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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Joining the Tribe

At the Midwest Grand Sabbat this summer, four people will be taking their oaths and receiving their Marks, and in this way joining the Tribe of Witches.

Since the Middle Ages, this thedish (tribal) initiation has traditionally begun with three questions, given here in their contemporary formulations:

Do you reject Yahweh, and all his lies, and all his empty promises?

Do you renounce the waters of baptism?

Do you give yourself body and soul, whole and all, to the Horns and the Wandering Moon, and take the Craft to be your home?

It's always a powerful moment, the more so by the very nature of the questions involved.

Here's the clincher: Only one of these questions has a right answer.

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Life Without Air

Ninety percent of American homes are air-conditioned.

Ninety percent.

Talk about carbon footprint.

That's why, for pagans, air-conditioning is a religious issue.

That's why—at least for now—I plan to remain one of the ten percent.

I live in a big old brick house in Minnesota, where it's too cold during the winter and too hot during the summer. Usually we're pretty comfortable until the bricks heat up around Old Midsummer's/Fourth of July. Then it can get hot.

Fortunately, my friend Craig comes from Dallas, and is just old enough to remember life BA (Before Air). Here's what he recommends.

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Overheard at the Intergalactic Witches' Cotillion

The voice was unmistakably that of Discworld's Nanny Ogg, in full Impart mode to a junior colleague.

Of all things, she was talking about the show Bewitched.

“Terrible programme, full of inaccuracies,” she said. “That's why we had to have it canceled.”

So it was the witches themselves that got Bewitched canceled?

“Of course it was,” says Nanny. “Not that I had anything against it myself, mind you.”

She takes a pull from her hip flask.

“As a matter of fact, it even confirmed several of my favorite biases,” she says proudly.

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How the Idol-Maker Saved the World

 A Kalasha Tale

 

One year Dezáu—Heaven—decreed that, in honor of the winter solstice, all of humanity should keep all-night vigil.

Yes, yes, they all said. But one by one, they all, nonetheless, fell asleep.

Finally, out of all humanity, only one man remained awake.

This man was a Kalasha, a wood-carver. The reason why he stayed awake when everyone else fell asleep is that he was busy carving a statue: a statue of Dezáu himself, as it happens.

When Dezáu saw this, he was pleased, and so he blessed the man and his craft, and also his entire people.

So it is that, of all the Indo-European-speaking peoples, only the Kalasha, a small tribe of some 4000 people, who live in three valleys in what is now NW Pakistan, have continuously and uninterruptedly practiced their ancient religion since antiquity: the Great Blessing of Dezáu.

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When the Temple Priest or Priestess Goes on Vacation, Then What?

Every day, in temples far and wide across Pagandom, offerings are made, and prayers go up, for the well-being of pagan peoples everywhere. The Lore would have it that, indeed, the very well-being of our People depends on these prayers and offerings, and everyone agrees that, once the making of prayers and offerings has begun, it is bad to discontinue them.

So what happens when the priest or priestess goes on vacation?

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Post-Industrial Primitive

“So, what look are we going for?”

It was a good question. The general planning and walk-through for the Hunt ritual had gone well. Now the Hunters were meeting.

Well, what aesthetic were we after? Plaid and day-glo, no, but likewise loincloths and feathers were out, too. One reads funny, the other reads wannabe, and this is ritual: it needs to be real.

Well, the only pagans that we can honestly be is the pagans for our own time and place.

“Post-industrial primitive,” I said.

Which left most of us in jeans, skin, and face paint.

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'Ulei: A Tale of Madame Pele

During the 1955 eruption of Hawai'is Mount Kilauea, a large section of Puna was cut off from the rest of the island by two massive lava-flows. As a safety precaution, the authorities evacuated the entire area.

Three men from a local sugar company chartered a plane to check on canefields in the impacted area. The plane set them down between the two lava-flows. Much to their surprise, they came upon a striking native woman in a red dress, with a great cloud of black hair down her back, sitting at the edge of the cane-field.

“Hi,” said the men.

“Aloha,” said the woman.

“What are you doing here?” they asked.

She smiled. “Just resting here in the shadow of the sugarcane.”

“This area was evacuated two weeks ago,” the men told her. “You're in terrible danger: you're between two lava flows here.”

The woman just smiled.

“What is your name?” they asked her.

“'Ulei,” she said. 'Ulei is a Hawai'ian shrub with small, white, rose-like flowers.

The men offered to take her to safety with them on their plane.

“Oh, I'm not leaving yet,” she said, “At least, not today; I still have work to do here. Perhaps I'll be ready to go next week.”

The men warned the woman that they would have to report her to the authorities, as her presence in the area was illegal. "These laws exist to protect people," they told her.

For the first time, the woman looked displeased.

“I follow my own laws,” she told them.

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