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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Of Gates and Veils

At certain times of the year—especially around Samhain—you hear that “the Veil between the Worlds grows thin.”

This language speaks to something that many of us, I suspect, have ourselves experienced: those times when our Known World becomes an Otherness to us, often with such intensity—perhaps in response to that same Otherness within ourselves—that it seems we could step through and enter into the Interiority of things. In the lore this sense is frequently associated with the temporally and spatially liminal ( <Latin limen, “threshold”), the times and places of the In-Between.

As a quick web-search will demonstrate, the notion of the Veil Between Worlds comes to the Craft from Spiritualism; mediums are said to “part the Veil” to enable contact with the dead now in the Other World. Most likely Spiritualism derives the metaphor of the Veil (probably via Freemasonry) from the Veil of the Jerusalem temple, the curtain (Hebrew parókhet) that separated the “nave” of the temple from the Holy of Holies.

Well, where metaphors come from is less important that how good they are. If there's a Veil between Worlds, what does it mean to say that it “grows thin”? Cloth, of course, wears thin with use; look at your last pair of jeans. So is the implied cycle here that the fabric of reality wears out and needs to be rewoven? All metaphors, like cars, break down eventually, but it seems to me that maybe this one has broken down before we've got to where we need to go.


The lores of the Keltic- and Germanic-speaking peoples also knew of Other Worlds and times and places of liminality, but instead of Veils, their literatures tend to speak of entry into Otherness by way of Doors or Gates. At certain times of year, the Gates Between Worlds swing open. They say that on the Eves of Bealtaine and Samhain, the doors of the mounds open wide. Let the wise be wary.

I live in Mound Country myself. Minnesota is a Land of 10,000 Mounds—one for each lake (themselves gateways to Other World)—and the lore of the People of the Mounds is known to us here as well. If there are curtains between worlds here, they're more likely to be door-skins or door-aprons than woven veils.

Metaphors speak differently to different people, and it's certainly not for me to decide what works for you. Probably we're the richer for having both Doors and Veils in our head-hoard. But to me it's pretty clear which is the stronger metaphor.

This weekend we're holding memorial for a local priestess. We'll Open the Gates and escort her to them. When she has passed through, we'll Close them to behind her again.

It's what you do for those you love.

Sun Door! Sun Door!

Oak and Holly crossed with Thorn: Open!

Revealing azure golden Day and archetypal Light!


Moon Door! Moon Door!

Ash and Alder crossed with Willow: Open!

Revealing demiurgic Darkness of the Mystery Night!


(Frederick Adams)




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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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