Of Chicken Pies and Horned Gods

April 13, 2013 § Leave a comment

Moses. Michelangelo

Moses. Michelangelo

Lovely belated birthday dinner last night with Janet and Ethan. My sweet poet friend had been at a reading at KGB featuring many of her students, which I wanted to attend, but I was too tired. Brain full of fog, aching to be stronger. We met in front of the bar, in the light spring rain.

The French bistro Janet had in mind had too long a wait, so we went wandering and came upon a spacious, comfortable, completely empty bar-restaurant on Avenue A. I was doubtful—utterly empty at 9:30 on a Friday night in a trendy NYC neighborhood is more than a little suspicious—but Janet was seduced by the words “chicken pot pie” so we went in. The choices were meager, but the food was good. My chicken curry was comprised of sizable chunks of meat with a mild, flavorful sauce, not too sweet, not too greasy, served on fries. I would have preferred rice, but this was an Irish curry. The pot pie was a sheet of puff pastry floating on a chicken casserole. Why don’t chefs understand that a pie is a pocket, a closet, a locked box, and therein lies its appeal? Chicken pie is comfort food, safe, but there’s always the faint chance of four and twenty blackbirds if the crust’s crimped tightly, nothing but steam escaping.

I think the pot pie was alright. I tasted the pastry. My mother made better. I can say this about most things. I was annoyed that there was only one choice of white wine, and no bread. My days of sumptuous dining are behind me. But I liked the quiet and the dim, cool space.

And the company was just right. I almost convinced Janet and Ethan to move to Panama with us, that paradise of low rent, cheap health insurance, two oceans, and lots of toucans. Janet almost convinced me to go to Mississippi with her to offer moral support as she researches Evangelicals for the novel she’s writing. (In Mississippi people raise the red heifers believed to herald the Last Days.) The deal-breaker came when she said she’s going in August.

I was slightly disappointed, in the name of America as the Home of Ignorance, when she told me I misremembered a story she’d told me years ago. My memory was that, while on a bus going to Lynchburg, Virginia, she and her friend got into conversation with a Southern woman, a nurse, who finally said, “Are y’all Jews?” She’d never met one (or so she thought). “Do Jews believe in God?” That part I remembered correctly. But my fiction-making mind had embellished the next part. My story was that the woman asked if she could see Janet’s horns. In fact, she merely said that she’d been taught as a child that Jews had horns.

I don’t mean to make light of Janet’s deep discomfort. She was born little more than a decade after the defeat of the Nazis. Anti-Semitism is no joke. But I was raised on different stories and even now would be quite happy to wake up one morning with horns (assuming they were small enough not to interfere with doorways and pillows).

Janet told me the myth of Jews having horns stemmed from a mistranslation regarding Moses, but a little Google research reveals a more tangled situation. Many scholars believe that Yahweh had the horns of an ox (or unicorn!).

The Canaanite gods Baal and El were horned bull gods as was, originally, Yahveh, which is why horns decorate the altar described in Exodus 27.”
– Wikipedia

So Yahweh resembled the horned gods of pre-Christian Europe, the stag-god, the Green Man, the Lord of the Wood, for whom I would have lain my silky, naked teenage body—in the pagan era of the early 1970’s— on the forest floor.

The great invention of the Jews, monotheism, took time. Delve into the history of Yahweh and you find yourself in a thicket of competing Semitic gods, which does a lot to explain Yahweh’s control issues. But back to the question of horns. Here’s a quote from a website called The Gates of Hell, maintained by Jason Nicholas Korning, who describes himself as a Roman/Ukrainian Catholic scholar and writer.

“One of the most fundamental issues concerning the God of the Holy Bible is His appearance. What does God look like? After thoroughly investigating the available research, a tentative conclusion can be reached. God is a giant, barbaric, bearded, circumcised male sorcerer that stands between 50-100 feet tall, perhaps even larger. Most importantly, He has horns upon each side of His forehead, like a ram or a goat, but in all other respects resembles a fiercely handsome adult male.” After citing a number of Biblical passages and scholarly interpretations, he concludes, “For this reason, the image of God having horns has remained somewhat of a secret over the centuries. It has been passed down from generation to generation, from father to son, by word of mouth commonly known as the oral tradition…. Some believers may become confused or even angry that the God of the Holy Bible has hidden the fact that He has horns from so many of His loyal and devout followers throughout the centuries. One reason may be because He considered it unimportant or because Zeus, the evil, sexually perverted, Pagan god without horns, has tried to usurp God’s place in the minds of men by trying to convince everyone that only Satan has horns. The fact remains that Zeus is not YHVH, the God of Israel and never will be. Just as his son Apollo, a savage homosexual, was no Jesus Christ and never will be.”

Oh, dear. The Celtic horned god, my pagan love interest, was probably also sexually perverted. Wait, I knew that already. All the men I’ve found attractive in my life were sexually…I wouldn’t say perverted…rebellious. Very rebellious. But none of them were gods and none had horns, and life continually disappoints the sensual woman.

In the Park

You have forty-nine days between
death and rebirth if you’re a Buddhist.
Even the smallest soul could swim
the English Channel in that time
or climb, like a ten-month-old child,
every step of the Washington Monument
to travel across, up, down, over or through
–you won’t know till you get there which to do.

He laid on me for a few seconds
said Roscoe Black, who lived to tell
about his skirmish with a grizzly bear
in Glacier Park. He laid on me not doing anything. I could feel his heart
beating against my heart.
Never mind lie and lay, the whole world
confuses them. For Roscoe Black you might say
all forty-nine days flew by.

I was raised on the Old Testament.
In it God talks to Moses, Noah,
Samuel, and they answer.
People confer with angels. Certain
animals converse with humans.
It’s a simple world, full of crossovers.
Heaven’s an airy Somewhere, and God
has a nasty temper when provoked,
but if there’s a Hell, little is made of it.
No longtailed Devil, no eternal fire,

and no choosing what to come back as.
When the grizzly bear appears, he lies/lays down
on atheist and zealot. In the pitch-dark
each of us waits for him in Glacier Park.

Maxine Kumin


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