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Posted by on in Culture Blogs



'...In All the Greater Temples'

Long ago, the Horned God was worshiped “in all the greater temples”, to use Gardner's pungent phrase.

(Well, maybe not all, but why pass up a snazzy quote like that?)

Then came the Great Forgetting. When he wasn't forgotten, he was reviled. Oh, our lives were the worse for it.

A few of us remembered, though. Always we missed him. In the consoling darkness, we whispered to one another prophecies of his Return.

Well, guess what, folks: the prophecies were true.

In a traditional society, now, remembering, we would make a lament for all those Lost Years.


Get Out Your Sieve

In terms of structure and realized characters, Goat Foot God (1936) is Dion Fortune's best novel: better, really, than either Sea Priestess or Moon Magic.

Which, of course, is not to say that it's a good novel, mind you. (As a friend once put it, “Dion Fortune couldn't write her way out of a chalk circle.”) But—unlike her turgid and (frankly) unreadable non-fiction—it has at least characters and a story to embody her ideas. The casual (and gratuitous) racism and unquestioned class prejudice of one who presumably regarded herself as enlightened should stand as a warning to the reader to judge her ideas on intrinsic merit, not on authority. Caveat lector.

Still, it's her novel about the Horned God and his Return. That you've got to love and, indeed, on that topic she has much to impart. As for the bugs in the flour...well, sift carefully. The sieve is a traditional witch's tool for a reason.

The Great God Pan she describes, in Christian idiom, as “God made manifest in Nature.” The novel tells two stories simultaneously: one of an early 20th century Englishman with a serious Vitamin P deficiency (talk about a pungent phrase), and a 15th-century English monk who rediscovers Pan via some Greek manuscripts.

Well, we need our stories from the Lost Years, too: so we remember “...or, failing that, invent” (Monique Wittig).


A Lament for the Horned

As epigraph to the book, Fortune cites four stanzas from her Rite of Pan. Rereading them recently, I found myself thinking: Well, there's our Lament for the Horned.


The Goat-Foot God

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs


In Praise of Arditti's Easter

Set in a fictional North London Anglican parish during Holy Week at the height of the AIDS epidemic,

Michael Arditti's masterful 2008 Easter, while also treating with larger, universal issues—doubt, belief, community, identity, love—is a novel profoundly Christian, with two great pagan moments.

Listen, and I will tell.


The Rites of Pan

Virtually everywhere, there are places where men go to have (mostly) anonymous sex with other men. Look for these places on the edges, in the places-between: parks, truck-stops, forests.

Here are enacted the true Rites of Pan. Here, I am deeply convinced, flows the power that makes the Sun to rise, the Rivers to flow, the Seeds to sprout. Power raised for no ulterior purpose but the raising thereof, is always power given to the Horned.

(A friend who spent some time in Jerusalem once told me, “The only place in Israel where it truly doesn't matter if you're a Jew, a Christian, or a Muslim, is in the parks at night”: a “f*ckocracy,” he called it. Truly, Pan is the Great Leveler.)

If you've never been to one of these places—they're not really my style, either—Arditti will take you there vicariously. Welcome to Hampstead Heath at night.

Oh my, oh my.


Building the New Pagan Vocabulary

The second is a mere single phrase, an expression: but oh, what an expression.

Writes Arditti: move his lips would require a Stonehenge effort.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

Pan God Images – Browse 1,381 Stock Photos, Vectors, and Video | Adobe Stock

Male-Male Transgression in 17th-Century Basque Witchcraft


In 1608, King Henri IV appointed witch-hunter Pierre de Lancre* to investigate a troubling outbreak of witchcraft in the French Basque country. According to de Lancre's report, this outbreak was fueled by the expression of forbidden sexuality.

When having sex with young men or women, the Devil, he reported, “took as much pleasure in sodomy as in the most ordered and natural voluptuousness.”

Men that he interrogated confessed to “performing sodomy” with one another, frequently with relatives, in order to “please the devil.”

One male witch confessed both to having frequently bottomed for the Devil, and topped other warlocks.

In the end, the judges decided that the Basque witches did not really believe in the Devil; rather, their witchery amounted to a mere smokescreen for the sex.

“And so they gathered,” they wrote, “and the naughtiest one among them pretended to be Satan.”


So, at least, claims Benjamin Ivry—without, I might add, providing any documentary evidence—in his 2000 biography of composer Maurice Ravel (8).

(What, you might ask, has any of this to do with Maurice Ravel? Item: Ravel's mother was Basque. Item: Ravel was born in the French Basque country. Item: Ravel was gay. Item: Ravel had a lifelong fascination with witchcraft and the occult. Item: As reflected in his music, Ravel had a lifelong devotion to the god Pan. Item: For the ancient Greeks, the phrase “to honor Pan” meant male-male sexual activity [16].)

While I have yet to confirm all of Ivry's historical claims concerning Basque witchcraft, my own research has turned up enough similar evidence to tentatively accept what he says as historical.

Certainly—as evidenced by the furor over “homosexuality” in contemporary conservative Christianity—in a hetero-normative Christian society, transgressive behaviors like witchery and same-sex sexuality quite naturally go hand-in-hand.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs



“The Witches' Almanac," a priestess that I know once remarked, sadly, "never fails to disappoint.”

Somehow, I've always felt the same way about the novels of Canadian author Charles de Lint.

On the face of it, this seems odd. Fantasy novels situating Old World lore in the New'd think that I would be all over it. But no. Elves, Green Men, and Moon Goddesses are all very well, but in de Lint, somehow they're all just so much window dressing. The depths, the wisdom, just aren't there.

