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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To Those Who Stay

I think of the Big Names of the American Craft who, before they died [bitterness alert] went crawling back to the Church: Eddie Buczynski, Jesse Wicker Bell (a.k.a. Lady Sheba)*, Marion Zimmer Bradley. I don't doubt that among the rest of us, we of the little names, there are others, locally known, who went the same way.

I'll be the first to admit, it hurts. Even to those of us who didn't know them personally, what the leavers did comes as a betrayal. To those who were their friends and students, I can only imagine the dissonance. What do you do when your mentor in the Mysteries, in the end, betrays those very Mysteries?

At the end of The Mists of Avalon, after fighting spiritual imperialism all her life, Morgaine realizes that maybe, as her elders have been telling her all along, All Ways Are One. Bradley's own cowardly defection demonstrates why this is such a poisonous belief. If all ways are equal, why take the harder?

I'm sure that, in the early days, Christianity had its share of defectors, too. Their stories haven't come down to us, but—human nature being what it is—we can be sure that they were there. In the end, the defection of a few Big Names, and unnamed others, proves nothing about the Craft itself, only that in extremis even the strong can be weak, the which we already knew.

That some, even among the leadership, should choose to go should be no surprise to anyone. What is perhaps even more surprising, under the circumstances, is that so many should choose to stay.

To my mind, far more remarkable than those who left, are the stalwart—the thousands upon thousands—who have kept their troth and remained True to the Old Ways, even unto death. If there's a lesson to be gleaned here for those of us within, it is the depth of their courage.

To those who left, I say: Rid, rid, and well rid.

But to the brave, the true-of-heart: to them be shining praise.


*To the non-Paganistanis among us, let me mention here that Lady Sheba has gone down in local lore as “Lady She-Bear.” Witchery, witchery, rhymes with bitchery.






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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.


  • Chas  S. Clifton
    Chas S. Clifton Monday, 08 April 2019

    Bell, really? I don't know much about her biography.

  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch Monday, 08 April 2019

    She was before my time, but I'm in the process of interviewing some of the few remaining community elders around here who still remember her. So stay tuned.

    Turncoat she may have been, but it would seem that hers was the vision that founded Paganistan. So credit where it's due.

  • Chas  S. Clifton
    Chas S. Clifton Tuesday, 09 April 2019

    An article on her collaboration with Carl Weschcke, etc. could be really interesting.

  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham Saturday, 13 April 2019

    I enjoyed Bradley's Darkover series, especially Darkover Landfall. I tried reading one of the Avalon books but couldn't get into it.

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