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 Gentle Fires of Spring

Back in the early days of Paganistan—known locally as the Paganolithic—four of us got together with the intent of forming a coven. Since the Spring Evenday (equinox) was coming up, we decided to make that our first ritual together.

A few days beforehand, we got together and dyed up a bunch of eggs in the old way, using only natural dyestocks. While the eggs were coloring, we sat in the living room and planned the ritual.

On Equinox Eve we gathered in the backyard. Tanith, who had been studying smithcraft, set up a tall iron tripod that she had hand-forged. On it we impaled the wreath that had been drying on the front door since Yule. The plan was to burn up the last of Winter and make this the fiery center of our ring-dance.

Striking a match, I start the invocation.

“O gentle fires of Spring....” We were using the invocation from William G. Gray's Spring Equinox rite.

(Doreen Valiente once characterized Gray's Solstice and Equinox rituals as “too Pagan for the Christians, too Christian for the Pagans.”)

I hold the match to the wreath. The wreath does not kindle, and the match goes out.

I strike another match and try again.

“O gentle fires of Spring.....”

Nothing. Desiccated as they are, the old fir needles simply will not light.

“Oh f**k the gentle fires of Spring,” I mutter.

Volkhvy goes into the garage, gets a can of charcoal accelerant, and squirts some on.

I light another match.

“Oh gentle fires of Spring.....”

Whoosh!

Suddenly, we're standing around a 20-foot pillar of flame, roaring its heart out into the starry Equinox sky.

 

Bill Gray (1913-1992) was a son of southern Britain. Here in the North Country—as Igor Stravinsky observed while writing the score for Sacre du Printemps—Spring comes, not gradually, gentle in pastels, but as an explosion: violent, almost monstrous.

 

Four decades later, the fire that we lit that night has still not gone out.

Next Sunday will be the 40th Annual All-Natural Egg-Dye, the oldest continuously-observed tradition of the local pagan community.

The “gentle fires of Spring” have become a byword for any ritual that just won't behave.

 

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Tagged in: Paganistan
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.

Comments

  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale Sunday, 08 March 2020

    lol. I too, having done rituals with fire, have learned that fire has to be respected first and foremost as fire. Symbolic meanings and godly presence comes through it, not the other way around. Except when it doesn't. lol.

  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch Monday, 09 March 2020

    So mote it be.

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