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.

 Tom Riddle | Harry Potter Wiki | Fandom


It's got to be one of the lesser ironies of the current war in Ukraine that both its hero and its villain (I'll leave you to decide which is which) share the same name.

Russian Vladímir, Ukrainian Volodýmyr: two equivalent Slavic names, both with their roots in Norse.

(This is unsurprising, since the Slavic state was first founded by east-faring Viking traders-cum-mercenaries; the classic Slavic woman's name Olga, for example, derives from Norse Helga “[female] holy [one].”)

Indo-European languages have long favored two-element names—e.g. Beowulf, “Bee-wolf”—and the Norse name Valdimar is of the same sort. One could translate it “power-fame” or “powerful fame.” Its first part is kin to the English word wield. (We still speak, tautologically, of “wielding power.”) Compare, also, the Yiddish expression oi gevalt, literally “O Power!” (i.e. “O 'God'!”). Gods being, by definition, powerful, one could perhaps render the name “divine fame” or “godly fame.”

Drawing, no doubt, on the name's “foreign” feel, J. K. Rowling recasts it as a Norman French charactonym for the main antagonist of the Harry Potter-verse: Voldemort, which one could parse as “death-willing.” (Cp. deus vult, “'God' wills [it]”.] That, a thousand years after the Noman invasion, the good guys of Rowling's series tend to have Anglo-Saxon names (Potter) while the bad guys have French ones (Malfoy) probably tells you quite a bit about the enduring nature of the English class system.

Still, Voldemort Putin.

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  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    The statistic I've heard is that to this day, 90% of the land in England is owned by 10% of the population. I suspect that that's
  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Mr. Posch, It would also not surprise me one bit, if the titled descendants of the Norman victors at Hastings in 1066 still held

 Hares 'dying' from mystery illness warns conservation expert - BBC News


Which is better, Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny? That's the first elementary school theological argument that I can remember getting into.

(Both figures, of course, represent a kind of temporary children's autonomy. For both, you're up early, before anyone else, and in full control of the house; not only that, but you get rewarded for it.)

For most of the other kids, the answer to this question was a no-brainer, but I can remember—characteristically enough—holding out for the minority position.

Santa just brings you clothes and socks and stuff that you don't want anyway, went my argument.

(In rather poignant hindsight, I can rephrase this as: Santa brings you things that you would want if you were who they thought you were, or rather, if you were who they wanted you to be. Thus, Santa and his gifts paradoxically embody a kind of existential parental rejection.)

The Bunny, on the other hand, brings you bad stuff.

Really: what other day of the year do you get to gorge on candy before breakfast?

On top of which, he makes you work for it.

(In retrospect, I can see here also the stirrings of an early proto-pagan instinct: Santa : culture :: Easter Bunny : nature.)

Sorry, folks: more than 50 years on, I stick with my original position.

The Bunny is way better.


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  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    I drove past an egg tree in someone's front yard the other day: its exuberant colors against the dull early Spring Minnesota lands
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    Growing up I enjoyed them both with enthusiasm each in his own time. Nowadays the people who lived in the house before I moved in

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One Ocean Summit: an international summit to take action together | Campus  France


Many pagan rituals begin with the purificatory sprinkling of salt water. This act mythically reenacts creation: as all life arose in the womb of the Sea, so too do the touch of its waters make new.

What follows are the preparatory formulas that I myself generally use.


The Blessing of Salt and Water


(Take up dish of salt)


Blessings be upon you, O Salt.




In the name of Mabh, be blessed.


(Raise dish of Salt)


(Take up bowl of water)


Blessings be upon you, O Water.




In the name of Mabh, be blessed.


(Raise dish of Water)


(Add three good three-finger pinches of Salt into Water. Using aspergillum, stir three times.)


In the beginning was the Sea.





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 Review: 'Bridgerton' Is Sexy Shondaland Goodness : NPR


Somehow, Bridgerton reminds me of a blown-out Ostara egg.

Pretty on the outside, but that's all you get.

It's no exaggeration to categorize the Netflix period costume-drama Bridgerton, set in an ethnically diverse early 19th century Britain-that-never-was, as a fantasy series. At heart, it's a Mating Game drag show—how many fabulous costumes will our heroine get to swan around in this episode?—but, of course, lacking the poignant self-satire that gives real drag its pungency.

Women in female drag. Now there's a concept.

In Bridgerton, we enter into a world entirely matriarchal, with (basically) an all-female cast. Yes, there are a few nominal male characters, virtually all of them pretty prizes for the scheming central characters, without interior life of their own. (That they're beautiful and occasionally take their clothes off provides only limited consolation.) If this seems due payback for all those decades of hero-centric TV with its pretty-but-empty female trophies, unfortunately, in the end, one is just as boring as the other. Revenge nearly always makes for better fantasy than reality.

