Paganistan: Notes from the Secret Commonwealth

In Which One Midwest Man-in-Black Confers, Converses & Otherwise Hob-Nobs with his Fellow Hob-Men (& -Women) Concerning the Sundry Ways of the Famed but Ill-Starred Tribe of Witches.

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that have been used in the blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Login
    Login Login form
Steven Posch

Steven Posch

Poet, scholar and storyteller Steven Posch was raised in the hardwood forests of western Pennsylvania by white-tailed deer. (That's the story, anyway.) He emigrated to Paganistan in 1979 and by sheer dint of personality has become one of Lake Country's foremost men-in-black. He is current keeper of the Minnesota Ooser.

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Axis Mundi: The God-Pole Rite

After decades of juiceless talkie-talkie Men's Rituals at pagan festivals here in the Midwestern US, Sparky T. Rabbit (of Lunacy fame), Frebur Moore and I decided that we'd had enough. So we put together the kind of Men's Ritual we ourselves had always wanted to attend. The Rite of the God-Pole premiered at Pagan Spirit Gathering 2009 at Camp Zoe, Missouri.

One hot, steamy night in late June, some 60 men ceremonially bore an eight-foot phallic wooden menhir through the camp and together raised it on a sandy little spit jutting out into the creek that flowed through the valley. We anointed and garlanded the God-Pole, sang songs of praise, danced, and poured libations. I knew the Rite had been a success when immediately afterward many of the men tore off their clothing and dashed naked into the cooling waters of the creek. I'll tell you, they should all end that way.

Our theological point was that, like the Women's Mysteries, the Men's Mysteries are at heart biological: the Red Mysteries and the White, the Blood mysteries and those of Semen. Like women's bodies, men's bodies have their own cycle that every man knows in every cell of his body: the cycle of quiescence, erection, love-play, and ejaculation. The Mysteries, by their nature, express Primal Truths.

Last modified on
2
Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Christopher Blackwell
    Christopher Blackwell says #
    We men are way behind to women when it comes to men mysteries and what to we want being a man to be for ourselves. Just like the w
  • Wizard Garber
    Wizard Garber says #
    This is good as far as it goes, but unfortunately you seem to have fallen into the same trap as most men -- that is to say that me
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    I think, Wizard, that we're seeing here some of the semantic limitations inherent in symbolism and ritual. Over the decades, my ex

Posted by on in paganSquare

It occurred to me while writing this last that, etymologically, a window is a "wind-eye": an eye on the Wind. I'd long wondered what that meant. Now I think I get it.

Every word's a story.

Last modified on
0

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

My father told me once, “Just about the first thing I do every morning is to look out to see which way the wind's blowing.”

Makes sense. You can't see the Winds, but they get around; they're the speediest of gods. And they're messengers: they bear information, to those minded to pay attention. When you know which direction the wind's blowing from, you can look into the future and see what kind of weather the day is likely to bring. Winds certainly bear sound. And scents, well: we mammals have been living by our noses for an awfully long time now.

To the ancestors, the Winds were gods. Chances are, you can (maybe with a little effort) rattle off Boreas, Eurus, Notus, Zephyrus. In India, Persia, Russia, the Baltics, and Italy, as well as in Greece, they sacrificed to the winged Winds.

Last modified on
3
Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    My pleasure, Shirl. Your comment strikes me as itself a pretty good nutshell definition of paganism!
  • Shirl Sazynski
    Shirl Sazynski says #
    That was lovely mix of history, personal experience and a thoughtful, succint look at the presence of the Gods embodied within phy

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

What's the best way to leave food offerings?

Libations are simple: one pours directly onto the ground.

Food offerings, though, are a little more difficult. If there's a sacred fire present, one can burn them, but what if there isn't? It seems rude to lay them directly on the ground. (If I offered you a sandwich and set it on the floor in front of you, how would you feel?) To set out food offerings in non-bio-degradable containers pollutes both physically and spiritually. What to do?

Last modified on
2
Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Grant
    Grant says #
    This has been something which has been on my mind for some time as well, still now and in the past, I have always layed my food of
  • Linette
    Linette says #
    I live in the wilderness, and I have some stones I lay my offerings on. They are always well received by the local wildlife who le
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Writer Paul Tuiteann (reborn to the people) once told me, "Circles and house wards are all fine and good, but if you really want t

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

For the witch, the seat of magic is the mind.

Animals know. Human beings know that we know. The wise know that we know that we know: we can observe our own thought processes. And the witch is the one who can consciously and with intent aforethought manipulate her own thought processes. (Terry Pratchett, that not un-astute observer of witchdom, calls this “having third thoughts.”) The witch knows that it's not good enough to think: Oh well, that's how I think, so that's that. The witch thinks: Hmm, that's how I think; how do I think myself into thinking differently?

And that's the heart and pulse of all our magic.

