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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How Do You Say 'Yemaya' in Witch?

I'll just say it: Wiccans have pantheon-envy.

The gods of the Wicca are Twofold: the Lady and the Horns. Instead of viewing Them, however, as the gods most specific to witches within the framework of a larger (but lost) pantheon, most Wiccans (unfortunately) have chosen to prefer Dion Fortune's 'All gods are one god, all goddesses are one goddess' bitheism, a choice which (frankly) has not only retarded Wicca's mythological and theological growth, but has opened the gate to the much-vexed problem of cultural appropriation. If all god/desses are one god/dess, then we are entitled to steal Anyone we want from someone else, and it's all grist for our mill.

It's easy to understand why, when encountering the vibrant pantheon and living culture of, for example, Santeria, witches feel envious. What Santeria is now, the Craft used to be. Alas, how much has been taken from us.

But our choices are not limited to either cultural sterility or cultural appropriation. There's another way to navigate these waters.

If, instead, we regard the Horns and the Moon as Two among a larger (if lost) pantheon, then (to take an example) let us ask: How do you say 'Yemayá' in Witch?

Allow me to rephrase the question: What does the witch Goddess of Waters look like?

Let us start with the Moon. The witches' Lady of the Living Waters is—essentially—the reflection of the Moon on Earth. What Moon is in the heavens, She of the Waters is on Earth.

Moon, of course, was born from Sea. (Where She came from originally is what we now call the Pacific Ocean. For witches, there's no gap between science and religion, just a difference in framing the language.) Who has not seen the image of the full Moon floating on the waters of a lake, or the sea, and thought: ah, yes.

We could call Her the Mermaid Goddess, and praise Her fish's tail. Mermaid lore is widespread across Europe, and all of it pertains to the question at hand. In fact, iconographically speaking, the modern Yemayá derives Her fish's tail from European, not African, iconography. Living cultures borrow from one another.

When confronted by a lack in the ancestral lore, it's usually wisest to look at how other peoples approach the matter.

But to then take their lore lock, stock, and barrel (= the component parts of a gun) is, in effect, armed robbery.

Better it is to translate.

Better to learn what we may from others, and then to ask: So how do we say that in Witch?












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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.


  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham Monday, 01 April 2019

    Way back in the 1980's there was a TV show called Night Court. I had a dream in which two characters from the show; Dan Fielding and Bull, were with me. In front of us was a chest with a green velvet covering on top. Standing on top of the green velvet was a figurine made of red glass. It looked a lot like my sister Meg's figurine of the Virgin Mary except that it was naked under the outer cloak. I knew that it was Erzulie-Magdalena when I saw her. For the next few decades I called on Erzulie-Magdalena and Brother Yeshue. Then about 3 or 4 years ago I felt myself loosing my connection with Erzulie-Magdalena and now call on Mary Magdalen instead. Paganism, even modern neopaganism doesn't stay static, relationships change.

  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch Tuesday, 02 April 2019

    In Latvia, they used to say that "St. Martin has nine Perkunases under his cloak."
    Perkunas, of course, is the old name for the Thunderer.

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