I am a dreamer. What’s possible or impossible is not my business – it is up to God and nature. But what is up to me is to keep dreaming, keep imagining, keep trusting and believing, keep working towards it and keep persevering, and do the best I can along the way, giving it my heart, my hands and all.
Today we’ll talk about the power of possibilities; but first, I’ll take you in the mystical desert lands of the East for a tale reminding us how we all need an ebony horse sometimes to reach the unreachable and inspire us to see beyond the horizons, beyond the borders of our mind.
The Ebony Horse, also known as The Enchanted Horse or The Magic Horse, is a beautiful and much loved tale from One Thousand and One Nights. I’ve previously written on the power of storytelling, the power of words, and the history behind these tales in Weaving Magic with Scheherazade, and for those of you interested, this article is part of my Story Thread series, where I discuss various tales and stories from around the world and then unfold the layers of symbolism; you can read these in my folklore + myth section.
The Ebony Horse is one of the most curious and interesting tales among the Arabian Nights, because unlike all the rest, it features not a magical carpet or genie to move the narrative – but rather – it features a man-made horse. Instead of presenting the Persian sorcerer in the beginning of the tale as a sorcerer who enchanted a horse to fly, the storyteller offers us an inventor who has constructed a horse made of ebony wood, and with buttons and some kind of bellows to make it fly towards the Sun. Some scholars view this tale as an example of early science fiction.
According to researcher Ulrich Marzolph, The Ebony Horse was part of the story repertoire of Hanna Diyab, a Christian Maronite who provided several tales to French writer Antoine Galland – who was the translator and writer of the 1001 Nights. As per Galland’s diary, this tale was told to him on May 13, 1709 – which was 200 years before airplanes were invented.
There are many similar stories found in different cultures around the world, and The Ebony Horse is sometimes analyzed as a variation of a common trope in folk tales known as the Prince’s Wings motif.
The motif of the “equine machine” as a flying object is actually quite common in Indian folk tales. The oldest attestation and possible origin of this tale type is suggested to be an 11th century Jain recension of the Pancatantra, in the story The Weaver as Vishnu. In this tale, a poor weaver fashions an artificial likeness of legendary bird mount Garuda, the ride of god Vishnu. He uses the construct to reach the topmost room of the princess he fell in love with and poses as Lord Vishnu to impress his beloved.
To me personally – this is tale about the marriage of clarity of mind, purity of heart and sincerity of action, or in other words, the powers of our mind, soul/heart and body. Individually, each may be a little frail or brittle like a strand of sweet grass, but together, they create an unbreakable bond, a woven braid, and the realm of possibilities opens us, deepens us, and we can feel our heart’s desires held in our arms. How do we do that? Let’s first briefly tell the tale.
Illustration by John D. Batten
The Ebony Horse
One day, many many years ago, an Indian craftsman and inventor of magical devices arrived in the beautiful Persian city of Shiraz. He mounted upon a splendid ebony made horse – surprisingly life-like, despite its mechanical nature. The king was so impressed with this creation, one he had never seen before despite his riches, that asked to have this horse – but the Indian said he’d only give it on one condition: to receive the Princess’ hand in marriage. “What joke is this!” laughed the King, “My daughter to you? Well, I don’t even know that the horse can fly!”
Just as curious was the Prince, so he asked his father to remain calm, and offered to try out the horse. Certain that it wouldn’t fly anyway, the King agreed to give his daughter’s hand in marriage to the poor Indian, but only after testing the horse. And so, the Prince got on it, pushed the button, and lo and behold, he was flying at wind’s speed in the skies towards the Sun. Before the King and all kingdom could blink, both the horse and the Prince were away from their sight, not to be seen again. Angered, the King put the Indian in prison.
The Prince was perfectly well – he was enjoying the wonders of travel and the skies, but as the Sun began to set, he pushed another button to allow the horse to descend and direct his own course. And the horse gently landed in a distant foreign kingdom, one in which he saw the most beautiful woman in his life – one for whom his heart skipped a beat, as she was the one he had always been dreaming of. And she was too – and both fell in love at first sight.
