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 Kreesh-chun Radio and Ego-Paganism

As someone who regards himself as “religious but not spiritual” (the main difference being, are you part of a community or not?), I'm always interested to see how other religious people do what they do.

I've recently been watching Shtisel, a smash Israeli series about a dysfunctional dosi (ultra-ultra-ultra Orthodox) family in contemporary Jerusalem. Part of what has made the series so popular among secular and marginally-religious Israelis is the intimate portrait that it paints of what it's like to live in a world in which even the most commonplace everyday function—taking a sip of water, chopping vegetables, taking a shit—becomes an act with religious implications.

To me, as a pagan, such a world seems very familiar indeed.

That's why, when I happened to chance on a Kreesh-chun music station in the car the other day while channel-surfing, I stopped and listened instead of moving on.

What struck me most about what I heard was the music's egocentricity: how happy I am, how bad off I was before I got religion. Me, me, me. Even when the songs were ostensibly about Jesus or “God,” the referent was nearly always the self: how much my god has done for me. How much I love my god.

My impression of the essentially egocentric nature of Kreesh-chun music is, of course, by no means a methodical sampling—I'll leave that work to some other student of contemporary American religion—although I do have to say that it does indeed match how much contemporary evangelicalism (to my eye, at any rate) presents: as shallow, self-satisfied, essentially an exercise in self-projection.

Alas. Lest we feel smug, let me mention that much contemporary paganism strikes me in the same way. This my dear friend and colleague Sparky T. Rabbit used to refer to as “ego-paganism.”

One thinks of the pointed old joke (old in pagan terms, anyway): How many Ceremonial Magicians does it take to change a light-bulb? Answer: Just one, to hold up the light-bulb while the universe revolves around him.

This is hardly to impugn either pagan or Kreesh-chun. Perhaps what we see here is simply the state of contemporary American do-it-yourself religion generally.

If so, we're presented, not with a given, but with a point of departure.

Where do we go from here?

How best do we get there?

Q: What do you call a Wiccan soap?

A: As the Wheel Turns.


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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.


  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham Tuesday, 01 January 2019

    I have listened to contemporary gospel and found it boring and monotonous. There used to be a station that played Country, Bluegrass and Old Time Gospel and that was good, it had variety and depth.

    I've been laboring my way through "Draw the Circle" by Mark Batterson. it appears you need at least three people to make it work. I remember from the gospels something about Jesus saying "Where two or more are gathered in my name there am I." I am sure that when he sent his fellow coven members out into the world he sent them out in pairs. Yes, I did say coven members. The more I read the more Jesus sounds like an anti-establishment, anti-Roman warlock.

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