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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Where Were the Pagan Gods During the Christian Centuries?


Time: 800 years ago

Place: Latvia

In the Hall of Perkons—Thunder—the Old Gods of Latvia have gathered to discuss a terrible danger that threatens their beloved land and people.

It is this: the Pope of Rome has declared a crusade against the “pagans” of the Baltic Lands, and sent evil and rapacious men called the Teutonic Knights to enslave all of Latvia.

This would be Europe's first genocide.

The Old Gods—Earth, Sun, Thunder, Moon, the Winds, the Rivers, the Gods of Field and Forest—all swear to stand by their people, to guard and nurture them, each in his or her own way. Thunder himself swears to send the people a mighty hero who, with Thunder's own protection, will lead them against their foes.

So begins the story of the Bearslayer (Láchplesis), the Latvian national epic.

There is much here to tell; I will soon be reviewing Arthur Cropley's 2006 translation of the work. But for now, let us observe how this story addresses an important question which surely every thoughtful contemporary pagan must ask herself: Where were the pagan gods during the Christian centuries?

Here we have the answer. The gods have never deserted us. Though their groves and temples were thrown down and their worship overthrown, they have never failed in their faithfulness to us, nor ceased to do their sacred Work on which our lives depend.

Through all our centuries of faithlessness, they have waited, waited for us, their people, to return.

No, the Old Gods never left us; it is we who left Them.

At the end of the epic, locked in combat with his foe the Black Knight, Bearslayer tumbles from a cliff into the waters of the River Daugava. Some say that the two of them are there still, locked in unending struggle.

But others say that Bearslayer lies now on a golden bed in the crystal palace of the goddess Daugava herself. Some day—so says the tale—he will rise from his bed and resume his mortal combat with the Black Knight.

But this time, Bearslayer will overcome his foe, and the lifeless body of the Black Knight will be thrown back into the waters of the River Daugava, never to return.

And Latvia will once again be free.






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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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