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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In the tribal territories of the Hwicce, the old Anglo-Saxon Tribe of Witches, stands a hill called Wychbury Hill. The name means “Hill-fort of the Witches.”

It was once our tribal capital.

The old Northern ancestors didn't live in cities. Most people lived dispersed on their own holdings, but in every clan territory there would be a burg or hill-fort (= Keltic dún): a hilltop fort surrounded by high earthen walls topped with a wooden palisade. At the foot of the hill stood the village, the thatched houses of the yeomanry.

In the burg itself stood the main hall of the drighten, the chieftain, and the homes of the dright, his war-band. The dright prided themselves on having been born within the walls; it meant that you were nobility. But during times of war, the entire village would take shelter behind those walls.

As, whenever we cast a circle, we still do.

In time, as the habit of living in cities spread from the South, the word burg came to mean “city.” All those place-names that end in -burg, -bury, or -borough hearken back to the old hill-forts of the ancestors. I myself was born in one such city in western Pennsylvania, named for the Quaker chieftain William Pitt.

The hill-fort that bears the name of the tribe would have been the central hill-fort of the kingdom: the residence of the king or queen. (It will surprise no one to know that the Hwicce had a number of reigning queens.)

The old concentric earthen walls that once marked out the royal village of the King of the Witches, now called Wychbury Ring, still stand today.

Witchbury: the Hill-Fort of the Witches.


Above: John Constable, Old Sarum






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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.


  • Haley
    Haley Thursday, 09 February 2017

    So, then, would those born behind the wall in wartime be noble as well?

  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch Thursday, 09 February 2017

    Alas, Haley, the answer to your question is lost to the ages.
    Really, though, one has to imagine a certain amount of ribbing on the subject. "Oh yeah? Well, it so happens that I was born between the walls too...."

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