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.

 Flowers On Grave Images – Browse 45,736 Stock Photos, Vectors, and Video |  Adobe Stock

 

On the Feast of the Dead, the old woman carefully laid out plates of food on the graves of her beloved dead.

Seeing her, the missionary sneered.

“When do you think your dead are going to come back to eat the food that you put on their graves?” he asked.

The old woman smiled.

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 Wedding Besom Jumping Broom  in your choice of Natural image 1

 

I have a sacred word to teach you.

At a Jewish wedding, when the groom (or whoever) stomps the glass, everyone shouts: Mazel tov!

At a pagan wedding, when the couple jumps the broom everyone shouts: Hurrahya!

Hoo-RYE-yuh, it's pronounced—rye like the grain—and better it be if you rrroll the R. It's an old Witch word, an exclamation of joy. It's one of that odd class of words called vocables, words that connote but do not denote. It doesn't really “mean” anything, but through such words we enter into that archaic, pre-verbal state of mind that characterizes animal calls, infant sounds, and cultic cries such as Euoi!

The rubrics of the Rites of Handfasting don't specify a call as people jump the broom—the broom that represents, inter alia, the threshold of the new life into which the couple are entering together—but Hurrahya! is what you shout as someones leaps a bonfire, so it makes a deal of sense for handfasting as well. Hey, what's good for the witch is good for the warlock.

As to where the word comes from: Reply hazy, try again later. This amateur linguist's guess would be that it's related to hurrah, another common vocable used by cowan and pagan alike. Hurrahya, though, is the Witches-only version.

In my role as wise old sage (i.e. bullshitter) I should probably be telling you that Hurrahya was originally some ancient god-name. (With that explosive hur- at the beginning, and the nice open -ya at the end, I'll leave it to you to guess Who.) Well, you can believe that if you want to. When, at the handfasting later today, I pass along just that story, I plan to be wearing a wry twist of the lips as I do so. Caveat credente: let the believer beware.

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 My random thoughts...: Story about why dog lift their legs while peeing

Some Thoughts on the Use of Urine in Magic

 

In the dream, the ritual is about to begin. Four of us are standing at the circle's respective quarters, ready to begin our quarter-calls.

Instead of summoning, stirring, and waving a knife at, though, the first quarter-caller cocks a leg up, like a dog leaving a scent mark.

Yes! I think gleefully, hoping that my friend at the next quarter will do the same. He does, as do I in turn.

 

Later, waking, I ponder this curious dream, and the vehemence of my gleeful response. In part, I think, it comes from the fact that at heart I'm a trickster, son of a trickster, and—given the opportunity—will almost always play any given situation for the laugh. In the dream, the leg-cocking was transgressive, clearly not to plan, and I've long been one for play, rather than solemnity, in ritual.

Deeper than this, though, lurks an underlying sense of the primal, which the best ritual always manages to evoke. Nothing is older in magic than scent-marking, nothing.

We've been doing it since before we were human.

 

To draw a cheap and wholly unfair dichotomy, wizard magic is head-magic, warlock magic body-magic. To cite only one hoary piece of warlockry, when you buy (or build) a new house, the first thing that you do is to go around and pee on all five corners of the house.

(If you know what I mean by “all five corners,” you know how to think like a witch.)

 

If you want to become a werewolf, first you go to the woods and strip off. Then you piss in a circle around yourself.

Bet they never taught you that in Wicca 101.

I've never tried this myself, but I see the point. To shift your shape, you've got to reach down into the primal. The skin-strong—what the ancestors called the hide-stark—need to be able to live in their pure animal selves.

Besides, I doubt that most wizards would have the bladder capacity.

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  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Mr. Posch, Thank you for neatly summarizing, as an occult practitioner who would know, the difference between wizards and warlock
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I remember reading a newspaper article about a witch bottle found at a civil war site. Apparently some Pennsylvania soldiers had

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

 

 

For some Christians, apparently “God”'s pronouns are now They, Them, and Theirs.

“God Loves You As They Made You,” says the signboard in front of one neighborhood church that I drove past recently.

(Of course, eagerness to embrace the latest cultural trends has long been a strong signifier of the conceptual hollowness of so much contemporary American religion—pagan as well as Christian. Somehow, I can't help but suspect that God/They isn't going to age well.)

Divine gender has, of course, long been an issue for those poor impoverished souls who worship only one god. (Let those of us blessed with more feel no sense of smugness here, though: the question of divine “gender” is as active a theological category for thinking polytheists as it is for the thoughtful monotheist.)

In some ways, God/They could be construed as faithful to certain streams of Biblical tradition. The most common by-name for Yahwéh in the Hebrew Bible is Elohím, an undeniably plural noun (it's the anomalous plural of eloáh) usually (although not always) paired with a singular verb. The mental disconnect between the two—similar to the feeling that you get when someone says “a scissors”—is nicely paralleled by the (let's just admit it, stylistically inelegant) singular “they.”

I do wonder how God/They Christians deal with their traditional liturgical and scriptural texts. Is “God” a “They” there, too? How about Jesus? Is he also a they?

