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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Steven Posch

Steven Posch

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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Sniper Rifle Cross Hairs Isolated On White Background. Stock Photo, Picture  And Royalty Free Image. Image 5243212.

 

Well, the proverbial journey of a thousand miles begins.

For the last eleven months, Paganistan has been in the cross-hairs of history. Blocks from where I write this, George Floyd died at the hands of then-policeman Derek Chauvin. The coven met that night; we were dancing for the New Moon in the back yard when it happened.

Since then, the attention of the entire world has been focused on this most pagan of neighborhoods, in this most pagan of cities.

For four nights last May and June, this neighborhood burned. For four nights, the arsonists and looters wreaked havoc here while the authorities dithered and did nothing. We were the bride that they threw to the wolves in order to buy themselves time.

Well, the verdict's finally in, and the jury came through.

The wave of relief washing across the city was almost palpable: a collective exhalation of breath held for nearly a year. Now we take up the tools and set to work. There's much to be done, and change comes from the center.

Welcome to the New Paganistan.

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Dear Boss Warlock:

When I heard about the conviction of killer cop Derek Chauvin, I wanted to dance in the streets and sing “Ding Dong the Witch Is Dead.” As a triumph song, it's hard to beat.

But now I'm wondering: is it OK for witches to sing that song?

Munchkinning in Madison

 

Dear MM:

My friend, you're golden to go, and here's why:

By virtue of the fact that we're insane enough to call ourselves witches, anything with the word “witch” on it ipso facto (as Professor Marvel would say) automatically belongs to us.

So: when it comes to “Ding Dong,” feel free to dance, sing, and ring the bells out. It's our song, and we'll sing if we want to.

To be sure, I would recommend a certain amount of situational editing. Boss Warlock can fondly recall hearing the dulcet strains of “Ding Dong the Nazz Is Dead” ("Which old nazz? the nazzty nazz!") on the streets of Paganistan after the unlamented demise of the late Jerry Falwell,

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  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Mr. Posch, One major thing I can't forgive Falwell for, is his response to 9/11. We Pagans were the first people he blamed. "Y

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One end of the red cord—thirteen ells long, to match his age—they tied around the boy's narrow waist. The other end they tied around his mother's.

Now, several hours later, they're both starting to go a little crazy.

Everyone gathers to witness what comes next.

Boys aye born, men are made, says the hobman. N, are you ready to leave your boyhood behind and begin the training that will end with your Man-Making?

Everyone laughs at the vehemence of the boy's reply.

With the knife that the hobman has placed in his hand, the boy cuts the cord.

After the cheers and applause, he knees before his mother.

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Dear Boss Warlock,

I say that when you offer to a River, you should face upstream, toward the River's origins.

My husband contends, though, that to face upstream is to oppose the flow of the River, and that while offering one should face downstream instead, toward the Sea.

Please help us settle this question. My marriage is in danger!

Upstream or Down?

 

Dear Up,

First off, let me congratulate both you and your husband on your piety. These days, far too many pagans ignore those powerful gods and goddesses that we call Rivers.

Secondly, let me concede that you both offer compelling arguments for your preferred form of River-worship, with perhaps a slight leaning in your favor. As you know, in antiquity, the primary shrines of any given River were generally located at the headwaters, if not actually at the source itself.

Now, when it comes to matters of observance, my recommendation is usually to consult local practice and do accordingly.

This case is different, though, since in this instance, both you and your husband are wrong.

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Merrymeet 1997

 

It's been hot work at Grand Council all day, so I head down to Gull Lake for a quick dip before dinner. What I see there astounds me.

Clearly, word of the wild witches has got out. Every fishing boat on the lake has—coincidentally, no doubt—just happened to drift over to our side, the prospect of naked pagans apparently outweighing that of walleye on this sunny late August afternoon.

Ritual robe hiked up to her knees, a woman sits at the end of the dock, dangling her feet in the water.

Gods, what's with these people? I say, taking off my shirt. I'm half tempted to wave. All this to see a little bit of skin?

Cowans, she commiserates.

Hey, screen me, would you? I ask, crouching.

Anything for a fellow conspirator, she says, raising her arms.

Screened by her back and generous hanging sleeves, I slip out of my kilt and over the edge.

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From my mound, I will bless you.”

 

As the excavations at Cadbury castle—reputedly the site of Camelot—were about to begin in 1964, the archaeologists were met by a local, an old man who had lived nearby all his life.

“Have you come to dig up the king?” he asked, anxiously.

 

The royal Ship Burial at Sutton Hoo has long deserved its own epic, and now—in its own understated, very East Anglian way—it has one.

John Preston's The Dig is a shining, masterful novel, but—speaking as a pagan—I can't deny that it raises some difficult issues.

The discoveries at Sutton Hoo have enriched our knowledge of the ancestors and their ways immeasurably, and for this I'm deeply grateful, but it can't be denied that excavating the Royal Mound there also destroyed something sacred, and very important.

Though reconstructed to its original profile, overlooking the River Deben, the Royal Mound now stands empty, stripped of its kingly treasure.

 

I think of the head of Bran, buried to ward the coasts of Britain.

I think of how Arthur is said, in his arrogance, to have removed it, and what befell thereafter.

 

The Museo del Oro in Bogotá, Columbia, displays the breathtakingly intricate goldwork images of the ancient Tairona: golden plants, animals, and people.

But the mamas—shamans—of the Kogi, the last surviving cultural heirs of the Tairona, are dismayed by the excavation and display of these objects. Each one was buried, they say, with full intent: as an offering, a prayer, a talisman. That golden ear of corn in the display case was originally a gift to Earth Mother herself, intended to enrich the fertility of the fields. Torn from its proper context, denied its due offerings, what now is to become of the crop?

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 Peanut Butter Cookies Recipe - BettyCrocker.com

 

In the normal way of things, you wouldn't expect to be glad to see soldiers on the streets of your city.

National Guard at Chicago-Lake, I text a friend, naming the major intersection in this part of town.

What happened? he texts back.

Nothing, I reply. That's the idea.

I live in Minneapolis just off Lake Street, the old Dakota trail that was the major artery of fire during the rash of arson and looting that stalked the protests after the death of George Floyd last summer.

During those four Nights of Burning, most frightening of all was the knowledge that, if you called for help, none would come.

The authorities—our incompetent and cowardly City Council foremost among them—were taken as much by surprise by the violence of the aftermath as anyone else, and waited far too long to act. My neighborhood, the pagan neighborhood, paid the price of their dithering. A year later, we still bear the scars: within a block of my house, four empty lots mark four buildings burned.

So, as the trial of Floyd's killer Derek Chauvin draws to a close—not to mention the nightmarish déja-vu of Daunte Wright's senseless death this weekend past—it's good to see, as I walk down Lake Street this morning, some actual preemptive action on the part of the Powers that Be.

Hey, glad you're here, I tell the group of Guards as I go past. Over their face-masks, their eyes smile. In their urban camo uniforms, they look cute and very young.

Well, let's hear it for thinking ahead for a change. Witches learned that lesson long ago, the hard way; that's why we're still here.

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