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.

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Cancel My Subscription!

Back in the day, I used to subscribe to a magazine called Biblical Archaeology Review.

Don't let the title put you off: it's really just a hook from which to hang all sorts of interesting articles about the ancient Middle East, with more graven images per issue than most pagan periodicals.

The Letters to the Editor were always amusing. In every issue, there would be at least one from some shrill nazz who apparently believed that any magazine with “Bible” in the title should be out to prove the Bible.

“Cancel my subscription!” they would always angrily conclude.

(One man wrote: “Many people throughout history have subscribed to a literal interpretation of the Bible, including 1) myself, 2) Jesus Christ, and 3) many other people.” “Well, that's pretty revealing,” I can remember thinking.)

After a while, BAR decided to bring out a sister publication called Archaeology Odyssey that dealt with the wider, non-Levantine world. Sounds good, I thought, and sent them a check.

The first issue was mostly about things Mycenaean, and the degree to which they were (and were not) accurately represented in Homeric epic.

Tongue firmly in cheek, I sent in my own letter to the editor:

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Doing the Minnesota Shuffle

First, and most importantly, keep your elbows tucked in tight against your body.

Now wave your hands and forearms helplessly around. Think flippers or penguin wings, but keep those elbows pressed in. Good!

Now you're ready for the feet. Pull them close together. Now slide one forward: not too far. Now the other. Now the other. Now the other. Now the other.

There you go: you're got it! You're doing our sacred dance: the Minnesota shuffle, also known as the Minnesota Duck-Walk. You want to look like you're penguin-stepping along on smooth ice, afraid to fall down.

In fact, that's exactly what you are doing.

But wait, we're not done yet. The exciting part is yet to come.

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Say It with Symbols

The sabbat site was off a rural road. We needed something to mark the entrance, something that would say, to those in the know, “Here Be Witches."

A sign?

A bunch of helium balloons?

In the end, I nailed a deer skull to the top of a fencepost. From every tine, a long red ribbon fluttered.

Even the youngest among us can read that rune.

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If the Secret of Eleusis Were Revealed to You, What Would You Do?

 A Thought Experiment

Here it is: the only surviving text of the Mysteries of Eleusis, committed to writing by the last hierophant after the destruction of the Sanctuary in 394 ce. After 1600 years, the Secret of Eleusis is finally revealed.

You are now the sole guardian of antiquity's most sacred mystery, knowledge of which (it is said) confers immortality.

What do you do now?

Do you guard the Mystery, or do you pass it on?

If the latter, how? Publicly, or in secret?

Do you publish the mystery, thus earning the praise of scholars everywhere, but also revealing it to the eyes of the unworthy?

Or do you remount the Mysteries? Publicly or privately? If so, how?

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Tyger
    Tyger says #
    If the knowledge of the mystery gives immortality, then I would be obligated to guard the secret. Immortality is not something one
  • Murphy Pizza
    Murphy Pizza says #
    Well... If I'm told outright by my initiator why I was ready and worthy for this revelation ( I was old enough/smart enough/decent
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    How so?
  • Murphy Pizza
    Murphy Pizza says #
    Well...how was *I* deemed worthy to receive revelation?... It would depend on that...

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Melting Old Witch Winter

 Propitiate, v. (< L propitiare, to render favorable, appease) 1. trans. To render propitious or favorably inclined; to appease, conciliate (one offended).

 

The good news: it may not be time to kill the black goat in the back yard just yet.

Not quite.

In pagan lore, a propitiation is an offering that you make when you want Them (or one of Them) to stop what They're doing. As one would expect, propitiatory sacrifices take many forms.

Here in Snow Country, winter started off understated, but late in January it turned nasty. We've been running 20-30 degrees colder than usual (we haven't seen above freezing for almost a month), and we broke the historic snowfall record for the month of February. There's a blizzard predicted this weekend and another for mid-week, with possible total accumulations of twelve or so inches to add to the three-some feet of snow already on the ground.

Fortunately, everyone agrees that Old Witch Winter loves pancakes. Why, I'm not sure—there must be a story out there somewhere, probably buried under the snow—but she does.

So, as I write this, the yeast sponge bubbles away in the warmth of the oven. By the time the snow falls on Saturday, the batter will be nice and sour and stinky: just the way she likes it.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Griddle cakes are the oldest bread that there is. Happy eating!
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I've never heard that story about pancakes and Winter, but I like it. It just so happens that I was lucky enough to find a packag

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But the Witch Says....

The baby is sick.

Go with the flow, says one.

It's the will of God, says another.

Keep it warm and give it some of this, says the witch.

 

I'm pregnant and I don't want another child.

Go with the flow, says one.

It's the will of God, says another.

Drink this three times a day until you've shed it, says the witch.

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  • Tyger
    Tyger says #
    I love this
  • Dragon Dancer
    Dragon Dancer says #
    SO MOTE IT BE!

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Ghost Eggs

Ostara begins with a hunt.

On the Eve of the Equinox, we gather in the temple, but (O and woe!) the Goddess is gone; so we kindle lights and seek Her throughout the house. She Herself is nowhere to be found, but signs of Her presence are everywhere.

Well, it's a fortnight and odd days till we seek (and eventually, nether-faring to the Underworld, find) Her; meanwhile, the winter-scouring, the spring lustrations have begun. The sanctuary must be clean to welcome its Goddess's Return.

Only now I'm seeing ghost eggs everywhere, eggs that aren't there.

There's one, I'll think, reaching under the radiator, only to find that there isn't.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    What a peculiar species we are.
  • Murphy Pizza
    Murphy Pizza says #
    No, funnier....some local lore about a cryogenically frozen Norwegian immigrant dude...
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    You have heard that they're predicting another foot of snow for this weekend, yes? Sometimes--like any wheel--the Wheel gets stuc
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I think that's why Pagans/Witches have so many festivals. So they will have something to grab onto when they turn the Wheel. Like
  • Murphy Pizza
    Murphy Pizza says #
    Indeed... and then we start making up new ones... My friend in CO is going to be attending something called the Frozen Dead Guy Fe

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