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.

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that have been used in the blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Login
    Login Login form

For the Statue, Five Dollars; for the Story, One Hundred

I just paid $100 for a story.

I couldn't be happier.

Let me explain. Pagans tend to be people of stuff. Like so many of us, I'm an avid collector of pagan artifacts. I'd acquired a gilded sterling brooch from a dealer in Tel Aviv. Dating from the 1950s or 60s, it's a reproduction of a Minoan seal depicting a seated female (goddess? priestess? queen?) in a flounced skirt holding a bouquet of poppy heads.

Whenever I acquire something, I always ask about provenance. Where did it come from? Who made it? How did you get it? Who did you get it from?

Because everything is more valuable when it comes with a story.

In this case, the dealer—who insists that the piece is Canaanite, not Minoan—got it from the family of the Swiss woman who owned it; she had acquired it in Israel during the 70s. (I presume that at some point either she or her family emigrated to Israel.) They also identified the piece as Canaanite.


As such things go, it's not much of a story, and in many ways it raises more questions than it answers. But the piece with the story is more significant, and more interesting, than it would be denuded of any context at all. Whoever inherits it from me will get the story along with it, now with my name attached. That's how these things work.

There's a shaggy dog story about a woman who finds a little statue of a rat in an antique store.

“How much?” she asks the old man in the rocking chair in the corner.

The old man nods sagely and says, “Ah: for the statue, $5. For the story, $100.”

I'll spare you the rest of the story. (The punch line is: “Do you have any statues of lawyers?”)

But the old antique dealer was right. An object is far more valuable when it becomes the repository of lore; it then becomes the vector of transmission of that lore. That's how pagan culture, in the absence of writing, transmits itself from generation to generation.

When singer-songwriter Sparky T. Rabbit died, his husband Ray distributed Sparky's jewelry among those of us who had known and and been touched by his life and work. And so, in generations to come, Sparky's name will live on. My covensib Katie now owns (and wears every Imbolc) a Brigid necklace that Sparky made himself: a bronze Brigid's Wheel strung with rich, lustrous red glass beads. It's a beautiful piece, but more than that: it has a genealogy.

This necklace was made by the singer Sparky T. Rabbit, and this is a chant that he wrote to the goddess Brigid. And so the piece bears the lore. Whoever Katie passes the necklace to will likely get the story and the song as well.

Wicca's early incuriousity about itself always used to puzzle me. I see now that my teachers' habitual tendency to discourage questions arose because they themselves didn't know the answers. One sees this as well with Gardner: he couldn't pass on the old stories because, innovator that he was, he didn't know them, and he couldn't pass on the new stories because he had to maintain the illusion of the immemorial.

Unfortunately, with the passing of years, this approach has tended to become ingrained. Chants spread quickly and rapidly become anonymous. We don't ask, and so we never learn. Our history trickles away between our fingers and we don't even realize it. It's a sorry loss, and we're all the poorer for it. Because ultimately, human beings live by our stories.

It's a beautiful athame, yes.

But it's that much more interesting because it belonged to your mother, who was initiated by Sybil Leek back in the 60s, right after she first came to the US.

Oh, here's a funny story about Sybil Leek....


Last modified on
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.


Additional information