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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Renouncing Baptism

 “In Latgalia [a region of Latvia] they say, 'Oh, as soon as the missionaries left, we all just jumped in the river and washed it off, anyway.'” (Sean McLaughlin)

It's the first of the traditional Three Questions asked by the Horned at an initiation (and later repeated during the Renewal of Vows):

Do you renounce the waters of baptism?

Old Craft initiations are very different from Wiccan ones. They're not secret at all. Those who wish to take the Oath must first know the Oath. How can you swear to something that you haven't had the chance to think through thoroughly? You need to know what you're letting yourself in for. One cannot join the Tribe of Witches all unwitting.

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The Male Cauldron

 (Rant Alert)

Och, have we all been brain-raped by Sigmund Freud?

Has our worldview become so simplistically sexualized that we've lost the ability to see the plain sense of things?

As pagan dogmas go, it doesn't get much more dogmatic.

Cauldron = female. Cunny. Womb.

Period.

 As a quick glance at mythology demonstrates, the ancestors knew a rather more nuanced world.

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  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I read this post and immediately thought of Andrew Zimmer and his Bizarre Foods shows on the Travel Channel. There are a lot of g

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Him of the Horns: His Blessing

 

People of the Old Blood:

will you receive my blessing upon you?

Your blood upon us and upon our children!

(x3)

Then:

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The Care and Feeding of Sacred Fires

When the thede (tribe) of witches foregathers, as we did recently at this year's Midwest Grand Sabbat, we kindle (wood on wood, in the old way) the traditional Fire of Gathering.

The Fire burns continuously throughout the time of assembly. Everyone tends it; offerings are made to it daily. It roars at the very heart of the sabbat itself, and on our final morning together it is ritually extinguished. People take the ashes home with them when they leave.

Anyone who grows up in a traditional culture knows how to behave around a sacred fire—how it differs from a household fire, for instance—and doesn't have to be taught What You Do and What You Don't. For those of us who (alas) did not grow up in such a culture, how then does one impart these rules, the Does and Don'ts of sacred Fires, in a manner that doesn't devolve into learning boring lists of regulations?

Well, my friend and colleague Chris Moore came up with the perfect way to do it: you give people a metaphor.

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  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Ah, hence the "Fire of Witness." Oh, that's resonant, Gerald: thank you.
  • Gerald Home
    Gerald Home says #
    Awesome way to present the Sacred Fire. I was taught that the Sacred Fire is an elder spirit that witnesses what we do.

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Man in Black II

I composed the poem Man in Black  ("Know him by the crow's feather in his cap") in my head while mowing the lawn. (Such is the life of a poet who works for a living.) It is based on an exchange traditional in witch lore; at this remove of time, alas, I no longer recall where I first learned it.

When the piece had taken shape, I went for pencil and paper to write it down.

Sure enough, there in the middle of the sidewalk (I'm almost tempted to say, of course) lay the long, shiny pinion feather of a crow.

One.

Make of it what you will.

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Man in Black

 

Know him

by the crow's feather

in his cap.

 

"I am the man in black,"

he will say.

“Do you know who I am?”

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Pagan Manners

A while back I attended a wedding in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The name of the synagogue where the wedding was held was Beit Yâm, “House of the Sea”: a good name for a sea-side congregation, one might think.

Indeed. The interesting thing about the Hebrew word báyit (beit means “house of”) is that when combined with the name of a god, it means “temple.”

And, in fact, Yâm is the name of a god: he's the Canaanite (and hence, old Hebrew) god of the sea. It says so right here in the tablets of Ugarit. To this day in the laws of kashrût it's forbidden to slaughter an animal beside a body of water, lest someone should see and mistakenly think that you were sacrificing to Yâm.

The presiding rabbi did a nice job with the service. Afterward I shook his hand and told him so.

I did not, however, tell him that his temple was named for a pagan god.

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