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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X Has Been a Witch for Y Years

X has been a witch for Y years.

Lots of Craft bios begin this way. Apparently we think that it sounds impressive.

It doesn't.

No matter what your Y is, there's always a Y + 10 that would be more impressive. Not to mention Y + 20, or Y + 50.

Y years? Really? Is that all?

Besides, the statement automatically raises the question: So what were you before that?

And then you've already lost your thrust.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Let me add that I'll be remembering your name before the Altar as I make the daily offerings. Good strength, Patricia.
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Submerged though it may be, somehow this identity just never goes away. Though we wander, we always come back. I have to think tha
  • Patricia Brown
    Patricia Brown says #
    It is still so nebulous and varied what a witch even is. I was always interested and started experimenting at a young age. I disal

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Men Without Shadows

In Iceland, they call it the Black School. (But blá can also mean “blue.”)

There go all the aspiring young warlocks to learn from the Horned his secret and magical arts.

Exactly where the School may be is hard to say. (Some say Paris.) It's one of those places that seems always to be somewhere else.

It's called the Black School because it's always black as night there. (It sounds like some sort of cave.) For five (or nine, or seven) years, they live there together, underground, in the dark.

There they study from the Horned's ancient tomes, which, being written in letters of fire, can thus be read in the dark.

Each day they receive for their sustenance a trencher and horn from the hand of the Horned, although they do not see him.

And of the Black School there is also this to say: that at the end of their study, when they step out into sunlight for the first time in five (or nine, or seven) years, each warlock must leave behind his shadow there with the Horned, and so casts no shadow for all the rest of his days.

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  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    When I first came across this story years ago, I was impressed (as I continue to be) by how well it reads as a description of the
  • Anne Forrester
    Anne Forrester says #
    There's two interesting things about this post: First the word "blá" that might be black or the color blue. NPR's "Radio Lab" did
In Which Our Intrepid Blogger Takes a Moment to Savor Life in the Irony-Free Zone

“I work with Ereshkigal, Oya, and Tlazolteotl,” she tells me.

Then she pauses for my reaction.

Welcome to the Irony-Free Zone.

Gee. The Sumerian Goddess of the Underworld, Santeria's Lady of Storms (mispronounced), and the Aztec 'Eater of Filth.'

Clearly, I'm supposed to be impressed.

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  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    She didn't happen to mention what projects they might be working on did she?
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    I'm stating my own opinions, N5. As do we all.
  • N5VRMRE
    N5VRMRE says #
    Poverty due to a "crossover"; so eclectics are not good enough? If you mispronunce a name you've only ever seen written down you'r

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Do Rivers Have Rights?

One of the important ways in which pagan religions differ from non-pagan ones lies in the pagan understanding that non-human beings, as well as human beings, have rights.

These rights are inherent, not bestowed.

Animals have rights.

Trees have rights.

Rivers have rights.

Mountains have rights.

Oceans have rights.

Planets have rights.

Stars have rights.

The rights of non-human beings, of course, are not the same rights as those of human beings, although there is certainly some overlap. To every people, its own law; to every being, its own rights.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
A Call to Pagan Artists

 If you build the candy cottage, the children will come.

 

So: the well-heeled patron (or matron) of the pagan arts comes to you and says: “I want a temple, expense no object.”

What would you design?

What will the pagan temples of the future look like?

The New Paganisms are, for the most part, young religions, virtually all under 100 years old. For various reasons that I won't go into here, temple-building hasn't so far been a priority for us.

But that won't always be the case.

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  • Sarah Avery
    Sarah Avery says #
    The complex needs an outdoor amphitheater, so we can reboot the Dionysia and any other performance-related sacred activities. It w
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Goddess bless 'em. And of course there's the new Asatruarfelgid hoff-in-building in Reyjavik: I've seen sketches but no blueprints
  • Anne Newkirk Niven
    Anne Newkirk Niven says #
    Not sure about "large scale" but may I be so bold as to point out the Cascadia druids blog about building their shrines, right on
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    May we both live to see it, Michelle, even so.
  • Michelle Gruben
    Michelle Gruben says #
    Interesting! I believe there is some Pagan temple planning astir, albeit in the realm of fantasy film/fiction. I'll bet you anythi

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Are Easter and Ishtar Related?

Contrary to what you may read in the local papers a few weeks from now, there's no historical connection between Easter and Ishtar.

Easter is the modern English name of the pan-Indo-European Dawn Goddess, also known as Ostara, Aušrine, Austra, Aurora, Eos, Ushas, and by many other names. All these names clearly derive from the Proto-Indo-European root for 'east.'

Ishtar is the Akkadian ('Babylonian') name of the pan-Semitic goddess known to the Greeks as Astarte, the Phoenicians as 'Ashtárt, and the Hebrews as 'Ashtóreth (originally 'Ashtéret). The name's original meaning remains unclear.

There's no known historical connection between these goddesses (or, better perhaps, families of goddesses). One is Indo-European, the other Semitic.

The fact that the Indo-European name is clearly derivable from an Indo-European root precludes the possibility that Indo-European speakers could have borrowed her from Semitic cultures. Although the origin of the Semitic name remains unclear, the fact that the goddess was already known among Semitic-speakers before their initial contacts with Indo-European-speaking peoples precludes the possibility of borrowing in the other direction as well.

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  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Seems dubious to me. My Sanskrit dictionary turns up Asharha as a month-name (June-July). Asherah's links to the sea are unclear;
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    In "Crete to Egypt: Missing Links of the Rigveda" Dr. Liny Srinivasan links the Canaanite Asherah to the Minoan As-sa-sa-ra, the B

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Ever-Young Goddess

Hail Dawn, goddess of many names!

 

Éostre (Old English, West Saxon dialect) AY-aw-streh (ay as in say, aw as in awe)

Éastre (Old English, Northumbrian dialect). AY-ah-streh (ay as in say)

Both forms are used by contemporary pagans. Occasionally—probably under the influence of Ostara—written Oestre. (Technically, this form is historically incorrect, if you care about such things.)

*Ôstarâ (Old High German) OH-sta-ra (but most English-speakers say oh-STAR-a; technically, this is historically incorrect, if you care about such things.)

Name reconstructed by the Brothers Grimm. Probably the most frequently-used name for the goddess, and her springtime festival, among contemporary pagans and heathens.

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