In Which The Youngest Warlock Questions the Oldest.
What do you say to the Horned when you pray?
And what does the Horned say to you?
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I was regaling a friend of mine with Old Craft tales of the god of the witches. Being Wiccan, she hadn't heard most of them before.
“Wait a minute,” she says. “So: he sees that we're cold and hungry, and he steals the fire of heaven to warm and to feed us?”
“And he kills his own brother because they're both in love with the same woman?”
“That's what they say.”
The Horned goes everywhere, all the stories agree on that.
And where he goes, he listens.
Shown above is a striking Mississippian mask found in Craig Mound (one of the famed Spiro Mounds) of Leflore County, Oklahoma, carved ca. 1500 CE.
Note in particular the ear-spools, originally probably inlaid (like the eyes and mouth) with mother-of-pearl.
The ear-spools denote status, no doubt. But they also serve to emphasize the ears. This is a being who listens.
Ooser (“Rhymes with bosser, not boozer,” I always tell people) is a term from what Sybil Leek would call the Language of Witchcraft. It denotes a carved and horned wooden head-mask of the God of Witches.
It's a dialectal word, of unclear etymology. Doreen Valiente suggests an origin from ós, the Old English cognate of Old Norse áss, “god,” better known to English-speakers in its plural form aesir. An ooser, then, would be a “god-er,” which, since it bears the god and is worn by his personifier at the sabbat, makes sound theological (if not etymological) sense.
The famous and mysterious Dorset Ooser is the best-known example. Also known, from its bull-horns, as the “Yule Bull,” it frightened generations of Dorset children until it was stolen from its hereditary keeper in 1897 and never recovered. Old Craft scuttlebutt would have it that it was “took” to get it out of cowan hands, and that it has since remained in ongoing, if private, use among witch-folk to this day.
Well, so they say. In its own way, it's even a true story.
If ever you wondered who in ages of ages first invented the art of skiing, this 4000-year old petroglyph from Rødøy ("Red Island") in Norway should leave little doubt.
That wily old Guy with the Horns: father of arts and sciences, wellspring of human culture. Is it not he who brought us Fire and instructed us in its use? Is it not he who taught us to hunt, and gave us the Old Law: to take no more than is needful, and to kill both quickly and ruthfully?
The story of how he taught us to ski has been lost to time. Can we doubt, though, that it was originally a hunter's tale?
It may be that the tale of the Horned One, the Two Serpents, and the First Skis is not, after all, lost beyond all recovery.
At one time, animal sacrifice was the most common form of public worship in the West.
So what happened to it?
We tend to think of Judaism as mother and Christianity as daughter, but in fact Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism are sister religions that arose at the same time in response to the self-same trauma: the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in 70 CE.
In ancient Hebrew religion, anyone could build an altar anywhere and offer up sacrifice there, but with the rise of the Jerusalem temple, a hard-fought process of centralization set in which eventually banned sacrifice anywhere else, on the logic of “one god, one temple.”