Yul Byrner ~ the small god of harvest sacrifice

[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:

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[image description: A vast corn maze as seen from above. The circular clearing in the center highlights the central corn figure – a woman with her hands raised. The maze continues through her corn-husk dress,  Text reads, “157, AMAIZEING GRACE~ SMALL GOD OF FALL FAMILY FESTIVITIES”]

Bring the whole family, come for an hour or an afternoon.  She has something for everyone.  Apple-picking and pumpkin patches for the littlest ones; hayrides and bonfires for the teens; scare-show tableaus in the barns out back and a corn maze suitable for all ages.  She’s happy to see you all, happy to accept you all, yearning and burning for the chance to lead you into the rustling gold, into the shadow of the cornfield, into the deep, slow places where the spiders spin and the soil smells of loam and secrets, into the liminal space that exists only when she rises, when her time is come, when she returns.

Her time is very short, year on year.  Her memory is very long.

She remembers fields without fences, soil without sorrow, crops without conquest.  She remembers harvests of blood and bone and body, days when tears ran down to water the roots, and apples that tasted of grieving.  The harvests are sweeter now, if not so open-eyed as once they were.  And still Grace holds sway over them all, ready to welcome the children, the teens, the adults, the innocent and the condemned all into her haylofts and her orchards.

And if not all of them come out again, well.  It’s not like she hasn’t given warning.  Not like she hasn’t always been open about the link between crop and corpse, between corn and consequence.

Bring the whole family, come for an hour or an afternoon.  Come into the shadows of her towering fields, come into the spaces where no one hears the screaming, come into the comfort of her eternity.  She is brief.  She is eternal. She is patient.

She is vengeful.

Come for an hour or an afternoon.  Come forever.

Artist Lee Moyer (13th Age, Cursed Court) and author Seanan McGuire (Middlegame, Every Heart a Doorway) have joined forces to bring you icons and stories of the small deities who manage our modern world, from the God of Social Distancing to the God of Finding a Parking Space.

Join in each week on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for a guide to the many tiny divinities:

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Twitter: https://twitter.com/smallgodseries

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/smallgodseries/

Homepage: http://www.smallgodseries.com/