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.
A Pagan Revival in 13th Century France

What happens when you turn loose a bunch of over-educated, under-employed intellectuals on a prosperous society in the throes of social ferment?

Apparently, you get a Pagan Renaissance.

It happened in 20th century America. It also happened in 13th century France, during what—ironically enough—is known as the Age of Cathedrals.

The parallels between the two periods are striking. In both, new agricultural techniques produced a burgeoning population, a thriving mercantile class, and unprecedented prosperity. This, in medieval France and elsewhere, was what financed the building of the great cathedrals such as Notre Dame de Paris. Students from all over Europe flooded to the University of Paris.

There they learned Latin and read the Classics. There they learned about the old paganisms.

Alas, there were no suitable jobs for most of these sons of lesser houses. The system produced far more educated people than it could employ.

So a rising tide of clerici vagrantes, “wandering clerics,” washed across Europe: getting drunk (when they could afford it), getting laid (when they could manage it), and writing rhyming hymns in Latin to the old gods of the pagan world, especially (as one would expect) to Venus and Bacchus.

(Several collections of poetry and hymns from this medieval pagan renaissance have survived to inspire and delight us today, notably the famous Carmina Burana (that's CAR-min-ah, not car-MEE-nah), which in turn inspired German composer Carl Orff's pagan oratorio of the same name, one of the landmarks of 20th century pagan art.)

According to British historian Elliot Rose, these literary New Pagans—whatever the seriousness of their paganism—hooked up with the Old Pagan witch-wives of Europe to create a newly reinvigorated Witch Cult which, a hundred years later, would give rise to, and fall prey to, the horrors of the Great Persecution. Well, maybe.

Eight hundred years later, here we are again.

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A Medieval Latin Hymn to the Goddess of Love

A few posts back, I posted the text of a medieval Latin hymn to the Goddess of Love from the 13th century “Little Renaissance.” At the time, I included a literal translation, but declined to translate it into poetry on the grounds that I couldn't do it justice.

What I had unwittingly done, of course, was to set myself a challenge.

(In the unlikely event that you've ever wondered what poets do while lying awake at night, you now know.)

So here's the best that I can do with it. You can even sing it to the same tune.

Well, kind of.

Ave Formosissima

 

Ave formosissima,

gemma pretiosa;

ave decus virginum,

virgo gloriosa.

 

Ave lumen luminum,

ave mundi rosa:

Blanziflor et Helena,

Venus generosa!

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Song: The Gnostic Mass (to the Tune of: The Monster Mash)

Breathes there a Thelemite without a sense of humor?

Let no one accuse me here of disrespect; actually, as rituals go, I'm rather fond of old Uncle Al's Missa Gnostica. As for this little jeu d'esprit, it's all in good fun, my little pretty.

 All in good fun.

 

The Gnostic Mass

(Tune: The Monster Mash)

 

I was seein’ a museum late one night

when my eyes beheld an eerie sight:

a fella from a stele began to rise,

and suddenly, to my surprise

 

He said the Mass

(he said the Gnostic Mass)

the Gnostic Mass

(It really kicked my ass)

he said the Mass

(he said the Gnostic Mass)

the Gnostic Mass

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Of Divine Capacity

Reader warning: Sexually explicit material

 

Did you know that masturbation was the gift of a god?

Well, you'd probably already figured that out for yourself. But the Greeks, of course, had a story.

Yes, it was Pan that invented it, along with music. He gave them both as gifts to his votaries the shepherds, to help pass the time up in the pastures.

Music and masturbation, both. Praise be to Pan!

Then there's the dildo; that's also the gift of a god. (The word itself comes from Italian diletto, “delight”; did you know that?) Which god? Well, Dionysos, of course.

Here's the story.

Dionysos needed to descend into the Underworld, but he didn't know how to get there. (I think it was to consult with his dead mother, but that's by the by.) When he asks around, they tell him that the only one who knows where to find the entrance to the Underworld is a certain grizzled old shepherd. (If I were a master-poet, now, I'd know the guy's name, but me, I'm just a two-bit storyteller.) So pretty young Dionysos goes to the old shepherd's bothy.

Sure, I'll tell you how to get there, says the shepherd. But first I want that sweet, dimpled little butt of yours.

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Those Prodea Witches, or: How Does a Coven Manage to Stay Together for Nearly 40 Years?

Come Harvest Home (= autumn evenday) this year, Prodea, the coven that I'm part of, will have been together for 39 (= 3 x 13) years, a significant number.

Given that the life expectancy of the average coven comes to something around three years, that's really a pretty remarkable achievement.

So at Paganicon 2020, we'll be throwing a public bash to celebrate.

 

How Does a Coven Manage to Stay Together for 40 Years?

In Celebration of Prodea, Paganistan's Oldest Working Coven

 

We'll start off with a little panel, so you can meet the folks. Prodea members (those that want to, anyway) will offer stories and reflections on 40 years of life, and magic, together.

There will surely be singing and dancing. (It wouldn't be a Prodea event without them.) Eventually—since there is no witchcraft without food—we'll get to the cake and ice cream.

Reportedly, our celebration will feature yet another culinary masterwork by the indefatigable Janey S., baker to the gods, who (speaking of tales of Prodea) for our 13th anniversary, actually baked a cake with 13 layers.

So cut a notch in your calendar-stave, and we'll plan to see you there.

 

Because if we can do it, so can you.

 

***

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Is the Notre Dame Fire 'Karmic Payback'?

I hear that out there in social media land there are pagans rejoicing in the Notre Dame fire as karmic retribution for the Catholic church's multitudinous misdeeds.

If so, shame.

...
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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    The I-35 bridge over the Mississippi here collapsed on Lammas Eve a number of years ago, killing 13 people. The bridge had been un
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    According to my local paper they were doing some reconstruction work. Acid rain has damaged the limestone so that it was crumblin

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Flower Carol

The famous anthology Piae Cantiones (“Pious Songs”) was published in 1582, but the songs and tunes that it contains are thoroughly medieval. Among the collection's Latin hymns are to be found a number of songs that are, shall we say, differently pious. Probably the best-known of these “secular” anthems is the famous Tempus Adest Floridum, (“It is the time of flowering”), which was to provide the tune for that most vapid of English carols, Good King Wenceslaus.

I've seen several singable English translations from the original Latin text, nearly all of them unbearably clunky. (“Herb and plant that, winter-long, slumbered at their leisure/Now reviving, green and strong, find in growth their pleasure.” Groan.) Here's mine, which is not so much a translation as, let us say, a fantasia on the original text. If I may say so myself, it captures the expansive spirit of the original much better than any of the more literal renderings.

The little Latin hymn to the Goddess of Love which concludes the song is not part of the original; it comes from that other famous anthology of medieval Latin verse Carmina Burana, on which “20th” century composer Carl Orff based his famous pagan oratorio of the same name. Joel Cohen attached it to the version of Tempus Adest Floridum in the Boston Camerata's recording of songs from the Carmina Burana (by the way, that's CAR-min-ah, not car-MEEN-ah) to their original tunes. I liked the addition so much that I've included it here. I've also chosen to leave it untranslated; it would be impossible (for me, anyway) to create an English text as profound in its beautiful simplicity as the original. I have, however, included a literal translation so that you can know what you're singing.

This one would be appropriate for either Ostara or Beltane, or any time in between!

 

The Flower Carol

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Recent comment in this post - Show all comments
  • Chris Sherbak
    Chris Sherbak says #
    I cherish my copy of your Solstice songs - and I'll just add this along. Thank you!!

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