Paganistan: Notes from the Secret Commonwealth

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How 'Brother' Jed, Campus Evangelist, Helped Launch the U of M's First-Ever Student Pagan Organization, and (Indirectly) Paganistan's Oldest Coven

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

I suppose most campuses have one: the self-appointed, probably slightly psychotic, street-corner evangelist to the (presumed) fallen.

In the late 80s, the University of Minnesota had Brother Jed.

You'd see him around campus, haranguing. No one took him seriously. Some engaged him; some egged him on. Me, I avoided him.

(One day, Brother Jed noticed me walk past, face averted, as he was enlarging on the evils of homosexuality. “Whah, they-ah goes one na-ow!” he denounced, adding, in an uncharacteristic moment of self-doubt, “Ah think.”)

Every (black) pearl starts with an intrusive piece of grit. One day, after the umpteenth encounter with Brother Jed, a graduate student named Magenta Griffith had had enough.

“We need a student pagan organization,” she thought.

She teamed up with some friends, and thus was born Children of the Night, the University of Minnesota's first student pagan organization.

(Yes, the name comes from Dracula. We're of a poetic bent here in the Northland; savoring irony is something of a local sport.)

Here's where yours truly enters the story. I'd come to the Twin Cities the previous year, ostensibly for grad school, but in actuality to find the Pagan Community of my dreams. In those pre-internet days, hooking up with other pagans was hard. Twelve months had gone by, and I still hadn't met any.

Then one day I walked into Lind Hall and saw the mimeograph on the wall.

Are you interested in Wicca? Druidism? Paganism?

Children of the Night: Student Pagan Organization

xxx date and time

xxx location

Interested? Was I ever! My memory is (thank you Mama) that I actually kissed the ground in joy.

Children of the Night's first meeting drew eight people. Magenta, her friend and (at the time) student Kay, and Knight (who had named the organization) were the three students who had signed the official paperwork to bring CotN (soon to be known familiarly as Kiddies After Dark and Bambinos After Bedtime) into existence. They'd also asked their friend Volkhvy, who—although not a student at the time—is a big, imposing-looking guy who wouldn't hurt a fly but has a talent for quashing trouble before it starts. Also in attendance were a reporter from the local paper and two frat guys looking for a good orgy. And me.

Well, as the song (kind of) says, “Things turned out all right/for Children of the Night.”

Some nine months later, Magenta, Kay and I started up Prodea: at going on 40 years now, still Paganistan's oldest (and most influential) coven.

Children of the Night, having passed through numerous incarnations, still exists.

So thank you Brother Jed, you irritating piece of grit. See what fruits your campus ministry have borne?

Truly, the gods work in mysterious ways.

 

 

 

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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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Comments

  • Ian Phanes
    Ian Phanes Thursday, 07 November 2019

    Did you notice that Jed wasn't there every day? That's because he, and some others of his ilk, travel a circuit of multiple campuses. Max was the main preacher when I showed up at the University of Illinois in 1985, but Jed showed up a few years later.

    FYI, I attended the *last* meeting of a pagan student group at the U of I in 1985, so Children of the Night wasn't the first.

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