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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People of the Deer

Witch-folk. We've pretty much always been a People of the Deer.

Sure, we've hunted larger game, and smaller, but down the years it's ostly deer that have kept the cauldron full and the family fed. Back in the old days, “deer” used to mean pretty much any kind of wild animal, did you know that? But now, a deer is...well, a deer. That tells you something about how important they've always been. To our people, deer are the animal par excellence.

Back in old tribal days, when we called ourselves the Dobunni (and later the Hwicce, which is where we get the name “witch” from), we were, admittedly, a People of the Herd, and our god (and our priests) wore bull's horns mostly.

But even then, just to the north lived the Cornovii, People of the Horn, and for them the god wore antlers. They're still fine hunters, the Cornovii, and being such near neighbors, there's been a lot of marrying back and forth down the years. My father's mother's people come from the old Cornovii hunting runs, in fact.

Well, it just makes sense. Unlike bulls, or elk for that matter—not to mention moose—a deer is human-sized, just about the same weight and volume that we are. There's something human about a deer. It's all a matter of scale.

Up here in the North Country, Samhain marks the time of the rut. Just now, the deer that will feed the People in years to come are being bred.

So you won't be surprised to hear that, in Witch temples all over, as Summer prayers switch over to Winter, the priest-kind pray twice daily for the safe gestation of those fawns now in the womb.

Samhain siring for Beltane bearing, we say.

And unto ages of ages.

 

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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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