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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Steven Posch

Steven Posch

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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Death of a Poet

You've heard the tale of Thomas Rhymer, lover to the Queen of Elfhame, who after seven years came back with a tongue that could never lie.

Well, Thomas of Earlston was a real, live man who lived in the 13th century, and you can see his name on a number of charters from the time, if you've a mind to.

And here's the story of his passing.

One day in his age Old Thomas was sitting by his hearth, talking with friends. Just then a lad comes rushing in, all out of breath, and says: Come quick! You've got to see this! There's a big old stag with big old antlers just sauntering down the High Street as if he owned it!

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Getting a Real Charge

The Charge of the Goddess is Doreen Valiente's masterpiece, incontestably the best of its kind.

In fact, the Charge has single-handedly created its own literary genre. Modern paganism's hodgepodge of gods, few of whom many of us grew up knowing about, has made the charge—a "self-description of a deity"—a liturgical necessity.

Note that the pagan use of the term, though, departs significantly from its original use in Freemasonry, where it means, essentially, "a list of instructions." Although the divine monologue was known in late antiquity—Classicist R. E. Witt would call it an "aretalogy"—Valiente's Charge is the Great Mother of all modern charges.

Think of the other charges that you know.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Aline "Macha" O'Brien
    Aline "Macha" O'Brien says #
    Brilliant indeed! As always. A copy is going into the San Quentin Wiccan Circle Binder of Shadows.
  • tehomet
    tehomet says #
    Brilliant.

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Summerland of the Snows

Regular readers of this blog no doubt ask themselves from time to time: So, is Paganistan really the matchless Summerland of the Snows that Posch makes it out to be? (Paganistan is the Secret Witch Name of the 13-county Minneapolis-St. Paul metropagan area.)

Well, shown above is a sign that I saw while driving to work this morning. It's 4 blocks from my house.

You decide.

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Taking a Slitch

You know the song I mean. The one that begins:

Let the joyous news be spread....

Just to refresh your memory: first, the house begins to pitch. Then the kitchen takes a slitch, and lands on the wicked witch. In the middle of a ditch, no less. How humiliating.

It had been raining off and on for a week before we got to the festival site, and there were mud slicks everywhere. A friend of ours came limping into camp, clearly a little the worse for wear.

"What happened to you?" someone asked.

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Bigghes: or, The Lost Treasure of the Witches

In my previous post about Old English béag, "ring, arm-ring, neck-ring, torc, crown," I was utterly remiss not to have mentioned what is perhaps the word's most obvious link with modern witchcraft.

The fairly obscure Gardnerian term bigghes refers to the High Priestess' parure, i.e. her matched set of jewelry: wristlets, necklace, crown. (Parure. Good old English: we really do have a word for everything. And if we don't, we just pick one up from someone else. Small wonder it's the sacred language of the witches.) The kinship with the Old English word is obvious.

Survival or revival? Wicca being a child of the 20th century, the latter seems indicated here. What it does show is that those early witches were doing their research.

Just as we still do today.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Stories That Tell Themselves

On March 6, 1710, workmen excavating a crypt beneath the nave of the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris discovered a number of carved blocks from a Gallo-Roman votive pillar set up by the Guild of Boatmen some time during the first quarter of the first century CE. By far the most famous image from this pillar shows the head of the Gaulish god Cernunnos, bearded and deer-eared, his antlers hung with torcs.

On March 18, 1314, Jacques de Molay, 23rd and last Grand Master of the order of the Knights Templar, was burned at the stake on an island in the Seine River in Paris. The order had been suppressed, seven years previously, on charges of heresy, including the worship of a mysterious bearded Head. De Molay's last request of his executioners is that they tie him so that he can face the Cathedral of Notre Dame as he burns. They grant his request.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Thanks, Troy: we live by our stories. Bwa ha ha.
  • Troy Young
    Troy Young says #
    A superb story indeed and well worth sharing.

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Of Oosers, Stangs, and Garlands

The stang is the standing forked pole that represents the Horned in Old (“Traditional”) Craft practice. I've written elsewhere about the custom of “dressing” the stang with seasonal garlands, and theorized about the meaning of this practice. It now occurs to me that the garlanding of the stang has an even deeper resonance.

It is universally acknowledged in Old Craft circles that the stang in-stands for the Master Himself. By Robert Cochrane's time (1931-1966), the personification of the “Devil” by the “devil” (i.e. of the god by the priest) had as a practice become moribund, so that the lore associated with it has been passed down only in fragmentary form.

That does not mean, however, that it has not been passed down. The ooser* (rhymes with “bosser,” not “boozer”) is the horned wooden mask worn by the priest when he personifies at the sabbat. Here in the American Midwest, as elsewhere, it has become customary for the ooser, when worn, to be accompanied with a “ruff” or collar of live greenery around the neck which, of course, varies in make-up with the season, just as the stang's wreath does.

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