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 with the creature; a bond that knows no bounds and at times, feels otherworldly.
The evening sun fades in the distance and the first star rises into the painted sky of rich pink and purple hues. 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.
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, catching up on some reading. Time passes and I wander out into the great hall, saunter out onto our porch, where now the darkness of the night envelopes the landscape with only a few specks of illumination gleaming from nearby houses.
There in the courtyard quietly stands the 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.
I lean against our porch railing when Stardust glances up towards me with his ears at attention. In silence, I watch, the beast as Stardust resumes grazing; chomping on some fresh cut grass from the bush that some local boys collected
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; nature’s chorus coming to life. I listen and feel their earnestness; a desire to become a part of this unique, wordless dialogue.
I sit and watch Stardust communing beyond any sounds or movement – it’s an exchange of dynamic energy, a sensitivity of allowing.
The Medicine People
This 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.
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.
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.
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. 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, glancing out the window to discover Stardust is surrounded by children.
It’s not uncommon for children to wander into another person’s yard. I’m sure their curiosity is partly due to the fact that I’m the only Caucasian in the area.
The children sit in chairs and on the ground surrounding him and Stardust; they are a captive audience. While a family member taking care of the horse shares with them the importance of horses are to the Dagomba culture.
Wonder and joy fill the children’s eyes. This may be the first time they have seen a horse in such close proximity. This sharing helps children learn about their culture and traditions, communication, from one generation to the next.
To be an active participant and advocator of children’s education, is something I’m passionate about, and seeing these children relish in this moment, lifts my spirits.
With love and gratitude,