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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Postcard from Micklegard

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

To Oswin King of the Hwicce, from his brother Osred: Greetings!

Well brother, Micklegard is a fine town, and no mistake. No matter what (or who) you want to buy, eat, or screw, they've got it here. Strong ale for the likes of this honest Hwiccan lad. 

Check out this dome. It's the city's chief temple. They worship the Moon here, just like we do back home—she's the city's patron goddess, in fact—only they call her Hekate. This is her temple as Lady of Wisdom. (Sound familiar?) Quite a sight, though I still can't figure why they go in under a roof to worship the Moon. Strange folk, Greeks.

Turns out that that wandering gleeman was telling the truth after all: the High King here really does keep a special war-band of Westerners as body-guards. He calls it his "barbarian guard." Funny: he can't trust his own to protect him, yet we're the barbarians!

Thought maybe I'd give it a try, though. Fighting's fighting, wherever you go. I hear the pay's good, and like I said: You want it, they've got it.

My love to mother and the girls. Wine's fine, but what I wouldn't give right now for a beaker of good, honest Hwiccan ale.

Be hale, drink hale, brother.

More soon.


Micklegard  Lit.“big yard,” the Anglo-Saxon name for the city of Constantinople (= Old Norse Mikligarðr). Ironic understatement has long characterized the North Sea peoples.

Hwicce  According to maverick archaeologist Stephen J. Yeates, the Anglo-Saxon people (and later kingdom) known as the Hwicce were the original “Tribe of Witches.” Although a full list of the kings (and ruling queens) of the Hwiccan kingdom no longer survives, it is known that many among their royal family bore names with the initial element Ós-, “(pagan) god” (= Old Norse áss, sg. of æsir).

Hekate  Greek goddess of witchcraft; patron goddess of the city of Byzantium. If the Roman Empire had retained its traditional religion, perhaps Justinian's Hagia Sophia would have been dedicated to her instead.

Barbarian Guard  The Byzantine emperors' famed Varangian (= “barbarian”) guard was an elite unit that drew ambitious (and disaffected) younger sons from all over the Germanic-speaking world.

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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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