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.

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that have been used in the blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Login
    Login Login form
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
Breaking Glass, or: Bach with a Skip

At work one morning I'd put Bach's Sixth Brandenburg Concerto—the one without violins—on the sound system. I've always found Bach to pair well with Sunday brunch.

Unfortunately, the disk had a skip in it. The same brief phrase repeated and repeated, playing over and over and over.

As I was crossing the floor to change the disk, the door opened and a customer came in.

When she heard the music, her face lit up. She gave me a radiant smile.

Last modified on

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
How Not to Teach a Chant

“Here's the new chant that we're going to be using,” says the high priestess.

She launches in, joined enthusiastically (if not particularly accurately) by the host coven. The result is a muddy blur of sound from which not even a professional musicologist could successfully extract words or a tune.

One painful slog-through later, she smiles and says: “Great! Everybody got that?”

And the ritual begins.

Well, no, we haven't got it, and chances are excellent that—with a start like this—we never will.

So how do you successfully teach a new chant?

 

In an Ideal Pagan World...

Well, the ideal way would be not to teach it at all. Duly start up the new chant in its given place in the ritual and, with a strong leading voice and enough repetitions, we will all soon be singing along.

Alas, not all local communities have a culture of attentive listening and enthusiastic singing. Sometimes knowing even a little something about a new chant beforehand gives people enough of an investment actually to join in.

So....

 

The Law of Three

Three tips for successfully teaching a new chant:

Last modified on

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
People of the Deer

Witch-folk. We've pretty much always been a People of the Deer.

Sure, we've hunted larger game, and smaller, but down the years it's ostly deer that have kept the cauldron full and the family fed. Back in the old days, “deer” used to mean pretty much any kind of wild animal, did you know that? But now, a deer is...well, a deer. That tells you something about how important they've always been. To our people, deer are the animal par excellence.

Back in old tribal days, when we called ourselves the Dobunni (and later the Hwicce, which is where we get the name “witch” from), we were, admittedly, a People of the Herd, and our god (and our priests) wore bull's horns mostly.

But even then, just to the north lived the Cornovii, People of the Horn, and for them the god wore antlers. They're still fine hunters, the Cornovii, and being such near neighbors, there's been a lot of marrying back and forth down the years. My father's mother's people come from the old Cornovii hunting runs, in fact.

Well, it just makes sense. Unlike bulls, or elk for that matter—not to mention moose—a deer is human-sized, just about the same weight and volume that we are. There's something human about a deer. It's all a matter of scale.

Up here in the North Country, Samhain marks the time of the rut. Just now, the deer that will feed the People in years to come are being bred.

Last modified on
A Promise to the Ferryman, or: How I Ended Up Sitting (Literally) Bare-Assed in the Snow One Midwinter's Eve

At the big public Samhain that year, everybody had paid a coin to the Ferryman to cross the River.

Obviously, money collected under such circumstances can't be put to just any use. After the ritual, we donated the bulk of it to the local AIDS hospice. (That seemed appropriate.) But the foreign coins and the gaming arcade tokens (talk about cheap) called for a different—if still respectful—disposal.

As it happens, one of the great rivers of the world flows through our city, so I volunteered to take the coins down to the Mississippi and throw them in.

Well, I put it off and I put it off. (It was a snowy year, if you want my lame-ass excuse.) Suddenly it was Midwinter's Eve, and I still hadn't disposed of the coins.

“This can't wait,” I thought. “It really has to be done tonight; tomorrow will be too late.”

So after our Mother Night ritual and feast, I drove down to the site where, 1000 years ago, a summer village once stood on the East Bank of the River. Like the ancient Egyptians, the Old People who lived there buried their dead across the River on the West Bank.

Being a warmish Yule that year, I was wearing my kilt: commando, of course. (You know what they say: With underwear, it's just a skirt.)

The warm weather had given the snow a slick crust. Just as I was negotiating the last snowbank down to the River....

Last modified on
Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Thanks, Erin. I think of it as ham on wry.
  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale says #
    lol. I really enjoy your sense of humor.

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
I'll Be Home for Sam Hane

From the liner notes of my 2005 spoken word album, Radio Paganistan: Folktales of the Urban Witches. 

Really, one has to wonder just who the speaker is.

Good Samhain, all!

I'll Be Home for Sam Hane

 


I'll be home for Sam Hane,

you can count on me.

Pumpkins glow on dancing bones

beneath the naked trees.

 

Hallows Eve will find me

where the hearth-fire's red:

Last modified on

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Contracting Spiral

I noticed a pattern this morning while sweeping out the Underworld.

(Being resident priest here at Temple of the Moon, I get to say such things. )

Yes, two nights hence we'll descend into the cave beneath the Temple of the Moon for our major November Eve working. Even in the Underworld, you have to clean before the guests arrive.

So, sweeping up limestone dust, I realized that I was sweeping spirally: in a contracting spiral, to be precise.

It's the most efficient way to sweep a floor, really. You pick a center point. Then you go around the first time, sweeping in, toward the center. You go around again, sweeping in. Around and around you go, until finally there's one central pile of detritus.

Sleek. Efficient. Pregnant with meaning.

Last modified on
'Witch' Originally Meant 'Too Busy,' Suggests Philologist

AP: Minneapolis MN

You may have heard that the word “witch” originally meant “wise one,” or “bender [of reality]”, or “waker [of the dead].”

But if Stefano Pozzo, Doctor of Philology at the University of Paganistan is correct, the word derives instead from an Anglo-Saxon adjective meaning “too busy.”

“Students of Old English, the parent language of Modern English spoken more than 1000 years ago, have long suspected the existence of an I-stem adjective wicca” said Pozzo, who pronounces the word WITCH-ah, “but until recently we had no manuscript evidence to prove it. Newly-available palimpsest studies, however, make it clear, not only that the word existed, but that its original meaning, as we had long suspected, was 'too busy.'”

Surviving Old English texts, he explained, were largely written on parchment, which at the time was a valuable resource, far too valuable simply to throw away. It was common practice to reuse old parchment by scraping off the original ink and writing a new text on the erased surface.

Pozzo noted that new computer technology has now made it possible to read erased texts, known as palimpsests, which had heretofore been inaccessible to scholars.

In a recent article, Hebrew University's Dr. Tzemakh Posner amplifies Pozzo's contention.

Last modified on

Additional information