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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Clean of Body, Clean of Spirit

If you were covered with sweat and dirt, would you walk into a ritual?

If you were seething with rage, would you walk into a ritual?

If you had just killed someone—accidentally, say—would you walk into a ritual?

Probably not, I'm guessing, And rightly so.

States of ritual purity—and impurity—were important to the ancestors. Very important. While these are not something that the new paganisms have (for the most part) spent much time thinking about, I'm going to argue that, without being consciously aware of it, we generally observe such purity laws ourselves. If that's really so, then we as pagans can only benefit from becoming more consciously aware of what we're already doing unconsciously.

In some ways, I think that language often gets in the way. “Clean/unclean,” “pure/impure”: this kind of language seems alien to us. We've had it used against us so often—and against women in particular—that we've largely excised it from our thought and our practice.

So let's say “fit” and “unfit” instead.

If you've just come back from a war, are you ritually fit to approach something sacred?

No, of course not. First, you need to be made clean of it.

It's a matter of hygiene.

Spiritual hygiene.

Well folks, we've got our work cut out for us. The ancestors had spiritual technologies in place to render the unfit fit. We, for the most part, do not.

So that's what we need to be thinking about.

If you're dirty and sweaty, how do you get clean of it?

If you're seething with rage, how do you get clean of it?

If you've killed someone, how do you get clean of it?


Above: The Goddess Hygiene






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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.


  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham Monday, 19 June 2017

    When we had some Shinto priests visit our church from Tsubaki Grand Shrine the minister showed us a film of some boys standing under a waterfall while they prayed. I remember reading in the Bible how returning soldiers would spend several days in a special tent where a priest would sprinkle them with a brew that included the ashes of a red bull. There is of course smudging with a specially prepare incense. I guess basically it's a matter of making due with the knowledge you've got and the tools at hand and ask the gods that visit you if they have any suggestions on making yourselves ritually fit.

  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch Monday, 19 June 2017

    That's right, I'd forgotten about the old Hebrew practice. If you were Dinee, your family would hire a hata'ali to sing an Enemy Way for you.The forms vary from culture to culture, but everybody does it because it's necessary. It's well worth wondering what our forms should look like.

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