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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Milk Pails and Prayer Books

The thing about superstitions is, you just never know.

One of my favorites comes from southern Germany. If you want to find out who the witches in your parish are, when you go to church on Good Friday, slip an Easter egg into your pocket. You'll recognize the witches by three things: 

  1. Instead of hats, they'll be wearing milk pails on their heads.

  2. Instead of prayer books, they'll be carrying slabs of pork. (!)

  3. They'll be standing with their backs to the altar.


One Good Friday a few years back, I went over to the evening service at the cathedral. (Part of keeping one's ritual skills honed is watching how other people do things.) I nearly always have a pocket-charm or two around me somewhere and, as it happens, that day I was carrying a little Baltic amber egg that a friend had recently given to me. You can see where this is going.


After the service, a voice pipes up. “Well, Steve Posch: of all the people I never expected to see here!”

It was a woman I know from the local rituals, there with her family. We laughed and stood chatting for a few minutes.

In fact, we were both standing with our backs to the altar.

Please note, though, that neither of us was either wearing a milk pail or carrying a slab of pork.

That's just superstition.


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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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