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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Devil's Bird

The Mothers and Fathers reckoned the Horned One as god of animal life generally—what, in History of Religions lingo, is known as a “Master of Animals”—but for all that, he is rarely ascribed a sacred bird of his own. Birds, of course, are given mostly to the Sky Powers: raptors to Thunder, water-birds to Sun and Moon, etc. It's fascinating that these embodiers of the animal god's being should be given to other gods, as if they somehow constitute his yearning for them, as Earth's quartz yearns to the Moon. But to Himself the lore alots the merest avian handful: corvids, perhaps the peacock (see below), the robin (as Promethean bringer-of-fire) and, of course, the cock.

Everyone knows that the rooster—I suppose one really must say “cock” here—is the Devil's bird, (“Men call me the Devil,” he is reputed to have told Scots witch Isobel Gowdie, “but they know not what they mean”), and better it be if it's black. It's a staple of Southern (American) folklore that to invoke the Devil you sacrifice a black cock at a crossroads. Why a cock? Standard etiology would have it that the cock, being preeminently the bird that proclaims the coming of light, is the sworn enemy of the Prince of Darkness, Enemy of Light. But, as one might expect, matters are considerably more complex than that.

The domestic chicken originated in Southeast Asia and, it would seem, first came to the British Isles with the Romans (Yeates 166). Nonetheless, one finds the cock's head associated with the Horned One on the coinage of the Dobunni, the Keltic tribe that in later days morphed into the Hwicce, the “Tribe of Witches.” The rooster has a reputation as the most virile and pugnacious of birds, a fitting emblem for the father and protector of the people, the Pater Hwicciorum (Yeates 165-9). (Interestingly, though, the use of “cock” for “penis” derives, not from the name of the bird, but from the sense of “water-tap.”)

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Of Arrows and Garlands

One of the signature symbols of the modern Old Craft movement is the crossed arrows and garland. It is a striking and evocative image which I find, as I peruse the literature, to have occasioned much discussion but little articulation. The symbol, however, has much to tell, to those who care to ask.

These days the garlanded arrow-cross receives attention mostly as an adornment for the stang, the standing forked pole that is the unembodied image of the Horned. Most discussion seems to center around the composition of the garland (what vegetation, at what season) and its presence or absence. Rarely do I find discussion of meaning.*

In its first appearance on the public stage, though, the symbol—though associated with the stang—is freestanding. I myself first saw it in a photograph in Justine Glass' 1973 book Witchcraft, the Sixth Sense—and You. There a rather sloppily-made mixed garland of leaves, flowers, and feathers is pierced by two diagonally-crossed arrows, one with black fletching and one with white. They would seem to be mounted on a wall above what is described as a “keppen rod.” This is clearly what would later be called a “stang,” in this case not a hayfork but a pole with a curved metal end-prong, probably used for removing pots from an oven.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Flame Between the Horns

In Old Craft iconography, the Old Master is sometimes depicted as a horned (or antlered) skull with a flame between its horns. He is thus the Flammifer, the líht-bera, the Lucifer.

The image takes its origin from Continental trials; French witches frequently deposed that the Devil appeared at the sabbat in the form of a He-Goat with a candle burning between his horns. This is how Jeanne Bosdeau saw him at the Puy de Dôme in 1594. The witches would then light their own tapers or torches (as we still do) from the god's fire: the Lord of the Sabbat giving illumination to his people.

The witch-fire is the power of life that burns in each of us. It is said to be threefold: the fire in the head, the fire in the heart, and the fire in the loins.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Witchiest Little Shrine at PSG

Midsummer's 2009, Pagan Spirit Gathering: Camp Zoe, Missouri. A bunch of us Old Style folks are camped at a fork in the road down by Rock Creek. Between our camp and the road are a couple of tall old lodge-pole cedars.

My friend Sirius sets up his stang between the two cedars. In Old Craft lore, the stang is Old Hornie's preeminent symbol. It can take a number of forms, but the simplest is an old-style two-tined wooden hay fork.

Story goes that back in the day when it wasn't safe to keep Things around, when time for Doing came and the Old Buck not to be there in His Own Self (so to say), He'd be stood-for by a hayfork or pitchfork set upright in the ground: the Upright Man, as they called him. Light a candle between those horns, and here's a stand-in for the Old Un Himself, and next morning you hang him back up on wall of barn and none to be any the wiser.

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