Famed White Steeds

Cao Cao’s (Yellow-Hoofed) Flying Lightning


Cao Cao Riding Flying Lightning

(Chapter 20 of Romance of Three Kingdoms: Published in the Ming Dynasty)

This steed was one of the four great horses of the Three Kingdoms era. Warlord Cao Cao rode the horse for celebratory events and hunting trips because it was tall and majestic. The White horse had yellow hoofs, but, in some translations, this detail is omitted and the name is abbreviated to “Flying Lightning” (ThreeKingdoms Wiki).

There is no historical record of this horse’s participation in a major battle.

Furthermore, it is likely that the story of Cao Cao and this creature is fictional. It is only mentioned in one chapter of Romance of Three Kingdoms, and this novel is a dramatized version of history. Cao, being a powerful military leader, owned many steeds suitable for hunting and a white one among them probably inspired the story of Flying Lightning. Whether true or not, the mount enhanced the  image of the Warlord, who founded the nation of Wei and became an Emperor posthumously for ages to come.


Napoleon’s Marengo

The Most Famous Image of Napoleon & Marengo by Jacques-Louis David (0:50)

This Steed was imported from Egypt and named after the Battle of Marengo. Small, but sturdy, he was wounded eight times during many battles, but survived. After Napoleon’s defeat, Marengo was sent to Britain for breeding (Crank, 2014).


While the painting of the pair is very famous, it is misleading since both of them, despite their prowess, were relatively small (Crank, 2014). The painter blatantly exaggerated their sizes to glorify the Emperor. The Emperor’s beloved mount was also one of his tools for propaganda. This becomes glaringly obvious when you consider that the battle of Marengo was one of the most important ones in his career.

The cunning Emperors knew the value of putting on spectacular shows with their best horses.



Gongjin’s Campaign Memorials – a Three Kingdoms Wiki. Flying- Lightning.
Retrieved from http://threekingdoms.wikia.com/wiki/Flying-Lightning

Crank, C. (2014, September 22). Marengo: Napoleon’s Favourite Horse, Retrieved from  https://www.horse-canada.com/horses-and-history/marengo-napoleons-favourite-horse/


Not With a Bang But a Whisper

coffee and a blank page


When my brain finished integrating last fall—last stage in healing the mental fractures that nearly killed me, after 25 years of misdiagnosed and untreated PTSD—I came back to myself less than two weeks after an illegitimate election placed an unstable and corrupt would-be dictator in line to be the next US president. In other words, I finally knew myself in the world just as the world I knew tilted on its axis and began slipping away.

The core challenge that posed has taunted me ever since: how do I normalize this overwhelming new sense of self I am experiencing, while at the same not normalizing this overwhelming new world, filled with political chaos targeting every social principle I believe in?

As a human being, feeling at home within my mind and body is everything. Is life itself.

As a citizen, feeling at home within this burgeoning autocracy would mean death.

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when a body loves a body

coffee and a blank page

There were protesters outside the local Planned Parenthood clinic again this week. And, also again, a group of women in bright pink escort vests arrayed quietly along the front of the building, a buffer to the hate and madness.

These protests have ebbed and waned over the 15-some years I have lived in Philly, but they are clearly on the rise again. When I first moved here from Texas, I remember being shocked to see Planned Parenthood locations advertising on local TV, out in the open and unafraid. It expanded my vision of what became possible when we who believe in equal bodily rights and the full social participation of women were not forced to accept shaming and violence as “normal” responses to our stance. As mere “business as usual.”

On Wednesday​, as I do every time, I crossed the street to thank the escorts for being there. We shook…

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The Price [The villainess series]

coffee and a blank page

* * *

“But, then again, what if they were role models?”
–Sarah Gailey, In Defense of Villainesses

* * *


The Price

Older than the ocean floor she slithers across,
the sea-witch rummages between her cartilaginous breasts
for the shell that stores the latest tongue
and voice in her collection.

Not the first fish I taught to waddle onto land,
she snorts to the anemones.
Not likely to be the last, neither—
and every damn one of ’em convinced
evolution’s just a party trick.
A way to meet cute boys.

She’d outdone herself on this one, too:
No talking. No singing. No dancing
without the girl feeling like there are razors
in her shoes.
Absolutely NO take-backs.

Settling her head into the wattles of her throat,
the sea-witch peers, sightless, into the cold ocean night.
Can’t nobody say as I didn’t warn her,
she harrumphs quietly, before pulling the…

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Magnificent Black War Horses: Xiang Yu’s Wuzhui & Alexander’s Bucephalus

Even in the age of automobiles and motorbikes, famed war horses and their riders remain charismatic and enduring figures. They inspire authors and movie directors to produce numerous adaptations based on their impressive exploits. Alexander the Great and Bucephalus were a prime example in the ancient Greece. There were Xiang Yu, the Conqueror of Western Chu, and his beloved steed, Wuzhui in the ancient China.

In both eastern and western cultures, black horses symbolize power, authority, and fearlessness. These powerful men helped to create the preconception by accomplishing astounding martial feats while riding their mounts. Both men were elite cavalry commanders of their times. Both Alexander the Great and Xiang Yu the Conqueror died in their thirties and their stallions died shortly before them. After Bucephalus passed away of old age, his rider founded a city called Bucephala to honor him  and died sooon  after (Rodgers, 2008).


The Image of Alexander and Bucephalus (3:05 – 3:08)

Xiang Yu and Wuzhui’s end was more tragic. When his remaining battalion was surrounded by his nemesis Liu Bang’s army, the warrior king, knowing his end was near, lamented that “ [he] could lift a moutain by might, but now [his] time is gone and Wuzhui won’t run” (Sun, 2015).  Because of this poem, the horse, along with his rider, is remembered to this day. A source claims that Wuzhui committed suicide by jumping into a river when Xiang Yu had tried to send the wounded horse away on a boat days before this.


The Painting of  Xiang Yu and Wuzhui (0: 44 – 0: 51)


We are fascinated by these magnificent black war horses and warriors because they were so powerful and swift together. They completed each other so wonderfully and shared their lives and glory. We do not imagine these ancient conquerors without their trusted animal companions thousands of years after they died.



Rodgers, N. (2008). The Rise and Fall of Ancient Greece.  London: Lorenz. 

Sun, J. (2015 November 5).  Heroic Horses of Ages Past. Retrieved from