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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Blow You a Kiss on the Wind

It's an ancient act of pagan adoration that anyone can perform anywhere, any time.

Kissing the hand.

In 158 CE the Roman novelist Lucius Apuleius, author of The Golden Ass, involved in a lawsuit against a guy named Aemilianus, is trying to make out his opponent as a model of impiety:

If he is passing by some shrine, he thinks it wicked to raise his hand to his lips in adoration.

(Apuleius, Apologia 56)

The Roman historian Pliny also mentions the prevalence of this custom in Roman practice (28:5).

The Hebrew Bible describes (and, of course, condemns) the act of kissing one's hand to the luminaries:

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What Do You Say When They Wish You 'Merry Christmas'?

What do you say when they wish you 'Merry Christmas'?

Well, it all depends on what you want to communicate.

Thanks, you too.

No thanks.

(Smile, shake head.)

Sorry, not my holiday.

You shouldn't assume that everyone's Christian.

And the broom you rode in on, baby.

Hail Satan.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Theographies

In the intellectual adventure that is modern paganism, we've reached a pretty significant milestone.

We've actually created a new literary genre: the theography.*

I'll define a theography as, broadly, a book about a specific god.**

Some contemporary theographies are anthologies, with contributions by various writers. Others are a single author's tribute to a particular god.

I'm reading one such now.

I'm enjoying the book. My relationship with my own patron being what it is, I'm always interested to hear what other people have to say about their relationships with theirs.

Every theography must balance traditional lore with contemporary experience, and this author does a good job of doing just that. The book is both well-written and entertaining, with hymns, stories, rituals, and a thorough bibliography. All in all, it's much what you would want from a theography: both informative and useful.

But something is missing here. It's not so much what is being said as what isn't.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Why Widdershins

Witches have always been widdershins people.

Down the millennia, we've put up with a certain amount of guff on this account, even back in pagan times.

But everyone needs a little widdershins now and then.

It's applesauce time right now. The thing about apples is, only the whole ones keep. The bruised, the blemished, the ones with broken skins, will never last the winter.

So you cut them up and cook them down with a little salt and cider. Then you run them through the food mill.

Around and around goes the food mill. It's a collar with a screen on the bottom. You turn and turn the handle, always with the Sun; the applesauce trickles out into the bowl beneath, and the screen catches the stems, skins, and seeds.

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  • Tasha Halpert
    Tasha Halpert says #
    Nice piece. I love making applesauce, YUM! and the widdershins turnng is good for clearing, like it is supposed to be. Ah, you are

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Jack Pumpkinhead Must Die

Old Jack is dead.

Valiantly he lit the Gates of Summer's End.

Then came freeze.

Now, with thaw, what the squirrels have left sits in a puddle of its own melt: sunken, falling in.

Once he was firm, thunkable. Now, if you tried to pick him up—but please don't try—he'd fall to spongy, rotten pieces.

Soon I'll be bringing out the snow shovel. Its first use of the season will be to shovel up what's left of Jack and take him back to compost.

Yes, Summer's gone, but you know Jack.

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  • Angela
    Angela says #
    Once again, I love your post! Instead of looking mournfully at my deflated Jacks, I can laugh at Him skipping merrily from one fo
  • Tasha Halpert
    Tasha Halpert says #
    Made me smile! Great photo too.

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Snake Rots from the Head

My “crime” was walking while gay.

The car slowed as it drove past. Two guys leaned out of the windows, wolf-whistled, and shouted out sexual comments in my direction.

They were clearly not gay. This was not real desire, however swinishly expressed.

No, their intent was to humiliate.

Because, of course, the worst thing that you can possibly do to another man is to treat him like you would treat a woman.

Gods, I thought. So this is what women put up with.

That abuse of power and concomitant sexual harassment are societally endemic should surprise no one.

Media moguls, executives, and legislators are (finally) getting some well-earned comeuppance. Calls for the resignation of abusers are, at long last, being heard from every quarter.

I say, let's start from the top: with the Abuser-in-Chief and the Chief Justice Abuser.

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  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I was reading as much as I could of Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States" and it seems that this sort of abuse h

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Name (Tribe)

There's a conventional usage in the First Nations press which I think, for various reasons, would be a good fit for the pagan community as well.

There it's customary to identify someone both by name and by tribal affiliation:

Winona la Duke (Anishinabe)

Arvol Looking Horse (Dakota)

This makes perfect sense. In traditional societies, you don't just need to know who someone is; you need to know who her people are as well. In traditional Dine (Navajo) culture, when introducing yourself to a fellow Dine, you mention not just your own name, but your maternal and paternal clans as well. This gives you not just an identity, but a context.

Since pagans come in different kinds, it seems to me that this makes sense for us, too:

Isaac Bonewits (Druid)

Alison Harlow (Feri)

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