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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A Little Samhain in Every Bealtaine

Posch, you pervert.

May Eve is days away, and you're writing about Samhain?

What are you trying to do, wreck us?

Au contraire. (And let me point out that our Southside friends and family are preparing for Samhain as I write this).

It's just that this new (to me) idea is so elegant, so true, that it simply won't wait.

I'm just now back from a warlocks' work weekend at Witch Country's Sweetwood sanctuary. We're building a shrine there in the woods below the circle.

This time around we began site preparation, and removed the standing stone that will be the centerpiece of the shrine, from its immemorial bed in the coulee (ravine) wall. The Bull Stone has now begun its long journey across the coulee and up the side of the hill.

But that's another story for another day. (Stay tuned.) In the process, we chopped down a number of young trees, both to clear the site and to provide us with rails and rollers.

You can't move a 1000-pound stone through the forest without doing some damage. Iacchus, Sweetwood's priest-in-residence and caretaker, remarked offhandedly that it's the custom there to offer at Samhain on behalf of all the lives that one has taken during the course of the year.

I'd never heard of this practice before, but it struck me with the thunderbolt impact of the self-evident, something that's so right that you feel as if you've always known it. No matter how gently we live our lives, other beings must of necessity die for us each year: plants and animals harvested, trees felled, bugs squashed on the windshield or underfoot.

At Samhain, Iacchus remembers them all with thanks and gratitude, and offers on their behalf. Whenever he takes a life needfully, he makes this promise: At Samhain, I will offer for you.

Thank you, Iacchus. Your insight has made me a better pagan, and a better person.

At Witch Country's Sweetwood sanctuary right now, the bloodroot is blooming, and the ramps (wild onions) are springing. (Delicious.) Bealtaine is coming to the North.

But (as my old high priestess back East always used to say), There's a little bit of Samhain in every Bealtaine, a little bit of Bealtaine in every Samhain.


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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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