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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Midwest Songlines

Ecker's Apple Farm

Territories of Time


Witches, like other predators, are territorial animals.

Territories of place, though, are not the only kind of territory.


“So, how was your Fourth?”

I'm talking with Aura who, at 84, has as good a claim to being Grandmother to the local community as anyone. (Of Carl "Llewellyn" Weschke's very first crop of initiates, she alone remains: still fully engaged, still sharp as an athame's edge.)

My question was casually intended, mere open-ended conversation-fodder.

Little did I realize down what paths it would lead.


Unlike pagan immigrants like me—there are many here—Aura's an autochthon, born right here in Minneapolis, the Water City. (That's what the name means literally: a Dakota-Greek hybrid, aptly enough.) What had she done with her Independence Day? She had spent it driving around with one of her daughters-in-the-Craft, tracking down all the places where she's lived in this pagan city during her long and rich life.

Witches do this kind of thing. The Wise remember, and place is the medium of our memory. My own coven, too, has done the driving tour of all our various covensteads through our now-going-on-50-year-history.

Territories of place are not the only kind of territory.


It took them a while to track down the first house where Aura lived after she was born: she hadn't seen it in years. Finally, they managed to locate it. Her eyes sparkle as she tells me.

“Was I ever surprised when I looked across the street and saw your car in the driveway,” she says.

Turns out it's right across the street from my house.


(Cue theme from Twilight Zone.)


Welcome to Witch Central, where for more than four decades, the fire has burned undimmed on the altar.

Nearby runs Lake Street, originally an old Dakota trail leading from the Mississippi River to the onetime village at Bde Maká Ska, White Earth Lake (known formerly as Lake Calhoun). Here, roots of memory run deep.

This was a well-heeled neighborhood once, a convenient buggy-ride from downtown Minneapolis. You can still see the buildings of downtown from my front yard.

Aura's girlhood home, across the street, had been built in the 1890s by her grandfather, who owned a jewelry store downtown. (The jewelry store is long since gone, of course, now replaced by high-rise condos.) She can remember picking apples in the orchard between her house and Lake Street, where the used car lot sits today.

An orchard on densely-urban Lake Street: hard to credit. Still, one wonders if trees have ghosts.

One seems to see them still, sometimes, on misty autumn nights.


Apples and jewelry, ghost-trees and altar-fire.

Territories of place, territories of time.

Thus do the Wise remember.









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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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