In this issue, Linda Kohanov features some of the evocative journeys that workshop participants have taken through seminars exploring equine archetypes of healing and transformation:
Over the last year, I’ve been collecting some powerful journeys from clients who are willing to share their experiences. It never ceases to amaze me how a combination of working with living horses and engaging with mythic equine archetypes allows people to open their minds and hearts to a much more expansive form of consciousness, one that is the birthright of every human being, regardless of age, educational background, or religious upbringing. When we let horses lead the way, even people who wouldn’t consider themselves particularly creative can access visions of expanded possibility, symbolic insight, healing and transformation.
At workshops like Black Horse Wisdom and Harnessing the Invisible, guided visualizations and journeys play an important role in helping people integrate experiences and insights that the logical mind would never be able to juggle on its own. In myths from around the world, the horse is considered a powerful psychopomp and guide that can take people back and forth between the worlds, allowing them to access inspiration, helping heroes and artists to bring the wisdom of the gods back to earth. As I’ve learned—through leading numerous workshops and through my own personal experiences—working with horses in “both worlds” allows people to take huge leaps forward in personal development, confidence, empowerment, and healing.
Some people have whimsical journeys filled with awe and humor. Others meet equine archetypes like Chiron the centaur or Demeter, the mare-headed goddess— mythic figures who play a significant role in helping people heal past traumas. Some participants have even met religious figures like Jesus, the Buddha, or various Greek, Indian or Egyptian heroes, gods and goddesses that help travelers to access a strength or gift they didn’t know they had.
I’ve chosen five different types of journeys as examples here. I hope you are inspired by them as much as I am. I’d like to thank these brave travelers for being willing to share their powerful, intimate transformational experiences with us, and for taking the time to write them down for us in their own words.
Black Horse Wisdom Adventure
By Kelly K.
Kelly, an accomplished social worker, was surprised at the sometimes wild, sometimes comical, yet still meaningful imagery that unfurled during the Cave of Initiation journey, which is consistently the most popular feature of the Black Horse Wisdom workshop. This extended experience begins with a guided visualization where a member of the Eponaquest herd—in this case our feisty little black horse Spirit—leads participants out the back gate, through the desert, and up toward the mountains to a labyrinth of caverns deep in the heart of Elephant Head Mountain. There, journeyers are invited to connect with the ancestral horses and mythic equine archetypes they were introduced to earlier in the workshop. As an evocative musical score unfolds, each participant’s own visionary skills gain confidence and take over. Sometimes people receive symbolic or visceral information. Other times, the experience is more aural, as if someone is telling them a story. Some people experience sequences of visions that unfold like movies or complex, multi-sensory dreams. Yet no matter how the mythic imagination chooses to express itself, it never ceases to amaze me how uniquely inspiring and insightful each journey is. Kelly’s journey at the November 2014 workshop was one of the most amusing I’ve encountered:
On our way to the mountain, Spirit began to gallop, and I flew through the air next to his blowing mane. I was in a white flowing dress and laughed to myself and thought, “Am I an angel?”
Upon reaching the mountain, Rasa took us to the cave opening. Chiron, the centaur, was to our right. The Mare Headed Goddess took us into the cave, and right away my big Red Horse (he passed away years ago) was snorting and walked out from the darkness… I could smell him! I jumped on his back, and had to scoot my way up. (He is very tall.)
The cave hallway was lit with torches and the footing was soft, powdery sand. We walked along… Rasa, Chiron, my big Red Horse, the Mare Headed Goddess and me. We came to a huge cave full of gold walls, and it was easy to see. I remember admiring the beauty of the gold and thinking, “this is why I picked gold with my husband for our hand wrap ceremony (in our wedding), it’s malleable and full of beauty.” The walls seemed damp and made the gold glisten.
We left that room and started galloping down the corridor/tunnel to our next adventure, and there, sitting in front of me on my big Red Horse, was my cat. Her paws were holding my horse’s mane. Just then we heard some alligators and a bear growl off to our left in the darkness of the tunnel. I turned to my right and thanked Chiron for being with us because he could heal wounds. Then I said, “But we won’t need you for that, we’re turning right.”
