Interesting Fact: The word ‘ritual‘ comes from ‘rtu’ which is Sanskrit for menses.
Inspired by a very emotional visit to the Song for the Horse Nation exhibit at the National Museum of the American Indian and an amazing documentary on modern menstruation rituals by Roberta Cantow, I will be making a series of blog posts on contemporary American rituals, both individual and community-oriented.
The Horse Song exhibit touched me so deeply, because of my own personal and family rituals that involved horses and riding. I rode regularly since I was five years old. In fact it was my life-line being a rather isolated child. My horse Nugget (short for Golden Nugget, a Palamino, Quarter Horse/Arabian mix) was my best friend. She was my source of power and magic. Leaving her always hurt a little. I remember when she was born and “broke” (no, I don’t like that term either) her on my own; however, we didn’t become good friends (share a mind about things) until I started riding bareback and using twine on her halter instead of a bit when I was about twelve. I would grab her mane by the neck (no it doesn’t hurt them) and swing my leg up around her, “like the Indians did it,” my pap would tell me. She hated saddles and always puffed out her stomach to make tightening them difficult. Besides, riding bareback made going swimming together, which was our favorite thing to do even in fifty degree weather, all that much easier. We shared favorite paths and had rituals for each one and each different season. She would notice if I tried to skip something and get angry, especially in the fall when she got a crab apple at the end of the lane near the far pasture. Skipping really only occurred if we had decided to get lost together (which we did often) and were trying to make it home before dark.
So, to kick it off this series of posts, I am going to share a found poem, which is so beautiful to me that I cried when I first read it. It can’t be improved upon. However, I am working the basic concept into a poem of my own authorship at present. Hopefully, when it’s finished it will get picked up by an appropriate forum (Crazy Horse would be perfect. They have personally rejected me very kindly twice so far, so maybe third time will be the charm.)
What a horse was worth in 1867
1 fine racing horse=10 guns
1 fine hunting horse=several pack animals
1 riding horse=8 buffalo robes
or 1 gun and 100 loads ammunition
or 3 pounds of tabacco
or 15 eagle feathers
or 5 tipi poles
or 1 buffalo hide tipi cover
or 1 skin shirt and leggings decorated with human hair and quills