Paganistan: Notes from the Secret Commonwealth

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Father of Church of Aphrodite Founder Canonized by Russian Orthodox Church

Even by pagan standards, it's an incredible story.

On February 3, 2016, Dr. Yevgeny Botkin (1865-1918), personal physician to Nicholas II, the last tsar of Russia, was canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church, 98 years after he was executed by the Bolsheviks along with the tsar, and the tsar's wife and children.

Known as “Righteous Passion-Bearer Yevgeny the Physician,” his son Gleb Botkin (1900-1969) was later to become the founder of the Long Island Church of Aphrodite, which in 1938 became America's first legally-recognized new pagan organization.

“It's better than worshiping Mary Baker Eddy [founder of Christian Science],” quipped the New York judge who granted legal recognition.

Following the Russian Revolution and his father's death, Gleb Botkin married and emigrated to the United States, where he became a successful novelist and commercial artist. Having as a child been playmate to the tsar's children, he became a lifelong supporter of pretender Anna Anderson's claims to be Anastasia Romanov, the tsar's youngest daughter. (Pagans have always loved lost causes.)

Botkin, always of a spiritual bent, had originally intended to become an Orthodox monk, but after the spiritual upheaval of the Revolution, he turned his attention to the laughter-loving Goddess of Love, and spent the rest of his life as her passionate devotee and advocate.

Among Botkin's protegees and disciples was W. Holman Keith (1900-1993), whose pioneering 1960 work Divinity as the Eternal Feminine was America's first book of self-consciously pagan theology. Keith was later to become friend and mentor to artist and visionary Frederick Maclaren Adams, the founder of Feraferia, one of American paganism's most influential organizations.

Feraferia, currently undergoing something of a renaissance under the leadership of writer-filmmaker Jo Carson, will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year.

The first church dedicated to new martyr Yevgeny Botkin—whose imperial patrons had preceded him into official sainthood in 2000—was consecrated in Moscow on Friday, March 25, 2016.

So: one of the founders of American paganism was the son of a Christian saint.

Who says gods don't have a sense of humor?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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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