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 Columns of Aya Sofia

All of the world's big-box religions—including, be it noted, Hinduism and Buddhism—have built their houses on pagan foundations.

As we rebuild the paganisms of the future, this fact has implications.

Let us be frank: much—most—of the Old Lore has been lost forever; there's simply no way ever to recover it.

So, when it comes to the intangibles—tunes, tropes, vocabulary—I would contend that, as pagans, it's our right to take from the Dispossessors whatever we might wish.

Think of it as Reparations: the making-good of that which has been taken from us. In the old Hwicce/Witch language, this would have been called a grith-geld (as in wergeld): payment to make peace between communities.

As for the tangibles: the places, the fungibles? All in good time, my little pretty: all in good time.

If we're wise, for now, we'll draw the line at intangibles. Remember that pagans are the Original People.

If there's one thing we know, it's how to wait.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Lunasa Song

Waiting to fall back asleep, I found myself improvising The Lúnasa Song à la Adam Sandler's Hanukkah Song:

Chant the Witch's Rúnasa

every year at Lúnasa.

 

Don't act like a goonasa

just because it's Lúnasa. 

Fortunately, I soon fell asleep.

For which the gods be praised.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Traffic's cover of "John Barleycorn" was, for a long time, the only pagan song that I knew. I sang it over and over, and never got
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I figure the song "John Barleycorn" is appropriate for Lammas.

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Confessions of an Idolater

The old Somali man from down the street doesn't speak much Arabic; neither do I. But it's our only language in common.

'Eid mubarak, I wish him, going past: Happy holiday. In the Islamic calendar, today is 'Eid-al-Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice.

He looks as surprised as I would be if he were to wish me a good Samhain.

He quirks his head.

“Are you Muslim?” he asks, dubiously. Funny, you don't look Muslim.

I laugh. I don't know the Arabic word for “pagan.”

(Looking into it later, I find that, as among Anglophone pagans, there's no agreement among Arabic-speaking pagans—of course there are Arabic-speaking pagans; there are pagans everywhere—on what to call themselves. If it were me, I'd say hanîf, the Arabic cognate of the name by which the Aramaic-speaking pagans of the Mesopotamian city Harran, where the Old Ways survived well into the 11th century, called themselves. But, of course, I don't really get a vote here.)

“No, I'm an idolater,” I tell him.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Respecting the Virus

I've posted several times previously about the traditional pagan approach to diseases such as the new corona virus.

So let me just reiterate.

Covid-19 is a Power in its own right.

The Wise respect the Powers and behave accordingly.

When necessary, the Wise propitiate.

Disrespect a Power, and you will feel its wrath. If you need evidence, look at the US's current failed presidency, its epic unwillingness to take this pandemic seriously, and the deadly results that such intransigence has wreaked—and continues to wreak—upon our land and our people.

It could have been avoided, but the president is no pagan, and a fool.

Pagans: The Red Hag is a Power, an awesome Power.

Respect that Power, and propitiate.

How?

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Will Covid Change the Craft for the Better?

My first outdoor ritual broke my heart.

It also sowed the seeds of my disenchantment with Wicca, and, in a way, set my feet on the path that I've been walking ever since.

Of course, I'd been doing things in the woods since my teen years, but this was to be my first group ritual outdoors. It was what I'd always wanted, and I couldn't wait.

In retrospect, I'm guessing that it was probably the coven's first attempt at outdoor ritual, and they made all the mistakes that you would expect. In effect, they tried to do the usual Book of Shadows ritual, but outside instead of in.

Naturally, the candles blew out. There wasn't enough light to see, read, or dance by. Ritually speaking, it was a disaster.

The gods were speaking loudly that night, and what They said was: No.

“This isn't a nature religion,” I can remember thinking, anguished in my new understanding. “It's a living room religion.”

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Fruitwood

90-some degrees, humid enough to stick a knife into, and here I am stacking billets of firewood. I must be insane.

The old mulberry tree stood at the corner of the fence for probably 45-50 years, chance-sown, no doubt, by some bird. Every May it besplattered the sidewalk beneath with profligate bounty. Ten years ago it died, and has been drying in place ever since.

Monday we cut it down, and cut it up. Now I'm stacking the fruits of our labor.

Yule-logs for the next 10 years here, if not longer. Some say oak, but I think that fruitwood makes the best Yule-logs. You have only to think about the symbolism to see why. Not to mention that fruitwood burns sweetly, fragrant.

I like to have known the tree that my Yule-log comes from. The Old Ways are all about relationship. In the Old Days, you had a relationship with nearly everything in your life: the food you ate, the wood you burned, the clothes you wore.

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What Will Yule Look Like in an Age of Covid?

Yule being preeminently a time of collective merry-making and social gathering, it's hard to imagine what it might look like in a time of social distancing and outdoor gathering only.

So we'd better start thinking about it now.

Through the Spring and Summer, my coven—as so many—has been meeting outdoors. As cold weather draws on, that's going to become more difficult.

Fortunately, our Yule has always had a strong outdoor component. At sundown on Midwinter's Eve we sing the Sun down from the top of Tower Hill and kindle the Yule Fire as he slips below the horizon.

All night, the Fire burns.

In the morning, we go out again to sing the Sun up out of the River Valley. Hill : Valley :: Sunup : Sundown.

At our most recent scheduling meeting, it was suggested that, having lit the Yule Fire, we then take it around to each home in the coven. That way we can each keep our own fire-watch with the same Fire through the night, and gather again in the morning to see our vigils successfully through.

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