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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To Tree or Not to Tree?


Och, it's the same every year.

The Yule house-cleaning, though not finished, is well under way. The gifts, though yet to be wrapped and sent off, are all bought. Now arises the prospect of the next job-lot of work, and the annual question: to Tree, or not to Tree?

Every year, I remind myself: this is a choice.

Every year, I remind myself: it will still be Yule without it.

And every year—so far, at least—I do it anyway.

Oh, the Yule Tree: that indoor Yggdrasil, that heart and axis of the season, that island of light and color in a bleak white winter sea.

Long ago, I settled in my own mind the ethics of the matter: these, after all, are farmed trees, born for this sacrifice. (Still, though, I try each year to see at least one tree planted in recompense: the traditional life for a life.) Cutting the tree, I make the wonted prayers and offerings.

Oh, but the work involved.

Decking is the least of the matter. That's a joy, seeing again after nearly a year the old well-loved treasures, some of which have been in the family for more than a hundred years. (There's not much room in the steamer trunk of an immigrant, but somehow for these they managed to find a place.) Each ornament bears a memory, if not a story. Each ornament is a prayer.

The lights, that's the issue. Putting them on will be the work of several hours, taking them off again the same, with the added prickly discomfort attending the fact that invariably I leave the Tree up too long. Is it really, I ask myself, worth all the work?

Then there's the expense. Trees hereabouts this year are running $10 a foot. Seven or eight foot's-worth of Yule tree could buy a lot of groceries.

Well, we'll see. Doubtless in the end I'll cave, as I always do. Keeping the best Yule that we can, I am deeply convinced (call it superstition if you like) shapes all the rest of the coming year for the good: good Yule, good year. What price, after all, beauty, wonder, joy?

For better or for worse, I answered that question (to my own satisfaction at least) long, long ago.




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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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