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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Every Old Warlock Has a Cane

Seems like every old warlock has a cane.

They say that old Tom Weir (1599-1670) used to send his down to the corner store—by itself!—to pick up orders for him. The Devil gave it to him at his oathing in place of a familiar, reasoning that this would, for a townsman, be less conspicuous than a live animal.

So, Tom, while we're talking conspicuous....

Weir's infamous warlock's cane was carved from blackthorn, with a satyr's head for a handle. It burned along with its master on Colton Hill in Edinboro, “twisting like a serpent” in the flames. This was taken as affirmation of its diabolical origin.

Well, now.

I've got a blackthorn of my own, topped with a beautiful spiral ram's horn. Once I offered it on loan to a non-pagan friend recovering from an operation. He declined.


“,” he said.

Some friends gifted me with my second warlock's cane a few years back. It's even witchier than the other one. They didn't know where it was from, although it has an African feel to it: carved in a hard, dark, heavy wood that looks and hefts like ebony, a snake spirals widdershins up its length. To compound the mystery, it's shod with a worked bullet casing. Yikes. It's a beautiful piece, enough to make any old warlock's heart beat faster.

Two canes and nowhere to go. I'm spry on my feet and planning to stay that way. (Good health is only one advantage of selling your soul to the Devil.) To carry a cane that I don't need is an affectation beyond what I'm capable of at this point.

Still, they have their uses. A spiral ram's horn makes a fine, strong carrier for a shopping bag.

And, wouldn't you know it: I'm all out of milk.










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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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