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 City of the Horned Apollo

If true, it's got to be one of history's more delicious ironies.

The ancient city of Cyrene, in what is now Libya, was founded in 620 BCE by colonists from the volcanic island of Thera (or Santorini), of Minoan archaeology fame.

Foremost among its patron gods was Apollo Kernaios, the Horned Apollo.

On the city's coinage, the god was shown in profile, with a crescent ram's horn curling around his ear. It was likely this image that gave rise to Lysimakhos' famous coins depicting the horned Alexander.

Over the centuries, the city was home to many famous statesmen, artists, and philosophers, but today its best-known resident (historic or not) is probably Simon of Cyrene, who is said in the Synoptic gospels to have carried the cross of Jesus when Jesus himself was too weak to carry it.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Beardman

Well, beards are back.

These days it seems like every third guy's sporting one.

Which brings me (of course) to the god of the witches.

Oh, it's a long and winding thread that I spin today, my friend. Take hold of the end and let's see where it leads us.

***

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Pagan Era

So: a Wiccan, a Druid, and a Kemetic Reconstructionist walk into a bar.

By any reasonable standard, these people all practice different religions, right?

That's why the term "pagan" is so brilliant.

I've been part of this long enough that I can remember when we first started calling ourselves—and, more importantly, thinking of ourselves—as pagan.

BPE (Before the Pagan Era), Wiccans, Druids, and Kemetic Reconstructionists were different modalities of being. But add the name, and suddenly: hey, presto, it's now the Pagan Era, and we perceive one another as (in some way, shape, or form) belonging to the same group, as different clans in the same overall tribe.

Being pagan together gives us numbers. Suddenly there are millions of us across the world, and numbers = power. Suddenly I have something in common with someone that I've never met in Kyrgyzstan. (Since independence, there's been a big resurgence of traditional religion across Central Asia.)

Let no one doubt the power of a single word.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Passion of the Harvest

At noon on the first day of the festival, we blew the horns. Then we pulled the young Corn King in his chariot through the grove in which the gathering was held.

By the next day, word had begun to spread. A few came out to watch the Corn King in his noon progress among his people.

The third day, there were more. Some would bow, or kneel by the side of the way to receive his blessing as he passed. These he would shower with kernels of corn.

As the week went on, people began to join the procession. They brought their children to receive the Harvest Lord's blessing. Late arrivals to the festival heard about the processions by word of mouth.

People had known the Young Lord since his boyhood, during the festival's earliest years. They had watched him grow up there, year by year. Now they welcomed his triumph. Grown to beautiful, golden manhood, he was everyone's son, everyone's beloved.

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A Night on Bear Butte, Or: Can a Pagan, in Good Conscience, Go to the Black Hills?

The Black Hills of what is now South Dakota are unquestionably one of the great holy places of North America. They are held sacred by all the local peoples: the Dakota, the Arapaho, the Cheyenne, the Shoshone, the Blackfoot, the Crow. They may tell different stories about why the Hills are sacred, but everyone agrees that they are.

Oh, and did I mention the Witches?

***

My teacher Tony Kelly's critique of American paganism—being himself a Brit—was that it was rootless. Not having grown from the place that it's in, it's all about long ago and far away. Although less true now than it was in the 70s, this still seems to me a pretty accurate analysis of the situation.

But like all good critiques, Kelly's diagnosis contains an implied solution. If “immigrant” paganisms are rootless, the answer is clear: put down roots. Know your Land.

***

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I remember reading God is Red back in the 70's. I think I also read Custer Died for your Sins. I can't say that I remember much
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    God is Red was reissued recently in a new 30th-anniversary edition, so maybe it will be turning up soon. I've had good luck with i

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Between the Stones

The boy froze when he saw the god.

Behind him in the woods, the rite had already begun. The path up from the circle wound through the trees. That's why he didn't see him until he was nearly upon him.

There, seated on the ground between the two tall stones that mark the head of the path.

Waiting. Watching.

His antlers seemed to touch the trees.

Brown eyes meet green.

The boy wanted to turn and run. He also wanted to stroke the velvet of that muzzle.

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Were Wiccans Originally "Wakers of the Dead"?

Well, didn't see that one coming.

According to philologist Calvert Watkins, the word Wicca is actually related to wake.

And Wiccans were originally necromancers, “wakers of the dead.”

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