Still, it's hard to deny that God/They can't help but smack of polytheism which, while it warms the cockles of my pagan heart, must surely set the teeth of an awful lot of conservative One-God folk on edge.

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  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I received an update from drivethrurpg about a supplement for the Runequest about a new book called "The Six Paths" about the six
  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Mr. Posch, Yeah, hard pass on one scissor or one pant leg. Good point. We know that Christian conservatives get triggered by the

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

 

 

Three things stand out in my memory from my trip to the ancient city of Ephesus, City of the Moon.

The first, quite frankly, was the public toilet. Astoundingly, the row of side-by-side toilet seats—the ancestors were social people—looked exactly—exactly—like modern toilet seats.

But these were hand-carved from marble. Wow.

The second was the civic amphitheater. Here Saul of Tarsus—later known as “saint” Paul—was nearly lynched by an angry mob for blaspheming the city's patron goddess, the famously many-breasted Artemis (Diana) of Ephesus. Megálê hê Ártemis tôn Efesíôn! they chanted: Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!

According to the New Testament book of Acts, the mob was led by a guild of souvenir-manufacturers, cynically worried about loss of revenue. (Why do non-pagans find it so difficult to believe that we, too, might love our gods?) Unfortunately, in the end a conscientious city official intervened to save “Paul's” life.

During my visit to the theater, I had the pleasure of standing in the middle of the stage and chanting, in modern pronunciation, the chant of the ancients: Megháli i Ártemis tôn Efesíôn!

Indeed, as reputed, the acoustics were wonderful.

My third memory from the day is much more humble, but—in many ways—the most telling of all.

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  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Mr. Posch, That story is awesome. Praise be to Artemis, Goddess of the forest and the swamplands, of the Moon and the wild plac

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“The Witches' Almanac," a priestess that I know once remarked, sadly, "never fails to disappoint.”

Somehow, I've always felt the same way about the novels of Canadian author Charles de Lint.

On the face of it, this seems odd. Fantasy novels situating Old World lore in the New World...you'd think that I would be all over it. But no. Elves, Green Men, and Moon Goddesses are all very well, but in de Lint, somehow they're all just so much window dressing. The depths, the wisdom, just aren't there.

I find this to be even more specifically true (alas) of Greenmantle, his 1988 book about the Horned God. It's something of an hommage to Lord Dunsany's stunning 1928 fantasy The Blessing of Pan: a lyrical and deeply sad novel about a rural English village being slowly won over to the Wild. The contrast between the two novels, unfortunately, illustrates my point in the starkest of ways. Dunsany's book has both substance and magic. De Lint, instead, tells you how magical things are, but somehow never quite manages to make you feel the magic.

Well, but. Even a stopped clock tells truth twice a day. When you're writing about Himself, every now and then, something is bound to sing. Sure enough, in Greenmantle de Lint nails it:

[The Horned] becomes what you bring to him. If you approach him with fear, he fills you with panic....If you approach him with lust, he becomes a lecherous satyr. If you approach him with reverence, he becomes a majestic figure. If you approach him with evil, he appears as a demonic figure [181].

Transcribing this passage makes me wonder if perhaps part of my unhappiness with de Lint's writing may not stem from the unrelentingly pedestrian quality of his prose. Unlike Dunsany, who was both, de Lint is storyteller, but not poet.

Still, though his language may leave something to be desired, what it says offers deep insight into the nature of this particular god, skin-strong shape-shifter that He is. In Him, you will see preeminently—as de Lint so rightly says—whatever you yourself bring to the encounter.

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 Taking Time To Be Thankful: Surviving A Wild Turkey Attack | by Carie  Fisher | Mission.org | Medium

Well, next time you come to Paganistan, you won't have any trouble picking out the Witch houses.

Just look for the turkey out front.

A few weeks ago, I got an email from my neighbor next-door titled “Visitor.” Curious, I opened it, only to find a photo of a turkey standing in my front yard.

This is strange. Though I've lived here for more than 30 years, I've never seen any turkeys around here before: unsurprisingly, since I live in a densely urban neighborhood with no nearby wild spaces. Even the River is more than a mile away.

I made a point of bringing it up to the coven at our May Eve get-together because my covensib Z has had a guardian turkey at her place for over a year now. (In fact, we were meeting at her house that night.) Sometime last Spring, a male turkey decided that her front yard was his territory, and he's been there more or less ever since. Her husband has befriended the turkey, and feeds him regularly. Otherwise, though, the turkey is very protective of his territory—we call him the Attack Turkey—and has been known (on more than one occasion) to chase off Amazon deliverymen. (I presume that this represents territorial defense rather than commercial preference, though with turkeys, it's hard to say.)

After I'd told the tale, my covensib A laughed. Turns out, a turkey had just shown up in her yard for the first time a few days previous. This would ordinarily be a little less surprising than in Z's instance, or mine, since she lives in a wooded area backing on a lake. Still, though she's lived there for more than two years, she's never seen a turkey there before.

Well, you know witches: hedge-straddlers all, one foot in the Tame and one in the Wild. Somehow, I can't help but think of the Temple of Juno in Rome with its protective flock of guardian geese, which managed to raise the alarm during a Celtic raid on the city and so save the temple treasure.

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