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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Lilacs for Samhain


Lilac Bush: Plant Care & Growing Guide


Half a moon to Samhain, and here in Minneapolis the lilacs are blooming.

Anomaly. Anomaly. In the American Midwest, lilacs usually flower around Bealtaine.

What's going on?

I first noticed the phenomenon a few weeks ago at Sweetwood sanctuary down in the Driftless Area of southwestern Witchconsin. I made a few lame-ass jokes about the Glastonbury Thorn—“...but at Sweetwood, the lilacs bloom both at Bealtaine and at Samhain, haha”—but inside I harbored less cheerful suspicions.

Lilacs, like most blooming woody plants, set their blossoms in the fall. An old apple tree will often bloom out of season just before it dies, one final, poignant, display of beauty before the end. Apple trees are the poets of the orchard.

But no, the resident priest assured me that the Sweetwood lilacs had done the same the previous year.

A couple of hundred miles to the north, lilacs were blooming here in Minneapolis just last week. Others, not yet blooming, are leafing out, as in a normal year one would expect to see in late April.

I hear different things from the voices around me. It's normal, it's not normal. It's drought-stress (but Sweetwood hasn't been in drought this summer). It's climate change. It's this autumn's extended warm weather.

Well, omens are notoriously ambivalent in the interpreting. If this is an omen, I for one am uncertain how to read it.

(In the Received Tradition, fruit-trees bursting into bloom out-of-season are said to greet the birth of a great hero to the People. Well, it's a nice story, but really...?)

This much is clear: when the hard frosts finally come—which around here is only a matter of time—that will put an end to it.

In the meantime, I try to remind myself to pause and savor this one final flowering, this anomalous poignant beauty.

But I remain uneasy. Surely, in these days, the birth of a Hero is too much to hope for?

Something's coming, and I don't know what it is.




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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.


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