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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Goodman's Croft

In Scotland, they call it the Goodman's Croft: the little corner of unplowed land that you leave in every field.

The Goodman, of course, is the Devil. Well, we know Who that is.

A croft is a farm, especially a small one. So the Devil's half-acre is land left wild, sacrosanct. The Wild is his field, as the deer are his cattle.

Plow if you must, but leave some for the wild. It's ancient tradition and soundest ecology, both.

The custom lives on here in the secular US Midwest. You'll notice that lots of fields have one lone tree standing in them, often with a cairn beneath. In any traditional society, you'd look at this and say: field shrine.

Well, the stones are from field clearance; they have to go somewhere, and take up less room piled.


And as for the tree: well, fields are sunny places, and in summer our Midwest Sun hits hard. So the farmer has a cool, shady place to rest and eat lunch.

That's the story, anyway.

In my own backyard garden—source of fine, organic vegetables for more than 30 years now—there's one corner that has never been tilled. Thrust into the little cairn there stands the Devil's Cross: the forked stick with cross-arm. That's where I lay the offerings at plowing, sowing, and harvest.

Our people has farmed and gardened since the end of the last Ice Age, but we still retain our immemorial covenant with the Wild.

They call him the Goodman, and maybe that's as good a name as any. Some say he's the Devil.

Well, and they would now, wouldn't they?

But we know Who He is.


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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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