The flying horse, or the stone ram, is ridden by the hero on his or her journey through the realms. It really represents pure intellect, life, and light – all aspects of the Divine. It is in effect a Psychopomp, the archetype which guides the soul through its various transitions – through the inner realms of the journey. Perhaps in Sufi terms, it can be seen as the Spirit of Guidance. Without it the hero cannot proceed in his or her quest.
In each of the Fairy Tales in my book, the hero wins his faithful steed and guide, after a great battle, conflict, or inner work of some kind. In Golden Chisel and the Stone Ram (an ancient Chinese Han Fairy Tale), the hero Golden Chisel finds a brilliant stone, in the centre of the dried-up pond in his village. He had spent the night in the mountains before this, perhaps meditating, so that he could finally ‘see’ the light in the stone shining there. He then had to chisel or carve the stone, which was vaguely in the form of a ram. The Prophecy had said that water would flow from the mouth of a stone ram. So, Golden Chisel spent a long time chiselling the hard stone, into the shape of a ram. When it was finally complete it came alive and the stone ram speaks to him. They make a deal so that the stone ram will bring water from the sacred Yellow River to the village, so that the villagers could have fresh spring water for their tea and their food. Nourishment of the soul. It is the Stone Ram who takes Golden Chisel to the river each night, and who carries the water from the river to replenish the village.
The Little Humpbacked Horse is the true Psychopomp in this story but he also was hard- won. The hero wants to find the ‘demon’ who is trampling the Tsar’s golden corn. This demon turns out to be a white mare (representing the inner Light of the feminine which was totally lacking and repressed in the land of the Tsar). The hero does battle with her, by jumping on her back, facing her tail, and hanging on for dear Life, never letting go. After a long time trying to dislodge him in violent ways, the mare gives up. He has passed the test and now they too make a deal. If he lets her go, she will give him two magnificent horses and a little humpbacked horse with long ears like a donkey. She tells him that he can do what he wishes with the two horses but on no account, must he give up his little humpbacked horse. This will be his guide, friend, and steed, although he has no idea of this at the time. This little horse advises him, takes him to the various realms that he needs to journey through and finally guides him to his goal.
While in the Fairy of the Dawn story, there is yet another way in which a beautiful brown horse, manifests for the hero. At first Petru the hero, rides a horse to the edges of consciousness, to fight the fearsome dragon which guards this bridge between the realms. In trying to overcome the dragon, Petru realises that his horse is not steady enough to hold him, as he fights. He returns to his father’s palace and is met by his old nurse / witch, who immediately knows exactly what the problem is. She teaches and guides him to find the oldest reins in the emperor’s stables, and in striking the reins against the pillar, a magnificent, beautiful brown horse stands before him. There is much symbolism here but the pillars represent the wisdom of Sophia (the Divine Feminine) and the structure which holds this wisdom. This horse carries Petru to the bridge, where he fights and overcomes the dragon, cutting off its largest head. Now he is in the next realm of consciousness, where his horse advises, and explains his journey, so that he eventually reaches the centre where the Fairy of the Dawn guards the sacred water. He then must carry this water back to his father the Emperor, so that he can be healed. This return journey is very unusual in fairy stories and is important. After all we do have to return to this outer realm and our lives.
I would say that the Baba Yaga – the witch and Teacher in the Frog Princess, who guides the hero in that story, is also a Psychopomp. She rides a ‘horse stick’ in many stories and takes on this function of the flying horse. She teaches the hero, when he is near the end of his quest and without her, he would never have found his princess wife again.
And in the final story of Cenerentola (Cinderella), the Dove of the fairies acts as a spiritual teacher and guide for the heroine, so that she grows and evolves into the Queen she really is. Birds also can act as a Psychopomp in ancient myths.