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.
North Country Samhain
On Halloween weekend writer, witch, and ceremonial magician Frater Barrabbas hosted a gathering of Traditionals and friends at his home here in SE Minnesota. I swear, I’ve never seen so many stangs and black cloaks in one place before.
It’s been a warm, golden autumn here in Lake Country. We drove out to Barrabbas’ on Saturday afternoon (I’d spent the night before with my group here in Minneapolis, dancing with Old Hornie around a 150-year old white oak in a river meadow down by the Mississippi) through a landscape newly naked. The cottonwoods, birches, and maples had only recently shed their gold, leaving behind the oaks’ brown and russet, and the smoky green of Northland pines and cedars.
Barrabbas’ land is bounded by woods, a lake, and a cauldron bog. We found there a crowd of almost 40, some from as far away as Illinois and Georgia, subtly fueled by our host’s lively batches of homebrew: the rich, spicy Oktoberfest was especially beguiling.
After sunset we gathered in the grove behind the house. There by torch-light and bonfire-light we danced out the old, old story of the Corn Maiden, her life and death; an experience stark, tribal, and unflinching, refreshingly free from the standard Samhain cliches.
Then on to the waiting feast, and laughter around the bonfire. Nestled in my tent in the woods later that night, I thought of faces and firelight, of the Grand Covens of the old days, of a grinning, horned door-knocker wreathed in black, and the shining flash of a sickle in its life-giving, death-dealing arc.
November 2, 2004
With special thanks to Anita Muscaria
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