By Sol Pérez-Pelayo
One: The dream
Two nights ago I had a dream that would mark all of my week with causalities and consequences that made me wonder about the real meaning or perhaps foreshadowing of it. I was in a field where it smelled of rosemary, thyme, and cassias; across my feet I saw bushes and marigolds that enchanted my eyes. The air was jam-packed with a delicious pressure and it was so hot I was sweating. Mulberry trees were all around where I was and as my hand reached to caress the plants that were beneath my feet, I heard galloping, it was very fast and it came in increasing paces each time. I could hear it getting near. There was no one around me, but the dashing was getting closer every time, and it started to distress me as the strides began matching the beating of my own heart. The pounding was making my chest ache with pain and I had to kneel down to relieve it. I heard a very loud neigh and as I turned to see, my eyes were hurt for one second, I lifted my right arm to keep the sun from blinding me and there he was. The most splendid and whitest horse and I have ever seen. I thought it was Gandalf the wizard’s legendary white horse Shadowfax. He was whiter than an exposed bone in a fracture, so white it seemed to be the source of some cosmic spell, giving out light of it’s own. But this whiteness didn’t hurt me like the sun because I could see it. Feeling his tremendous existence in the same perimeter as I was made me faint. It has to be also the biggest horse I had lay eyes on; it stood on its two hind legs and had a bewildered look in it´s astonishing brown eyes. As I was staring into this striking glare, the Egyptian obelisk of the Vatican emerged behind it. He neighed again one more time making an earsplitting sound and our gaze met and then I woke up.
I woke up sweaty, dumbfounded and feeling a bit quaint. My heart was pulverizing my chest and I sat in the bed. I could still feel the roman garden’s fragrances in my nose and the thought of the horse entranced me. I have a very peculiar and distinctive relationship with horses or at least the idea of them. I really wish to have one of my own someday so we can be friends and love him dearly. They are certainly one of the animals that I love and admire the most but they also have a part of my heart that is dark and I rarely talk about. Why was that horse in my dream? Was there a horse near me that needed help? The horse in the dream wasn’t hurt but he was very upset. The exceptional connection that I feel with horses comes from this maybe unfounded but very heartfelt idea that I can communicate with them. They have always created the impression of animals who are comprehensive and that suffer beyond means. I have this incredible weird trauma with animals being hurt. I hate walking around downtown Guadalajara and see how people can still ride those “calandrias.” I can’t even begin to express my disgust to spectacles were animals such as horses are hurt and mistreated for idiotic and cruel entertainment.
Two: The memoir
The next day I had a vivid memory from my past. Somebody else in literature had a dream about a horse that was a life changing experience. Sometime around my 15 years of age, I came across one of the most influential books of my formation as a human being: Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. This book’s passages have remained in my head for a very longtime now. There is one extract that until today I have not been able to re visit and that continues to hunt my memories. Raskolnikov, the main character, had a series of dreams that foreshadowed events in his life. In one of these dreams he is a little boy and he witnesses a grisly scene of animal cruelty. It was a dark grey day and he was with his father. Outside a tavern stood a carriage with a poor old mare that couldn’t even pull it anymore. It’s driver, a cruel man kept putting people into the carriage, striking the mare harder each time, and forcing her to pull the heavy carriage. Even writing about this now is hard, my skin is full of goose bumps and believe me, its difficult, I’m getting a knot in my stomach just now. I’ll make this short because otherwise I’ll cry and never finish writing this phantasmagoria of an article I want to share with you all. The man continues to hit the mare, some people encourage him and even cheer when the mare cries and bleeds, others cry and are very vexed and sick with worry by this wretched scene. But nobody lifts a finger and the deranged chauffeur blows the mare, even in the eyes to death. This horrific scene will forever hold a place with pain in my heart. Even though it was just a dream in a book, these are things that happen every single day everywhere in the world. Evil continues to exist because the so-called “good” people do nothing about it.
Horses are superb creatures; they have certainly given all to humans asking nothing in return, like most animals have. Horses carry and not pun intended here, strong symbolism in almost every culture in the world. Horses are intelligent individuals that have made contact and communication with human beings. They are able to learn commands and tasks, consistency is key to teach a horse simple tricks and routine is also very helpful for the training of these animals. Horses also possess a very particular and interesting ability; they can associate items or voice tones to situations that often got them upset. There were no horses in Mexico when the conquistadors came. An ancient woman of the history of Mexico called Malinche or Mallnalli who was a translator, a slave and former wife of conquistador Cortez, had an intimate connection to horses. Malinalli felt that the horse’s eyes were mirrors that reflected everything one felt. In other words, they were mirrors to the soul.
