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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Post-Apocalypse Pagan Fiction II: The 70s, 80s, and 90s

Marvin Kaye and Parke Godwin, Masters of Solitude (1978)

After an invasion from China destroys the US, the megalopolis that covers the East Coast walls itself off from the wilderness to the West, where deer-like witches breed for psychic skills and create a genuine American witchery. Part of the fun is seeing what witch vocabulary might turn into in a few hundred years or so. (I don't need lep or a thammy to wish you a happy Grannog.) But those nasty coal-digging Kriss just keep cooking up toxic bugs to kill off the evil devil-worshipers. What to do?

Favorite line: “Who you callin' 'cowan'?”

_____, Wintermind (1982)

City and Craft have largely reconciled, to mutual benefit, but it's not enough to save the relationship between Arin, who's committed to the new alliance, and Shalane, who pines for the old, pre-contact days. Set largely among the witches of Cape Cod, with a fascinating look into regional witch culture and folklore.

Favorite line: “Nice folks, for Christian.”

Rumors of a third novel, Singer Among the Nightingales, have yet to be confirmed.

Stewart Farrar, Omega (1980)

Farrar's best novel, by far. When an ill-conceived power-generating scheme triggers worldwide earthquakes and tsunamis that destroy civilization, it's up to the witches of England to save what's left. But a power-driven clique in the government sets up those very witches as scapegoats. Somehow Stewart's stuff always manages to come down to a magical battle between the good witches and the “gone-black” ones. Not to worry, though, it's Stonehenge to the rescue. Just don't breathe that Dust, OK?

Favorite exchange: “Wasn't there a dispute in your Craft a few years back about whether or not there was a King of the Witches?” “Yes, your Majesty, quite a heated one.” “Well, wouldn't it be ironic if they started calling me that?”

Starhawk, The Fifth Sacred Thing (1993)

It's utopia versus dystopia in post-eco-disaster California. Can the peaceful, egalitarian, mixed-race, polyamorous witches of San Francisco stem invasion by the violent, hierarchical, racist, sexist-puritanical Christians of LA using magic, emotional manipulation, and non-violent resistance?

Unlike most utopian novels, this one actually has compelling narrative and engaging characters (not to mention one downright mythic one: the bee-priestess or “Melissa”) to recommend it. Alas, the story struggles to overcome its agenda-driven nature.

Nightmare alert: a city that runs by consensus. Shudder.

Coda: Word is, there's a 5ST movie planned ( We'll see if it beats Dies the Fire (according to Stirling, Sony is interested: to screen.

Two post-apocalypse pagan films in the making. Maybe I should just die now. How much happier could I get?




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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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