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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The Younger Witchery

 How and Why You Should Add a Hedgerow to Your Farm

On this Midsummer's Day

 

If, 1400 years ago, you had asked a woman of the Anglo-Saxon Hwicce tribe—what maverick archaeologist Stephen J. Yeates calls the original Tribe of Witches—what was her léafa (roughly, “religion”), had she deigned to answer such an absurd question (what else could it possibly be?) her answer would likely have been: þéodisc léafa: “my people's religion.”

1400 years later, some of us would still say the same. We're Theedish: tribal witches. Our Craft is a tribal Craft, a People's Witchery.

The Old English noun þéod, “tribe, people,” along with its adjectival form þéodisc, “tribal,” didn't survive into Modern English. (Tolkien's King Theoden comes from the same root: "lord of the tribe.") The word fell out of use because, with the rise of the centralized state, tribal identity was no longer a going concern. When scholars latterly needed a name for the concept, they borrowed the Latin word “tribe” instead.

But if the word had indeed survived in current use to the present, we would today say thede (or theed: personally, I prefer the former spelling because it looks less like an escapee from a Dr. Seuss book) and thedish (or theedish).

In Contemporary Heathenry, Theodism is the movement which seeks to reconstitute the tribes of the Germanic past, complete with culture and religion. In the end, all paganism is tribal, a people's religion: all realized paganism, anyway.

But here's the difference between Theodish and Theedish. The Old Ways did not survive, but—rather than reconstituting them as they were, the latter asks the question: If they had survived into modern times, what would they now have become? To answer such a question (not to mention to actualize it) requires a pretty audacious act of imagination.

You could even call it a spell.

If we're to be pagans, the only pagans that we can authentically be are the pagans of our own time and place. We can't be ancient Anglo-Saxons, we can't be ancient Egyptians, or Greeks, or anything else that you might care to name.

All paganism is (of necessity) paganism of here and now, and a paganism without a people, or a place, is an incomplete paganism, at best.

Well, everybody wants a tribe to belong to, and some of us are lucky enough—because we made it for ourselves*—to have one.

Call us the Younger Witchery, the Latter-Day Hwicce, theedish: too heathen for the witches, too witchy for the heathens.

That's us, true to type: still—as always—riding the hedge.

 

 

*"It takes a lot of hard work to be lucky." (Hillary Clinton)

 

 

 

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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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