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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What Makes a Book Pagan?


A couple of weeks ago, I started working on a blog post titled Nine Great Yule Reads. In it, I list nine different books—both fiction and non-fiction—that constitute, in my opinion, some of the best Yule reading around.

It's the kind of post that tends to get a lot of attention. People look to see if their favorites are listed, with the added benefit that you may come across something new and worthwhile.

I haven't finished the post yet—who knows, it may still happen—but, looking over the list that I'd drawn up, I was struck by something both unexpected and profound. With one exception—which I'll get to later—the Land itself figures prominently in each narrative, sometimes to the extent that it could even be considered a major character.

What makes this fact profound is that it's not just a statement about pagan literature; it's a statement about virtually all paganism. All paganism is local. A paganism that lacks relationship to the Land is an incomplete paganism.

In every single one of these books, both fiction and non-fiction—again with that one exception—the story takes place against the backdrop of a particular landscape, and in fact takes place as it does precisely because it is located in that particular landscape. If any of these stories took place other than where they do, they would be different stories.

Any realized paganism is, of necessity, a religion of Place. Anywhere else, it would be a different paganism. You can't practice Hopi religion in Minnesota. Pagan religion is religion that grows out of relationship with a particular place.

As for the exception that I referred to above, Place does not really figure as a character in the same way that it does in the other books because the story is set in an imaginary place.

What makes any given book Pagan? Easy. It's the same thing that makes any given religion pagan: Place.

As for Nine Great Yule Reads, stay tuned. With Thirteen Days of Yule yet to go—Solstice Day, of course, being only the First—who knows what but that it may not see light yet?


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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.


  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham Tuesday, 22 December 2020

    That book that you know is set in an imaginary place. If you were not certain that the place in really imaginary; for example that it described a real place under an assumed name, would the place be as important as it is in the other books?

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