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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The Kensington Runestone Is Genuine

Some years back a friend and I drove out to see the famous runestone in Kensington, Minnesota.

Purportedly discovered by a farmer clearing a field in 1898, the runestone's inscription records the supposed visit of 14th century “vikings” to what is now Minnesota. Experts have mostly written it off as a hoax.

I think that the experts are probably right. My initial impression when I saw the runestone was that it doesn't look like a runestone; it looks like a page from a book. Historic runic inscriptions tend to be serpentine, curvilinear, not neatly arranged on the page in lines of equal length.

But I still think that the Kensington Runestone is genuine.

Let me explain.

In his 2009 book Mysteries of the Snake Goddess: Art, Desire, and the Forging of History, art historian Kenneth Lapatin tells a fascinating story of the discovery of Minoan Crete and how, practically from the very first discoveries, Arthur Evans' excavations at Knossos were accompanied by a burgeoning market in Minoan fakes. Everybody wanted a piece of Minoan Crete, and early 20th-century artists rose to the occasion to see that people got what they wanted.


The ancients and their artifacts are fact. The encounter between moderns and the ancients in turn naturally generates more artifacts in response. These new artifacts, inspired by the ancients, document the ongoing life and power of the ancient ways, and themselves become fact.

So while the new artifacts may not themselves be authentically ancient, what they do indeed authentically articulate is our relationship with the ancients. The very fact of the new artifacts is in itself an artifact, and in that sense embodies its own authenticity.

So as for me, I would say: the Runestone that made Kensington famous is, indeed, a genuine American runestone.

Regardless of who carved it.

Or when.


Kenneth Lapatin, Mysteries of the Snake Goddess: Art, Desire, and the Forging of History (2009). Houghton Mifflin.








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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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