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Like people, like cities, every coven has a secret name.

Secret names are privileged, not public, information. (Someone who knows your secret name can, reputedly, harm you magically. An enemy that knows a city's secret name can thereby the more easily take it.) Therefore, in Ye Grande Olde archaic fashion, each coven has two names: a secret and a public, an inner and outer. When you join the coven, you learn the secret name.

Here's the story of my coven's.

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 The Smoke Medicine of Your Ancestors — Sacred Ancestry


“Mm, your hair smells good,” says my coven-sib as we share a post-ritual hug.

“Really?” I ask, “like what?”

(Back in the day when we used to hold rituals down on the banks of the Mississippi, my boyfriend said to me one morning: “Is it a pagan holiday today?” “Yeah, Lunasa,” I replied. “How did you know?” “Oh, your hair always smells like smoke,” he said.)

She takes another snuff.

“Incense,” she says.

I'm a little surprised to hear it, given that we burned no incense tonight, and that it's been more than 12 hours since I made the morning offering.

“Your house always smells like that, too: so good,” adds another coven-sib.

Dion Fortune talks in Moon Magic about how in time the entire fabric of the temple becomes imbued with the redolence of frankincense. For us of the Old Ways, there's no prayer without offering. Twice daily I offer incense, with prayer, at Temple of the Moon, where I live: morning and evening, day in, day out, year upon year upon year.

I sometimes wonder about the long-term health effects of such operational piety. Will I be seeing, in age, the priestly equivalent of black lung? A hieratic occupational hazard? Oh well: I burn the best quality stuff I can afford, and try to get plenty of lung exercise in the meantime. Let the sandalwood chips fall where they may.

I suppose it's not surprising, given that my house smells like incense, that I don't even notice it any more: the way, I suppose, fish don't notice the water they swim in, either. Funny, how in the end we become our environment.

Well, there are worse things to smell like than prayer. Living in the odor of sanctity sure sounds like my idea of the good life. Perhaps, over time, the body, like the temple, becomes imbued with the redolence of ritual.

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Who is Gnasher Skeggi's father?

That's the interesting point of mythology—or theology, perhaps—that arose during our Thirteenth Night feast the other night.

Thirteenth Night (otherwise known as Feast of Fools), the feast that marks the official end of the Yuledays, is characterized by, shall we say, immoderation in eating and drinking: one final blowout before the Lean Days of Winter. We'd been singing the old songs of Mother Berhta, Old Witch Winter, the Yule ogress who (locally, anyway) brings to pagan kids, not what they want, but what they deserve, on Midwinter's Eve.

(Sometimes shown with the severed head of Santa Claus dangling from her belt, Mother B. is universally acknowledged to be One Tough Customer.)

As everyone knows, on Mother Night she comes riding in on the back of none other than Gnasher Skeggi, who—as the song says—is “her goat, her son, and boyfriend too. (Oi!)”

(“Oi!” indeed. You know those mythological characters.)

So, in the middle of the feast, someone—for the first known time in recorded Paganistani history—raised the question: If Berhta herself is Gnasher Skeggi's mother, who, then, is his father?

(“Skeggi", incidentally, is cognate with the English word shaggy—an apt enough name for a goat. As for “Gnasher”, well, he's a goat. You'll remember that “Tooth-gnasher” is one of the bucks that draws Thor's war-chariot.)

Once asked, of course, the question answers itself (this is, after all, mythology, and hence inherently paradoxical): He sires himself. Skeggi Skeggason, that's him.

So where did the First Skeggi come from? Come on, you know the answer to that one, too.

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Winter wren populations show adaptation to local climate | BTO - British  Trust for Ornithology 

“We'd like to sing a Solstice blessing on the house,” I tell the barrista. “Is that cool?”

Her eyes sparkle.

“I'll go turn down the music,” she says.


Yule Morning 2022.

Having sung the Sun up from a snowy Powderhorn Park, the coven has adjourned to nearby May Day Cafe for Sunrise brunch. (Yes, that's the place's real name. Welcome to Paganistan.) The food was good, the talk as well, and it's the Yule of the year. Before we go, we'd like to give something back.

I'm a little concerned about interrupting meals or conversation, but when we turn at the door and begin to sing, people look up and listen.

We sing.

Joy, health, love and peace

be all here in this place.

By your leaves, we will sing

concerning our king.


The song is an old one, a quête-song that children used to sing going from door-to-door with the body of a wren, the King of the Birds. (Remind me some time to tell you the story of how he beat out Eagle for the title.) We don't have a wren with us, though, and I find myself wondering as we sing: who will they think we're singing about?


Our king is well-dressed,

in silks of the best,

in ribbons so rare,

no king can compare.


For me, the answer is plain, this Solstice morning: it's the Sun. Who else? Even the birds all agreed that whoever flew closest to the Sun would be their rightful King.

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 Close-up of glowing embers - Stock Photo - Dissolve

Under the Night Cottonwoods


Flanked by jack o' lanterns, the Shadow waits: darkness upon darkness.

