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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Odor of Sanctity, or: Holy Smoke

 The Smoke Medicine of Your Ancestors — Sacred Ancestry


“Mm, your hair smells good,” says my coven-sib as we share a post-ritual hug.

“Really?” I ask, “like what?”

(Back in the day when we used to hold rituals down on the banks of the Mississippi, my boyfriend said to me one morning: “Is it a pagan holiday today?” “Yeah, Lunasa,” I replied. “How did you know?” “Oh, your hair always smells like smoke,” he said.)

She takes another snuff.

“Incense,” she says.

I'm a little surprised to hear it, given that we burned no incense tonight, and that it's been more than 12 hours since I made the morning offering.

“Your house always smells like that, too: so good,” adds another coven-sib.

Dion Fortune talks in Moon Magic about how in time the entire fabric of the temple becomes imbued with the redolence of frankincense. For us of the Old Ways, there's no prayer without offering. Twice daily I offer incense, with prayer, at Temple of the Moon, where I live: morning and evening, day in, day out, year upon year upon year.

I sometimes wonder about the long-term health effects of such operational piety. Will I be seeing, in age, the priestly equivalent of black lung? A hieratic occupational hazard? Oh well: I burn the best quality stuff I can afford, and try to get plenty of lung exercise in the meantime. Let the sandalwood chips fall where they may.

I suppose it's not surprising, given that my house smells like incense, that I don't even notice it any more: the way, I suppose, fish don't notice the water they swim in, either. Funny, how in the end we become our environment.

Well, there are worse things to smell like than prayer. Living in the odor of sanctity sure sounds like my idea of the good life. Perhaps, over time, the body, like the temple, becomes imbued with the redolence of ritual.

We sing the song of parting, and head out to our cars.

Overhead, the full Moon burns with silver fire.




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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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