The Horned God: An Unofficial Autobiography
by Damh the Bard
AT FIRST I WAITED.
For how long I don't know - how can the unborn know of time? I waited in the blackness, stirred by Her hand, blending, changing, from man to beast, then back to man again. Never thinking of the future, nor of a past that never was, but, waiting. Then as humankind became aware, I was born. Born of their need for food, for wanting, no, needing someone to help them find their purpose. And in that cave, lit only by one flame, plants became colour, and colour became a vision, and that vision became a God - and I became that God. Born from the wishes of the simplest of minds, it was my destiny to stay, and protect.
So, at first I ruled as the stag and God of the Hunt; invoked with blood and sweat and the chase. I led the hunt through the forest and it was I who bent the branches to scratch and tear and cut. For without effort, what is the point of life? Without hunger, what would feed the spirit? Without need, all life would die. So, their sorcerer stood in bloodied skins, and raised his hands and called my name. Then he fell to the ground and skin became fur, and feet became hooves. Blood gushed as my antlers pushed through bone and sinew to arise with seven tines, one for each of the moving lights within the blackness above. Stood before them, I held my head proud and tall - none met my gaze, they just breathed the stench of death and the copper taint in the blood-filled air. They breathed this and it filled them with the hunger, ready to face their own death in order to feed the tribe. Drums suddenly filled the silence, and the hunters danced my dance, invoking my spirit into their bodies; giving me more life, and more power until, proud in full erect manhood I screamed my name again and again, and they span around the fire, their throats calling with the guttural call of the rutting stag, telling its spirit that the tribe must live! And it must die for the tribe! Then in an instant they were gone - as the drums suddenly stopped they disappeared into the forest without a sound.
And that is how it was…until others became aware of me. They called me by another name, as I chased the virgins through the forest in a land beside a warm sea. How they laughed as their white dresses were torn, and they wondered at me. They danced as my pipes played, awakening the animals and birds. But when they saw me they laughed no more. I loved them all, as only a God can love his women, and after, the land was reborn into spring. With every caress I dressed the bare branches with my green skin and I played my pipes as others made love under my gaze. This I did to help the Wheel turn through the seasons. Until an arrow from a hunters bow changed me, and took me to an oak within a great forest on a green island, that floated like a leaf upon the sea.
Here I stayed, happy with my new home. The people here transformed me back into my first form - the Stag God - and I watched over the animals of the forest, and the life of the Land. My face was seen in every tree and plant, my gaze from the eyes of deer and bear. The people respected the land as their Mother, and I ruled with their Mother, and together we bore fruit for the people - that was the way of things, and it worked. Of course the people became sick, but what animal does not become sick? Only humans want to live forever, and no matter how they try, they will always fail - nothing lives forever. An animal knows when it is time to die, even when its destiny is to feed the people. I have watched the strongest stag turn to face the hunters and bow its head in self-sacrifice, acknowledging its fate. Yet does humankind return this to the starving wolf, or bear? When it is they who are food, they are not so forgiving. Neither are they when the hunger comes from the cold of winter, when the long nights and disease claim the weak.
Yet through it all, my Lady and I walked the land, and maintained the balance. From winter, through spring, summer and autumn our footsteps brought life, and beneath her black raven's cloak, she brought death. But there in the blackness, if you listen carefully, you will always hear the sound of a new-born baby crying for its mother's breast; for although nothing lives forever, all things are reborn, and we show you this with the rising of the tides, the cycles of the moon, and the turning of the seasons.
Even Gods change, and sometimes they die. I died beneath an elder tree within the great forest, shot by a single arrow, but I was reborn in human form. The people made their king their God. The life of the land became an act of sovereignty, and the fitness of the ruler was judged by the fruitfulness of the crops. If the crops flourished, then the king was strong and good, and was worshipped by the people as the chalice that contained the life-blood of the land. If the crop failed, then the king was sacrificed, his blood spilled upon the earth to fertilise and bring new growth, and another king was chosen to fulfil his destiny as sovereignty saw fit. It was thus that my spirit moved into the spirit of humankind for the first time. I pushed my way into physical life and grew as any other man would grow - except I would be king. I lived within the spirit of every king that breathed life and died. I fought for Her, for my lover, for the land. I fought disease, poverty, and invaders, but sovereignty can be a real bitch, and it was She who decided to add a third aspect to the game.
