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.
"I am Here": Do the Gods Reveal Themselves Today through Art?
Who, then, are the gods of the new pagans?
I would suggest that Two, at least, among Them are revealing Themselves to us even as you read these words.
Not through the mouths of prophets do they speak to us today, but through the hands of artists: a revelation not in words, but in shape and line and color.
The Horned God and the Green Man: icons for our day. The Red God and the Green, twin sons of Earth, twofold image of life on this planet: “the Horned One, master of animals—ourselves among them—and the Green, his firstborn brother, lord of leaf and tendril.” Brothers, Lovers, Rivals.
Antiquity is filled with horned gods, but did the ancients see in them an underlying unity? The leaf face: a minor decorative motif of Classical and Medieval sculpture, but did the ancestors see in it the face of a god?
Fast forward to our day. In contemporary pagan visual culture, they are ubiquitous, the Red God and the Green. They are our teachers, these two, teaching us a new way of seeing. Teaching us to look upon the animals, the plants, and behold in them the very being of gods: truly a revelation for our time.
He is perhaps the prime visual icon of the new paganisms: antlered, be-torqued, sitting cross-legged and naked, with standing phallus.
All of these motifs were present in ancient art, but never until our day did they converge into a single image.
The foliate mask first sprouts from its Bacchic vine in late antiquity and grows up to peer from the walls of Romanesque and Gothic churches all over Europe.
But not until our time, so far as we know, did anyone see the eyes of a god looking through the leaves.
The ancestors would not have found it strange that a god should show himself through the handiwork of an inspired artist. Quintilian said of Phidias' chryselephantine Olympian Zeus that the sculptor had added something to the Received Tradition.
We pagans live our lives, as we have always lived them, by our Received Tradition.
But tradition is no closed canon.
The gods are speaking to us today just as clearly as they ever have before.
They say to us: I am here.
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