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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Wanted: A Good Word for 'Energy'

It flows through everything.

Everything is made from it.


But how do you say that in Pagan?

“Energy” is a word from the vocabulary of science, which is no bad thing in and of itself.

But I would contend that for so primal a concept, we need a primal word.

Well, we could borrow one from someone else. Isaac Bonewits, for instance, uses (in his later writings) the Polynesian word mana.

Mana is a good, strong word, but it is clearly (and always will be) a borrow. Other issues aside, when you have to borrow something from someone else, it says that you don't already have any of your own. And that's not good enough here. This is too basic a concept for that.

Brian Bates in his handbook of Anglo-Saxon “shamanism,” calls it life-force.

Well: primal it's not.

We need a word that tastes good on the tongue.

What tastes best to me right now is a usage that I learned from my friend Jason the Heathen. You'll already know the term from the fossilized expression might and main.

As with so many of those alliterating pairs in English (bed and board, field and fold, kith and kin), it's something that we've been saying for a long time—in this case, for more than 1400 years—and that preserves an ancient way of thinking.

The phrase might and main (in Old English, miht and mægen) pairs together the names for the two kinds of power: physical and non-physical.

Main: spiritual power. Life-force. Energy. It evens sounds a little like mana.

But it's our word. And it's got that raw, primal flavor to it.

Well, I'm not the arbiter here. Try it out for yourself. Where you'd say energy, try main instead.

And see how it tastes to you.


Photo: Magda Kieler






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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.


  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham Friday, 03 March 2017

    The book "Modern Magick" used the word roika if I remember correctly. I like it and it springs to mind easily. Main doesn't work for me, but that older version maegen works very well.

  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch Saturday, 04 March 2017

    Fortunately, the pronunciation of the two is virtually identical. Bwa ha.
    "Roika" is interesting. Borrowed or invented?

  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham Saturday, 04 March 2017

    I think the author said he got it from the Hebrew.

  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch Monday, 06 March 2017

    Hmm. I speak Modern Hebrew and read Biblical Hebrew, and I can tell you that it doesn't look Hebrew to me.

  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham Monday, 06 March 2017

    I'm reasonably sure it's not Yiddish. It might have been coined by that guy who invented Anthroposophy, but I'm not sure. I guess I'll have to dig the book up from my collection.

  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch Tuesday, 07 March 2017

    Doesn't sound Yiddish to me. A quick web-search turns up nothing relevant; I'm guessing that it's made-up.
    Not that there's anything wrong with that of course.
    (Says the storyteller.)

  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham Tuesday, 07 March 2017

    I was able to dig out a copy of the book. The word the author uses was Ruach not roika. Apparently roika is a word my subconscious came up with while my conscious was trying to remember ruach.

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