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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Pagan Manners

A while back I attended a wedding in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The name of the synagogue where the wedding was held was Beit Yâm, “House of the Sea”: a good name for a sea-side congregation, one might think.

Indeed. The interesting thing about the Hebrew word báyit (beit means “house of”) is that when combined with the name of a god, it means “temple.”

And, in fact, Yâm is the name of a god: he's the Canaanite (and hence, old Hebrew) god of the sea. It says so right here in the tablets of Ugarit. To this day in the laws of kashrût it's forbidden to slaughter an animal beside a body of water, lest someone should see and mistakenly think that you were sacrificing to Yâm.

The presiding rabbi did a nice job with the service. Afterward I shook his hand and told him so.

I did not, however, tell him that his temple was named for a pagan god.

Pagan manners, you could call it.

 

After all, I was a guest.

 

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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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