Horsing Around

I am enjoying the lovely synchronicity of writing a paper entitled Women, Horses, and Predators: Female Sexuality and the Wild during the Year of the Horse. I will be presenting the paper at the Association for the Study of Women and Myth conference in March. My paper will discuss the mythic links found between bears, wolves, large cats, horses, goddesses and images of women’s sexuality. I’m finding the whole research process fascinating. Here are some tidbits that I find interesting, but, most likely will not appear in my paper :

Vintage postcard of woman and horse

1. Mythically, women and horses, especially mares, have been paired together in terms of power, especially the power of female sexuality. Horses are such strong powerful animals that for much of human history we have been in awe of them. As is the case with much of patriarchal mythologies, the ancient horse goddesses and the power of their sexuality has been denigrated and demonized. Further, the mare goddess’s sexual prowess transferred to their consort, the hero, or the stallion in the story.

2. The association of women, mares, and sexuality even rears its head in common slang. “Horsing around” can mean that someone is roughhousing or goofing around, but typically “horsing around” is a slang term for sexual play. Another horse-related term, “whoa,” (an exclamation used to halt a horse) is a variant of “ho”—used at the time when horses were still ridden or driven on public streets. Both of these horsey terms have morphed: whoa to wow, and ho (meaning halt) to ho (meaning “whore”).

dioscuri: twin culture heroes on horse3. There are quite a few myths and even some fairytales where a goddess in mare form or a “magical” mare bears two foals – twins. In myth, these horse twins are either horse tamers, riders, or part horse themselves (the Dioscuri, Geminii and Aśvins). The pair feature an immortal male and a mortal male who become cultural heroes. The centaur Chiron and his “charge” Asklēpliós (Asclepius) originally may have been such a pair of twins. However, in reality, it is extremely rare for a mare to bear two foals.

4. Yoga carries meanings of “to yoke,” “to bind,” and “union.” Yoking has direct connotations to horses, as in harnessing horses to a chariot or even to a human through reins, bit, and saddle. Binding usually refers to the practice of continually tying the wild mind to the steady breath, and union is viewed as nonduality.

“In yogic thought, duality is death and nonduality is the conquest of death; the merging of male and female is immortality.” (Doniger. Women, Androgynes, & Other Mythical Beasts)

Naturally, I see that the patriarchal myths we have told ourselves smacks of duality and death. Bringing female perspectives, powers, and passions back into our myths will bring us union and life. Perhaps, like wild horses, we can learn to let the females lead.

Thanks for coming along for the ride to learn a little more about myth, horses, and women.  I look forward to your thoughts on these topics!