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.
Newly-Discovered Linear B Tablet Hymns Wine Goddess

This hymn to a previously-unknown goddess was discovered among a trove of Linear B tablets unearthed at Phaistos, Crete, in 2017.

It is believed to have formed part of the goddess's cultic liturgy celebrating the autumn grape harvest.


Hail to Retsina

(Tune: Roll Out the Barrel)


Hail to Retsina,

goddess of vino with pine.

Hail to Retsina,

fruit of the tree and the vine.

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A Matter of Magic, or: When Is a Yule Log Not a Yule Log?

When is a Yule log not a Yule log?

When it's split, that's when.

The Yule log is probably the most ancient symbol of Yule. It's a cross-cut section of tree-trunk that goes onto the hearth on Midwinter's Eve, large enough to burn through the year's longest night, from Sundown to (hopefully) Sunrise.

(In these hearthless days, the Yule Log often reincarnates as a mere domestic decoration, a “log” only by courtesy, adorned with candles and faux greenery. Well, a symbol of a symbol is better than nothing, I suppose. Still, it seems a sorry fate for the former lord of the feast, ancient and massive.)

The symbolism you can figure out for yourself. (If you can't, there's always Wiccapedia.) Since most American homes lack hearths these days, here's the thing to remember: that the Yule log is precisely a log is what makes it what it is.

In the course of everyday life, you don't burn logs on the hearth. A whole—unsplit—log doesn't burn well. Since it has no sharp edges, it doesn't light readily, and when it does finally catch, it burns slowly and—frankly—doesn't give off much heat. Also, unsplit logs are big, heavy, and impractical to schlep. For day-to-day use, you split your logs into firewood.

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Serious Big Magic


Something has gone seriously wrong.

Haven't you noticed? The days just keep getting shorter and shorter.

Every day the Sun goes farther and farther South.

Every day its highest point in the sky gets lower and lower.

If this keeps going, soon it won't rise at all.

It just keeps getting colder and colder. We keep getting more and more snow.

If this keeps up, we're all going to freeze in the dark, if we don't run out of food first.

If we don't do something soon, we're all gonna die.

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Any Day of the Moon

A Qabalist was explaining to me the mysteries of the Christian Qabalá.

I can't remember whether or not she knew that I speak Hebrew.

So, here's how it works. You start off with YHVH, yod-he-vav-he, “Yahvéh,” the secret name of El, the Canaanite High God.

Into this, you insert the letter Sh, shin, one of the Three Mother Letters (whatever that means).

And voilà: YHShVH, “Yehoshuah”: Jesus.

Pretty nifty, eh?

“But that's not how you spell 'Jesus' in Hebrew,” I objected.

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Is 'Silent Night' Reclaimable?

I've always hated “Silent Night.”

The whiny tune, the maudlin lyrics, the sappy sentimentalism it evokes. Its unassailable preeminence in the Christmas canon. Ugh.

I also think that some texts are best left unreclaimed. “Our Mother who art in Heaven....” “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound/that saved a witch like me....” “The little lord Sun God, asleep in the hay....”

Kill me now, please.

Given these two facts, one would expect that I would categorically reject my teacher Tony Kelly's pagan “Silent Night.” And, for the most part, I do.

And yet.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Tyger
    Tyger says #
    I'm a non-theist pagan. I left my christian roots behind a long time ago, but I still love the sacred music from that time. "Sing
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Oh, I think that there's something to be said for reclaiming. Much has been lost, and we have to start somewhere. As for gravy,
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I tend to view Christianity as just another layer in my Euro-Mediterranean Heritage to build on, not something to reclaim. I do l
  • Mark Green
    Mark Green says #
    Try the fact-checked version: Axial tilt The way the world’s built: Sun is north, then sun is south. Axial precession makes seaso
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    1. I'm in love. 2. Is it yours? 3. Do you know Chris Raible's "God Rest Ye, Unitarians?"
In Which Our Intrepid Blogger Realizes That He's Both More—And Less—of a Purist Than He Thought

Check out HeatherAnn's jaw-dropping Great Goat/Black Phillip mask over at High Noon Creations.

Stunning. (And let's hear it for the model.)

It's enough to make any aigolater's* heart beat faster. Oh, the sabbats we could do.

Here's the catch. The mask is made from urethane rubber with NFT faux fur and acrylic eyes; its horns are lightweight plastic backed with a rigid foam.

The Minnesota Osser (sometimes spelled ooser, but rhymes with bosser), which for almost 30 years the witches of the Driftless have used at their Grand Sabbats, is made—in the old style—from wood, antlers, and leather. I am privileged to be its keeper. It lives in a shrine in my home, and I worship it with incense and offerings twice daily.

Call me old-fashioned, but it's difficult for me to imagine something made from urethane and acrylic as the recipient of cult.

Theological question: Granted this distinction between—shall we say, ritually fit and unfit components—could High Noon's Black Phillip mask be used at a sabbat?

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Recent comment in this post - Show all comments
  • Murphy Pizza
    Murphy Pizza says #
    Well...while plastics and synthetics dont appear in natural form, after watching nylon be created in a chemistry class from rearra

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Upright Man

The first was a gift, of course—well, aren't they always?

—that Kelly gave you (he'd made it himself) one night

after one of those early sabbats in Shirley's basement.

Rite concluded, circle down, the rest had gone

upstairs to drink and party, but we—the young,

the pious, the naked—had stayed down by the fire.


Then suddenly it was on you, he was on you,

and the rite began, the real one: antlered

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