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.
Some friends of mine own a Baltic imports store: best amber this side of the Mississippi. I was looking at a case of hand-carved wooden items, including some beautiful wooden spoons.
A woman came over and began looking at the spoons. “This one is labeled 'sacred spoon,' but it looks just like the rest of them,” she said. “What makes this one sacred and not the others?”
A reasonable question, certainly. As it happened, I knew the answer, because the owner of the store had told me about it a few days before. “It's sacred because it was carved out of wood from a tree that was struck by lightning,” I told her. In fact, the tree in question had been the oldest and most sacred oak in a grove sacred to Thunder; the oak, of course, is Thunder's tree. Oak struck by lightning in a grove sacred to Thunder: heap big juju.
She stared at me as if I had addressed her in Mandarin. What did the answer have to do with the question?
I turned away. Sorry ma'am, can't help you: this would take way too long to explain. Chalk up yet another miscommunication to “irreconcilable cultural differences.”
There I go again, thinking in Pagan. What could I have said? “As we see it, Thunder is a god”? “Lightning hallows what it does not destroy”? Not quite the material of casual conversation.
The holiest ground in my neighborhood is the site of Walker Methodist church. We know it's holy because the god chose it Himself. Last summer the building was struck by lightning and burned to the ground. (Thunder is a hard god to be loved by.) Since then they've rebuilt. Some us have discussed petitioning the church for permission to raise a standing stone on the property: the Thunder Stone. Unlikely as this may sound, it could just happen. This is Minneapolis. A few summers back some kids broke into the Hindu temple in Arden Hills and beheaded the idols. The next Sunday, the local Lutherans took up a collection to help buy new idols for the Hindus. Now that's class. Around here, we mostly get along. Anyway, I've got a hundred-year-old brick from the old lightning-struck building down in the basement, wrapped up in a piece of silk, along with the charred remains of last year's Yule log. Sun power, Thunder power.
My friend Ruth's wife River blew the horn for our Morning Fire Offerings one summer. I remarked on the beauty of the horn—it had an elegant curve and a deep, rich tone to it—and she told me the story. She'd acquired the horn in Scotland and had cleaned and finished it herself. It had come from a Highland longhair cow who was out in the pasture one clear day when....
“Thor took her,” River told me.
And I knew just what she meant. The proverbial bolt from the blue.
Heap big juju.
Last winter a transformer blew in the middle of a blizzard and we were without electricity—literally “amber [power]”—for hours. Walking down the street afterward (I live in the pagan neighborhood), you could tell which were the pagan households. For some reason, pagans tend to have lots of candles around.
Our civilization runs on Thunder power. Take away our electricity—“power,” we call it, tout court—and the modern world would crumble. Our nervous systems, our brains, all function by the power of this god.
We really should be building Him shrines all over.
Praise to you, O Thunder, terrible in mercy.
Thunder Cross, Latvian (cherry wood 2" x 2")
Photo: Paul B. Rucker
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