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Posted by on in Culture Blogs


Hey, everyone has a stuffed Himalayan mountain goat's head hanging over the fireplace.

Don't they?


“So,” says the plumber, “all these symbols...are you into the occult or something?”

Goat's heads, Green Men, clay Goddesses. You don't have to be in my house for very long, or have much in the way of a flame between the horns, to realize that there's some pretty High Strangeness going on here. Still, when the kitchen drain became intractably plugged, this wasn't exactly the conversation that I had expected to be having.

“Not really,” I say, which is no more than truth. There's nothing arcane, or particularly esoteric, about the Craft. It's all completely natural.

“Oh, I thought you might be Wiccan or something,” he says.

“Now that I could tell you something about,” I say.

“Isn't that occult?” he asks.

“For me, it's largely a matter of tribal identity,” I say.

He looks thoughtful, and starts to tell me about about the novel, clearly a favorite, Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch, which for some reason—Terry Pratchett “gets” witches better than just about any other contemporary writer, including many who call themselves Wiccan—I've never read.

“ she publishes this book of prophecies, which doesn't sell very well, but really she just wants the free author's copy,” he tells me.

“Sounds right,” I say.


Clearly, he's been thinking. Several hours later, he asks in passing:

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

 Close-up of glowing embers - Stock Photo - Dissolve

Under the Night Cottonwoods


Flanked by jack o' lanterns, the Shadow waits: darkness upon darkness.

Before her, the Stag that Walks on Two Legs.

Clustered around him, us.

The names have been called, the song sung, the apples eaten.


The Stripping


His sad eyes drink in each of us. It is finished.

The wand he bore throughout, he breaks now over his knee, the sound of its snapping like a shot in the night. The broken halves, he lays out on the ground.

He turns away from us now, toward the Shadow.

The crown of autumn leaves and antlers, he lifts from his head and lays at her feet. He unclasps and bundles his cloak, laying it with the crown. He strips off torque and, lastly, loincloth.

His naked skin shines pale with cold moonlight.


Into the Darkness


She extends a hand: the left. Come.

After a moment, he takes it, and passes by her, through the pumpkin gateway, into the night.

His flanks ripple as he walks, like a deer's. Leaves crunch beneath his feet. Slowly, palely, he merges into the night. His rustling steps fade into silence.

The empty pile—a melted witch, the leather bag of a bog body—mounds at her feet. To us now, she extends a hand: the right, with pointing finger.



By Pumpkin-Light

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 Wiccan (character) - Wikipedia

“You'll be working the wedding party,” they tell me when I arrive at work that night.

That was fine with me. The couple getting married were regular customers at the little Warehouse District jazz club where I worked at the time, and I liked them both well enough.

I check the timeline, and set up the bar and the buffet. The couple arrives; the guests start to show up. But there's a hitch. Everyone's there but the officiant.

5 o' clock: no judge. 5:15: no judge. At 5:30, they call the judge at his chambers: no answer. They call his home: no answer. (This was B.C.: Before Cell.) The groom looks furious, the bride like she's ready to burst into tears.

Meanwhile, my boss is freaking out. Two regulars are paying a fortune for this event, and it's going to be a total disaster.

The solution is obvious. Feeling like some sort of pagan superhero with a secret identity, I go to my boss. When the news finally breaks through, the look on her face is almost risible.

“There is a God,” she says.


That's how it is that I got the opportunity to use what was probably the single best line of my entire wait career.

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 Taking Time To Be Thankful: Surviving A Wild Turkey Attack | by Carie  Fisher | | Medium

Well, next time you come to Paganistan, you won't have any trouble picking out the Witch houses.

Just look for the turkey out front.

A few weeks ago, I got an email from my neighbor next-door titled “Visitor.” Curious, I opened it, only to find a photo of a turkey standing in my front yard.

This is strange. Though I've lived here for more than 30 years, I've never seen any turkeys around here before: unsurprisingly, since I live in a densely urban neighborhood with no nearby wild spaces. Even the River is more than a mile away.

I made a point of bringing it up to the coven at our May Eve get-together because my covensib Z has had a guardian turkey at her place for over a year now. (In fact, we were meeting at her house that night.) Sometime last Spring, a male turkey decided that her front yard was his territory, and he's been there more or less ever since. Her husband has befriended the turkey, and feeds him regularly. Otherwise, though, the turkey is very protective of his territory—we call him the Attack Turkey—and has been known (on more than one occasion) to chase off Amazon deliverymen. (I presume that this represents territorial defense rather than commercial preference, though with turkeys, it's hard to say.)

After I'd told the tale, my covensib A laughed. Turns out, a turkey had just shown up in her yard for the first time a few days previous. This would ordinarily be a little less surprising than in Z's instance, or mine, since she lives in a wooded area backing on a lake. Still, though she's lived there for more than two years, she's never seen a turkey there before.

