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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

 Image: Ripe merlot wine grape clusters on the vine High-Res Stock Photo -


Why did Allah prohibit the drinking of wine to believers?

According to the Yezidis, it was out of jealousy and fear.


Islamic law generally prohibits the use of intoxicants to Muslims—not that this has slowed the use of drugs such as qat and hashish in the Muslim world, mind you—and Wine is regarded as the first, the chief, the Mother of all Intoxicants.

(When coffee was first discovered, Muslim religious authorities ruled it an intoxicant, and its use therefore forbidden to Muslims. This ruling was so universally rejected by the 'umma that in the end the mullahs just had to suck it up.)

Known euphemistically in Arabic as the Red One—as if even to pronounce its name would be dangerous—wine is specifically forbidden in the Qur'an. Though the book itself provides no reasons for this prohibition, the Yezidis—a Kurdish-speaking religious minority centered in Iraq, whose worship of the Peacock Angel would seem to have arisen in the 13th century in antinomian protest against the tyranny of the Mosque—do.


(That, in Europe, what we now know as Old Craft also arose in antinomian protest against a tyrannical Church, at roughly the same time, must be considered, at very least, a striking coincidence, if not the actual Hand of some god.

Presumably, the Left Hand.)


When Allah saw how much humanity loved the Red One, they say, he feared that they would always love and worship it more than himself.

Therefore, in jealousy, he did what those unequal to the race—just as Republicans in the US are trying to do today—always do.

He banned the competition.


(That Islamic mystical tradition has always equated Wine with Divine Love tells a truth both older and deeper than any Revelation.)


The blood of the grape is the blood of a god, Red Blood of a Green God. Before any others, the Green Man first wore vine leaves.

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  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    Thanks, as someone who adds a jigger of red wine to his dinnertime glass of lemonade I appreciate this blog.

Posted by on in Culture Blogs




Reading Michael Pollan's “The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World”


Did we domesticate plants, or did plants domesticate us?


For years now I've been hearing about a woman in California, priestess to the Green God, who bears on her face the imprint of her god: leaf beard and mustache in green tattoo. Whether or not there really is such a person, I don't know.

But if there is, I love her. Sometimes courage and piety are indistinguishable.


Books about the Green Man tend to be long on iconography and short on concept. No more.

In his 2002 The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World, Michael Pollan—though he never once mentions Him—has written a theology of the Green God. For "Green God," just read "Plants."

The general view of the Green Man as a sort of vague “Father Nature” figure, while emotionally appealing, has just never been intellectually satisfying. Pollan, however, gets specific. In Botany, he muses on the age-long, epic relationship between Plant and Animal, Green God and Red. Here, deliciously, we reach that place of pagan felicity where science and mythology are indistinguishable.

Plants developed flowers to appeal sexually to animals. It's a truth, but what a truth.

The beauty of Botany lies in its specifics. Pollan divides it into four chapters, each treating with a vegetal particular: Apple, Tulip, Marijuana, Potato, each offering the Animal (and, specifically, Human) world the means by which to satisfy a particular inborn desire: for Sweetness, for Beauty, for Intoxication, for Control.

Though, as I have said, Pollan never once mentions the Green Man—he does bring up witches, though, our kind of witches—if the book has a presiding deity, it's Dionysos, Who puts in frequent appearances throughout. Who is He, after all, but the Plant God, Lord of Intoxication, an Elder God peering through the tragi-comic mask of a Younger?

Throughout, Pollan discusses in intoxicating depth such topics as Desire, Attraction, the nature of Beauty, Memory, the need to Forget, and the nature of Consciousness. He spreads for us here a sumptuous intellectual feast that cannot help but contrast with the Happy Meal™ superficiality (and intellectual sterility) of so much contemporary pagan writing.

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 Flaming, Holly-topped Christmas Pudding | English christmas pudding, Christmas  pudding, Christmas favorites


Guinness Book of World Records alert: “Best-Aged Plum Pudding.”

