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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Nine-Cow Ritual

 Yom Kippur and the unique ceremony of the two goats | All Israel News

 “Ah, that was a proper nine-cow, that was.”


Thank Goddess, the ritual is finally over.

The friend standing beside me turns and whispers in my ear: “Two goats.”

I smile and nod.

If anything, she's being generous. Me, I'm thinking chickens, myself.


Back in the days when Witches were Hwicce, we counted our wealth in livestock. Our modern word fee (1500 years ago, it was feoh) originally meant “cow.”

That's why rituals are rated in animals.

What my friend was talking about is the fee—number of animals—you would have had to pay the ritual specialist in order to get a ritual of comparable quality back in old tribal days.

These days, when you see online reviews of rituals, they'll sometimes be accompanied by little pictures of animals: chickens, goats, cows.

Think of it as a Star-rating for ritual.


Cows are the best: the more the better.

The best possible ritual is a nine-cow ritual. That's the one that, for the very best of reasons, you'll remember for the rest of your life, the one that they'll still be talking about 100 years from now.

The ratings go down from there. Even a one-cow ritual is still a good ritual.


Considerably less prestigious than cows are goats.

(Depending on where and when we've talking, a good milch cow would have brought you anywhere between 20 and 50 goats apiece.)

A nine-goat ritual, well...let me be generous and say that it's better than a two-goat ritual.


Then there are the real stinkers: the ones you'll remember for the rest of your life, but for the very worst of reasons.

Those are the ones that are rated in chickens.


Now, in the Age of Irony (and of Truly Bad Ritual), I suppose we could consider setting up an equivalent negative rating system, for the lowest of the low, the most execrable of the execrable.

I've certainly been to a few that the ritualist should have paid us to attend.



A friend and I were discussing a local ritualist notorious for interminable, speechifying rituals in which nothing ever happens, which could, without undue unkindness, be described as "flatulent."

Definitely in the low chickens rating, I said.

She demurred, and suggested eggs instead.

As I say, a flexible system.




NL and JO


Well-earned, and then some


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Tagged in: cow cows Hwicce
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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