I've mentioned, before, the strange things I have seen in Old Hornie's eye. It was a post over at Feral Druidry that prodded me into writing about it a little more. This is something tender, a sacred, precious, perilous thing. I step here because I am permitted, I caution others to tread on this territory (in their minds and hearts) very carefully.
I also caution that Old Hornie is never so easy to nail down. He'll probably change his tune to spite me, but then... this is one instrument in an orchestra that sounds with his footfalls. One tiny note in the symphony I see there, one that I can blessedly capture and savor.
Long ago, I think, he was once a man. He was born with a lamed leg, and a bad eye. To his people he was half a man, but no man could be born and not be whole - so what was that other half? His leg looked like a corpse's leg, dry and rotten... so he must be half-corpse. Half-spirit. He was suspected, reviled, and exalted, Other. His blind eye saw in the Other world, his lamed leg stood in it. He was half dead, half-mad, half-god, half-man. And he saw the spirits.
He was raised to do this thing, to talk with the dead, to sing to serpents, to divine the future and mingle with the never-born. He collected his helpers, spirits who could see him, beasts who came to know his hand, and lived well. But always leaning on his crutch, always reviled, always loved, always Other. Suited only to a wife who had been 'worthless', who (to the shock of all) brought forth numerous sons and daughters, who were all very beautiful and just as strange as their father.
Under his aid, the people of his tribe prospered. And one day brought something special before him, or rather - brought him before it. For it was his duty to slay an animal so that it's restless spirit would not haunt the hunters. This Beast burned with a brighter spirit-fire than he had seen before. A creature with a spirit so clear that he could read it's life from the bones of it's face. He dispatched it with the love he used to cut the umbilical cords of his own children, and called it's spirit back, and back, down and in. And spoke at length with it.
The Half-Man and the Beast grew close. The Half-Man taught the Beast about human love, and the Beast taught the Half-Man about the Hunt's True Secret. The Beast was his greatest Helper. Greater even than the wolf-bitch, or the falcon. Greater than the serpents who told him of power in the land. Greater because the Beast taught him to dance. He could hobble, sometimes, when the Beast-Spirit took him. He would hunch and wobble, but he would dance without his crutch. He would feel (for brief moments) the sensation of running free. He learned with the Beast how to change his form, and in spirit they would run together. The People saw only that the Half-Man would put on the old pelt-cape, and a rack of antlers, and walk as though he was almost whole.
He was the Horn-Wearer, who was master of the hunt and it's truest victim. He was the one who brought life to the community, and was eaten by it. He was loved and reviled, Brother and Other. Man... and Beast.
And when he died his children remembered. They knew the names, and that the Beast had always been a great Helper. And so they called upon it, first and most beloved, for their troubles. They never saw the face of the Beast, as it had lived. They knew only the image of their Father, their Grandfather, their Great Ancestor, draped in the pelt cloak, hobbling around the fireside.
He would come back, again and again, amongst his people. Again and again he would lead the dances until the old pelt had fallen apart from use, and the great horns had been broken to dust, and another cloak was made with the greatest beast they could find. And so,with each place his people came to live, a little more was added to the picture of their most Helpful God. A little more power to it's reach, a wider net across the world. And in time even the Half-Man and the Beast forgot that they had not always been one.