The “lame step” is one of the old and identifying markers of Witches and of their God. And their Goddess. Nursery rhymes show us the evidence of the lame step in magic, the Forge God (the first and mightiest God of the CRAFT) is more often lamed than not, and the Witches’ Goddess hobbled on a goose’s foot.
Let’s look at these examples, and then, let’s look at what the lamed step signifies.
The Forge God and the Lame Step
The lame step could be said to originate, as it relates to magic, with the God of the Forge. As Glaux pointed out in her post regarding Witch Blood and Witch Marks, the first being worshiped as a Forge God has been linked to magic. (In his book Masks of Misrule, Nigel Jackson notes his assertion that T’Qayin and Azazel are the same being.) Nearly all Forge Gods were depicted with a lame step or a misshapen leg in antiquity. The mundane reason for this was very likely due to the residual heavy metal poisoning suffered by actual smiths — or the fact that otherwise strong men who had suffered some crippling childhood disease or injury could still be trained to blacksmith work. Whatever the case, the image of the smith is intimately linked with that of hobbled or ham-strung, yet powerful, man. A man who understands something (and potentially EVERYTHING) related to the alchemical process, and therefore magic. In the case of T’Qayin and Azazel, this image is that of a goat-footed God.
The goat-foot is one variation of lame step, and it is very intimately linked to the forge. That heavy metal poisoning we discussed bunched the muscles of the leg in a way that it pulled the smith’s legs and foot up into a position like he was walking on a stiletto heel. Goat-footed God.
The Goose-Footed Goddess
The lame step appears again in the Witches’ Goddess in at least one instance. In France, there is a notable story of La Reine Pedauque, the goose-footed queen. Though there is some casual optimism that her story is based a historical queen (named Berthe, who loved spinning fanciful tales for children), the goose-foot is never satisfactorily explained. What is absolutely clear is that La Reine Pedauque becomes (or always was) Mother Goose. Clearer still, with even a little digging and reflecting, is that Mother Goose, is so closely related to the Teutonic Hulda that they are reflections of one another.
Frau Hulda, Mother Hulda, Holda, Holle, Hel. She rides a goose through the night sky and is a spinner. She is the Dark Grandmother and the White Lady. In our Tradition, she sits in the Castle of Revelry at the Spring Equinox, the balance of light and dark and guards the Golden Lantern.
With her goose-foot, she shows us another aspect of the lame step.
The Lame Step in Nursery Rhymes
My dame has lost her shoe,
My master’s lost his fiddle stick
And knows not what to do.
What is my dame to do?
Till master finds his fiddle stick,
she’ll dance without her shoe.
Glaux and I love (and I mean LOVE) picking apart nursery rhymes for folkloric Craft clues. We’ll have to do some entries dedicated to some of the goodies we’ve found in them. This one caught our interest on a number of levels. I’ll stay away from the bits about how the magister needs his blackthorn staff (the master’s fiddle stick) and just point out that the dame is inviting the lame step here. Lots of nursery rhymes feature characters with just one shoe. This forces them to hobble a bit — like their God, like their Goddess. Here, the dame MUST, but then she goes into it gladly, dancing within the compass.
I can think of three others where characters lose a shoe. In one, the boy goes to bed in his stockings, but missing a shoe. In the second, a girl has lost one of her holiday shoes. In the third, the princess dances out of one of her shoes (and again the fiddler is mentioned). All of these not only point to the lame step, but also to the Witches’ Sabbat.
What is the Significance of the Lame Step?
The lame step, we’ve come to realize, is a marker for those who walk between the worlds. Symbolically, it represents having one foot in consensus reality and one foot in the realms beyond the veil. The lame step is a way of showing that you are between the worlds.
Before we had even made this connection, Glaux and I had decided that the compass would be laid by treading the mill using the lame step.
Interestingly, Glaux recently had a discussion with a friend and fellow Witch about the lame step, Ghede’s glasses, and bipolar disorder. It turns out that as we look around, a great many of the talented Witches that we know have bipolar, ourselves included. How much is this yet another variant on the lame step? The disorder is a hindrance in Mundania, and it is a trial, but it forces us to see things differently and to live with a foot in two realms. It is a difficult balance, and our friend pointed out that we always have to be wary of getting too much information from one side or the other. Something to consider.