Well, you know witches: hedge-straddlers all, one foot in the Tame and one in the Wild. Somehow, I can't help but think of the Temple of Juno in Rome with its protective flock of guardian geese, which managed to raise the alarm during a Celtic raid on the city and so save the temple treasure.

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 Organic Bananas, Bunch -

Why someone left a bunch of organic bananas on the wall beside the sidewalk, I don't know.

I look up and down the street: no one. Did they maybe fall from someone's shopping bag?

They're nice, fat bananas, just starting to speckle, and fragrantly ripe: too ripe for someone's liking, maybe.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, and especially since the Troubles following George Floyd's death a few blocks from here, folks in this neighborhood have been setting out boxes of food at the curb for anyone who might need it. People are capable of much, both for the good, and for the bad. Such acts of nameless generosity have been a ray of light in an otherwise dark time.

Humans are an opportunistic species. Like other predators, witches are territorial animals, and patrol our territories regularly. (You can be a witch, they say, without knowing anything about astrology, Qabala, or Tarot—3000 years ago, the ancestors knew none of the above—but you cannot be a witch and not know your territory.) Usually in my perambulations around the neighborhood, I've got a gathering bag or two with me, but today, heading to the post office to get some stamps, I neglected to bring one. I snag the bananas anyway, and carry them along.

At the post office, I set them down on the counter to take out my wallet. Seeing the clerk's curious glance, I quip: “You guys still take barter here, right?”

He's game. “Sorry, that was yesterday,” he quips back.

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In the early days of Paganistan, M and N were everyone's favorite couple. Even when the Witch Wars burned through and people weren't talking to people, everybody still loved them.

They were witches, Alexandrians, both fine-looking folks. Somehow, even that never created any hard feelings, they were just so much in love with one another. It was hard to think of them separately, so naturally did they fit together. A friend, in conversation, once referred to them as lovers, then corrected herself.

“You guys are so much in love, I keep forgetting that you're married,” she laughed, and we all joined in, because it was so true.

When M died, it came as a shock to us all. For one thing, she wasn't very old. For another, well...she was just so vital. She'd known that she was sick, of course, but hadn't wanted to darken her last days by spreading the knowledge around. N, of course, was with her to the end. It seemed utterly fitting that she should have died on Valentine's Day.

She hadn't been out to her folks; in those days, few of us were. The pagan community showed up en masse—no pun intended—for her funeral. There probably hadn't been that many witches in a church since the Burning Times. In the eulogy, the priest kept talking about what a good Christian she'd been.

February is a windy, cold month in Minnesota. A stiff, bitter breeze blew in off the prairie as we stood in the cemetery. Still—M would have loved it—there was something playful, even carnivalesque, about that graveside service. Someone, incredibly, had brought along a bouquet of helium balloons: bright colors against the stark, white snowscape. After the prayers, they released them. Watching those balloons soar up and away into they sky was heartbreaking, the perfect metaphor. As they flew away, the tears flowed.

Afterward, the pagans gathered over food and drink for our own remembrance. N looked devastated.

Sorrow had made me bitter. The priest's words still rankled; I complained about them to a friend.

But he was wiser than I.

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 Diab2Cook: Grilled Brats w/ Cincinnati Style Chili and Cheese Potato Chips


Seriously? Chips and brats? That's your Yule feast?

When I first blew into Paganistan nigh on 40 years ago, it took me a while to hook up with other pagans—things took longer in those pre-internet days—and when I finally did, it took some time to build up enough trust to start getting invited to things.

So when I finally got asked to a local coven's Yule ritual, believe me, I was stoked.

I sweated what to bring for the Yule feast. At the time, I was still living in the dorms and didn't have access to a kitchen. Finally I settled on fruitcake.

I know, I know. Me, I like fruitcake.

(I once attended a holiday party to which someone had brought a fruitcake. "I can't stand fruitcake," said the Christians, shrinking away with distaste. "Oh, I just love fruitcake," said the Jews and pagans, gathering around.)

This particular fruitcake I had bought at the local more-holistic-than-thou old hippie bakery (gods: it was even called “People's Company Bakery”; now long gone, of course) and, as fruitcakes go, was really pretty righteous: 100% whole wheat (of course), honey-sweetened (of course), chock-full of chunks of wonderful exotic dried fruits like mango and pineapple. I conscientiously irrigated it with brandy for a week or two before the ritual. By the time Midwinter's Eve rolled around, it was smelling pretty damned good.

Oddly, I don't remember anything at all about the ritual itself. What I do recall was standing dismayed at the Yule board afterward in a state of profound culture shock. Brats and bags of chips. This you call Yule?

The situation took me a while to suss. Was it, I wondered at first, a class issue: middle and working class values in collision, maybe? (Such are the dangers of a college education.)

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