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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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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Krishna's Anus

Good old Hinduism.

Among worshipers of Krishna, it's said that the Braj Mandal, the landscape around the holy city of Vrindavana—site of Krishna's childhood and youthful escapades with the gopis—is a physical incarnation of the god himself.

A god incarnate in a landscape. Surely there's something that any pagan can understand.

In his Vraja Bhakti Vilasa, Narayan Bhatt gets even more specific. Such-and-so a place is Krishna's nose, over here his left eye. And so on and so on.

Karhela and Kamai have the good fortune to be the god's two buttocks. (And how many times haven't I said, “That guy has the butt of a god”?)

His penis is Kurnabam. (Lucky Kurnabam.) Oddly enough, no testicles are reported, which—for a highly-sexed god like Krishna—seems pretty unlikely.

But, of all places, Krishnakshipana has the honor of being Krishna's anus.

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The People of the Knife

How do you say “athame” in Old Witch?

“Athame”—the standard modern name for the witch's ritual knife—is a word of French origin, from Old French atamer, “to cut.”

(Variously pronounced across contemporary Witchdom, around here the word rhymes with “Hathaway.”)

As such, mythically speaking, it will have entered the vocabulary of English-speaking witchery along with the Norman Craft at some point after 1066.

So what did the Hwicce—the original Anglo-Saxon Tribe of Witches—call their ritual knives?

The dialect of Old English spoken by the Hwicce distinguished between two kinds of knife: cníf (K'NEEF), ancestral to modern “knife,” and seax, defined variously as a knife, hip-knife, short sword, dirk, or dagger.

Deriving ultimately from a proto-Indo-European root meaning “to cut”—the same root also gave rise to “scythe,” “saw,” and “sedge” (originally “sword”)—seax is also said to have given rise to the ethnonym Saxon as well: the “People of the Knife.”

Although seax fell out of general usage, it has survived to modern times with specific application as a name for a “slater's ax” used to cut (and pierce) roof-slates: variously sax, saxe, or zax.

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In Which Our Intrepid Blogger Hopes that He's Wrong

The Romans (of course) had a phrase for it.

Absit omen: “May it not be an omen.”

As resident priest here at the Temple of the Moon, I make offerings twice daily—mornings and evenings—and pray for the well-being of pagan peoples everywhere. As one might expect of a pagan temple, the prayers take different forms depending on what time of year it is.

The prayers, of course, are recited from memory. Twice now during the last few days, I've slipped up and started prayers in their Winter form. Both times, thankfully, I've managed to catch myself before I'd got very far, and corrected the prayers to the proper Summer form instead.

But now I'm starting to worry. Even though, here in the North, Winter is the general default setting, somehow (whether rightly or wrongly) when things go wrong in ritual, they seem to take on a super-charged significance.

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  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    Well it is winter in the Southern Hemisphere. I did read a magazine article about climatologists watching three of Antarctica's i
A Vacation of the Spirit: The Life and Times of Hoot Koomi, Feline Mahatma

Just why John decided to name his cat Koomi, I don't know.

But when he and I started dating one summer, we soon had her figured out.

Imagine Theosophy's Helena Blavatsky as a brown tabby. That would be Koomi. Obese, indolent, with an endemic frown and piercing eyes that put you in your place. No one ever saw Koomi move. Judging from the food dish and the litter box she must have; then it occurred to us that this must actually have been evidence of teleportation instead.

For Koomi-cat was no mere kitty. Clearly, this was none other than Hoot Koomi, the feline mahatma. After centuries spent guiding the evolution of souls—Koot Hoomi, anyone?—she had clearly decided to take an incarnation off. This time around, Hoot Koomi was not going to do anything she didn't want to do.

In fact, she wasn't going to do anything.

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The Ugliest Troll in the North Country


When you've been abducted by the Troll-in-Chief, it's good to have some magic as backup.

 

The Loathly* Worm

 

President Trump, he must be

the ugliest troll in the North Countree.

President Trump, he must be

the ugliest troll in the North Countree.

 


President Trump, that lives in Trump Tower,

the ugliest troll in the North Countree,

has trysted me in and up to his bower,

and many a fair speech he's made to me.

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Dancing with the Black Man

I recently had an e-mail from a friend who, after this year's Midwest Grand Sabbat, had packed up the family and headed out on a road trip, destination: Salem, Mass.

As an offering, she'd brought a cork from the Grand Sabbat night.

Now, this may seem an odd kind of offering to make, of little or no intrinsic value, but think about it.

Gods help us, the Salem witch craze of 1692 is probably the most famous witch hunt of history. (Americans have always been good at publicity.) Personally, I doubt that we see here anything more than scapegoating and the pathological inner workings of theocratic society.

But let us say for a moment—call it “mythic history”—that there actually were witches of our sort in “17th” century Salem: people who fled to the New World because it was no longer safe to keep to the Old Ways back in the old one.

What do they find when they get here? A mighty Forest (and such a forest!) and in that forest, who but the Black Man Himself, our beloved Horn-God, more beautiful and terrible than ever, already waiting for us.

Waiting to dance.

Would you not want to know that, 300-some years on, our people are still here?

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