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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In Search of the Tusked God

 Caput apri defero,

cum ingenti priapo.


The Yule-analogous holiday of Terry Pratchett's Discworld is, of course, Hogswatch.

And the—really, what else can one call him?—patronal god of Hogswatch is, of course, the Hogfather.

Like the wild boar that he originally was, the Hogfather (of the BBC series, anyway) wears tusks.

In Norse, one might say: Hogfather = Frey. Tusk-Frey, one might kenningly call him.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I do enjoy ham at Yule-time.
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    On the Franconian side of the family, the custom is to serve pork and sauerkraut at the New Year, but never chicken. That's so you
  • Mark Green
    Mark Green says #
    And happy Hogswatch to you as well, Steven! I've really enjoyed your writing this year.
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Much obliged, Mark, and wishing you a New Year of prosperity, health, and good reading.
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    My recollection is that Snorri says, "an antler," which strongly suggests a weapon in hand (in place of the sword he gave to Skirn

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The Only Real Pagans in America?

I was telling a friend about our Yule when she stopped me.

“Wait a minute,” she said. “Do you seriously mean to tell me that you guys actually have a special dance that you do in honor of the plum pudding?”

“Sure,” I said. “There's a song, too; they go together.”

She laughed.

“I swear,” she said. “You guys are the only real pagans in America.”

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Born, Born Upon This Morn

Born, born

upon this morn:

a sacred day is dawning.

Rise, rise

and walk the skies

of this Midwinter's morning.

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No Night Could Be Darker Than This Night

Singer-songwriter Sparky T. Rabbit (1954-2014) wrote this song/chant for Midwinter's Eve at Yule 2010. It is one of the last pieces that he ever wrote.

The words appear here for the first time. It has never been recorded. I come to know it only because it was written as a companion piece for the first public telling of my story Midwest Nativity.

No Night Could Be Darker Than This Night has become a foundational part of our Yule Eve liturgy. We sing it in the dark at the very beginning of the rite; then we kindle the fire.

Simultaneously restrained and shocking, this evocative and poignant song beautifully articulates the stillness and mystery that is Mother Night.

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  • Anne Newkirk Niven
    Anne Newkirk Niven says #
    Sent chills up my spine, Steven!

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What Do You Call the Eve of Yule?

 Who's that rattling

pots in the kitchen?

Hey! Hey! It's Yule!



Because the old Northwest Europeans counted the (24-hour) day as beginning at sunset, the eves of holidays take on major significance, and often have names of their own.

So what do you call the Eve of Yule?

Leaving aside the colorless "Solstice Eve," among the Names of Lore in modern English, there are three major options.

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The Other Side of Night

What did they think, those old pagans, as they saw the Old Ways that they loved falling to the ground around them?

What did they feel?

Did they hate? Did they hope? Did they despair?

They fought, we know that they did. They hid. They dissembled.

They draped the Old in the cloak of the New.

They laid their love carefully away, bidding Earth hold it close, until a new day should come.

Did they, looking into darkness, hope for another dawn?

Did they, with eyes of hope, see to the other side of night?

Did they see us?

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  • Dr. Mays
    Dr. Mays says #
    Dear Stephen, Your meditation is beautiful, and I am reminded that this is precisely what Indigenous peoples of the Americas have

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What Was Otzi's Religion?

I first heard about Ötzi the Ice Man from a sermon.

I'd gone with a friend to Friday evening services at his synagogue. The rabbi began talking about a newly-discovered ice mummy “from the time of Abraham.”*

It really made her feel connected, she said, to her Jewish roots.

Well, that's a bit of a stretch, I can remember thinking.

But, stretch or no stretch, that was how I first met Ötzi.

We don't often get to come literally face-to-face with the ancestors. With Ötzi we do. I think that that's one reason why he's become such a celebrity. We look at him and of course we want to see ourselves.

So, what would Ötzi's religion have been?

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