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.

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Broom and Shovel

The one thing that I never expected to become was a war correspondent.

During the last five days, I've watched the neighborhood that I've worked to help build for the past 35 years be systematically destroyed around me. In some places, the fires are still burning.

But let me tell you what I'll remember most about these days following the murder of George Floyd—let us speak and remember his name—and their fiery aftermath.

People with brooms and shovels on their shoulders.

They began appearing on the morning after the first looting and burning.

(A curse on the burners, but not of us. May the work of their hands, and hearts, come back on their own heads a hundred-fold, and let us all say: So mote it be.)

By yesterday, four days into the crisis, I'd seen hundreds of them.

Hundreds of people, all colors, all ages, wondering the streets with brooms and snow shovels—everyone in Minnesota has a snow shovel—slung over their shoulders, looking for someone, anyone, who needed help with clean-up. When they found them, they'd help until they'd done what they could. Then they'd head off again, looking for another stranger to help.

It's been, thank Goddess, a quiet night in Minneapolis.

(Those too froward to go home and stay there after repeated warnings, get no pity from me. When you insist on poking your finger into someone's eye, you don't get to complain when he clobbers you with a board.)

Let us make no mistake: this is not the end.

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White Kids Terrorize Ethnic Neighborhood, or: Another Long Night in Minneapolis

When we moved into this neighborhood some 35 years ago, it was dying. The storefronts on Lake Street were mostly boarded up.

Call it the American miracle. Immigration from Mexico, Central and South America, and Somalia turned this neighborhood around. Little ethnic mom-pop shops resurrected Lake Street.

Now every single one of those businesses is gone. Over the course of the past four nights, I have watched my neighborhood be systematically dismantled around me.

Last night it was the white kids' turn.

Hundreds of angry white kids—let me be nasty and say trust-fund anarchists from the suburbs—defied the governor's curfew orders and marched through a largely ethnic and immigrant neighborhood already traumatized by three nights of fires and looting.

I live just a few hundred feet from the epicenter of last night's destruction. More buildings and businesses—virtually all of them Latino-owned—were pillaged and torched. Four of them are still burning as I write this.

Truly, a mob is an organism with many legs and no brain.

“Why don't these kids all go back to the suburbs and leave us alone?” my next-door neighbor said to me as we stood on the sidewalk and watched the noisy march. Penny, who's African-American, is the block matriarch; she's lived here longer than anyone else.

If it weren't for the violence that accompanied it, it all would have been kind of funny. The whole thing had an “I'm not going to bed and Mommy/Daddy can't make me” feel to it.

Eventually, of course, the trust-fund anarchists went back to their apartments in other neighborhoods, leaving behind them more burning buildings and more mayhem in a neighborhood already traumatized by its own destruction.

I have not the slightest doubt that the vast majority of those folks last night honestly want justice for George Floyd (1974-2002), an African-American man brutally murdered on Memorial Day by a white policeman only blocks from here. Believe me, so does everybody in this neighborhood.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Thanks Anthony.
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I used the Facebook and Email buttons to repost your blog on Facebook and mail it in to my local newspaper.
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    11:30 on Saturday night, and it's quiet in Minneapolis except for the military copters overhead, thank Goddess. Now that the polic
  • Aline "Macha" O'Brien
    Aline "Macha" O'Brien says #
    So sorry to learn of this, Steven. As I watched the conflagration I was wondering how close it was to your house. Now I know, an

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Dispatch from a City on Fire

Paganistan is burning.

I wake at 3:30. As is my wont, I make my rounds through the dark house.

From the back, I can see the smoke, livid red. Opening the door, I smell the smell of things not meant to burn, hear the unmistakable sound of a large fire.

I pull on clothes and go out. Two men, drunk, are sitting on the sidewalk across the street. One of them calls out to me, incoherently. I turn the corner onto Lake Street, artery of fire through the heart of the pagan neighborhood.

I walk toward the fire. Two blocks away, the auto parts store is burning.

Suddenly I'm filled with a bright red fury at all the breakers of the world. It takes months to carve a beautiful statue, only a few seconds to smash it.

I turn back towards home. Looters are coming out of the Somali adult day care center across Lake Street.

Back in the house, I dial 911.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Alas, Ill Rule in America

 “I was not the High King, that my doing should bring evil on the land.”

(Artos the Bear, in Rosemary Sutcliff's Sword at Sunset)

 

Pagan leadership is sacrificial leadership, and I'm not just talking about the kind of petty sniping and backbiting that dogs pretty much anyone with the audacity to step into a position of leadership in pretty much any pagan community.

All those stories about the King Must Die aren't really talking about cutting out hearts on altars; not literally, anyway. What they're really talking about is the price of leadership.

If you're not willing to lay yourself down on the altar, you have no right to lead.

Only those willing to sacrifice themselves are worthy.

That's why—rightly or wrongly—the Old Ways saw a direct connection between the actions of the leader and the well-being of the land and the people.

So look at the current situation in America.

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Some Day We're Going to Come Out on the Other Side of This

Here at Temple of the Moon, we offer twice daily for the well-being of pagans everywhere.

The prayers (with paired offerings) are threefold:

May the people have life.

May the people have food.

May the people have beauty.

We pray that our people may continue to exist, and that we may have what we need to continue existing: sustenance both physical and spiritual.

Rarely has the seeming simplicity of those prayers seemed deeper than in this time of epidemic.

But here's my point: some day, we're going to come out on the other side of this. What that may look like, we cannot know, but of this we can be certain: it will be a time to give thanks mightily.

It well behooves us to start thinking now about what forms this might take.

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William Penn and the Witch of Ridley Creek

February 1684: Pennsylvania's first witch trial.

A woman named Margaret Mattson stands before Governor William Penn, accused of witchcraft.

The evidence is flimsy. Mattson is said to have bewitched the cattle of two neighbors, and a third neighbor testifies that she appeared spectrally at the foot of his bed and threatened him with a knife.

Mattson denies the charges.

Penn asks a test question. “Have you ever flown through the air on a broom?”

To everyone's amazement, Mattson answers: “Yes.”

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Old Warlock's Kick-Ass Pickled Garlic

 “Let food be your medicine.”

(attributed to Hippokrates of Kos)

 

I started this batch of pickled garlic back before Yule, and made the mistake of setting it out on the Yule board, well before its time.

Yikes. Each clove of garlic burned in the mouth like a red-hot glede.

Disappointed, I set the pickle aside and, basically, forgot about it.

Thank Goddess.

Last week I came across the jar again and, some five months on, decided to give it another try. “If ever my immune system needed a boost, it's now,” I thought.

Ohmigods.

No longer does the garlic burn: it's now like a kiss. Everything else tastes pallid by comparison.

So here's your chance to make your own. Just be sure to let it ripen well.

Yes, I know, I'm a son of Northern Europe living in Minnesota, and this is an Asian recipe. But you know what they say about warlocks.

We sure do get around.

Old Warlock's Kick-Ass Pickled Garlic

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