Paganistan: Notes from the Secret Commonwealth

In Which One Midwest Man-in-Black Confers, Converses & Otherwise Hob-Nobs with his Fellow Hob-Men (& -Women) Concerning the Sundry Ways of the Famed but Ill-Starred Tribe of Witches.

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God's Balls

A heathen I once knew had a favorite oath: "By the balls of Thor!"

I can see where he's going with this, and it's definitely in the right direction. We swear best when we swear by our own gods, and pretty much everyone acknowledges the Thunderer to be the most virile of them all. Some of us have even seen the proof. Mammiform ("breast-shaped") clouds, they call them, but to this not-unbiased observer they look like nothing so much as giant testicles, hundreds of them, filling the sky with their hanging. (Each one of those clouds could potentially descend to earth to form its own separate funnel cloud. Yikes.) Many-breasted Earth, many-teste'd Storm.

Now, I'm all for living our own culture, but “By the balls of Thor” is what my friend Drew Miller calls “trying too hard.”

For one thing, this isn't how English-speakers curse. We like terse. “Thor's balls!” would be better.

Fifteen hundred years ago, our English-speaking ancestors worshiped the Thunderer. They called Him Thunor. If His worship had continued uninterrupted into our time, we would today, in all likelihood, name Him “Thunder.” (Like Easter, Hell, Sun, Moon, and Frig, Thunder is one of those ancestral gods whose Name has continued in constant use, cultus notwithstanding.) “Thunder's balls!” we'd say. And “Thunder's nuts!” has that lovely assonance to it.

Should one choose not to specify, there's always “God's balls!” It's got nice shock value, and there's precedent: “[G]od's cods” is an oath Will Shakespeare would have recognized. Cod = testicle, hence “codpiece.”

Such an oath would be blasphemy to a believing Jew or Muslim. (Blasphemy, of course, is always a good way of giving an oath a little extra zing.) Christians, however, could swear by their god's balls without the slightest qualm--theologically, anyhow. That's the whole point of the classic Christianities, actually: god-made-man. Taste is another matter. Modern Christians don't seem to want to think about divine genitals much: the conservatives out of prudery, the liberals out of PC. Medieval Christians, of course, felt differently. In fact, Jesus' penis even has its own festival: January 1, the Feast of the Circumcision. Ouch.

Pagans, on the other hand, seem more comfortable with the topic. Many of us revel in our gods' sexes; some of us even worship them. (By no means all of us, though. One writer on Hellenismos stated emphatically, “Our gods do not have genitals!”: rather a peculiar claim, one might think, for a Hellene, of all people, to make.) Old Craft writer Nigel Jackson invokes the god of witches as “Lord of the skull and the phallus.” Of His interpretatio Sanskritana, Shiva, it is said that He may be represented in any form, but worshipped only as the lingam.

Personally, I can hardly help but admire a curse that could be sworn whole-heartedly by pagan, Christian, and Hindu alike.

God's balls, yes.






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Tagged in: oaths Thor thunder Thunor
Poet, scholar and storyteller Steven Posch was raised in the hardwood forests of western Pennsylvania by white-tailed deer. (That's the story, anyway.) He emigrated to Paganistan in 1979 and by sheer dint of personality has become one of Lake Country's foremost men-in-black. He is current keeper of the Minnesota Ooser.


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