PaganSquare is a community blog space where Pagans can discuss topics relevant to the life and spiritual practice of all Pagans.

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that have been used in the blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Login
    Login Login form
Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Pagan art



If you didn't know it was Christian, you wouldn't know it was Christian.

Check out this horse-headed St. Mark from the 9th-century Breton Evangeliary (gospel-book) of Landévennec. Looks pretty pagan, doesn't he?

For reasons that I won't go into here, the writers of the four new testament gospels are generally associated with certain animals in Christian iconography. Generally these animals—an ox for Luke, an eagle for John, etc.—hover around in the background somewhere behind the figure of the evangelist. It took the Celtic imagination to give the evangelists the heads of said animals, however.

In the humano-centric world of Christianity, the result ends up looking surprisingly non-Christian.

St. Mark is generally associated in Christian art with the lion, not—as we see here—the horse. This figure represents a development specific to Brittany, a visual pun: marc'h in Breton (compare Welsh march; the English word mare is a first cousin) means “horse.”

The hippocephalous saint is here shown wearing a rich robe. I especially love his cloche-shaped halo and the not-altogether-reassuring look in his eye. (Clearly the monastic artist was himself something of a hippophile: note the careful attention to the spotting on the neck, the sensitively-drawn muzzle, and the tossled forelock.) He holds a book in his left hand and presents a pen with his right.

In the context of the Landévennec Gospels, of course, the book and pen refer to Mark's composition of his eponymous gospel.

For witches, though, the book and pen hold a different meaning. (“Sign.” “I cannot write my name.” “I will guide your hand.”)

Last modified on

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Lying Icons

Hey Pagan Artists (You Know Who You Are),


What's with the circumcised dicks on those Horned Gods?

What could you possibly be thinking, to portray the god of Wild Nature in a state so profoundly unnatural as circumcision?

I realize that—in this land of routine MGM (male genital mutilation)—many Americans have never actually seen a human penis in its intact, natural state.

Ye gods, folks, what do you think (inter alia) internet gay porn is for?

I realize (difficult as it may be to believe) that, aesthetically speaking, some actually do find circumcised dicks more beautiful.

But that's no excuse. A Horned God with a circumcised dick is a contradiction in terms, a lying icon, self-falsifying.

Infant circumcision = violence against boys. Portraying our gods as circumcised sanctifies this violence.

Last modified on
Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    We tend to think of Him as the Two-Horned, but, of course, He's actually the Three-Horned; the Phallos is Him-in-small.
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    So mote it be!
'Horned God, with Animals': A Call to Pagan Artists

The Horned, seated among animals.

This iconographic type—long familiar from the Gundestrup Cauldron and the famous “Pashupati” seal from the Indus Valley—is surely known to nearly every modern pagan.

All paganism is, of course, local. What horns the god wears, naturally, vary from place to place. So, too, do the animals gathered around him: stag, wolf, snake (in Denmark), rhinocerous, elephant, and tiger (in Pakistan), beaver, eel, and bear (in Siberia).

If I could paint in pigments, instead of just in words, I would paint a Minnesota “Cernunnos”: antlered, cross-legged, among bison, bear, deer, beaver, cougar, wolf, and loon.

What would a Rocky Mountain Horned look like? What horns would he wear? What animals would attend him?

A Florida Horned? Saskatchewan?

As pagans of the New Pagan Era, it cannot suffice merely to copy Old Pagan art. Rather, it is our responsibility to create a New Pagan Art specific to our own environments.

In days to come, I foresee a temple adorned with a series of canvases or murals depicting the Horned in all his varied environments: Lord of the Broadleaf Forest, of the Boreal Forest, of the Prairie, of the Tundra, of the Mountain, of the Wetland.

What would the Horned of your place look like? What horns does he wear, what beasts would he gather to him?

Last modified on
Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Domestic and wild: that's Him. He's all about the Divided Self. Hence the two horns.
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    The horned is lord of the animals both domestic and wild. Around here he would have both the horns of cattle and the antlers of a

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Thrice-Bent God

Do you know what torques me off most* in contemporary depictions of the Horned God?

When the artist gets the legs wrong.

He's called the Thrice-Bent for a reason. In the arms, one bend. In the legs, two.

Check out the picture of the goat leg shown above. Note that the hind legs feature two bends: one pointing forward, one pointing back.

The forward bend is called the knee. The backward bend is called the hock.

When the Horned is shown with the rear legs of an animal (he isn't always), he should have both.

If you love the Horned well enough to depict him, you should love him well enough to look.

