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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Shrine on Chicken Legs

Baba Yaga's Lawn

You can tell which house is Baba Yagá's by the lawn. The grass around it grows so thick, so lush, and so green that (I swear) you could pasture a cow on it.

It also, I swear, grows faster than that of any other house on the block.

I should know. I'm the one that mows it.

 

(You've heard of Vasilissa the beautiful, right: the one who does housework for Baba Yaga?

Well, I'm Steven the grounds-keeper. I do yardwork for Baba Yaga.)

 

Calamities

In her shrine in Pig's Eye, MN (a.k.a. “St” Paul), Baba Yaga—the fearsome old forest-witch of Russian folklore—has been receiving prayers and offerings for more than 30 years now.

Say what you will about Old Boney Legs, she's anything but antisocial. In fact, she shares her shrine with the ancestors, the Sun, and the Moon.

Also with Poverty, Famine, Disease, and Death. Really: they've got altars and everything.

 

In the Yard of Baba Yaga

It's not just grass that grows richly in Baba Yaga's yard.

Now, in May, the dandelions are numerous and huge, practically the size of peonies. The nettles here sting worse than anywhere else. They also make a delicious soup.

Talking with the resident priest before I begin my tour of grounds-keeping, I shake my head.

“Whatever you're doing,” I tell him, “it sure does seem to be working.”

 

Apotropaics

It's a very Slavic way to see things, though of course Slavs aren't the only ones to think apotropaically.

Apo-tropaic: literally, “turning away, averting.”

Keep the dangerous ones happy, and maybe they'll leave you alone.

 

Daily, weekly, monthly, the prayers and offerings continue.

“Baba Yaga, help the [Calamities] moderate their influences on Paganistan and the Twin Cities,” the priest prays.

Interestingly, Twin Citians are among the healthiest and longest-lived Americans. Our food industry feeds the continent. During the last recession, our unemployment rate was one of the lowest in the country. Fewer people died of covid here than in just about any other urban area in the US.

Draw your own conclusions.

 

 "Turn Your Back to the Trees, and Your Front to Me, Please"

The volkhv (“shaman”) pours out vodka and uncooked wheat.

He also pours out water: rain for the crops. “Not too little, not too much,” he prays.

With Baba Yaga, it's always best to be specific.

 

 

 

 

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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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