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.
Becoming Flame: A Folk-Tale of the Latter-Day Hwicce

One day the youngest warlock goes to the oldest and says:

 

I don't understand. I sing the songs, I make the offerings, I dance the prayers. But in my heart, I am not there. What more should I be doing that I am not already doing?

 

The eldest rises, lifts his hands, and splays his fingers. At the tip of each finger licks a tongue of fire.

 

He says: My son, if you will, you can become entirely flame.

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In the Name of the Horns

Horns ward.

The Sign of the Horns has been a sign of power since long before it became a Heavy Metal cliché.

Because horns aren't just for beauty or display.

They're weapons. They ward because they warn. Theirs is the power of protection.

You could call the Horns a mudra. (In Witch we usually just say: hand-sign.) You could call them an invocation. (You know Who I mean.) In Anthropologist, you could call them an apotropaic: a turning away, an averting.

The Horns have been warding off the hostile, the unchancy, the ill-favored, for centuries, if not millennia.

You can mutter “Horns ward [me]” or “Horns protect [me]” if you like. It certainly won't hurt.

But only make the Sign and the Horns will do their work, seen or unseen, spoken or unspoken.

Some might call this a fire-fight-fire scenario: like warding like, the unchancy against the unchancy.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Ever a good averter, to be sure. And it does make the grass grow.
  • Thor Halvorsen
    Thor Halvorsen says #
    As a Deaf Pagan, I have to add that not only do they represent the pagan horns, Heavy Metal horns, but in the language of the Amer

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Witches Against Reagan

"Steve?"

It was Burtrand, head of Minnesota Church of the Wicca, which meant that something was probably wrong. He'd never called before. 

"Were you guys out at the demo last week?"

It was February 1982, the early years of the Reagan Era. The Teflon President himself had stopped at the Minneapolis Airport and, activist coven that we were, we had gone out to give him the un-welcome that he deserved.

WITCHES AGAINST REAGAN, read our sign. Note the acronym. Hey, they were un-subtle times.

"Yeah," I said, "How did you know?"

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Goodman's Croft

In Scotland, they call it the Goodman's Croft: the little corner of unplowed land that you leave in every field.

The Goodman, of course, is the Devil. Well, we know Who that is.

A croft is a farm, especially a small one. So the Devil's half-acre is land left wild, sacrosanct. The Wild is his field, as the deer are his cattle.

Plow if you must, but leave some for the wild. It's ancient tradition and soundest ecology, both.

The custom lives on here in the secular US Midwest. You'll notice that lots of fields have one lone tree standing in them, often with a cairn beneath. In any traditional society, you'd look at this and say: field shrine.

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Lady of the Thrice-Plowed Furrow

You could call them the Clay Ladies.

The ancestors made them by the tens, if not hundreds, of thousands: little naked women, poised on pointed toes to stand calf-deep in the good tilled soil of our gardens and fields.

We've been doing this since the end of the last Ice Age, and we still do. No one needs to be told why we put them there.

As always, the best magic explains itself.

There they stand, graciously bestowing their gift of fruitfulness, looking as if they are rising from the Earth.

They are Earth itself, formlessness rising into form. The goddess rising from Earth was a common motif in ancient Greek art, and rightly so. The furrow parts: the goddess is born.

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More on the God Who Hears

In Which The Youngest Warlock Questions the Oldest.

What do you say to the Horned when you pray?

I listen.

And what does the Horned say to you?

He listens.

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Every Old Warlock Has a Cane

Seems like every old warlock has a cane.

They say that old Tom Weir (1599-1670) used to send his down to the corner store—by itself!—to pick up orders for him. The Devil gave it to him at his oathing in place of a familiar, reasoning that this would, for a townsman, be less conspicuous than a live animal.

So, Tom, while we're talking conspicuous....

Weir's infamous warlock's cane was carved from blackthorn, with a satyr's head for a handle. It burned along with its master on Colton Hill in Edinboro, “twisting like a serpent” in the flames. This was taken as affirmation of its diabolical origin.

Well, now.

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