I find this to be even more specifically true (alas) of Greenmantle, his 1988 book about the Horned God. It's something of an hommage to Lord Dunsany's stunning 1928 fantasy The Blessing of Pan: a lyrical and deeply sad novel about a rural English village being slowly won over to the Wild. The contrast between the two novels, unfortunately, illustrates my point in the starkest of ways. Dunsany's book has both substance and magic. De Lint, instead, tells you how magical things are, but somehow never quite manages to make you feel the magic.

Well, but. Even a stopped clock tells truth twice a day. When you're writing about Himself, every now and then, something is bound to sing. Sure enough, in Greenmantle de Lint nails it:

[The Horned] becomes what you bring to him. If you approach him with fear, he fills you with panic....If you approach him with lust, he becomes a lecherous satyr. If you approach him with reverence, he becomes a majestic figure. If you approach him with evil, he appears as a demonic figure [181].

Transcribing this passage makes me wonder if perhaps part of my unhappiness with de Lint's writing may not stem from the unrelentingly pedestrian quality of his prose. Unlike Dunsany, who was both, de Lint is storyteller, but not poet.

Still, though his language may leave something to be desired, what it says offers deep insight into the nature of this particular god, skin-strong shape-shifter that He is. In Him, you will see preeminently—as de Lint so rightly says—whatever you yourself bring to the encounter.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Of Divine Capacity

Reader warning: Sexually explicit material


Did you know that masturbation was the gift of a god?

Well, you'd probably already figured that out for yourself. But the Greeks, of course, had a story.

Yes, it was Pan that invented it, along with music. He gave them both as gifts to his votaries the shepherds, to help pass the time up in the pastures.

Music and masturbation, both. Praise be to Pan!

Then there's the dildo; that's also the gift of a god. (The word itself comes from Italian diletto, “delight”; did you know that?) Which god? Well, Dionysos, of course.

Here's the story.

Dionysos needed to descend into the Underworld, but he didn't know how to get there. (I think it was to consult with his dead mother, but that's by the by.) When he asks around, they tell him that the only one who knows where to find the entrance to the Underworld is a certain grizzled old shepherd. (If I were a master-poet, now, I'd know the guy's name, but me, I'm just a two-bit storyteller.) So pretty young Dionysos goes to the old shepherd's bothy.

Sure, I'll tell you how to get there, says the shepherd. But first I want that sweet, dimpled little butt of yours.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Painting With Pan

Oh Pan, you have your ways. 

When it was time to figure out what Nathaniel and I were going to submit for PantheaCon 2019, we knew we wanted to do another dance-music-ritual experience - following in the footsteps of "Hekate at the Crossroads" (2017) and "Dreaming the Raven" (2014). I had just finished writing some pieces for an annual that will be published next year, and Pan had goated his way into that work. He was also showing up pretty much everywhere I looked.  I know what that meant, and so we submitted a presentation called "A Revel for Pan."

Which got accepted, meaning now we'd have to get into the grotto and get some work done. Yes, I tend to work in such a way that I present ideas - and if there's interest, then I put it into motion and start the actual planning. 

As I contemplated what the Revel would look, sound, and feel like, the vision of having a large painting as an altar piece kept poking at me like a set of persistent horns butting against my head. I looked around my studio for available panels to paint on, and was informed they were all "too small." Then a large 2'x2' panel that had had several unsuccessful attempts at a "Witch's Sabbat Ride" theme fell over. Not so subtle hint taken.

I contemplated full body renditions on this square hunk of wood - something along the lines of the Pan that I created for Jason Mankey (middle of the bottom row here). I thought about head and shoulder shots - but when I sat down to paint, I felt I needed to reject a square presentation and turn the panel into a diamond shape.  This made it very hard to stabilize on both my easel and desk, but it gave me the most amount of room to include his horns, and possibly include shoulders and a panpipe.  As I got to work, just the head was the message I got and that was more than enough. 

After I got the basics down, the expression that was needed nagged at me. What came to mind was a headstudy of Pan that I saw in a "Museums of the World" book, going back at least 20, if not 30+ years in my memory.  What I remember most was the eyes were oddly shaped with a unique expression, very fey and full of mischief.  I couldn't find that original image from my memory, but as it happens, Nathaniel has been known to take on that very same expression. AND I had photographic evidence of him looking just like that. He's actually the only person I've ever seen to pull it off - and every time he has done it, that memory would sail on by.  Strange how weird things are connected through time and space! 

I had also just freshly re-read "Jitterbug Perfume" by Tom Robbins, so that added another layer to the image. There is a blending of a face emerging from leaves, taking physical form - as well as a sense of the invisible made visible - with a touch of Green Man feel. 

Perhaps though the trickiest part of all of this was figuring out how to have this heavy piece of diamond-oriented wood affixed to an altar in a hotel ballroom that was about to be filled with 300 people reveling.  With some help from friends, gaffer tape, a ballroom chair, and a sari - we managed to secure the painting in front of the stage - and it stayed put the entire revel! 

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  • Dragon Dancer
    Dragon Dancer says #
    He's gorgeous and inspiring! Thank you for sharing.

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

I recently read about honoring Pan at this time of the year and it really resonated with me.  I am not only Hellenic but also a mountain dweller so this fits within my path so nicely, I'm surprised I haven't stumbled across this idea before.  So below I offer a prayer to the Great Lord Pan, who is not dead, only harder to recognize in the madness of the modern world.


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  • Erin
    Erin says #
    I think your poem is beautiful. I am curious if you have looked at the old poets odes to pan? It seems that ever since humanity ha
  • Melia/Merit Brokaw
    Melia/Merit Brokaw says #
    Thank you. I have but this prayer is loosely based on the Orphic Hymn to Pan.

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