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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When a Ritual Takes On a Life of Its Own

Tug-O-War Rope - Rental-World

The center of the ritual that night was to be a tug-of-war between Summer and Winter.

I think the occasion was Beltane, back in the early days of Paganistan, down at the old River Circle, in its grove of cottonwood trees. Energy was high; folks couldn't wait.

I can't remember how we chose who was going to pull for Summer, and who for Winter; maybe we counted off around the circle. Maybe we drew lots.

Anyone, there we were: rope in hands, ready to have a good haul to settle which season would prevail. (This being Minnesota, I can only hope that the Winter folks would have had the good sense—not to mention the sense of civic duty—to put up a good struggle, and then let Summer win.)

As I said, energy was high. Once we had the rope in hand, people immediately started shouting and tugging. Everyone was having lots of fun; the power in the air was palpable.

Then the priestess killed it.


The signal to start the War Between the Seasons was to have been the traditional dropped handkerchief. By starting before the handkerchief dropped, we weren't following the script.

So the priestess stopped the Tug and made us start over again.

The joy, the power, had all gone out of the ritual. Like obedient children, we did as we were told instead, and colored within the lines.

By hoving too closely to the script, the priestess had ruined the ritual.


I learned an important lesson in priestcraft that night.

When a ritual takes on a life of its own, script be damned.






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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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