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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What Do You Say to an Angry Lake?

Red Lake is Minnesota's largest lake.

Two months ago, two fishermen were drowned there. Their bodies have yet to be recovered.

In traditional lore, when a lake takes a life, this means that the lake is angry.

Why would a lake be angry? Because people take too much.

Since the drownings, there has been no fishing on the lake. Local media has mostly reported that the Red Lake Band of Ojibwe banned fishing on the lake, but that's not entirely accurate. In fact, there was no top-down pronouncement; people simply stopped fishing because that's the traditional way. Everyone knows what the deaths mean, and what you do and don't do in response.

Since then the Band has held a series of potluck feasts at the Lake. Each time, they have set aside food for the lake. When you take, you need to give back. That's the Old Way.

Each time, the elders have burnt sage and spoken to the lake. I don't need to tell you what they said.

Now, after two months, the elders feel that the lake has been calmed, and that fishing may once again resume.

In this sad story there is much to learn, if only we are wise enough to listen.






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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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