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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Tree Full of Suns

“Nice tree,” said my neighbor, dropping off (bless her) a plate of cookies.

“Not very Christmas-y, though,” she added.

Well, no. It's a Yule tree.

That's why it's filled with Suns.

And fruits, and vegetables: all the abundance of the year gone by, and the growing season to come.

Every ornament's a prayer.

There it stands in the south, just where it always stands. Same place, same lights, same ornaments, giving the odd sense that somehow it's the same tree, back again from the forest for its annual month-long visit.

In a sense, I suppose, it is the same tree. The Tree is dead: long live the Tree.

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Midwinter Harvest

She's pregnant, hugely pregnant.

Midwinter's Eve gathers around her: firelight and song, laughter, preparations for ritual and feast.

No one is surprised when her labor begins. After all, it's what we're here for.

We revolve around her. She sinks into her birthing-crouch.

Her cry of triumph halts our dance.

She opens. From between her legs, a freshet, a torrent of abundance.

Apples, oranges, almonds, walnuts, filberts—and one lone pomegranate—pour forth and cover the floor.

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Younger Lores

UPG: Unverified (or: Unsubstantiated) Personal (or: Private) Gnosis.

New information on old topics.

I've gone down on record as contending that UPG is important—indeed, necessary—to contemporary pagan observance, but that it deserves a better, more worthy, name.

Well, I've got one to propose.

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Look Away

They've got a useful social custom in the Goddess-worshiping New Cretan civilization of the future.

Public Disappearance.

If for some reason you need to be in public, but are not available for social interaction—say you're deep in thought or in a big hurry—you put the “Look Away” symbol on your forehead and promptly Disappear. No one sees you.

“Excellent,” says Edward Venn-Thomas, the 20th-century protagonist of Robert Graves' 1949 novel Watch the North Wind Rise, who (for reasons I won't go into here) has been magically transported into the utopian Goddess future. “I must try to introduce that custom into my own age when I get back” (119).

In New Crete the Look Away symbol is a mouth with out-thrust tongue. There this is considered a symbol of the Hag (think Kali or Medusa). Those who wear Her sign are under Her protection. Non-being, after all, is Her purview.

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  • Heather Coffey
    Heather Coffey says #
    Somehow I am now picturing the null symbol as part of a head tikka ornament now. LOL Thank you!

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Is the Yule Tree an Ancient Pagan Custom?

Short answer: No.

In his magisterial Stations of the Sun, Ron Hutton explains that in many places the ancestors were wont to deck their holidays with whatever greenery and flowers were then in season (34): at Midsummer, with broadleafs, at Midwinter, with evergreens.

But there's no evidence at all in antiquity for decorated trees per se at Midwinter. The modern Yule tree, rather, has its roots in Renaissance Germany: ironically, the period of the Great Persecution.

So it's really a Christian custom.

The operative question here is: does it matter?

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  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I've come across two stories about the origin of the Christmas tree. The 1st one is that the ancient Germans had a sacred Oak tre

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Troll Night

Well, it's here: the Thirteenth Night before Yule.

So potent a power is Yule that the Thirteen Nights cast a sort of shadow before them, a kind of inverse Yule.

These are the year's darkest nights. In the darkness, monsters assemble, more and more each night. It is the season of the troll.

Troll Night they call it, the thirteenth before Mother Night. At the doorstep, they lay out offerings, but the doors themselves they ward and hammer-sign from within. Here and no further, the wardings and offerings say.

Word is, the trolls will be particularly bad this year. Bad governance, or the threat thereof, always angers the beings of the land. 

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  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Myself, I'll be setting out some of the cherry vodka I made this June, and have been saving for Yule. Of course, I'll have a nip m
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Booze. Porridge. Sardines. I'm sure there are others, but that's what people that I know put.
  • Haley
    Haley says #
    So, what kind of offerings do Trolls like? Other than raw meat and unfortunate wanderers, of course.

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Yule Goat

The ethnic Santas stood together on the shelf.

Scottish Santa in a kilt. French Santa avec béret. American Santa in red, white, and blue.

And the goat.

The white goat with panniers of colorful presents at his sides.

“So,” I say to the clerk, already knowing the answer, “What's with the goat?”

She shrugs.

“Oh, that's the Swedish Santa Claus,” she says.

Well, one could put it that way.

The Yule-Buck has brought gifts to Scandinavian children for nobody knows how long. The Goat that Gives Gifts.

Any witch could tell you Who That is.

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