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 State of the Rite

To judge from my own experience and what I've heard from others, the state of pagan ritual is not particularly strong right now.

That's hardly to be wondered at. Ritual is an art, and—as with any art-form—to gain mastery takes time, especially when you mostly have to start from the ground up and teach yourself as you go.

The quality of pagan ritual is decidedly not improved by the custom—I'm almost tempted to call it a recreational sport—of ritual-shredding. How many times have I sat around a campfire after the evening ritual listening to a vicious vivisection of every single thing that went wrong in circle that night?

Enjoyable as it may be at the time, ritual-shredding is a self-indulgence which we cannot permit ourselves. It's pointless to tear down what someone else has built if we ourselves have nothing to put in its place.

For this reason, here in Paganistan the thew (custom) has arisen that No ritual may be criticized until the next day.

Over the years, I myself have become convinced that this is sound procedure. It's always easier to focus on what didn't work than what did; waiting before dishing makes it less likely that we'll fall into mindlessly competitive orgies of destruction.

If, on the other hand, you have praise for the ritual, there's no need to wait. We only stand to benefit from drawing attention to what worked.

As my friend and colleague Sparky T. Rabbit—himself a high-caliber ritualist—always used to say: No ritual is so good that it cannot be improved; no ritual is so bad that it cannot teach us something.

Bad things happen in ritual, it's true.

But pointing out what didn't work achieves nothing if it ends there. Always our next question must be: So how do we do it better next time?




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Tagged in: criticism Group ritual
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.


  • Aline "Macha" O'Brien
    Aline "Macha" O'Brien Tuesday, 26 February 2019

    My sentiments exactly.

    In the past I've taken the time and trouble to articulate what is successful and what failed in a large public ritual, always with specific suggestions on how to remedy the things that were weak. I don't think it was worth the effort, though, because I've seen no adaptations. Truth be told, I think it's because of who the messenger is. :-(

  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch Wednesday, 27 February 2019


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