Warning: Contains material some readers may find offensive.
You've heard the stories. Do you know what those wacky-ass witches do at their sabbats? They actually kiss the Devil's hairy bung-hole: the Kiss in tergo, as the chroniclers coyly put it.
Ah, yes: the osculum infame, “the notorious kiss,” as it's known. You might think that this is one of the parts of medieval witchery that didn't quite make it to the modern witchcraft revival, but I think that you'd be wrong on that count. Twelve'll get you thirteen that the good old Kiss from Behind is ancestral to the Book of Shadows' Fivefold Kiss. Breathes there a Wiccan who would admit it, though?
He sits on the altar, cross-legged, shining in the firelight, each tine of his branching antlers tipped with its own delicate bud of flame. He holds the child to his chest, as if suckling him. Not everyone is privileged to drink from the breast of the witches' god. It is a promise, the ancient gesture of adoption.
He rises to his feet, towering—his horns reach up to heaven—and holds the infant out to the assembled people.
The Long Man of Baraboo is a 1000-year old effigy mound near Baraboo, Wisconsin, in the form of a man with bison horns. (You can find the link to my previous post on the topic--The Long Man of Baraboo--below.)
Ray Bailey—Sparky's husband—and our friend Sirius stopped to pay their respects to the Long Man on their way out west for Sparky's Memorial this Sunday. There's news.
They tell me that the Man is no longer being mowed. They have continued to mow around the Long Man, so that His outline is clear—perhaps even clearer than it was—but the Man Himself is now furry with ferns and prairie grasses. This is entirely fitting. He is now even more the Green Man that He once was.
In Old Craft iconography, the Old Master is sometimes depicted as a horned (or antlered) skull with a flame between its horns. He is thus the Flammifer, the líht-bera, the Lucifer.
The image takes its origin from Continental trials; French witches frequently deposed that the Devil appeared at the sabbat in the form of a He-Goat with a candle burning between his horns. This is how Jeanne Bosdeau saw him at the Puy de Dôme in 1594. The witches would then light their own tapers or torches (as we still do) from the god's fire: the Lord of the Sabbat giving illumination to his people.
The witch-fire is the power of life that burns in each of us. It is said to be threefold: the fire in the head, the fire in the heart, and the fire in the loins.
French Inquisitor Pierre de Lancre wrote that at the Basque Sabbats the Devil himself presided at mass. At the moment of Consecration, he would cry out: This is my body! Then he would lift the Host, which was black, round, and stamped with the Devil's image (de Lancre specifies that he lifts it “on his horns”), and those present would fall down in adoration and cry out, twice repeated, a mysterious four-word phrase, which has rung down the history of witchcraft ever since.
In his account of the Basque trials, de Lancre transcribes the Basque words as:
Not far from Baraboo, Wisconsin, lies a monumental 1000-year old effigy mound in the shape of a man with horns.
Sound like anyone you know?
Southern Wisconsin, in the American Midwest, is home to the largest concentration of effigy mounds in the world. (Ohio's Great Serpent Mound, an eastern outlier, is the largest and most famous of them all.) They were raised during the Late Woodland period (700-1200 CE) by a number of related cultures. Although not all are identifiable, the vast majority have the shapes of the animal beings of the Three Worlds: snakes, turtles, panthers, bears, birds.