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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Witch Kitsch

Someday I'll have a garage sale and sell off all my witch kitsch.

I've got boxes of it. Some I bought myself. The rest came from friends, down the years. Boxes and boxes.

Don't get me wrong. I love the Season of the Witch. With maybe just a little help from the Brothers Grimm, Halloween has pretty much single-handedly kept the figure of the witch present in the cultural memory. Outsiders we may be eleven months out of twelve, but come That Time of Year and suddenly everyone's an honorary.

A few years back I brought down the Samhain boxes and opened them up. Then I rocked back on my heels and had a think.

“The holiest time of year,” I thought, “and I welcome it by filling my house with tacky crap made by slave labor in China? Forget it. Unworthy.”

I put the boxes away and got out the good china. The beautiful things. The art. This is how I want to see the New Year in: with the fine. The real. The worthy.

A high school friend of mine used to collect Aunt Jemima kitsch. He thought it was hilarious. His mother, who was active in the Civil Rights movement, was horrified. “This garbage is the very symbol of our oppression, and you're collecting it? I don't even want this stuff in my house!” She never made him get rid of it, though. (She always was a woman of large heart.) But it did have to stay in his room.

I can see Mrs. Robinson's point, but I also see Jeff's. Laughter is a power, let there be no mistake: ridicule as antivenom.

Our situation is different, though. Witch kitsch doesn't make me feel oppressed. In some ways, it makes me feel proud. “Everything they say about us automatically becomes ours,” says my friend Frebur Moore.

Witches are my people, my thede, my tribe—what historian Stephen Yeates calls “the Kingdom of the Witches”—and it delights me that we're still so culturally present.

But in my house, now, the holy tides are for what Alan Garner calls “the beauty things.”

Someday I'll have that garage sale.

83 more shopping days till Samhain.






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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.


  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham Sunday, 10 August 2014

    Love this blog post. I get double the kitsch gifts from well meaning friends because I am both a witch and a christian minister. Many of my christian friends give me witch gifts at Samhain to show me how open minded they are, bless their hearts. But I must say none of the witch kitsch matches my glow in the dark Pepto Bismol pink plastic magic 8 ball Jesus who tells me things like "Repent" and "Let me ask my Dad." ;)

  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch Sunday, 17 August 2014

    And here I always thought Hindus had all the best god-kitsch. Thanks, Lizann: you've made my world a larger place. I think.

    The Magic 8-Ball has always been my favorite divinatory tool-of-choice. "My sources say yes." "Reply hazy: try again later."

  • T-Roy
    T-Roy Saturday, 16 August 2014

    I will say that some witch kitsch is cute but I'm raising a baby Witch and have grown quite tired of the whys around the kitsch witch images she sees at Halloween time. They don't fit with what I teach her about Samhain as a time to honor the dead nor with how she views herself. In fact 'Halloween witch' has become the opposite of 'real Witch' in my house.

  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch Sunday, 17 August 2014

    It's been interesting down the decades to watch Halloween and Samhain growing farther apart. Yule and Christmas even more so: sometimes it seems to me that, tangled family relationship apart, the two have hardly anything in common any more. I guess that happens with siblings sometimes.

    "Halloween witch" is a rich and resonant term, T: I planning to quote you regularly. Life in High Context is the life for me.

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