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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The Joy of Ritual: In Praise of Zilpha Keatley Snyder's 'The Egypt Game'

 The Egypt Game - Wikipedia

How many of us can honestly say that we got our start in pagan ritual from a kid's book?

I can. The book was Zilpha Keatley Snyder's 1973 The Egypt Game.

In an unnamed California college town, a disused storage yard becomes, for a small group of kids, the magical Land of Egypt, “a land of mystery and mud.”

There, in imaginative half-play/half-seriousness, they enact rites for the ancient gods of the Nile.

Then unexpected things begin to happen.


Illuminated by Anton Raible's charming drawings, The Egypt Game tells a large-hearted tale of the lived imagination. It has everything: likeable, flawed characters, mystery, even murder. Oh, and Halloween, too: that patronal holiday of children, which no kid's book would be complete without.

In 1973, assembling a diverse cast of White, Black, Asian, and Latino characters, as Snyder does here, was pretty radical for a children's book. Even at the time, I knew it was the Way of the Future.

And then there are the rituals.

Snyder captures, better than any other author that I know, the excitement, the mystery, the sheer joyful exuberance, of creating and enacting ritual.

You read about what the Egypt Gang does, and you know that ritual matters. You think: “I could do this too.”

So you do.


Modesty is not a pagan virtue; truth, though, is. Fifty years on, I can say truthfully that I'm one of Pagandom's ace ritualists.

I can't exactly say that I owe it all to Zilpha Keatley Snyder, but this much I can say: before I began thinking of myself as pagan, before I even knew that other pagans existed, she gave me the initial spark. She gave me permission.

You too, reader, can experience the wonders, the depths, the mysteries, of pagan ritual.

No belief required.






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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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