At very least, Bridgerton manages to avoid the all-too-predictable Masterpiece Theater trope, in which the lowah closses (= servants) are always good for a loff. (I'll include here Julian Fellowes' current Gilded Age, basically an English costume-drama in American drag.) Here, the dramatis personae are all Persons of Privilege, and working folk—amusing though they be—stay duly in the background, where they belong.

Although I don't doubt that eventually we'll be seeing the more-or-less obligatory Christmas episode, one advantage for the pagan viewer is that this is a thoroughly secular fantasy, in which religion—Christian or otherwise—plays virtually no part at all. As I said, this isn't a period piece, it's 21st century in drag.

What redeems Bridgerton is its unabashed let's-pretend ethnic romp. What if early 19th-century Britain were as ethnically diverse as contemporary Britain? What would it be like to live in a multiracial society utterly lacking in racism? In that sense, having laid aside even the slightest pretension to historical accuracy, the series offers the viewer a breath of fresh air.

Alas, Bridgerton's ethnic diversity is as far as it goes. Predictably, its lack of non-cardboardy male characters puts any sort of gay interest beyond the pale. (Unlike real matriarchies, there isn't even any lesbianism.) Sorry, Netflix, if you think that your gay audience is going to content itself forever with identifying with female characters while salivating over all those firm young male bodies, I've got some bad news for you.

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 It's a Summertime Classic! Homemade Potato Salad with 5 Variations | My  Sweet California Life

Some Advice to the Newly Pagan


Well, that was a very special experience, I'm sure. Now let me ask you a question.

If you'd just met someone, like we've just met today, would you start by telling them about your most intimate sexual experience?

No, of course you wouldn't. Well, that's what you've just done.

Look around the yard here. Every single one of these people that you see here has had experiences like yours, every single one.

You're new to this community, and you feel like you have something to prove. I understand that. Out there, experiences like the one that you've just told me about make you special; they make you stand out.

But this isn't there. Here your experience doesn't make you different; it makes you just like everybody else.

One more thing: experiences like the one that you've had are gifts, intimate as sexual experiences. They're for holding close, not for handing out to strangers like me. You've had power given to you; don't go throwing it away.

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 Shadow, silhouette, back-view, window, animals, black, dark, trees, row,  look, rear, three-cats stock photo bff7a245-91e1-4dd4-b049-325bca5d7cf9

Few things are more dangerous than a line of bored pagans.

The heart of the ritual was to consist of an encounter with the Three Fates. There we were, queued up, awaiting our personal encounter with the Powers That Be.

Like all smart ritualists, the priestess had planned an activity to keep us—positively—focused on the task at hand and—negatively—from chattering, during our wait.


Spin, Clotho, spin;

Lachesis twist;

Atropos sever;

la la la la

la la la la la la.


The Fates have always been,

the fates will always be:

la la la la la la

la la la la la.


The Fates have always been,

the fates will always be:

la la la la la la

la la la la la.


The tune was spritely, syncopated. Dutifully, we chanted along.

And chanted.

And chanted.

And chanted.

The trouble with wait-in-line rituals is that they generally involve a modicum of waiting, a highly unsacred activity, and that the payoff has to be pretty damn good in compensation—which, to be quite frank, it rarely is.

Not to mention the fact that 1) pagans get bored easily and 2) pagans are creative.

(My friend and colleague Robin Grimm's rule-of-thumb for ritualists considering a one-on-one Wait-in-Line-for-Your-Personal-Experience ritual is: Do the Math. 50 participants x 2 minute encounter each = Way Too Long.)

Soon, to the same tune, a counter-chant began to emerge: a group creation, collective commentary on the ritual itself.

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 Pope Francis apologizes to Indigenous delegates for Canada's residential  schools – Vancouver Island Free Daily

So: at a recent meeting with Indigenous Canadian leaders, the pope apologized for some of the unspeakable things that some representatives of the Church perpetrated on Indigenous children at residential schools.

Well, isn't that big of him?

Note what he did not apologize for: the spiritual genocide that the Church has, throughout the centuries, perpetrated upon the First Nations of America.

He didn't apologize for it, because he can't. The church that he heads owes its very existence to spiritual genocide. Like Islam, the world's other major imperialist religion, the existence of Christianity as a mass phenomenon has been historically premised on the spiritual genocide of Indigenous peoples.

In this, as in so many other things, pagans stand with the First Nations of the Americas. We must, because we've been there too.

Pope Apologizes to First Nations of Europe for Church's Spiritual Genocide.”

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