The Year of the Horse

The Year of the Horse is newly foaled today. As you probably know, the Chinese New Year is based on their zodiac system, Shēngxiào, which is based on solar & lunar times.  Years are named after twelve (solar) animals, the new year begins on the first new moon of the calendar year, and lasts 15 days (lunar). Additionally, the rounds of animals also are paired with the five elements (water, wood, fire, metal, and earth). Thus, in 2014, the Wood Horse trots into our lives.

Trojan horse at nightFor those of us raised on ancient Greek mythology, the Year of the Wood Horse brings up the Trojan Horse by association. The mighty saga of the Illiad recounts scene after scene of battles, stealth, drama, and men behaving badly. Some might anticipate that this year of the Horse will follow the time-worn trails of this type of story. Continuing to harness horses to stories of war can’t be the only tales we tell. And yet, again this year, we are hearing that same old model.

We can change the story.  This 2014 Horse represents a vital element of life – wood, i.e. trees. Humans used to hold forests sacred. We understood how amazing trees are and how wooded landscapes naturally offer rich bio-diversity. Some of us still understand why trees are so essential which is why many of us work to save our ancient forests and protest against clear-cutting practices around the world. Plants offer us the very breath of life—oxygen—and trees provide the bulk of it.

Horses were native to the Americas millenia ago. They are the fastest land animal running for a distance. We have also seen horses as sacred animals for tens of thousands of years. Baba Yagas horsesHorses are smart, capable, adaptable, beautiful, strong, and magnificent. Horses have represented the speed of light in several cultures. I’ll share this great illustration here of the Russian Baba Yaga’s three horsemen. Here you see them riding into the woods: the Horse of Dawn, the Horse of Day, and the Horse of Twilight or Night. These are Baba Yaga’s horses because she controls the cycles of the seasons and time.

I adore forests, trees, and horses. I am currently writing a paper that revolves around women and horses for an upcoming conference. I have been really looking at the stories we tell about horses as well as those we tell about horses and women or women as horses.  I’ll share some of this in my next post.

Right now though, I encourage each one of you to celebrate the Year of the Wood Horse. That may mean you just pay attention to trees or forests as well as horses a little bit more during this year and offer gratitude to all they have given humans for such a long time. Or it may mean that you become active in protecting our wild horses, or our ancient forests. Perhaps, you embody the strength and resilience of the mighty horse and believe in your ability to run your life nimbly and well, or you begin a meditation practice that follows your breath.  Let me know what appeals to you or what you foresee the wonderful year of the Wood Horse holding for you.