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 Social Imperative of the Sabbat

In the topsy-turvy world of the Sabbat, the witch returns to the Dreamtime, in which all social norms are overturned.

At the Sabbat, there are no distinctions of “race,” of sex, of class, of gender.

At the Sabbat, all are equal.

At the Sabbat, if nowhere else, we encounter full social equality.

The stories of those early American Sabbats tell of indigenous, colonial, and enslaved all coming together to dance as one: red, white, black, all equal.

The Sabbat dreams of a new world, a world (as in the beginning) of radical equality.

The Sabbat embodies this dream.

In fact, the Sabbat predicts it.

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Yours, Mine, and Ours

“Oh, well, that's your opinion.”

How many times, in the anti-authoritarian—sometimes verging on antinomian—ethos of so much of what passes for modern paganism, have you heard a position dismissed with these words?

Implication: All opinions are equal.

But are they?

You're having terrible headaches.

You go to Posch. Posch says: You're stressed out. Here, eat more vegetables, learn these relaxation techniques, and spend 15 minutes meditating every day.

Then you go to the doctor. The doctor says: You have a brain tumor. We need to operate as soon as possible.

Well, Posch has an opinion, and the doctor has an opinion.

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Enough, or Wouldst Thou Know More?

Why are there so many witches in the Driftless?

Not hard.

Here, long ago, in ages of ages, and yesterday, the Horned, god of witches, fell like a star from Heaven.

Here he fell to Earth.

Bearing the Fire of the Gods, he landed here on the Mountain that stands in the River Mississippi: one of the Nine Sacred Mountains of the Driftless, the mountain-island known as Black Mountain, Rattlesnake Island, and Trempealeau; called by the Dakota, First People, Bluff-in-the-Water.

There, on top, you may see the imprint of his Hoof to this day, deep-scored in the rock.

There we still gather in immemorial sabbat. Here, in our day, was reborn the legendary witches' sabbat, in all its old terror and weird beauty.

Since when is this Inland Island, the Driftless Land, Witch Country forever.

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Two Old Warlocks

Gods: how did I get so lucky?

I was talking last night with a dear friend of many years when, unsurprisingly, one of us happened to bring up the Black Book of the Yezidis, a book bound—it is said—in deerskin. (Some say, written in fire on deerskin.)

Not only did the subject need no introduction, but each of us had a favorite verse from the Black Book of the Yezidis: verses, we agreed, that sound just like the Him that we know.

If that's not enough, we could each recite our favorite verse from memory.

 

His: I am present immediately for those that confide in me, and invoke me in time of need.

Mine: I guide without need of scripture, for my words are written on the hearts of my people.

We laughed in mutual appreciation, two old warlocks. How often in a life is one so privileged, to have such a conversation?

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    "...ringing like the sound of the pipes playing on the black mountain at midnight..."
  • Mike W
    Mike W says #
    Yes, two old warlocks do speak of many things that come from years of research, study and practice. But the joy and laughter of f
We Gather in the Midst of Gods: An Address on the Occasion of the Ninth Annual Offering to the Falls

 Twin Cities Pagan Pride 2019

 We gather in the midst of gods.

People of the Waters, my brothers and sisters:

Today we, a sacred people, are gathered here in this sacred place, on this sacred day, to accomplish a sacred work, and this is the nature of that work: to pray for the well-being of pagans, here and throughout the world.

Shortly now we will begin our Procession to that sacred Being, that concentration of Power, known to the First People of this Land, the Dakota, as Minnehaha: the Water That Falls.

There we will make our traditional Threefold Offering to the Falls, and to our offerings we will add our prayers. From here, Minnehaha's sacred waters will bear our offerings and our prayers to Minnehaha Creek, and so to the Mississippi, and so to the Ocean, and to all the rest of the world.

It is the immemorial Pagan Way that offering bears prayer. Today, we make three.

With the offering of water, we pray for Life for the People.

With the offering of meal, we pray for Food for the People.

With the offering of flowers, we pray for Beauty for the People.

For without these three things—life, sustenance, and inspiration—no People can live and thrive.

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  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Honor and offerings to the Poudre and all our waterways! I'm convinced that part of the ongoing importance of this ritual is that
  • Chas  S. Clifton
    Chas S. Clifton says #
    When I was talking at the Fort Collins, Colorado, Pagan Pride Day on August 24th, I had a similar idea. Then I read that you all i

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How Do You Say 'Sabbat' in Witch?

“Sabbat,” of course, is an imported word: from Hebrew, via Latin.

If it seems peculiar that the name for a gathering of witches should ultimately derive from the vocabulary of Judaism, bear in mind that an alternate name for the witch's sabbat was once the “synagogue of Satan.” To the witch-hunting eye, all non-Christians look alike.

(Aunt Margaret's derivation from medieval French s'ébattre, “to frolic, disport oneself” is a delightful jeu d'esprit, but not to be taken seriously as etymology.)

So, if we were looking for a natively English word for what would later be called the witch's sabbat, what would it be?

Well, in Scandinavia, at the rise of the Great Persecution, before the international term “sabbat” caught on, a meeting of witches was known as a witch-thing.

This, of course, is not thing as in “whatchamacallit,” but thing as in the Norse term althing, “meeting, assembly.”

Among Germanic-speaking populations in early medieval times, every area had a local thing, or folk-moot, which met periodically (often quarterly) to deal with regional business, while the tribe as a whole held its general assembly annually. This was known known as the all-thing.

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Avi—Dude—You're Gay; Figure It Out

 Reading Avi Steinberg's The Lost Book of Mormon: A Journey Through the Mythic Lands of Nephi, Zarahemla, and Kansas City, Missouri

(In Which Our Intrepid Blogger Proposes Marriage—Well, Kind Of—to a Man He's Never Met)

 

Avi Steinberg is on a quest. He's in search of his identity.

Well, there's nothing more American than that. Jewish, born in Israel, grew up in Cleveland...oh, an intellectual, and a writer. Of course he's in search of an identity.

Where better than to look than among the Mormons, right?

Avi's marriage (to a woman) isn't working, and he's running away from it by going on his quest. The good news: in the end Avi actually does manage to find his identity. The bad: I'm not quite sure that he realizes that he's found it.

I love Avi (me, I'd marry him any day), I love his writing, and I love his book. The book's central (really rather belabored) metaphor: writer as prophet, book as scripture. Who better to act as Dantean guide than that all-American prophet/shyster-cum-novelist Joseph Smith himself, with his fake Bible of gold plates, the Book of Mormon?

It's a quest, it's a romp, it's a meditation on the re-enchantment of landscape. Avi signs up with a Mormon tour group to see the “original” locations of the Book of Mormon events in Central America and Mexico. Then he travels to Palmyra, New York for an abortive appearance in the annual Hill Cumorah Pageant. Last of all he ends up in the Mormon Eden of Kansas City, Missouri.

I started to wonder during his account of the casting of the pageant, with its breathless descriptions of beefcake.

I kept wondering through his description about stripping down to his briefs along with his fellow actors.

But I was sure when I got to the epilogue.

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