“By the law of nations and of all of life, I am already yours, and I have only my heart, that is my own, to offer you. But what am I saying? My own? It was yours from the first moment I beheld you!” said the Prince to her.
The two became inseparable, whispering sweet nothings into each other’s ears all day and night, and falling more and more, deeper and deeper in love. Indeed, they both felt they were made for each other and could not believe their blessing that they found each other despite the seas and mountains that had separated them from birth.
Time went by, and as much the Prince enjoyed living in her father’s kingdom, he knew he has to go back to his own kingdom as he was the heir and he knew his parents were worried. “Princess,” he gently said to her, “it may be that in your heart you class me with those false lovers whose devotion cannot stand the test of absence. If you do, you wrong me; and were it not for fear of offending you, I would beseech you to come with me, for my life can only be happy when I am with you. Marry me, come to be my Queen in my kingdom, I vow to you all will love you and I’ll always take care of you, for you are my life, my love, my heart.”
The Princess agreed, though she was really sad to leave home and go into the unknown, and against her fathers wishes who also did not want to let his beloved daughter go with some “so-called prince from foreign lands”, she got up on the ebony horse and both flew towards the Prince’s kingdom. When they arrived and reunited with the family, the Prince released the Indian from prison; however, now angered and wanting vengeance, the Indian kidnapped the Princess and using his horse disappeared over the horizons – and eventually arriving into another kingdom.
Long story short, because these are 1001 Nights after all, the Prince went by foot all over searching for his beloved, and eventually found her. At the other kingdom, the King of Cashmere has fallen in love with her also – she had pretended to be sick so that she doesn’t marry him – and the Prince pretended to be a doctor to see her. He then uses his wits to think of a plan – tells the King her remedy is to get up on her ebony horse, and then they both escape and return home to live happily in love ever after. Convinced that it was the ebony horse that had caused their misfortunes, the Prince destroys it.
Art by Su Blackwell
The Prince in our tale today is a romantic dreamer – he is sensitive, emotional and trusting that the only path forward is the path of following our heart. This quality of his is immensely attractive and can certainly sweep us off our feet – he is a devoted and faithful lover also, whose belief in love at first sight along with his integrity and loyalty makes him magnetic. He is also courageous, willing to walk the earth to find his Princess; and he is creative and smart thinking of a plan to take her back from the King of Cashmere.
So why did he destroy the horse? Didn’t he realize that it was precisely the ebony horse that brought them together? Didn’t he realize that the horse was merely a vehicle operated by human hands, and not a thing to be blamed nor a curse of destiny? If one reads the full story we see that it was actually the Prince’s faulty behaviour and own inability to protect his beloved that led him to almost lose her; and that he just gets a bit too emotional and impulsive sometimes and loses clear sight and basically, he just makes some mistakes that lead to her kidnapping. As much as we need to keep our eyes towards the skies, and to follow love wholeheartedly and without questioning, romantic as the Prince is, we must also remember that we are still of this earth and we need to keep ourselves grounded and our minds clear and focused.
Or perhaps … he destroyed the ebony horse because he realized that he no longer needed it; because he now knew how to make things himself.
While destiny may play a role in meeting us with the right person, whether we stay together or not after only depends on the two of us, and the choices we make each day.
This tale speaks of the part of us that dreams, believes, imagines, loves and trusts – and is willing to go after what our heart truly desires and seeks. Love is sometimes like Goddess Venus sleeping serenely in her garden – the way a body gently moves throughout the night to adjust its position, to make itself more comfortable, reminding us that balance is not static, it is flexible and ever moving. In other words – love puts into balance all that which isn’t yet.