The next giant cave room we came to was a white, arctic room. There was a polar bear and a badger playing the flute! I dismounted, and my horse and Rasa were nuzzling each other’s withers. Even though we were in arctic land, I was not cold. Then I mounted my horse, and we trotted down a long tunnel to a giant cave full of green moss, a blue aqua pool, a waterfall, and butterflies. (I said hello to my Aunt Susan. She was killed in an automobile accident two weeks before the workshop, and every day since then, I see a butterfly. I’m sure it’s her). My Big Red horse went swimming in the aqua/blue pool.
We then went to our next giant cave room called Dog Heaven; I saw ALL my dogs that have passed away! Plus my old cat Shadow! They were all playing in fields of green grass; there were tons of tennis balls, and water to swim in. It was the perfect, happy place for dogs.
Then we went to our next cave room, and all of a sudden, the 5 of us were getting on the elevators at work (a downtown Phoenix high rise, 27-floor, office building). I told my group that I didn’t think anyone could see them; they only saw me. Rasa, my Big Red horse, Chiron and the Mare Headed Goddess said they would stay and would stand by the elevators and breathe… I went upstairs to start my day at work and thought to myself, “their breath is breathing life into this building. “
When I came down from my workday, the five of us got into my CRV, (my Honda SUV). I told myself, “I can’t wait to tell Linda that Rasa is sitting in the front passenger seat and wearing her seatbelt!” My Big Red horse lay on the back seat, with his legs curled up like a lamb (his legs were too long for the front seat). Chiron sat next to him.
We drove to the airport and picked up my husband. He could see my colleagues, Chiron, my Big Red horse, Rasa and the Mare Headed Goddess. (I thought it was interesting that he could see them, but no one at the office could). We drove home and my husband suggested I carry on with my journey.
We were then back in the tunnel in the mountain. The next giant cave room held the lighthouse at Chincoteague Island with the Wild Ponies. My husband was back with me, and we were climbing up the lighthouse. But we were in our late 80’s (45 years from now in the future)! We ran into a young couple climbing up, and I said, “Yes, we were here for the first time 40 years ago to see the wild ponies. “ (I thought, wow, that’s great! I am going to get to go there again. I loved that vacation. It’s one of my most favorite places I’ve ever visited.) I remember smelling the lighthouse smell; it smelled damp, old, wood-like.
Afterwards, I jumped on my horse’s back and we galloped down the tunnel… I started to see the light. We came out of the mountain into the most beautiful paradise. It was green, moss-filled sides of rocks with mountains surrounding a crystal-blue lake with no seaweed. There was a waterfall. Out stepped my Unicorn guide (the one I met in the previous day’s journey). He said, “I told you I would see you again.” In the meadow, paradise area, the sun was out. Birds were chirping, and my cat was lying in the grass watching the birds. There were butterflies, fawns, bunnies and fairies! I said to the Unicorn, “That’s funny; this is not real; that fairy looks like Tinkerbelle.” (I then told my logical self to stay at Linda’s house and be silent.)
I looked at Rasa and my horse; they were nuzzling each other’s withers. I looked at the Unicorn who was watching over us. He was majestically standing halfway in the waterfall and halfway out. I looked out on the lake and watched as a red sea plane landed and came to the shore. My husband got out and walked to me. He hugged and kissed me and asked how my journey was. I said it was magnificent. I looked to my left at Rasa, and her head became a cross, and her head and body made a cathedral cross. I said, “I have to go so I can write all this down!”
Journey with the Mare-Headed Goddess
By Devin Graham
While Kelly’s journey was filled with humor, joy, and delight, Devin Graham, a life coach, was able to move through some memories of abuse in a highly productive way. Her journey, taken at the fall 2013 Black Horse Wisdom workshop, reflects years of hard work on issues related to childhood sexual trauma. It’s no surprise that the Mare Headed Goddess became her guide. In my 2007 book Way of the Horse: Equine Archetypes for Self-Discovery, I discussed in depth how Greek myths associated with the Mare Headed Goddess provide a template for constructively transforming abuse with courage, awareness and dignity. (See pages 205-214.)
