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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Witches' Christmas

They call it "Jewish Christmas": Chinese food and a movie.

I suppose, then, that Witches' Christmas would be Indian food and a movie.

I don't know what it is about witches and Indian, but there sure does seem to be something. No doubt there are individual Jews who don't do Chinese (overexposure as children, probably), and doubtless there are witches out there who don't relish alu gobi.

But bring some palak panir to your next coven potluck and then tell me I'm wrong.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    My favorite Indian grocery in town is Little India on Central Avenue. They have everything. Miles, any chance you're going to be
  • Miles Gerhardson
    Miles Gerhardson says #
    I am hoping to wrangle the $$...Is Little India...by that Jerusalem "complex"?...U going to Paganicon?
  • Miles Gerhardson
    Miles Gerhardson says #
    Where do you do your shopping for ingredients? I live in Minneapolis...and would appreciate the "hook-up"..not wanting to "run all

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Visible Gods

So I'm standing there naked in the kitchen.

Mind you, this isn't something I make a point of doing. It's the end of January, and this is Minnesota. Early in the morning, the kitchen is just as cold as the rest of the house, no place to stand around naked.

You have to understand that at this time of year, the North becomes a desert. Our intense cold wrings every trace of moisture from the air. If you don't slather on moisturizer, you turn into an ice-mummy. Fortunately, there's no need to resort to bear-grease, like in the old days.

So, I'd just toweled off from the shower and rubbed down with body-lotion. Waiting for my skin to absorb it, I ran downstairs to plug in the waffle iron.

That's when it happened.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Satyr Dance

 I. A Satyr Remembers

 Imbolc was coming up, and I remember we were all thinking: Oh gods. The ritualists here in town were in a pretty major rut, and had been for years: it was All Brigid, All the Time, and not only that but pretty-pretty, nicey-nicey too, all gauze and Laura Ashley. Boring. “We need something with some juice in it, some testosterone,” we kept saying. So we put together the Dance of the Satyrs. The initial inspiration came from the old Roman Lupercalia, but the goat-men danced (and still do dance) all over Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East, so it felt like something we could do here in Minnesota, too.

The satyrs agreed beforehand that we would all refrain from ejaculating for a week before the ritual. I made it, but just barely. I swear, that must be the longest I've gone without since I was a kid and first figured out what my body could do. I swear, by the end of the week, it was coming out my ears. I could practically taste it. I'd get aroused taking the garbage out.

So just before the ritual, we're all in back getting ready. We stripped down and Paul [B. Rucker] painted us up. We looked like something from off a Greek vase, or maybe a cave wall. And you could practically smell the spooge. It was raunchy, like a goat barn or something.

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Dreaming Spring

They say that at Winter's midpoint, Spring walks the earth for a single night. (Or maybe it is her Dreaming that walks.) Look for her footprints in new snow. At her passing, they say, sleeping animals stir in their burrows and dens. At her passing, they say, seeds stir in the frozen soil, and dream of germination.

This playful Appalachian (originally English) folk carol, with its charmingly medieval-sounding minor tune, tells the story of the growing season to come, from plow to winnow. Originally sung at an already oversubscribed “Christemas,” we've reassigned it—for reasons that seem good to us—to Candlemas instead.

Generally we sing this song while standing in a circle, with lots of stomping, clapping, and percussion to help wake the animals and seeds. Each in turn jumps into the center, mimes a verse, and then jumps out again.

After all, there's no reason why making magic shouldn't be a raucous, joyful experience.

No reason at all.

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In the Heart of Winter

It's late January, and my almond tree is blooming.

What makes that so surprising is that I live in Minnesota.

I've long joked that I'm a Mediterranean trapped in the body of a Northern European. (The quip would actually read more accurately as “...having a perfectly fine time in the body of....”) Civilized people drink tea and wine and cook with olive oil. Barbarians drink coffee and beer and cook with (ugh) butter. Not that there's anything wrong with barbarism, understand. Some of my best friends.... And since I've certainly put away my share of brews down the years, I suppose that by my own definition that would make me semi-barbarous. Fine. See if I care.

Why in the world am I living in Minnesota, one might wonder? Short answer: love. But that's a story for another night. Right now it's late January and my almond tree is blooming. I just can't look at it enough.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Let me add: in a world of resin repros, Constance speaks the truth of terracotta.
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    True story: when I got back from P-con, I hung the little Bell Goddess on a branch of the almond tree, which was budded out but no
  • Constance Tippett Chandler
    Constance Tippett Chandler says #
    Hey Steven, Glad to see you put my little Goddess to use. I think I remember you buying it at PantheaCon a few years ago. I live
  • Miles Gerhardson
    Miles Gerhardson says #
    So interesting to hear that here in Minnesota, where I reside also, that people actually DO grow such plants/trees. Wonderous!
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    I hear (how did I not know about this?) that there are hot springs down by Mankato that have created around them a semi-tropical m

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Groundhog

The sacred dances of Winter's magical midpoint—now a mere fortnight away—have long been the stomp-dances that rouse the seeds and animals that sleep within the frozen Earth.

We generally begin our February Eve doings with just such a dance, turning to the farthings and calling in turn upon their respective animal powers, the hibernating and migrating beings whose stirring marks the turning towards Spring. In the traditional Appalachian song which accompanies this dance we call to Groundhog, Redbird, Rattlesnake, and Muskrat. Those who associate Four Elements with the quarters will not have far to seek.

Groundhog, the holiday's eponymous patron, is also known in American English as Woodchuck, a variant (by folk etymology) of Cree ochek, a name which inspired the playful tongue-twisting folk query:

How much wood would a woodchuck chuck [= toss]

if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

 

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The Long Farewell

Around here there's a social institution known as the Minnesota Long Goodbye, a fixture of local Politeness culture. “Well, guess we'll be heading out,” you say. But you can't leave yet; that would imply that you aren't enjoying the company, and are eager to go. 5 minutes later, you stand up. 5 minutes after that you put on your coat. Another 5, and you go to the door. Leaning against the door-jamb, you talk for yet another 5. Then you actually leave.

Yule is like that. This year the last of the Thirteen Nights was January 2; the Merry Monarch of Misrule (in her Steampunk crown) presided over one final debauch, and we sang the old Yule songs for the last time this season. Time to head on out, I guess.

But Yule itself has yet to come down. The tree and other appurtenances generally go up in mid-December and linger until mid-January or so: about a month, a twelving of the year. (By long-standing household tradition, our tree finally comes down on King Day: no work, no school.) Here in the Northlands, Yule ushers in the coldest, most housebound time of the year: “As the days grow longer, the cold grows stronger” goes the saying. (Variant: “As the day lengthens, the cold strengthens.”) On the couch the other night, I closed the novel I'd just finished reading, turned off the light, and laid back in quiet appreciation of the Yule Tree's ongoing beauty and magic: a fountain of light in the heart of darkest winter.

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