In northern Asia beyond the Himalayan mountains in a region known as ‘the roof of the world’ there are small pockets of people who have integrated their lives thoroughly with the bands of horses they have lived with for generations.
Their relationship with these plucky equines is one that is as balanced as nature itself in many ways.
Did I say idyllic? No I did not. I said balanced. While they celebrate their horses in many ways (festivals, song, stories) they also eat the surplus. These people’s lives are difficult. The horses’ lives are too. These aren’t mean people. They’re not wasteful. These are highly skilled, very practical survivors in an unforgiving climate. Survivors who are successful because they live with horses.
There are times, I’m sure sure, living in the harsh Mongolian Steppe, in the darkness of those long winters, in the depths of this ecosystem’s barren desolation when it seems all connection with hope has frozen closed.
What do these people who persist under these –what I would consider insanely difficult– circumstances choose to help them talk to (the) god(s)?
The Wind Horse
What we know as Tibetan prayer flags — these horsepeople know as the Wind Horses ; “lung ta“. The ones that adorn mountain tops, temple spires and any point between high to low where the breezes will find them. The ideas behind these are:
- they are flown from high to low to maximize their message transference
- as they move in the wind the messages upon them (typically written traditional prayers) are conveyed directly to the space around them transferring their messages of peace and goodwill to the whole vicinity and all beings within it – a very generous and hopeful practice indeed
- I think they’re horses, wind horses, because their intimate firsthand knowledge through living with them has shown these people that horses are strong, reliable, enduring, and dependable
The lives of the horsepeople is by many standards tough, nomadic, largely unmaterialistic, somewhat hand to mouth and inter-dependent with horses. We who romp with, bet on, play with and otherwise admire our sport horses, our pet horses, may take issue with folks who slaughter their weak or otherwise unserviceable horses and eat them. Then again, when’s the last time you slept with a horse or depended on one for your absolute survival? If, like me, you can’t say “last night” or “right now” then I don’t think we’re in a position to judge. I didn’t want to Disney-ize this amazing practice though. I wanted to present it in its raw realty for you. These aren’t sentimental, airy-fairy horse lovers like me. These are hard core horsepeople who have chosen Horse to carry not just the reality of their day to day continuation but also their highest hopes out to spiritual realms.
Make your own wind horse(s).
- fiber (silk for purity – otherwise cotton or cotton/poly blend) cut to about 10″ x 12″ or some such – this does not need to be exact
- fabric pens or paints
- or Sharpie markers and/or watered down acrylic paints
- paint brush
- ribbon or string
- needle and thread or clothes pins
Sketch out what you want to transfer to the area you will be flying your wind horse. What prayers or hopes do you want the area to be infused with? Using words, poems, images or some combination of all decorate your flag. Sew or clip onto the ribbon or string and hang in an area you want to infuse with the message. By the way leave the edges on the material raw and unsewn. You want the thing to eventually unravel and fall apart – helps get the content distributed.
Colors and meaning ascribed:
- blue – sky, space
- white – air, wind
- red – fire
- green – water
- yellow – earth
Fly it. Place it anywhere you want the message upon it to infuse the surroundings. Indoors, outdoors, in your car, in the kitchen, the barn, next to the kids’ beds — wherever!
So, what is the proper treatment of horses? Are there acceptable variations?
- stalls vs. steppes
- arenas vs. rocky slopes
- arbitrary groups vs family herds
- long pampered life vs rougher freer life
How might these extremes relate to your own choices in life?