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 Man Who Loved a Constellation, or: Orion Has Three Fathers



I remember the first time that I ever saw Orion.

I grew up in big cities, where one didn't look at stars because there was so little to see. (Cursed be light pollution.) That's why I never actually saw Orion—or, at least, never knowingly saw him—until, incredibly, the age of 18.

My parents were driving me, by night, to my freshman year of college. Sleepily, I rested my head on the back of the back seat and looked up.

Suddenly, there he was, shining. Like some naked warrior from ancient legend, he strode across the sky wearing only a sword-belt and sword.

It was love at first sight.

We have, of course, evidence from the Classical writers that certain Celtic warriors were wont to go into battle in a state of what is called “heroic nudity.” From iconographic evidence, we can tell that the practice, in fact, extends back into Proto-Indo-European times, about 5000 years ago. On the memorial stones that stood atop the kurgans (barrows) that mark the expansion of PIE-speakers into Europe, warriors are depicted in a state of heroic undress, wearing only a belt, and sometimes a helmet. One suspects an association here with the naked gods of Classical art, as well as with the Mediterranean world's long tradition of athletic nudity. At the other end of Indo-Eurostan, one ponders a kinship with the naked Jaina tirthankaras, those warriors of the spirit, as well.

I renewed my friendship-by-night with Orion recently at our autumn Warlocks' Weekend down at Sweetwood sanctuary in southwestern Witchconsin, among the hollow hills of the Driftless Area's Witch Country. Since that first sight at 18, I have grown gray, but Orion, in his ever-youthful beauty, is one with the deathless stars.

Star Warrior, Son of Three Fathers, to you I pour.


It so happened one night that Hyrieus of Boeotia, who was at the time childless, invited three gods to a feast: Zeus, Poseidon, and Hermes. He killed a fine fatted ox to feed them. Having dined well, the three gods thanked him for his hospitality, and asked him what his heart most desired.

More than anything else, I've always wanted a son, said Hyrieus.

So be it, said the Three. The gods gave forth their divine seed to mingle on the outspread hide of the ox, and ten moons later Earthborn Orion sprang forth: beautiful as Hermes, strong as Poseidon, wise as all-knowing Zeus.

Some speak of the Via Lactea, the Milky Way.

Well, now.



James Davidson (2007), The Greeks and Greek Love: A Bold New Exploration of the Ancient World. New York: Random House, 308-9.








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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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