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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Taking the Ash

You're walking down the street and there, sure enough, under the same tree as this morning, sits the holy man, stark naked, blue with ash.

Rishikesh? Benares? No.

Turtle Creek, Wisconsin, USA.

I've always wondered what it would be like to live in a place where, in the natural course of things, one encountered the blue men (and women) as part of everyday life. I've also wondered what it would be like to be one of the ash-clad, given to the gods, wandering like ghosts through the world: in it, but not of it.

Well, I'll soon find out.

At sunrise, some of us (you could be one) will immerse ourselves in the waters of Turtle Creek and clothe our naked bodies in ash from the sacred fire. We will spend the day in silence, fasting, prayer, and meditation. At sunset, we will immerse in Turtle Creek, break our fast, and return to our wonted places in the life-stream of our people.

Pagans have a reputation—admittedly, not undeserved—for self-indulgence. Measured self-denial is, among us, a much under-utilized spiritual resource. 

I'm an American, from a land where public equals secular, religion is reserved for the private sphere, and never the twain shall meet. Not until I lived in the Middle East did I encounter the kind of public religiosity where you step around people praying on the sidewalk and can't cross the street until the religious procession has gone past. I've always imagined that life in a pagan society would be something like that.

Well: coming soon, it will be.

To a festival near you.

Summerland Spirit Festival






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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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