The black horse in my novels
The Black Horse is both death defying and death seeking. In other words it is symbolic of death and rebirth. It signifies the closing of one door and the opening of a new door. It can also signify the need for you to take a leap of faith and trust what you are being guided to do even if you can’t see the reason or the result. Go blindly forth and believe.
A black horse in a dream could represent a part of the shadow self or a part of your personality that you usually prefer to keep hidden; instinctual urges operating in the dark recess of your mind; the unknown, what is mysterious.
A huge black horse named Sikimí has appeared in five of my novels, including the upcoming new release of Sarabande. In all of these stories, he has been a totem animal associated with the mountains of Glacier National Park, Montana.
The word Sikimí means black horse in the Blackfeet language. The Blackfeet are the long-time residents of the eastern side of Glacier Park and the adjacent plains. They are the people the land knows and their language is the primary language the animals, trees, mountains and forces of nature respond to.
Appropriately, Sikimí appears in what might be called a “journey novel,” in this case, a “heroine’s journey.” Typically, heroines’ journeys are associated with night, the moon, the underworld, and the subconscious mind.
Journey novels often portray both physical travel and shamanistic or internal travel. Horse symbolism is well known whether we find the information in classic books such as Ted Andrews’ Animal Speak or David Abram’s Becoming Animal, online sites like the two quoted at the beginning of this post, or intuit them in our meditations and dreams.
I felt immersed into Sarabande’s story as I wrote it because Sikimí, along with Maistó (Raven), is my totem animal. When I meditate–or dream–about travel to places I’m intentionally visualizing, I will be riding Sikimí. Sikimí is, by the way, a huge Friesian horse with the classic (as opposed to “sport”) size and conformation. So it is, that I find it easier and more intuitive using this horse in a novel about a young woman named Sarabande who is going on a journey, not only to another place but another realm.
Sikimí and I are old friends.
Ted Andrews’ associations of the horse with travel, power and freedom work perfectly as symbols throughout the novel. We know these symbols, subconsciously if not consciously. Sikimí is intended to help pull the reader into the story by attuning with the reader’s intuitive knowledge about horses. If the reader likes horses, rides horses, and most especially appreciates the original Gothic (light draft horse) Frieisians, so much the better.
Sarabande quickly bonds with the horse on their first meeting as you see in this snippet:
Sikimí nodded or seemed to nod, but within his breath she briefly glimpsed the soul of night, a soul as powerful as the broad-chested Friesian of its manifestation, and there were feral love and rage there that far exceeded the scope of her understanding. But within that scope, her heart told her that night in the shape of a horse would carry her to the cornfields of Illinois without trying to chart the destiny of the ride.
What would it be like to ride night in the shape of a horse? I hope readers will wonder about that as they follow Sarabande’s journey from mountains to prairie and back again. I think I know what it’s like, but readers may well have other ideas that will influence how they react to the novel.
Once the novel leaves my computer and a publisher releases on Amazon and other sites, the story is no longer completely mine. Everyone who reads it will, in a sense, be reading their own version of the novel depending, in part, on how the large black horse gets into their thoughts.
The Thomas-Jacob Publishing second edition of Sarabande will be released on November 1, 2015. The Kindle edition is available now on Amazon for pre-order.