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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St. Margaret Hamilton Rides Again

Wicca-schmicca. The iconic witch of the 20th century is Margaret Hamilton, the Wicked Witch of the West. If you've ever wondered why she's green, any Midwesterner can tell you. Tornado skies really are that color.

My friend Stephanie and I are big Wizard of Oz folks. Is that really a filmic epiphany of the Triple Goddess there in Munchkinland, or are you just glad to see me?

Stephanie's doorbell hasn't worked for years. Why have it repaired when you can hang a Bell Out of Order: Please Knock sign on your front door instead? For all I know, the doorbell actually does work.

Stephanie has a powerful voice and she loves to sing. Once she signed up for a weekend gospel music workshop at a church over in North Minneapolis. Of course the first thing they want to know is “What church do you belong to?” Ever accommodating, Stephanie tells them: “St. Margaret Hamilton.”

Friday night and all day Saturday Stephanie and her fellow singers worked hard to learn the music for the Sunday afternoon concert. The women of the congregation kept them well-fed; the food, Stephanie said (included in the negligible registration fee) was both copious and delicious. Let no one think that hospitality is only a pagan virtue.

Sunday afternoon the church fills up for the concert. There's a whole pew full of witches in back, come to hear Stephanie.

Gospel music is one of the great creations of the black church, joy born out of hardship. When you have nothing else, you can still sing. And no one appreciates joy like those who have known deep sorrow. In many ways, the witches fit right in. We sway and clap along with everyone else.

The preacher gets up to preach.

“In a community riven by conflict, this concert represents a marvel of cooperation,” he tells us. “We have people here from seven different churches. Seven!

Cheers, applause.

“We have people here from First Baptist Church!” (Cheers, applause.) “We have people here from Seven Star Baptist Church!” (Cheers, applause.) “We have people here from Berean Baptist Church!” (Cheers, applause.) He pauses, then swoops in for the kill.

“Why, we even have someone here from St. Margaret Hamilton!” he thunders.

The witch pew goes wild. No doubt whatsoever where those folks spend their sabbats.

And he thought he'd snagged himself a Catholic.

All praise to the Green-faced Hag: Queen of the Flying Monkeys, Rightful Owner of the Ruby Slippers.

Just be ready to dive for that storm cellar, OK?






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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.


  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham Sunday, 20 July 2014

    Being a good Christian Witch, I do so love this story ;)

  • Ruth Pace
    Ruth Pace Tuesday, 22 July 2014

    the stereotyped picture of a witch came out before Wizard of Oz - half-healed bruises will take on a greenish tint. Add to the picture - a crooked nose - from being broken, missing teeth from being beaten out. Wild crazy hair - they're not going to let you comb your hair while they're torturing you - it's really a testament as to how witches suffered. - I actually avoid any decorations of that kind of depiction of witches. I will make only ONE exception - Margaret Hamilton - because even if her makeup was inspired by the image of tortured women - she was so damn good in the role - you end up loving her.

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