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.


 As we begin Pride Month...


Hey Smartwater™: your recent “stunt double” ad is seriously f*cked -up.


Dramatis Personae:

Actor, sitting next to

Stunt Double: Clothes and hair like actor's, but actor is plain and short; stunt double is tall and handsome.




Medical Clinic, Waiting Room


Actor: I'm smart. I let my stunt double do the dangerous stuff.

(Actor and stunt double take simultaneous swigs of Smartwater.)

Doctor: (Approaches from behind.) Mr. ___?

(Doctor flourishes clamp of the type used to castrate male animals. Close-up of clamp.)

(Stunt double looks dubious, but gets up and follows doctor.)

Actor: (Calls out to doctor, not looking) Do we get a lollipop after?


Well, ha-dee ha ha.

I'll leave aside the numerous examples of stereotyping going on in this ad.

(The castrating doctor is a woman. She's also Asian. The good-looking guy is dumb....I could go on.)

Surely we can all agree that sexual violence against women is intolerable, not to mention unsuitable for an ad meant to sell a product. How, then, is sexual violence against men any different?

On top of which, we're supposed to find sexual violence against a man's body funny? He's cute and dumb; therefore, he deserves it?

As we all know, men never experience sexual violence. Therefore, it's OK to laugh about, right?

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Considering--as a friend and colleague recently pointed out to me--how much "recyclable" plastic never gets recycled (Gods help us
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I recently saw that add for the first time. Good to know I'm not the only one offended by it. Wasn't planning to buy Smartwater

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

 Old Home Sour Cream, Pure | Dairy | Priceless Foods

Sour cream keeps for a long time, but this particular batch—filmed over with a scum of red goo—is clearly well past its Use By date.

Normally, I would take it out back and scrape the contents into the compost; then I would wash the plastic container and put it into the recycling. But I'm busy making breakfast and suddenly the extra work seems more than I want to do. I replace the lid and, feeling a pang of guilt, put it into the garbage.

I'm a pagan. I reuse, repurpose, and recycle religiously, and I mean that literally. In the general way of things, I generate very little garbage, throwing out maybe one bag of garbage every couple/three weeks: mostly dental floss (the commercial stuff is all plasticized) and non-recyclable plastic (like the bags that leaf spinach comes in). I feel a little stab, seeing the eminently-recyclable plastic sour cream container in amongst the spinach bags, but I steel myself and turn back to my breakfast-making.

I don't get far in my preparations, though, standing at the chopping board in a miasma of guilt as pungent as a fart. I heave a sigh, retrieve the sour cream, and take it out back to the heap. Life would be so much easier if we had no values.

Many come to the Old Ways from shame cultures, seeking an escape from the internalized guilt that poisons their natal societal air.

Well, I've got some bad news for you: only sociopaths feel no guilt. When it comes to guilt, pagans feel our share; we're just differently guilty. Perhaps the very best to be said is that when pagans feel guilt, it's because we've broken our own rules, not someone else's.

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  • Katie
    Katie says #
    This is so very familiar. Been there. Had that guilt wrench looking at a glass jar filled with old, moldy salsa, too liquidy to p

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

 Human Femur Bones – SkullStore Inc.

In Which Our Intrepid Blogger Considers Buying a Human Bone, But Doesn't


“Maxilas and Mandibles.” That was the name of the bone store.

I'm visiting a friend in NYC. “You've got to see this one,” he says, so we go.

The store is long and narrow as a coffin. The bones are beautiful.

“Do you have any human bones?” I ask. It would be cool to have a femur to beat the drum with at Samhain, right?


Femur in hands, I kneel down on the floor. This was, after all, part of someone's body once. Always ask before you take.

Something's wrong. My heart is pounding, the sweat is pouring off of me. “Where is this from?” I can barely manage to get the words out.

“India, I think,” says the clerk.

Gods. Who knows what the story here is? I rise. I don't want this thing. I don't want it in my house; I don't want it in my city.

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  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Mr. Posch, I think that would be totally OK, for whatever it's worth.
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Maybe when I die, I'll will my femur (the left one, of course) to the temple so that we can beat the drum at Samhain after all. Bu
  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Mr. Posch, Oh my Gods. I would have felt the same way. Human bones do not belong in brick-and-mortar retail stores. Ghastly. T

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

 Suggestion: Endless Daytime - TV Tropes Forum


Och, is my sleep ever screwed up.

Constitutionally an early riser, I'm habitually up with the Sun. This means that as we march toward Midsummer, the year's Longest Light, I'm up earlier and earlier every day.

