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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'My Imps' Names Are...'

The Lone Animator: Imps

In Which Miss Bunny Finally Gets Her Witch-Name

All my cats down the years have come to me with other names: out-names, you could call them, names for everyday.

Though sometimes it's taken a while, they've all got proper witch-names eventually.

I acquired Miss Bunny (AKA the Bun, Bun-bun, the Bunster, Bunny Butt, and—of course—Bad Bunny) just after Lunasa last year. Being a Manx cat with a stumpy little tail, the name fit well enough, but—from the beginning—it struck me as a prose name, a name-from-without.

“Well,” I thought, “the inner name will come.” The first lesson of Witchery is patience.

To reach the new place, sometimes you have to get out of Dodge first. In the course of a recent road trip, it occurred to me: A Manx cat needs a Manx name.

(Closely related to Irish, Manx is—was—the Celtic language formerly spoken in the Isle of Man.)


Bonnag is the Manx name for a kind of sweet tea loaf. It's the Isle of Witches calque of bannock, the pan-Celtic griddle-bread.

And thereby hangs a tale: a stumpy bunny tail, presumably.

Bannock is an old and interesting word. (Every word's a story.) In the Anglian dialect of the Hwicce, the original Anglo-Saxon tribe of Witches, it was bannuc: one of Old English's rare handful of Celtic loan-words. (The Scots Gaelic version is bonnach.) This, in turn, derives ultimately from Latin panis, “bread.” There must be a story here, too—it's hard to believe that Britons didn't make bread until learning how from the Red Crests—but that's another tale for another day.

That clicking that you're hearing is the satisfying sound of pieces falling into place. Bonnag: here, inner matches outer. Under the circumstances, it's a name that Bunny could well arise as a playful nickname for. There's only chronology to say otherwise and, as I'm sure you already know without my having tell you, time has always been something of an elastic category for people of our sort.

So hail and welcome Bonnag, my bonny wee Bunny: a sweet little tea-loaf of a name, for a sweet little tea-loaf of a cat.

Sure beats “Vinegar Tom”, doesn't it?


My kitty is a Manx kitty,

one with a stumpy tail.

My kitty is a Manx kitty,

one with a stumpy tail.


She is the cutest kitty of all;

it's not her fault

she comes from St. Paul

(how heinous!).


My kitty is a Manx kitty,

one with a stumpy,

a little stumpy,

a short and stumpy





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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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