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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One for the Price of Three

A witch once came before a king bearing three books.

“Sire,” she said, “I have here three books of prophecies. I will sell them all to you for ten thousand gold pieces.”

“Ten thousand gold pieces for three books?” said the king. “Good mother, have you taken leave of your senses?”

“Let a brazier of fire be brought,” said the witch.

A brazier of fire was brought, and the witch proceeded to burn one of the books to ashes.

“Sire,” she said, “I have here two books of prophecies. I will sell them both to you for ten thousand gold pieces.”

“Good mother,” said the king, “I will hardly pay for two books what I would not pay for three.”

The witch proceeded to burn the second book to ashes.

“Sire,” she said, “I have here a book of prophecies. I will sell it to you for ten thousand gold pieces.”

The king bought the witch's book.

Thereafter it was always consulted in moments of national emergency and, to the end of the kingdom, an answer was always found there.

Indeed, this is a true story.

What price the future?








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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 Thursday, 04 January 2018

    I have read this story before. As I recall it was the Sybil who presented the king of Rome with three books and the king only bought one book.

  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch Friday, 05 January 2018

    You've got a good memory, Anthony. I first came across the story back in Latin 1--though I think it was the Senate that the Sybil approached, rather than a king--was impressed by it, and wondered how well it would "translate" into a different cultural framework.

    I've been thinking a lot lately about how ideas transfer from one culture to another. Stay tuned.

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