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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The Future is Pagan: Of Place-Names, Prize Sows, and Saints

Swine Farrowing Barns - Hobby Farms


I live in Minneapolis. Our sister-city across the river is named for Christianity's (arguably) ookiest saint: Miss Paul ( Saul) of Tarsus.* Ugh.

What's a poor pagan to do?

Across the New World, in repeated acts of verbal imperialism, places bear the imposed names of foreign religions. As we move toward a post-Christian America, what do we do with these irrelevant old names?

Well, I've heard pagan Califians refer to LA as Yangna, the name of the Indigenous village in the same location. That's one approach, if such a name is available.

In this particular instance, of course, St. Paul isn't the city's real (= original, pagan) name. The city was first called Pig's Eye, and the story sounds like something out of Celtic mythology.

Now, it so happens that the guy who built the original trading post in the area one day lost his prize sow. (Her name, alas, is lost to history.) She had a tendency to wander off anyway, and was about to farrow, so her disappearance was extremely worrying.

Finally he finds the sow lying by the Mississippi with her numerous new farrow suckling greedily. (How's that for an omen?) Giddy with relief, he looks around him at the place where she's chosen to give birth.

“Hmm....” he thinks.

Welcome to Pig's Eye, boys and girls.


In a sense, the de-Christianization of Pig's Eye has already begun. A covensib native to the area—mostly we're immigrants in our group—pointed out the other night that the local pronunciation of the city's name is actually same-PAWL.

Some 1400 years ago, English-speaking Christians began to call their new religion's most important holiday by the name of the old Germanic goddess of Spring whose festival was celebrated at roughly the same time: Easter. Some have argued that this is evidence for the continuing power of the Old Ways among the Anglo-Saxons.

Personally, I suspect the opposite. It seems more likely to me that those early English Christians felt free to use the old name because they'd entirely forgotten about its original referent.

So what's to become of America's Christian names? At a guess, I would hazard that, 300 years from now, we'll still be using them, probably in some eroded form like Samepawl and, as Christianity fades away into the past, no one will even notice anymore. We'll invoke the Goddess Samepawl (in Classical times, cities were honored as goddesses) and won't even notice the incongruity.

The future is pagan, my friends. Welcome to beautiful Pig's Eye.



*Intentional misgendering, of course, constitutes an act of dismissive rudeness.












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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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