Like a body in a dreaming state … still aware, and constantly moving and adjusting, so love is too, continuously moving and being moved through all and everything. Sometimes it is quiet, sometimes it needs us to swim across oceans or pray towards the starry skies. It is ever moving, and moving through us, and moving us towards itself. Because love is not a stone nor ebony wood, it is not even air though it feels untouchable sometimes, like a sense of being that gives us purpose and oxygen; love is like bread – it needs to made and remade each day, each morning, made anew.
Perhaps we all need an ebony horse – to remind us of the creative powers that we hold as human beings; and of the possibilities, of that which is reachable beyond the horizons, so that we are more inspired and willing to cross the mountains and seas.
Art by Vicente Romero
The power of possibility
Everything that we as human beings have created on this planet we essentially first created in our minds – it all started with an idea, a vision, and the ability to imagine something beyond the borders of the possible or what already exists around us. So learning to create in our minds what we want is the basis of creating that in our world externally also. Clarity of mind, purity of heart and sincerity in action are the three foundations of creation – and these are our greatest powers.
A well established mind, which is a mind in a state of Samyukthi, is referred to as a Kalpavriksha. On the other hand, when our mind isn’t “established” i.e. clear, it is called a monkey mind. The reason it’s called a monkey is because it often has unnecessary movements, and there are imitations in its actions – which is what the unestablished mind is like: unnecessary movements, without thinking, without clarity, without awareness, without learning nor growing nor expanding.
When we organize our mind with clarity and awareness, it in turn organizes our whole internal system, which then reflects in our outer experience also.
Our body, our emotions, our energy, everything gets organized – and this all becomes a synergy towards one direction. And this one directional energy then becomes so powerful that all else aligns beautifully because of the clarity of our focus and intention – clarity of mind, purity of heart and sincerity in action all marry into one.
When we keep this direction unwavered all can be possible. But when we keep changing our minds and focus is all over, attention spans are almost less than five minutes, and we are used to instant gratification otherwise we waver, all wavers and is disorganized within, which then causes us instability.
The greatest power of our mind is intention. And the greatest power of our soul is our heart, our emotions. So when we have a clear intention that is married to the true desires of our heart and we feel it deeply with joy and with passion – and we keep aligned to that through our actions, we will inevitably attract that which we seek because it seeks us too – because – we could not even have had that desire arise within us if it wasn’t possible, if it wasn’t pulling us towards itself, if it wasn’t meant for us to experience it.
What’s possible or impossible is not our business – it is up to nature and God. But what is up to us is that we strive for it, focus on it, work towards it, believe in it, and try our best to move past the limitations and fears of what’s possible or what isn’t. Imagine, believe, trust, and do the best you can. We can often get lost in the what ifs, or no, that’s never going to happen, and then end up not doing anything anyway.
And we also attach a lot of expectations to our needs, dreams and desires, and our monkey mind then begins to go so far ahead in the hows that it eventually reaches the “oh, it’s not possible”. Imagine, believe, trust, and do the best you can; whether it is possible or not is not your business.
Ideas stay as only ideas in the sky if we don’t actually do something tangible, even if only a little bit towards it. So on one level we create the desire for something, and then we simultaneously say that we don’t want it because when we think it’s impossible without even trying we limit ourselves in fear, doubts, judgments, expectations, pessimism and conditions. In such internally created conflicts things happen slower externally.
This is why prayer and faith are powerful, and true love is too, because there is surrender of mind and expectations, and negative thoughts have no space there. These open us up beyond the borders and beyond the possible. This is also why saying “I love you” is so powerful also – because there is no fear, no doubt, no impurity within these words, for we cannot speak them through judgment and fear. There is only a deepening, a freedom, an opening of heart and spirit, a possibility.
If you truly want something, do it, follow that love, follow that joy, follow it not just because but because your soul asked you to. Love is a power that one needs to follow, to honour, to trust, no matter where you think it’ll lead you.
For more of my writings, browse through my Art of Love.
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Cover art by Vicente Romero.