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.
'Snowdrop, Snowdrop': A Magical Little Children's Song for Imbolc

As its alternate name, Candlemas Bells, would suggest, the snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis, "milk-flower of the snows") is the floral signature of the festival of Imbolc.

Check out 'Snowdrop, Snowdrop,' a charming (and magical) little song by the prolific and thoroughly unpretentious writer of children's songs, Dany Rosevear. Of such humble fieldstones is the temple of modern pagan culture built.

Of course, I've been unable to resist tampering with the lyrics.

Just a little.

 

Snowdrop, Snowdrop

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  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    "Snow bells." Thanks for the link!
  • Tyger
    Tyger says #
    You're welcome!
  • Tyger
    Tyger says #
    I remember a Schumann song called 'Schneegloeckchen,' sung here by the lovely Edith Wiens: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oOsXVX

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Witches with Their Feet on the Ground

As a movement, the modern Old Craft has tended to be characterized by a verbal style that I can only call “opaque.”

Anyone who has ever tried to work her way through the letters of Robert Cochrane (1931-1966), Father of modern Old Craft, will know what I'm talking about. Cochrane hints, but rarely tells. He's very good at dropping a few evocative details, then drawing the veil back over. He writes, as my friend and colleague Bruner Soderberg once rather acidly observed, “to impress rather than to inform."

His would-be successors, alas, have often tended to follow suit. Particularly notorious for the opacity of his prose was mage Andrew Chumbley (1967-2004), whose books have got to be among the most-collected and least-read titles on the shelves of modern Witchdom.

Chumbley seems immune to clear exposition. He will never say “mystery” when he can possibly say arcanum, “flying ointment” instead of unguentum sabbati. Maybe there really are people out these who are impressed by high school Latin, but personally, I'm not one of them.

Old Craft thrives here in the American Midwest. What both intrigues and impresses me about Midwest Old Craft is its very lack of opacity. Rather, the standard Chumbleyian style of “I know something you don't know” obfuscation seems to us a pomposity, a bore: in fact, an admission of poverty. It strikes us—whether rightly or wrongly—as a ploy to cover lack of substance.

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  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    By its very nature, Old Craft defies clear exposition. It's best transmitted through evocation: story, dance, song. And surely it
  • Ian Phanes
    Ian Phanes says #
    Can you recommend any Old Craft books that are "crisp, clear, succinct"?

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
In Which the Goddess Returns to Jerusalem

 Evarékhekha ve-Asherá u-ve-Yahvetá

"I bless you by Ashera and by her Yahweh."

 

A friend of mine emigrated to Israel. Where better to worship the gods of Canaan than in the Land of Canaan, right?

Israel is a hard place to make a living. Everything costs about what it does here in the States, but salaries are much lower. Just about everyone works three jobs: one to pay the rent, one for expenses, and one for discretionary income.

Among his other jobs, my friend made little ceramic statues of Ashera, Goddess-Mother of the Canaanite pantheon. A few of the tourist stores agreed to take them on consignment. Every now and then one would sell and bring in a few shekels.

Just as things were getting desperate, my friend got a call from a friend at Hebrew University.

“I've got a gig for you,” he said.

It turned out that an Italian film-maker was coming to Israel to make a film about the history of Judaism. The good news: they wanted to buy twelve of his little Asherot. The bad: they planned to film them all being broken, to represent the rise of aniconism in monotheist thinking.

My friend was torn. He desperately needed the money, but he just couldn't bring himself to sell his little goddesses, knowing that they were going to be broken.

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Soul Walker

It's the morning of the Eve of Oimelc. I sit on the front porch with our youngest coven kid, waiting for the school bus.

As we wait, we sing songs of spring.

Walker in the silent places,

Walker where no one may go,

our aloneness cries out to you,

Walker in the Snow.

The Arctic cold that has paralyzed the city for days has finally broken. There's even a little moisture in the air. A dusting of snow has fallen overnight; the snow diamonds sparkle.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
How Much Ground Would a Groundhog Hog...

Winter's halfway over. In my book, that means: holiday.

Whatever you call it.

Imbolc (various spellings).What, you didn't grow up speaking Irish?

Despite what you've heard, Imbolc probably doesn't mean “In the Belly” (which, when you think about it, is a pretty stupid name for a holiday anyway). What does it mean then?

Nobody knows. Possibly it's a pre-Keltic name. Anyway, it's exotic (pagans like that) and really, really old.

Oimelc (various spellings). What, you didn't grow up speaking Scots Gaelic?

Despite what you've heard, Oimelc probably doesn't mean “Ewe's Milk.” Yes, it's lambing time, and yes, our much-diminished larders are (gratefully) being replenished by a welcome freshet of new milk right now. But “Ewe's Milk” is probably best regarded as folk etymology.

What does it mean then?

Nobody knows. Possibly it's a pre-Keltic name. Anyway, it's exotic (pagans like that) and really, really old.

Candlemas. This is how they name the holiday in Cowan. (That telltale -mas on the end gives it away every time.) Some Old Craft purists, who wouldn't be caught dead using a neo-peg name like Imbolc or Oimelc, still call it this: a habit of protective coloration left over from the Bad Old Days, I guess.

Well, la-de-da-da.

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  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Around here we tend to present the children to the Master at Grand Sabbat. Just like the witch-hunters said we did. "Suffer the
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    Presentation at a temple huh. Okay, so the pagan version of Groundhog day would be presenting children 11 and under to the gods,
  • Tyger
    Tyger says #
    I like this. Magic is not complicated. Ritual doesn't need to be either. Name it what you want, and just celebrate. Life is short
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    What exactly is Candlemas supposed to be about? It sounds like someone is blessing candles. Chapter 4 of "Christianity the origi
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    My understanding (I'm certainly no expert on the various Christianities) is that "Candlemas" is an English folk-name for the feast

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Wolf-Guard: A Traditional 'Imbolc' Game

It's Deep Winter now, the cold heart of the Winter, and the fireday known variously as Yeaning, Ewesmilk, and February Eve* is upon us.

It's time to mount the Wolf-Guard.

Snow lies piled deep, game is scarce. Hunger Moon shines.

Yet now comes the yeaning, the lambing. (In the Old Witch language, yeans are lambs or kids.) And where there are lambs, there are wolves.

Hunger and the smell of blood overcomes the wolves' innate caution of human beings. So the warriors take up their spears and go up to the lambing-pens to mount the nightly wolf-guard.

In most places, these days, the Wolf-Guard no longer happens literally; instead, it's become a game (also called Lambs and Wolves). Here's how you play.

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  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Come to think of it, the way that we play it, it's a lot more like rugby than like tag.
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    The Wolves win when they get a lamb. The Spears win if they kill all the wolves. This can also be done as a dance.
  • Murphy Pizza
    Murphy Pizza says #
    So is it like tag? How do you determine who wins?...

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Cold from Between the Stars

It doesn't come every year, but it's here now: the Deep Cold, the Cold from Between the Stars.

This is Cold that kills, a vampire cold that sucks out warmth and moisture: Eater of Life, the great void which will never be sated until it has engulfed everything that is, until all that is Unlike has been made Like Unto.

Gods help us, this too is She. With Her fearsome Winds, She comes, snow swirling around Her skirts.

Life slows to stasis, huddled in its little warmths. If these fail, we die. In the streets, the sirens shriek out again and again. Terribly, even Fire obeys Her.

Deep Winter.

We call You by Your ancient Name.

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