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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On the Need for an Ecological Religion, or: Chocolate Cake

 Best Chocolate Cake | Handle the Heat

 

In the dream, I've gone with two friends to observe the year's last day of classes at a new experimental school.

I know nothing about the school, but learn that they share a central premise with Robert Graves in The White Goddess: that in order to make the social and cultural changes that we must make in order to survive, we need a new religion. So the staff of the school have made a new religion, and the students have enthusiastically embraced it.

They call it Hinduism—something of a steal, I think, since what I see has little resemblance to actual Hinduism. It's a polytheistic religion, though (I hear with disapprobation) that they call the gods “saints.” So far as I can tell, they seem to have drawn their pantheon largely from Indigenous Central America, and the ancient court-ball game of the Americas figures large in their observance.

There's a subdued sense of celebration in the air as I wander around, and platters of a delicious-looking chocolate cake circulate freely among the groups of students. One of my friends is already sitting at a table along with many of the best-looking young men in the school.

“Well, that's in character,” I think, a little jealous that he's already managed to insert himself into the life of the school. Myself, I need to do more observation; I'm waiting for my other friend to join me.

The school's principal—clearly the driving force behind the social experiment—stands up and offers a reasoned rationale for what they've achieved, but I find myself out of sympathy with what he says. “He's trying to walk it back," I think.

Over my shoulder, though, I hear a young man talking about the whole project, and why it has to be religiously-based. “Religion motivates people as nothing else can,” he says. “With this religion, we've been able to accomplish all sorts of amazing things.” (He names several collective achievements; the environmental ones are particularly noteworthy.) “Without it, we would never have have been able to do all this.”

“This is exactly the point that Graves makes at the end of White Goddess," I think, "and here we see the proof." Secular environmentalism will never offer sufficient motivation to make the hard changes that need to be made; only religion can provide the necessary driving social force to do that.

The friend that I'm waiting for still hasn't turned up—he too, I suspect, has begun to enter fully into the life of the school—but I've already reached a conclusion.

I can't be a student, but that doesn't mean that I too can't become part of the life of this school. I wrap myself in a long, striped swathe of silk. In the mirror, I note my reflection approvingly: long, lean, wrapped in silk. Finally—why has it taken me so long to see this?—I understand that I can't fit in by trying to be like everyone else; I can only fit in by being myself, and different.

“Maybe I'll have a piece of that cake now,” I think.

 

 

 

 

 

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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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