[image description: A flame-maned black goat with huge curved horns and glowing golden eyes rears up against a fiery apocalyptic background. Text reads, “167, Yul Byrner ~ the small god of harvest sacrifice”]
They weave his earthly incarnations out of sticks and straw, erecting them as monuments to the harvest, as bulwarks against the closing cold. They build him because they can, because they are compelled to do so, because they remember, on some deep and binding level, that it’s the sticks and straw and tinder or it’s beans in the bread and blood on the snow.
Sometimes it is both. We still require our temporary kings if we want the sun to remember how to rise. Some rituals are old even before they begin; some patterns must repeat, over and over, until time itself unwinds into dust and shadow.
So they weave him, year on year, and they stand him in the city square, and they set guards against the inevitable. Look at him, they argue, look at his greatness, look at his glory. Look at the way he stands, golden against the winter sky. Surely we owe him our protection. Surely he should be preserved. Surely that will keep us from the cold.
They forget to consult with the divine. They forget to ask the god they tend with such devotion what he wants.
The god wants to burn.
Spring is not only the turning of the year; it is the restoration of hope, the dawning of a new chance to be better than we have been, and hope is bought with sacrifice. With blood on the snow, or fire in the straw. He wants better for us, he wants us to burn brightly, and so he yearns for the flame. When released from his temporary embodiments, he carries the darkness and debris of the dying year out of the world with him, and leaves us renewed, restored, ready to be more than we have been.
Weave him well, thank him for his service, and allow him to burn.
That is how we worship. That is how we serve.
That is how we bring back the sun.
Join Lee Moyer (Icon) and Seanan McGuire (Story) Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for a guide to the many small deities who manage our modern world: