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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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Pagan Instinct, or: The God Who Didn't Like Cookies

 

Image result for chocolate chip cookies

 

I grew up in a Catholic neighborhood in Pittsburgh and most of my friends went to St. Gabe's up on the hill so, although my family wasn't Catholic, I heard all the stories anyway. My favorite was the one about the little boy and the cookies.

 

The Little Boy and the Cookies

 

In preparation for First Communion, Sister X's second grade class was learning about the doctrine of the Real Presence: that Christ is literally, physically, present in the Eucharist.

Sweet, thought one little kid. After school one day he sneaked into church and knocked on the door of the tabernacle, the ritual cupboard on the altar in which the reserved eucharist is kept.

Hey, Jesus, he said, I brought you some cookies, and he laid out in front of the tabernacle the cookies that he'd saved from his lunch that day.

Preparing for mass next morning, Father Y found the cookies and, after (no doubt) puzzling a bit, ate them.

After school that day, the kid sneaked back into church. Pleased to see that his previous day's offering had been accepted, he once again knocked on the tabernacle door, and said: Hey Jesus, I brought you some more cookies. Once again he duly laid out that day's offering.

This went on for several days. Finally, one morning, the priest says, indignantly, Who's bringing all of these cookies?

(This line always got a laugh.)

Finally they figured out who the budding pagan was—no doubt they set spies (probably nuns) to catch him—and explained to him that, Yes, Jesus was really there but that, no, he didn't eat cookies.

I ask you, now: What kind of god doesn't eat cookies?

 

I dunno. Even at the time, I thought—and still think—that the real hero of this story was the little boy. I ask myself: Who else in this story really understood sacrifice? After all, the kid deprived himself in order to offer something that he valued to his god. If that's not piety, I don't know what is.

As I heard it, the story was set in the local parish. I rather suspect that it was, in reality, an urban legend told to kids in Catechism class, and that it functioned more or less as Santa Claus does in American culture. You don't tell the kids directly that what you're telling them isn't true, but you give them enough information to let them figure it out for themselves.

If perchance these events really did happen somewhere, I sure hope that they didn't shame the little boy too much for his act of piety and generosity. Considering the realia of Catholic culture, though—what I remember of it, at least—I realize that that's probably a vain hope.

 

I sometimes hear naysayers who contend that too much has been lost, too much time has gone by, and that we can never really be the pagans that the ancestors were.

Well, I think that they're wrong. I think of the little boy and his cookies.

I think that the pagan instinct lives in us all.

 

 

 

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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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