This painting is Card 35 from the Way of the Horse Card deck by Linda Kohanov and Kim McElroy. Books, prints and posters of the artwork can be found at www.spiritofhorse.com
When I began working on the concepts for a painting of the mare-headed goddess for the Way of the Horse card deck, I knew that this composition was going to be a challenge to me. How was I to create an image of a mare’s head on a human body and make the image look possible? How to create the mystery and presence of what it would feel like to be in the presence of such a being?
For many years I had been learning more about the art of shamanic journeying. I knew how vivid these visions could be so it seemed fitting to journey to those timeless realms to seek visions of her.
At first I only saw glimpses of her and these visions informed the composition. I saw her as a chestnut mare and Linda Kohanov thought this was a fitting choice for her color in the types of horses that were prized among the people of that place and time in history.
One of my first visions was my request to see her as a being, following are excerpts from the vision…
I felt the presence of a bear and I saw the bear’s paw on the ground. I bent to put my own hand print on top of the bear’s paw print and conveyed my gratitude .
I went into a pool of water, and swam underground and emerged in a underground cavern. I climbed a steep vertical black rock wall, carved in an intricate pattern of enfolding branches. Up at the top of this cliff was an open cavern, where I was greeted by a perched raven that flapped his wings while stationary and created a whirlwind dust storm from which appeared glimpses of the horse headed goddess. I was trying so hard to see her – to record every detail – thinking too much about how to draw her as a real physical being – rather than just appreciating seeing a vision of her alive.
The images were vague so I felt I should seek her so I went through a cavern that curved in a spiral like the inside of a seashell – and within I found a large silver grey pearl- I reached for it and the rock walls dissolved and I was in the presence of the goddess – who was like a lifeless statue. I place the pearl to her forehead and felt like it infused into her and was going to bring her to life but at that moment the drum called me back to the present.
Even though the images were vague at first, this experience had a profound impact on my feeling of the presence of the mare headed goddess. Linda had said that the written historical reference of her was as a statue in a cave. In one hand she held a dove and in the other, a dolphin. In my visions, I saw these images come to life as if they were spirits emerging from her hands, and that was such a beautiful image to paint.
Weeks later after I had started creating the painting, I journeyed with the mare-headed goddess again. This time instead of asking to see her, I asked to seek her wisdom.
I saw the deck of the horse cards formed in a circle – in the center of the circle was the mare-headed goddess card – I turned it over to view it and it was the early rough template of our original practice card deck – and as I looked at it a portal opened and it and all the other cards started falling into the center and down – until they were floating on a dark pool.
Out of the pool emerged the goddess. She waded away from me through the pool to the shore of a cave floor and emerged – clothed in her dress which clung to her. She was facing away from me and I thought that in every vision I had seen of her so far I hadn’t seen her facing me. I asked if I could seek her council and it was then she turned to face me. She had a glint of humor in her eye and I felt light and happy looking at her. She seemed very real and graceful in her movements, and it was totally natural to see her move and to watch her long mane swing against her shoulder.
I asked her if she had a message for a friend – and she snorted and flicked her ears back like a question mark. It was really exciting to see her move and interact like a horse!
I realized that the presence of the dove and the dolphin in the cave represents how she communicates. She is empathic – so she communicates through pictures, words, thoughts, and feelings. Once before when I meditated with her she drew pictures for me in the sand, but now I realized I could just ask for images. From the way I had accessed her realm through the cards I felt it was being shown to me that the cards are one way to access her communication.
Then I asked if she had a message for Linda Kohanov – and the message started to come in words so I wrote it down. Linda has spoken in her writing of a vision she had with her mare Rasa in which she refers to “the lake behind the black horse’s eye”
The lake behind the black horse’s eyes is a pool of knowledge that exists in the realm of the unspoken dialogue between horse and human. That lake and the waterfall are the same source. A source that humans are learning to tap into. The river of anthropos and equus. Noche tapped into this river to access the tears of healing. The waterfall represents bringing the healing emotions to the desert of human consciousness. It is a renewable resource that flows regardless of how many drink from it. It is the currents of energy that flow between human and horse but can only flow when emotions are authentic and the dams of resistance and disbelief are dissolved away. It is the same water in the hippocrene (the river of the muses that sprang forth when Pegasus struck his hoof) Dark clear water, light effervescent water which amplifies our thoughts into forms.
The horse face of the mare-headed goddess was inspired by my friend’s mare Sierra. Sierra passed away after long battle with heaves – (equine asthma). When I asked for guidance for my friend and the spirit of Sierra, this message came for them.
I saw a female warrior at the entrance to the Goddess’s cave. She was wearing armor and a helmet, and boots. She was with others, servants perhaps. She entered the cave leading her chestnut mare which I recognized as Sierra – but Sierra as a war mare. She came into the cave and there was a statue of the mare headed goddess in carved wood or stone. The warrior began to undress, removing her helmet first, then her armor, then her boots. It seemed very important to her to touch the earth with her feet, as if to reconnect with nature. Then she removed the tack of her horse and the bridle. She laid all this at the feet of the goddess as an offering. Then, using a pitcher and a basin of water she washed herself and the mare, and embraced the mare’s neck, feeling her wet coat, tasting of the salty water that ran off her skin. It seemed they were there to fast and meditate. They seemed to be leaving behind a life of battle and asking for wisdom and to be renewed and reborn. Time passed, and in the heat of the cave and the lack of food, the mare laid down, and the woman lay beside her and it seemed they lost consciousness. In the woman’s vision the goddess statue came to life and took her by the hand and led her and the mare to an underground lake of dark water. The woman and the mare waded into the dark water and began to swim.
I asked for what the meaning was and these words came to me.
Only in wonder is the quest awakened. The water of tears is a surrender to the unknown. Embracing the wisdom that can only be found in the courage of recreating one’s self from the warrior, to the feminine soul newborn in embracing nature’s gifts. Allowing the sacred, seeking guidance, and willingly entering the dark waters of inner knowing that has no words.
All of these visions were profound to me. I hope they add meaning to your insights from the mare-headed goddess.