In telling the story of Conn-Eda in his book The Water of Life, Michael Meade pauses at the moment when the hero of the story has ridden a small, shaggy horse under the waters of a lake and over a huge, flaming mountain. The horse, given to Conn-Eda by an old Druid, is unimpressive, but as is often the case in stories like these, the unimpressive element is exactly the right tool for the job. If Conn-Eda is to find what he is looking for, Meade says, he has to put his ego aside an let the unimpressive horse take the lead. The horse knows its way and will take him place his ego would never be willing to go. When he has come through both water and fire, the horse checks in with Conn-Eda, who is badly burned, but still alive.
Meade says stories are psychodiagnostic, meaning what strikes a person most in a story, what sticks for awhile, be it an image, an emotional reaction to some element, or open question, has something to say about the condition the person is in. I love the idea of laying down the ego and riding the shaggy horse for awhile. I love thinking about the strange and frightening territory the horse might take me through. Some days, the thrill of that idea is enough. But today part of me fears, even thinks it is certain, that when we come to the burning mountain, we will find that the horse is just a horse after all, and we will be facing the fires of the burning mountain alone.