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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Thinking in Story

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

If you ask those who practice it, “Why skyclad?” twelve will get you thirteen you'll hear something along the lines of 1) energy flow, 2) social equalizing, and 3) a sense of separation from the ordinary.

Those may all be good answers, and they may even be true answers, but they're modern answers. They're not the answers the ancestors would have given.

If 1400 years ago you had asked a priest of the Hwicce tribe, “Why do you go naked to your worship?” had he been disposed to give you an answer at all he may well have said, “The Lady of the Hwicce instructed us so.”

And had you pressed him further, and had he been disposed to go deeper, he might have said: “When the Lady went down to the Great Below and made the First Magic with its Lord, She Herself was naked.” A cultic question deserves a mythic answer.

The story of the Goddess's Descent into the Underworld, truncated as it is (what happened before? what happens after?), is Gardner's masterpiece. In one compact little tale, he explains the lunar cycle, the disappearance of the Goddess from history (and her Return), skyclad, ritual initiation, magic, the Great Rite, and (implicitly) the birth of the tribe of Witches. The story has much to tell, if we will only listen.

The ancestors were at heart very practical people, and had practical reasons for doing most of what they did.

But for the most part, if you had asked them “why?” the answer would have been a story.


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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.


  • Greybeard
    Greybeard Thursday, 25 September 2014

    If only we would listen, indeed. Blessings.

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