Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Horned Man of Pasadena

My little book of pagan holidays (you'd be amazed what I keep handy for research) says the winter solstice is always on December 21st. That's true this year but sometimes it's the 20th, and since here at PDP the 21st is a Zen Monday (which isn't so much pagan as accepting of what is, pagan or otherwise), and since I'm still mustering up my Christmas spirit, I went looking for a horned god instead of a Santa for today's post.

The horned god, or horned man, or green man goes back thousands of years and crosses many cultures. Something of him permeates my thinking and my writing even now. He's hard to find yet he's everywhere. Although I didn't see him in the gardens last time I visited the Huntington, that doesn't mean he's not there. In fact, the pagan gods have long lurked around the fringes of Pasadena.

The horned man has existed since long before Christmas was invented. He'll last as long as humans live on earth. The winter solstice will outlast us, perhaps, remaining long after our holidays have come and gone.


Turquoise Diaries said...

So many gods we worshipped thru the ages. Always very interesting to search them..

J+P said...

Search at your peril!

"He has no name, and all true tales of him are blotted out; yet he walks behind us in every forest path and wakes within us when the wind wakes at night. He is the origins—he is the man in the forest."

(Chesterton, Blake, 1910)

Petrea said...

I think so, too, Aysegul. Their origins and how they relate to our worship today is also interesting.

Don't worry, J, I'm not scared of the wendigo.

altadenahiker said...

So you know -- when the sun sets, all the Huntington statues come to life. And most of the statues are nekkid. Nuf said.

Petrea said...

That's what I figured, Hiker. You gotta get your friends in there after hours.

Chuck Pefley said...

Zen Monday sounds like a good time to party in the Huntington garden -:) Sorry I won't be able to attend, but I do expect a complete report from you, Petrea -:)

Happy Holidays to you ... whatever kind of celebration you want LOL!!

Natalie said...

I'm just beginning to muster up some Christmas spirit myself. Every year is different. Love the photo.

Desiree said...

Aha. So this explains the etymology of horny. Oh, you pagans!

Cafe Pasadena said...

Are those his women behind him?

Tash said...

P - I adore you for many reasons and one of them is that you are willing to go where no blogger has gone before. Very satisfying post about continuity of life/worship/nature/people...

Vanda said...

Yay for winter solistice! And gods with horns!

TheChieftess said...

The winter solstice is my favorite solstice...because it means the daylight will start getting longer again!!!

wv: moing...what the horned man said to the Huntington gardeners..."the grass needs moing"!!!

Petrea said...

You're all putting me in mind of the feeling I get this time of year. It's not a "Christmasy" feeling, like I used to get as a kid in Illinois, waiting for Santa to come. It's something older.

I read an article about a Sting concert in New York earlier this month. His new album is titled, "If On a Winter's Night." At the concert, he said (I'm quoting the article), winter is “'the ambiguous season' of bitter cold and cozy homes, of Christmas and solstice tales, of reverence and loneliness, of death and regeneration, of 'magic.'”

Even in southern California.

CO, those are statues, actually.

Petrea said...

Cafe, I'm incorrect. We need to ask Karin about this.

Greg said...

Deeelight! I'd love to be there after hours...!!

This serves an awe-some reminder that, as we face the longest night of the year, our forbears cut evergreens & lit fires to hold their own against the darkness & give testimony to their hope the sun will once again assume his ascendancy. I don't so much mind that Christianity has coopted the solstice as I mind that we've collectively tended to forget it in the mad stress of what Christmas has become. Reminds me of Whitman's sonnet:

THE world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
The Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not.--Great God! I'd rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.

Good'un, PB! Thanx fer the reminder.

J+P said...

Oops—Greg meant "Wordsworth." The Sting album sounds like a delight.

Since we're quoting poems of the season, here's one I read at a Christmas party back east, one night:


As I in hoary winter's night stood shivering in the snow,
Surprised I was with sudden heat which made my heart to glow;
And lifting up a fearful eye to view what fire was near,
A pretty babe all burning bright did in the air appear;
Who, scorchëd with excessive heat, such floods of tears did shed
As though his floods should quench his flames which with his tears were fed.
Alas, quoth he, but newly born in fiery heats I fry,
Yet none approach to warm their hearts or feel my fire but I!
My faultless breast the furnace is, the fuel wounding thorns,
Love is the fire, and sighs the smoke, the ashes shame and scorns ;
The fuel justice layeth on, and mercy blows the coals,
The metal in this furnace wrought are men's defilëd souls,
For which, as now on fire I am to work them to their good,
So will I melt into a bath to wash them in my blood.
With this he vanished out of sight and swiftly shrunk away,
And straight I calléd unto mind that it was Christmas day.

(Robert Southwell (fr. St. Peter's Complaint, 1595)

Louis la Vache said...

«Louis», being une vache, knows something about being (ahem) as horny as the character in your photo....

Ms M said...

Looks like a board meeting where important decisions will be made...

AmyR said...

That book looks fascinating. I like thinking about other things than just one tradition/belief this time of year.

Petrea said...

Greg, members may sometimes participate in after-hours programs. It's lovely to be there after dark. But you'd have to be pretty sneaky to escape and wander the grounds unsupervised.

Whitman or Wordsworth, that's a beautiful sonnet. Boz and I have lately found ourselves at Hahamongna as the dark settles in and the coyotes yell. I'm tempted to stay, not on the path, but to go into the wild parts, or up into the foothills where there are no paths, to see what the night sees.

But I wonder, could I defend my trusty companion from a mountain lion who saw him as a tasty morsel? Could I defend myself?

So I stay on the path that leads me to the car and the street lights and home.

Southwell's awe-full, firey imagery calls up a medieval picture, when walking on the path with one's trusty companion, it might have been days before one came upon the warmth of an inn, and thoughts of the horned man and his companions prevailed.

Merci, Louis and Ms. M, for returning me to the present.

Amy, it's a little paperback book of days. Mine's old, it may have been revised by now, but I'll bet it's still in print.

Anonymous said...

Vex ferments the humors, casts them into their right channels, throws substandard redundancies, and helps species in those hush-hush distributions, without which the association cannot subsist in its vigor, nor the soul fake with cheerfulness.

Petrea said...

Yeah, my husband and I were just talking about that.