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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Tree of Sacrifice

The stang, or “Devil's Cross,” is the forked pole that, in Old Craft usage, represents the Horned.

It's a Tree of Life.

It's also a Tree of Death.

At the great temple of Uppsala in Sweden, they used to hang the bodies of sacrifices—strange and terrible fruit—from the trees of the sacred grove.

If you've ever seen the gutted carcass of a deer strung up from a branch to bleed out, you'll understand.

Old Craft has never been shy about appropriating ecclesiastical symbolism for its own purposes. In this view, the stang becomes one with the cross, on which hangs the god who dies to feed his people. (In Christian art, the Y-shaped cross is known as the furca-cross.) Throughout human history, for obvious reasons, the Horned has been the preeminent god of sacrifice. During the centuries of forced church-attendance, it would be only natural for witches to identify their own sacrificed god with the Crucified.

In Bengal, on the other side of the Indo-European diaspora, the forked iron pole is the preeminent symbol of sacrifice. One stands permanently in the center of the courtyard of many Kali temples.

When a sacrifice is to be offered, the doors of the temple are opened so that the resident deity (present in the image in the temple's holy of holies) may witness.

Then the neck of the animal to be sacrificed—usually a goat—is placed in the crook of the sacrificial fork.

Facing the deity, it's then beheaded.

The severed head is the deity's portion. This is placed on a tray and laid before her in the sanctum.

The body is taken away to be butchered, cooked, and eaten.

Say you're the sponsor of the sacrifice. You now kneel before the sacrificial fork and place your own neck in its crotch.

Then the priest touches your neck with the sacrificial sword and anoints your forehead with the goat's blood.

It's hard to miss the meaning of that.

The stang is the forked pole that, in Old Craft usage, represents the Horned.

It's a Tree of Life.

It's also a Tree of Death.






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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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