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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Walks-Into-the-Sky

See that grayware jar there on the sideboard? The tall one, with the swirling black spirals?

That's for my ashes.

Bring it to the first Grand Sabbat after I die. (You might want to seal the lid with beeswax first.) On the first night, set it at the foot of the altar. Let it stand there throughout the gathering.

On the night of the Sabbat, when you remember the dead, call my name. When you pour for the dead, pour for me.

(Pinot noir by preference, but you know me: anything but mead.)

And then the Old Buck's last Grand Sabbat.

(Be careful not to kick the jar over during the Grand Sacrifice. You know how frenzied those can get.)

On the last morning of that first gathering of the tribe of Witches after I die, when the Horned comes for the last time to lead the people up out of the forest and into the sunlight, bring the jar.

When, at the foot of the hill, he turns in final farewell, set it in the crook of his arm.

He'll take it with him up the hill then, as he sinks (in a pillar of white flame) into the Earth, as he walks into the Sky.

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American May Song

Called the “father of American music,” Pittsburgh-born songwriter Stephen Foster (1826-1864) wrote more than 200 popular songs, including such classics as Camptown Races, Way Down Upon the Swanee River, and Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair.

Sharing both a name and a hometown with him, I grew up with Foster's music: I sang his songs at school, and on road-trips with my parents and grandparents. I learned to play the piano from a book of his music.

Much of Foster's repertoire sang of life in the Old South, which makes it an uncomfortable fit today. Much of it, frankly, makes for difficult listening. To his credit, one must at least acknowledge that, in his songs, Foster again and again sympathetically depicts the humanity, dignity and deep sorrow of the enslaved.

In The Merry, Merry Month of May we see Foster in age looking back nostalgically at his youth. It's not his best song, but it is, nonetheless, an American May song.

And you gotta love that “May/gay” thing.

 

The Merry, Merry Month of May

(published by Daughaday & Hammond, Philadelphia, 1862)

 

We roamed the fields and river-sides

when we were young and gay;

we chased the bees and plucked the flowers,

in the merry, merry month of May.

 

Oh yes, with ever-changing sport

we whiled the hours away;

the skies were bright, our hearts were light

in the merry, merry month of May.

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Thunder Likes Guys

 Reader alert: Sexual content

 

What is it about gay sex and thunderstorms?

Daniel and I had been having a particularly athletic bout one afternoon when, just at climax, there came a bone-rattling clap of thunder, and the rain suddenly began to roar down.

“We did that,” Daniel said, chin-pointing outside.

Son of unbelief that I am, it was hard to doubt that he was right.

I was reminded of this experience recently when I heard a similar tale from a friend.

Ask any gay guy. Among the brothers, there's pretty much unspoken agreement that experience suggests some sort of connection between the two.

Now, why it should be gay sex and thunderstorms, as distinguished from non-gay sex and thunderstorms, I couldn't tell you, not having had much experience when it comes to the latter myself. (Call me homonormative; see if I care.) Certainly, as a local Wiccan priest who is himself gay has observed, with male-male sex there are more likely to be, shall we say, liquids flying around. So maybe it's a matter of sympathetic magic.

Thunder, of course, is well-known to be the most virile of gods, voracious of appetite when it comes to food and liquor, women and men. Statistically we can say that eight out of ten people struck by lightning in the US are men. Make of that what you will.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    This may sound odd but in areas where flooding is not a seasonal thing that happens every year I believe that the flood is an act
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    One wonders about floods. "Hey boys, better ease off for a while"? Hah. Good luck with that one.
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I've been hearing about drought in the American Southwest for it seems like a decade now, and I read a Time magazine article about

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Do Witches Throw Rice at Weddings?

Do witches throw rice at weddings?

Seriously? You are actually asking me if witches throw rice at weddings?

For gods' sakes. What kind of cowanish question is that?

Of course we don't throw rice at weddings.

(“Do witches throw rice at weddings?" Ye gods.)

Cowans throw rice at weddings.

When it comes to weddings, witches don't hold with anything so newfangled as rice.

Witches hold to the Old Ways.

What's the oldest grain? Barley. Barley, which, in the dawning of days, the Mother gave to our people to be our food forever.

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The Fairest Month

At what season is Mabh—our beloved Earth—at her fairest?

Well, of course she has her beauties in every season, but many would say “in May.”

You'd have to be dead not to feel it. (Or maybe not: who knows what the dead can feel?) See the young green of the new leaves springing, the fresh yellow-green that you'll never see at any other time of year. Smell the bewitching fragrance of the blooming trees, with their promise of deliciousness to come. Hear the courtship songs of the birds. Feel the wind on your face: warm now, unbelievably. Savor the tang of the oniony wild ramp, the morel's earthy meatiness.

All this, with—savor it—no mosquitoes.

All winter long, we've been closed in with the stinks and discomforts of winter, with never a lick of privacy to be had.

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The Golden Cattail

It is said that when first our people came to the fair land of Paganistan, having crossed the waters of the Father of Waters—him that is called the Mississippi—they were met by the fair Lady of the Land herself.

They say that she gave them fair greeting and set into the hands of him who led them these two things: a cattail and an apple.

...
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Cherry Tree Carol

It's May, but I'm tasting July.

The cherry tree on the corner is blooming. Soon the hard little fruits will begin to set, no bigger than the pit of a cherry. Through May and June, they'll swell with succulence. In the White Nights of Midsummer, a cherry-ripe blush will spread across their maiden flesh, and by July we'll be picking, the first stone fruits of the year.

These, of course, are tart (“pie”) cherries. Minnesota's too cold to raise table cherries, but that doesn't stop us. Here in the North, we know that you need some piquancy to give sweetness character. Without an acid edge, mere sweetness is insipid.

The tree is not mine, but I do have gathering rights. Some years back I noticed that the fruit seemed to be going unharvested, which seemed a shame. My knock at the door went unanswered. “If someone objects, they'll let me know,” I thought, and began to fill my baskets.

Three years ago, a new couple bought Cherry Tree House. I went over and introduced myself.

“Hi, I'm the guy that's been stealing your cherries for years,” I said.

The woman laughed. “You're the third person that's said that,” she said. “Go ahead, pick all you want.”

So I do. Usually I drop off a pint or two of cherry vodka by way of thanks, but that's by the by.

Spring means time to eat up the last of last year's harvest, to make way for what's to come. This morning, I opened the last of the pippy black raspberry jam from the canes out back.

Soon I'll take the last of the cherries out of the freezer. For May Full Moon, I'll bake us up a nice, tart cherry crisp: the last of the old, making way for the first of the new.

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Recent comment in this post - Show all comments
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    This year I bought a pawpaw tree and a persimmon tree from Edible Landscaping. I've planted them and they are both still alive.

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