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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Night on Bald Mountain

I suppose you could call it the witches' Olympus.

A place both real and mythic, the Sabbat Mount stands at the center of Witch mythology, both modern and ancient. It is there that we gather for our broomstick jamborees, both legendary and—increasingly—actual.

The Sabbat Mount is a real, live place. While the best-known is probably the Brocken in Germany's Harz Mountains, it has many other incarnations as well. Where there are witches, there will also be Sabbat Mounts.

In France, the Puy de Dôme was well-known as a gathering-spot for witches; at its summit, in Gallo-Roman times, stood a temple to Mercury, interpretatio Romana of the witches' virile, naked god.

The famed Italian Monte Venere (“Mount Venus”) inspired Richard Wagner's opera Tannhauser; Mount Triglaf (“three-horn”) was the site of the wild Midsummer revels of the Ukrainian witches, subject of Modest Mussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain.

Swedish witches gathered (and, apparently, still gather) at the Blåkulla (“black [or blue] hill”), often identified with the coastal island of Blå Jungfrun, the famed “Blue Maiden.”

In the New World, the Sabbat Mount of Pennsylvania's Deitsch country, the wooded hill known as the Hexenkopf (“witch's head”), was the site of witch revels past and present.

Here in the American Midwest, the wooded island in the middle of the Mississippi, now known as Trempealeau (“Stands-in-the-Water”) likewise plays host to Grand Sabbats both legendary and actual.

The Sabbat Mount is not merely the site of the Grand Convocation of the witches; it also marks the place where, in ancient times, the Horned, god of witches, descended from Heaven to bring Fire to the children of Earth. On the Sabbat Mount, Heaven and Earth conjoin.

Here's the mystery: although there are many Sabbat Mounts, they are all the same Mountain.

Soon August Eve will be upon us, and I'll be off to the Black (or Blue, or Bald) Mountain myself, where it stands in the midst of Mississippi's mighty waters.

Coming soon to a Sabbat Mount near you.

Where's yours?


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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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