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.
Postmaster Announces New Pagan Holiday Stamps

AP: Washington, DC

The Postmaster General announced today the upcoming release of a series of stamps commemorating the eight holidays celebrated by the vast majority of contemporary pagans.

"Pagans have been an integral part of this nation since its founding and before," said Postmaster Tamar Penrose, acting head of the US Postal Service. "It's time and high time for such a public acknowledgement."

The stamps will be released later this year on November 1, the ancient Celtic holiday of Samhain, celebrated by many contemporary pagans as their New Year.

The release coincides with the opening of the Smithsonian's new exhibit, "Pagan America: The First 400 Years." The exhibit will include the unveiling of the original prototypes for the stamps.

The prototypes were created by the Minneapolis Collective of Pagan Artists (MCPA) which, since its founding in 2013, has spearheaded the mainstreaming of pagan art and culture into American consciousness. It was the MCPA that first vetted the idea to the Postal Service.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Christopher Blackwell
    Christopher Blackwell says #
    Steven as to the Pagan postage stamp story, "Postmaster Announces New Pagan Holiday Stamps." I can't find out any more information
  • Jön Upsal's Gardener
    Jön Upsal's Gardener says #
    I hope everyone realizes that they actually can make their own postage stamps like this, and they're perfectly legal and usable in
  • Brook Hubbard
    Brook Hubbard says #
    Very disappointing that this wasn't real, as it had a number of friends and family excited. Perhaps a retraction or update should
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Yikes. Sorry to disappoint, Hex (if only!), but I'm afraid this post is fiction. A "gag"...well, maybe. "Mean"...well, I hope not.
  • Hex
    Hex says #
    Hello Mr. Porch. I apologise for asking this, but is this actually happening in the US? I see there was a joke of sorts with the

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Sacred River of the Witches

If you look at a map of England, you'll see on the southwestern side of the island, between Cornwall and Wales, a large waterway reaching inland from the Atlantic. This is the Estuary (in Witch, it would be “Firth”) of the River Severn.

The Severn, Britain's longest river, is traditionally considered a “female” river, its patron deity a goddess.

In its valley and throughout its watershed there dwelt, some 1300 years ago, the Anglo-Saxon tribe known as the Hwicce, from whom, some would say, derive the witches of today. And indeed, plenty of witches still live along the Lady Severn, though most of us now live elsewhere.

In any given landscape, the names of the largest rivers will always give access to the oldest reachable underlying linguistic substratum. (Think of the Mississippi, Ojibwe for “Big River.”) And so it is for the Severn.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Time of the Mother

We call it Lammas or Lunasa, and think of it as marking the commencement of the grain harvest.

And so indeed it does. In Western Minnesota, they're beginning the cutting of the “small grains” even as you read this.

But here in the New World, this was a festival long before the ships from Europe arrived with their sacks of seed wheat and barley.

“Green Corn,” they called it, and among many peoples, it was the greatest feasting of the year.

Maize cultivation came into Northern America from Mexico about 2000 years ago, and spread up along the river valleys. In the Upper Mississippi Valley, where I live, they've kept Green Corn for almost 1000 years now.

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  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Yep. There's Betty Windsor up there on the right. Pagan holiday stamps: may we live to see them.
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    Love that postage stamp at the top of the page. I'm guessing it's English.

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Polytheistically Speaking

I didn't realize that I was speaking polytheistically until I'd already said it.

“How it is out there?” asked the clerk, as she rang up my bottle of water and bag of ice.

I shook my head. “They say it's going to get worse.”

Conversations of this banality this go on between strangers in the Midwest every day, especially when it's hot and muggy.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Wearing the Hat

Now where is that Witch-English dictionary? I know I left it here somewhere.

Copintank, n. A sugar-loaf hat.

On the off chance that you've ever wondered what the technical name for a witch's hat is, well: now you know.

I'll take Witch Words for a thousand, Alex.

Also known (mostly by cowans) as a “steeple hat” (!), the copintank has been associated with English witches since some of the earliest woodcuts of them were made during the 16th and 17th centuries. Not surprisingly, this was also the period during which the copintank was considered fashionable. We witches have always been dressers.

Don't ask etymology; even the experts don't agree. It seems likely that the first syllable reflects the archaic word cop, “head” (= German kopf), but the rest is a mystery. One thing we can be sure of: it has nothing to do with either vats or vehicles. That word comes from the Subcontinent, and didn't enter English until centuries after witches were already sporting our signature headgear with its distinctive name.

If ever you've wondered why we wear them (no, Virginia, it doesn't have anything to do with the cone of power), well: let me tell you a story.

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  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    During the Yule baking last year, I ended up grating a block of old dry brown sugar. I guess there's something to be said for maki
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    Over at colonial Williamsburg they sell sugar cones and tell the tourists that that is the way sugar was sold in colonial times.

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Message Found on a Cell Phone

Hey Anita, it's Steven.

I can't remember whether or not there's reception down where you guys are camped. I know that Iacchus has a signal up top at the Big House, so presumably you'll get this sooner or later.

As you'll recall, my original plan was to get to the festival tomorrow—Wednesday—but I'm afraid there have been a few, ah, developments around here.

In fact, you're not going to believe this, but at the moment my house is surrounded by a mob of irate villagers, complete with pitchforks and torches.

Seriously, I am not making this up. You may even be able to hear them in the background. [Muffled shouting.] Like you say, life imitating art.

Gods, with all the kids around here, you'd think they could spare one or two every now and then. I mean, a guy's got to eat, right?

But no.

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In Which the Minstrel Roastbeef Invokes the Devil

Around 1261, the troubadour Rutebeuf (“Roast Beef”) published an early French miracle play, Le Miracle de Théophile.

Little did he know that he was about to make Wiccan history.

Based on 11th century Christian legend, the play tells the story of Theophilus (“god-lover”) of Adana, who sells his soul to the Devil. The Devil is called up, by a sorcerer named Salatin, with a mysterious chant:

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