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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Renouncing Baptism

 “In Latgalia [a region of Latvia] they say, 'Oh, as soon as the missionaries left, we all just jumped in the river and washed it off, anyway.'” (Sean McLaughlin)

It's the first of the traditional Three Questions asked by the Horned at an initiation (and later repeated during the Renewal of Vows):

Do you renounce the waters of baptism?

Old Craft initiations are very different from Wiccan ones. They're not secret at all. Those who wish to take the Oath must first know the Oath. How can you swear to something that you haven't had the chance to think through thoroughly? You need to know what you're letting yourself in for. One cannot join the Tribe of Witches all unwitting.

Regarding the Grand Sabbat, I always tell people: You don't necessarily have to renounce the waters of baptism to be there, but you do need to understand why someone else might feel the need to do so.

Perhaps some day we'll reach the place where such questions need no longer be asked. I sincerely hope that we do. But for now, it seems to me, we need to remember that the god only asks the question: there is no correct answer. How you answer is your choice: a mirror that the god holds up to you, his gift to you at your Oathing. Often enough (as he did this year), when the Old Buck hears the answers, he laughs. 

If you choose to reject things done to you and vows made unknowing on your behalf, and feel the need to say so before witnesses, then so.

If instead you see no break, but a continuity, so.

And if you feel one thing but, for whatever reason, say another, well: then the god has told you something very important about yourself, something that you need to know and live with. So.

Why is the Craft the most successful of the new pagan religions? I would suggest that, along with magic and the myth (historicity notwithstanding) of Continuity, one important reason is that it offers a paradigm for relationship with the New Ways that the others simply do not: co-exist, co-opt, subvert. Use the power of the new ways for the weal of the old.

That's radical. That's subversive.

That's witching.

Everything between my left hand and and my right

I give to the Horns and the Wandering Moon.

Body and soul, whole and all,

I give myself to you.




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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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