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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In her 1974 autobiography Witch Blood: The Diary of a Witch High Priestess (39-40), Patricia Crowther cites as part of her initiation what she calls “the blessing prayer”:

In the name of Dryghtyn, the ancient providence,

which was from the beginning, and is for eternity,

male and female, the original source of all things;

all-knowing, all-pervading, all-powerful, changeless, eternal.


In the name of the Lady of the Moon

and the Lord of Death and Resurrection,


In the name of the Mighty Ones of the Four Quarters,

the Kings of the Elements,


Bless this place and this time and they who are with us.


This text, which has come to be known as the Dryghten Prayer, now figures, in various recensions, in numerous contemporary Books of Shadows. 


The prayer, which would seem to have come either from Gerald Gardner himself or from one of his very early associates (Crowther was initiated in 1960), is anomalous in a number of ways. It speculates in a largely non-speculative tradition. It implies an emanationist theogony not otherwise present in most Wiccan thinking (One becomes Two becomes Four becomes Many). And nowhere else in the standard Book of Shadows is the Unity underlying Goddess and God invoked so directly. Likewise unique to the prayer is the word Dryghtyn.


Any student of Old English knows the term well. Dryhten, a masculine noun meaning “ruler, king, lord, prince” is commonly applied to lords both earthly and heavenly. Ece Dryhten, “eternal Lord,” is one of the most frequently-occurring epithets of “God” in Beowulf.

The dryhten is lord by virtue of his leadership of the dryht, a “multitude, army, company of retainers, nation, people.” In Old English poetry, dryht regularly means “war-band.”

In contemporary Old Craft vocabulary, the term Drighten (rhymes with “brighten” or “frighten”) refers specifically to the Horned Lord himself in his role as (so to speak) leader of the pack.

So if you've ever wondered what covens were called before the French word coven came along—a surprisingly large percentage of Wiccan vocabulary derives from Norman French—you now know.

As the rhyme goes:

It was a drighten and his dright,

went out upon a Midsummer's night

and never came back till morning light,

no, they never came back till day-O!






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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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