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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Do Pagans Love Their Gods?

 

 

Three things stand out in my memory from my trip to the ancient city of Ephesus, City of the Moon.

The first, quite frankly, was the public toilet. Astoundingly, the row of side-by-side toilet seats—the ancestors were social people—looked exactly—exactly—like modern toilet seats.

But these were hand-carved from marble. Wow.

The second was the civic amphitheater. Here Saul of Tarsus—later known as “saint” Paul—was nearly lynched by an angry mob for blaspheming the city's patron goddess, the famously many-breasted Artemis (Diana) of Ephesus. Megálê hê Ártemis tôn Efesíôn! they chanted: Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!

According to the New Testament book of Acts, the mob was led by a guild of souvenir-manufacturers, cynically worried about loss of revenue. (Why do non-pagans find it so difficult to believe that we, too, might love our gods?) Unfortunately, in the end a conscientious city official intervened to save “Paul's” life.

During my visit to the theater, I had the pleasure of standing in the middle of the stage and chanting, in modern pronunciation, the chant of the ancients: Megháli i Ártemis tôn Efesíôn!

Indeed, as reputed, the acoustics were wonderful.

My third memory from the day is much more humble, but—in many ways—the most telling of all.

There, carved into the marble doorpost of one of the surviving houses, stood the readily-recognizable image of Artemis of Ephesus, watching over the comings and goings of her people. Articulate of devotion, this small figure, only a few inches tall, touched me deeply.

I stood before her a long while.

I've recently read several books about the early history of Christianity. As someone who has himself watched—and participated in—the emergence of a new religion, I found much to recognize.

I was struck by the historians' unquestioning assumption that one of the significant ways in which emergent Christianity differed from the traditional religions of the Mediterranean is that the latter were power-driven—the gods are powerful, and therefore can give us what we want if properly propitiated—while the early Christians were motivated, instead, by love for their god. When stated so baldly, of course, the premise's absurdity is patent.

But standing before Diana of the Doorpost, it was clear to me that this claim is triumphalist nonsense, quite simply untrue. And even if, against all probability, against everything that we know about the human heart, in those days pagans didn't love their gods, at least some among us do today.

The little Lady gazes out at eye-level; her very positioning invites interaction. I kiss her tenderly and, feeling taller, proceed on my way.

 

 

 

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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.

Comments

  • Jamie
    Jamie Sunday, 15 May 2022

    Mr. Posch,

    That story is awesome.

    Praise be to Artemis, Goddess of the forest and the swamplands, of the Moon and the wild places, defender of cities and protector of children!

    Many people just go with the flow, and are not super religious. I would believe that things weren't very different thousands of years ago.

    However, it's just B.S. that devoutly observant Pagans never felt love or devotion to the Goddesses and Gods.

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