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
Warlockries

Yeah, I'm a warlock.

You got a problem with that?

“Witch,” though a gender-neutral term, is female first. So it's convenient to have a term that specifies: male of the species.

Warlock.

Interestingly, it's a Scots word in origin. (In Sassenach they say warlowe.) Maybe they had more problems with male witches North of the Border.

That's not surprising. Throughout the Norse culture sphere, the majority of witches have always been men. Most executed witches in Scandinavia were male.

No, I'm not a wizard, but that's a class difference. Wizards are gentry. Warlockry is for us yeomen.

Some Wiccans are allergic to the term. Since the number of men in Wicca has been waning away for years, maybe it's moot. But in Old Craft—where men still constitute a numerical majority—most of us are fine with “warlock.”

And no one denies that it's a word of power.

Some object on the grounds that it means “oath-breaker.”

Well, they're wrong.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Mike W
    Mike W says #
    I agree with you Steve that the Witches/Warlocks were outsiders to the majority religions as sanctioned by society or the state.
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    My contention would be that even back in pagan days, the witches and our ways were already outsiders, and that our worships didn't
  • Mike W
    Mike W says #
    Yes, I think that warlock is a great word for a male witch. For the view of a Feri Trad elder on this use see http://faerywolf.co
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Mab, you've made my day. I'm delighted to hear about the gender imbalance in your neck of the woods. (Around here, it's still the
  • Mab Nahash
    Mab Nahash says #
    I get that the meaning has changed in general parlance, but for those of us who take oaths as part of our practice of witchcraft,

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Pancake Moon

Consider the immemorial pancake.

Child of Earth, Sun, and Thunder, one of humanity's most ancient and sacred foods.

Every pancake is a charm, as round and golden as the Sun. Every one you eat brings Spring just a little closer. That's why this is pancake time, the arc of the year between the February cross-quarter and Spring Evenday.

The pancake incarnates differently in every cuisine, but in my opinion it reaches its apotheosis in the yeasted buckwheat pancakes of Russia, blini. They say that when you start the sponge for blini, you should take it out to the woods so that the full Moon can shine on it.

You can judge their antiquity by the name. Blini comes from the same ancient root that gave us mill, meal, and molar. From the same root also comes mallet, malleus (as in Malleus Maleficarum, “hammer of the 'witches'”), and Mjöllnir, the name of Þórr's thunder hammer: “crusher.” Really, there should be a shrine to Thunder in every flour-mill in the world.

Blini are one of the great sacred foods of the North. You serve them at sacred times: births, weddings, deaths.

And now: that final, axial arc of the year between winter and spring.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Got Corpse-Breeches?

By far the most popular exhibit at the Iceland Museum of Witchcraft and Sorcery in Skáholt is its pair of nábrók, literally “corpse-breeches”: the whole, flayed skin of the lower half of a man’s body.

Looking something like the lower half of a bog body, they are, to all appearances, the whole preserved skin of a man’s feet, legs, thighs, and buttocks, complete with genitals and pubic hair. (Presumably those on display—oddly dubbed “necropants”—are mock-ups rather than the genuine item.)

Here's how to get your own pair.

First you make a deal with a living man to take his skin after death. (You can't take someone’s skin without prior permission because this would lay you open to retribution from the outraged dead.) After his death and burial, you dig up his coffin and flay the skin off his body, in one piece, from the waist down.

Then you don the corpse-breeches yourself (presumably after having tanned them in some fashion), and wear them 24/7. According to some authorities, the breeches eventually meld to your skin, although not everyone agrees on this point.

Next you steal a coin from a poor widow on Christmas, Easter, or Whitsunday. (You could translate this into Pagan as Yule, Ostara, or Midsummer, if you like). Place this coin, along with a particular runic sigil (see above) scribed on a piece of parchment, in the “purse” (i.e. scrotum) of the corpse-breeches.

Having done so, you will now never lack for cash, because there will always be plenty to be found in the magical pouch of your corpse-breeches.

