spiritual practices as a kind of escapism. Instead, the real value this year comes from working with our bodies and emotions, and integrating our spiritual experiences with daily life and real-world experience. It’s also a year of service to others – a reaching outward with compassionate action.
That theme of service is also present in some Native American representations of the horse. As a spirit animal, the horse symbolizes the driving force or passion that carries us forward in life. But horses are also friends of humans like almost no other animals (other than perhaps dogs.) They have played a huge part in human culture all around the world, in the realms of transportation, agriculture, and sport. This was certainly true in many Native American cultures as well (though horses weren’t introduced to the Americas until the Spanish brought them in the 1500s, when they greatly changed the Plains Indians lives.) In other words, horses represent this combination of passion and service. In the best of circumstances, our passion is in service to the higher good, and Light.
In Buddhism, the horse is a symbol of effort and energy in spiritual practice. In some teachings, it also represents the prana energy running through the channels of our body, and particularly the mind-energy as it manifests. This mind-energy is sometimes called the ‘wind-horse’, and we can ride this wind-horse – we can tame and direct our mind – in whatever direction we want with effort and discipline.
The 11th century Tibetan yogi Milarepa speaks of the taming of this wind-horse in his “Song of the Galloping Horse of a Yogi”:
In the mountain hermitage which is my body,
In temple of my breast,
At the summit of the triangle of my heart,
The horse which is my mind flies like the wind.
He gallops on the plains of great bliss.
If he persists, he will attain the rank of a victorious Buddha.
Going backward, he cuts the root of samsara.
Going forward he reaches the high land of Buddhahood.
Astride such a horse, one attains the highest illumination.
(translation by Losang P. Lhalungpa)
So apply yourself, stay true, hold on to your hats, and ride the energy of the Year of the Horse!
Your own comments, musings, and questions are always welcome.