My recollection is that we made this batch of plum puddings eight summers ago. Tonight we eat the last one.

It was hot and steamy that night, I remember, just after Midsummer's. (When better to prepare the quintessential food of Midwinter?) The whole coven came over, bringing everything that we needed: dried fruit (raisins black and white, currants, apricots, dried pineapple...), breadcrumbs, butter, date sugar. We chopped, we mixed, we steamed. Voilà: the Sun by Night, the Solar sacrament.

(I remember that we had just been over to the Science Museum in “Saint” Paul to see an exhibit of artifacts from Pompeii. I can distinctly recall being struck by a certain decorative painting, clearly rooted in Bacchic religion, depicting a head crowned with vine leaves. The leaves merged indistinguishably into the figure's hair. Here, I thought, we see the origins of the Green Man/Leaf Face motif so beloved of modern pagans. Pompeii was destroyed in 79 CE; mere decades later, the face composed entirely of leaves emerges—there's a fine example, circa 100 CE, from the Temple of Jupiter in Baalbek—a motif which will haunt the Western imagination for the next 2000 years, and emerge as a central icon of the Pagan Revival. We may derive the Green Man as we know him from medieval ecclesiastical sculpture, but his roots are indisputably pagan and indisputably Bacchic.)

Having made the puddings, we let them age. Every full Moon, I'd take them out of the cupboard and irrigate them with brandy. (Talk about Bacchic.) Every year, on Midwinter's Eve, we'd steam one up. As it came in procession from the kitchen, crowned with holly, enhaloed in blue flame, we'd rise to our feet and sing a song of welcome.

Then we'd dive in. O rapture, as the Scarecrow once said.

(Like the very best fruitcake that you've ever had, but hot and melting in the mouth, with a beautiful velvety texture. Ohmigods.)

Later, of course, we'd sing the song for the plum pudding and dance the plum pudding dance. (“I swear, you guys are the only real pagans left in the US,” a friend of mine once quipped after hearing about this.)

So tonight, after singing down the Sun, after lighting the Yule log, after the Dance of the Wheel, after the 13-course Mother Night feast (a course for each Moon of the coming year), we'll top it all off with steaming spoonfuls of the world's best-aged plum pudding, itself the 13th course. Witches being witches, of course, there have been dark jokes about whether or not it will be safe to eat.

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  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Good eye, Anthony: that's the one. You won't be surprised to hear that there's a lot of overlap between the local pagan and Morris
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    Over on YouTube there is someone going by the handle MidwestMorrisAle who has several videos of a lumps of plum pudding dance. Is

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

The Green Man - Home | Facebook 

My friend and I couldn't have been at the Renn Fest for more than two minutes when we ran into a gaggle of fellow pagans.

This, of course, is hardly to be wondered at. Renn Fests are famed pagan Meccas, and this particular one happened to be the Paganistani (i.e. Minnesota) Renn Fest, after all. There are so many pagans at the Minnesota Renn Fest that for a while it actually because fashionable to wear a cross, not so much out of religious conviction, as to stand out in the crowd.

They ask where we're headed, and we explain that we always start off our day there by pouring a libation for the Green Man. Pagans generally being game for spontaneous religious observance, they come along.

A pagan landmark of the MN Renn Fest—“Let's meet up at the Green Man,” people say—the Green Man stands probably 20 feet tall: a large, archaic-looking wooden mask mounted on a tree trunk, and bodied out all around with a tangle of fox grapes. This being September, the grapes are usually just coming ripe around now.

We stand before the Green Man, make our prayers, and pour out our libation, relishing the opportunity to indulge in public pagan worship. We'd like to dance around Him—that's the traditional observance—but there aren't quite enough of us to join hands.

Fortunately, this is the Renn Fest.

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Thank Goddess: after a covid-driven hiatus, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts is finally open again. At last, I can go see the Green Man Gun.

