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 Song of the Forest



Several decades ago, writer Paul Kingsnorth went to West Papua to document the physical and cultural genocide being perpetrated on the local Indigenous peoples by the Indonesian army.

Traveling with some men of the Lani tribe, he (and they) came to a break in the trees, where they saw

a great sweep of ancient forest rolling off towards the blue horizon. Blue, green: there was nothing else. Everything could have been here at the Creation.

Spears on shoulders, the Lani men turned and sang together, quite matter-of-factly, a song that, Kingsnorth later discovered, was a song of thanks to the forest (Kingsnorth 16).

That Song of the Forest has haunted him ever since.


His life since then—assiduously documented in yearning, visionary prose—has been a search for what those tribesmen had, a state of being which his ancestors also once had, but which has long since been lost: a living community in spiritual relationship with the Living Land.

He left environmental activism, moved his family to a remote farm in western Ireland, hooked up with the local Alexandrians. (I gather that Alexandrians are thick on the ground in Ireland.) Still missing the Song of the Forest, he left the Alexandrians, and was recently baptized into the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Well, Paul, I wish you luck in your journey, and the Sun and Moon on your path. But what would you say if I told you that I could teach you the Song of the Forest? Not the Lani Song of the Forest, but the one that our ancestors used to sing?


In truth, I can't teach that song, to him or to anyone; I don't know it either.


But here's the thing. Kingsnorth seems to have despairingly concluded that, since it's been lost, it's lost forever. But my experience over the past five decades leads me to conclude that, though we may not know the Song now, some day we will.

No, I don't know the Song of the Forest—yet. But let me tell you some of the songs that I do know.

I know the song that you sing when you see an eagle.

I know the song that you sing when you make offerings to the Fire.

I know the song of the Mask that the Horned wears when He dances among His people at the Grand Sabbat.

Fifty years ago, I didn't know any of these songs. Now I do. For this reason, I feel confident that our Song of the Forest is on the horizon, only a matter of time.


Ten years ago, a young woman—now a friend and colleague—came to ask me to be her teacher.

Naturally, I asked the question that you always ask under such circumstances: Why me?

Because what you have is the real thing, and I want it, she replied.


She was right. What we have is the real thing: what—I think—Kingsnorth has been looking for, what (as one does) the Lani take for granted, because they've always had it.

We, the pagans, have what we have because, in our longing, we have sought and, sometimes, found; and sometimes we have made for ourselves—as the ancestors did, as the People always do—what we needed.

We're certainly nowhere near finished, and there remains much, much yet to do.

But some day we will know that ancestral Song of the Forest, I feel sure of it.

Some day, I believe, we too will turn to face the Forest, and matter-of-factly sing that song together.



Paul Kingsnorth (2019) Savage Gods. Two Dollar Radio


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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.


  • Helga Hedgewalker
    Helga Hedgewalker Wednesday, 12 May 2021

    So mote it be, and the sooner the better!

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