(This began as a ramble from my Tumblr a while back, but I thought I’d post it here, too – mostly so I would know where I put it but also because some of you, dear readers, may find inspiration in my stream of thought).
Let us consider the Nag’s Head. Pack a sandwich, we’ll be taking the scenic route.
When I was a kid, we had a book about North American First Nation cultures. I could write a whole separate essay about how that book ended up influencing my proto-pagan, proto-witch self; but that’ll be another day. For now we’ll onlt consider a small part of it.
There were two pictures in this book that I have remembered from that age to this. One was a picture of a drum from one of the Plains tribes, painted with Swallows racing and diving before a storm (and I understood years later, watching swallows in tumult before the gathering clouds and remembering the painted drum, that the swallow was indeed a Bird of Storm, and a being of Power; and that when (if) I have a drum of my own, it too will be painted with a sweep of these birds).
The other image was a spear-throwing device carved of bone, from the (I think) Paleolithic period. It is a carving of three horse’s heads; old, old, old.
I thought of it earlier this evening, when I was considering the kind of impact that I want my (hypothetical) altar or shrine statuary to have. I don’t really like the highly detailed, overly literal, “High Fantasy Novel Cover” style of so many deity figurines. I wish there was something more abstracted, more primal about them. Not in the sense of ‘crude,’ but an economy and strength of line that conveyed the awesome potential, the Might crouched within the form itself; I wish that someone was making deity statues that exuded Power.
So what kinds of things would I show to a sculptor, to illustrate the kinds of things I was talking about? Especially because this whole business of art, of devotional art, of *religious* art, is highly subjective, no?
And in thinking about the kinds of figures that I thought would be cool, I thought of Hekate Triformis, standing at the crossing of three ways and holding her burning torches. She is monstrous, though; One of her heads is a snarling hound’s, one is a rearing serpent, and the the third is a wild-eyed mare. Keep in mind, I have no idea if any of that is… Canon. But anyway. It reminded me for some reason of this Neolithic spear-thrower.
Here are three horse’s heads, their strength and wildness conveyed in but a few lines. A young horse, and a mature horse, and a fleshless skull.
Life-Death-Rebirth. From forty thousand years ago it resounds with Might.
This is what I want. And you know what? A lot of Paleolithic and Neolithic art has it.
But I also though of horse’s heads because it is an image and a symbol that has been tickling the back of my mind for a long, long time. There is Something There about it, for me, and I don’t yet know what it is.
“… and they buried the head of a great war stallion…” -Something from one of the Greek epics, don’t know which since I didn’t read them in school. It was a quote in a chapter of a book I thumbed through once, over a decade ago, at a local bookstore. In the New Age section, something about horses and magic and therapy. It rang out and stuck.
Something about the horse-skulls buried as sounding boards in old dance-floors. I can imagine the stamp of the dancer’s feet on the floor, Ecstatic dance, Faring Forth, the skull tapped rhythmically like a drum, the drum of hooves on the road, road, Raidho, the ridden, the Rider….
Something about the Night-Mare, terrible visaged steed, nostrils flared and panting with fear-sweat. The Nithing-pole; a severed horse’s head set upon a rune-scored staff, it’s sunken eyes and bared teeth pointed towards your enemies to curse them.
I used to draw horse’s skulls when I was a child, I liked the form but found them frightening. But in the last year or so I’ve kept my eye open at Estate sales, because I have a feeling that I want the skull of a horse, for… something..?
Something about Frau Holda, the Queen Under the Mountain; Mother Fury – something about a power very deep, very primal, half glimpsed in shadows – something about the Witchmother and the face she shows me, has shown me? Is showing me but I have not yet known how to see?
Something about faring forth. Raidho. The Ridden. The Road. The Rider.
*thump, thump, thump, the dancers feet on the floor, reverberated by the hollow eyes and empty brain cases of the sounding boards below*