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.

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

 A Guest Blog by Rudd Rayfield




He's turning blue!


He's playing a flute!


He's surrounded by cows!


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In the Halls of Heaven, the gods are meeting in council to discuss a problem of utmost urgency.

Perkons, god of thunder, tells the gods the ill tidings. Evil, power-hungry men, called “Christians,” have enslaved all the world; now they are coming to enslave Latvia as well.

As the gods weigh what actions to take to protect their people from this terrible threat, the goddess of the Daugava River arrives. She tells them of a handsome youth with the ears of a bear whom she wishes to take into her crystal palace at the bottom of the river.

“This is the youth himself!” cries Thunder. “He is the very hero who will protect our people from the slavers!”


So begins the tale of Láchpleshis, the Bearslayer, Latvia's national epic. Folklorist Andrejs Pumpurs (1841-1902) wove together—à la Kalevala—old Latvian folk tales that tell of the time, 800 years ago, that the Teutonic Knights, in a crusade against Europe's last pagans, conquered the Baltic states with fire and sword.

The Bearslayer is a fine, romping tale of love, friendship, and treachery, filled with monsters, evil enchantresses, and magicians. Characters include the Bearslayer's true love, daughter of Fate the beautiful Laimdota, his best friend the hero Koknesis, and Kangars, the traitorous pagan priest who seeks to betray his people to the Christians.

The Bearslayer rallies the people and fights the good fight, protecting Latvia from enslavement for many years, but in the end he himself is betrayed.

Through the treachery of Kangars, the renegade pagan priest, the Black Knight learns the secret of the Bearslayer's strength: his furry bear's ears.

In a sword fight, he lops off both ears. As they grapple, locked together, they topple from a cliff into the waters of the mighty Daugava, and are never seen again.

So begins Latvia's 700 years of enslavement to a foreign people and a foreign creed.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Well, I was wrong: there is an English translation:
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    I wish that my Latvian were up to the task, alas. Let me consult with a Dievturiba (= Latvian pagan) friend of mine. Stay tuned.
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    If that story Lachpleshis gets translated please let us know. I for one would like to read it.

Posted by on in Culture Blogs



All right, I'm just going to say it.

If you think that your paganism is just a matter of your personal relationship with the gods, you're wrong.

Or, at least, you're only partially right.

All realized paganisms are tribal. They're the religions of a particular group. If in the old days you had asked someone “What's your religion?”, they would (assuming that they understood what you meant by “religion”) have answered you: “My religion is the [Name of Tribe or People] religion.”

That's the way that the Kalasha—the last remaining Indo-European-speaking people who have practiced their traditional religion continuously since antiquity—talk about their religion to this day.

Let me give you an example. I'm a Witch. My religion is the Witch religion.

The ancestors, of course, didn't know that they were pagan. Now we do. It's a situation analogous to that of American First Nations. Before Columbus, they didn't think of themselves as a collective group. They thought of themselves in terms of their own people: Dakota, Anishinabe, Ho-Chunk, etc. It wasn't until later that they began to see themselves as Indigenous Americans, a group sharing a common identity.

It's like that with us, too. Now we see that, beyond our immediate tribal affiliations, we've got shared concerns with others that we perceive as being unlike ourselves: that, in fact, we share a common identity.



The old Hwicce (Witch) language had two words that dictionaries define as “tribe, people, nation”: thede and lede.

(1000 years ago, that would have been þéod and léod, but of course, that was 1000 years ago, and language changes just like everything else.)

Here's the difference between the two terms: your thede is your immediate tribe; your lede is your tribe's tribe.

So as for me, I'm Witch by thede, Pagan by lede. The Kalasha girls shown above dancing at the Joshi (Spring) festival are Pagan by lede, Kalasha by thede.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs



A year without a Yule log. Gods, what a grim prospect.

The Yule Log is the holiday's oldest thew (custom), and by all accounts brings luck to the household for the year to come. Surely anyone can see that a fireless hearth at Yule bodes ill. If you have the wherewithal to uphold this thew, it well behooves you to do so.

The logical time for the burning of the Yule Log would be Midwinter's Eve, but Mother Night is one night of the year when I'm certain not to be at home, since our ritual is always over at R___'s house, where the coven Yule Log crackles merrily on the hearth throughout the festivities.

So in practice, I've tended to light the household Log on the night of the 24th: what's usually the Fourth or Fifth Night of Yule. It's a nice, quiet night when I don't generally have a lot of other things going on and, after all the hurly-burly of the lead-up to, and beginning of, Yule it's nice to spend a quiet, contemplative evening with the Fire.

Well, but this year I just couldn't bring myself to do it. Lows that night were in the double digits below zero, and the prospect of opening the damper and having all the warmth in the house go up the chimney on the coldest night of the Winter so far was just not a relishable prospect.

I remind myself that Yule begins, not ends, with the Sunstead (Solstice). Thirteen Nights we've got, for the burning of the Yule Log.

So now I'm thinking New Year's Eve, or possibly Thirteenth Night. We'll see what the weather looks like when we get there.

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 Shri, Vishnu, A Hare Krishna






 A Hare Krishna

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The 700 Club


Hey Pat:

Got a question for you.

You said that your god told you that Donald Trump would win the 2020 election. He didn't. Even you admit that now.

Given what you've said previously, then, that leaves us with several possible explanations.

  1. “God” was wrong.
  2. “God” changed his mind.
  3. You misunderstood what “God” told you.
  4. What you thought was “God” speaking to you wasn't “God” at all. (I'll leave aside the question of who, or what, it actually was.)
  5. Your god doesn't exist, and you're living in a fantasy world as much as Donald Trump.
  6. "God" exists, but he doesn't talk to you.
  7. Trump really did win the election; he just lost the presidential election.
  8. Some other god, more powerful than yours, intervened and changed the results.
  9. After all these years, you still haven't learned to tell the difference between "God"'s voice and the promptings of your own unconscious mind.

So, Pat, read me this oracle. In all candor, let me ask you: which one was it?

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    I expect of any priest or priestess that he or she be able to tell the difference between the voice of the god or goddess and the
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I'm pretty sure that the only "God" that the Evangelical Christians have been listening too for the past four years is Mammon the

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

 It wouldn't be Yule without the all-night dance, now, would it?


Breakin' Old Yule Up


Hoo-ray Jake and hoo-ray John,

breakin' old Yule up all night long.


Way back yonder a long time ago,

the old folks danced the do-si-do.


Hey little children, off to bed:

you'll wake up with ginger bread.


Way down yonder along the creek,

I saw Berhta washin' her feet.


Berhta come, Berhta gone:

breakin' old Yule up right along.


Roll up the rug and dance all night,

stay with me till mornin' light.


Pitch a nickle, pitch a dime,

breakin' old Yule up one more time.

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