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
Is Paganism an -Ism?

Hey, Pagan Pride: I've got a suggestion.

A web-search for Twin Cities Pagan Pride turned up (in more than one location) the following lead sentence.


"Pagan Pride is a free fall event, open to the public, that offers education about Paganism to the larger community."

With all due praise to the local Pride committee—who work their butts off every year to offer to pagan and cowan alike a beautiful event in a sacred place, an event that we can truly be proud of—I'd like to suggest a gentle rewrite.

Whether or not such a thing as a unified “Paganism” ever existed anywhere but in the minds of those who hated the Old Ways, I very much doubt. It didn't exist then, it doesn't exist now, and (thank gods), it never will exist. This fact is encoded, genetic: the very nature of the “pagan” religions, new and old alike, militates against such a unity.

“Paganism” isn't an “-ism.” “Pagan” is a descriptor, an identity perhaps: a way of talking about something that already exists, not a thing in and of itself.

So here's my suggestion for an opening that's truer to lived Pagan reality:

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Aline "Macha" O'Brien
    Aline "Macha" O'Brien says #
    We are way more alike than not, and that's why I get so demoralized when I see the internal bullying that's been fracturing our co
  • Murphy Pizza
    Murphy Pizza says #
    Oh, I have too, Macha -- my talk at a university here recently was called "Encountering Paganisms." The emphasis on the plural and
  • Aline "Macha" O'Brien
    Aline "Macha" O'Brien says #
    In October I gave a talk about us to all the chaplains in the State of California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation for t
  • Murphy Pizza
    Murphy Pizza says #
    Re: your observations about how we know who we are in public...in anthropology, it's called habitus, which refers to those learned

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Let's Build a Wheel-Cairn

You know that cairn that we've been talking about building? The one where people can depose the ashes of the dead?

Well, here's an idea: let's build it in the shape of a Wheel.

Check out this wheel-cairn from Sälle in Fröjel on the island of Gotland (Sweden). (It's about 2000 years old.) Let's build one like this, oriented East-West, big. I'd see the spokes and rim as maybe a foot high, the Hub- and Quarter-cairns higher.

It's a Sun Wheel, of course. That makes it a prayer. As the dead go West with the Sun, so too may they be reborn with him in the East.

And it's the Wheel of Time, the Wheel of the Year. As time, as the year, move in a circle, so may those who were be reborn to the People.

The Wheel, of course, is also the Journey. The dead have a journey to make. As our people have followed the Sun, traveling from East to West, so do the dead continue their journey.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
From: Invitation to the Grand Sabbat

This is a tribal gathering; as such, we operate as a tribe, under tribal thew (custom, law). If you attend, you are either a member, or a guest, of the tribe. This fact has certain implications. Everyone is expected to act responsibly at all times.

We police ourselves. If a situation arises, handle it. If you can't handle it, find someone that can.

There are many people in a tribe. Some you will like; some you may not. (Witches, of course, tend to be people with a lot of jagged edges, anyway.) It nonetheless remains everyone's responsibility to maintain the sacred moot-frith, the peace of the gathering, at all times. If you can't treat others with civility and respect, then you don't belong here.

At the heart of tribal democracy lies personal responsibility. If you don't like something that someone else is doing, it's up to you to say: Please stop. If someone asks you to stop what you're doing, please think seriously before continuing.

Note also that our people respect the power of intoxicants and regard them as sacred. If you're going to use, use in a sacred way.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Ask an Elder

Even in a community as richly endowed with characters as Paganistan, my dear friend “Granny” Ro Nicburne stands out.

At Twin Cities Pagan Pride last fall, she set up a shingle.

Ask an Elder

Free Advice

(And Worth What You Pay)

All day long, she fielded questions.

Some—from wise-asses like me—were joke questions. To these, she replied with the answers they deserved. Nobody does wry like Granny.

But there were real questions, too. If you build the candy cottage, the kiddies will come.

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You Find Community in the Strangest Places

I was seven. We'd never moved before.

Finally my mom kicked me out of the house. “Go and make some new friends,” she said.

I wandered aimlessly through the backyards until I came to a little knot of kids, playing Tarzan. The oldest girl, Debbie S., was Tarzan.

I felt a thrill of homecoming.

We played Tarzan all that afternoon: climbing trees, ape-dancing, chanting the war-chant of the Jujus. I was Jane.

A year later, Debbie and her family moved away. I never saw her again.

Still, I have no doubt whatsoever that some day out there I'll run a dyke named Debbie S.

When we do, I know exactly what I'll say.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Beyond the Hedge

 I'm goin' to a meetin', do you want to come along?

I'm goin' to a meetin', do you want to come along?

I'm goin' to a meetin', do you want to come along?

We'll dance by the light of the Moon.

(Appalachian traditional)

 

We don't know whether or not the classic Witches' Sabbat—the Horned Lord enthroned on the altar, the frenzied dancing, the love-making in the shadows—ever existed anywhere but in the tortured imaginations of the witch-hunters.

But this much we do know: it exists now.

It doesn't much resemble what some call sabbats, safely indoors with their decorous quarter-candles.

The Sabbat-in-true is no indoor rite.

The Sabbat is a rite of the woods, the mountain, the island: what witches call the Outgarth.

And yes, there's the Horned Lord enthroned on the altar, and frenzied dancing, and love-making. It wouldn't be the Sabbat without them.

At the Sabbat, the firelight flash of a moving knife denotes no casting of circles.

It's the sacrificial blade, descending.

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Posch, You've Gone Too Far: In Which Our Intrepid Blogger Indulges Himself in a Thoroughly Tasteless—If Tasty—Bit of Satire

What is it about witches and cannibalism?”

(Sabrina Spellman)

 

As every witch knows, unbaptized baby is a delicious, nutritious, and—in this overpopulated and increasingly nonreligious world—readily available food.

These days you can even get organic ones at Trader Joe's.

But—you might ask—is it really worth all the effort? And—on a strictly practical level—who has a large enough oven any more?

Now, plenty of witches have oven issues, of course: completely understandably, let me say. But do remember that, when properly jointed, what is traditionally known as hornless goat* will fit quite easily—even allowing ample room for plenty of vegetables—into the average roasting pan. If it will hold a turkey, it will hold a baby.

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  • Murphy Pizza
    Murphy Pizza says #

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