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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Frying Onions

Before my old high priestess Back East would pronounce one of the Witch Words—and, believe me, she did not merely say these words, she (rrrroll that R, now) pronounced them—there would be a little pause.

[Pause] uh-THAW-may, she would utter, in that breathy, sing-song kind of voice that people use to read poetry.

[Pause] DAY-o-sill. [Pause] SAM-ane. [Pause] BIG-us. (Bigghes is Witch for “jewelry.”)

It may seem as if I'm being cruel here, but please believe me, I'm not. Actually, I find the habit rather endearing, and down the years I've known (and know) many who do it. (There are times when I do it myself: ah, irony.) And I completely understand and appreciate what's being said behind what's being said here.

We love our paganism because it's special, perfumed with that singular redolence of the exotic.

And, indeed, that is certainly so.

Increasingly, though—especially as I get older—I find that what I love most about paganism is not so much that it's exotic or unusual. What I love best about paganism is precisely its quotidian quality: the familiarity of the everyday.

When I say athame (rhymes with Hathaway) or sabbat (rhymes with rabbit), look out: those broad, flat Midwestern vowels may knock you over. I want my pagan words to sound as humdrum--and as exciting--as anything else you might look up in the dictionary. I want a paganism that's an everyday part of the language that I speak, here and now; a paganism that doesn't have to sound special in order to be special.

Well, as Dion Fortune says, Some love one, and some love the other.

But that's the thing: we don't have to choose between the two. That's paganism's allure: it's both exotic as a whiff of copal, and familiar as the smell of frying onions.

It's the familiar exotic.






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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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