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.
William Penn and the Witch of Ridley Creek

February 1684: Pennsylvania's first witch trial.

A woman named Margaret Mattson stands before Governor William Penn, accused of witchcraft.

The evidence is flimsy. Mattson is said to have bewitched the cattle of two neighbors, and a third neighbor testifies that she appeared spectrally at the foot of his bed and threatened him with a knife.

Mattson denies the charges.

Penn asks a test question. “Have you ever flown through the air on a broom?”

To everyone's amazement, Mattson answers: “Yes.”

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Old Warlock's Kick-Ass Pickled Garlic

 “Let food be your medicine.”

(attributed to Hippokrates of Kos)

 

I started this batch of pickled garlic back before Yule, and made the mistake of setting it out on the Yule board, well before its time.

Yikes. Each clove of garlic burned in the mouth like a red-hot glede.

Disappointed, I set the pickle aside and, basically, forgot about it.

Thank Goddess.

Last week I came across the jar again and, some five months on, decided to give it another try. “If ever my immune system needed a boost, it's now,” I thought.

Ohmigods.

No longer does the garlic burn: it's now like a kiss. Everything else tastes pallid by comparison.

So here's your chance to make your own. Just be sure to let it ripen well.

Yes, I know, I'm a son of Northern Europe living in Minnesota, and this is an Asian recipe. But you know what they say about warlocks.

We sure do get around.

Old Warlock's Kick-Ass Pickled Garlic

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Against Covid, Which God?

Monotheists have it easy. They never have to ask: Which god?

For the rest of us, things get rather more complicated.

In time of plague, as now, to Whom do you turn?

Well, when you need help, who do you usually ask for assistance? The near-by, those with whom you already have good friendship: kin, friends, neighbors.

In time of epidemic, for protection for you and yours, you turn to your luck-god, Whomever that may be.

(Bear in mind, of course, that intangible protections are always best used in partnership with tangible ones as well.)

But collectively, to Whom do we turn for aid in time of plague?

In the Old Ways, there's no wall of separation between reality and mythology. Let us start with a simple fact: sunlight kills covid.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Makes good sense, Earth being the center of everything that we know. One of the advantages of polytheism is that there's always mo
  • Victoria
    Victoria says #
    Interesting post. I turn to Еогþe, from surviving Old English literature Еогþe was associated with healing magic and has power ove

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Just Like the Vampires Rise

Over dinner one night, a witch friend and I were discussing the Russian Easter liturgy which the two of us had recently attended

(No, we hadn't gone to collect hosts to desecrate—Orthodox don't use hosts—but rather to observe and be instructed by a liturgical masterpiece, one of humanity's truly great rituals. If you want to experience what the Mysteries of Eleusis felt like, you really need to check out Orthodox Easter.)

Memorably, the service is punctuated again and again by the Resurrection troparion, the holiday's leitmotif:

 

Christ is risen from the dead,

trampling down Death by death,

and upon those in the tombs

bestowing life.

 

By the end of the four-hour service, you've heard this chant scores, if not hundreds, of times. You really can't help but know it.

Rising to get something from the kitchen, my friend spontaneously improvises a parody troparion:

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Sentiment Unbecoming a Witch

I'm sorry, but I don't want to hear it.

(Actually, I'm not at all sorry, and I really don't want to hear it. But this is, after all, Minnesota, and that's just what we say.)

Self-pity is sentiment unbecoming a witch.

That's why witches don't whine.

Witches never whine.

Whining = air pollution. Whining poisons the air around you. Whining poisons everyone around you.

Whining poisons you.

Witches don't have time to whine; witches are too busy doing.

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The Old God of Aldborough

 "The Horned God of the Brigantes"

(Guy Ragland Phillips)

 

If I told you that a Roman era image of the Horned God was being venerated in a parish church in Yorkshire, would you believe me?

Well, it's true.

Next time you're in the West Riding of Yorkshire, check out St. Andrew's Church in the little village of Aldborough (lit. “old fortified town”). There, set into a wall in the transept, you'll find a 1600+-year old bas relief of a mysterious figure that Guy Ragland Phillips, in his Brigantia: A Mysteriography (1976) calls “the Horned God of the Brigantes” ; for these were, indeed, the old tribal hunting runs of the Celtic people known as the Brigantes.

Despite its current diminished state, Aldborough was once a thriving Roman civitas called Isuriam Brigantum. Here, while digging foundations for St. Andrew's in the 1330s, was discovered the mysterious relief of the “Horned God.” The relief was subsequently set (aptly enough) into a churchyard wall; centuries of exposure to the elements explains its current weathered condition. The god was not moved to his current location inside the church until the 19th century.

17th century sources make it clear that the relief originally represented the Roman god Mercury; the herald's staff that he once held in his right hand is no longer visible. It's possible that the image was once part of a temple of Mercury on the same location.

Lest this identification should seem to consort but ill with Phillips' reading, bear in mind that, in Romano-Celtic times, it was not unusual for the old Celtic Horned God to be identified with (inter alia) the Roman Mercury. Cross-pantheon identification is, to say the very least, an inexact science. Mercury's virile nudity, his patronage of cattle, his fatherhood of the god Pan, and the wings on his hat made him a not unreasonable interpretatio Romana of the old horned god. Wings, horns: really, what's the big difference?

As one would expect, since the Pagan Revival, the Old God of Aldborough has become known to, and venerated by, local pagans. I have it from a local source who wishes to remain anonymous that the church's staff regularly find offerings of flowers, fruit, and money laid before the god.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Sorry, I'm not following.
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I like it. For some reason the phrase "flipping the bird to materialism" comes to mind.
  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale says #
    That's really cool.

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
A Shared Bed Is Warmer

A shared bed is warmer.

(Nils-Aslak Valkeapää)

 

Beltanes up at Sioux Portage were always cold, and that was the year that it snowed while we were dancing the Maypole.

I was skinny as a boy well into my 30s. In the time that it took to empty my bladder and fumble my way back into the tent, I was already shivering uncontrollably.

Fortunately, I had offered tent-room to my friend Daniel that year. Though we weren't lovers at the time—that would come later—in an act of pure body hospitality, only half-awake, he wordlessly opened his arms to me and enwrapped me in primal mammalian comfort. Willingly I dove into those warm waters.

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