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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Gentle Fires of Spring

Back in the early days of Paganistan—known locally as the Paganolithic—four of us got together with the intent of forming a coven. Since the Spring Evenday (equinox) was coming up, we decided to make that our first ritual together.

A few days beforehand, we got together and dyed up a bunch of eggs in the old way, using only natural dyestocks. While the eggs were coloring, we sat in the living room and planned the ritual.

On Equinox Eve we gathered in the backyard. Tanith, who had been studying smithcraft, set up a tall iron tripod that she had hand-forged. On it we impaled the wreath that had been drying on the front door since Yule. The plan was to burn up the last of Winter and make this the fiery center of our ring-dance.

Striking a match, I start the invocation.

“O gentle fires of Spring....” We were using the invocation from William G. Gray's Spring Equinox rite.

(Doreen Valiente once characterized Gray's Solstice and Equinox rituals as “too Pagan for the Christians, too Christian for the Pagans.”)

I hold the match to the wreath. The wreath does not kindle, and the match goes out.

I strike another match and try again.

“O gentle fires of Spring.....”

Nothing. Desiccated as they are, the old fir needles simply will not light.

“Oh f**k the gentle fires of Spring,” I mutter.

Volkhvy goes into the garage, gets a can of charcoal accelerant, and squirts some on.

I light another match.

“Oh gentle fires of Spring.....”

Whoosh!

Suddenly, we're standing around a 20-foot pillar of flame, roaring its heart out into the starry Equinox sky.

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  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    So mote it be.
  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale says #
    lol. I too, having done rituals with fire, have learned that fire has to be respected first and foremost as fire. Symbolic meaning

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Ley Lady, Ley

They say that Minneapolis has the highest per capita pagan population in the US.

Assuming that that's true (who knows?), then I live in the Most Pagan Neighborhood in the Most Pagan City in the country.

Alas, though: I cannot claim to live on the Most Pagan Street.

Just why there should be so many pagans living on 10th Avenue South is something of a mystery.

As for the neighborhood, that's easy. Thirty-forty years ago, when the local community was first getting to its hooves, this part of South Minneapolis was a marginal area, poised to go down. For this reason, there was lots of early “20th” century architectural character going for reasonable prices, so the Pagan Urban Pioneers moved in. (I was one.) Pagans being a clannish sort of people, once there were a few, others soon followed.

As for just why so many of us ended up buying on 10th Avenue, though...well, that's one for the oracles.

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How 'Brother' Jed, Campus Evangelist, Helped Launch the U of M's First-Ever Student Pagan Organization, and (Indirectly) Paganistan's Oldest Coven

I suppose most campuses have one: the self-appointed, probably slightly psychotic, street-corner evangelist to the (presumed) fallen.

In the late 80s, the University of Minnesota had Brother Jed.

You'd see him around campus, haranguing. No one took him seriously. Some engaged him; some egged him on. Me, I avoided him.

(One day, Brother Jed noticed me walk past, face averted, as he was enlarging on the evils of homosexuality. “Whah, they-ah goes one na-ow!” he denounced, adding, in an uncharacteristic moment of self-doubt, “Ah think.”)

Every (black) pearl starts with an intrusive piece of grit. One day, after the umpteenth encounter with Brother Jed, a graduate student named Magenta Griffith had had enough.

“We need a student pagan organization,” she thought.

She teamed up with some friends, and thus was born Children of the Night, the University of Minnesota's first student pagan organization.

(Yes, the name comes from Dracula. We're of a poetic bent here in the Northland; savoring irony is something of a local sport.)

Here's where yours truly enters the story. I'd come to the Twin Cities the previous year, ostensibly for grad school, but in actuality to find the Pagan Community of my dreams. In those pre-internet days, hooking up with other pagans was hard. Twelve months had gone by, and I still hadn't met any.

Then one day I walked into Lind Hall and saw the mimeograph on the wall.

Are you interested in Wicca? Druidism? Paganism?

Children of the Night: Student Pagan Organization

xxx date and time

xxx location

Interested? Was I ever! My memory is (thank you Mama) that I actually kissed the ground in joy.

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  • Ian Phanes
    Ian Phanes says #
    Did you notice that Jed wasn't there every day? That's because he, and some others of his ilk, travel a circuit of multiple campus
Tales of Paganistan: Killing the Pumpkin

That year, Coven X had volunteered to lead the big Samhain ritual for the Wiccan Church of Minnesota.

Weeks before Samhain, the winds of controversy had already begun to blow.

The folks in Coven X, the new young coven in town, thought of the WiCoM folks as stodgy and regressive, mired in Wiccan dogma. Clearly, their intent with this ritual was to blow some of the cobwebs out of the attic.

It didn't take a seer to foretell where this was going to go.

The day before the ritual, the priestess told me all about it with a glint in her eye.

“We'll show them,” she concluded.

Well, if she wanted a firestorm, she got it.

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  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    My view of ritual is heavily influenced by decades of the Runequest and Heroquest role playing games. To me ritual is a dramatic
Five Good Reasons to Live in Pagan Minneapolis

“One would think you lived in Minneapolis.”

(Christopher Isherwood, to the residents of Berlin on their sang-froid following the division of their city in 1945)

 

Ah, fair City of Lakes: scrappy little Minneapolis, small town on steroids.

Minneapolis, where the winters are too cold and the summers too hot.

Minneapolis, where we have laws against everything.

Minneapolis, which routinely pays world-class architects first-rate money for second- (and third-) class work.

Why would anyone live here?

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Doonesbury: The Paganistan Edition

Not every pagan community gets referenced in Gary Trudeau's cartoon Doonesbury.

But, back in the early 80s, Paganistan did.

...
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Tales of Paganistan: Earth is a Woman, Too, or How Not to Take Back the Night

Remember Take Back the Night?

Back in the 80s, there would be a big rally and march here in Minneapolis every summer. The organizing committee, notoriously dysfunctional, was a seething cauldron of in-fighting and ideological purism. The general tone of the marches was outrage, anger.

Except for the pagans.

Hel, we figured we had as much right to be there as anyone. We opposed violence against women. (We still do.) We were staunchly feminist. (We still are.) We hated rape. (We still do.)

But we weren't interested in rage or ideological purity.

We wanted the night back.

So we took it.

We danced, we drummed, we satirized. We chanted the praises of our Goddess through the streets.

The organizers hated us.

At the very last march—just before the organizing committee (irony of ironies) finally tore itself to shreds in a maelstrom of self-directed, woman-on-woman violence—we were consigned to being literally the very last group in the march.

Since we were last, everyone else left the park before we did. That was the moment of horror.

The hillside where people had sat listening to speeches and music, now empty of occupants, was blanketed with garbage: papers, soda cans, water bottles.

That year, the pagans were irate, too.

Talk about not getting it, we said.

Don't they see that everything is connected? we said.

Earth is a Woman, too, we said.

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  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Bags in hand, some of us went back the next morning to Take Back the Day.
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    Would I be right in guessing that you pulled out trash bags, picked up trash and turned it into a ritual to take back the night?

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