In the cave, with Demeter, Chiron, Arion, and my guide Spirit Horse: We are standing around a large cenote, a circular pool of water. We all dive into the pool and swim down through an underwater tunnel, coming up into a cave I’ve seen before. This is the cave of my past, present and future.
The past, on the left side, is represented by purple stalactites. The present, in the middle, is represented by the Lascaux cave paintings of horses, which are running across the wall of the cave. The future, on the far right, is represented by a beautiful crystalline grotto.
The goddess leads us to the left, behind the stalactites, where I see a large rock, red and black, shaped like a womb. She directs me to curl up inside the rock, in a depression that fits me perfectly. She tells me I will be reborn. I begin to see many moments from my life, from my childhood, both negative and positive. As the timeline progresses, I begin to feel some dread, fear about seeing the incest. I try to rush forward, to get it over with, but she stops me, saying: “We are not yet ready.” So I stop trying to control it and again begin to experience moments from my childhood. I see dogs and cats I had loved, even a snake, Jake, who was my friend.
“You always had the ability to hear the animals.” Demeter says. “We made sure you never lost it.”
Then I see my parents, angry and fighting, drunk. The goddess shows me how to use my hand and sweep it all away. “These are only moments. They scatter like thistle fairies into the dim memories they are meant to be. Not good, not bad. Just moments that are past.”
Then she takes my hand and leads me into the hallway where the incest happened. I begin to see blurry, confusing images and feel afraid. She asks me if I need to see them and I say no. Suddenly, the hallway is empty and bright. Nothing is there. She says: “This too is a moment in the past. It is only the wound where the light comes in. Nothing more.”
I stand in the empty hallway and feel clear. I continue to see more past moments, sweeping them away as they gather. I see the moment in my bedroom, where the cleaning lady has to tell me how to dispose of sanitary napkins, because my mother won’t talk to me about these things. I feel the shame I felt then. The goddess creates a shaft of light that washes over me like water. She tells me: “You are cleansed of all shame and doubt. What you choose to gather from here on is on you.”
We arrive in a new hallway, the hallway in the air traffic control tower, in front of the elevator where I was injured. “Are you ready?” She asks me. I laugh, because it is a very small elevator, and I am standing with a goddess, a centaur, and two horses. I can’t imagine how we will fit. But the doors open and we all step easily inside. The elevator begins its descent, passing through the 8th floor, where it had slammed to a stop and injured me. This time, it descends all the way to the bottom, and the doors open back into my cave.
The goddess leads us past the stalactites, past the cave paintings, to the crystalline grotto. “This is your place of power.” She says to me. “We do not enter with you.” I turn to face them and they all bow to me. Things, objects, come flying from each of them into me. The goddess says: “Your initiation is complete. These are our gifts to you. You do not need to know what they are now. They will reveal themselves in time.” She reaches up to the crystalline grotto and breaks off a crystal, merging it with the crystal I wear around my neck. She says: “Go into the cave of power now. Let it fill you. You may return whenever you need to. It is yours.” I tell them I love them, then turn and enter the grotto. It is full of crystals of many colors: green, purple, red, blue and white. I feel the light of them fill me until I am glowing.
I come out of the grotto and they bring me back to the upper cave. My guide, Spirit Horse, merges with the waiting horse, Spirit, who tells me to get on and we fly back to the ranch. I thank him for the journey and we breathe together for a moment, then I return to my body.
The Journey Continues
By Katherine Marine
In exercising the mythic imagination, it is not always possible or even desirable, for a story to unfold sequentially. Some people stand with one foot in each world, listening to the music while only occasionally getting flashes of highly symbolic imagery or connecting with feelings of guidance. These flashes and feelings initially don’t seem as exciting as the visions that other participants access. But they can be powerful in the long run. Some people have created impressive business logos from a single image they accessed in a 45-minute journey. Others have found that their dreams suddenly become more instructive and engaging when they return home. I always stress that the mythic imagination will strengthen over time if these glimpses of another reality are respected (written down, drawn or painted, and then meditated upon). Katherine Marine, who attended the fall 2014 Black Horse Wisdom workshop, was initially disappointed that she didn’t experience a full blown, multi-dimensional movie-style journey like those featured above. However, as she was encouraged to speak the wisdom she did receive out loud to the group, everyone began to see that her static, painting-like images were profound. And sure enough, in respecting her own way of communicating with an expanded reality, she received a very impressive gift when she returned home at the end of the workshop.
