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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Horned One

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Devil's Bird

The Mothers and Fathers reckoned the Horned One as god of animal life generally—what, in History of Religions lingo, is known as a “Master of Animals”—but for all that, he is rarely ascribed a sacred bird of his own. Birds, of course, are given mostly to the Sky Powers: raptors to Thunder, water-birds to Sun and Moon, etc. It's fascinating that these embodiers of the animal god's being should be given to other gods, as if they somehow constitute his yearning for them, as Earth's quartz yearns to the Moon. But to Himself the lore alots the merest avian handful: corvids, perhaps the peacock (see below), the robin (as Promethean bringer-of-fire) and, of course, the cock.

Everyone knows that the rooster—I suppose one really must say “cock” here—is the Devil's bird, (“Men call me the Devil,” he is reputed to have told Scots witch Isobel Gowdie, “but they know not what they mean”), and better it be if it's black. It's a staple of Southern (American) folklore that to invoke the Devil you sacrifice a black cock at a crossroads at midnight. Why a cock? Standard etiology would have it that the cock, being preeminently the bird that proclaims the coming of light, is the sworn enemy of the Prince of Darkness, Enemy of Light. But, as one might expect, matters are considerably more complex than that.

The domestic chicken originated in Southeast Asia and, it would seem, first came to the British Isles with the Romans (Yeates 166). Nonetheless, one finds the cock's head associated with the Horned One on the coinage of the Dobunni, the Keltic tribe that in later days morphed into the Hwicce, the “Tribe of Witches.” The rooster has a reputation as the most virile and pugnacious of birds, a fitting emblem for the father and protector of the people, the Pater Hwicciorum (Yeates 165-9). (Interestingly, though, the use of “cock” for “penis” derives, not from the name of the bird, but from the sense of “water-tap.”)

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Gods and Contrails: The "Horned One's Farewell"

Paul Rucker's evocative photo, “Horned One's Farewell,” which accompanied my post Grand Sabbat: Final Blessing, has occasioned so much comment on Facebook that I'd like to offer a little more context for the image.

For the past 25 years or so, here in the Upper Midwestern US, we've been holding—at the requisite irregular intervals—Grand Sabbats in the Grand Old Style: the Horned Man up on the altar, the oaths made crouching, the sacrifice, the wild dancing, the love-making in the woods afterward. Just like in the woodcuts, as they say.

Last year's Grand Sabbat was a four-day event that took place in late July among the hollow hills of southwestern Wisconsin's Driftless region, with the Sabbat itself on Saturday night. Over the course of the four days, we saw Old Hornie (as my friend and colleague Keith Ward remarked at the time) in several different characters: as He Who Hears the voice of His people, Bringer-of-Fire, as the Black Buck of the Sabbat, between Whose Antlers constellations wheel, as the sun-dappled Lord of Field and Forest.

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