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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In True

Offering the morning incense in the temple today, I noticed that the altar light was a little out of true. It bugged me.

A good altar is a managed place, set to direct focus and to hold it. How the lamp moved, I don't know. In every moment the world moves, and we move with it.

Terry Pratchett says, If you want to drive a witch crazy, tilt one of the pictures on the wall when she comes to visit and watch her sit there squirming to get up and straighten it.

So there I was, making an offering but thinking about something else. And that's wrong.

Fortunately, I've been doing this long enough that I was able to catch myself and stop. In ritual it's important to keep your thoughts where they need to be.


In one of Tony Hillerman's novels, they discover a body outside the pueblo just before one of the big ceremonials. (Fortunately, it was just a cowan.) The kiva elders call a meeting.

“If we report this now,” they say, “the pueblo will be crawling with police, nobody's thoughts will be where they need to be, and everything will get screwed up.”

And what we're doing is too important not to have our thoughts in the right place while we do it. The weal of the world depends on us having our thoughts in the right place as we do our rituals.

So they wait to report the body until after the ceremonial.

So I stopped and put the altar lamp and my thoughts back into true.

And finished the offering the right way.

In true.


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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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