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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Dancing with the Devil

How do you become a witch?

Soon told.

On Friday night, you go up to the old Indian graveyard at the top of the ridge.

You take off all your clothes, and you dance for the Devil.

Then you put your clothes back on, and go back home.

The next Friday, you do the same, and the Friday after that. Seven Fridays in a row you do this.

On the seventh Friday, the Devil will come out from behind a birch tree and dance with you.

He'll have horns like a bull, feet like a deer, and eyes as big as hard-boiled eggs.

Then he'll take you to him and have his way with you.

After that, he'll nip you on the left shoulder blade, and that's your witch mark.

And then you're a witch.


As part of the National Works Project during the Great Depression, the government sent out-of-work writers up into the Appalachian Mountains to gather folklore and old stories. The Appalachians were an isolated and culturally interesting area, where much of the old Scots witch-lore lived on well into the 20th century.

Hubert J. Davis collects many of these old witch tales in The Silver Bullet and other American Witch Stories. Here you can witness the creation of an American witchery, as the lore of the Old World naturalizes to the New. I'd highly recommend it.

So, we're still on for Friday, right?

You know: up on the ridge?


Hubert J. Davis, ed., The Silver Bullet and other American Witch Stories (1975). Jonathan David.








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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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