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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The Old God of Aldborough

 "The Horned God of the Brigantes"

(Guy Ragland Phillips)

 

If I told you that a Roman era image of the Horned God was being venerated in a parish church in Yorkshire, would you believe me?

Well, it's true.

Next time you're in the West Riding of Yorkshire, check out St. Andrew's Church in the little village of Aldborough (lit. “old fortified town”). There, set into a wall in the transept, you'll find a 1600+-year old bas relief of a mysterious figure that Guy Ragland Phillips, in his Brigantia: A Mysteriography (1976) calls “the Horned God of the Brigantes” ; for these were, indeed, the old tribal hunting runs of the Celtic people known as the Brigantes.

Despite its current diminished state, Aldborough was once a thriving Roman civitas called Isuriam Brigantum. Here, while digging foundations for St. Andrew's in the 1330s, was discovered the mysterious relief of the “Horned God.” The relief was subsequently set (aptly enough) into a churchyard wall; centuries of exposure to the elements explains its current weathered condition. The god was not moved to his current location inside the church until the 19th century.

17th century sources make it clear that the relief originally represented the Roman god Mercury; the herald's staff that he once held in his right hand is no longer visible. It's possible that the image was once part of a temple of Mercury on the same location.

Lest this identification should seem to consort but ill with Phillips' reading, bear in mind that, in Romano-Celtic times, it was not unusual for the old Celtic Horned God to be identified with (inter alia) the Roman Mercury. Cross-pantheon identification is, to say the very least, an inexact science. Mercury's virile nudity, his patronage of cattle, his fatherhood of the god Pan, and the wings on his hat made him a not unreasonable interpretatio Romana of the old horned god. Wings, horns: really, what's the big difference?

As one would expect, since the Pagan Revival, the Old God of Aldborough has become known to, and venerated by, local pagans. I have it from a local source who wishes to remain anonymous that the church's staff regularly find offerings of flowers, fruit, and money laid before the god.

So there we have it: the Old God and the New, worshiped side-by-side, just like in the old days.

Good old Anglicanism.

 

 

 

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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.

Comments

  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale Wednesday, 13 May 2020

    That's really cool.

  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham Wednesday, 13 May 2020

    I like it. For some reason the phrase "flipping the bird to materialism" comes to mind.

  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch Wednesday, 13 May 2020

    Sorry, I'm not following.

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