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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Golden Calf


 Golden Calf Syndrome | The Layman's Bible


 The Making of a Pagan


The little tow-headed boy is sitting cross-legged on the living room floor, watching TV. Now playing—maybe because it's Holy Week—is C. B. de Mille's epic kitsch-fest The Ten Commandments.

The film is unrelentingly grim. Oh the slavery! Oh the plagues! Oh the suffering!

Suddenly, the mood changes. The Children of Israel are, for once, happy. They're dancing, they're getting drunk, they're grabbing each others' asses.

They're worshiping the Golden Calf!

That looks like fun! thinks the little boy. That's what I want to do!


With its implications of juvenescence, “calf” is really something of a mistranslation. In Hebrew, an égel (עגל) is actually a yearling bull, newly come to maturity. The Golden Bull is a youthful god, shining with juicy adolescence.


“What the heck is that?” asks my friend.

I'd asked the same question of the clerk at the little Scandinavian shop down the street where I'd bought the decorative plate in question. It shows the Israelites worshiping the Golden Calf.

I explain to her, as the clerk explained to me, that it's one of a 10-piece series depicting the Ten Commandments. This one depicts the First Commandment.

Really, there's something kind of perverse about illustrating something by showing its opposite. After all, the worship of the Golden Calf is basically Jewish Satanism. I love high-context humor.

My friend laughs.

“If that's Thou shalt have no other gods before me, I can't wait to see Thou shalt not commit adultery,” she says.
















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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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