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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Another gay bar, another mass shooting.

Sickening. Predictable.

This time, though, we fought back.


When the gunman opened fire at Club Q in Colorado Springs on Saturday night, two warriors—military folk, I gather—took him down.

One, I hear, took his handgun off of him and clocked him with it. As of this writing, he's still in the hospital.



It's a hard world. Back in tribal days, absolutely everyone—men and women included—had at least some warrior training, growing up.

Really, they should be teaching (along with dance) self-defense in every phys ed class in every school in the country.


My first Hebrew teacher, Yehudit, was built like a bird—light, petite—but, like every Israeli, she'd been in the army, and been trained in krav mag'a, unarmed combat.

When the mugger pulled the gun on her and some friends in downtown Minneapolis one night, she single-handedly took him down, took the gun away from him, and said: Now: do you get out of here, or do I break your arm?

He ran, of course.


There are people out there that hate us and (thank you Donald Trump) believe that they have a right to do something about it. We know this.

There will be other shootings in other gay bars. We know this.

Some things to remember if you're there when the next shooter opens fire:

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 Hey Chef, What Can I Do With Cranberries?

Child of the Bog


Sacred to the Moon, wearing her colors, named for her totemic bird—reputedly, the stamens of the cranberry flower resemble a crane's bill—the cranberry is a perennial seasonal favorite.

Oh, but its signature tartness partners best with sweetness, for balance.

Bright with orange, dark with date, crunchy with toasted almond, this fruit-sweetened preparation makes a fine natural alternative to the old-style cranberry-orange relish that you grew up with, minus the truly toxic amounts of refined sugar.

Thank Goddess.


Boss Warlock's Fruit-Sweetened Cranberry-Orange Relish

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In the dream, I am being shown the amber robe of the Sun. Even untenanted, spread out on the ground, it is an awesome sight.

The golden omofor is covered—feathered, enscaled—with huge, smooth pieces of amber: pieces as large as my palm, the largest the size of my outstretched hand. I hadn't realized that natural amber occurred in such large pieces. The effect of so many together overwhelms me.

I stand unmoving in awestruck wonder. On the body of its wearer, radiant with Sunlight, the lordly robe, so masterfully wrought, would blind the eye.

I bow to the ground and kiss the largest of the amber disks, the one covering the wearer's heart.

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 The Satanic Temple requests that Boston fly its flag after Supreme Court  ruling | CNN Politics

I'm working the Midterm election at the local poll when I notice the guy in the Church of Satan tee-shirt standing in line to get his ballot.

Not just the tee-shirt: he's also got the shaven head, goatee, and horns-up pentagram tattoo on his shoulder. Well, this is Paganistan, Land of Free Peoples, and the pagan neighborhood in particular, where you're free to worship (or not) whomever you bloody well choose.

I have to wonder what it's like to be a Satanist in a sea of pagans. There's nothing wrong with this guy's courage, that's for sure, and I even feel a certain amount of fellow feeling. Hey, I'm a pagan: my god wears horns, too.

Each voter is assigned a voter number when they receive their ballot. It's one of the many safeguards in place that guarantee an accurate count: so many ballots handed out, so many ballots handed in. Anyone who thinks that elections are being tampered with has obviously never worked at a poll, and witnessed the multiple layers of protective precautions in place against precisely such malfeasance.

I'm sitting at the ballot table assigning sequential voter numbers as the ballots are handed out. It looks like our friend Anton Jr. is by way of being voter #666 at this particular polling place.

I'll have to remember to mention it to him, I think. He'll certainly find that amusing.

Then we get busy and, in the flurry of activity, I forget to tell him.

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 Paul Bransky on Twitter:

What does a standing stone do?

Raised in 2021, the Bull Stone stands at Sweetwood Temenos, a pagan land sanctuary in southwestern Witchconsin's legendary Driftless Area. Born in the bed of an inland ocean, old before dinosaurs walked the Earth, the six-foot, one ton slab of karst limestone is the standing stone that I know best.

So what does the Bull Stone do?

Its long axis aligns with the Sun, pointing to the places on the horizon where the Sun rises and sets on the day of the Winter Solstice.

Its short axis aligns with Earth: with both a notch on the southern horizon, some two miles distant, where two ridges come together and, to the north, with the sanctuary's Grand Circle.

What does a standing stone do? Easily told.

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  • Ian Phanes
    Ian Phanes says #
    Is a stang, then, a portable standing stone?

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 Close-up of glowing embers - Stock Photo - Dissolve

Under the Night Cottonwoods


Flanked by jack o' lanterns, the Shadow waits: darkness upon darkness.

Before her, the Stag that Walks on Two Legs.

Clustered around him, us.

The names have been called, the song sung, the apples eaten.


The Stripping


His sad eyes drink in each of us. It is finished.

The wand he bore throughout, he breaks now over his knee, the sound of its snapping like a shot in the night. The broken halves, he lays out on the ground.

He turns away from us now, toward the Shadow.

The crown of autumn leaves and antlers, he lifts from his head and lays at her feet. He unclasps and bundles his cloak, laying it with the crown. He strips off torque and, lastly, loincloth.

His naked skin shines pale with cold moonlight.


Into the Darkness


She extends a hand: the left. Come.

After a moment, he takes it, and passes by her, through the pumpkin gateway, into the night.

His flanks ripple as he walks, like a deer's. Leaves crunch beneath his feet. Slowly, palely, he merges into the night. His rustling steps fade into silence.

The empty pile—a melted witch, the leather bag of a bog body—mounds at her feet. To us now, she extends a hand: the right, with pointing finger.



By Pumpkin-Light

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 Gorgon Medusa part 4 - My Favourite Planet People

A principle of effective ritual-planning from my friend and colleague Robin Grimm: Do the math.


Question: If each participant at your ritual is to have a two-minute personal experience—an encounter with a deity, say—and there are 60 people in attendance, how long will that take?

Answer: Way too f*ckin' long.


The premise of the Medusa Ritual was a good one, addressing a need that goes largely unaddressed by contemporary pagan liturgy.

None of us live up to our values all the time. All of us have things that we'd like to get off our consciences.

So, the premise of the ritual was: you confess your (to use a good old pagan term) sin to Medusa. She turns your sin to stone, it crumbles into dust, and falls off of you.

Unfortunately, the ritualists hadn't done the math.


One hundred people. A maybe five-minute encounter each with Her Snakeyness.

It was excruciating.


A principle of ritual attendance from my friend and colleague Sparky T. Rabbit: Vote with your hooves. When ritual becomes ritual abuse, get out.

Alas, more easily said than done. I really wanted to vote with my hooves—politely, unobtrusively—at a recent Samhain ritual during which we waited interminably while people had their private “word with the Crone.” Irritable with boredom and low blood sugar, I really wanted to head off to the feast tables.

But I was a guest. To have walked away would have been a rejection of those who had so kindly welcomed me to their circle, and the very real community that our shared presence in that circle constituted.

So I didn't do it. More the fool me, maybe.


When the torture that was the Medusa Ritual was finally over, we sat, soul-numb, around the campfire. The definitive word on the experience was spoken by Gandalf, a much-beloved community elder known for his kindness and generosity of spirit.

What that ritual needed,” he said, “was Three Medusas, no waiting.”

Mistakes are only bad if we fail to learn from them.

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  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    And you, and you...and you were there.
  • Kile Martz
    Kile Martz says #
    (Knowing wink.)

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