Paganistan: Notes from the Secret Commonwealth

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"I am Here": Do the Gods Reveal Themselves Today through Art?

Who, then, are the gods of the new pagans?

I would suggest that Two, at least, among Them are revealing Themselves to us even as you read these words.

Not through the mouths of prophets do they speak to us today, but through the hands of artists: a revelation not in words, but in shape and line and color.

The Horned God and the Green Man: icons for our day. The Red God and the Green, twin sons of Earth, twofold image of life on this planet: “the Horned One, master of animals—ourselves among them—and the Green, his firstborn brother, lord of leaf and tendril.” Brothers, Lovers, Rivals.

Antiquity is filled with horned gods, but did the ancients see in them an underlying unity? The leaf face: a minor decorative motif of Classical and Medieval sculpture, but did the ancestors see in it the face of a god?

Fast forward to our day. In contemporary pagan visual culture, they are ubiquitous, the Red God and the Green. They are our teachers, these two, teaching us a new way of seeing. Teaching us to look upon the animals, the plants, and behold in them the very being of gods: truly a revelation for our time.

He is perhaps the prime visual icon of the new paganisms: antlered, be-torqued, sitting cross-legged and naked, with standing phallus.

All of these motifs were present in ancient art, but never until our day did they converge into a single image.

The foliate mask first sprouts from its Bacchic vine in late antiquity and grows up to peer from the walls of Romanesque and Gothic churches all over Europe.

But not until our time, so far as we know, did anyone see the eyes of a god looking through the leaves.

The ancestors would not have found it strange that a god should show himself through the handiwork of an inspired artist. Quintilian said of Phidias' chryselephantine Olympian Zeus that the sculptor had added something to the Received Tradition.

We pagans live our lives, as we have always lived them, by our Received Tradition.

But tradition is no closed canon.

The gods are speaking to us today just as clearly as they ever have before.

They say to us: I am here.

 

 

 

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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.

Comments

  • Carol P. Christ
    Carol P. Christ Friday, 28 February 2014

    Next post on how the Goddesses reveal themselves today? Or are the male Gods the primary "icons for our day"?

  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch Saturday, 01 March 2014

    Never doubt it, Carol. Coming soon (as soon as I can figure out how to load images, anyway), an amazing modern Goddess pendant by 93-year old Latvian master amber-worker George Romulis, and its implications for modern pagan thought and aesthetic. Really!

  • Anne Forrester
    Anne Forrester Friday, 28 February 2014

    Great article Steve! I wish you had included some links to actual art. Here's a couple of paintings that are my take on the Red God/Green God: http://www.metafourstudios.net/www.metafourstudios.net/Paintings.html#3 and http://www.metafourstudios.net/www.metafourstudios.net/Paintings.html#2.

  • Greybeard
    Greybeard Friday, 28 February 2014

    Good stuff, Steve. I am also put off by the tendency of some who try to merge all Gods into "One God." Or all Goddesses into "One Goddess." I also like your perspectives on the "Green Man" of foliage depictions. Thanks.

  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch Saturday, 01 March 2014

    Thanks, Greybeard. I'm not sure when Aunt Violet's reductionist dictum about all gods being one god, all goddesses being one goddess, and there being one initiator (whatever that means) gained its near-dogmatic status, but it sure does seem to me to have retarded the growth of new mythology, which in a creative community like ours is saying something.

    Whereas, if the Horned and the Green are not One but Two (not to mention Sun and Moon and Thunder and all the rest), well, the door swings wide. Who are They? Twin children to Earth, clearly. Which is the elder twin? Well, it's obvious. The stories almost tell themselves. One has only to ask.

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