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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The Psalm of the Idol-Maker

The woman who sculpted our temple's goddess was having a few one night with folks from her artist's collective in Boston. They were far enough in their cups to be one-upping each other: the artist's brag.

I had a one-person show at the X Gallery,” says one.

I have a piece in the Y Museum,” says another.

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Of Arrows and Garlands

One of the signature symbols of the modern Old Craft movement is the crossed arrows and garland. It is a striking and evocative image which I find, as I peruse the literature, to have occasioned much discussion but little articulation. The symbol, however, has much to tell, to those who care to ask.

These days the garlanded arrow-cross receives attention mostly as an adornment for the stang, the standing forked pole that is the unembodied image of the Horned. Most discussion seems to center around the composition of the garland (what vegetation, at what season) and its presence or absence. Rarely do I find discussion of meaning.*

In its first appearance on the public stage, though, the symbol—though associated with the stang—is freestanding. I myself first saw it in a photograph in Justine Glass' 1973 book Witchcraft, the Sixth Sense—and You. There a rather sloppily-made mixed garland of leaves, flowers, and feathers is pierced by two diagonally-crossed arrows, one with black fletching and one with white. They would seem to be mounted on a wall above what is described as a “keppen rod.” This is clearly what would later be called a “stang,” in this case not a hayfork but a pole with a curved metal end-prong, probably used for removing pots from an oven.

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My 13 All-Time Favorite Witch Cartoons

Warning: Contains material some readers may find offensive.

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Are Pagans Necessary?

Down the years, I've heard the same warning time and again from tribal elders all over the world--the Americas, Australia, Africa--as they contemplate the potential end of their own traditions.

If ever the Old Ways were to cease, the world itself would end.

think that the elders are right.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    I do have the bad habit of speaking of the two as if they were synonymous, which of course (as you point out), they're not. (Not a
  • Ruadhán J McElroy
    Ruadhán J McElroy says #
    Ah yes, the 1980s... Thatcher, and Reagan, and AIDS denialism (until the very latest point in the decade) OH MY! "I wouldn't wis
  • Ruadhán J McElroy
    Ruadhán J McElroy says #
    I'm not sure what this is actually about.... The title asks if "pagans" are necessary, but then you describe your initiating prie
  • Greybeard
    Greybeard says #
    Kinda what I belive too.

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Pagan Pride (or: The Original People)

A while back I had a call from my friend and colleague, Macha Nightmare. She had a new book deal and was looking for reasons to take pride in being pagan. As one does in these situations, she was consulting peers on the subject. That's kind of how elder-ocracies like the paganisms tend to work; it helps keep us honest.

“Well, we were first at a lot of things,” I said.

 “Like what?” she asked.

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Oses and Osern and Aesir (Oh My)

The English language is an amazing inheritance: every word a story.

In Norse thought we find the fascinating idea that, as with humanity, there are different tribes of gods. One of these tribes is known collectively as the Aesir. This is a plural form; the singular, unfortunately, is áss. In Icelandic, this rhymes with house, but there's no denying that it's jarring to the eye of the English-reader.*

The English-speaking ancestors knew these gods as well, but unlike the good old pagan word god, ôs came to refer specifically to a pagan god, and so fell out of common usage. Eventually the word became extinct.

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Proverb from the Pagan Future

Confession: pagan post-apocalyptic fiction is one of my guilty pleasures. You know: civilization as we know it falls apart and it's up to the witches to rebuild. There's a surprising amount of it (for a sub-genre of a sub-genre of a sub-genre), and it offers us as a community a way to reflect on what a pagan future might look like.

I'm currently reading the latest installment in what is surely the most successful of the entire franchise: S. M. Stirling's Dies the Fire series. (Premise: on All Snakes' Day—March 17—1999 all the machines stop. Everything falls apart. The witches—among others—rebuild.) Ignore the title-by-Disney (The Golden Princess, wince. Not to mention the cover art: not just cheese, but stinky cheese. It's hard to be reading a book I'm ashamed to be seen with in public); as popular fiction goes, this is actually well-written, nicely-observed, and thoughtful stuff (on which, more in the future).

Our story so far: It's 2044. Our three principles have been having the same dream for the past three nights. One remarks, as if citing a quotation known to them all, “Once is coincidence, twice can be happenstance....” and her friend finishes, “The third time is either enemy action, or someone sending you a message” (245).

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  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Post-apocalypse scenarios strike me as worth exploring because they're a very real likelihood. As oil runs out and we see the incr
  • Stephen M. Stirling
    Stephen M. Stirling says #
    Post-apocalyptic pagans make a lot of sense. When the going gets weird, the weird get going, as one of the characters says... 8-)
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Hmm, define "legit." Still, it surprises me just how many books fit into this genre. I'll post a list of what I've found soon. The
  • Lee Pike
    Lee Pike says #
    "pagan post-apocalyptic fiction" is a legit genre? WOW! I am a sucker for stinky cheese covers. Adding this to my to-read list and
  • Stephen M. Stirling
    Stephen M. Stirling says #
    Alas, I'm totally powerless about the covers. I agree certain aspects were unfortunate -- the mail bodice, holding the katana edg

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