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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We Do Primitive

 How to use bow-drill to start a lifesaving fire - We Are The Mighty


“You wouldn't happen to have any matches or a lighter on you, would you?”

Paganicon 2022. I'm not sure what this man's official title might be, but he's clearly the hotel's go-to guy for things practical.

When a ritual's about to start, expect the unforeseen. We're just about to begin an offering to the Lady of Spring, but we need to relight the altar light, and—in these non-smoking days—no one has the wherewithal to do it.

Unfortunately, the maintenance man doesn't, either.

“Sorry, no," he says. "Lots of sticks out there, though,” he adds, chin-pointing toward the window. “You could always rub a couple together."

There's a pause. I suspect that this might not have been the answer that I'd have had if we were a convention of Presbyterians or Reform Jews. But, hey, we're the pagans. We're Nature people. We do primitive, right?

Well, yes: actually, we do. As a matter of fact, over the course of the past three days, I've heard two separate discussions of wood-on-wood kindling: the traditional woods used in fire drills, the utility of the fire bow. Not your typical non-pagan type of convention conversation, I suspect, though maybe I'm doing some stereotyping of my own here.

Well, if that's the stereotype, I embrace it. Eventually, we do manage to unearth some matches—thank you, Mark L.—and the offering proceeds as planned. This man's comment was thoroughly good-natured, not in the least bit condescending and, in fact, he's right: I know the very people who could do it.

So I laugh.

“If anyone could, we could,” I say.

Best of all, it's true.


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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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