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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White Handle

It's part of the ABCs of modern witchcraft: Athame-Boline-Cup.

Boline (also bolline, bolleen): a nice, mysterious, witchy word. Where I come from, it rhymes with "so mean," but maybe in your valley they say it differently.

White-hilted, to the athame's black. For practical, instead of ritual work. That's how I learned it. Different valleys, different ways.

In a sense, it's a case of mistaken identity.

Like the athame, the boline derives from the Key of Solomon. There, however, it's not a knife, but an engraving tool (as you can see—labeled bolino— in the upper left corner of the illustration from an 18th century Italian Key of Solomon shown above).

The name gives it away. (Every word's a story.) Boline is a medieval (probably French) version of the Italian burino, from which we get modern burin ("engraving tool").

Modern witchery, like every other tradition in human history, grew from many roots. That's not to say that it lacks an integrity of its own. Integrity, after all, is a matter of function, not origin.

Where I come from, the Athame-Boline-Cup threesome has mythological, as well as ritual, significance, designating the Goddess and her Twin Gods.

But maybe in your valley they see it differently.




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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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