...
Last modified on
1
The Golden Calf: A Rite of Private Devotion

The Golden Calf:

A Rite of Private Devotion

 

...
Last modified on
1
Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Satire aside, in my opinion, sacred images as a spiritual technology are much underutilized in contemporary paganism. The genius o
  • Francesca De Grandis
    Francesca De Grandis says #
    Re "sacred images as a spiritual technology are much underutilized in contemporary paganism." Exactly. As a poet, ritualist, and
  • Francesca De Grandis
    Francesca De Grandis says #
    Thank you, am always glad to see idol worship. It is such a heartfelt practice. Yes, joke intended and, yes, I am sincere about th

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

Did I ever tell you about the time I saw the fairies in Ireland?

Now, I'm not one of those that “sees” things left and right. Oh, I've had my share of visionary experiences over the years, to be sure, most of them that momentary irruption of an image so vividly unexpected as to be of nearly visual impact, and no less transformative for all that. If I talk about such experiences at all, it's generally in a poem. This is intimate stuff, not to be touched upon lightly.

And then there's the time I saw the fairies in Ireland.

Last modified on
12
Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • TwistyTree
    TwistyTree says #
    This reminds me very much of my own experience in Donegal, in a 400-year-old cottage in the woods of a friend. I even have some mi
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Yeah, we were lucky. Thank goodness for the ancestral protocols. At storytelling gigs, I try to include this one whenever possibl
  • Morgan Daimler
    Morgan Daimler says #
    You're lucky it went so well as it did. Beautiful and terrible, indeed.

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

There's a saying one hears (with variations) in Old Craft circles: Words are seeds. A word is a seed. Every word's a seed.

Old Craft is big into hiding in plain sight. Back when, you wouldn't be hanging a woodcut of the Old Buck on the wall, now would you, not even if you had one. So when it's time to be Doing and He's not to be there in his own self, so to speak, what do you do? Well, you take down that old wooden hayfork hanging there on the wall in the barn and you stand it to the north for the dancing and all. And next day after the doing's done, there's old hayfork hanging on wall again and none to know but them as do.

Never mind the pentagram big enough to crucify a toad on. One of the powers of the witch is the power to hide in plain sight.

Last modified on
5

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

The supermarket, a few days before equinox.

Ringing up my six dozen, the cashier says, “Sure is a lot of eggs.”

“Getting ready for the holiday,” I say.

Last modified on
6

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

I think I was 14. I'd just read Anne Frank's diary for the first time, and was sitting in my grandmother's kitchen being self-righteous as only a 14-year old can be.

And she rounded on me.

Not physically, of course: that wasn't her way. But she slapped me down verbally, and she slapped me down good.

Last modified on
5
Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Kenaz Filan
    Kenaz Filan says #
    Quick note: I was replying to Greybeard, not Steven Posch. Dunno why my comment threaded like it did, but them's the breaks.
  • Kenaz Filan
    Kenaz Filan says #
    Actually, what Mr. Posch said was "But Grandma was right: Before we do what needs to be done, let us first each one of us look to
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Thanks, Effy, you've stated my own position more clearly than I did myself.

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

witch•sploi•ta•tion n. In literature or cinema, the use of the Craft--or, more broadly, paganism in general--for sensationalistic (usually horror-inducing) ends.

You know the genre. Wicker Man I (“the one without Nicholas Cage,” as a local movie marquee put it during the midnight Samhain run last year), To the Devil a Daughter...so many to choose from. Somewhere off in the sticks there are (bwa-ha-ha) still real, live witches (or left-over pagans) and they still practice...(shudder)...human sacrifice. Whoa, dude, way scary.

A coven-sib recently confessed to me that her bookshelves are filled with trashy novels with the word “witch” in the title. Magenta, you're not alone. I resemble that remark myself, and I'm sure I'm not the only one.

Last modified on
3

I'll take my magic without the K, please.

Ah yes, magic-with-a-K: that pretentious archaism that supposedly differentiates the genuine article from illusionism. The new magical realism at its most twee.

Why, Posch, why?

Last modified on
9
Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Maybe 10 years back a coven-sib and I spoke to the local Unitarian Pagan chapter about our group. Afterwards, someone came up and
  • Diotima
    Diotima says #
    I'm glad to know that the post was not meant to be scornful. But when you say that magick is a "pretentious archaism" you imply th
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Far from it. Gods help me, Diotima, I care very deeply about our people--so old and so young, so wise and so foolish, so courageou

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

A few weeks back I took archaeologist William Dever to task for his unwillingness to extend to contemporary Goddess-worship the same sympathy that he clearly feels for ancient Goddess-worship in his 2005 book Did God Have a Wife?: Archaeology and Folk Religion in Ancient Israel. http://witchesandpagans.com/Pagan-Culture-Blogs/an-open-letter-to-william-g-dever.html I'd now like to return to this topic with greater attention to specifics.