I had ruled as the mightiest warrior ever seen. I had married sovereignty and devoted my life to Her as my Queen. But sovereignty was restless, so She seduced me as my sister and gave birth to my Son. He grew to be strong, I should be proud of him. However, the cycle changed, and I knew it would be my destiny to fight him for the control of the waxing year. She was no longer content with one lover, she needed two - one for her darker nature, as Her icy breath blew the last remaining leaves from the trees; the other to be her consort through the summer meadows and quicken the fruit within her belly - to laugh with her and play under the heat of the Sun. I was a God, and so I accepted my new role. I placed the Crown of Oak upon my troubled brow, and turned to face my son, with his Crown of Holly, at the time the sun stands still - the Solstice.
I lost the fight.
I returned again, but this time into the body of a foreign Prince. However, with the land filled with distrust at invaders, and seemingly suffering from bad rulership, I was shot by a misaimed arrow, at least that is what the history books will tell you. The 'Rufus Stone' now marks this place and that was the last time I dwelt within the body of a human King. Corruption bred within their incestuous veins and I walked away, leaving them to their carnal pleasures and greed, and I moved my spirit into an outlaw. Within the forest I lived, stealing from the greedy and returning wealth to the people who still worshipped me. In green I dressed and gold I gave. Never was I caught, and never was I seen - except for the hooded cloak I wore, which was seen moments before Herne's arrow tore into flesh. I was celebrated and cheered, yet none knew of my more, shall we say, God-like tendencies. Apart from one woman, who was the first mortal I ever loved as a man can love a woman. She danced the dance of beauty, and I could not help but step into the rhythm with her. And we made love and my essence blended with Humanity's and lives within you all still. Marion, Queen of the Wild, I love you as I have ever loved you. Yet I am immortal, and I watched her die in my arms and shed tears that fed the earth, and with every teardrop a vixen wailed in the night, searching for their mate - as I will for eternity search for mine. I retreated - I needed time to heal.
For a while I rested in darkness; darkness so thick I could almost reach out and touch it. I was for the first time confused with my role. In the beginning it was simple, but now Humankind had changed. They were frightened of other things - no longer as needy for food, yet fearful of disease and petty superstition. They looked to foreign lands for their salvation and that salvation came in the shape of a lonely God. I knew him then as an equal, yet power and corruption changed me from the Lord of the Wild into the Christian Devil. Of course, it never really changed me, but it changed the way I was perceived. So I watched and waited, and there were still those in the countryside who respected and honoured me on my special days. All through the plagues, fires and burnings I was there, but these were strange times. I rule within Nature - I understand that the brighter the light, the darker is the shadow. Nature is self-regulating and needs no 'other' to keep life balanced. So, She brings plague, hunger, disease, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, volcanoes, earthquakes. None of these things are evil, they are Her way of keeping the balance. And they remind Humanity that, no matter how advanced they are, they are still part of Nature's Way, and answerable ultimately to Her.
So I waited and watched and then in the shadow I heard the cries of the Island. For out of the Shadow stepped a threat to Sovereignty, and it came twice in quick succession. So I went back into the Cauldron of Beginnings and was reborn, not once, but within the hearts of millions. I picked up a gun within every hand and crossed the water to protect my Lady from plunder. And I screamed victory with every death in the trenches, caked with blood, sweat and mud. I was reborn again, and again, within each brave heart, and I choked on gas, and felt the explosion of blood and bone, but I kept going until the threat had passed.
So what of the Horned God now? Where am I? Well, I'm sitting at a bar in London, drinking a wonderful pure malt whiskey. I'm standing behind you in the supermarket, and serving you from the checkout. I am the superstar dressed in a long, leather coat saving the world, and the tramp begging for money. See me within the gaze of every man who values and loves Woman. For all of you are my Goddess, and I will serve you, with all of my power and strength, for as long as the White Wind blows, and there is life here on Mother Earth. So mote it be!