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.

Gods, the Democrats just don't learn: name it and you own it.

Remember so-called “partial-birth abortions”? Remember what the real name of that procedure is? Oh, yeah: “dilation and extraction.”

Fetus-worshipers: 1, Democrats: 0. Name the issue, and you've won the argument.

Now the fear-mongerers are threatening that, if Democrats take both Senate and White House, they're going to “pack” the Supreme Court by expanding the number of justices to 11 from the current 9.

Bull. The Republicans are the ones who have packed the courts with Far Right judges whose opinions (and rulings) are hopelessly archaic, entirely out of step with the majority of Americans. They're doing exactly that with the Supreme Court as I write this.

In doing so, of course, they utterly delegitimize the judiciary and guarantee unrest for the foreseeable future. Do they care? No, of course not. These are the dying actions of a dying party: the deathbed curse that will haunt the nation long after they're gone, or so they hope.

That's packing the courts. What the Democrats will need to do to the Supreme Court in order to lend it even the slightest vestige of continued legitimacy is to expand the Court. Expansion isn't packing; it's the answer to packing. Court packing and Court expansion are not the same thing at all.

Names matter. Name it, and you own it.

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“The only religion that really makes any sense is Sun-worship,” a (non-pagan) friend once said to me years ago.

 

Name of the Sun

 

What the Sun's Name to himself may be, we do not know.

(Let me relent and say here, Deep initiates to the Sun there may be who know that Name. If so, I myself am not among them.)

The Sun's Name to us, though: this we know, for it is a relational Name, and we know it of and by our own relation.

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  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Mr. Posch, Thanks for sharing! Ave Mithras Sol Invicti!

America-watchers around the world must be shaking their heads and wondering what the flock is going on here.

For the last four years, the basic institutions of American democracy—the stability of which most of us (and let this be a lesson to us) have taken utterly for granted—have been systematically dismantled by a corrupt and honorless cadre of strongmen who care only for power at any price, backed by their dupe-army of fetus-worshipers and White Power malicious...um, militias. For all their rhetoric, the Opposition are the ones now revealed as the true Haters of America.

Now, when the Super-spreader-in-Chief loses the election—which he will—some are predicting blood in the streets and, in essence, Civil War II.

Is America falling apart?

Well—for what it's worth—I, for one, don't think so. The fact that American checks and balances have survived the current mis-administration at all is a testimony to their institutional resilience, and to the creative brilliance which envisioned and created them in the first place.

Meanwhile, what do we do while waiting for trumpocalypse?

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  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Mr. Posch, Mr. Putin certainly got his money's worth, didn't he? I disagreed with many of President Reagan's policies. However,
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    Judging from what I've seen at the grocery store a lot of people must be getting bombed on pumpkin spice everything. Not my parti

Unsurprisingly, medieval Irish literature is filled with references to the Feast of Samhain.

But in the entire corpus, she—that is to say, Samhain herself—turns up in person only once.

(That Samhain is a woman should surprise no one: in Irish, the word is grammatically feminine. The male “Samhain the Druidic Lord of the Dead” is a figment of 19th century folkloric imagination.)

 

The epic known as the Destruction of the Red God's Hostel tells of the death of Conaire Mor, Connory the Great, the Skyclad King of Ireland. (The tale of how he came by such a surprising title I'll tell you some other time.) As is usual in such tales, his downfall is brought about by his progressive—if inadvertent—violation of his personal geasa, the sacred taboos laid down for him at the time of his king-making.

Our story so far: On, as it happens, the Eve of the Feast of Samhain, Conaire Mor and his companions are feasting in the Hostel of the Red God. Then, after sunset, a woman appears at the door and seeks admission.

As long as a weaver's beam, and as black, her two shins. She wore a very fleecy, striped mantle. Her beard reached to her knees, and her mouth was on one side of her head. She put one shoulder against the doorpost and cast a baleful eye on the king and the youths about him.

So the Book of the Dun Cow describes her.

Conaire Mor: Well then, woman: if you are a seer, what do you see for us?

Woman: Indeed, I see that neither hide nor hair of you will escape from this house, save what the birds bear off in their claws.

