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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Every pagan should read Vine Deloria Jr.'s groundbreaking 1973 God is Red: A Native View of Religion.

In it, he contrasts two overarching religious cultures: the place-based spiritualities of Indigenous Americans, and the deracinated (literally “uprooted”) Book religions of incoming Europeans.

White people, he says, need to lose the Book and learn the Land.

He poses the question: does this mean, then, that European-Americans need to embrace the Red Way? and answers his own question: decidedly not. White people, he says, need to find their own way.

Pagans, take heed.

(Although Deloria himself does not touch on the issue, I'm going to posit that one factor driving the horrors of European colonialism has been the collective generational trauma of Christianization. Europeans, too, once had their own Land-based Indigenous religious cultures, which were—for the most part—violently uprooted.)

(Let me add also that, in the early days of American Ásatrú, Stephen McNallen approached Deloria with information about heathenry. “Here's our Indigenous Way,” he said. Deloria responded well, and—in an autobiographical essay—McNallen reports the fact proudly.)

In her 1993 Dakota: A Spiritual Geography, poet and writer Kathleen Norris tells of an interview that she heard with First Nations writer Paula Gunn Allen. [The] longer Europeans remain in America, Allen says, the more Indian they will become (Norris 128).

What makes an Indian an Indian, she says, is a deep connection to the land, built over generations, that imbues their psychology, and eventually their spirituality, and makes them one with the spirit of the land.”

My friends, Mr. McNallen: she's talking about us. We, the pagans, can lead the way on this. Long Ago and Far Away won't make us the pagans that we need to be, and that our battered, brutalized world needs us to become.

Gods help us, only Here and Now can do that. All paganism is—of necessity—local.

Again I say it: pagans, take heed.


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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.


  • Mark Green
    Mark Green Friday, 24 September 2021

    I so completely agree! This is why I encourage people embracing the Atheopagan path to design their own wheels of the year, with incorporation of the cycles of nature as they are actually happening in their local biomes. The re-sacralization of our relationship with the land begins with paying attention to what is going on there, and celebrating THAT, as opposed to some imaginary cycle of British or Western European climate.

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