Another juncture between that horse of my dream and another horse came across my mind that day. I wrote my thesis for my bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and Social Sciences about Nietzsche’s works and how his personal life had a direct impact on them. On Nietzsche’s decline there is particular chapter that seemed to have made a deep mark in me, the reason as you will read now will be obvious:
It was January the 3rd 1889, in a cold morning in Turin where Nietzsche had gone off in the hopes of writing a new work that reflected his thoughts and new great ideas. The German philosopher came out his door in the Via Carlo Alberto. Across from his sidewalk something called his attention, a driver of two-wheeled horse-drawn carriage was complaining out loud about his horse, there present. The animal refused to pull the carriage or even move, the driver continues to scream and instigating the animal. The chauffer finally looses his patience and beings to beat the animal with a whip. Nietzsche appalled and horrified by this ran straight towards the horse and threw his arms around it and started sobbing like a little child. Many said he asked the horse for forgiveness on behalf of all humanity, pardon for all the cruelty all animals have suffered. Something must have hit Nietzsche’s insides for good because after this he was mute for two whole days, except for his alleged last words ever spoken'Mutter, ich bin dumm!' ('Mother, I am stupid!' in German), after this he lived 10 years without ever muttering another word.
The connection between the abdominal incident in Crime and Punishment and Nietzsche’s culminating moment, retiring from existence and presence in this world is remarkable. I’ll be totally honest here, when I made this association was one of the most consumable and rewarding moments that gave me a gratifying sentiment in my heart. For years I couldn’t see or be near a horse and not feel awful, simulating their pain. Even their smell would make me feel uneasy, even though I have always loved them as creatures of innocence and beauty. As Miguel de Cervantes says “It is prerogative of beauty that it should always be respected”. One time, and I recall after more than 14 years (at the time) of experience modeling, acting and photo shooting in many eerie and less than confortable situations; I came across one that was conspicuously touchy for me.
Three: The challenge, a blast from the past
A band from Guadalajara called Sutra (check them out they are awesome) hired me to be on the cover of their album and to appear on their music video as well. Everything was stupendous; the art was very lugubrious and dismal, notions and aesthetics that I find very appealing. The idea was of the pilgrimage of two urban witches walking blindfolded around town, carrying a horse’s corpse. Everything went well until I heard horse head and horse body, dismembering of it etc. My blood chilled. I could feel my hands getting sweaty and cold and I almost chickened out, the idea of holding a dead horse in my hands was way beyond anything I could handle. I have pretty much done very weird and gory things I won’t talk about now, but this reached something that gave electroshocks to my nervous system. Before I could freak out and make a complete fool out of myself I saw the “dead horse” was a model, it was made out of foam and even though it looked completely realistic it was lifeless, but not like life had been taken from it, but in a way that it meant it had never been alive before. I stared at its eyes, not into them. They were so real but I couldn’t feel anything. These eyes didn’t reflect my soul, these eyes were just marbles. We took all day filming this video in one the most iconic and oldest neighborhoods in Guadalajara.
There were times where I honestly felt the horse was going to come alive and start moving, I can almost say I saw it move, it was one of the most uncomfortable and challenging jobs I’ve ever done, not because I was walking around blindfolded or in a tight dress in front of people, but because I really thought this horse was going to move in any minute. I loved doing this and I’m a fan of the band but this was absolutely horrifying and hard for me. Even that scene in the Godfather with the horse’s head has got to be one of the most disturbing film scenes for me.
Four: the present
The morning after as I was getting ready for my early run, I couldn’t stop hearing this roman horse in my head and every time I blinked I saw him and his penetrating eyes glaring back at me. As a fan of metal music I make lists on my Spotify for when I do certain activities, I can almost do pretty much everything to Death or Black metal, but I had found a new taste in folk metal when I ran. There is a function called “artist radio” this makes a “station” based on a artist that you play and it plays songs that are similar or what Spotify thinks you are going to enjoy. I was around my 7th kilometer feeling unusually exhausted, when a song I had never heard before came up and I fell in love. The first thing I heard was a ceremonial group of trumpets announcing something, something of importance, a coronation perhaps. The song was called “I, Caligvla”. The vocals, guttural and strong, were very familiar but the music wasn’t. I turned over my phone and saw one of the most astounding album covers I had seen in a long time. This band is called EX DEO, it’s the side-project of Kataklysm's Maurizio Iacono. Kataklysm is one of my all time favorite bands, no wonder I recognized his voice and felt awful because I didn’t know this was his side project. I felt even more awful when I realized all his songs have to do with the ancient Roman Empire and I had never heard them before. Caligula is my favorite emperor; ever since I read Albert Camus’ play I have been overly obsessed with Caligula and his empire.
