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 Mind of a Witch

I just heard the single clearest description I've ever heard of how a witch's mind works.

It came from Harvard socio-psychologist Ellen Langer.

She's written lots of books and articles (I haven't read them). She's given lots of interviews, I'm sure (I've only heard one). But when I heard her speak, I immediately thought: this woman thinks like a witch.

And the essence is: active noticing.

Oh, you got your hair cut. (Looks good.) Oh, the robins are back. (The ground must be thawed.) Oh, that's a kestrel in the back yard. (So much for the pigeon problem.)

Mindfulness is the word-of-the-moment, but let that go. No telling yourself to “be present” or meditation required. Just pay attention. Conscious attention. And that, my dear Stewart, is What Witches Do.

How many people around us—and how often do we ourselves—walk through life without noticing? Oh, things may register on some level, but how much of our time do we spend actively taking note?

Like all predators, a witch is a territorial animal, and to know your territory you have to patrol it regularly and you have to notice what's going on there: what has changed, what's changing, and what hasn't changed.

Thinking like a witch means naming (and renaming). Thinking like a witch means asking questions. Thinking like a witch means listening. (Have you ever noticed that the wisest one in the room is rarely the one that's doing all the talking?) (This blog included, probably.) Thinking like a witch means rethinking.

Mind and body aren't two things, says Langer, they're one thing (like the twin faces of the witches' god, I'll add, but that's me speaking). Placebo effect isn't something bad. Placebo is the single most powerful drug we've got. That's something witches have known for years, maybe forever.

In my experience, the witch is the one that questions everything, her own most dearly-held assumptions first of all. That's what makes her dangerous. That's what makes her an agent of change. That's what makes her (though I cringe to say it) worth the wood to burn.

Think like a witch. Notice actively. Pay attention.

Or, as Granny (excuse me, Mistress) Weatherwax put it:

 If you want to amount to anything as a witch, you've got to know three things:

what's real, what isn't real, and what's the difference.






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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.


  • Pauline
    Pauline Sunday, 01 June 2014

    This study has held my interest for years. I have Wiccan friends.cant wait to read more.

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