Paganistan: Notes from the Secret Commonwealth

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Of the Moon, Milk, and What It Means to Be a Man

Posted by on in Culture Blogs



When my father died at the end of August, he left me a wheel of cheese.

We're big cheese-eaters in my family. Several times a year, I would open the front door to find a box of cheese waiting on the doorstep. À propos of nothing in particular, Dad would have decided that his son needed some cheese, and would send it along accordingly.

Cheese is a sacred food: sacred, in particular, to the Moon. Moon, milk, whiteness: it all fits. (Not to mention cattle, with their crescent-decrescent horns.) When they say that the Moon is made of green cheese, it's a reference to a wheel of ripening (“green”) cheese. Because the cheese isn't ripe yet, it's still uncut, i.e. round, like the full Moon.

That, of course, we refer to a round of cheese as a “wheel” is in itself a prime indicator of sanctity. To pagans, the Wheel—meaning the Cycle—is a prime symbol of Being. Time is a wheel, the world is a wheel, life is a wheel. To pagans, it's all wheels.

The last box of cheese that my father sent me before he died included a large (= five pound) wheel of Baby Swiss. It's sat in the refrigerator for months now, because once a wheel of cheese is cut, you've got to use it up, and there's no way that I could eat that much cheese before it would start to mold.

Well, Yule is coming up. One of the many things that I learned from my father—not from what he said, but from how he led his life—is that your job as a man is to see that your people are taken care of. If that means that you have to work two jobs, you work two jobs. If that means that you have to pick up a gun and shoot someone, then that's what you do. Not because you want to shoot anyone, not because you want to work two jobs. You do it because that's what it means to be a man.

I was never the son that my father expected; I never married or had a family. In the end, every man has to find his own way to manhood. There are many ways to be a man, and Dad always had the love to let me be my own kind.

So, Yule. We don't usually exchange gifts in the coven anymore—thank Goddess, we decided to discontinue that as-if-Yule-weren't-already-stressful-enough practice several years ago—but this year I've got something very special for everyone regardless.

Wielding that knife will be a bittersweet moment to be sure, yet another in the long series of good-byes. A friend once said to me: When Mom died, I thought that with time it would get easier; but, instead, I find that I just miss her more and more as the years go by.

But you can be sure that the cheese will be good. It always was.

And I know that Dad would have approved.






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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.


  • Jamie
    Jamie Monday, 06 December 2021

    Mr. Posch,

    I'm really sorry about your Dad's passing. Having lost both parents, as a fifty-something man, I can empathize.

    Your summarization of the duties of men, is right on the mark. Plus, it was cool to know why people said the Moon was made of green cheese!

    The meaningful symbolism of the cheese forming a wheel, was also cool. I will literally never look at a wheel of cheese the same way again.

    I'm glad that you had such a great relationship with your folks. I guess missing them so much, is the vastly worthwhile price of that.

    Thanks for sharing!

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