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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Call It Payback

In his 1693 book, Wonders of the Invisible World, New England Puritan divine Cotton Mather (1663-1728) wrote that “The witches are organized like Congregational Churches.”

By this he meant that individual covens were fully autonomous: each one ruled by a council of elders, lacking any overarching jurisdictional body.

281 years later, in 1974, Covenant of the Goddess was founded.

As it happens, founding mother Alison Harlow (1934-2004) once told me that while drawing up CoG's initial paperwork, she and her colleagues remembered Mather's words—which Margaret Murray had cited in her 1921 Witch-Cult in Western Europe—and decided to follow Mather's advice. That's how they ended up taking the charter of the Congregationalist churches (now the United Church of Christ) as the new organization's starting point.

In this way, the Archpuritan himself, Scourge of New England Witches, Champion of the Salem Witch Trials, was instrumental in helping to found the oldest, largest, and most successful organization of witches, warlocks, and covens in the world.

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  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    There must be particularly high levels of it around here. I hear there are plans to mine it, if they can get it past the EPA.
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I believe that Irony is one of those subatomic particles that our scientists are trying to identify.

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And to the Republic Where Witches Dance

Why am I a Pagan?

Because pagans dance.

Lots of people dance, sure. But when we dance, it's part of our religion.

“Do witches pray?” asks the reporter.

The witch smiles.

“We dance,” she says.

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Why Are You Pagan?

I'll be speaking to the local Theosophists this coming January on Why I Am a Pagan.

So let me ask: why are you pagan?

Why are so many of us pagans?

You might think that in the Marketplace of Religions the paganisms lost out long ago.

Yet today, world Pagandom is estimated to number somewhere between 7 and 10 million people.

That's a lot of pagans.

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  • Lisa Jean Fleming Philpot
    Lisa Jean Fleming Philpot says #
    Why am I pagan? Because as a child in a world where woman are (even in this day) told to sit down shut up and just listen while "t
  • Lisa Jean Fleming Philpot
    Lisa Jean Fleming Philpot says #
    take the you out of "church service you up leaves"... i hate being dyslexic
  • Kile Martz
    Kile Martz says #
    I am currently pondering my attraction to pagan beliefs with intensity. Why is it making sense to me at this point in my life? Fo

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Thinking in Circles

Thinking in circles.

Imagine: some people think that's a bad thing.

6000 years ago, the Mother Language had a word: *serk-. It meant “make restitution, compensate.”

It also meant “make a circle, complete.”

Restitution is an important cultural value. When you screw up, you need to make up for it. People are going to hurt one another, and restitution helps heal the wound.

So what does restitution have to do with circles?

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  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I remember an article in Science News that said reciprocity is the basis for all moral and economic activities.
  • Tasha Halpert
    Tasha Halpert says #
    And what goes around comes around, also a circle. Do unto others, as the saying goes, (And be sure it is what you would like done

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How Witches Think

Witches don't need to meditate, do yoga, or practice mindfulness.

Witches are already mindful.

Witches pay attention.

Witches notice.

Witches watch.

Witches listen.

Witches consider.

Witches remember.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Red Ocher People

They say it's Earth's moon-blood, from which we're all born.

We've been painting ourselves and our dead with it since before we were sapiens.

Red ocher.

FeO2: iron oxide. Hematite (from Greek hêma, “blood”). It's found practically everywhere, and practically everywhere our people make use of it for purposes both religious and practical.

Rubbed on the skin, it acts as sunscreen, and keeps off bugs.

Sprinkled on the dead, it hastens rebirth.

We used to joke that if we were a Wiccan tradition, it would have to be Cro-Magnon Wicca. Really, once you start using red ocher in ritual, you'll never stop. There's nothing, nothing, nothing more authentic.

Here in the Upper Midwest, we've been using it since the end of the last Ice Age. (Before that, there were no people here, only ice.) There's even an archaeological horizon known as the Red Ocher People.

Be warned: this stuff is pretty damn close to permanent. Some years ago, I was privileged to see the original Willendorf Mother at an exhibit of Ice Age art. Even at 40,000 years, you could still see the red ocher in her hair.

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  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I've read a little about the red ocher people in Northern Europe, apparently they were very similar to the red paint people in New
Church Decides to Return Sacred Boulder to Lakota

In traditional Lakota lore, it is well-known that powerful spirit beings—what some contemporary pagans would call wights—reside in certain large stones.

One such sacred stone—called in Lakota Eyá Shau, “Red Rock”—is located in the town of Newport, about 10 miles south of the city of “St.” Paul, on the grounds of the Newport United Methodist Church.

And thereby hangs a tale.

Red Rock is a granite glacial erratic boulder measuring about 2 x 3 feet, weighing roughly a ton. In this sedimentary landscape of sandstone and limestone, its unusual composition marks it out as mysterious and powerful.

For centuries, traveling Lakota would stop at Red Rock, then located near the banks of the Mississippi, to make offerings and pray; the rock was named for the custom of ruddling the rock with red ocher.

In time-honored Christian tradition, Methodist missionary to the Lakota Benjamin Kavanaugh set up shop beside the Red Rock in 1839. (Religions come and go, but holy places tend to stay the same.) The town that grew up around this mission—later renamed Newport—was in fact originally called Red Rock. In later years, the church that Kavanaugh had founded changed location several times. Interestingly, with each subsequent relocation, they took Red Rock along with them.

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