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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On the Mechanics of 'Idolatry'

This is a statue, not a river.

This is not the Mississippi. It is a statue of the Mississippi.

Yet, everyone will agree, in some mysterious way, this statue makes the Mississippi present.

The mechanics of just how this making-present occur are, to be sure, a matter of perennial debate among the wise. The question of agency is a particularly interesting one.

But that it actually happens, we can all agree.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Golden Bough

In 2006, Italian anthropologist Augusto Cacopardo went to NW Pakistan to study the Winter Solstice festivities of the Kalasha, the last remaining polytheists of the Hindu Kush.

Of all the Indo-European-speaking peoples, the Kalasha are the only ones whose religion has never been either stamped out, or subsumed into one of the Big Name religions. They are as close as we will ever get to the living paganism of the European ancestors.

After the purifications, the sacrifices, the sacred dances, the torch-race, and the traditional (and well-omened) sexual banter ("Your scrotum is so hairy you could weave a pair of leggings from the wool!"), came the most sacred part of the entire month-long Winter Solstice celebration. Cacopardo was permitted to witness, but not to record, it. He could see, but not hear, what was happening.

This is what he saw. A very old man, the custodian of the ghach, the festival's secret and most sacred prayer, known only to a very few, covered his head and face with his mantle and recited the sacred formula. As he did so, he held in his hand a plant which, in the dark, Cacopardo could not see clearly.

"What's the plant that he's holding?" he asked the man standing next to him.

The man explained that it was zaróri, a very sacred and pure plant that had to be brought from another valley because it did not grow locally. It would also be used, he added, in the holiday's closing ceremony the next day.

At the ritual the following day, Cacopardo managed to get a good look at the zaróri.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Learning Hunger

Among the many things that I learned from my family, there's one that I didn't.

How to be hungry.

I grew up in a time and place—O rarity of human history—where there was always enough food. So I never learned how to be hungry. I never had to.

Instead, I've had to teach myself.

Sometimes hunger is a matter of necessity: there's just no food. That's involuntary hunger.

But the longer that I walk the Old Ways, the more convinced I become that sometimes—for our own spiritual health—we need to take on voluntary hunger as well.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
American Faerie Story

A man and a woman once moved into a house near a bridge.

A few days later, there was an automobile accident on the bridge.

The next week, there was another.

The week after that, yet another.

Finally, the man climbed down under the bridge.

“Look,” he yelled. “I don't know who you are or why you're doing this, but my wife is a witch, and if you don't stop, she's going to come down here and give you what for.”

Then he climbed back up and went home.

After that, there were no more accidents.

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On the Dangers of 'Denominationalism' in the Craft

 “She hath a grip of all the Craft.”

(Andrew Mann, of the Queen of Elfhame [1591])

 

“Tradition” is Witch for “denomination.”

For its own good reasons, the collective intuition of the modern Craft has seen fit—you'll pardon the expression—to organize itself into various Traditions.

Some among us strongly identify with a particular Tradition; some of us define ourselves by our Tradition.

There's nothing wrong with that. In some ways, this constitutes a strength.

But there's a difference between letting ourselves be defined by a given Tradition, and letting ourselves be limited by that Tradition.

The Craft is, always has been, and always will be, bigger than any given Tradition.

Were there no witches before Tradition X? Nonsense. There have always been witches. There were witches before there were Traditions. Traditions are made for witches, not witches for Traditions.

The Craft is more than the sum of its Traditions.

No Tradition embodies the fullness of the Craft.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    It's instructive to note that the Far Right was able to co-opt the word "Christian" because, in effect, mainstream Christianity ha
  • Gus diZerega
    Gus diZerega says #
    Well said. Denominationalism is a Christian affliction we do not need and that makes no sense in a Pagan context, historically or
  • Aline "Macha" O'Brien
    Aline "Macha" O'Brien says #
    Huzzah! From Macha, Witch at Large

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Life in the Old Roots Yet: A Parable

They cut down the old tree.

They thought that they'd killed it. They thought that it was dead.

Oh, but it wasn't dead at all.

There was life in those old roots yet.

In time, a new tree began to grow from the old roots.

No, it isn't the same tree. Nor is it quite the old tree again, not yet.

It's a new tree, a young tree.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Egg Dance

What with the Evenday being more than a month away—as I write this, the Imbolc thirtnight is barely over—there are some that might accuse me of pushing the season.

Guilty as charged.

But I'm going to plead extenuating circumstances: I want to give our choreographers time to do their work.

And it's never too early to start planning for Spring.

 

It's one of those old, old traditions of Spring.

The Egg Dance.

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