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 Hill-Fog and Gold Nuggets

The truly surprising thing about most "Witchsploitation" is that, buried under all the sewage of misinformation, you'll often find one gleaming nugget of pure gold.

In Howard Richardson and William Berney's popular 1944 stageplay Dark of the Moon, Witch-boy meets Cowan-girl. For Cowan-girl, Witch-boy gives up the Craft, or tries to.

In the end, of course, things don't work out. If your partner wanted you to give up the Craft for him or her, would you do it? Could you do it?

Witches, you see, aren't like “humans.” We don't have souls. We live for 300 years, but then we turn into “nothin' but mountain fog,” and hover around the hills forever.

On a recent trip down into the “hills and hollows” of the Midwest's Driftless Area, I had occasion to watch the little hill-fogs among the changing leaves.

It was spooky, really: high afternoon with bright sunlight all the way, but here and there, nonetheless, a little cloud of fog hovered eerily above the trees.

Hill-fogs often look like smoke rising from some bonfire on the hillside—contained, discreet—but they're actually miniature clouds that form when warm, moist air condenses as it rises and comes into contact with colder upslope air.

There's something ghostly about them for sure. Each one has its own roiling individuality, unbound by the norms that we know: tangible yet unearthly, nestled in its own little treetop hollow. That such should be the spirits of earthbound witches seems entirely credible, when you see them.

Some believe in the Summerland, some in reincarnation.

But as for me, when my 300 are up, just look for a little wandering scarf of fog, hovering forever among the wooded hills and hollows of the autumn Driftless.










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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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