Paganistan: Notes from the Secret Commonwealth
In Which One Midwest Man-in-Black Confers, Converses & Otherwise Hob-Nobs with his Fellow Hob-Men (& -Women) Concerning the Sundry Ways of the Famed but Ill-Starred Tribe of Witches.
Sun Horns, Moon Horns
Just before Sunset, people gather in a place with a clear view of the horizon. When the Sun first touches the horizon, horns blow. Those present pray, pour libations, burn incense. When the Sun disappears beneath the horizon, the horns blow again. The people sing a hymn. The rite is ended.
I created this ritual a number of years ago for use at one of our local summer festivals. I wanted something short and participatory, something that we could do together, but with some meditative time as well, and something that anyone, regardless of tradition or affiliation, could participate in fully. We performed the ritual nightly; each night, more people took part.
In the ideal pagan village of my dreams, a corresponding rite would mark Sunrise every morning as well, but of course there's a limit to what one can get away with at a pagan festival, especially when it involves blowing horns at 6 in the morning.
What I heard most frequently afterward was, “It felt so real.” I will say that this is invariably my own experience of this ritual as well. Note also the implied criticism in this observation.
Through the course of the week, several people came to me and said, “I wasn't able to make it to Sunset last night because I was busy cooking dinner/changing the baby/getting ready for the big ritual, but when I heard the horns blow I faced west and joined you, if only for a second.”
I also heard repeatedly that it was good to hear the horns and know that the moment was being marked by others, even though one was not oneself participating.
In a pagan society, one doesn't have to go to all the rituals. One can participate just by knowing that the rites are being rightly performed.
In that little pagan town of my dreams—one might as well call it Covenston—there are corresponding rites for Moonrise and Moonset as well.
And at full Moon, when Sunset and Moonrise meet, one hears the Sun horns and the Moon horns calling back and forth to each other, horizon to horizon.
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