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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Scars of Honor: A Brief Disquisition on the Men's Mysteries

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

 What no man may tell, nor woman know.


My father once said, What do you want for your children? You want them to have what you never did.

I had presided at G's Naming, so when it came time for his Man-Making, it was natural that his foster father should give me a call. We got together with G's godfather, and together the three of us planned a nice, tight little ritual, the rite that we all wished we'd had for ourselves.

Later that night, as I was writing up the outline that we'd crafted, I realized that we'd left out something important. Actually, what we had left out was the single most important thing of all.

Intangibles aside, the Men's Mysteries—the secret things, the things not spoken of—are all to do with the rites of Man-Making. Boys are born, men are made, as the old saying goes.

At the very heart of the ritual lies one central metaphor, the single, perfect image that illuminates all the rest. When first you experience this, something in you says: Of course, that's exactly right, that's just how we've always done it. It is this seeing, this understanding, that the oaths of secrecy protect.

We rewrote the ritual accordingly, and so G had the Man-Making that he deserved, the Man-Making that the rest of us wished that we'd had for ourselves.

Which is, of course, as it should be.

One of the questions that the three of us asked ourselves beforehand was: Can we, who never experienced these rites for ourselves, rightfully enact them for someone else?

The rite itself showed us that we could: that having managed, even without benefit of rite, to make our own way to manhood, we were thereby entitled to bestow the status upon others.

But to be made a man by tribal rite is the older and better way.

The rite taught us something more.

At the very end, after the oath-taking, the new men line up to receive the ritual scars of honor that seal the ancient rite.

At that time, those of us who never underwent the proper rites may line up along with them, and receive our own scarification.

And, new men and old, we wear our scars with pride.



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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.


  • Piper
    Piper Wednesday, 07 September 2016


  • Piper
    Piper Wednesday, 07 September 2016

    Should have added this, sometimes men come with their own scars, we just honor them and how they were acquired

  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch Friday, 09 September 2016

    Gods, yes.

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