The Horned One holds the baby in his arms.

He sits on the altar, cross-legged, shining in the firelight, each tine of his branching antlers tipped with its own delicate bud of flame. He holds the child to his chest, as if suckling him. Not everyone is privileged to drink from the breast of the witches' god. It is a promise, the ancient gesture of adoption.

He rises to his feet, towering—his horns reach up to heaven—and holds the infant out to the assembled people.

“Shall we name?” he thunders.


“Name!” they answer, their arms outstretched toward the two.

“Shall we name?” he repeats.

“Name!” they call again, louder.

A third time he asks it: “Shall we name?”

The third cry is the loudest of all: “Name!”

He marks the child's brow. “I name you...”

“W----!” “W----!” “W----!” The people call out the child's name three times; each time, the Horned lifts him high.

When the tribe of witches forgathers in immemorial grand sabbat, they mark in rite, as is their wont, the changes of their lives. Naming the newborn together, the people claim him for one of their own, a son of the tribe, theirs to them. It is a solemn and a joyful moment, this coming of new life to the ongoing life of a people.

The Antlered returns the child to his mother's arms. Beneath the fire-lit trees, the drums call out their ancient welcome.

Photo: Paul B. Rucker