Archives For horned gods

Happy Monday! It’s a bit of a slow news day, must be a festival-season thing, so let’s check out some of the great content available here at the Patheos Pagan portal.

Herne the Hunter. Illustration by Alan E. Cober (1973).

Herne the Hunter. Illustration by Alan E. Cober (1973).

  • At his new Patheos blog Raise the Horns, Jason Mankey wonders how the Celtic god Cernunnos became the dominant Horned God figure within modern Wicca and related Pagan faiths, when it was Pan who enjoyed tremendous popularity in the poetic and artistic fore-bearers to Wicca. Quote: “However, while Pan is the proto-type for our modern image of the Horned God, another god, the Celtic Cernunnos, has superseded him. If you look at most modern images of the Horned God, he tends to look far more Cernunnosy than Pan-like. It’s more likely the Horned God will be sporting antlers than goat horns. His face tends to be more “man-like” and less goat influenced, and he usually has human legs instead of goaty ones.” Check out the responses, they’re top-notch! [For the record, I’m team Herne the Hunter.]
  • Sarah Whedon, founding editor of the Pagan Families site, who recently released a new ebook through Patheos Press entitled “Birth on the Labyrinth Path: Sacred Embodiment in the Childbearing Year,” shares why she wrote the book. Quote: “I was nevertheless newly saddened when, during my pregnancy with my first child, I searched and searched for a book that would offer Pagan guidance on this huge life transition, and found nothing. My bookshelves reveal my hopeless bibliophilia. I had books about fertility awareness, pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, the postpartum period, and midwifery. A few of them are especially Pagan friendly, but none of them is really Pagan.”
  • Patheos columnist P. Sufenas Virius Lupus lets you know that he’s your worst nightmare! Quote: “As someone who is a “full-blown Pagan” in every respect—not godless by any stretch of the imagination, but “gods-ful” to an extent most monotheists couldn’t even fathom—as well as having a practice based in devotion to Antinous, a god who received a great deal of censure from the early Christian fathers not only because it was “idolatrous” in their opinion but because he was a deified mortal who was once the lover of the Emperor Hadrian, and as someone who is a “full-blown queer” as well in terms of sexual orientation and gender identity, I look at myself in the mirror and I realize that even at my lowest, I epitomize the fears of many of these people who use such scare-tactics to suggest that legal approval of same-sex marriage is wrong.”
  • Meanwhile, fellow Patheos columnist Gus diZerega provides a different candidate for worst nightmare: The New Apostolic Reformation. Quote: “Christian dominionists seeking to impose theocratic rule on others are powerful beyond their numbers, and Pagans should keep a sharp eye on them. Their power comes from two factors:  First, they manipulate our system to influence high levels of government.  Second, and more importantly, they take advantage of a flaw that I hope will not be fatal to how American elections are conducted.” I’ve written a ton about these guys, and they are indeed pretty scary.
  • At his Including Paganism blog, Aidan Kelly reminds us that all religions start out as new religions. Quote: “All religions have at least one foundational myth as well as an actual history. The myth is not historically true, but instead transmits some of the spiritual values on which the religion is based. The history is true in fact, but, as history, cannot convey values.” Kelly’s recent post on why Wicca is a major world religion is also worth checking out.

There’s obviously much, much, more to be found here, but I’ll leave you with those selections. For even more Pagan blogging goodness, check out recent posts from the Pagan Newswire Collective blogs, and the PaganSquare blogs at the Witches & Pagans site (now with added Byron Ballard and Hecate Demeter). Have a great day!

At Salon.com, Gary Kamiya writes an appreciation of Kenneth Grahame’s “The Wind in the Willows” on its 100th anniversary. Kamiya writes about how Grahame, unhappily married and working in a job he hated, found release from his personal problems in the lives of these talking animals.

