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 Twilight People

Who are They, the Twilight Kindreds, the Neighbors, those other peoples in the land?

Called by many names, more felt than seen, once known by everyone everywhere: who are they?

They are the Interiority, the Inwardness of things, the Inside looking Out.

Environmental? Yes. In them, environment looks back at us.

Truly, the kingdom of Faerie lies within.

 For Sabina Magliocco




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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.


  • Paul B. Rucker
    Paul B. Rucker Tuesday, 01 March 2016

    Quite apt.

    And if the fae are in the inwardness of environment, place, Nature looking back out at us again, then the manner in which we choose as humans to represent them in lore, literature and art is revealing of our attitudes toward environment, place and Nature.

    Could it be said that much modern faerie imagery reflects the commodifying and marketing of these, albeit largely unconsciously?

    Why are so many faeries depicted in modern visual marketing as thin young white women in prom dresses and butterfly wings? Conversely, the male faerie is usually depicted as a young child or a grotesque, more rarely a hulking warrior or shallow Prince Charming-- when he appears at all.

    What kinds of new images might be produced from a more radically poetical, enchanted, interactive contact with Nature? Ritual and Pagan practice might help us find out.

  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch Wednesday, 02 March 2016

    The boustiers and butterfly wings of so much contemporary "fairy" "culture" are indeed symptomatic of our problematic relationship to "nature." While they may indicate a longing, a nostalgia, for a real relationship, what they actually demonstrate is a sentimentalized, spayed view of nature; in fact, the absence of any real relationship. None of those gauzy fairy-dust get-ups could withstand even a day's walk in the woods.

    What to do?

    First, we need to cultivate a real relationship with the natural world. We need to turn off the computer, close the book, and go take a walk in the woods. Without benefit of electronic devices. Regularly.

    Second, we need to choose for ourselves a better class of literature. Disney doesn't know dick about the Others. The Old Lores and artists inspired by them tell the truth about the wights: they're "fair and fell" beyond imaging. The brothers Grimm, the sagas, Tolkien, and Poul Anderson's Broken Sword are a place to start.

  • Paul B. Rucker
    Paul B. Rucker Wednesday, 02 March 2016

    Yes, part of the practicum is exactly what you have described.

    My only caveat at the moment is to distinguish the spiritual and practical activity of relating to faerie as spirit of place/nature, from artistic depictions of faerie, even though the latter ought to derive from the former.

    My observation is that people who are garbing as fae (especially in environments like Faerieworlds or similar faerie-themed events) are attempting to present in (via their human shape) an aspect of the natural world-- to embody a metaphor, however simplistically. "Presenting as" the spirit of a (female) flower or a butterfly is overdone to the point of ignoring most of the rest of the terrestrial environment, although the men have really picked up on the Green Man and the Horns/Antlers.

    It is usually performed, as it were, as "art for art's sake" and without what you and I might call a ritual or embodied-religion motive. The only time I have ever seen a faerie costume that didn't work, under that rubric, was someone who was costumed from head to foot in plastic gear. HUH?

    From that point of view, the opportunity to become aesthetically involved in personifying some part of nature has the possibility of inspiring a deeper level of motivation to step further beyond the consumer culture experience. (i.e. a "gateway drug" to a Pagan or earth-centered language of relationship, building on the experience of connection to go further.)

    I will also add that in my experience as a participant-observer/character in Faerieworlds, the element most lacking was the opportunity to penetrate, via ritual or another form of interactivity, past the superficial aspects of "faerie culture". FW does a spiral dance to open the festival which is fun and temporarily unifying, but as with everything else, presented essentially as entertainment only.

    Opportunity to begin or enhance a more meaningful/profound relationship to embodied or enchanted nature is largely lacking in most "mainstream" (if you can call it that) faerie culture. These events are still growing in popularity but they only feed part of the hunger of a certain portion of their audience.

    Some are coming to these events with no knowledge of anything other than consumer culture but they have a yearning for connection and to go further, winding up unsatisfied because in spite of the great music and the stuff to buy and the nice outfits, there wasn't anything *deeper*. They were looking for a path, I think, pursuing a scent that seemed to promise a start.

  • Chloe
    Chloe Wednesday, 02 March 2016

    On the other hand, the Victorian depiction of faeries as children with butterfly wings (ala Cicely Mary Barker) appeals more to children, who are traditionally the ones most likely to see the fae and the ones more able to readily believe in them without doubt. My experience with faeries goes back as far as I can remember, at least age 2. Had they been depicted otherwise, more frightful, more scary, more "grown up", perhaps they would not be so appealing to children, and perhaps it is this early introduction that plays a crucial part in the fact that some of us never "outgrew" believing in Them.

    I have since studied and learned much more concerning their real nature, yet I am thankful for my early experiences which I have not forgotten, and for this early introduction to the little ones (my size at age 2-3) who lived under my porch step and followed me around everywhere. Besides, faeries can appear in any form they like, and who's to say some of them do not encourage a more benign appearance in order to better relate to those humans who can learn to see beyond the glitz, glamour, and "faerie fads" to understand the deeper truths of how all things in nature are sacred and interrelated? It won't work for everyone, but I think people, especially children, are more drawn to Tinkerbell than they are to Jenny Greenteeth. For many such as I, this can be the beginning to so much more.

  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch Thursday, 03 March 2016

    Thanks for the balancing voice, Chloe. Myself, I was always more of a Jenny Greenteeth kid than a Tinkerbelle one, but maybe that's just me.

    Clearly, human beings pretty much everywhere have these experiences, and expectation shapes them. If nothing else, the language of Faerie--which exists in some form in just about every human culture that I know of--gives us a way to talk about experiences that are otherwise amorphous and difficult to describe.

    In my opinion, that makes it (like ritual) an ancestral spiritual technology of great subtlety and sophistication.

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