When we shared our journeys, the element that stood out the most to me, and to you (Linda), was a face of a horse with a lightning bolt down the center. One half of his face was white, and the other half black. Upon reaching home that night in Tucson, I jumped into the shower and closed my eyes. Just as quickly, I had an image of a Native American, maybe a Medicine Man, dressed in black and white, long fringe, face painted to match the horse, holding a white and black spear. He gestured to me to come with him and he turned and jumped onto the back of the horse I had seen in my journey.
I was at the end of the hot water, so I asked him to wait for me, and proceeded on to bed. As soon as I took a deep breath and closed my eyes, there he was again, and I was on the back of the horse with him. We rode towards a star-filled sky, and I asked him who he was.
This was his reply: “I am that which is between darkness and light. I ride in the realms between the worlds. My purpose is that which connects black and white like smoke coming between wood and fire. That is who I am”.
So my thought is that maybe I can look for this legend. In any case, one of the things I had been carrying in my mind as an idea of what I wanted to do was to be a “connector” between people, or animals. It’s something that when I’m quiet and listening seems to happen naturally. During my journey, (when not much seemed to be happening), I had repeatedly asked Chiron to show me my next step. Interesting that it seems to be working with this Shadow Dancer!
By Bill Couch
The four-day workshop Harnessing the Invisible exercises visionary leadership skills, combining horse activities with mindfulness and creativity boosting experiences. This seminar engages a different guided visualization/journey, one that encourages people to balance and integrate predatory and nonpredatory power, cull something that no longer serves them, and regain something they lost through neglect, trauma, or simply by living the kind of overly practical life that stifles authenticity. As a result of performing these tasks in a mythic reality, they are then ready to access a previously hidden gift or talent that they will need for a new stage of professional and personal growth. Bill Couch, Senior Pastor at LakeRidge United Methodist Church in Lubbock, Texas, had a direct, deeply integrative experience with his own authentic self, culminating in an encounter with the divine guiding force of his life and work.
On a chilly afternoon last November (2013), Linda gathered us in her living room as we approached the final hours of our “Harnessing the Invisible” workshop. She told us we were going to take a “journey”. We began by walking round the horse pens to make a connection with one of her horses. I chose a beautiful white horse, Mystique, which surprised me because I had no previous interaction with her during the workshop.
As we gathered back in the living room, Linda asked us to begin our journey by letting our chosen equine companion (or had she chosen me?) “walk” with us. We would follow our companion. During our journey, she asked us to focus on four things: retrieving what was lost, culling what is no longer needed (allowing the predator within us to do his/her work), finding a hidden gift, and resting. Her husband Steve Roach had recorded special music, which would guide us through the various movements of this journey.
As Steve’s amazing music filled the room, I pictured walking with this majestic animal through a beautiful, lush green forest filled with streams and waterfalls as we approached a mountain. I felt a deep sense of tranquility and peace flooding my soul. As the music began to pulse with a stronger beat, I felt a shift as my predator emerged. A gigantic lion faced me. I knew instantly it was Aslan (the Christ figure in C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia series). Aslan asked what I needed to cull. I found in my hand a marble statue. It felt cold and hard. It represented my idol—my insatiable need for success and admiration to feel worthwhile. I’ve struggled with letting go of this idol for years.
I lay it down and then picked it back up repeatedly—and here it was in my hand again. I knew this idol was what I needed to cull. I tossed it at Aslan’s feet. He raised his huge front paw and came crashing down on the idol. The marble shattered into a thousand pieces. I was free of this idol; there was no way to pick it up again. Aslan had destroyed it. My heart felt lighter and free. Aslan turned and walked away.