“In his quiet extremis, by a kind of miraculous fictional alchemy, Grahame was able to take everything that had gone into his half-century of life, painful and pleasurable, comic and tragic, and turn it into gold. There are the four animals, each a part of Grahame: Mole the Everyman, Rat the artist, Toad the rebel, Badger the recluse. There is the indolent rural life Grahame knew never existed, but which he etched in perfect strokes. There are the loud and terrifying motor cars that poop-poop their way through the book and send Toad’s canary-colored cart, a doomed artifact from an earlier age, crashing into a ditch. (The speed limit for motor cars was raised to 20 mph in 1905, three years before “The Wind in the Willows” was published.) There are the villainous stoats and weasels, slithering representatives of the lower orders and social transformation that Grahame feared.”

For modern Paganism, the most famous chapter in Grahame’s book is its seventh, “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn,” a detour from the main narrative in which Rat and Mole encounter the great god Pan. A manifestation, in Kamiya’s view, of his “Edwardian pagan aestheticism”. A chapter of unapologetically mythic poetry that has resonated down generations.

“Perhaps he would never have dared to raise his eyes, but that, though the piping was now hushed, the call and the summons seemed still dominant and imperious. He might not refuse, were Death himself waiting to strike him instantly, once he had looked with mortal eye on things rightly kept hidden. Trembling he obeyed, and raised his humble head; and then, in that utter clearness of the imminent dawn, while Nature, flushed with fulness of incredible colour, seemed to hold her breath for the event, he looked in the very eyes of the Friend and Helper; saw the backward sweep of the curved horns, gleaming in the growing daylight; saw the stern, hooked nose between the kindly eyes that were looking down on them humourously, while the bearded mouth broke into a half-smile at the corners; saw the rippling muscles on the arm that lay across the broad chest, the long supple hand still holding the pan-pipes only just fallen away from the parted lips; saw the splendid curves of the shaggy limbs disposed in majestic ease on the sward; saw, last of all, nestling between his very hooves, sleeping soundly in entire peace and contentment, the little, round, podgy, childish form of the baby otter. All this he saw, for one moment breathless and intense, vivid on the morning sky; and still, as he looked, he lived; and still, as he lived, he wondered. ‘Rat!’ he found breath to whisper, shaking. ‘Are you afraid?’ ‘Afraid?’ murmured the Rat, his eyes shining with unutterable love. ‘Afraid! Of Him? O, never, never! And yet— and yet— O, Mole, I am afraid!’ Then the two animals, crouching to the earth, bowed their heads and did worship.”

Grahame’s portrayal of Pan was instrumental in the slow establishment of this horned god (and other horned gods to come) in the minds and hearts of his British readers. His Pan, like the Pan of fellow authors Maurice Hewlett, Eden Phillpott, and Lord Dunsany was a sort of “Green Jesus”, a savior of the natural world. A figure who would save humanity from destructive progress, and free them from outdated and restrictive moral codes. As for Grahame himself, scholar Ronald Hutton in his book “Triumph of the Moon” points out that the author did indeed reject Christianity and replaced it with a vague “nature worship” (a collection of his essays was entitled “Pagan Papers”), and that his wife Elspeth took this impulse farther than Grahame felt comfortable with.

“Ironically, it was his wife, born Elspeth Thomas, who was initially the more actively ‘pagan’ of the two and tried to practice the nature-worship that he was preaching. At first she refused a wedding ring, thinking it a hallmark of convention, and it was he who insisted on her acceptance of one. The ceremony took place (in 1899) in the equally conventional setting of the parish church at Fowey, on the south Cornish coast, and Elspeth made on final gesture of rebellion. To demonstrate her communion with nature, she appeared before the altar wearing an old muslin dress which she had soaked in the dew of that morning and a chain of daisies around her neck which she had woven herself.”

Such was the influence of “The Wind in the Willows” that is was included as an essential proto-revival text by Chas Clifton and Graham Harvey in their book “The Paganism Reader”. While many regard Grahame’s work as simply a classic children’s story, it also sent signals of a shift in England’s poetic and mythic thinking, a re-imagining of the countryside (and the powers that resided in it) that slowly led to the flowering of modern Paganism.