Dever describes himself as a “former Christian now turned secular humanist” (46). He distinguishes between “mainstream”—i.e. secularist—feminists and “doctrinaire” feminists, for whom ideology trumps scholarship (xiii). These latter are the “more radical secular feminists” (309) who “style themselves [sic] 'Neopagans' or 'Wiccans' (witches)” (310). This “'Goddess movement'” (a phrase which he consistently delivers in quotes) preaches “without any evidence” a monolithic primal Great Mother who prevailed until dethroned by male deities in early historic times, evidence of whom was later suppressed. The prophet of these “various New Age Goddess cults and 'Neopagan' religions that selectively resuscitate the beliefs, images, deities, and practices of ancient religions” is Marija Gimbutas, whose “pseudo-scholarship” he dismisses without discussion (307). This movement, while it may have “comforted some women superficially, has left them still in need of the truth, not a naïve Utopia where all is women's supposedly unique 'strength, beauty, fertility, love, harmony, and peace'” (308-9).

This is pretty virulent stuff, coming as it does from someone who has worked hard for years to convince his colleagues in academia 1) that ancient Hebrew religion took many forms, some of them overtly polytheist, 2) that the Goddess Ashera was widely worshiped in ancient Israel, and 3) that what remains of her cultus offers a posthumous voice to the silenced women of ancient Israel.

Last modified on
2
Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Several years ago the Museum of Russian Art here in Minneapolis hosted a breathtaking exhibit of recently-found Trypillian (Ukrain
  • Carol P. Christ
    Carol P. Christ says #
    Steven, thanks for this. It is amazing to me that "academics" continue to caricature the Goddess movement and to disparage the wor
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    I should add that he cites your anthology Womanspirit Rising as an example of a "much more radical" "'school' of feminists" who "e
The Prodea Cookbook: Good Food and Traditions from Paganistan's Oldest Coven

You won't find any eye of newt or toe of frog in this witches' kitchen. What you will find is a collection—more than three decades in the making—of seasonal and regional foods for celebration and mindful eating from the Land of Sky Waters: Cinnamon Wild Rice Pudding, Pesto delle Streghe (“the pesto of the witches”), and what may well be the world's oldest Yule recipe.

Plus tales and wisdom from living Midwest Pagan tradition, including a breathtaking repertoire of natural dyestocks for the most beautiful Ostara eggs ever.

The Authors: Poet, scholar, and storyteller Steven Posch emigrated to Paganistan in 1979 and by sheer dint of personality (or something) has become one of the Twin Cities' foremost men-in-black. Historian and ethicist Magenta Griffith fell in love with Minnehaha Falls at first sight, and has lived nearby ever since. (And yes, the name does come from Rocky Horror.)

...
Last modified on
0

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

Pact 

at thirteen I asked give me this

every day of my life

Last modified on
2

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

A while back, I read a book by a contemporary theologian whose initial premise was: The story of the struggle between Good and Evil is a human universal.

And that's quite simply not true.

One certainly seems to see this story everywhere. Go to a Hollywood movie, pick up a popular novel: good guys vs. bad guys. Worse: we see it in our own heads. Matriarchy good, patriarchy bad. Abrahamics bad, paganisms good.

Last modified on
2
Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    David, my heart beats faster when I hear words like "teleological" and "deontological." (How pathetic is *that*?) I surely do love
  • David Oliver Kling
    David Oliver Kling says #
    I often do the same thing! None the less, it's a good conversation to have and thinking about how we view our ethics is very impo
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Thanks David: you're absolutely right about the overstated conclusion. One of my besetting flaws as a writer is a tendency to get

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

We talk about “Christianity,” as if there actually were such a thing.

But of course there isn't.

You'd think that pagans, of all people, would know better.

Last modified on
1
Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • David Oliver Kling
    David Oliver Kling says #
    You could say the same with the following scenario: "A Unitarian Universalist, and a Unitarian Universalist, and another Unitaria
  • Patrick
    Patrick says #
    Christian missiologist Andrew Walls once asked if the proverbial Martian came to earth and visited (I forget his exact examples, b

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

You are a graceful goddess, our Earth:

poised on tiny feet, powerfully hipped,

you sing a song of becoming as you dance,

Last modified on
0

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

Thanks to all you pancake-eaters out there: this week here in Minneapolis we had our first above-freezing temperatures in over two months.

Was Winter really appeased by our offerings? Do the gods hear prayer?

Reply hazy: try again later.

But whether they do, or whether they don't, we make our prayers and offerings because that's what we do. That's what our people have always done; they're part of our spiritual technology.

And pancakes sure are good food.

Last modified on
0

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Once & Future People

Žemė, “Earth.” Pendant: amber (with vegetal inclusions), 2¾' x 1¾'. George Romulis, 2012

George Romulis, at 93, has been working amber for more than 70 years. He is an emeritus member of the Riga Amber-Workers Guild and one of the living treasures of Latvia.

This stunning pendant, titled Žemė, “Earth”, fits neatly into the palm of the hand, but its clean lines and boldness of form give it a striking monumentality; it feels larger than it actually is. It is also profoundly female. We all know these lines; we've seen them many times before: in the bodies of the women around us, as in what our coven kid Robin used to call the “clay ladies” of ancient Europe and the Middle East, here elegantly stylized but readily recognizable nonetheless.

Last modified on
0

Additional information