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The Horse: A Noble Steed

The essential joy of being with horses is that it brings us in contact with the rare elements of grace, beauty, spirit and freedom. ~ Sharon Ralls Lemon

 

For the next few posts on this website, I’ll be sharing my time in Ghana with my partner, Chief Suale.

A Graceful and Sentient Being

The horse has been a faithful guardian and trusted confidant throughout time. It’s not surprising that this noble creature is deemed sacred and held in high regard within the Dagomba tribe and it’s clear that there’s a special affinity between Chief and grandfather’s horse; a deep bond that knows no bounds and at times, feels otherworldly.  

Communion

The evening sun fades in the distance and the first star rises into the painted sky of rich pink and purple hues. Twilight’s presence is serene. At a nearby mosque, an Imam sings evening prayers over a loudspeaker; a lullaby to the end of the day.  I close my eyes and breathe deeply, the melody is soothing and a sense of peace washing over me.  

The beauty and grace of these magnificent beings.

It’s still in the upper eighties (along with high humidity) even though the sun has set so I do my best to stay cool in our bedroom catching up on some reading. Time passes and I wander out into the great hall to discover Chief is nowhere in sight. I saunter out onto our porch, where now the darkness of the night envelopes the landscape with only a few dots of illumination gleaming from nearby houses. 

Stardust

There in our courtyard quietly sits Chief with grandfather’s horse, Stardust. Even though the Dagombas have a special bond with these four legged beings, they don’t name their horses, so I took the liberty to do so. Stardust is a striking white stallion with a silver mane and flecks of grey spots splattered throughout his torso; almost as if Jackson Pollock decided to used his body as a canvas. 

Stardust with ceremonial henna on his forelock, chest, hips and legs.

I lean against our porch railing when Stardust glances up towards me with his ears at attention. Chief swings around and upon seeing me, grins. I wave back; not wanting to disturb the silence of this unique communion. Stardust resumes grazing; chomping on some fresh cut grass from the bush that some local boys collected. Suddenly, he abruptly stops, raises his head and stares at Chief. 

Knowingness

I feel the intensity of Stardust’s gaze and I quietly take a seat in a handmade, wooden chair. A chorus of frogs bellow from the stream next to our home and the crickets chime in with their verse; a symphony of nature coming to life. I listen and feel their earnestness; a desire to become a part of this unique, wordless dialogue.

Chief and Stardust have been communing for hours; a communication beyond words; beyond any sounds or movement – it’s an exchange of energy, a sensitivity and knowingness that honors each other for who they are. To be a witness of this communion is stunning, surreal and somehow familiar. I soon realize that I’m also an active participant being a bystander; connecting with both of them in this dynamic expression.

The Medicine People

This sensing and knowingness is not uncommon in Africa and especially with the Medicine People. Indigenous healers are important pillars in the Dagomba community and they offer an array of remedies and consultations including; guidance, insight, clarity and protection. 

Chief riding grandfather’s horse.

Chiefs often need protection due to their stature within the community and horses play a unique role as protectors to the Chiefs. Medicine Men/Medicine Women prepare charms (for lack of a better term) for the horse to wear to increase his/her strength, protection and to heighten their senses to see and feel beyond the veil.

Horses also support in the journey of a Chief’s career. It’s said a horse will carry a Chief to his or her destiny and the Medicine people are able to view and discern the capability of each horse and the qualities it possesses for each Chief.

Special Occasions

One can find horses throughout Tamale and they are often a part of special occasions including marriages, naming ceremonies and funerals. Below is a link to a video of a horse dancing to the rhythm of the drums at a funeral in Tamale from a couple of years ago.

Teaching

The next morning I wake to the crowing of roosters at 5:00AM in a nearby yard. The early rays of light break across the horizon beckoning me to rise and greet the day. I wash up and take my time getting ready while the outside world comes to life; bustling with energy. 

A couple hours later, I glide through our great hall when I hear Chief’s booming voice. I glance out the window to discover he’s with Stardust and about twenty young children.

Children visiting me at our home.

 

Kids often stop by our home to pay their respects before scampering off to school.

It’s not uncommon for children to wander into our compound as they seem to be fascinated by us. I’m sure their curiosity is partly due to the fact that I’m the only Caucasian living in the area.  

The children sit in chairs and on the ground surrounding Chief and Stardust; they are a captive audience. In today’s lesson, Chief teaches and shares with the youngsters what he’s feeding Stardust and how important horses are to the Dagomba culture.    

Children after their lesson with Chief.

Wonder and joy fill their eyes and the children beam in delight. This may be the first time they have seen a horse in such close proximity. The beauty of this moment is sublime; another type of communication, one of sharing, passing down stories, traditions and culture from one generation to the next.

This is one of many aspects of Chief’s work and I’m grateful to be a witness to it and at the same time, be an active participant, partner and advocator of such endeavors for it always lifts my spirits and feeds my soul.

Chief and Stardust

With love and gratitude,

Napag Stacy

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