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 World's Oldest Solstice Ritual

Remember when New Age discovered the Winter Solstice? Christmas Lite, without the baggage.

As a pagan, I grew to resent this. Not that the sunsteads—solstices—belong to us; they're a common inheritance. But don't be telling me about solstices, now. Some of us have been keeping them since, oh, the end of the last Ice Age or so, thank you very much. If not longer.

Somewhere around the third self-satisfied little sermon, I'd had enough, and started turning people into toads.

Really?” I'd effuse in my best Urban Gay Male accent. (Watch out for dripping sarcasm.) “Sounds wonderful." (Pause.) "So what do you do for the Summer Solstice?”



Well, what do you do for the summer solstice? (Funny: none of them ever even asked.) Not hard: the same as you do for the winter one. Probably the world's oldest sunstead ritual: what my friend Doc calls the Firewatch.

You see the Sun down and you light a fire.

You stay up all night to keep the fire burning. During the vigil, you do what people have always done to make time pass festively: you dance, sing, feast, make music, and love.

And then you see the Sun up again. Solstice.

Of course, there are seasonal variations. In the winter you deck with evergreens, in the summer with broad-leaf greens. Anyone out there that goes skinny-dipping on Midwinter's Eve is a hardier soul than I am. (There's a blessing on the waters, nonetheless.) The foods are different: the cows are in new milk now, the northern gardens just beginning to bear. Bring on the caraway cheese, the sour cream, the new potatoes, the dill, the asparagus,  the strawberry rhubarb. Tap the first birch beer from this year's running: it sparkles and kicks like champagne. Don't even think of leaving yet: this party's just beginning.

We Northrons love our summers, and we make the sweaty most of them. After all, there's no time to lose.

Winter is coming.


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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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