Before her, the Stag that Walks on Two Legs.

Clustered around him, us.

The names have been called, the song sung, the apples eaten.


The Stripping


His sad eyes drink in each of us. It is finished.

The wand he bore throughout, he breaks now over his knee, the sound of its snapping like a shot in the night. The broken halves, he lays out on the ground.

He turns away from us now, toward the Shadow.

The crown of autumn leaves and antlers, he lifts from his head and lays at her feet. He unclasps and bundles his cloak, laying it with the crown. He strips off torque and, lastly, loincloth.

His naked skin shines pale with cold moonlight.


Into the Darkness


She extends a hand: the left. Come.

After a moment, he takes it, and passes by her, through the pumpkin gateway, into the night.

His flanks ripple as he walks, like a deer's. Leaves crunch beneath his feet. Slowly, palely, he merges into the night. His rustling steps fade into silence.

The empty pile—a melted witch, the leather bag of a bog body—mounds at her feet. To us now, she extends a hand: the right, with pointing finger.



By Pumpkin-Light

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Does a Twin Cities Coven Determine the Fate of Nations?


You know what they say: If they gave medals for rumor-mongering, the pagan community could field an Olympic-class team.


Did you know that, from atop seven towers across western and west-central Asia, Satanic adepts constantly broadcast psychic vibrations that guide world events?

Did you know that at Samhain every year, from an island at the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers, an old and powerful coven raises a massive cone of power in order to affect world events during the coming year?

I hear that this year they'll be doing it to bring down Putin.


As for those Satanic Towers of Power, they've told this story about the mysterious Yazidi people of Iraq and Syria for years. So far as I can tell, the story was fabricated out of whole cloth by a sensationalist journalist named William Seabrook in the 1920s, which hasn't kept it from gaining a life of its own since then.

In fact, the towers are a fiction, and the Yazidis aren't really Satanists at all: at least, not in the sense that people generally mean by the word.

As for that second story, though....


Witches tend to throw their Halloween parties two Saturdays before Samhain. (On Samhain Saturday, folks in our community tend to be otherwise engaged.)

So, I'm at my first Halloween party since the pandemic began when I first hear the rumors about the powerful coven on the island down at the Confluence determining the course of world events. Through the course of the evening, I hear it several times, from several different people. In fact, the story sounds familiar.

It should. That's my coven they're talking about.


In Lakota lore, rivers are gendered beings. The Mississippi, father of waters, is a male river; the “sky water” Minnesota, female.

Where the two flow together, the Great Rite occurs. Their confluence marks the center of the world, from which everything arises, and around which all creation turns.


As for that powerful coven, well: this coming Samhain will be our 43rd together. Sounds pretty powerful to me.

As for Samhain on the island at the center of the world: well, yes, that much is true, too. Kind of. (It's actually every other year.)

(The rumor had got the name of the island wrong, though. When I corrected one woman, she insisted: “No, no, it was Pike Island, I'm sure.”)

Massive cone of power: check. At least, it's predictably one of our most powerful rites of the year, in a river-mist-shrouded, newly-naked, golden-carpeted grove of cottonwood trees on the island at the center of the world.

And, in fact, we have already hexed Putin. (You can read about it here.) These days, his war in Ukraine's going pretty badly, I hear.

As for determining the fate of nations through the course of the year to come...

Well, if somebody has to do it, I'm sure glad it's us.

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  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    Back in the 80's there was a set of divination cards called Star+Gate. Inside was a mat with twelve spots marked off and lines sh

Posted by on in Culture Blogs


The secular media finally seems to be cottoning to something that pagans have always known: that the sunsteads and evendays (that's “solstices” and “equinoxes” in Witch) are intrinsically noteworthy events, something to celebrate.

(A cute little graphic popped up today when I turned on the computer: a large blue Earth—pale blue on one side, dark blue on the other, right down the middle—flanked by a smaller yellow Sun and full Moon. A nice visual shorthand, although of course the Moon isn't full, and has nothing to do with Evenday anyway. I suppose the image makes sense if we read Sun and Moon, respectively, as “Day” and “Night.”)

For cowans, who measure days from midnight, today is Equinox Day, and the Eve of the Equinox would have been last night.

Some of us see it differently.

Astronomical Equinox comes tonight at 8:03 local time, after local sunset: hence, for those of us who—like the Hwicce, the historic tribe of Witches—reckon the religious day from Sundown, the Evenday itself begins tonight.

That's why we've scheduled our 42th Annual Harvest Supper for tonight. (Welcome to Paganistan, the Land of Long-Lived Covens.) Think Witches' Thanksgiving: a ritual held around a table, with lots of singing, toasts, autumn flowers, and enough steaming, good food to feed at least a couple brigades of the Wiccan army. It's our last outdoor feast of the year, with wild geese skeining overhead, leaves beginning their change, and a wee nip in the air.

Since the official leap into Autumn falls during the feast itself this year, we'll be able to have a countdown, too: a modern tradition, but a good one.

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