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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Golden Cattail

It is said that when first our people came to the fair land of Paganistan, having crossed the waters of the Father of Waters—him that is called the Mississippi—they were met by the fair Lady of the Land herself.

They say that she gave them fair greeting and set into the hands of him who led them these two things: a cattail and an apple.

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Where Witches Dance: Some Thoughts on the Name 'Paganistan'

 “...and to the republic where witches dance...”

 

When, back in the mid-80s, I coined the name “Paganistan” as a term for the Twin Cities pagan community, it was with tongue firmly in cheek. No one is more surprised than I am that it actually seems to have caught on.

The word itself is a partial loan-translation of the hybrid Arabic-Persian Kafiristan, “land of the pagans,” the name given to the wild mountainous region of northeastern Afghanistan (“land of the Afghans”), which as late as the 1890s was still home to some of history's very last Indo-European-speakers to practice their ancient polytheist tribal religions.

(In a major land-grab in 1896, the Emir of Kabul declared jihad against the fierce mountain Kafirs, and in the end rifles and bullets won out over spears and arrows: the area was forcibly Islamized and renamed Nuristan, “land of light.” Saved by the Durand line, however, the Kalasha, the last culturally-intact Kafiristanis, numbering some 4000, still—in what is now northwestern Pakistan—worship their ancient gods with wine, dance, and animal sacrifice. Long may they live and flourish.)

The name Paganistan first saw print in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune a year later when Jim "Moon Dog" Runnels was quoted as referring to the Twin Cities as the “capital of Paganistan.”

That's how we became the first named community of modern pagan times.

The name spread with the rise of internet paganism, notably through the publication of our resident anthropologist Murphy Pizza's 1994 Paganistan: Contemporary Pagan Community in Minnesota's Twin Cities, and—latterly—through the present blog.

After thirty-some years of Paganistan, it remains a sorrow to me that the name's derivation from us, and not from the Land, marks it as a non-Indigenous—and, in this sense, an imposed—name.

But this would be valid grounds for critique only if the term were to be used in a triumphalist, or supercessionist, manner: which, of course, it never is. No one, much less myself, would propose that we replace an Indigenous name, Minnesota (“sky water”) with a non-Indigenous Paganistan. Paganistan is the pagan name for this place as home to the local community. It's the Twin Cities' Craft name. That's all.

Of course, we do have our own flag (Witch's Hat Tower, gray, on a blue, yellow and green field) and our own “national” anthem (no, I didn't pen it myself). But that's all by the by, offspring of the infinitely playful cauldron of creativity that is local Paganry.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Doing the Minnesota Shuffle

First, and most importantly, keep your elbows tucked in tight against your body.

Now wave your hands and forearms helplessly around. Think flippers or penguin wings, but keep those elbows pressed in. Good!

Now you're ready for the feet. Pull them close together. Now slide one forward: not too far. Now the other. Now the other. Now the other. Now the other.

There you go: you're got it! You're doing our sacred dance: the Minnesota shuffle, also known as the Minnesota Duck-Walk. You want to look like you're penguin-stepping along on smooth ice, afraid to fall down.

In fact, that's exactly what you are doing.

But wait, we're not done yet. The exciting part is yet to come.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Pagan Prayer

Broom in hand, my neighbor stands looking mournfully at his snow-mounded car.

"Another lovely day in sunny Minneapolis," I deadpan.

(This is irony: we haven't seen the Sun for days.)

Steve shakes his head. "I just got home from ten days in Jamaica, and this is what I come back to."

"Welcome home," I say, wryly, then add: "More coming, I hear."

He begins to sweep the snow off of the car.

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'2019 May Day Parade Will Be the Last,' Says Heart of the Beast

Minneapolis, MN

If you've ever wondered what it would be like to publicly celebrate a pagan holiday in a pagan city, Bealtaine 2019 may be your last chance to find out.

Heart of the Beast Mask and Puppet Theater in Minneapolis announced yesterday that this year's May Day Parade and Celebration, the 45th, will be the last.

For 45 years, people of every religion and ethnicity have danced down Bloomington Avenue on the first Sunday in May to celebrate the end of Winter and the Coming of the Sun. It has become one of the signature celebrations of our year, to Minneapolis what Mardi Gras is to New Orleans.

For 45 years, May Day has been the one day a year when everyone becomes an honorary pagan.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Jennifer
    Jennifer says #
    This sounds like something I really need to do before it is no more
  • Helga Hedgewalker
    Helga Hedgewalker says #
    The Heart of The Beast May Day Celebration is the very center of Paganistan! It is heart-breaking to think of this treasure of the
  • Murphy Pizza
    Murphy Pizza says #
    Everyone loves the arts, but everyone forgets to support them...sigh... It would be a cultural tragedy to lose this tradition...le

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
A Bridge Dyed Red with the Blood of a Poet

Yule morning. A friend and I are driving back from singing up the Sun out of the Mississippi River valley.

Each year, as we have for decades, on Yule morning we sing the Sun up from a bridge once dyed red with the blood of a poet.

Surely such a bridge must stand forever.

My friend gets a text from his partner, who has decided to forgo the annual cold and discomfort of the river valley's microclimate, and instead has proceeded directly to the Sunrise brunch location towards which we're currently heading.

“Where is everyone?” she writes.

In fact, the singing was particularly good this year, and we lingered long to savor it. You could feel our songs calling up the Sun out of darkness. You could feel us calling the trees into bud, the apples into blooming and fruiting, all in their own proper season.

“'Minneapolis Bridge Collapses, Coven Killed,'” I intone in my best self-important banner-headline tone.

We riff off of this scenario for a few minutes, laughing.

“They'd still be telling stories about us a hundred years from now,” I say.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Urban Procession: Harvest Moon

I hear the procession before I see it.

They enter in at the front gate, with rattle and drum. I join them, and together we wind around the house and back to the garden.

All summer the little goddess has presided over the growth of tomatoes, eggplant, beans, beets, kale, and collards, sunk to her knees in the ground.

Now we stand her instead in a bowl of wheat grains, wheat that we will eat (cooked in almond milk, sweetened with honey, perfumed with rosewater) on the year's longest night. We garland her with harvest marigolds.

Lastly, we cover her over with the same veil of night-blue silk that will enwrap her through her winter slumber in the pantry. We're about to process her down a public street, on which she will duly bestow her blessing, but this is, after all, a goddess: not everyone is privileged to see her.

The procession reforms. I walk this street every day of my life; tonight it becomes a sacred route, a processional way. People arriving for choir rehearsal at the corner church stop to watch.

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