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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Reinventing the Wheel

If the orientation of the monuments that they left behind is anything to go by, the peoples of megalithic Britain observed both quarters (sunsteads and evendays) and cross-quarters (Samhain, Imbolc, etc.).

Just like we do.

Different peoples, different ways. As they've come down to us, the cross-quarters are largely a phenomenon of Keltic cultures, the quarters Germanic; hence the names by which they're generally called.

For this reason, some purists have decided to restrict themselves to observance only of quarters or cross-quarters. Well, everyone gets to make his or her own call. My own position is that purism is its own punishment.

According to maverick historian Stephen J. Yeates, the Anglo-Saxon tribe known as the Hwicce—the original Tribe of Witches—settled in the territory of the Keltic people known as the Dobunni, and both archaeology and genetics suggest that there's strong continuity between the two peoples, both demographically and culturally.

In other words, we would expect the tribe of Witches to be (culturally) a Kelto-Germanic amalgam.

Which, of course, is exactly what we are.

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13 o' Clock

 Thirteenth Night,

when time runs backwards,

and the world whirls giddily widdershins.

Happy Feast of Fools!

 

Htrae eht nopu tuo deruop si evol ym dna,

Gnivil lla fo Rehtom eht ma I, dloheb rof,

ecifircas ni thgua dnamed I od ron.

Erofeb enog evah ohw esoht htiw noinuer dna,

modeerf, ecaep, htaed dnoyeb dna;

lanrete tirips eht fo egdelwonk evig I, htrae nopu....

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Ass's Ears

 'Tis a fine, foolish thing to wear a crown.

(Proverb of New Crete)

 

Sometimes Old Hornie wears an ass's ears.

Tomorrow is Thirteenth Night, the last of Yule, when the Merry Monarch of Misrule holds sway.

It's a short reign, but a merry one.

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And This Year's 'Best Yule Card' Award Goes to....

Consider the common Yule card.

It generally comes in one of three varieties.

1. Merry  Christmas  Yule. Out with the old, in with the new. Call it recycling.

2. Happy Holidays. Generic card. Yule, Christmas, Hanuka, Ramadan, Mother's Day....

3. Blesséd Yule. Oh-so pious-y pagan: pastels, pentagrams, and Horned Gods straight off the cover of a romance novel.

3a. All Hail Misrule! A specifically Old Craft sub-genre of Type 3, tending to feature woodcut-style graphics. Often features goats. 

And this year's 'Best Yule Card' Award goes to....

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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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