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

90-some degrees, humid enough to stick a knife into, and here I am stacking billets of firewood. I must be insane.

The old mulberry tree stood at the corner of the fence for probably 45-50 years, chance-sown, no doubt, by some bird. Every May it besplattered the sidewalk beneath with profligate bounty. Ten years ago it died, and has been drying in place ever since.

Monday we cut it down, and cut it up. Now I'm stacking the fruits of our labor.

Yule-logs for the next 10 years here, if not longer. Some say oak, but I think that fruitwood makes the best Yule-logs. You have only to think about the symbolism to see why. Not to mention that fruitwood burns sweetly, fragrant.

I like to have known the tree that my Yule-log comes from. The Old Ways are all about relationship. In the Old Days, you had a relationship with nearly everything in your life: the food you ate, the wood you burned, the clothes you wore.

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What Will Yule Look Like in an Age of Covid?

Yule being preeminently a time of collective merry-making and social gathering, it's hard to imagine what it might look like in a time of social distancing and outdoor gathering only.

So we'd better start thinking about it now.

Through the Spring and Summer, my coven—as so many—has been meeting outdoors. As cold weather draws on, that's going to become more difficult.

Fortunately, our Yule has always had a strong outdoor component. At sundown on Midwinter's Eve we sing the Sun down from the top of Tower Hill and kindle the Yule Fire as he slips below the horizon.

All night, the Fire burns.

In the morning, we go out again to sing the Sun up out of the River Valley. Hill : Valley :: Sunup : Sundown.

At our most recent scheduling meeting, it was suggested that, having lit the Yule Fire, we then take it around to each home in the coven. That way we can each keep our own fire-watch with the same Fire through the night, and gather again in the morning to see our vigils successfully through.

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Wank-Dreams of an Intergalactic Space Princess

Sigh. Disney has much to answer for.

So...there's this Princess in a galaxy far, far away.

Actually she isn't a Princess anymore. She's now High Queen: absolute hereditary monarch of seven Keltic star-systems. All her subjects love her.

(Her family, BtW, became ruling dynasty bloodlessly centuries before by unanimous acclaim when the previous, petered out. Welcome to Planet Kumbaya. Who are you, and what have you done with the real Kelts?)

Um...let's see. She's seven feet tall—all the Space-Kelts are tall—and drop-dead gorgeous (of course), with a tumbling cascade of butt-length red hair.

Among her many memorable accomplishments, she single-handedly piloted a space ship—without benefit of crew—through a zone previously considered un-navigable. She did this in order to avenge her parents, destroying their murderers' planet by psychic power alone.


(Is your gorge rising yet? Mine certainly was.)

Well, I'm sorry, but I can't tell you what comes next. I just couldn't force myself to read any more.

Thanks to the Red Hag—covid 19—many of us are scraping the bottom of the barrel for fresh reading material. Here's a series, written by a witch—well, a Wiccan, anyway—the premise of which is that ancient Kelts fled to outer space to escape the oppressive ways of the New Religion...sounds like it could be fun.

Oh, but it isn't. Patricia Kenneally-Morrison's Keltiad series—from what little I've been able to stomach—reads more like some perverted kind of cross between wish-fulfillment and Disney-princess masturbatory fantasy.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Thanks for the recommendations, Anthony. To this let me add Esther Forbes' classic A Mirror for Witches and pretty much anything b
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    For reading material I suggest: "Log Horizon" by Mamare Touno; "Magic's Pawn", "Magic's Promise", and "Magic's Price" by Mercedes

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Pagan Transubstantiation

It is, I suppose, the pagan equivalent of transubstantiation.

The god is present in the image; or, put differently: The image makes-present the god.

Insofar as pagans agree on anything, I suspect that this is one agenda item on which most of us would concur. Well worth asking, of course, is the question: How, then, is the god present in the image?

Is the god symbolically present in the image?

Is the god literally present in the image?

If symbolically, what does this imply about Who the gods are and how They act?

If literally, what does this imply about Who the gods are and how They act?

I can't answer these questions for you; after years of temple-keeping, I can barely answer them for myself. (I do not, however, think that this Real Presence is symbolic only; and whatever the gods may be, I do not believe that they are "spirits" that "inhabit" an image as one would enter—and leave—a room.) This much, however, I can say:

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
On Asafetida

Mention asafetida among a group of pagans, and someone—probably the newbie who's still trying to establish credibility—will be sure to wrinkle up her nose and say: “Ooo, that really stinks!”

She's referencing, of course, asafetida's long-standing reputation as a demonofuge. If you want to get rid of that pesky demon that you've (for whatever reason) conjured up, toss some asafetida on the coals in the censer, and just watch it dematerialize. Or whatever it is that they do.

(Now, to me, this seems counter-intuitive. One would think that demons, of all critters, would like stinky. Just goes to show how much I know about Ceremonial Magic. Or demons, for that matter.)

Even the name is stinky: Latin asa, 'gum,' + fetida, 'smelly' (cp. fetid).

In fact, asafetida is no stinkier than onions or garlic. I know because I eat it all the time.

Like most witches, I have a strong affinity for Indian food. (This makes a roundabout kind of sense; after all, what's the national food of Britain? Curry, of course.) Once used in medieval medicine, asafetida is now primarily a seasoning used in South Asian cooking.

In India, really pure vegetarians avoid—for Ayurvedic reasons—onions and garlic in their cooking, but some preparations really do require that certain foetor: hence asafetida, or hing as it's known in Hindi.

More than 20 years ago, a coven-sib gave me a pound-weight bag of asafetida that he'd bought and realized he had no use for. (Just why he bought it in the first place, I've never thought to ask.) Anyway, these decades later, I'm finally coming to the end of it. Thanks, Robin, why-ever you bought it, for the gift that has kept on giving.

I'm not sure how many grams a year that comes out to, but I suppose this fact goes some way to explaining why I smell the way I do. And—presumably—why I've had so few problems with demons down the years.

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The Single Most Important Thing That You Can Do to Survive the Pandemic with Your Spiritual Life Intact

Is your spiritual life seeming a little flat lately?

Do your daily observances feel stale?

Zoom “rituals” don't quite do it for you?

Are you deeply missing festivals, the gatherings of the tribe that would usually be happening round about now?

Yeah, me too. Let me hasten to add that it isn't this way just for pagans. Anyone with any kind of spiritual life is feeling the same.

But there is a way to survive this.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Three Old Warlocks

You may be familiar with the Witch Country children's rhyme Three Old Warlocks Up a Flue. Though it frequently stands alone, it's actually part of a longer, and rather mysterious, poem of uncertain age and meaning, but with resonant depths.

And heights.


Three Old Warlocks


Three old warlocks

up a flue:

one flew away,

and then there were two.

One flew away,

and then there was one.

One flew away,

and then there were none.


Three old warlocks

up a flue:

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Who says the Potteriad is fiction?
  • Kile Martz
    Kile Martz says #
    First meeting of the Flue Flyers Guild?

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