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.

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that have been used in the blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Login
    Login Login form

Thinking in Pagan

 “Think what god it may be."

(Ezra Pound, Religio)


In the Baltics, conversion came late and memory of the Old Gods lingered long. Some of Europe's first New Pagan Movements got their start there during the period of national and cultural efflorescence between the First and Second World Wars known as the Baltic Renaissance. Like ourselves, the pagans of Latvia and Lithuania are new pagans, but they have been so for a generation longer than we have, and their experience has much to teach us.


The small (11½ x 8 x 3½ inches) inlaid wooden box shown above, from Latvia, dates to the 1920s. It is a cash box, with interior compartments for coins, banknotes, and bills. The inlaid pattern on the outside lid represents the phases of the Moon.


In Latvian folk art, all the Old Gods have their own symbols (raksti), and the Moon is no exception. Preserved primarily in embroidery and wood-carving, these symbols are strongly rectilinear. (Shown below is, incredibly, a rectilinear Sun-wheel.) Each inlaid chevron represents a crescent. On this box, then, we see (reading from left to right) the entire lunar cycle: waxing, full, and waning. Note that the full Moon is, delightfully, composed of four crescents.




The operative question here is, why would one choose to make the Moon patron and protector of one's cash-flow? I can think of three reasons, all of them prime examples of what I like to call “Thinking in Pagan.”


Silver, the Moon's metal, is in many languages (French, for example) synonymous with money. In England it used to be said that upon first seeing the New Moon, one should turn over the silver in one's pocket so that it might wax along with the Moon.

In Baltic mythology, the Moon is a warrior and protector of warriors, perhaps because the pagan Balts were said to favor surprise night attacks. This technique certainly worked well for Gediminas (ca. 1275-1341), Europe's last pagan king, in his campaigns against the crusading Teutonic knights.

Lastly, the Moon makes a fitting overseer for one's finances because, like one's money, the Moon waxes and wanes but always comes back.

The Old Gods loom large in Baltic lore, and here we may glimpse a unity of culture, religion, and nature which once characterized all human understanding. We encounter here an Amber Road that leads us directly back into an ancestral pagan sensibility which we, as modern pagans, must relearn if we are to continue our millennia-long walk on this incomparable, many-colored Earth.


Photos: Paul B. Rucker
















Last modified on
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.


Additional information