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.
On Not Mentioning the Malefactor's Name

Announcing the perpetrator of the most recent mass shooting, the police chief of Virginia Beach said pointedly: “I'm only going to mention his name once.” It's been gratifying to note other news commentators following his lead.

This restraint fulfills an ancient and ancestral urge: why reward ill-wreakers with fame?

Case in point: the Troll-in-Chief. We've got a geis in place against mentioning his name at our coven meetings, and I note that, even at other times, we do the same. I've noticed the same practice among other Lefties.

To speak the name gives life, said the people of ancient Egypt. To this end, they spoke of You-Know-Who—the heretic pharaoh—not by name, but as the Criminal of Akhetaten.

Why give life to the undeserving?

The ancestors were driven to deeds of heroism to make their names live after them. As for those who do the opposite, let their names die with them.

"The dead are pleased when their names are remembered," say the Kalasha, the only remaining Indo-European-speaking people who have practiced their traditional religion without interruption since antiquity. The bale-workers, let us deservedly forget.

On the day that Alexander the Great was born, the most beautiful temple in the world—the temple of Artemis at Ephesos—was destroyed by a massive fire. When they caught the arsonist, they asked, unbelieving, “Why did you do it?”

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  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Mr. Posch, Hear, hear!

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The Secret Star

They say that in the old days there were many signs by which our people would recognize one another.

This is the story of one of them.

...
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Ban 'Everest' Tourism Now

Do mountains have rights?

As a pagan, I believe that they do.

The ancestors, in their wisdom, understood that some places must simply be “set aside.” This is the price that we must expect to pay for the permission to “use” other places: that some should be left to themselves.

Surely the highest mountain in the world merits such respect.

In indigenous lore, the peak of Chomolungma—the Mountain Mother of the World—was preeminently one such place: the residence of a goddess, sacrosanct, in her sanctity forbidden to humanity.

For 65 years now, she has instead been polluted with the excrement (tons of it!), garbage, and even the frozen corpses, of climbers.

If hubris has a tag line, “conquering 'Everest'” must be it. No one has ever conquered, or ever will conquer, the Mountain Mother of the World. Rather, in her ruth (mercy), she has permitted those who profane her to depart alive.

Increasingly, now, she withholds her ruth. Should anyone be surprised?

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When Does Belief Become Superstition?

My undergrad Philosophy of Religion prof defined “superstition” by breaking it down into its component parts: Latin super, “over” + stitio, “standing” (< stare, “to stand”).

“A superstition is just an old belief that has 'stood over' from the past,” he said.

...
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A War on Women: An Open Letter to the Legislators of 'Heartbeat Bill' States

Dear State Legislators of Ohio, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi, and Alabama:

You've made your position clear. Your anti-choice legislation constitutes nothing less than a War on Freedom, and a War on Women.

...
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What I Saw in the Woods, or: Stepping Into the Firelight

I was 17. I didn't know much, or anyone else, at the time, but it was Midsummer's Eve and, dammit, I was going to do something. So at sunset I went down to the woods that lined the cliffs above Lake Erie.

I knew these woods well; they were my refuge. At night, when life was too much to bear, I would stash my shoes under a log and walk the deer-paths for hours. (Bare feet will always find you a path in the dark.) Those woods saved my life.

I had no ritual, no plan, that Midsummer's Eve. As darkness grew, I followed the deer-paths farther and deeper into the forest than I'd ever gone before.

Then suddenly, through the trees: firelight. Drawing nearer, I saw that it was a large fire, very large.

I heard the violin, and the voices of people, many people. Cautiously, through the underbrush, I approached. Some were standing, talking. Some were dancing, a ring-dance around the fire. Old people, young people.

I'd gone out to find Midsummer's Eve, and I'd found it. I was fascinated. I was terrified.

I don't know how long I watched. It felt entirely natural that this should be happening: all very Old Country, somehow. Finally, moving quietly as well I knew how, I turned and made my way back through the woods.

Midsummer's Eve of the next year I went back, hoping to find them again, hoping for the courage to step out of the woods and into the firelight.

Who are you? I wanted to ask.

But that year they weren't there. I never saw them again. Who they were, or why they were there, I don't, and never will, know.

Years went by. Now I'm one of those ring-dancing around the fire, knowing full well as I do so that there are new young eyes out there among the trees, watching and waiting.

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The First Walpurgisnacht

Folks, we have a problem.

It's the Eve of Beltane. The time has come to go up to the top of the Holy Mountain and enact the ancestral rites that bring Winter to an end and assure a fruitful Summer to come.

Well, but: the king has turned to the new god, and forbidden—on pain of death—the Old Gods and the Old Worship. He has sent soldiers to ring the Brocken, our Holy Mountain, and ordered them to kill anyone who attempts to ascend.

But the ancient rites must be enacted, lest the Wheel should cease to turn.

So what do we do?

 

This is the story that the poet laureate of German Romanticism, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832), tells in his poem Die Erste Walpurgisnacht, “the First Walpurgisnacht.” Goethe's poem was later set to music by composer Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) in a pagan cantata of the same name (Op. 60), which premiered in 1843.

In Germany, Walpurgisnacht looks a lot like Halloween does here in the States: it's a haunted time, a night when the ghosts and monsters come out. How did it change from Holy to Haunted? That's the tale that Goethe and Mendelssohn tell in Die Erste Walpurgisnacht.

 

OK, so here's what we're going to do.

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