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 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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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
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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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Pagan Overkill, or: Trying Too Hard

Fortunately, I managed to catch myself before I left the house.

It so happened that day that I was wearing a green Heart of the Beast May Day tee-shirt, sporting on the front a tree-man holding a baby.

So far, so good.

I'd combined it with a sage-green bill-cap with a horned Green Man badge on front.

Well: that's bearable, especially if the cap is worn bill-back. This could even pass for witty, in a witchy kind of way: a tribute to the god of the witches, with his Two Faces, fore and aft.

Yes, but over my shoulder I'd thrown a cloth bag with yet another Green Man printed on it. Two makes a point; three belabors it.

In poetry, unless you're an Anglo-Saxon scop (which I'm not), two alliterations per line is acceptable; three, though, is too many. (Yet another reason why Crowley's poetry stinks.)

In short, I'd become the pagan equivalent of the guy who wears around his neck a cross big enough (were one so inclined) to crucify a toad on.

Who wants to be that guy?

I went back in and traded the Green Man bag for something plainer.

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Army of Witches

It is said that during the dark days of the Great Persecution, certain friars secreted themselves near the sabbat-stead of a certain Alpine valley.

In this way they hoped to spy upon the witches in their gathering, and so ascertain once and for all the much-vexed question of what numbers the cult could claim.

Now it so happened—let it surprise no one—that these friars were in their turn espied by a certain warlock on his way to the sabbat, and this is what he said to them:

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