I had pulled Warriors for the Horse Goddess from the website several months ago to expand and submit to Air n-Aithesc where it was published in Vol. 2 Issue 2, Lughnasadh/Samhain 2015. The contract with AnA before rights return is for 3 months, however, I usually would wait for at least 6 months as I do feel it makes more sense to wait until the next issue is out. However, for this article I am making an exception and I have returned it, updated and in PDF form to the website.
I have written elsewhere that my thing is not about living in the past, whether it’s the homesteading thing, the Gaelic Heathen thing or the warrior thing. There are elements of the past which I do wish to bring into what I would hope would be a more sustainable future, however.
|Centurion‘s idea of a Pictish horse warrior –my review|
When it comes to the horse thing, especially when connected to the warrior thing, I do have to admit to loving certain romantic notions. But I’m also clear that I”m not likely to be charging off fighting others with sword and spear from the back of my might mare. I’m certainly not going to be fighting with a bow anymore than it was likely the Picts or Celts did, for all it’s a popular Hollywood image; forested land makes the bow/horse combination problematic for all that both might exist there. It’s far more useful to combine the two on open Steppes or plains, which tends to be where it is evident.
So I was recently inspired by a call for submissions to write an article on what the reality of the term is today. Now, I’m not one who usually considers activism to be a major part of the warrior path, if you’ve read this you know I do believe it’s about being ready for physical fights first. However, “horse warrior” is a term that has been used in the anti-horse-slaughter world for at least two decades and I’m going to stick to it. It fits that animals whose ancestors who fought with us and for us for so long,and still some do in various ways, gets to have people fighting for their lives.
As someone dedicated to a War Goddess who is also associated with horses, it’s become an important part of what I do, both activism and taking care of them for Her. It’s a major part of my spiritual practice, in fact, and at least in spirit is tied to the warrior part. Sure, I have fantasies of what it might be like to ride a true war horse. Someday I might even do some sort of reenactment games with my mare just for the fun of it….although I might be more inclined to Mounted Cowboy Shooting than to the SCA sort of thing (although the SCA stuff is closer to home, I haven’t found a sign of mounted shooting around here). But that’s just play.
As I note in the article, if Saorsa, my mare, ever becomes a bit more sociable in dealing with strangers, we might see about getting into a more realistic role of Search and Rescue. Right now she’s likely to want to eat anyone she fines, although she does love looking for us and I think that her curiosity would probably make her a potential for a scent horse rather than just a horse I ride while I search.
The publication didn’t happen (this is a different anthology than the one I’ve mentioned before which I have submitted a much larger article to) and I was left with this article that combines my story with Macha calling me back to take care of horses so I decided to throw it up on the website so please go to the link below:
In a short time, possibly today, I will be posting a book review for Dr. Diana Dominguez’ Historical Residues in the Old Irish Legends of Queen Medb: An Expanded Interpretation of the Ulster Cycle which explores Medb’s story through the theories of gender performance and the reading of coding in literature. But I’m distracted, as I was when I first read this, by what had long been a pet peeve of mine that her concepts have allowed me to reconsider a bit. That is one line, just one line, in the Táin Bó Cuailnge, one that not only offended as a feminist, but I found just stupid as a horsewoman.
‘That is what usually happens,’ said Fergus, ‘to a herd of horses led by a mare. Their substance is taken and carried off and guarded as they follow a women who has misled them.’
copied here from Rec 1 pg. 237
Now, while it doesn’t seem (frankly the OI is beyond me here) that he is actually saying that a herd of horses is better led by a stallion, that’s an obvious implication. But here’s the thing that bugs me. The Irish are fairly well considered good horse people. Therefore they should have known one basic little fact. Stallions do not lead herds. Mares do.
This is such common knowledge in the horse world, except for a few hard-headed idiots who might consider themselves horsemen but will never get anyway, that I’m loathed to bother to reference it. Pretty much go to anything on various wild or feral herds, anything on pasture breeding, any of the Natural Horsemanship type trainers and you’ll find it. However, this crossed my FB page recently and so I don’t have to hunt anything down and this demonstrates that some horses are so fundamentally dependent on mares they can’t sleep without one to tell them it’s okay.
Mares lead the herd, they do determine where to find water and safe passage. The single stallion of a herd is there for two or three reasons. To breed. To keep other stallions from separating off some of the mares from the rest of the herd which would make the herd too small and vulnerable. And, on occasion, to throw himself at predators being the most expendable and easily replaced member of the herd (something one might note Medb’s story demonstrates as well). If the “substance” of a herd “is taken and carried off” it would actually be the stallion’s fault, because that’s his job, leadership isn’t. A mare would be leading, as is her job.
So considering coding, this reads as, well, perhaps something more. Remember Medb has gotten what she wanted, humiliation of Ulster by successfully carrying of the Brown and the continuation of her rule by equaling her husband’s bounty, once both the bulls are dead. It came with great destruction, of course. Fergus, btw, has never been a character I respected and Dominguez does demonstrate that the respect he seems to get from some, usually male, academics does not seem to match his obvious treacherous behavior.
Now, there is a chance that all the clerics who wrote this down didn’t know a damn thing about horses and like some misogynist men today really do think that stallion is the boss. But you have to figure someone took it as a joke through all this time. Perhaps it even was meant to be, at least by one person copying it even if he didn’t originate it. A joke by Fergus? A joke on Fergus? Perhaps more horse savvy listeners to the tales took it as a joke on the naive teller?
But whether it was ever read that way, to me, today, as a feminist and a horsewoman, I think it’s damn funny. I’ll always see it as that.
Copyright © 2011 Saigh Kym Lambert