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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'Think In Your Heart What God It May Be'


 Some Thoughts on a Pagan Catechism by Ezra Pound


“Think what god it may be.”

According to American poet and critic Ezra Pound (1885-1972), this is what you should do when encountering a god.

Published at the very end of the First World War, in 1918, Religio, or the Child's Guide to Knowledge is a curious work, a kind of pagan catechism: variously flippant, obtuse, and profound.

Do we know the number of the gods? he asks, and answers: It would be rash to say that we do. [One] should be content with a reasonable number.

Pagan for more than five decades now myself, I would still be hard put to come up with a better answer.

One phrase from Religio has haunted me for years.

How should one perceive a god, by his name?

It is better to perceive a god by form, or by the sense of knowledge, and after perceiving him thus, to consider his name or to “think what god it may be.”

“Think what god it may be.” For all its sense of playfulness, Pound here touches upon the warm, beating heart of polytheist experience. When encountering the divine, the monotheist has no need to wonder Who; but the pagan—the thinking pagan, at least—always must. Which god, among all the Many, might this one be?

“Think what god it may be.” Pound cites the phrase in quotation marks: is it really a quotation, or just meant to present as one? Certainly, it bears the hallmark of being the words of some venerable Greek or Roman author, wise in the ways of the gods: Cicero, perhaps, or Homer. Certainly it evinces a depth of understanding beyond what we would expect from irascible old Ezra Pound, Fascist sympathizer and anti-Semite that he was.

“Think what god it may be.” For nearly four decades now I've sought the source of this quotation. If it does indeed derive from some Classical author, I have yet to determine which. Internet searches, alas, have availed nothing; received wisdom aside—surely we all know better by now—not everything is to be found on the internet.

“Think what god it may be.” (My memory always wants to redact this to: “Think in your heart what god it may be.”) Wisdom, certainly: wisdom Classical or modern, though? At thirteenth and last, does it really matter?

Reader: If, on your journey, you should happen to encounter some god—in the pagan world, such things do happen—remember well this rede.



Ezra Pound (1918) “Religio, or the Child's Guide to Knowledge” in Pavannes and Diversions. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.




The Piraeus Apollo, 5th c. BCE






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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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