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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Tales of Paganistan: Summon the Sun



Back in the mid-80s, a local priestess, wanting (for a change) a holiday entertainment focused wholly on the Winter Solstice, put together a show called Summon the Sun.

The Saturday before Yule, pagans and other friends of the Solstice filled a local gymnasium.

The lights went down and the show began.

A local sword-dancing team performed Northern English sword dances traditionally performed at Yule.

The Latvian singers, in traditional clothing, sang ancient dainas of the season.

Then came the Mummers' Play.

Our mummers' play was not the typical combat/death-and-resurrection play performed at this time of the year all around Britain. Called “How Winter Came to Minnesota”, it was based on a story of the same name from my album Radio Paganistan, which our friend Ruth Temple had recast along the lines of a traditional Yule mummers' play.


How Winter Came to Minnesota


Enter Goodman Jane, played by Ruth herself, our storyteller for the evening.

Our story so far:

Long, long ago, Minnesota—instead of being the frozen wasteland that it is today—was a terrestrial paradise where the temperature never dipped below 80.

Enter (as EveryMinnesotan) Yours Truly, all 118 pounds of me, dressed in the skimpiest pair of Speedos you ever saw.

(Gods, was I ever a boney boy. My boyfriend of the time refused to let me lay on top because my hip-bones poked him too much. “You're like a bag of deer antlers,” he said. Seeing the expression on my face, he emended this to: “A cute bag of deer antlers, mind you.”)

Unfortunately, with weather like that, the mosquitoes just got worse every year.

Enter Mosquito, in a commedia del' arte mask with a proboscis that went on for miles. Mosquito chases EveryMinnesotan around stage.


In desperation, EveryMinnesotan calls on Mother Berhta, an obscure, washed-up old goddess of nobody-can-even-remember-quite-what-anymore.

Enter Mother Berhta, with sack.

In comes I, old Mother Berhta, ready or not.

I hope old Mother Berhta will never be forgot.

Mother Berhta makes it snow. Mosquito dies. Happy ending, right?

Wrong. The terrestrial paradise that once was Minnesota has now become a frozen Hel instead. In his skimpy little Speedos (really, they were about as concealing as a hand held over the crotch), you can practically hear EveryMinnesotan's boney knees knocking together.

Teeth chattering, he calls once again on Mother Berhta, pleading for mercy.

And you know what? Mother Berhta relents.

She agrees to send Winter away and let Summer come back. Well, eventually.

She reaches into her sack and gives EveryMinnesotan the world's first Yule gift: the longest scarf you ever saw. In gratitude, EveryMinnesotan wraps it around (and around and around and around) his neck. I must have looked utterly absurd, standing there in a scarf and a pair of Speedos.

(Everybody knows that Mother Berhta “carries a sack made out of a skin”, from which “she dumps the toys out, she stuffs the kids in.” In Summon the Sun, her sack was a blue-and-yellow striped canvas laundry bag that my mom had made for me when I first went away to college.

(GOODMAN JANE: Gee, Mother Berhta, what kind of skin is that?

(BERHTA [mugs]: What does it look like? Zebra, of course!)

Cast sings a hymn to Mother Berhta.

Oh you'd better watch out when Winter comes nigh....

The End.



At the Twelfth Night party that marks the end of Yule a few of weeks later, I ran into the woman who had organized Summon the Sun. Apparently, the evening had been a great success; we actually broke even.

Laughing, she told me a story.

With an eye to future years, they had left questionnaires in the lobby for people to fill out afterward: What did you like most? What did you like least?

In answer to What would you like to see more of? some wag had written in my name: the joke being, of course, that there wasn't really a whole Hel of a lot more of me to see.

I laugh.

“There isn't really a whole Hel of a lot more of me to see,” I say.



What's with the Yule story at the beginning of April? you ask.

Silly pagan: this is Minnesota.

We're still shoveling out from the Great All Fools' Day Blizzard of '23!


Last modified on
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.


  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham Sunday, 02 April 2023

    Thank you for sharing. That makes a nice story. Do you still put on that play or have you come up with another one?

  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch Monday, 03 April 2023

    It's been years. Maybe it's time for a remount.

  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch Monday, 03 April 2023

    Not to brag or anything--modesty not being a pagan virtue--but I can still fit into that same pair of Speedos.

    Can't say I look as good in them as I used to, though. Sigh.

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