This, of course, is no inherent bad. Early morning is a good time to get things done: I'm fresh from sleep, it's still relatively cool, there are fewer distractions. Still, as the Sunstead (that's "solstice" in Witch) approaches, it does mean that I get less and less sleep every night.

(It doesn't help that I've been paring away at my caffeine consumption lately, either. A tea-drinker, son of tea-drinkers, I'm now down to two cups of green tea a day. Pathetic. Still, I find that what sleep I do get is qualitatively better than it used to be back in my pot-o'-black-a-day days.)

Then there's the matter of twilight, the “two lights.” At Midwinter, we lose our twilights: the Sun goes down, and it gets dark.  But come Midsummer, there's light in the sky long after the Sun goes down, and long before he comes up again. In Shetland, they call this the Simmerdim: the “Summerdim,” we non-Shetlanders might say, the extended twilight of the Lithedays, the Midsummer season.

Children of the Light, Children of the Seasons are we. As the Light waxes, together we enter a collective state of chronic sleep-deprivation.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

 How Throwing Rice Became a Wedding Tradition | Martha Stewart

Some Thoughts on an Old Wedding Custom


The Received Tradition knows three rites of grain-throwing, and each is implicated in the others.

Grain-Throw the First: the actual Sowing of Seed.

The symbolism of this gesture, both practical and ritual, needs little explication, beyond the observation that virtually every agricultural society sees sexual symbolism here.

Grain-Throw the Second: showering the newly-married with Barley.

Barley is the oldest cultivated grain known to humanity: we've been raising it for maybe 12,000 years, since the end of the last Ice Age. Though it would be impossible to prove, it's my guess that we've been tossing it at newlyweds since the end of the last Ice Age, as well. The symbolism of this playful, immemorial act can hardly be lost on anyone. Speaking as a (naturalized) Midwesterner, you've really got to love the custom's implied micro-aggression as well.

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 Flame - Wikipedia


I spoke recently with a friend's young daughter concerning the well-known phenomenon of the Witch Eye. Like many of us, she's got one, too.

The stories all agree that we only get one Witch Eye each. Why only one? The answer is not far to seek.

A witch has one Witch Eye, not two, because you have to be able to see into both worlds: both this world, and the other. Otherwise, you couldn't function in both. Even witches need to take care of practical matters, too.

“What if we had two?” I ask her, posing a hypothetical that I've long wondered about.

Not missing a beat, she tells me. (12 going on 347.) Her response takes me between the eyes.

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A Tale of Connory Mór


This is a tale of Connory Mór, the greatest of all Ireland's kings. Listen well, you.


Though he had not one gray hair in his beard, Bresal son of Brosnas was accounted the wisest Druid in all of Ireland, so that when King Eterscélae came to die, it was he who partook of the Bull Feast in order to divine his successor.

The Bull duly sacrificed, Bresal ate and drank his fill of the meat and broth and, wrapped in the bull's hide, lay down beneath the apple trees of the royal dún to dream of the next king. All night druids chanted over him incantations of truth.

In the morning, he arose and told the assembled men of Ireland: He who is to be king will come to Tara stark naked, at daybreak, bearing a stone in his sling.

Men were accordingly dispatched to each of the four roads that led into Tara to await his coming.


Young Connory—not yet called Mór, the great—was out hunting with his three foster-brothers when word came to them that the king had died, and that all men were to gather to Tara for the Bull Feast.

Come with us to Tara, his foster-brothers said to Connory, but Connory had spied a number of large, white-speckled birds, of unusual size and color, which he felt inclined to hunt, so he told them: Go on, and I will meet you there.

So they went, and he followed the birds in his chariot, sling in hand: but always the birds preceded him, out of range by the length of a spear cast. All day he followed them, until his horses began to tire. So he jumped from the chariot to follow on foot, and bade his charioteer return home when the horses were rested.

He followed the birds, always a spear-cast beyond him, until at sunset they came to the ocean. Here the birds turned, did off their bird-skins, and stood before him as warriors, with sword and spear.

I am Nemglan, said their chief, king of your father's bird-troops. I hereby lay upon you this geis: that henceforth you kill no birds, for they are your kin by birth.

This I did not know, said Connory. (His father, in fact, was a man of the West who had come in to his mother through the smoke hole in the shape of a bird; but Connory did not know this.) This geis I receive upon me.

This also I lay upon you, said Nemglan: that you lay aside all your clothing, and go this night to Tara, with a stone in your sling; for there your fate awaits you.

This also I receive, said Connory, and did as the man of the waves had bade.

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