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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In Search of the Tusked God

 Caput apri defero,

cum ingenti priapo.


The Yule-analogous holiday of Terry Pratchett's Discworld is, of course, Hogswatch.

And the—really, what else can one call him?—patronal god of Hogswatch is, of course, the Hogfather.

Like the wild boar that he originally was, the Hogfather (of the BBC series, anyway) wears tusks.

In Norse, one might say: Hogfather = Frey. Tusk-Frey, one might kenningly call him.

The swine is one of the preeminently sacred animals of Northern Europe. The pig is still a prime symbol of the Scandinavian Jul. No Yule-board is complete without pork in various iterations; whoever finds the almond in the risengrot gets a marzipan pig; pig ornaments hang on Yule-trees.

The pig is preeminently the sacrificial animal of the North as well. Other domestic animals eat things that we can't and provide other things besides meat: milk, wool, transportation, draft. Swine, however, eat what we eat and provide only meat. That makes them luxury animals, and draws a bond of close kinship between us. They say that human flesh tastes like pork. "Long pig," anyone?

Frey's sacred animal in Norse lore was, of course, the boar. You'd offer a boar to Frey—boar's head, anyone?—at Yule to pray for peace and good harvest (til friðar ok ars) in the year to come.

Now, some have attempted latterly (and controversially) to calque Frey with the Horned God of contemporary witches. Admittedly, there's little association (other than the most general) between Frey and horned animals in the lore.

But perhaps this is to draw the line too finely. As the Horned wears the horns of different species—stag, ram, bull, goat—so too may he also wear the tusks of the boar.

As the god of all animals, not just horned ones, he is as rightly accounted the Tusked God as the Horned.

Biologically speaking, tusks are analogous to horns. In fact, they first developed even earlier than horns did. The first deer had tusks rather than antlers. There's an Asian variety of deer that still has both tusks and antlers to this day.

In the name of the Great Boar, Lord of Wealth and Fruitfulness, I wish you and yours a fine, frithful Yule, now in its Tenth Day.

And (of course) Happy Hogswatch.


The epigraph above melds the chorus of the 16th century English Boar's Head Carol with the 11th-century historian Adam of Bremen's description of the statue of Frey at the great temple of Uppsala. It means: The boar's head I bear, with an immense 'priapus' [i.e. phallus].






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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.


  • Thesseli
    Thesseli Saturday, 30 December 2017

    He's supposed to fight with antlers at Ragnarok.

  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch Saturday, 30 December 2017

    My recollection is that Snorri says, "an antler," which strongly suggests a weapon in hand (in place of the sword he gave to Skirnir) rather than a set on the head. I don't think he gives a specific reason for why an antler, though.

    His use of the antler at Ragnarok aside, I can't think of any other specific association between Frey and horned animals in the Lore. To my mind, one example does not a particularly strong case make.

    Still, the science of cross-pantheon identifications is inexact, to say the least.

    Maybe it's really more of an art.

  • Mark Green
    Mark Green Saturday, 30 December 2017

    And happy Hogswatch to you as well, Steven! I've really enjoyed your writing this year.

  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch Sunday, 31 December 2017

    Much obliged, Mark, and wishing you a New Year of prosperity, health, and good reading.

  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham Saturday, 30 December 2017

    I do enjoy ham at Yule-time.

  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch Sunday, 31 December 2017

    On the Franconian side of the family, the custom is to serve pork and sauerkraut at the New Year, but never chicken.
    That's so you go rooting forward into the New Year like a pig, instead of scratching back into the old one like a chicken.
    And, says my Aunt Alva, the kraut is to "clean you out for the New Year"!

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