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.
Summerland Spirit Festival: Turtle Creek, Wisconsin, July 2014.
The Wild Hunt: post-industrial primitive. We've gathered in front of the hall: the hunters with our face paint and spears, along with the rest of the tribe. When the horns blow, we'll all process down to the Stones, where the Elders will call the Deer. We'll hunt, kill, and mourn him properly before we eat him and rejoice: the mysteries of life and death, the old, true ways.
A little girl whose name I don't know--she's maybe seven--comes up to me and asks very specific questions about the patterns of our face paint. Actually, she's already got it all figured out. The blue line across the nose and cheekbones means "hunter." The crossing line down the brow and ridge of the nose means "tribe." Right?
Actually, she is right. I hadn't realized that the patterns had this meaning until she pointed it out. I dignify her questions with answers I didn't know I knew.
Then the horns blow and we're off.
The tribe enters the Stones through an avenue of painted hunters, chanting with the drums and pounding spear-butts on the ground. Midway through the procession, here comes the Girl with the Questions and her little brother, stick-spears in hand. Somewhere she's managed to find blue paint and both of them sport the hunters' line across nose and cheekbones. They join the end of the hunters' gauntlet and pound and chant with the rest of us. When the last of the people have passed through, we shoo the junior hunters into the circle. Then we trot in ourselves to kneel before the Elders and ask them to call the Deer.
The Hunt is successful and turns into a grand party, but I'm still thinking about the girl with all the questions. The place that I've worked hard for more than 40 years to get to is her birthright, her point of departure. My profoundest insights are things she takes utterly for granted. I'm awed and envious.
Some day this little girl is going to be chief priestess of the Midwest. I hope I live to see it. Where are they going to take all this, those that come after us? Certainly to places I never expected and probably won't completely approve of: just the way it should be.
I can't wait.
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