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.

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Pagan Era

So: a Wiccan, a Druid, and a Kemetic Reconstructionist walk into a bar.

By any reasonable standard, these people all practice different religions, right?

That's why the term "pagan" is so brilliant.

I've been part of this long enough that I can remember when we first started calling ourselves—and, more importantly, thinking of ourselves—as pagan.

BPE (Before the Pagan Era), Wiccans, Druids, and Kemetic Reconstructionists were different modalities of being. But add the name, and suddenly: hey, presto, it's now the Pagan Era, and we perceive one another as (in some way, shape, or form) belonging to the same group, as different clans in the same overall tribe.

Being pagan together gives us numbers. Suddenly there are millions of us across the world, and numbers = power. Suddenly I have something in common with someone that I've never met in Kyrgyzstan. (Since independence, there's been a big resurgence of traditional religion across Central Asia.)

Let no one doubt the power of a single word.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Passion of the Harvest

At noon on the first day of the festival, we blew the horns. Then we pulled the young Corn King in his chariot through the grove in which the gathering was held.

By the next day, word had begun to spread. A few came out to watch the Corn King in his noon progress among his people.

The third day, there were more. Some would bow, or kneel by the side of the way to receive his blessing as he passed. These he would shower with kernels of corn.

As the week went on, people began to join the procession. They brought their children to receive the Harvest Lord's blessing. Late arrivals to the festival heard about the processions by word of mouth.

People had known the Young Lord since his boyhood, during the festival's earliest years. They had watched him grow up there, year by year. Now they welcomed his triumph. Grown to beautiful, golden manhood, he was everyone's son, everyone's beloved.

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A Night on Bear Butte, Or: Can a Pagan, in Good Conscience, Go to the Black Hills?

The Black Hills of what is now South Dakota are unquestionably one of the great holy places of North America. They are held sacred by all the local peoples: the Dakota, the Arapaho, the Cheyenne, the Shoshone, the Blackfoot, the Crow. They may tell different stories about why the Hills are sacred, but everyone agrees that they are.

Oh, and did I mention the Witches?

***

My teacher Tony Kelly's critique of American paganism—being himself a Brit—was that it was rootless. Not having grown from the place that it's in, it's all about long ago and far away. Although less true now than it was in the 70s, this still seems to me a pretty accurate analysis of the situation.

But like all good critiques, Kelly's diagnosis contains an implied solution. If “immigrant” paganisms are rootless, the answer is clear: put down roots. Know your Land.

***

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I remember reading God is Red back in the 70's. I think I also read Custer Died for your Sins. I can't say that I remember much
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    God is Red was reissued recently in a new 30th-anniversary edition, so maybe it will be turning up soon. I've had good luck with i

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Between the Stones

The boy froze when he saw the god.

Behind him in the woods, the rite had already begun. The path up from the circle wound through the trees. That's why he didn't see him until he was nearly upon him.

There, seated on the ground between the two tall stones that mark the head of the path.

Waiting. Watching.

His antlers seemed to touch the trees.

Brown eyes meet green.

The boy wanted to turn and run. He also wanted to stroke the velvet of that muzzle.

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Were Wiccans Originally "Wakers of the Dead"?

Well, didn't see that one coming.

According to philologist Calvert Watkins, the word Wicca is actually related to wake.

And Wiccans were originally necromancers, “wakers of the dead.”

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Can a Pagan Woman, in Good Conscience, Go to Uluru?

Uluru: the Great Red Rock, Australia's most iconic holy place.

Held sacred by local First Nations peoples, it is considered by them to be a men's shrine, and hence forbidden to women.

So, can a pagan woman, in good conscience, go there?

Well, different peoples, different ways. I can't rightly expect you to act in accordance with my people's ways, nor you me.

Still, it's always best practice to be respectful of other people's stuff, especially their religious stuff. In the old Witch language, there are two words for "peace." Frith is peace within a community. Grith is peace between communities, and maintaining grith is a cultural value of great (although not overriding) importance.

And when it comes to religious rules, peoples vary. So what to do when your people do things one way, and mine another?

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Jön Upsal's Gardener
    Jön Upsal's Gardener says #
    Frith and grith come from Old Norse, not some "old witch language."
  • Anne Forrester
    Anne Forrester says #
    The response of Bekah Evie Bel did not strike me as extreme at all, but very respectful. This is obviously a topic that needs car
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Thanks for the link, Anne; it's a thoughtful piece, well worth the read. The conversation about the proper relation between "immig
  • Bekah Evie Bel
    Bekah Evie Bel says #
    If that was my conclusion then I have to agree, it would indeed be extreme and absurd. It wasn't my intent to give that conclusio
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Thanks for the clarification, Bekah; as I spent more time thinking about your post, it became clear to me that I had far overgener

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Polywood

India being India, there's an entire genre of Bollywood films about gods and goddesses.

They're called “the theologicals.”

Some are overtly mythological in nature, but the vast majority tell the story of how our hero N manages, with the help of deity G, to overcome what at first seem to be virtually insurmountable obstacles.*

This, of course—as pretty much any pagan can tell you—is how things really do work in a polytheist world. Small wonder that it plays so convincingly on screen.

As America moves towards its own irresistibly polytheist future (ex uno plurimus), realistically we can expect something similar from the US film industry.

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