Paganistan: Notes from the Secret Commonwealth

In Which One Midwest Man-in-Black Confers, Converses & Otherwise Hob-Nobs with his Fellow Hob-Men (& -Women) Concerning the Sundry Ways of the Famed but Ill-Starred Tribe of Witches.

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The Cross-Legged God

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

The god who sits cross-legged: you know Who I mean. The position is central to the iconography of the Horned, in art both ancient and modern. In Old Craft symbolism, the Master may be represented by the skull of a horned animal with two longbones crossed beneath it. If Witchdom had pirates (!), I suppose that's what they'd fly on their flags. The Lord of the Red Bones, above and below.

Even in images such as Lévi's Baphomet and the Gundestrup Antlered, where the god is seated in a position not fully “tailor seat” (as we used to call it), his crossed or bent legs at least allude to the fully cross-legged seat. It's well worth asking what this pose can tell us about the god.

Nature. Civilized people (and their gods) sit on furniture. Barbarians sit on the ground, and cross-legged is the natural way to do so. This is an untamed god, a god in touch with the powers of nature, drawing strength and stability from the Earth.

Duality. The iconography of the Horned lord is dominated by doubling, and this speaks deeply to His nature. He is both Dark and Light, Lord of life and death, the master driven by his own internal contradictions. (Whereas Wicca tends to read duality in terms of male-female pairing, Old Craft generally looks to the divided self for the primal articulation of Twoness.) Just as his legs cross beneath him, so too do the two sides of his self cross and intersect with one another, the basis of his Being.

Lordship. The chieftain sits cross-legged; his warriors squat. The former implies stability; the latter is the more dynamic of the two positions. It's easier to jump up quickly from a squat than it is from a cross-legged seat. Warriors need to act quickly; their leader needs to think. Art frequently shows the Cross-Legged Lord surrounded by animals, generally of different species: as Master of Beasts, he is (to use Old Craft language) drighten to their dright.


Teacher. The Horned is not just a chief surrounded by his tribe: he is the Wise Master, instructing his people. This trope is widely found in Shaiva iconography. The pose is one of meditation, reflection, contemplation: He whose knowledge of Self is unsurpassed instructs us younger who sit at his feet, eagerly listening. For he is the Old One Who has seen many things: He on whose brow shines the Morning Star, enlightener of his people, the Wise to the wise.

When the tribe of Witches convenes in Grand Sabbat here in the American Midwest this summer, we will see with our own eyes the God of Witches just as we have seen him down the centuries, seated cross-legged on the altar.

And we will know him as of old, immemorial.










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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.


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