I began walking beside Mystique again and noticed that another figure had joined me on the on the other side of the horse. It was Jesus! We walked along without saying a word. I felt incredibly loved. I jumped up on Mystique’s back and Jesus jumped up behind me. We rode together for a few moments and then suddenly Mystique sprouted wings and began to fly through the air. I felt totally free as we soared through the heavens. Joy flooded my soul. As we flew together, I retrieved some feelings lost in my childhood: fun, celebration and connection. Without uttering a word, Jesus gave me the gifts of joy and an awareness that he was all I needed. My worth came from him as a gift. I no longer needed to prove myself. I was set free to trust and soar with him.
As the music slowed and became softer, Mystique glided to a calm ocean beach. I could hear the waves gently washing up on the shore as she landed and began walking on the beach. I dismounted and began walking slowly on the beach. Jesus was no longer visible, but somehow I knew he was still with me and would continue walking with me on my journey whatever was ahead. I could trust him and release everything to him. I began to breathe……
Awakening the Artist Inside
By Debbie Darrin
There’s no doubt that journeying with horses enlivens the soul and awakens the artist inside. The ancient Greeks knew this: Pegasus, the magnificent winged horse, was a messenger from the gods and a loyal companion of the muses, capable of jump-starting creative talent and carrying those who live heroically to the stars. Debbie Darrin, a marketing and sales professional, was motivated to paint her vision after experiencing the Becoming the Horse journey featured during the fall 2013 Black Horse Wisdom workshop. (The finished painting is featured here.) It was an impressive first artistic endeavor, but it certainly wasn’t her last. She is now studying how to help others access the soulful artist inside and planning to attend the Eponaquest Apprenticeship in 2015. As you can see in her narrative of the journey below, she’s also a poet at heart!
As the drum beats to the life of the metamorphosis of human to equine, I feel my spirit evolve in rapidity. The beat of the drum leads me to the heart-beat of life, the pulsating of blood, the waves of energy.
As the intensity builds, my two legs evolve into four, my being comes to fullness in the quiet yet majestic being of a wise empowered white mare…large brown eyes, full bodied, mane and tail flowing, slightly feathery fetlocks grace my legs ready to course the journey once again.
As I approach the tribe with my herd surrounding, my ears, eyes and nose scan for my human who awaits. Our ride will be one of purpose and partnership. Once again into the depths and the sacredness of Mother Earth.
Our eyes meet, our beings rush together. She mounts me with joyous reunion. Our eyes and heart flow forward, our cadence abounds. My human, she is younger than I, yet wise in years. Together we have shared this expansive journey of love before. Our hearts and souls continually fed by our ancestors; our path has been set, our charge accepted.
Hooves pounding across the mesa, we emerge into the soul of the earth at the mouth of the majestic rugged mountain. Dark, damp and layered lush vegetation, the coolness is refreshing; our nostrils fill with the vibrancy of moisture. As we gently settle into the womb of our mother nature, we breathe the gift of our journey.
My hooves plop one after the other in the cool pebbled stream. My human reaches for lush green branches of life that overhang. I pause now and then for her to stand on my back so she can reach the unreachable. Methodically, knowingly, we meander our winding path. My human gradually fills the pouches hanging along my flanks with fronds and leaves, herbs and grasses, mushrooms, berries, nuts and seeds.
Our journey is a sacred work; our journey is a joy.
We come upon one of our favorite places! A crystalline pool of clear, refreshing water fed from the tears of the mountain crevices, the over flow of earths cleansing.
Our weary bodies immerse in the welcoming refreshment. We bathe our bodies; we cleanse our souls. To complete our gatherings, my human is sure to fill her clay vessels with this life enhancing elixir.
In gratitude and honor we send our prayers to our ancestors, from this quiet place. We ask for continued guidance and blessings as we carry these healing gifts back to our tribe, back to our herd.
Special thanks to Debbie, Bill, Katherine, Devin, and Kelly for so generously sharing their journeys with us!
Remember: you can also enjoy one of the classic Eponaquest journeys at home by downloading a recorded guided visualization of the Becoming the Horse Journey at:
(See the October 25 issue of the Eponaquest News for at-home journeying tips.)