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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Grand Sabbat

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

The Ghent Altarpiece: Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, detail of the Lamb with  kneeling Angels - Hubert and Jan Van Eyck — Google Arts & Culture


If I told you that one of the greatest masterpieces of Christian art is actually at heart a depiction of the Witches' Sabbat, would you believe me?

While the imagery of the central and focal panel of Hubert and Jan van Eyck's monumental polyptych the Ghent Altarpiece (completed 1432), known to art historians as The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, is impeccably Biblical and orthodox, the painting has a haunting and frankly disturbing quality that reads as anything but.

It depicts the worship of the Animal God.

In an idealized landscape, worshipers converge from all directions on a central altar. The altar is encircled by kneeling winged adorants. On the altar itself stands a hornless Ram, white and shining. The god himself gazes outwards, meeting the eyes of the viewer. From his head shines light.

(By the way, that's not actually an extremely pendulous scrotum hanging between his legs, though it sure does look like one: it's his tail.)

Yeah, yeah, the Lamb of God. Yeah, yeah, angels, virgin martyrs, confessors, knights of Christ. Yeah, sure.

They're worshiping a Ram.

Any witch that's ever been to the Sabbat recognizes this scene, though she may not tell you so. The Horned on the altar, surrounded by his coven, with every witchly eye turned towards him. This is the Eternal Sabbat, the witch's true Paradise. We know, because we've been there.

No, I'm not suggesting that van Eyck was a secret member of what Margaret Murray called the “Witch cult.” (It sure would make an interesting story, though, if not a novel.) It is interesting to note, though, that in fact Adoration of the Mystic Lamb was painted at exactly the time—and near to the geographic locus from which—the concept of the Witches' Sabbat, as an iconic counter-worship, first emerged.

No, I'm suggesting something deeper: that van Eyck's mystic painting embodies, under the guise of Christian orthodoxy, an atavistic longing of the human heart, something that will never change because it is intrinsic to who we are.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    If so, sign me up for one!
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I know it's flippant of me and betrays my degree in Art History but I wonder if anyone has made a Jigsaw puzzle version of The Ado

Posted by on in Culture Blogs



The little girl was heartbroken.

They killed him! she sobbed. They killed him!

And him so tall and shining, and his antlers reaching up, up, up to the trees, and his velvet muzzle that you wanted to stroke.

And he called you his bonny wee bird, and his daughter.

And he came down from the altar and danced, danced with everyone.

And him so shining and full of life, and now he's dead. He's dead.

The mother takes the child into her arms and holds her head against her shoulder.

Oh, but only see, she whispers into her ear, turning her around again to face the altar.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Dream Sabbat

 In Which an Old Bit of Witch-Lore Takes On New Life


The ancestors were resourceful people.

In the old days, in time of persecution or plague, it wasn't always safe to attend the local Sabbat.

So the ancestors developed a strategy.

Come Sabbat Eve, you schmeer on the dwale, lay down, and fly off to the Dream Sabbat.

But do not for this reason think the Dream Sabbat unreal.

This, too, is my True Sabbat, says the Horned.

The Sabbat is the Horned's love-gift to his people. Be sure that, in time, we will dance once again by firelight beneath the trees, and taste all the joys of the witch's true paradise. This, the Horned promises.

Till then, he gives us the Sabbat of Dream.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Thanks for the recommendation, Anthony. See you at the Dream Sabbat!
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    One of the books I'm reading now is "Witchcraft and the Shamanic Journey" by Kenneth Johnson. He mentions in the witch trials whe

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Flight to the Sabbat

Full Wolf Moon: coven flying night.

The ointment makes the rounds; those who wish to, partake.

We lay down and Fly.


I am at the Sabbat in the firelit woods, kneeling at the altar.

I take His hand and kiss it. I tell Him I love Him. (I won't say there are no tears.) I lay my head in His lap. I speak the secret fears.

After a time, He takes His hand from my head and raises me up. His smile sears my soul.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Charter: A Carmen Figuratum


St. Mark's Cathedral, Minneapolis.

Looking up from the hymnal,

I see him, sitting

cross-legged on the altar:

buck naked

(oh baby!),

antlers out to here,

grinning like a jack o' lantern.

I blink, and he is gone.

I stand there, thunder-struck;

though he spoke no words,

my heart is riven, riven through.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Social Imperative of the Sabbat

In the topsy-turvy world of the Sabbat, the witch returns to the Dreamtime, in which all social norms are overturned.

At the Sabbat, there are no distinctions of “race,” of sex, of class, of gender.

At the Sabbat, all are equal.

At the Sabbat, if nowhere else, we encounter full social equality.

The stories of those early American Sabbats tell of indigenous, colonial, and enslaved all coming together to dance as one: red, white, black, all equal.

The Sabbat dreams of a new world, a world (as in the beginning) of radical equality.

The Sabbat embodies this dream.

In fact, the Sabbat predicts it.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Dancing with the Black Man

I recently had an e-mail from a friend who, after this year's Midwest Grand Sabbat, had packed up the family and headed out on a road trip, destination: Salem, Mass.

As an offering, she'd brought a cork from the Grand Sabbat night.

Now, this may seem an odd kind of offering to make, of little or no intrinsic value, but think about it.

Gods help us, the Salem witch craze of 1692 is probably the most famous witch hunt of history. (Americans have always been good at publicity.) Personally, I doubt that we see here anything more than scapegoating and the pathological inner workings of theocratic society.

But let us say for a moment—call it “mythic history”—that there actually were witches of our sort in “17th” century Salem: people who fled to the New World because it was no longer safe to keep to the Old Ways back in the old one.

What do they find when they get here? A mighty Forest (and such a forest!) and in that forest, who but the Black Man Himself, our beloved Horn-God, more beautiful and terrible than ever, already waiting for us.

Waiting to dance.

Would you not want to know that, 300-some years on, our people are still here?

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