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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Change in Accordance with Will

Footage of Burning a Three Candles on on a Yellow Background of Colored  Blurred Bokeh by AndriyASD


The homophobia down at the little jazz club where I worked had finally got to the point that I decided to do something about it. No one should have to hear "fag" this and "puto" that every day of his working life.

Demographics lay at the root of the problem. The kitchen crew were all straight guys; the floor staff mostly women and gay men. Since even the most pathetic cook still held out some hope of getting laid, that meant that it was the gay guys that bore the main brunt of the assholery.

At the time, Luis was the kitchen's alpha male—I won't dignify him with the name “head chef,” it wasn't that kind of place—and the other guys mostly followed his lead. So, clearly, I needed to make him the target of my working.

As for timing—timing is important in magic—in every well-run restaurant, there's always a brief window of time between when the prep work is done and when the doors open, during which everyone takes a moment to breathe and center before the evening's work gets underway. So naturally, that was the time that I chose.

I go into the kitchen and take up my stance just in front of the door. Every painting needs a worthy frame.

“Listen, Luis...” I call across the floor in my best pissed-off-bitch-with-attitude voice. I pause to make sure that I have his attention, and the attention of every single person in the kitchen. (These things must be done delicately, or you hurt the spell....)

"...Just because we've screwed a few times, doesn't mean I want to be your boyfriend, OK?”

Of course, Luis and I had never actually had sex together. (As if.) He knew it, I knew it, and all his buddies in the kitchen knew it too. On the face of it, the statement was absurd.

That's what made it OK.

Luis may have been an asshole, but he was no dummy. Since there was no loss of face at stake, he decided to play along.

“Hey, hey, why not?” he rejoindered in his best hurt-guy-getting-dumped mode.

Suddenly, we had shifted from us-v-them to something-that-we're-all-doing-together. Somehow, that changed everything.

Of course, things afterward weren't perfect; restaurant work is always an exercise in collective improvisation. But something in the air definitely changed that night, and thereafter, just as I'd intended.

When it comes to spells, we often think poppets, and colored candles.

Well, yes, but don't be fooled.


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Tagged in: homophobia
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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