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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Why Pagans Do Ritual

It's still the single best rationale for pagan ritual that I've ever heard.

Back in the early days of the Wiccan revival, a reporter asked Gardner's first post-Valiente priestess, Dayonis, "Why do you do your rituals?"

"Because," she told him, "if we didn't, the Sun wouldn't come up in the morning."

Now that's a proper pagan answer.

Aunt Doreen—rather peevishly, one thinks—later dismissed this reply as simple-minded. Well, she knew Dayonis better than I do.

But I still think she missed the point.

We have it from the ancestors that we "do" rituals (gods, what an unsatisfactory phrase) for the sake of the well-being of the world. If we think that our rites are just for us, we are mistaken.

A Zuñi elder once told an anthropologist that if ever—gods forbid—the Old Rites should stop, the world would come to an end.

Think about that.

I've heard similar (if not identical) things from tribal elders elsewhere: from Australia, from Africa, from South America.

But, in each case, the elder adds a coda: As long as there's even one person who keeps up the Old Ways, the world will be maintained.

One is all it takes.

And who is that one? Why, it's you, of course. It's me.

That's why we need to work our rites with a driving sense of urgency, as if the very life of the world depended on what we do.

Because it does.

I'm keeper of the coven temple. As such, twice daily I make the prescribed offerings and prayers for the well-being of the People.

And sure enough, each morning—just as Dayonis told the reporter—the Sun comes up again.


For C. M.

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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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