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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Icons of the Maiden Goddess

In 1956, a man had a blinding, overwhelming vision of the Goddess. “That's it, that's it,” he said to himself, over and over again. “She's it!” (Adler 232).

The truth of a vision is judged (among other things) by its impact on the visionary's life. In this case, said visionary spent the next 5 decades of his life working to create the holistic, Goddess-centric culture that sprouted organically from that first transcendent vision, a vision which inspired and shaped the emergent New American Paganisms.

His name was Frederick McClaren Adams, founder of Feraferia.

At his death in 2008, Adams left behind a dizzying array of sculpture, paintings, drawings, essays, poetry, and ritual material, all of it lovingly devoted to the actualization of Goddess culture here and now. Alas, he wrote no books, and his corpus of work has long been lost and inaccessible, slowly gathering dust in the few remaining pages of old pagan periodicals from the 70s and 80s.


No more. A scintillating new book by film-maker Jo Carson, in expanded second edition, now gives access to Adams' 50-year oeuvre: rapturous poetry, erotically-charged ritual, glowing surreal paintings, and an overall vision of a human culture utterly defined by wilderness, eros, and Goddess.


It was a source of amusement, and some frustration, to Adams that he had such difficulty communicating the depth and complexity of his cultural vision to a wider pagan audience. In 1978 he told Margot Adler, “[Eventually] I just gave up. I told myself, 'You have a convoluted, schizoid mind and you just have to accept it'” (Adler 237).

But in Celebrate Wildness: Magic, Mirth and Love on the Feraferian Path, Feraferia initiate Jo Carson unfolds the sumptuously-petaled flower of the Feraferian vision with a stunning simplicity and clarity that would have left Fred Adams, convoluted mind and all, grinning with boyish delight. Celebrate Wildness is a visually-stunning compendium of poetry, rituals, musings, and essays, illuminated (I use the word advisedly) by Adams' own kaleidoscopic artwork.


I myself first encountered Adams and his work in Hans Holzer's 1972 The New Pagans. Looking at his icon Apple Kore, which graced the book's jacket, this little gayboy fell head over heels in love with the Goddess, just as Adams himself had done two decades previously. (Such is the power of the iconographer.) It was the first new pagan art that I had ever encountered, and it spoke with a voice of teasing authority and playful revelation. It was Adams who taught me that our paganism must of necessity shape everything that we do: how we think, how we eat, how we love. It cannot be just our religion; it must be the very culture in which we live. Because of him, I became vegetarian at 18. (I have now lived long enough to see the long-term health benefits of this decision.) Thank you, Fred Adams: truly, I owe you much.

Dear reader, if you buy only one pagan book this year, let it be Celebrate Wildness, in which you will encounter the Feraferian vision, re-articulated for a new century and a new generation. In this book, you will behold (whether you knew it or not) our collective history.

And, just possibly, our future.

You can read my interview with author Jo Carson here.


Margot Adler, Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshipers & Other Pagans in America Today (1979). New York: Viking.






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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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