Last modified on

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Some Thoughts on a Contemporary Cernunnos

That the Horned God speaks directly to contemporary needs and sensibilities may readily be deduced from the hundreds—if not thousands—of contemporary visual images that He has inspired.

I'd like to take a little time to muse on what strikes me as one of the simplest, most beautiful and, simultaneously, most articulate of those many images: Thalia Took's "Cernunnos." 

Took takes as her prototype the famous—and eponymous—image of Cernunnos from the Gallo-Roman Pillar of the Boatmen discovered in 1710 underneath the cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris (see below). Both images share a full-face view of the god, with antlers, beard, torque, and leaf-shaped cervine ears. Clearly this is a god who readily hears prayer, his hearing as sensitive as a deer's. Both images are inscribed with the name of the god: in the Notre Dame Cernunnos, above the image itself; in Took's, charmingly, below.

I'm struck by the visual economy of Took's rendering. We see only the base of the god's antlers; his shoulders and bare chest suggest both virility and nudity. His pentagrammatic face—beard, antler, ear, ear, antler, beard again—gazes out directly at the viewer, enhaloed in his wild tangle of hair. This is a wilder, more untamed god than that of the Paris Boatmen. 

In your imagination, take away Cernunnos' antlers, ears, and "torque" (on which, more shortly).  Connoisseurs of historic irony will note that the god, with his open face, short beard, and centrally-parted shoulder-length hair bears a strong resemblance to traditional images of Jesus. This is sheer brilliance on Took's part: it both lends the image a disquieting familiarity, and with gentle humor redresses the fact that early Christian artists, in the absence of any real knowledge of the historical Jesus' appearance, based what has come to be the standard image of the Christian god on pagan prototypes. Call it a cattle-raid of icons.

Note both the economy and the aptness of Took's palette. The original Pillar of the Boatmen Cernunnos sculpture would likely have been painted, but we can no longer say what the colors might have been. Took here renders the god solely in greens and browns: precisely what one would expect for a god of woodland and wildlife.

Also well worth noting are the ways in which Took departs from the Paris image. We see here the subtlety of her approach. The Paris Cernunnos wears a royal torque and, as god of wealth, sports two more hanging from his antlers. Here, though, what at first seems to be a torque proves, on closer inspection, to be a green snake. Like Shiva, the Western Antlered also wears around his neck a living serpent, which (as witches well know) whispers into his leaf-shaped cervine ears the mysteries of the Great Below.

Last modified on
Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Please, and with my blessing!
  • Aline "Macha" O'Brien
    Aline "Macha" O'Brien says #
    Beautiful! Another one to print out for my inmates' binder of shadows. Thanks.

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Art Shows and Goddesses for Our Times

It is a great pleasure in the life of an artist to be able to share one's vision with the world. The internet and online libraries are a lot of fun, but being able to showcase one's work in a place where people can come and view it in person is so much better. This September has kept me super busy as I have had three shows, all opening in the same week. 

The image that heads this blog is my "wall" of art from Cheyney University's faculty art exhibition. I had created a number of canvases this summer for a solo exhibition, ranging in size from 11" x 14" to 30" x 40," and all of those were headed to a show in Wilmington, Delaware (more on these shortly). one of my colleagues was dumbfounded when I told her I wasn't sure I'd have work for the faculty show. "What about those hundreds of Goddess drawings you've been doing," she asked. I was a little stuck. I did indeed have hundreds of drawings as part of my "Goddess a Day" project, however, they were small, on paper, and would have to be framed.

Last modified on

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Archaic Smile

Back when I was trying to figure out my tastes, I would compare pictures of men.

OK, which one do you find more attractive?

Then the harder question.


One of the things that I learned about myself is that I really like guys that smile.

One of the things that I learned about Americans while traveling abroad was that Americans smile a lot. As a people, that says something about us.

I smile a lot myself. Hey, I've waited tables; my waiter's smile has had miles of practice. When you read to others as different—and when you look at me, you tend to think “gay” right away—a smile is a useful tool.

Call me a Philistine if you like (see if I care), but when it comes to ancient Greek art, I've always prefered Archaic to Classical. Classical art I admire; Archaic art I love.

Some of it is a matter of relationality, to be sure. Perfection is cold. But stylization, the schematic, simultaneously creates a distance and bridges that distance. Beholding it—by which I mean participatory seeing—you sense essence.

And then, of course, there's that mysterious smile—it's even known as the Archaic Smile—that plays about the lips of Archaic figures like a flickering flame. What are they smiling about? you want to ask. What do they know that I don't?

Last modified on
Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Mr. Posch, "O happy people, children of happy gods." And that made me smile.
  • nolongerhere
    nolongerhere says #

Additional information