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 Witch Doctor Clause

Saturday night we offered to Thunder.

Together we sang, danced, and prayed that He be merciful to our gathering.

Sunday night the big storm hit.

It was terrifying. The first peal of Thunder woke me from a sound sleep. Seconds later the first drops pelted down, hard and heavy as hail. Moments later, the winds (gusting at 70 miles per hour) bowed in the front of my tent until it touched me where I lay on my cot.

I leapt up and stood, buck naked, with my back pressed against the front of the tent to support it. For nearly 45 minutes I stood holding on, shivering, to the crossing of the poles at the top of the tent, while the storm crashed and roared all around me.

At Summerland Spirit fest they know how to take care of people. Within hours of storm's end, everyone was set up to sleep warm and dry. If you'd told me that day that I'd sleep that night like the proverbial, doubled up in the back seat of my VW, I'd have laughed out loud at you.

During clean-up next day, I heard lots of good-humored commentary on the Thunder offering I'd led on Saturday night, including some very good theological and liturgical observations. (What's the good of offering to Thunder and neglecting the Winds, his constant companions?)

As a liturgist, I rest on the famous Witch Doctor Clause: If it hadn't been for my powerful juju, it would have been a much worse volcanic eruption.

Watching us collectively process a frightening and dangerous experience with reference to ritual was both interesting and instructive. This, in fact, is how pagans do things; this is how we've always done things. The assumption that what we do is connected to what goes on in the world around us is a deeply pagan mode of thought. Indeed, I was proud of my people that day.

Then the reports started coming in of how the storm had treated the surrounding areas. Power out, trees down, widespread property damage.

We had some tents down—a few were completely destroyed—and a few minor injuries. Apart from the discomfort, inconvenience, and added work of drying out the next day, the pagans got off easy.

So, as it turns out, He was merciful after all.

The original plan had been to pour out an entire bottle of Jamieson at the offering. (Thunder loves liquor.) By happenstance, the whiskey sat on the shelf while I grabbed a bottle of screw-top plonk instead, on the principle that an unworthy offering is better than no offering at all.

A humble offering, sincerely given, the gods do not despise.

On the other hand, it never pays to be stingy with the gods.

Next time, the Jamie for sure.






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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.


  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham Thursday, 16 July 2015

    ah, as we often say in my Reclaiming Witch community - "This shit is real :) "

  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch Friday, 17 July 2015

    Along with the sheer animal fear, I'll admit to some moments of self-doubt while I stood there, water running down my back, knowing that if I let go the tent would collapse on top of me. Have I been arrogant? Have I been toying with a Power immensely beyond me?

    We're human beings, and our way is to address non-humans as if we were speaking to another of our own kind. The names and faces are part of the spiritual technology we've inherited from the ancestors. But there's nothing quite like the encounter with sheer, raw elemental power to remind that there's more--so much more--to it than the names and faces.

    Not a tame lion, no.

  • Gerald Home
    Gerald Home Thursday, 30 July 2015

    Thank you for leading that ritual to appease the Thunders. Though, I was one who teased you post storm, I was appreciative that you took the initiative and led that ritual with an open heart and good humor. I was in the sweat lodge with a few others during the storm. Though I was at times overwhelmed by the sheer force of the Thunders coming through, I had a strong feeling that everyone would be ok. In my teaching, when the Thunders are coming through, we stop ceremony, but that is usually when we are having our big four day ceremony. In the 20+ years I have attended/lead a sweat I had never stopped while in mid ceremony ( sweatus due to inclement weather. But the intensity of the Thunders/Nimkee warranted me stopping it and to leave the door open. My understanding of why we stop during our Big Ceremony is to stand aside and let those spirits do their work and appreciate them for that work they do and the life giving rain and the cleansing bring. I felt it was more than appropriate to stop the sweat for that same reason. Hopefully, when I see you again, I'll share more of what happened. Again, thank you for doing what you do! Aho!

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