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.

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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.

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The New Pagan Economy

“Hi, this is Julie calling from Such-and-So Bank. I'm looking for Steven Posch?”

Uh-oh. The bank is calling, but Julie sounds amazingly chipper. Something's not right.

“Speaking,” I say, dubiously.

“Congratulations, Mr. Posch! You've won this year's drawing for a free organic turkey!”

I start to laugh, partly in relief, and partly in amused appreciation of Wyrd and her screwy sense of humor. Ah, the cussedness of things.

“Mr. Posch?” Julie sounds puzzled. Obviously this isn't the reaction that she expected.

“Sorry,” I finally manage to get out. “Of course it makes perfect sense that the vegetarian would win the drawing for the turkey, right?”

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  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I'm sure I've mentioned this before but the universe does seem to love irony. I hope your coven-mates enjoy the surprise. I am o

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A Very Terrible Fight

In this Land of Ten Thousand Storytellers, Kevin Kling has got to be one of the very best.

Here's a story from his boyhood.

When you're seven years old and growing up in a Norwegian Lutheran town on Minnesota's Iron Range, you know that there are certain things that you just can't do. One of them is to bother Pastor Lindquist—who is, after all, right up there next to the Big Guy—with theological questions.

But one night at the church supper Kevin finds himself sitting next to the pastor's wife, and he figures that she might be close enough to the Source to ask.

“Mrs. Lindquist,” says Kevin, “If Jesus and Buddha got into a fight, who would win?”

“Well, Jesus would win, of course,” says Mrs. Lindquist.

“Well, if Jesus and Allah got into a fight, who would win?” asks Kevin.

“Jesus would win,” says Mrs. Lindquist.

“Well, if Jesus and Odin got into a fight, who would win?” Kevin asks.

There's a long pause.

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Stag of Light

Daddy, why do people put lighted deer in their front yards?

We're headed towards the tail-end of November, and the front yards in my neighborhood are suddenly sprouting deer.

These are not the wild animals, although here within sight of downtown Minneapolis we've got a sizable urban herd. (They mostly live in the wooded Mississippi Valley that runs through the heart of town.) No, these are Yule Deer.

(Up here in Snow Country, if you want to decorate outdoors, you've got to do it early.)

As a pagan, and myself a worshiper of the Deer Man, I find it deeply amusing that one of the foremost symbols of American Christmas: the Secular Holiday should be the Deer.

The connection is pretty tenuous. Presumably these are the reindeer that pull Santa's sleigh. Of course, the Deer of Light that you see in people's yards are clearly not reindeer. You can tell because reindeer have a very distinctive antler configuration. No, the Yule Deer are based—insofar as there's a natural prototype at all—on the American Whitetail, as (after all) they should be.

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  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    I remember Kate Seredy's The White Stag well. "Little Father" Attila leads his people--the- Huns--to the Promised Land--Hungary--b
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    In "Christianity the origins of a Pagan Religion" Philippe Walter connotes white deer with Halloween. His examples are of Saint H

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The Winter Peach

Don't get me wrong: I love apples.

But when's the last time that you bit into an apple and had juice run down your forearm and drip from your elbow?

A good pear is truly a full-body experience.

Pears. I just ate my first one of the season. OMGs.

The Witch Goddess's sacred flower is, of course, the Rose, but the Rose family is a large one. Apples are roses. So are pears. Cut one with the stem. Like an apple, it will show forth the Flower of Life. And cut across the stem, behold: the Fivefold Star of Rebirth.

We've been eating pears for a long time: since, apparently, the Neolithic, if not before. They ate them in the Lake Villages of Stone Age Switzerland. They're mentioned in Linear B inscriptions from Mycenaean Greece. The name pear comes ultimately from Latin, which got it from Greek, which got it from the Phoenicians (p'ri = “fruit”).

And every pear's a little goddess. Hold one in your hand. It's like one of those big-hipped Mamas that the ancestors made to make the garden grow. It irks me when people say that a situation has gone “pear-shaped” to mean that it's gone wrong. Is the implication really that perfection = round? Round things roll away and break. Low centers of gravity mean stability.

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  • Tyger
    Tyger says #
    I'm currently visiting family in Switzerland. More and better pear varieties than in the Southern US where I live. I am in pear h
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    I've long been struck by the absence--that annoying partridge aside--of pears in mythology/the Received Tradition. As my friend V
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I clipped a recipe from the newspaper for apple kielbasa bake. The last three times I've made it I used pears instead of apples.
  • Kile Martz
    Kile Martz says #
    Unlike the proliferation of commercial apple varieties here in the US, you will find few varieties of pears at your local grocer.

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The Gods Are My Co-Workers

150,000 years of pagan history, and it took the so-called 20th century to reduce the gods to the level of co-workers.

“I work with [Name of Deity].”

How many times have you heard this expression?

Note who's the active agent. Note the nature of the partnership. Note the implied equivalence.

The ancestors would never have used the phrase “work with” to describe their relationship with their gods. They might have worshiped a particular god. They might have offered to a certain goddess. They might have made their prayers to said gods.

But—for the most part—modern pagans are afraid of worship. (Why? Another day, another post.) Mostly we don't offer to our gods. We're not particularly strong on prayer, either. I.e. we have rejected the spiritual technology of the ancestors.

So much the worse for us.

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  • Meredith Everwhite
    Meredith Everwhite says #
    Well said, Greybeard, the negative associations with "that other religion" were all a big part of my points. I also agree with y
  • Greybeard
    Greybeard says #
    I don't much like the terms "pray" or "praying." Praying for God(ess) to do something is a lot like acknowledging we don't have
  • Meredith Everwhite
    Meredith Everwhite says #
    Times change, Steve. People change, spirituality changes and, again, people have every right to define their spiritual relationshi
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    I can't hear Sappho saying, "I work with Aphrodite." I can't hear Erik the Red saying: "I work with Thor." As a primary descriptor
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I'm actually quite comfortable with the gods as co-workers metaphor. I pray every day and I usually work 5 days a week. My relat

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Snow Flower

A philosophical lot, Northrons.

I was out this morning shoveling this winter's first inch. (Up here in the North Country, snow comes progressively: First Flurry, First Laying Snow, First Shoveling Snow.)

Every single person that went past had something to say, a continuing conversation. You could construct an entire philosophy from what they said.

Well, it's here.

Early or late, it always comes.

Sure is beautiful, though.

Northern fatalism? Not really. Fatalism is laying down and letting it cover you. If this is fatalism, it's a fatalism of honor, a fatalism that spurs to action. If we're going to go down, we'll go down fighting, shovels—like swords—in hand.

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  • Tyger
    Tyger says #
    So beautiful, these words! We don't get much snow in Texas, perhaps every 3rd or 4th year, but it enchants our scorched landscape
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    My own thought was intimately shaped by the rites and mythology of the old Pagan Movement in Britain and Ireland back in the 70s.
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    My role playing games set in Japan or with an Anime theme mention the Yuki Onna (Snow Woman).
  • Murphy Pizza
    Murphy Pizza says #
    I've heard our winter attitude up here called "Nordic Zen"...you just do winter. It's a waste of energy to get upset if you hate i
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    During the snowy winter of 2011, I attended a Midwinter's Eve rite down at Coldwater Spring at new Moon: dark o' the Sun, dark o'

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Banned at PSG!

25 years ago, they wouldn't let me give this workshop at PSG.

"Too controversial," they said.

But you'll be able to hear it in full—new and improved—at next year's Paganicon 2019.

Lucky you.

 

Sacrifice Revisited

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