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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Sunsteads and Evendays

English: the sacred language of the Witches.

“Solstice” and “equinox” are fine old words with a rolling, Latinate solemnity to them, but to my ear they have a rather clinical sound. Wishing someone a happy Equinox always sounds a little stilted to me. When I'm snugged up in bed with another guy, we're probably not going to talk about “penises.” Chances are, if we're talking, we'll use something a little more intimate instead.

A while back I sat down with my friend Ro (“Granny”) NicBourne to see what we could come up with. We pulled my old grad school Anglo-Saxon dictionary off the shelf and gave it a look-see.

Sure enough. If the Old English word for “solstice” had survived (instead of being elbowed out by Latin competition), it would be sunstead. The literal meaning is the same as the Latin: “Sun stands [still].” (In fact, it's probably what's called a “loan-translation” of the Latin word.) “Stead” came to mean “place” (as in “homestead”) because one's place is where one stands. (Interestingly, in Semitic languages, one's place is where one sits. A matter of climate, I suppose.) Sunstead is, in my opinion, a damn fine word. I use it myself and would recommend it to anyone else: “dick” to solstice's “penis,” so to speak. No reason not to have both in the lexicon; it only expands possibilities.

Same for Old English “equinox.” It also was a loan-translation of the Latin, and would modernize as “even-night.” (If the word had actually survived in current use, it would probably have worn down to something a little tighter and more compact.) Checking the other Germanic languages, we found that the Scandinavian languages have, instead of even-nights, even-days, and this, I think, is even better.

In daily use, I find that my evendays vary in pronunciation. If I want to be sure I'll be understood, I pronounce it as if I were saying the two words separately. But among fellow Hwicce or when I'm speaking rapidly, I find myself tending to slip into “evendee,” just as one says “Sunday” or “Sundee” according to the formality of the situation.

Half light, half darkness. Last night we held our big annual Harvest Supper, Witches' Thanksgiving, out back—the geese flew over, calling, as we sang—and together we begin our collective descent into the Dark.

Happy Evenday, 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.


  • Archer
    Archer Thursday, 25 September 2014

    I always enjoy your work Steven and I especially appreciate your love of language. "Sunstead" and "evenday" do sound so satisfyingly solid. Thanks for the suggestion.

  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch Monday, 29 September 2014

    Thanks Archer, I'm glad you like it. Tell your fiends [sic]. And since we're within the Evenday Thirtnight, I can still wish you a Happy Eventide!

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