White Horse Magic



Ethan Allen wanted to reincarnate as a white stallion (and may have done so). It's no accident he selected a white horse for his next body, because they loom large in the folklore of New England.

Here are some examples of lore about white horses:

  •  A person should count the horses that walk by them, but only those that are white. After three white horses have gone by, the wisher should shake hands with the first person they see, and make a wish. The wish will come true.
  •  To bring yourself riches, spit over your pinky when you see a white horse.
  •  It is said that dreaming about a white horse is a sign of trouble. This is an example of the well-known oneiric principle that dreaming of something positive (for example a marriage, a birth, or a lucky white horse) often foretells its opposite (spinsterhood, death, or misfortune). However...
  • Some 19th century Yankees claimed instead that dreaming about a white horse foretold riches for the dreamer.

Clearly, these all made a lot more sense when New England was rural, agricultural, and horses were the transportation of choice. I think it would take me a lifetime to see three white horses go by in my neighborhood today.

Ethan Allen was a bit of a loose cannon and a freethinker. He was also a Deist, and wrote a book called Reason, the Only Oracle of Man, that outlined his unorthodox religious views. It was an attack on Christianity, the Bible and the clergy. Unsurprisingly, it got bad reviews.

In 1785, which was late in his life, Ethan Allen discussed metaphysics with J. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur, a Frenchman who became an American citizen and wrote a series of popular books titled Letters from An American Farmer. Ethan Allen remarked that if the transmigration of souls was indeed true, he hoped to return to earth as a magnificent white stallion so he could roam the hills of Vermont.

Allen died in 1789. Although the public viewed him as a national hero, clergymen took a dimmer view, one going so far to call him "one of the wickedest men that ever walked this guilty globe."

According to B.A. Botkin's Treasury of New England Folklore, shortly after Allen's death a large white stallion, unclaimed by any farmer, was seen roaming freely across the green hills of Vermont. Ethan Allen's remains have never been located by modern historians.

Peter Muise



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