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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Consider the suffix -ry or -ery,*  which comes to us from Latin (-arius) via Old French (-er, -ier) via Middle English (-erie) and, attached to a noun or verb, can mean either a craft, study, or practice (husbandry, midwifery), a collective plural (Jewry, nunnery), or a place in which a particular activity takes place (bakery, hatchery).

So witchery can mean:

  1. Witchcraft,

  2. Witches collectively, and

  3. Witch Country.


One of my favorite lines from the Charge of the Goddess has always been: For behold, I am Queen of all Witcheries. Apparently there are multiple witcheries, and She's queen of them all. Andrew Mann said of Her in 1597: She has a grip of all the Craft. That's quite a claim.

By extension, there must be multiple aggregations—corpora, one might say—of witches as well. Actually, we all know this already, but it's easy to forget. After all, what's the universal human definition of doing something the right way? Well, doing it the way I do it, of course.


And pretty much every geographical region has its own Witch Country. Back in England, it was the old Hwicce tribal territories in the Cotswolds and Severn basin. Here in the US, the unglaciated Driftless Area of the upper Mississippi Valley is homeland to the Midwest Tribe of Witches.

Interesting that witcheries seem to center around rivers. Maybe it's because we're old in the land.

Witcheries: land, craft, people.

*I'd initially thought that the difference between the two depended on whether the suffix followed a consonant or a vowel, but a quick survey of the examples cited above shoots that thesis down. So far as I can tell, it's more a matter of meter than anything else.


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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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