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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in God of the Hwicce

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

Witch Money

The little silver coin, 2000 years old, is tiny, barely the size of my little fingernail.

It is a coin of the Dobunni: the original (so say some) Tribe of Witches.

 

The People of the Two Bands

At the beginning of the first millennium, the Dobunni—the People of the Two Bands—lived in the Cotswolds and Severn Basin of what is now southwestern England.

Like the other Celtic-speaking peoples of southern Britain, they Romanized early; even before the Roman conquest of Britain, they were minting their own coinage. We can gain some sense of the extent of their tribal territory from the distribution of these coins.

600 years later, this same territory was inhabited by an Anglo-Saxon-speaking people called the Hwicce (HWITCH-eh). Archaeological and genetic finds make clear the area's cultural and demographic continuity from the Celtic to the Saxon periods.

Interestingly, the same territory is also characterized by a distinctive kind of Neolithic burial mound. In the tribal hunting-runs of the Hwicce, it would seem, roots both cultural and genetic run deep.

What if Gardner was right after all?

What if the Craft really does reach back into the Stone Age?

 

Heads and Tails

I hold the coin, a miniature Moon in black and silver, on the pad of my index finger.

On one side, barely legible through centuries of wear, a lunar profile looks to the left. On the other, a three-tailed stallion rushes to the right.

Face and horse: who these may have been to the Dobunni, the Elder Witchery, we cannot know.

I read the two sides of the coin together: she looks toward him, he rushes to her.

Who they may be to the Younger Witchery, though: well, now, that would be very clear indeed.

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They say that the Horned, god of witches, has a cloak of invisibility.

Dernmantle, they call it—a dern is a secret—for which reason Dernmantle is counted among his many by-names. Remind me to tell you some time the tale of how he came by it.

(Some, though, call it a cap or helm: the Dernhelm.)

In this way, he walks among us, unknown, unseen. Lord of Beasts, where animals are, he is: nor do we always see him.

Down the long years, he has walked unseen. Through the hidden centuries, he walked among us still.

We, his people, are like to him. We, too, have the power to walk unseen.

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Our rite that night was a Rite of Opening the Gates. That's when I saw the Horned.

He sat cross-legged, as is his wont, on the threshold between What Is and What Is Not. His body was the blue-black of Deep Space, filled with stars. It was as if, from a photo of the night sky, someone had cut out a silhouette of a seated, antlered man. Behind Him, nothing; before Him, the many-colored world. Between the two, one vast Body of Stars.

I don't usually think of the Horned in cosmic terms. I see Him as a transpersonal person, the collective body of animal life here on planet Earth.

Yet there He was: the Cosmic Horned.

 

Opening the back door, I step out into the cold night to pour out the offerings.

Straddling the threshold, I face the stang in the corner of the garden. In the waning moonlight, the forked stake, standing in its cairn of stones, casts a long shadow.

A rabbit sits in the middle of the garden, a moonlit silhouette. Its ears are exactly the length of the stang's horns, held at precisely the same angle. I look at the rabbit; the rabbit looks at me.

It does not move as I pour out the offerings, and close the door.

 

Are we each as a cell in the greater body of a god?

Are there other Horned Gods, brothers and other selves, on other planets?

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It's an age-old question: Why are some people witches, and some not?

Well, I'll tell you. The answer is simultaneously very simple, and utterly outrageous.

We're witches because Old Hornie sires us Himself.

 

A witch once asked her mother if she could remember anything about the circumstances of her conception.

Oh for godssakes, her mother said. How could I possibly—?

Then she paused. When finally she spoke, it was in an undertone, as if to herself.

So that explains it, she said between her teeth.

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"He is the life is in all living things: in corn, and horses, and men."

(Rosemary Sutcliff)

 

Brothers:

We are priests to a Horned, and Horny, God. Let me now tell you something that they probably didn't teach you—though they should have—in Witch School.

As priests to this god, it's our duty—our joy—to offer to him daily. What, then, is the nature of the offering due the Horns?

There are offerings and offerings. But to Him, god of all red life, the best and most fitting is the life-offering: the seed-pour, the male libation. This is the nature of our priesthood.

You know how magic works: you raise power, and direct it.

Daily you do this: you do it for Him. This is our obligation, the price of our priesthood.

How you fulfill this is yours to you, and not for me to say. But let me tell you this much.

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We say that long ago, in ages of ages, we had no Fire.

We sat that the Horned looked down from the hearth of Thunder and saw us cold, and in darkness.

We say that he stole the Fire of the Gods, and came down from Heaven like a falling star.

We say that he gave us that Fire, the Fire of the Gods.

We say that this was the First Kindling.

We say that this was the Making of us.

We say that every kindling is that First Kindling come again.

We say that every kindling is for us a Making-Anew.

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In the firelight, our call begins almost as a whisper.

Horned One...Horned One...Horned One...

Borne on the drums, it rises, insistent.

HORNED One...HORNED One...HORNED One....

The witches are calling to their god. Out of some primal core of longing, a hundred voices throb together as one.

HORNED! ONE! HORNED! ONE! HORNED! ONE!

 

From the woods, a horn calls.

He...Is...Here!

A second horn calls, answering the first, then a third. A clutch of people, men and women, emerge from the trees, bearing torches. Riding, unbelievably, above them....

As His bearers approach, their pace quickens. Soon they are running, running toward us.

 

At a distance of more than 30 years, I remember the horns calling back and forth to one another, the bobbing torchlight, the frenzy. I shake my head at the dangers. That wooden palanquin didn't even have edges for bracing the feet. We would never take such risks today, never. Truly, it was a madness, the madness of a god.

 

I know what I would see if I looked at the faces around me: wonder, incredulity, fear.

But I do not look. None of us do. Our eyes want nothing more than what they already behold, the longing of centuries.

On the altar, He shines with firelight, unbelievably tall. His naked male beauty catches the heart. Between His antlers, constellations wheel.

In the wondering silence, His voice is gentle.

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