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.

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
On First Meeting Old Hornie in the Woods

Yes, it's true: I first met Old Hornie in the woods when I was 16.

And no, I'm not going to tell you about it.

I suspect that many (if not most) of us have experienced something like this: the Encounter that changes everything that comes after.

You might think that more of us would talk about these Meetings. In a community like the pagan community, which lacks (for the most part) central accreditation, such narratives would serve to establish credibility.

But in my experience, people mostly don't want to talk about these things. A holy silence surrounds them. For me, that unwillingness to talk is precisely one of the hallmarks of authentic encounter.

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  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Just so.
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    In the book "The Wind in the Willows" there is a chapter called piper at the gates of dawn. I believe that the author had his own
"Witches' Rune" Originally Sung to Stephen Foster Tune, Says Historian

AP: London

According to Wiccan historian Philip Heselton, Doreen Valiente's famous chant “Witches' Rune” was originally intended to be sung to the tune of the Stephen Foster tune, “Camptown Races.”

“According to some recently-discovered correspondence, that's the tune that she originally wrote the words to fit,” said Heselton. “Of course, since then it's been sung to many other tunes as well.”

American composer Stephen Foster (1826-1864) wrote “Camptown Races” (also known as “Camptown Ladies”) in 1850, and the tune was a favorite of Valiente's first husband, Joanis Vlachopoulos, who had learned it while in the Merchant Navy.

Although the Foster tune was Valiente's intended setting for her lyrics to what was to become a classic Wiccan liturgical chant, it never caught on with British witches, perhaps because they were unfamiliar with the American tune.

An interesting aspect of this discovery is the fact that the original words to “Witches' Rune” were slightly different from those now found in most recensions of the Book of Shadows.

According to Heselton, the first verse, along with a now-disused chorus, originally went:

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
What Do You Say When a Pagan Sneezes?

When someone sneezes, it's considered polite to respond with a blessing or a wish of good health.

So what do you say when a pagan sneezes?

(No aspect of culture is too obscure to merit careful consideration.)

Well, you could say Bless you or Gesundheit like everyone else, but there's nothing distinctively pagan about either. (How Americans came to use the German word for “health" as a sneeze-blessing is a question well worth the asking, but it's one to which I don't know the answer.)

Wiccans might say Blessed be, although I don't think that I've ever heard this phrase—generally reserved for greetings and farewells—used in this way.

But for my pentacles, the Irish have the right of it.

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  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    As I think about it, gesundheit has to be German. German -heit = Yiddish -keit (as in Yiddishkeit, "Jewishness"). Interesting tha
  • Aryós Héngwis
    Aryós Héngwis says #
    Yeah it is interesting. Unlike most other immigrant groups, German ethnicity kind of tended to get pretty heavily subsumed. Certai
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    An interesting theory, Aryos. My Yiddish-English dictionary doesn't list gesundheit; "health" is gezunt. (Tzu gezunt is the sneeze
  • Aryós Héngwis
    Aryós Héngwis says #
    This is just a shot in the dark but perhaps Gesundheit is by way of Yiddish instead of German (even though it's literally German).
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I started using Gesundheit at a young age because I heard Bullwinkle use it. It surprised my dad and occasionally surprises other

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Who Are the Ancestors?

We all have many kinds of ancestors.

Ancestors of the loins. These are our physical forebears.

Ancestors of the heart. These are those forebears whom (for whatever reason) we love, though they are no blood kin.

Ancestors of the head. These are our intellectual forebears.

These are only some kinds of ancestors, of course. (The ancestors of the tongue are our linguistic ancestors. Those of us of the Tribe of Witches have forebears in the Craft: the ancestors of the blood.) We are all the children of many lineages.

As pagans, we are intimate with our ancients. Living by their lore, we engage with them in our every waking moment.

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  • Chris Sherbak
    Chris Sherbak says #
    It's ADF, there's no consensus. But we were satisfied to see the trend picked up by other Groves so we're happy. (wand drop)
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Ah, pagans. Did a consensus ever emerge, or is it still an issue?
  • Chris Sherbak
    Chris Sherbak says #
    We say "blood" vs "loins" but .. ya. Oddly, this was a somewhat controversial idea in ADF not many years ago when we did the main

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Laying Down the Horn

Knock. Knock. Knock.

Crowned with antler and golden leaf, the Stag stands at the door. He leads us out, into the night.

To Night's very Heart he leads us.

We call out the names of the dead.

We pour the libation.

We sing the oldest song.

She gives him the apple. He eats. We eat.

He lays down his horns before her.

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  • Tasha Halpert
    Tasha Halpert says #
    Beautiful. Thank you.
  • Thesseli
    Thesseli says #
    Beautiful.

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Baba Yaga Brand Flour

Times being what they are, it's the (I think, rather endearing) habit of contemporary polytheist cultures to name commercial products after deities.

If you don't believe me, check out your nearest Indian grocer; you'll find various Laxmi Brand foodstuffs on practically every shelf (Lakshmi being the goddess of wealth and opulence).

That's how I came by 10 pounds of Baba Yagá brand flour.

A friend of mine is priest-in-residence at a Slavic temple over in “St” Paul. Among the resident deities there is Baba Yagá, the scary old hag-witch of Russian folklore. (She's the one that lives in the hut with chicken legs and flies in a mortar and pestle.)

There Baba Yagá receives offerings daily, in a fine old pagan tradition known as propitiation. It's never a bad idea to keep the dangerous ones happy.

(I might add that the Great Recession didn't hit the Twin Cities with anywhere near the impact that it did elsewhere, and that our unemployment rate here is low compared to the rest of the country. Whether or not this has anything to do with Baba Yagá, I'm not qualified to say. It's certainly an interesting coincidence.)

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  • Tasha Halpert
    Tasha Halpert says #
    Perhaps an echo of the triple goddess? Just wonderin'...
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    I hear that she has two sisters. They're both Baba Yaga, too. !
  • Tasha Halpert
    Tasha Halpert says #
    Always loved Baba Yaga ever since I read about her in my Jack and Jill magazine as a child. Of course they didn't emphasize the ne

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Paganonormativity

Oh gods, it's Posch being outrageous. Again.

 

An important part of learning to think in Pagan is what I'm going to call Paganonormativity.

The presumption of Paganness.

There's no need to say, “This song is sung only at Samhain and at pagan funerals.” It's enough to say, “This song is sung only at Samhain and at funerals.”

“Pagan funeral” is redundant. (Hey, we invented them.) All funerals are presumed to be pagan unless otherwise specified.

Thinking in Pagan, gods is normative; "God" gets quotation marks, as derivative.

In human history, paganism is normative. Non-paganism is the aberration.

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  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Wait, wait: there's more. It's a woodcut by Robert Gibbings from Esther Forbes' incomparable 1928 novel, A Mirror for Witches. If
  • Anne Forrester
    Anne Forrester says #
    Yes, but where oh where did you get that delicious art at the top?! You really need to give credit where credit is due...

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