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.
Tomorrow's one of my favorite days of the year: Egg-Dye Sunday.
We've been doing it every year since 1979 (what they call the Paganolithic). On the Sunday before the Equinox, a whole slew of us get together, stoke up the dye-pots, and (using only the finest natural dyestocks) dye up tens (if not scores) of dozens of eggs.
(With the advent of Paganicon, our local weekend-before-the-equinox Pantheacon North, the egg-dye, like clocks at Daylight Savings, has jumped forward. Old-Stylist that I am, I can't say that I'm best pleased with this turn of events, but the Old Ways haven't survived all these years without staying flexible.)
This is the Midwest, so of course we start off with a potluck brunch. (Around here, some would say “cauldron-luck.”) There's a festive party while the eggs cook and dye. (Natural dyes are mostly heat-applied.) Singing, laughter, conversation. The windows steam up, the noise level is unbelievable. It's an act of collective alchemy, using the leaves, skins, and roots of last year's growing season to bridge lifeless winter's grinning gap and spark the coming year's abundance.
Down the decades we've acquired quite a repertoire of dyestocks, and we're always trying out new ones: this year, achiote seed and liquid chlorophyll. And the colors they produce are stunning: bold, gutsy, tribal.
Eggs yellow as birch leaves and orange as pumpkins. Eggs red as sunrise, and blue as summer skies. Eggs green as new leaves, and brown as good tilled loam. Colors to call forth spring from winter. Colors to bring the dead to life.
As we've done for (arguably) thousands of years. (The last year I went back East for spring break, my father picked up one of the eggs dyed Minoan-red with onionskin and asked, “What did you use to get this color? My grandmother used to dye eggs that looked like this.”) Before the church, before iron. Back when our gods were Earth and Sun and Thunder: the great Powers on whom our lives depend and always will. Back when we knew that only magic can bring back spring. Back when we understood that colored eggs can raise the dead.
The cashier ringing up my six dozen this week remarked, “Sure is a lot of eggs.”
“Getting ready for the holiday,” I say.
She looks at me. “Easter's not for weeks yet.”
“We're Equinox people,” I tell her.
Photo: Katie Clapham
Please login first in order for you to submit comments