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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Unholy Thing

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How do you join yourself to a people?

In the dream, I am leaving home, going to fight in Ukraine. In dedication, I carve a piece of flesh from my right calf, about the length and volume of a finger.

I vow to Tue, old Sky Father, lord of battles, to make this people my people, and this fight my fight.

I take the all-seeing Sun, guarantor of agreements, to be my witness.

 

***

In waking life, of course, I do nothing of the sort. Instead, from the safety of another continent—from the middle of the continent, no less—I sit and write, torn in spirit, shaken by a war in which I have no part.

 

***

In the Old North, war was a religious affair.

Before a campaign, a departing army would first gather for the hosting-sacrifice. Sprinkled—literally, blessed—with the blood of the sacrificial victim, they would bind themselves with a hold-oath to fight as one, laying aside all other feuds and grievances for the duration.

 

***

I once lost a friend to victimhood.

He had embraced victimhood as an identity. There were no oppressed in whom he could not see himself. “I wonder which oppressed group Tom has decided to identify with this week,” a mutual friend once commented archly.

In the end, weary of being cast as eternal oppressor to his eternal victim, I walked away from the friendship.

In sorrow, I walked away.

 

***

Every word's a story. 5000 years ago, a victim was an agent of sanctification; our current word, Latin victima, descends from the old Indo-European root *weik-, “set aside, consecrate”. Once, a victim was one consecrated, one set apart.

Unmoored from its religious, sacrificial, context, modern victimhood, like modern war, has become, instead, unsacred, an unholy thing.

 

***

In a time of war, from a place of safety, I dream disconcerting dreams and wake unrested, wondering what we have become.

 

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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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