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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Q: What's the difference between a Jehovah's Witness and a Wiccan?

A: Three Watchtowers.

These days witches' circles are often cast complete with invocations to the guardians of the Watchtowers, one in each cardinal direction.

According to researcher John Michael Greer, the Watchtowers most likely entered the Craft from the Golden Dawn, which in turn derived them from John Dee's Enochian magic. During the original Enochian workings, during the 1580s, scryer Edward Kelly had a vision of four great towers at the quarters of the earth, the seats of guardian archangels (Greer 581).

Down the years, the Watchtowers and their guardians have acquired a deal of lore, little of which has anything to do with the original metaphor. But rising above the amassed archangels, elements, and Enochian tablets stands a simple, clear image: an image with implications.

In pre-modern times, watchtowers were part of a kingdom's defensive system: tall towers, located in high places, that offered an extensive view of their surroundings. They'd be built on the boundaries of the realm for the purpose one might expect: to keep protective watch over the marchlands. The circle is a territory and the watchtowers mark out its boundaries. 


In the magic circle with its Four Watchtowers, then, we have, in effect, re-entered old tribal territory. Its clearly-defined boundaries between in and out, tame and wild, us and other, very neatly reflect the same division of space into in-garth and out-garth that characterises ancient Germanic thought (Wódening 5ff).


In the magic circle we stand once again, as it were, in the ancient Kingdom of the Hwicce, the theedish (tribal) homeland of the Tribe of Witches.


John Michael Greer, The New Encyclopedia of the Occult (2003). Llewellyn.

Eric Wódening, We Are Our Deeds: The Elder Heathenry, Its Ethic and Thew (1998). Theod.

Stephen J. Yeates, The Tribe of Witches: The Religion of the Dobunni and Hwicce (2008). Oxbow.


The Prospect Park Witch's Hat Tower (1913), shown above, stands on the highest point in Hennepin County, Minnesota (N 44° 58.125 W 093°). Designed by Frederick William Capelen, it is one of Minneapolis' most distinctive landmarks, and has been the site (as one would expect) of pagan ritual since the late 70s. It figures prominently in Emma Bull's urban elves fantasy, War for the Oaks.


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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 Saturday, 30 May 2015

    I thought the watchtowers thing was taken from the freemasons, and that the masons in turn got it from the Bible. I can never remember if it was in Numbers or Deuteronomy that the camp of the Israelites is described with three tribes to the east, three to the south, three to the west and three to the north.

  • Piper
    Piper Monday, 01 June 2015

    Well, maybe the bible, but I share 2 lodges (Blue and SRICF or SRIA)with these three guys:
    Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers
    William Wynn Westcott
    William Robert Woodman
    so I would bet more on the Golden Dawn before masonry, there are no "4 corners" in Masonry, There is the East , The Place of the Master of the Lodge, the West, The Station of the Sr. Warden, the South, The Station of the Jr. Warden. The North is a place of darkness and while an entered Apprentice starts his journy n the northeast corner, masonry really does not deal with the north except as the place you came from darkness into light.
    Also please do not forget dear old Elias Ashmole as he did have a influential place in early masonry.

    Elias Ashmole

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