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.

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Stallion of Three Tails: A Fantasia on Historical Themes

 You are a Stallion, lord, greatly to be praised:

worthy of sacrifice, lord of life and death.

(Ceisiwr Serith)

 

Among the more interesting titles of the God of the Witches is “Stallion of Three Tails.”

The three-tailed stallion features prominently on the coinage of the Dobunni, the Keltic people ancestral to the Anglo-Saxon Hwicce, Stephen P. Yeates' “Tribe of Witches.” Yeates suggests that this figure—in effect, the symbol of the Dobunnic people—represents the tribe's patronal god.

The god of Witches is well-known for his association with horned animals, but as Lord of Beasts he not infrequently takes the form of other animals as well. The stallion is a well-known symbol of virility and ferocity: equine society centers on the herd-stallion with his “harem” of mares, and woe to the younger stallion who encroaches on the territory of the King of the Herd.

In fact, the stallion is associated with kingship across the Indo-European world, and the sacrifice of a stallion marked the king-making among many Indo-European-speaking peoples, including many Keltic peoples. As the stallion is father to his herd, so the king is—metaphorically, one presumes—father to his people.

Why three tails? We enter here the phantasmagorical realm of the Keltic imagination. Cuchulainn's eyes are said in the Tain to have had nine irises. The Bull of Three Horns is, likewise, a comparable figure from the religion of Keltic Gaul.

There's more. “Tail” is a well-known euphemism for “penis”; in fact, the Latin word penis originally meant just that.

So the God of Witches is Stallion of Three Tails in his person of Divine King, herd-stallion to his own coven of (presumably female) witches.

The significance of the three-tailed stallion has heretofore gone largely unremarked in the scholarly world, even (oddly) among students of Keltic coinage.

But the witches still remember.

 

Above: Gold stater of the Dobunni

circa 30 bce

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

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