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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Sacred Skinnydip

Me, when I hear “Midsummer's,” I tend to think "Bonfire."

But of course, that's not the whole story.

Because on Midsummer's Eve there's not just a blessing on the Fire. There's also a blessing on the Waters.

They say that on this night the Sun and the Moon come down to bathe in the waters. For Christian folk it's John the Baptist's night, and what does “baptize” mean in Greek but “dunk” in plain old English? People may have different reasons, but they all agree on what you're supposed to do.

Yes, folks, it's time for the year's first swim. On every pond, on every lake, on every river, there's a blessing this night, and they say you'll be healthy all year long, if you receive it.


In some places, it actually used to be taboo to swim before Midsummer's Eve. Up here in the North Country, you probably wouldn't want to, anyway: the snowmelt water would still be way too cold.

But now, at last, the time has come. After you leap the Fire on the hill, come on down to the lake. Strip off and come on in: the water's fine. A little chilly, maybe, but you'll soon get used to it.

Because on Midsummer's Eve there's not just a blessing on the Fire. There's also a blessing on the Waters.

Above and below, heights and depths, Fire and Water.

On Midsummer's Eve, they meet.


There's a haunting torchlit Midsummer's skinnydip in Andrei Tarkovsky's 1966 epic biography of the 15th century Russian monk and icon-painter Andrei Rublev. In the film's 4th section, “The Feast,” Andrei Rublev and his apprentice stumble onto a pagan village celebrating Midsummer's. (You can see it here. The Midsummer's scene starts at 1:24:51.)


What's that?” asks the apprentice, puzzled.

It's the witches' sabbat,” says Andrei.




















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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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