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 Way of the Crayfish

“To crawfish”: to work widdershins, you might say.

This is the well-known magical technique of inversion: raising power by doing backwards what is usually done forwards.

Walking backwards. Dancing back to back. Reciting prayers in reverse.

The American crawfish (a regionalism for “crayfish”): cambarus diogenes. A freshwater crustacean (I hear they're delicious) that looks something like a mini-lobster. Unlike most fish, it moves through the water back-first: what looks to us face-firsters like backwards. How witchy is that? Small wonder it's become a magical byword.

On my last morning at Summerland Spirit festival in Wisconsin, I was talking shop with another old warlock, a dear friend and colleague who's also a co-conspirator in the upcoming Midwest Grand Sabbat. We'd made our way up to the highest point in Turtle Lake County: they say you can see 5 counties from it.

Shortly after we started making our way back down, we came across a crawfish, scuttling across the path in front of us, looking for all the world like the lobster in the Moon card.

Now, Turtle Creek runs through the horseshoe valley in which the festival is held. To find a crawfish in Turtle Creek would not be an omen. In fact, one had pinched my butt in the swimming hole there the day before.


There are a couple of springs up on the hill. To find a crawfish in one of them would not be an omen either.


Omens imply unusual, and you can't tell unusual unless you know usual first.


Well, coming across a crawfish on a path near the top of a hill constitutes unusual by my reckoning.

People who come to Old Craft often come to it from Wicca and want to define one by contrast with the other. I understand this, but personally, I think we need both witcheries. It seems to me that Wicca and Old Craft in fact pair very nicely: the Lady's Craft and Old Hornie's respectively, the Deosil and the Widdershins Ways. A bat, after all, needs two wings to fly with.

Grand Sabbat a thirtnight hence, with the Old Buck up on the altar and the dancers, back-to-back, wheeling widdershins before Him.

Well, if that crawfish was some kind of omen, I'll take it.

Eb ti etom os.






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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.


  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham Thursday, 16 July 2015

    I remember reading that one of the Amerind tribes on the gulf coast takes the crayfish as a symbol of their tribe. It could be that some old Amerind spirit is trying to get your attention. You might try pathworking the moon card from a deck of tarot cards to see who or what might be trying to communicate. If you don't own a deck of tarot cards you can always look up "images tarot moon" on your favorite search engine.

  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch Friday, 17 July 2015

    Thanks for the connection, Anthony: I'll see if I can track it down. I've had occasion recently to reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of oral tradition. True, it doesn't take much to break the thread. On the other hand, the Powers are still speaking to us just as loudly and clearly as they ever did to the ancestors.

    All we have to do is listen.

  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham Friday, 17 July 2015

    I read it in a book from the library. Unfortunately that book has been deleted from the library's collection, as have way too many others. Currently there is way too much empty shelf space for my liking. Internet access is a fine thing, but that's no reason to abandon books.

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