This newly found discovery of “Roman metal” made my day. The band was amazing, he had all the themes of the Roman Empire engraved in their songs and albums, however, their songs were still in English, I would be thrilled if they were all in Latin but I guess that’s a challenge. During the week I continued my investigation of Roman Metal, I found a band from Lazio called ADE, their songs are mostly in Latin and I have found both of the bands a ball to listen to, I couldn’t be happier. But the videos that I saw of the band (of EX DEO) were not that cool, the production was certainly very good but maybe its my high expectations due to a “Caligula” 1980 American- Italian film. This film was produced by famous men’s magazine Penthouse. The intention was to make an explicit erotic, close to pornographic film with good dialogues great actors and real sex on tape portraying the sexual deviants and excesses that have characterized and stained Caligula’s reign.
Five: The emperor and the golden equus
Caligula, whose real name was Gaius Julius Caesar Germanicus (Caligula, means "little (soldier's) boot" in Latin), was a very controversial Roman emperor; he was a ruler of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Despite Caligula's popularity with the people, the Senate expressed disparagement for what seemed to be airy eccentricities. Caligula by most history books and even the film production mentioned above is remembered as a degenerate and mad emperor who only used his power to oppress. He entered the senate and his reign with great widespread acceptance; he arrived in Rome like a true rock star. The crowd in the streets loved him and all acclaimed him, this specially because his real father was Germanicus and not the former “mad” emperor Tiberius (suffering advanced syphilis). His first year was great for the Roman Empire, he made treason papers invaluable and gave his army important benefits. Caligula pardoned exiled politicians and helped those whose life had been affected by exuberant taxes. He punished sexual offenders and had the people happy and entertained with gladiator spectacles. He built several aqueducts and made a public reform. However, nearly after this, his health declined and his attitude changed and turned in to a complete monster by engaging in activities that harmed others sexually, he also began executing people without leaving any trails, even within his own family and thus, this lead to his murder. He was emperor for about four years; he was only 28 when he was assassinated.
That same day after the run and lunch and all that, one of my good friends called me up to tell me she had gone to one of the most ridiculous places in our city: a nightclub. A popular place for some known to be elitist, full in my opinion with phonies that are mostly gold diggers and low self esteem beings who pretend to find love or snort coke in the bathrooms. I asked her what she was doing there; she said she was just making company for a friend. She said everyone apparently found so odd that they let her in with sneakers and that she didn’t know anyone. They thought she was a foreigner they even pretended to introduce Tequila to her. She couldn’t hear over the loud annoying music when they asked her if she had tasted it, she said no, thinking that they had asked her if she had tasted this particular brand. Somehow this tequila, worth $500 pesos per shot (no joke) was what made these people feel so above everyone else. I asked her what’s in the shot? Gold? We both laughed but to be really honest with you, I felt a little tingle in my spine with fear, really? Are people actually buying this opulence? In the nervous laughter I remembered a really cool, odd and funny fact about Caligula, His HORSE; Incitatus.
Incitatus was the single most beloved living thing that belonged to the emperor. I read about all the oddities Caligula had for his horse. According to Suetonius a Roman historian that lived around c. 69 – after 122 AD Caligula adored his horse from birth, he had his stable made from white marble, his manger was made from ivory and he often wore purple blankets. Purple was the most expensive of tints back then and a color set apart only for royalty. He wore necklaces with precious jewels and even ate oats mixed with gold flakes (yes! Like those people in the nightclub with the tequila shots!) He had several servants designated just for his needs, and he was a racehorse who only once lost a single race ever, the unfortunate jockey was executed. How could it be Incitatus’ fault? On the nights previous his race, absolute silence was ordered, whoever disturbed Incitatus’ sleep was killed. Caligula wanted to name him a consul in the senate and this outraged the other senators. This story has two sides like most stories. It is said for starters, that Caligula’s madness had gone way overboard and his exacerbated love for his horse as well; and two, he wanted to make fun of the senators by appointing a horse with no logos and reason so it could do their job if it could live like them.
But one thing is for sure: Incitatus was the horse of my dream. Today is a full moon and I hope he gallops through my dreams to foretell me another even and screaming “cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war”.
Note: HAVOC! Was a military signal the English used during in the Middle Age to direct soldier into attack, rapine and pandemonium. This phrase is taken from the Shakespearean from the play “Julius Caesar” (III,i 273) “Julius Caesar” after his murder to foreshadow a catastrophe.