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.

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that have been used in the blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Login
    Login Login form

Of House-Gods and the Pork King

In the West Telemark Museum in Eidsborg, Norway, you can see numerous small wooden figures of “house-gods.”

Some of them date from antiquity, discovered, anaerobically preserved, in bogs.

Some are more recent.

In Norway's remote, rural Telemark region, house-gods such as these were kept at certain farms well into the 19th century. Associated with a specific farm and with the family that lived there, they were regarded not so much as gods, but as heirlooms, talismans that warded off misfortune and ensured good harvests and many offspring both to the family and its livestock.*

They say that one such house-god was called the Pork King. At holidays, it was customary to anoint this figure with lard or butter. At Yule, before the family took their traditional pre-Yule baths, the first to be bathed in the purifying waters was the Pork King himself. Only the mistress of the farm was permitted to be present for the bathing of the Pork King. Not even the farmer himself could witness this sacred ablution.

(Students of Old Norse lore will recall that the god Frey, to whom it was customary to offer a swine at Yule “for harvest and a good year,” himself rode a great boar named Golden Bristles. They will remember also the bathing of his mother Nerthus' image in a sacred lake. They may also recall that during the Scandinavian Witch-Hunts of the 17th century, one of the names of the Devil was said to be Frö: Frey.)

It is said that in the 18th century, certain citizens of the town of Bø, outraged by the continuing “idolatry” in their midst, broke into the farmhouse where the image of the Pork King was kept and stole the little wooden figure. They chopped him into splinters and burnt the pieces.

They say that, as the wood of the Pork King burned, the fragrance of roasting pork filled all of Bø.



*Wooden house-gods have a long pedigree among speakers of Indo-European languages. The Kalasha, a 4000-strong people in what is now northwest Pakistan, make them still.

The story goes that Dezau Dezalik, god of High Heaven—his name is cognate with Zeus, Jupiter, Tyr, Dyaus, Dievs, and other sky-gods of Indo-Eurostan—decreed that on the night of the Winter Solstice, all of humanity should keep all-night vigil in honor of the occasion.

Alas, one by one, everyone nodded off into sleep, until in the entire world, only one person remained awake.

This was a Kalasha man, a wood-carver, who stayed awake because he was intent on his carving. (The Kalasha are still known for their skill at wood-carving.) In fact, he was making a house-god, an image of Dezalik himself.

For this, Dezalik gave his special blessing to the Kalasha people, and, indeed, they are the only remaining Indo-European people who, to this day, still maintain their traditional religion.



Augusto S.Cacopardo (2016) Pagan Christmas: Winter Feasts of the Kalasha of the Hindu Kush. Gingko.

Vidar Sundstøl (2017) The Devil's Wedding Ring. Tr, Tiina Nunnally. University of Minnesota.


Above: Stave-Hoff (Eidsborg, Norway)














Last modified on
Poet, scholar and storyteller Steven Posch was raised in the hardwood forests of western Pennsylvania by white-tailed deer. (That's the story, anyway.) He emigrated to Paganistan in 1979 and by sheer dint of personality has become one of Lake Country's foremost men-in-black. He is current keeper of the Minnesota Ooser.


Additional information