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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Of Beans, Rice, and Thinking Tribally

Back in the 70s, I was a good, doctrinaire Diet for a Small Planet vegetarian.

Frances Moore Lappé's epoch-making cookbook was based on the notion of protein complementarity: in order to get a complete protein, you need both beans and grains. Eaten together, you get more nutritional benefit from the combination than you would if you ate them separately.

So, religiously, I ate my beans and rice together at meal after meal after meal.

Since then, we've learned more about how the body handles these things. In fact, the body and its digestion is more flexible than we used to think. If you eat, say, your whole wheat toast for breakfast and your lentil soup at lunch, you'll still get the full protein benefit from the combination.

And that's another thing that the tribe does for us.

As a people, we need the complementarity of the sexes. In our tribe, gender balance is a major cultural value.

Here we see the advantage to thinking tribally: we can take the long view of things. In our tribe, we don't have to worry about maintaining gender balance in every single ritual. You don't have to invoke Goddess every time you invoke God. In the long term, it works itself out.

This means that just because they're holding a Women's Ritual over there, doesn't necessarily mean that we have to have a Men's Ritual over here at the same time, to balance it out.

Thank Goddess.

For the health and well-being of the tribe, we need our gender complementarity. But when we think in terms of tribal history, we are freed from the need to enact our values all at once, every time.

Ultimately, all paganism is tribal. Perhaps the single most important thing that we can do to become the pagans that our time needs us to be is to re-acquire the ability to think tribally.

So pull up that bowl of beans and rice, mate.

That's how we'll win in the end.


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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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