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.

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that have been used in the blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Login
    Login Login form
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.

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Dancing with the Black Man

I recently had an e-mail from a friend who, after this year's Midwest Grand Sabbat, had packed up the family and headed out on a road trip, destination: Salem, Mass.

As an offering, she'd brought a cork from the Grand Sabbat night.

Now, this may seem an odd kind of offering to make, of little or no intrinsic value, but think about it.

Gods help us, the Salem witch craze of 1692 is probably the most famous witch hunt of history. (Americans have always been good at publicity.) Personally, I doubt that we see here anything more than scapegoating and the pathological inner workings of theocratic society.

But let us say for a moment—call it “mythic history”—that there actually were witches of our sort in “17th” century Salem: people who fled to the New World because it was no longer safe to keep to the Old Ways back in the old one.

What do they find when they get here? A mighty Forest (and such a forest!) and in that forest, who but the Black Man Himself, our beloved Horn-God, more beautiful and terrible than ever, already waiting for us.

Waiting to dance.

Would you not want to know that, 300-some years on, our people are still here?

Last modified on

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Pagan Overkill, or: Trying Too Hard

Fortunately, I managed to catch myself before I left the house.

It so happened that day that I was wearing a green Heart of the Beast May Day tee-shirt, sporting on the front a tree-man holding a baby.

So far, so good.

I'd combined it with a sage-green bill-cap with a horned Green Man badge on front.

Well: that's bearable, especially if the cap is worn bill-back. This could even pass for witty, in a witchy kind of way: a tribute to the god of the witches, with his Two Faces, fore and aft.

Yes, but over my shoulder I'd thrown a cloth bag with yet another Green Man printed on it. Two makes a point; three belabors it.

In poetry, unless you're an Anglo-Saxon scop (which I'm not), two alliterations per line is acceptable; three, though, is too many. (Yet another reason why Crowley's poetry stinks.)

In short, I'd become the pagan equivalent of the guy who wears around his neck a cross big enough (were one so inclined) to crucify a toad on.

Who wants to be that guy?

I went back in and traded the Green Man bag for something plainer.

Last modified on

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Army of Witches

It is said that during the dark days of the Great Persecution, certain friars secreted themselves near the sabbat-stead of a certain Alpine valley.

In this way they hoped to spy upon the witches in their gathering, and so ascertain once and for all the much-vexed question of what numbers the cult could claim.

Now it so happened—let it surprise no one—that these friars were in their turn espied by a certain warlock on his way to the sabbat, and this is what he said to them:

Last modified on

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Mystic Sun

The Great Mask of the God of Witches lives in a closed shrine in the Temple of the Moon.

Twice daily it receives incense, song, and prayer.

Weekly it receives offerings of food and water.

A light burns continuously before it.

But though the Mask dwells in mystic darkness, in these days and weeks following Grand Sabbat, I who have seen it tell you that a light shines forth from that shrine, a mystic light, a light as though there were a Sun within.

Last modified on

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
God-Paint

“Most painted dick in the Midwest.”

If I never accomplish anything else in this long and varied life of mine, I suspect that I can safely claim that distinction at least with little fear of competition.

Such is the life of a priest of the Horned.

At the Grand Sabbat, the priest wears a mask, a collar of fresh green leaves, and a coat of paint.

The god wears the priest.

Eight days on from Mystery Night, I've just about scrubbed off the last of the god-paint. Well, there's still a little around the edges of the toenails, and my navel (being too ticklish to scrub). Such things are neither lightly taken on, nor easily shed.

Do you know why the god's glans is painted red at the Sabbat? The way I heard it, it's because He's the Opener of the Way.

Last modified on

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
“Just Like the Woodcuts”

We don't know whether or not the “orgiastic” witch's sabbat of the witch-hunters ever existed anywhere but in their sordid, sex-starved imaginations. But this much we do know: it exists now.

It exists because we made it.

In our day, the Grand Old-Time Witch's Sabbat, with all its blood, grit, and semen, rises again. Those old medieval tropes retrovert very nicely into Pagan, we've found. Anyone who has ever been there can tell you that's it's the real thing.

“Just like the woodcuts,” I was once told, the morning after.

But the Sabbat is not for everyone.

At the Midwest Grand Sabbat just past, a friend was telling me about some folks that she'd spoken with who had attended a previous Sabbat and found it not to their taste.

“Too intense,” they told her. “Too culturally immersive.”

Well, you can't fault their conclusions. Those of us who have been there know full well its unremitting, gut-wrenching emotionality, and the four days of the Sabbat weekend constitute a crash course in deep Witch culture. To those accustomed to the undemanding eclecticism of most pagan festivals, the Real Deal might well seem overwhelming.

For the witch-hunters were right about this much at least: the Sabbat demands everything. The Sabbat demands your soul.

For those of us of the Tribe of Witches, it's a price joyfully paid.

No, the Sabbat is not for everyone. But I couldn't help but grin when I heard my friend's words.

Last modified on

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
A Function of Focus

On the last morning of this year's Grand Sabbat gathering, a friend—a priestess of many years' experience—came to me, distraught.

“The campers!” she said. “They have to be moved! They'll ruin the sightlines!”

The campers and caravans were parked on the edge of the meadow through which the Horned departs in the final rite of farewell. We follow him up out of the woods and watch as he walks up the hill and off into the sky.

I could readily understand my friend's concern. The sight of the Antlered disappearing over the horizon is an image of such searing purity and beauty that nothing must interfere with it, nothing.

“Don't worry,” I tell her. “The god will make the campers disappear. You won't even see them.”

And so, indeed, it was.

When the rite was ended, and the tears dried, my friend came to me, wondering.

Last modified on

Additional information