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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An Imperfect Cane, or: Purism Is Its Own Punishment

When my friend got back from the hospital, it was clear that he was going to need a cane, at least for a while. I offered to go to the cane store to get him one.

My friend being who he is, he drew up a page-long list of what he wanted in a new cane. It had to be thus-and-so, it couldn't be thus-and-so.

When I got to the cane store, it was clear that I was never going to be able to find a cane that fit all of his specifications. So—on the principle that When you need a cane, it's better to have an imperfect cane than not to have a perfect one—I picked out one that came as close as it could.

***

As pagans, our situation in some ways resembles that of the Indigenous children of North America and Australia who were torn away from their families and sent off to residential schools for reenculturation. Forbidden to speak their own languages, or practice their own religions, they became the living lost. Cultural genocide is hideous, but you can't deny its effectiveness.

For the pagan peoples of Europe, this happened hundreds of years ago. Much has been lost forever to us, their latter-day children. Our laments for the wantonness of that destruction will never cease to sound while ever our people endure.

So we take what we have and go from there. Much of what passes for modern paganism just isn't anywhere near as good as I would want it to be. Much of what we have is pro tem: what we've made for ourselves. It hasn't had the centuries of honing and deepening that come with generations of transmission.

If as a people we manage to survive, we know for absolute certain that, in time, the excellence will come. That's how cultures work. In the meantime, we make for ourselves the best that we can and go on. When we see something that's worthy, let us take heed, praise it, and strive to emulate it.

And by all means let us avoid the deathtrap of premature canonization.

***

We were learning a new chant one night. One covensib objected to it on the grounds that the imagery was mixed and internally contradictory.

His critique was a valid one, but then arose the obvious question: Did he have something better to put in its place?

No he didn't, and neither did any of the rest of us.

So, as wise pagans, we duly noted the problem and went on with the imperfect new chant, mixed imagery and all.

When you need a chant, it's better to have an imperfect chant than not to have the perfect one.

And purism is its own punishment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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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