I've been thinking about it for months. Now, in the normal way of things, I've not a gun guy. I don't own a gun; truth to tell, I've never even fired one. (Yes, I'm just another pansy-ass South Minneapolis liberal wussie. You got a problem with that?) In general, I don't think of guns as things of beauty.

That's why the Green Man Gun—no matter how many times I see it—invariably takes me by surprise.

The Green Man Gun is indeed a thing of beauty. No, I can't tell you what kind of gun it is. (A wheel-lock pistol?) No, I can't tell you for sure where it was originally from. (One of the Germanies, I think.) No, I can't even tell you how old it is. (“16th” century, maybe?) If you're interested, stay tuned and I'll tell you these things once I make my pilgrimage and find out. Maybe I'll even get a picture to show you.

Here's what I can tell you. It must have been made for some well-heeled nobleman, because it wasn't just made to shoot: it was made to be beautiful.

The Green Man Gun is inlaid with mother-of-pearl and colored enamel, set into the sides of the wooden stock. (“Lock, stock, and barrel” we say, meaning the gun in its entirety. “Stock,” of course, originally meant “tree trunk”: here, the vegetative component of an otherwise metal object.) The major decorative motif, of course, is swirling vegetation with a Leaf Face peering through: hence the name.

What does it mean to have the God of Vegetation adorning, of all things, a gun: a god of life on an instrument of death?

Well, we can ask this question, but—let us acknowledge—it's a modern question. The Green Man only became a god in the so-called 20th century. To the nobleman for whom this gun was made, I suspect that the Leaf Mask represented decoration, no more. At most, it would have read contemporaneously as an allusion to the forest to which one resorted for the hunt.

As modern pagans, though, our reading of the past is not limited to how the past read itself. This is a central principle of contemporary pagan hermeneutics. The New Pagan Thought is non-Originalist by definition. (Take that, foul SCOTUS conservatives.)

So let me pose the question once again: why a god of life on an instrument of death?

Here we encounter one of the new paganisms' central concepts: the fruitful Death, the death that gives life. The wheat dies on the scythe to give us bread. The grape is plucked and crushed to give us wine. The gun fires to protect, or to give us food. The Green God is no mere god of life. Like his brother the Horned, he is a sacrificial god.

Welcome to the pagan world. Here opposites meet, kiss, and resolve. Here, death brings life, and guns bear Green Men.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs


Unsurprisingly, the couple that sold handmade brooms at the Renn Fest turned out to be witches.

Now, Witch World is a small place, with three degrees of separation at most, so each year, I would make it a point to stop in, and we'd swap stories for a while.

One year I was absolutely wowed by a set of hand-crafted wooden bellows hanging on the wall, the surface beautifully carved with a Green Man face.

The symbolism could hardly be more apposite. Bellows = air = the breath of life. Whose image could they possibly bear other than that of the God of All Green Life, whose reciprocal breath gives life to all us Red-bloods. And bellows blow up the Fire, which burns....wood, of course, the Green Man's very flesh. Rendered in—what else?—wood.

Charmed, I took the bellows up to the till.

“Tell,” I said.

The Green Man bellows had been crafted by their coven woodcarver. “They're his first,” they told me. “He'll be delighted to hear that he's made a sale.”

I was in love, and the price was more than reasonable, so of course I bought the Green Man bellows. I've joked for years about how I seem to be redoing my house in Early Green Man, which is frankly no more than the truth. Walking through my home, you'll find more Green Men than you could...well, than you could shake a stick at.

Back at the Renn Fest a few weeks later, I naturally stopped in at Broomhilda to say “Blessed Be.”

Laughing, they told me the story. They'd called their coven brother to tell him that he'd made a sale, and asked if he wanted to carve another set.

“F*ck no,” he told them. “Making those was so much work, I couldn't possibly charge enough to make it worthwhile.”

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A Beltane Teaching: The Lover’s Embrace of Life

Right now, in the heat of Beltane, the wild realm is expressing itself so loudly and so boldly that we just need to step beyond our doorstep to receive its direct, powerful truth-speak: life is our ardent lover.  

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