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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Blood Wedding

In this season of the Fathers and Mothers, one last ancestral tale, before we descend into Darkness.

His name, ironically, was Charlie Coward, and they say he was seven feet tall. It was he that made the Blood Marriage with the Land, and so we are Americans today.

In my family's Long Memory, his is the oldest name remembered in full. The oldest of all—but his given name is long forgotten—would be that Cow Herd whose name his descendants still bear.

When the American Civil War broke out, the US government offered immediate citizenship to any Englishman who would fight on the Union's behalf. So, with his wife and children, Charlie Coward came to America.

He died in his very first battle: a nameless little skirmish before Bull Run. So many have paid the blood price down the years.

Family legend has it that Charlie was seven feet tall, a giant. The warning shots from the Southern cannon that flew above the heads of his fellow soldiers took Charlie's head in a spray of brains and bone.

It must have been his wife, resilient—I do not know her name—who passed on his memory to her children, and they to theirs. As my grandfather told it, sitting on his front porch one summer afternoon, she married again and “had a whole slew of kids.” Surveying his own grandchildren sitting around him, he nodded, and finished the story: “And that was Charlie Coward, that was.” Even as a child I marked the force and affection of that diminutive.

They say that the spirits of the dead are pleased when their names are remembered. I remember my family's First American, a man seven feet tall, he who made the Blood Marriage with the Land.

And that was Charlie Coward, that was.




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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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