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.

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The True and the Free

To the pagan eye, the main difference between our religions and the Abraham ones isn't the difference between One or Many.

It's the difference between Slave and Free.

With the spread of the Slave Religions across the world, loss of spiritual freedom has invariably gone hand in hand with loss of political freedom: spiritual imperialism with political imperialism. Pagan peoples everywhere have fought to preserve our political, cultural, and intellectual freedom. Sometimes we've won, most often we've lost, but in our hearts, even when shackled, we have never submitted, and we never will.

Unlike some, the pagan gods don't want slaves, and they don't want eternal children. They expect us to grow up, to stand on our own two feet, and to do for ourselves. If you raise your children to be dependent on you, you've failed as a parent.

We, the Pagans, have been here since the beginning; we've never gone away, and we never will. We dare to dream of a day when the Slavers and their ways will vanish from the Earth, when once again we will all live as our gods want us to live: as Free peoples, everywhere.

We are the Pagans, but “pagan” is a name from without. What do we call ourselves from within?

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On the Nature of Pagan Authority: A Little Lite Satire

Goddess Loves Me

 


Goddess loves me, this I know:

my high priestess tells me so.

If that's not enough for you,

Gerald Gardner says so too.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Horns Up!

“Horns up!” says my friend, grinning and flashing the accompanying Sign.

It's become his usual valedictory. I find this delightful.

Horns up: a polysemous—many-meaninged—greeting. Go for it! it says. Don't take any guff! it says. Forge ahead! it says.

But for witch-folk like us, it's also an invocation. And of course—so it is with witch-lore—it tells a story as well.

Because, naturally, “Horns up” implies an equal-and-opposite inverse. “The Goat Above, the Goat Below,” the Basque witches used to say at their sabbats. (No doubt they still do.) “Horns up” signs the living god, “Horns down” the dead.

And there's his story. Unlike most gods, the god of the witches dies. Being a god, of course, he doesn't stay that way, but that doesn't obviate what went before.

(How does he die? In fact, sad to say, we kill him ourselves: in love, we kill him. Witches are a tribe of deicides, which explains much of our long, sad history.)

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Does Electric Incense “Count”?

Who would expect to be confronted with a theological conundrum upon walking into a supermarket? Welcome to the Wonderful World of Paganism.

I've gone over to my neighborhood Asian market to pick up some tofu. (At a buck-fifteen per cake, it's still the best deal in town.) Just inside the door, in his little shrine on the floor, sits Weng Shen the Door God. Flanked by electric candles, he scowls as good door-wards do. Before him burns a bowl of electric incense.

The porcelain bowl filled with gravel looks just like a real incense bowl, if you ignore the electric cord that runs through a hole at the back of the shrine. Even the “sticks” of incense—I assume that they're plastic—could almost pass for the real thing, if it weren't for those uniform glowing red electric tips.

So here's the conundrum. Is a symbolic offering still an offering? Does electric incense “count”?

I suppose that the answer to this question depends upon what you mean by “count.”

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Does the Name Match the Claim? Using Historical Linguistics to Assess Claims of Pagan Continuity

Every word tells a story.

Unfortunately, it's not always the story that we want to tell.

Back at the end of the last century, it was not uncommon for pagan groups to claim unbroken continuity with the paganisms of the past. When someone makes such a claim, one way to test what they say is to look at the vocabulary that they're using to see if it matches their claims.

To take one preeminent example: in the 60s and 70s media witch Sybil Leek claimed to be high priestess of a Keltic tradition group in Hampshire's New Forest called Horsa Coven.

(Sorry, but after nearly 50 years in the Craft, I still cringe when I hear the term "high priestess." Talk about hokey.)

Now, “Horsa” has a pleasingly archaic sound to it: unsurprisingly, as it's an Anglo-Saxon/Old English name meaning “horse.” The fact that the name is Anglo-Saxon, however, sits uncomfortably with her claims of a “Keltic” tradition.

Horsa was the name of one of the two legendary Anglo-Saxon brothers who led their people to the Promised Land of England. (His brother was reputedly “Hengist,” which means “stallion”; the word survives into modern English as the first syllable of henchman.) The implication, I suppose, is that the tradition goes back to Anglo-Saxon times.

If so, the name itself disproves the claim. If the name had survived in continuous use since ancient days, it would automatically have modernized to "Horse." The fact that it didn't is proof that the name is a modern one, chosen for its archaic sound. Interestingly, one can say the same for the word “Wicca.”

Back in the early 90s, a group in the English Midlands calling itself Tuatha de Cornovii claimed to be a survival of the Iron Age Keltic tribe of the same name. Does the name match the claim?

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Real Leys

Pagans can be a notoriously credulous lot, but me, I don't come from believing people, and I'm not a believer myself. Among the things that I don't believe in (astrology, an afterlife, Christian charity...) are leys.

I simply don't see the point of believing in ley-lines that exist only in imagination when, in fact, virtually all of us are surrounded by real-world lines on the landscape.

They're called trackways, or greenways.

I live on one such myself. These days it's paved over and called Lake Street, South Minneapolis' major east-west artery. But originally, it was an old Indian track that led from the summer village at Bde Maká Ska—White Earth Lake—down to the Mississippi River. And back again, of course.

Pretty much everywhere has old trackways of this sort, contouring along the Land from one important place to another. Probably most of them were old animal trails first and became human trails later.

“Much has been written of travel, far less of the road.” So begins Edward Thomas' lyrical book The Icknield Way, his biography of the ancient greenway that runs NE-SW across England from Norfolk to Wiltshire. Named for the Iceni—Boudicca's people—the Icknield way leads Thomas on a lyrical journey through history, lore, and Land. First published in 1930, it has never since been out of print.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Back in my angst-filled days as a teen warlock-in-training, I used to go down to the woods by Lake Erie and walk the deer-paths in
  • Kile Martz
    Kile Martz says #
    As it happens, the house I grew up in sits atop one of the highest points in the county on the farm my elders bought when they mov

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Are the Days of the Heroes Behind Us?

In the mail yesterday, my Covenant of the Goddess clergy credential renewal arrived, along with—I kid you not—my very own vial of Covenant of the Goddess lip balm.

Vanilla flavored, no less.

Well, I receive these gifts—as the ancestors used to say—with both hands, i.e. gratefully. Now I can continue to hatch, match, and legally dispatch in the eyes of the Great State of Minnesota, a Land where winter lip balm is pretty much a way of life.

Still.

In the old days, Christians used to fight (and sometimes kill) over whether the Spirit proceeded from the Father, or from the Father and the Son; or whether the Son was equal to, or lesser than, the Father. Substantive issues.

Now, of course, they fight about gay sex.

In the old days, witches used to make poisons, medicines, and flying ointment: pharmacopoeia.

Now we make lip balm.

I shake my head. Perhaps the days of the heroes and demigods are behind us. How are the mighty fallen.

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