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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American Wild Hunt

Seventh Day of Yule, and the Wild Hunt is off and running. 

Last night we heard Old Storm and his buddies the Winds out howling and crashing, all night long.

This morning, there were broken tree limbs down all over the city. The streets were littered with them.

The Wild Hunt, all right, right on cue.

If you look at the folklore about the Wild Hunt, you'll see mostly scare stories, and, indeed, you really don't want to meet them out on the prairie, or anywhere, really. Then a broken limb would be getting off easy.

But, as usual in the Wonderful World of the Many that is polytheism, that's not the whole story.

For the Wild Hunt also has another side.

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The Yules

They say that if you add up all the gifts in The Twelve Days of Christmas, you get 364.

364.

The Twelve (witches would say Thirteen) Days of Yule are a microcosm, a year in little.

So Yule is actually the Yules: Twelve (witches would say Thirteen) of them, and every one a Yule.

The same pattern of the Twelve Between turns up elsewhere. The old Zoroastrian New Year, Nawrúz, at the vernal equinox, is a festival of thirteen days.

Mircea Eliade suggests that the intercalary dozen serves to reconcile a solar year of 365 days with a lunar year (= 12 lunations) of 352.

There's actually an old (15th century) Scots song kin to the one you may know called The Thirteen Days of Yule. It begins:

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Where the Fire Lives

In 1543, Henry the Eighth extinguished the Holy Fire which had burned at the sanctuary of Brigid at Kildare since before anyone could remember.

(The eternal flame is an ancient tradition among Indo-European peoples. In some Zoroastrian temples in Iran, the same fires, lovingly tended by their communities down the centuries, have burned continuously for more than 1200 years.)

In 1993, the Brigidine Sisters of Kildare relit Brigid's Fire. Since then, it has burned continuously and spread all over the world.

(No, I'm not rushing the season. Bear with me, dear reader.)

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We Call It Yule

In the old Witch language, they called it Géol.

The Vikings called it Jól.

The Goths—the Elder, not the Latter-Day, kind—called it Jiuleis.

All three names descend from the Proto-Germanic Jehwla (or Jegwla), the great Midwinter festival of Germanic-speaking peoples some 2300 years ago.

No one knows what it originally meant. That, of course, doesn't stop the storytellers. If anything, it encourages us.

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  • Aline "Macha" O'Brien
    Aline "Macha" O'Brien says #
    Huzzah! I love your blogs, especially the historical minutia and word etymology. Warm Yule greetings from blessedly rainy Califo

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Yule Rush

Ah, life in the Broomstick Ghetto.

In the days since Mother Night, I've several times caught myself wandering: Why are all these people still running around?

Then I remember.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again.

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Earth's Blessing on the Newborn Sun

Straight be thy will,

deft be thy hand:

O heat of my heart,

O light of my land.

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  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    And to you, my dear! (Did you get the golden Mother?) Let's talk soon!
  • Aline "Macha" O'Brien
    Aline "Macha" O'Brien says #
    Merry Yule! Love and warm blessings to you.

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Birth-Tree

Your baby will come soon.

So you need to find a birth-tree.

You can't give birth in camp, because blood draws predators and you'd be putting everyone at risk.

It's winter, so you want an evergreen, one with enough branches to offer good protection from the weather, but not so many that predators can approach unseen.

You'll need a stout trunk to brace against; also lots of absorbent duff to sop up the blood, and a spot to bury the blood-soaked strew. Unburied blood draws danger.

The right tree will also provide dead wood, and you'll need that. Fire warms and protects.

A hemlock on a south-facing slope would be good. That way you'll get the best of what Sun there is.

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  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    I'm drawing here on Elizabeth Marshall Thomas' experiences among the Ju/wassi of the Kalahari in the 1950s, some of the very last
  • Thesseli
    Thesseli says #
    Because nothing says women and children are important to the survival of the tribe than making a woman give birth in the middle of

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