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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Death of a Poet

You've heard the tale of Thomas Rhymer, lover to the Queen of Elfhame, who after seven years came back with a tongue that could never lie.

Well, Thomas of Earlston was a real, live man who lived in the 13th century, and you can see his name on a number of charters from the time, if you've a mind to.

And here's the story of his passing.

One day in his age Old Thomas was sitting by his hearth, talking with friends. Just then a lad comes rushing in, all out of breath, and says: Come quick! You've got to see this! There's a big old stag with big old antlers just sauntering down the High Street as if he owned it!

And Thomas says to his friends: Ah, that would be for me, now.


He gets up, puts on his hat, and goes out into the street. Here's the big old stag with his big old antlers, and he and Thomas give each other a nod like you would to an old friend. Then the stag turns and walks out of town, and Thomas right behind him.

Well, the stag takes him out and up to an elf mound, and the mound opens up before them. In they both go and, sure enough, the mound closes up again behind.

And that, they say, was the end of Thomas the Rhymer.

Or maybe it wasn't, now.


James A. H. Murray, ed., The Romance and Prophecies of Thomas of Ercildoune (1875). Ludgate: Trübner. Reprinted 1991, Felinfach: Llanerch.

You can hear Ewan McColl sing The Ballad of True Thomas here.







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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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