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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Your baby will come soon.

So you need to find a birth-tree.

You can't give birth in camp, because blood draws predators and you'd be putting everyone at risk.

It's winter, so you want an evergreen, one with enough branches to offer good protection from the weather, but not so many that predators can approach unseen.

You'll need a stout trunk to brace against; also lots of absorbent duff to sop up the blood, and a spot to bury the blood-soaked strew. Unburied blood draws danger.

The right tree will also provide dead wood, and you'll need that. Fire warms and protects.

A hemlock on a south-facing slope would be good. That way you'll get the best of what Sun there is.

You'll want a skin of water, to drink and to wash.

And a coal to light your fire.

And a knife to cut the cord.

That way, when the baby comes, you'll be ready.

As ready as you can be.


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Tagged in: world tree Yule tree
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.


  • Thesseli
    Thesseli Monday, 19 December 2016

    Because nothing says women and children are important to the survival of the tribe than making a woman give birth in the middle of nowhere, where she can't be protected by the other tribemembers. Where the scent of blood will leave her and her baby vulnerable, with absolutely no protection whatsoever.

  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch Monday, 19 December 2016

    I'm drawing here on Elizabeth Marshall Thomas' experiences among the Ju/wassi of the Kalahari in the 1950s, some of the very last hunter-gathers on the planet. (You can see more in her non-fiction The Old Ways and her novels set in ancient Siberia, Reindeer Moon and The Animal Wife.) How far one can generalize from this information to hunter-gatherers generally is impossible to say. It does seem likely that many, many of our longmothers experienced such births.
    That said, there's nothing to say that they couldn't have helpers or protectors. It certainly seems likely to me.
    But birth is inherently a dangerous process. That's what I was trying to communicate here.

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