Here's the catch.

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NASA Confirms Gift of Moon Rock to Minneapolis Pagan Temple

AP: Houston

NASA confirmed today that the US space agency has agreed to donate one of its Moon rocks to a pagan temple in Minneapolis.

"To some, these rocks hold profound spiritual, as well as scientific, significance," said a NASA representative who spoke on condition of anonymity. "Moon worship is one of humanity's oldest religions, and we are proud to make this gift."

Founded in 1980, the Temple of the Moon, the designated recipient of the Moon rock, is the oldest continuously-operating pagan temple in the Twin Cities area, commonly known as "Paganistan" because of its large pagan population.

According to Steven Posch, the temple's priest-in-residence, "Without the Moon's influence on Earth's tides, life literally would not exist on this planet. Small wonder that our ancestors revered the Moon, as we still do today. Now this relic of our goddess can be properly reverenced, as it so richly deserves."

The rock in question, a brescia from the Mare Fecundatatis, was gathered during the Apollo 13 expedition to the Moon in 1970.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Maybe it's time for a Paganistan Aeronautics and Space Administration. PASA, anyone?
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    You're right on both counts, Jon, and kudos for your close reading. Alas, "fake" news doesn't have to be true, only believable.
  • Jön Upsal's Gardener
    Jön Upsal's Gardener says #
    More's the pity. I'm a huge fan and supporter of space exploration. Good on you for the verisimilitude. What I wouldn't give for
  • Jön Upsal's Gardener
    Jön Upsal's Gardener says #
    The Soviet Luna 16 probe brought back some samples from Mare Fecunditatis in 1970, but I don't see how NASA would have ended up wi
  • Jön Upsal's Gardener
    Jön Upsal's Gardener says #
    Apollo 13 never landed on the moon. How could they have gathered any moon rocks?

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Did Odin Hang from Yggdrasil?

It's a truism of modern mythography that Odin, Lord of the Runes, hanged himself from the branches of Yggdrasil, the old Norse Tree of Life.

But did he?

According to the famous passage from Hávamál:

I know that I hung

on the windy meiðr

all nine nights:

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Other Cloaks

It's one of the more pressing questions of contemporary pagan theology.

What happened to the pagan gods during the centuries of the Great Interruption?

Did they fall asleep? Did they go away?

In the Baltics, the Old Ways lingered long. In Latvia, the Thunderer of the old pantheon—Perkons (= Perkunas, Perun, etc.)—came to be identified (among others) with “Saint” Martin.

“Martin carries nine Perkonses under his cloak,” was the saying.

Did the Old Gods abandon their people?

No, indeed. They've never abandoned us, and They never will.

They wrapped Themselves in other cloaks and waited.

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  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    That's a great question, Anthony, with more than one answer. But one of those answers is surely the most surprising of all: They h
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I'm familiar with the notion that the Saints and Superheroes are the old gods in disguise. I kind of like that notion actually.

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Peering through the Eye-Holes

It lies at the opposite pole from All gods are one god.

All gods are distinct.

So Thórr ≠ Perún ≠ Perkunas ≠ Zeus ≠ Jupiter ≠ Indra ≠ Ba'al ≠ Changó?

Yikes.

Although, in a History of Religions sense, I can see a certain merit-of-convenience to the hyper-Distinct school of thought, I have to ask myself: just how far does this extend? Is African Changó a different god from Brazilian? Is the Thunderer of my valley existentially distinct from the Thunderer of your valley next door?

If dreary monism is the danger of “All gods are one god,” is not the danger of “All gods are distinct” atomization? Personally, when I see gods getting smaller and smaller, I worry.

Looking at pagan history, I note a pronounced tendency to look for one's own gods behind the masks of other people's.

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  • Ian Phanes
    Ian Phanes says #
    You asked: Is African Changó a different god from Brazilian? This question has been carefully considered Sandra T. Barnes, though

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