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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Steven Posch

Steven Posch

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.

 When Should You Use The Delicate Setting On Your Tumble Dryer?


Dear Boss Warlock:

Always check pockets first.

So: a pen got into the dryer and now there's ink all over the dryer barrel. I fielded suggestions from the coven about what to do about the ink, but here's my question for you: how many chickens should I sacrifice?

Unlucky in Utica


Dear UU:

It is a wise witch who understands that there are no purely physical issues.

Annoying as the problem may be, on the grand scale of things, the situation sounds to me to be pretty well contained. In my estimation, one chicken should do the trick.

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 How to Replace a Toilet | DIY Toilet Installation Guide | HGTV


"So, what have you been doing lately?"

I haven't seen N in quite a while. Foolishly, I ask the expected question.

“Thank Goddess, I finally got the new bathroom finished,” she can't wait to say.

Woe upon me, she whips out her phone and, finger-jabbing, speaks the dreaded words.

“Want to see some pictures?”


The definition of a bore is someone who says the same thing to anyone. (Interesting people discuss topics of mutual interest.)

No N, I don't want to see your pictures.

No one wants to see your pictures.


Gods, clueless pagans.

She'll show me three pictures of the toilet—from different angles, of course—three of the sink (same), then the shower. Then, if I'm really lucky, maybe I'll get to see some close-ups of tiles and grout, too.

And that's just the beginning. She'll stand here, rapid-scrolling, with running verbal patter, for just as long as I'm fool enough to play the polite.

Sorry N, you're committing a major breach of hospitality here. I understand that you've worked very hard and are proud of the results.

Seriously, though: how could you possibly think that anyone else would be interested?


Boorishness, meet dishonesty.

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 Match wits with Cattubuttas the druid.


In the days of king Cú Roí, Cattubuttas the druid—said to be the wisest druid in Ireland, though he had not then a single gray hair in his beard—sat in a grove with his students, and this is what he said.

“As to foods, my children,” he told them, “the gods have denied us nothing, not even the flesh of the fleet-footed horse, noblest of animals.

“But know this also,” he added, raising a finger of admonishment: “that should it so happen that you do eat of horsemeat, it is thereafter geis upon you to enter into a chariot for the span of some twenty-seven days; for twenty-seven days thereafter, you may not enter one.

“Thrice nine days,” he told them again. “Remember it well, my warriors.”

So spoke Cattubuttas the druid to the young warriors in the days of Cú Roí the king.

And indeed, we still remember.


So: why 27?

In the martial society of Iron Age Ireland, such a prohibition—its memory preserved like a leaf in amber in Old Irish literature—would indeed lay heavy upon a warrior; it would, in effect, ban him from the field of battle for nearly a month's time.

The logic of the prohibition is not difficult to follow: it is, in effect, a breach of hospitality. Why, though, one wonders, specifically a period of twenty-seven days rather than, say, a full lunar month?

If Cattubuttas the wise, cat of battle, in his wisdom, knew, I for one do not.

Here's my guess, though: that it's numeric.

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 Lot Detail - Blatz Beer Flat Top 39-3

Like most tribal elders, I worry about my people. Is there a future for pagans?

In a group of, say, 50 pagans, one could make a case that, arguably, there are actually 50 different religions represented. How can so fragmented (not to mention self-obsessed) a group possibly have a future together? How can we possibly achieve anything lasting?

Well, something that I heard at a workshop at Paganicon 2024 gives me hope.


Hero Tales

His great-grandfather was a drunk.

He had recently moved back to the old family farm, land in-taken by said great-grandfather. According to family tradition, the old man had liked his booze, and then some.

So at Samhain, he'd take down the treasured bottle of 40-year old Scotch from the shelf and pour a dram or two for his ancestor-in-the-land.

After a year or two of this, one Samhain night, great-grandpa himself turns up in a dream and slaps him up side the head.

“What's this shit?” he says. “I want Blatz!”

(Blatz is a local beer that could charitably be described as a “beer-drinker's beer.”)

The man who told this story on himself was a respected local elder, founder of one of our regional pagan land sanctuaries.* When he told his tale, my heart leapt up and I thought: Ye gods, maybe there's hope for us after all.

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 80+ Driftless Area Photos Stock Photos, Pictures & Royalty-Free Images -  iStock

The rite is complete. I turn to bestow the final blessing, and see something that I have never seen before in ritual: people preparing themselves to receive the blessing that I am about to pronounce.

Some bow their heads and lower their eyes. Some pull themselves up straight. Some brace to receive, as if I'm about to throw something at them. I suppose that, in a sense, I am.

The trust, and strength, of this so-willing self-opening moves me deeply, and calls forth a corresponding tenderness within me.

A tear courses down my cheek. I raise my arms and pronounce the final words.

Around us, the horns of sunset blow.

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 Why are earliest sunrises a week or more before summer solstice? | Fox  Weather

 Paganicon 2024



(7:15 a.m.; sunrise 7:25)

People gather outside Ballroom A (Scandinavian Ballroom).

Welcome (priest)


Horns blow


People proceed outdoors, led by:


Libation bearers



People assemble, facing East.



As the first limb of the Sun touches the horizon, horns blow.

People pray, pour libations.

As the Sun clears the horizon, horns blow again.


Song: Turn to the East (all)


Lift thine eyes, behold the light:

turn to the East, where dawns the day.

Hope and love, forever bright,

guide and protect us on our way.


Hail the Sun's rays, shining bright

after Winter's long, dark night.

Lift up thy voice, with praises ringing;

turn to the East, where dawns the day.


Blessing and Dismissal



(Turns to face people)

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 Hypothetical Planet X

What Should We Name Planet 9?

The math is pretty clear: our Sun has a ninth planet out there, so far out that it makes Pluto look like a next-door neighbor.

For now, they've taken to calling it Planet Nine. But if and when it's actually discovered, we'll need a better name than that.

What, then, should we call it?


First, a few parameters.

We should name P9 for a goddess.

Gods know, we've got plenty of Boy planets out there already. We could use more Girls in this family.

We should name P9 for a Classical deity.

Only a polytheist nomenclature is equal to describing the magnificence of That Which Is; all the other planets are already so-named. (While a foolish consistency may be the hobgoblin of small minds, internal systemic consistency is a simple matter of aesthetics. Call it contextual cognitive resonance, if you like.) No pantheon-mixing in this solar system, please.

The name should be in its Latin—not Greek—form.

After all, we say Saturn, not Khronos, Neptune, not Poseidon. While a foolish consistency may be the hobgoblin of small minds....

The Latin name should be in Anglicized form.

After all, we say Saturn, not Saturnus, Neptune, not Neptunus. A foolish consistency...

Granted the above parameters, then, an obvious choice presents itself.

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