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 Season of the Trickster, or: Which Is Better, Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny?

 Hares 'dying' from mystery illness warns conservation expert - BBC News


Which is better, Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny? That's the first elementary school theological argument that I can remember getting into.

(Both figures, of course, represent a kind of temporary children's autonomy. For both, you're up early, before anyone else, and in full control of the house; not only that, but you get rewarded for it.)

For most of the other kids, the answer to this question was a no-brainer, but I can remember—characteristically enough—holding out for the minority position.

Santa just brings you clothes and socks and stuff that you don't want anyway, went my argument.

(In rather poignant hindsight, I can rephrase this as: Santa brings you things that you would want if you were who they thought you were, or rather, if you were who they wanted you to be. Thus, Santa and his gifts paradoxically embody a kind of existential parental rejection.)

The Bunny, on the other hand, brings you bad stuff.

Really: what other day of the year do you get to gorge on candy before breakfast?

On top of which, he makes you work for it.

(In retrospect, I can see here also the stirrings of an early proto-pagan instinct: Santa : culture :: Easter Bunny : nature.)

Sorry, folks: more than 50 years on, I stick with my original position.

The Bunny is way better.



Spring is the Season of the Trickster. This paradoxical figure turns up in culture after culture: the lovable, often raunchy, screw-up who teaches by the power of negative example. Maybe Spring is his season because it's so inherently surprising. I mean: dead is dead, right? And then, suddenly, counter to expectation, things start coming back to life.

I've always been intrigued by the fact that the major trickster-figure among Algonquin-speaking peoples—who inhabited a broad swath of central North America—is Hare. Stories of Old Man Coyote come from South and West, but here in the Middle, it's Hare—or Jackrabbit, as we know him hereabouts—that fills the Trickster niche in the cultural ecosystem.

(Cowans may not be able to tell the difference between a rabbit and a hare, but pagans know better.)

Though tales of the Ostara Hare come from another continent originally, there's an imagistic synchronization here that one can't help but savor. Add in Brother (“Brer”) Rabbit to the formulation—originally a West African trickster—and one really begins to wonder.

Almost, it begins to seem intentional: a kind of International Trickster Conspiracy.


Happy Season of the Trickster. It's been a long, hard Winter, but now it's Spring.

Let's go gorge on sugar.


how2heroes » Maple Candy




My friend and colleague "Granny" Ro Nicburn—who comes down on the Bunny side of things herself—observes that Santa also has behavorial (one might even say judgemental) overtones that the Bunny lacks. Being himself something of a f*ck-up, Hare mostly doesn't bother with any of that "naughty or nice" business.

I'm beginning to wonder if pro-Bunny preferences may not be an early indicator of future pagan identity. One could certainly see the draw.

Only future research will tell. Which of the two did you, dear reader, prefer?




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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.


  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham Monday, 11 April 2022

    Growing up I enjoyed them both with enthusiasm each in his own time. Nowadays the people who lived in the house before I moved in left behind an artificial Christmas tree and a bunch of ornaments I've never bothered to take out of the shed. Two years ago I saved up the twist ties from my bags of bread and bought some plastic Easter Eggs from the dollar tree store. I threaded the twisty ties through the eggs and hung them on one of the trees out in my front yard. I grew up seeing Egg Trees around town and always wanted one of my own. Now I can do that. What does it say about me that I've taken action to participate in one Holiday but not the other?

  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch Thursday, 14 April 2022

    I drove past an egg tree in someone's front yard the other day: its exuberant colors against the dull early Spring Minnesota landscape brought a smile to my lips.

    I can't think of a much better example of sympathetic magic than an egg tree. These things just recreate themselves.

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