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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

 Black Phillip: The Real Story Behind the Breakout Goat From 'The Witch'


Once we dwelt in the fertile plains. Beef was our food, the milk of cows our drink.

Then we were driven out.

Into the rocky, unfertile hills we fled, which cannot sustain a cow.

We became a people of the goat, for whom the Horned wears caprine horns and hide.


Like goats, we witches are survivors.

That's why it can't help but seem to me something of a moral failing that I don't like goat's milk.

Oh, I've tried. “This chèvre has a nice, lemony tang to it,” I say hopefully.

But in my heart, I understand that it's really myself that I'm trying to talk around.


Maybe it's just a matter of what I'm used to.

Maybe I'm secretly longing for those fat days of our onetime freedom.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs



My next-door neighbor stands in his front yard, garden hose in hand.

Welcome to the Long, Hot Summer of '23. We haven't seen Drop One of rain in weeks.

“Fifty percent chance of rain tonight,” I say over the fence.

He casts his eyes up to the sky: Here's hoping.

“Maybe we need to start thinking about killing the black goat,” I say: my standard in-group joke during rainless times like this.

(Black for dark rain-clouds. Thunder likes goats, they say. A bull, of course, would be even better, but these days, who can afford one?)

“Any chance they'd take squirrel instead?” he asks. Drought notwithstanding, it's been a bumper year for mast; there are even more squirrels frisking around than usual, which in this neighborhood is saying something.

“Not a chance,” I say. “It has to be something you value.”

He shakes his head. Damn gods. “Well, here's hoping,” he says.

“Here's hoping,” I say, and move along.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs



Lo, the fair beauty of earth,

from the depth of the winter arising...


On the island of Syros, the goat-men are dancing.


Achilles Among the Women


Syros, in the Aegean Sea, is perhaps best-known as the place where—in an attempt to avert his predicted, premature death in the Trojan War—the mother of Achilles hid her adolescent son, dressed as a girl, among the female companions of the king's daughter.

The ruse, though, was uncovered by the wily Odysseus, who—knowing full well that the Greeks would need the heroic efforts of the “best of Achaians,” whatever the cost—had laid out an array of mirrors and jewelry, with a lone sword among the display, as gifts for the women of the court.

Just then, an alarm was raised, as if the island were being attacked. Achilles threw off his veil, seized the sword, and rushed out to meet the supposed attackers. So his true nature was revealed, and his fate sealed.

But already the womb of the king's daughter had kindled, and so was born Neoptolemos, only-begotten son of godlike Achilles.



A Modern Dionysia


This week marks the third and final week of Apókries, Greek Carnival, a folk-festival that, while tied to the ecclesiastical calendar, has never—for obvious reasons—been fully countenanced by the Orthodox Church. As elsewhere, the celebration is characterized by immoderate eating and drinking, disguises, and public parades.

These days, secular Greeks tend to associate the wine-fueled festival with the god Dionysos, whose Greater Dionysia were also, in Classical times, celebrated in the Spring.

(I would hasten to add that, while there is no known historical connection between the ancient and modern festivals, one could certainly argue for a certain continuity of spirit between the two.)

But in Syros, it would seem, Aprokries is given to another god—or rather, goddess—altogether.


In the Lust of the Goat is the Glory of God”


Rocky Syros is an island of goats.

During the last week of Carnival, the young men of the island, masked in kid-skins, don furry black goat-herds' coats and goat-bells, and go out, wooden crooks in hand, to dance raucously in the streets.

The more vigorously that they dance, the louder the clatter of the goat-bells that they wear.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Deck the Goat

October waning away, Samhain coming on. That means it's time to deck the Goat.

Like most witches, I'm a full-fledged aigolator (< Grk. aix, aigo-, “goat”). Whence our folk's affinity for things caprine?

If you think that it has something to do with the Bible, you're probably right. The Bible famously prefers sheep to goats. Well, sheep are passive and stupid, goats smart and headstrong. As Dion Fortune says, Some love one, and some love the other, but let me ask: Which would you rather be?

But the witch's aigophilia runs deeper than this.

Long ago, when the tallfolk's red bronze broke our people's blue flint, we got pushed up into the unfertile hills that no one else wanted. There's not enough graze up there for a cow, but goats thrive on the spiny browse that grows from the rocks. That's how the witch-folk became a People of the Goat: like us, they're survivors.

In this, we are like the Kalasha of what is now NW Pakistan, the only Indo-European-speaking people who have continuously practiced their traditional religion since antiquity. They too got pushed up into the mountains, in this case the Hindu Kush. They too survived thanks to the Goat.

Along with their herds of domestic goats, the Kalasha also reverence the argali, the white Himalayan wild goat, which they call “the cattle of the fairies.” Interestingly, the Scots refer to deer by the same title. On deer's milk I was suckled, goes a fairy song from the Highlands.

If it should seem strange that a lifelong vegetarian should have an argali head mounted above his fireplace, let me hasten to add that it's an antique from the 1920s. Crowning the head, the magnificent horns spiral out horizontally on either side, like the ram-horns worn by gods in Egyptian art. (The Egyptian wild goat, a relative of the Himalayan species, went extinct in pre-Dynastic times but—Kemet being Kemet—the Egyptians portrayed their gods with its horns to the very end of pharaonic civilization.) That's my deckable Goat.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Although I've never seen it, I've heard for years about National Lampoon's Satanist Catechism for Children: "This is the Goat. We
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I remember seeing a YouTube video of baby goats on sheet metal. They were adorable.
In Which Our Intrepid Blogger Realizes That He's Both More—And Less—of a Purist Than He Thought

Check out HeatherAnn's jaw-dropping Great Goat/Black Phillip mask over at High Noon Creations.

Stunning. (And let's hear it for the model.)

It's enough to make any aigolater's* heart beat faster. Oh, the sabbats we could do.

Here's the catch. The mask is made from urethane rubber with NFT faux fur and acrylic eyes; its horns are lightweight plastic backed with a rigid foam.

The Minnesota Osser (sometimes spelled ooser, but rhymes with bosser), which for almost 30 years the witches of the Driftless have used at their Grand Sabbats, is made—in the old style—from wood, antlers, and leather. I am privileged to be its keeper. It lives in a shrine in my home, and I worship it with incense and offerings twice daily.

Call me old-fashioned, but it's difficult for me to imagine something made from urethane and acrylic as the recipient of cult.

Theological question: Granted this distinction between—shall we say, ritually fit and unfit components—could High Noon's Black Phillip mask be used at a sabbat?

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  • Murphy Pizza
    Murphy Pizza says #
    Well...while plastics and synthetics dont appear in natural form, after watching nylon be created in a chemistry class from rearra

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Goat or the Hare?

 A Poem About Love


My friends all loved the Yule Goat best.

But I loved the Ostara Hare.


I know, I know. The Yule Goat brings presents.

Everyone likes presents, right? But look at them.

Shirts and socks and underwear?

You call those presents?

And the rest isn't even what you want.

(It's maybe what you'd want

if you were who they thought that you were.)

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Yule Goat

The ethnic Santas stood together on the shelf.

Scottish Santa in a kilt. French Santa avec béret. American Santa in red, white, and blue.

And the goat.

The white goat with panniers of colorful presents at his sides.

“So,” I say to the clerk, already knowing the answer, “What's with the goat?”

She shrugs.

“Oh, that's the Swedish Santa Claus,” she says.

Well, one could put it that way.

The Yule-Buck has brought gifts to Scandinavian children for nobody knows how long. The Goat that Gives Gifts.

Any witch could tell you Who That is.

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