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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 Castlenalacht, Stone Row / Alignment - Megalithic Mysteries

 A Visit to Pagan Island


A row of standing stones runs along the spine of the long, narrow river island.

In the dream, I'm in Wales, visiting the old Selene farm in Carmarthenshire, which during the 70s and early 80s was home to the Pagan Movement in Britain and Ireland. It was from these good folks that I learned ritual and how to think in Pagan. It was in this soil that my pagan roots first grew deep.

The river in the dream, though, is clearly the Mississippi, along whose banks I now live. In the logic of dreams, the meaning is clear enough.

When we finally manage to get out to the island—did we swim? boat? teleport?—we discover something very interesting indeed. The long row of standing stones that line the island's ridge are not raised stones. These stones are a part of the island itself, living rock rearing to the sky, grown here like the trees themselves.

In the dream, I think of the immemorial sanctity of river islands. I remember the self-manifest lingams of India, most sacred of all lingams. These are self-manifest standing stones, most powerful of all.

We link hands and begin to dance. Down along the full row we dance, weaving in and out of the standing stones as we go.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs


 Golden Calf Syndrome | The Layman's Bible


 The Making of a Pagan


The little tow-headed boy is sitting cross-legged on the living room floor, watching TV. Now playing—maybe because it's Holy Week—is C. B. de Mille's epic kitsch-fest The Ten Commandments.

The film is unrelentingly grim. Oh the slavery! Oh the plagues! Oh the suffering!

Suddenly, the mood changes. The Children of Israel are, for once, happy. They're dancing, they're getting drunk, they're grabbing each others' asses.

They're worshiping the Golden Calf!

That looks like fun! thinks the little boy. That's what I want to do!


With its implications of juvenescence, “calf” is really something of a mistranslation. In Hebrew, an égel (עגל) is actually a yearling bull, newly come to maturity. The Golden Bull is a youthful god, shining with juicy adolescence.


“What the heck is that?” asks my friend.

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 We seem to be getting away from the separation of church and state.

In 2015, Kim Davis, in her capacity as county clerk, denied two male couples marriage licenses to which they were legally entitled. They sued. That case is now working its way up the legal ladder and will no doubt finally end up in the laps of the partisan hacks of the Supreme Court.

Apparently, Davis, a self-described “Christian”, claims the right to deny rights to others based on her own religious convictions.

According to MSNBC, her case has “profound First Amendment implications.” But does it?

If Kim Davis has religious objections to so-called interracial marriage—and it's not so long since lots of people like Davis did—does she have the right to deny a marriage license to an interracial couple?

Do her arguments have any legal merit? Is there a Constitutional right to deny Constitutional rights? Does religious law overrule secular law?

In fact, Davis and her case have no implications for free exercise whatsoever. If her fundamentalist Christian beliefs mean that she cannot in good conscience issue a marriage license to a couple who are legally entitled to marry, then she cannot hold the position of county clerk because she is not qualified to hold the position. A Mormon or Muslim cannot be a bartender if his religious principles prohibit him from serving alcohol to others. If you can't do the job, you don't get the job.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs



“Was that housekeeping that just went by?”

The woman sticks her head out of the hotel room door.

“No,” I say, chin-pointing, “but the cart's down there.” I'd just walked past it, on my way to the ice machine.

“Bless you,” she says, falling in alongside.

“Somewhat excessive,” I say.

“Toilet paper,” she explains.

“All is made clear,” I reply.

She snags a roll from the unattended cart.

“Celtic warrior making a raid,” she quips, heading back down the hall at a goodly clip.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

 How to use bow-drill to start a lifesaving fire - We Are The Mighty


“You wouldn't happen to have any matches or a lighter on you, would you?”

Paganicon 2022. I'm not sure what this man's official title might be, but he's clearly the hotel's go-to guy for things practical.

When a ritual's about to start, expect the unforeseen. We're just about to begin an offering to the Lady of Spring, but we need to relight the altar light, and—in these non-smoking days—no one has the wherewithal to do it.

Unfortunately, the maintenance man doesn't, either.

“Sorry, no," he says. "Lots of sticks out there, though,” he adds, chin-pointing toward the window. “You could always rub a couple together."

There's a pause. I suspect that this might not have been the answer that I'd have had if we were a convention of Presbyterians or Reform Jews. But, hey, we're the pagans. We're Nature people. We do primitive, right?

Well, yes: actually, we do. As a matter of fact, over the course of the past three days, I've heard two separate discussions of wood-on-wood kindling: the traditional woods used in fire drills, the utility of the fire bow. Not your typical non-pagan type of convention conversation, I suspect, though maybe I'm doing some stereotyping of my own here.

Well, if that's the stereotype, I embrace it. Eventually, we do manage to unearth some matches—thank you, Mark L.—and the offering proceeds as planned. This man's comment was thoroughly good-natured, not in the least bit condescending and, in fact, he's right: I know the very people who could do it.

So I laugh.

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Dear Michael,

I realize that the chances of your ever seeing this are slim. I'm writing because there's something important that I forgot to tell you.

First, I want you to know that in more than 40 years of priesthood, with many namings, handfastings, and arvals—funerals—under my cincture, I have never before felt so honored and so humbled as when you asked for my blessing before you leave for Ukraine to fight. Never. Michael, my thanks.

Fight well, Michael, and the blessings of our people's gods strengthen you, and keep you safe.

I want you to know that every day between now and when next we see one another, I will be praying for your protection and safe return, every day. Here at Temple of the Moon, when I make the twice-daily offerings, I will remember you by name, and pray and offer on your behalf. Every day I will do this; I give you my solemn word.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Heroyam slava!
  • Chas  S. Clifton
    Chas S. Clifton says #
    Slava Ukraini!

 Organic Bananas, Bunch -

Why someone left a bunch of organic bananas on the wall beside the sidewalk, I don't know.

I look up and down the street: no one. Did they maybe fall from someone's shopping bag?

They're nice, fat bananas, just starting to speckle, and fragrantly ripe: too ripe for someone's liking, maybe.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, and especially since the Troubles following George Floyd's death a few blocks from here, folks in this neighborhood have been setting out boxes of food at the curb for anyone who might need it. People are capable of much, both for the good, and for the bad. Such acts of nameless generosity have been a ray of light in an otherwise dark time.

Humans are an opportunistic species. Like other predators, witches are territorial animals, and patrol our territories regularly. (You can be a witch, they say, without knowing anything about astrology, Qabala, or Tarot—3000 years ago, the ancestors knew none of the above—but you cannot be a witch and not know your territory.) Usually in my perambulations around the neighborhood, I've got a gathering bag or two with me, but today, heading to the post office to get some stamps, I neglected to bring one. I snag the bananas anyway, and carry them along.

At the post office, I set them down on the counter to take out my wallet. Seeing the clerk's curious glance, I quip: “You guys still take barter here, right?”

He's game. “Sorry, that was yesterday,” he quips back.

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