Conaire Mor: That is an ill fortune indeed; nor do you usually prophesy for us. Woman, what is your name?

Woman: Cailb [she-dog].

Conaire Mor: That is a name with nothing to spare.

Woman: Indeed, I have many names.

Conaire Mor: What are they?

Woman: Easily told.

She then recites a list of 32 “names,” none of which is an actual woman's name. (Interesting as it would be to know the meaning of the 32 Names of Samhain, such a task far outstrips my knowledge of Old Irish vocabulary, alas.) The first of the list, though, is Samhain.

(The Book of the Dun Cow specifies that she recites this list in one breath, while standing on one foot, in the doorway of the house. Clearly, powerful magic is at work here.)

Conaire asks the woman what she wants, and she demands guest-room for the night.

Conaire Mor: It is geis to me to admit a lone woman to the house after nightfall.

Woman: Geis or no, I will not leave until I am given hospitality.

Conaire offers to send her an ox, a salted pig, and all the leftovers of the night's feast if only she will go elsewhere, but the woman refuses.

Woman: Indeed, if the king cannot spare a meal and a bed to one woman in his house, then let the kingship be taken from him and given to a man of honor instead.

Caught in a bind between competing demands, his personal geasa and the laws of hospitality, Conaire relents and admits the woman, but (as The Book of the Dun Cow says) “a great fear came over the host.”

And, indeed, every one of her prophecies comes true.

 

The personification of holidays as visiting guests is a long-standing trope of Indo-European poetics, spanning the entire Indo-European-speaking diaspora, and there can be little doubt that this is exactly what we see here.

What, then, does this tale tell us about Samhain the Feast?

Easily told.

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Did Halloween—as Variety section writers would invariably have it—really originally mean 'Holy (or Hallowed) Evening'?

Short answer: no.

'Halloween' is an eroded form of 'All Hallow's Even'. ('Even' here = 'evening, eve.') 'Hallow' is a dialectal form of the Old English word that also became Modern English 'holy.' Anglo-Saxon hælig (pronounced, roughly, HAL-ee) was a fine old pagan word denoting something in a state of radical wholeness: a holy thing or person.

It's the latter usage that gave rise to 'Halloween.' After the Conversion, the word came to denote a 'saint,' a (Christian) holy person. So All Hallows' Eve originally meant 'All Saints' Eve,' the eve of the ecclesiastical feast of All Saints.

('Saint,' of course, was originally a French word from the Latin sanctus, both of which—like hallow in English—mean both 'holy' and 'saint.')

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Lesson 1

 

“What a beautiful [blowing] horn,” I say.

It was, and my friend's wife, to whom the horn belonged, told me the story.

She had raised the cow herself from a calf. After a long, productive life, the cow—I can't remember her name anymore—was happily grazing in the pasture one sunny day when...

“...Thor took her,” she said.

Translation: “The cow was struck by lightning.”

That's how you think in Pagan.

 

Up in northern Minnesota's Lake Country, a young girl disappeared and was never found.

“They say the lake took her,” her mother told authorities. “I don't believe it.”

Translation: “The girl drowned.”

That's how you think in Pagan.

 

Extract from the article “Bealtaine Rite” in The Waxing Moon, Bealtaine 1977

We met one day in May when the Moon told us it was right.

Translation: “We held our Bealtaine ritual during the Waxing Moon of May (because the waxing of the Moon mirrors the waxing of the Year).”

That's how you think in Pagan.

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Well, well, well. So: the Science-Denier-in-Chief now has the Trump Virus.

Or, to say it in Pagan, the Red Hag now has the Virus-in-Chief.

Metaphor piles on metaphor piles on metaphor. Of course, Fat Donald himself is the virus, a virus that has infected an entire country, a virus whose only interest is self-interest, with utter disregard for anyone else.

Of course, it didn't have to be this way. The US leads the world in corona-virus infections and deaths precisely because of the Science-Denier-in-Chief. Well, let him embrace his disease, and ill may it do him. Truly, he is its High Priest.

Did you hear the Cackle Heard 'Round the World as the news was announced this morning? For the rest of us, it's hard not to feel a sense of vindication.

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