Year of the Horse, Mayan temazcal and a photographic memory in Old Montreal

I know, rather an odd title, but let me tie those three things together for you.


In 2013, I travelled to Mexico, to Chichen Itza. This pilgrimage on ancient Mayan lands was for a week of purification, ritual, yoga with Shiva and local Shamanic priests. Among the many incredible things I experienced there was a traditional sweat lodge ceremony called a Temazcal. 

On the evening of the Spring Equinox, myself, our mayan shamaness and a handful of others underwent a purification ceremony on the white sands of Tulum beach calling in the winds of the four directions, and preparing for the visions that may come to us inside the lodge.


I simply cannot do justice to this sacred experience with words alone.  But one thing did happen that I will do my best to describe, as it ties in to the energy of this day, Jan 30, 2014.  

We had ducked through a small door into the sweat lodge a few hours earlier.  We were completely sealed in, a not so subtle visceral linkage back to our time in the womb.   We had been singing, banging drums, meditating, breathing, wailing.  It was so dark I couldn't see my hand in front of my face. I could feel inner rivers running like a streams over the topography of my body.  We were sitting cross legged on scratchy palm leaves. I could hear the people right beside me breathing, but couldn't see them.  

white horse face.jpg

Our guide invited us focus our eyes on the dark space above the hot coals in the middle of the hut.  She explained that as she threw some sacred herbs on the rocks steam would rise through the darkness, and if we were lucky, our animal guide would be revealed to us.  Now, I'm a spirited sceptic by nature, always open minded to these things but remain quite rational and calm about the power of suggestion in such an invitation.  But what happened next I wasn't prepared for.  

As the herbs burned in the centre of the mandala, the face of a beautiful white horse appeared right in front of me, and turned to look at me, softly blinking but very still.  This was SO real, that I was reaching out my hands in the darkness to try to stroke her beautiful nose.    She stayed with me for many minutes, and then turned and galloped into the distance with her tail swinging behind her, followed by some other horses that suddenly appeared out of the darkness.  Family and Freedom.   I was so completely unprepared for such a magical encounter and so confused by the whole experience. No where in my deepest parts of my psyche could I ever recall having any affinity or adoration for horses.  In short, I'm not a horse person, so that made the image even more suprising and significant.


A few months later on the day of the Summer Solstice I was wandering through Old Montreal and stopped to browse through some random photographs a traveller was selling on the street.  Halfway through the pile I came across a photograph, lifted and printed from directly from my memory.  A remarkable photograph of something only I could have possibly seen.  I shared my story with the photographer who gave me the print, refusing to take any money from me despite my protests. It's on the wall of my bathroom, where I gaze upon it every time I am meditating in the bath.

And so, today I am again drawn into contemplation of the significance of why this horse that came to me, and what she means.  Today is of course the year of the Wooden Horse in the Vietnamese/ Chinese lunar calendar, and these traditions of listening to the wisdom of these archetypes run deep in my Vietnamese family.  

From what I have come to understand over the past few months the symbology of the Horse in the lunar calendar and the meaning of a Horse as a spirit animal in Native Indian mythology are very similar.  

Native Mayan mythology and meaning

  • A swift driving force, what you thrive for or carries you in life.
  • The need for balance between the instinctive and tamed part of your personality.
  • On the positive side, a horse running free is a sign that your drive to be free and express yourself freely is strong and alive. On the negative side, a horse running wild could symbolize a part of your personality or emotions that are hard to manage and are running your life instead of you running it.
  • Represent your headstrong energy or drive to express your authentic self and succeed in life
  • The horse is a strong symbol for sexual expression.
  • A white horse on particular is a symbol for developing awareness of your instincts and intuition.

Chinese/Vietnamese mythology and meaning

  • It is thought that decisiveness not procrastination brings victory and success.

  • In Chinese mythology, the Goddess Kwan Yin (an incarnation of Tibetan Buddha of Compassion, Avaloketeshevara). has a white horse as her sacred vehicle.  This white horse flies through the heavens, bringing peace and blessings…”

  • The year of the horse is time to act fast.

  • This year is about freedom, returning to nature, and enjoying life and life’s adventures.

Chuc Mung Nam Moi everyone!  Happy Year of the Horse!