There aren't many Yule decorations that would make me consider theft.

In fact, I can only think of one.

My friend Sirius found the Yule Stag years ago, half-price at an after-holiday sale. He's your usual made-in-China, dressed-up Santa maquette of the kind that one sees in the stores by the scores at this time of year: the porcelain head, the red robe trimmed with faux fur, the shouldered sack of toys.

Oh, but he's got the head and hooves of a stag: Santa and Reindeer in one.

Oh my Hornèd God.

The Kalasha of what is now northwestern Pakistan are the only Indo-European-speaking people who have practiced their traditional religion continuously since antiquity. Their most important holiday of the year is—surprise—the Winter Solstice. During the most sacred days of the festival, the rider god Balumáin descends to visit the Kalasha valleys, accompanied by his boon companion, a god named Púshau.

Students of ancient religion have long wondered if the famed Horned God of antiquity finds a reflex in proto-Indo-European religion. Such would, in fact, seem to have been the case.

As scholars have long acknowledged, the Greek god Pan has an Indian cognate in the Vedic god Púshan, god of livestock and protector of travelers. His original name would seem to have been *Péhushô(n), from the root *peh, “watch over.” (That the Horned watches over his people is no news to anyone: ask any witch.) Kalasha Púshau is, of course, the same god: the Pan of the Hindu Kush.

The Winter Gift-Giver in company with a horned Other. The pattern sounds oh-so-familiar.

So remember, Sirius, and don't forget.

If you die first, I get him.

 

For more on Pan-Púshan:
M. L. West (2007) Indo-European Poetry and Myth. Oxford.

For more on Púshau and the Kalasha feast of Chaumós:
Augusto S. Cacopardo (2010) Pagan Christmas: Winter Feasts of the Kalasha of the Hindu Kush. Gingko.