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Crafted From: Minneapolis, Minnesota

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Vox Acct.: 384573

Link ID: 37320

Posted: Nov.30.2009

Views: 1551
Steven Posch, Storyteller of Paganistan

Category: USA

Website Profile: Steven Wesley Posch, the “Father of Paganistan”
(b. Pittsburgh, 1955, and Aten’t Dead Yet)

I was born where two rivers meet. A lifetime later, I still live (and I suppose will probably die) where two rivers—though different ones—conjoin. River-towns breed witches, they say.


We have it from our mothers,
and they from their mothers’ mothers,
that on the point above where
the Minnesota joins the Mississippi—
Fort Snelling stands there now—
there used to be a fireground where
folks would go to dance on nights
when the moon was full: red, white,
black folks all together. Somewhere
beneath the fort, they say (the exact
location is lost) lies the big red rock
where the Bison Man would sit
to watch the dancing when he presided
at these sabbats. Someday we will
find this rock again, and when we do,
we will know it is the right one
by the pair of gently rounded cupmarks
on the top, marking the place
where his testicles used to rest.


Raised among the wooded hills of Pittsburgh on a steady diet of Grimm, the D’Aulaires, and Rosemary Sutcliff, I learned early on that the books and the woods told the same story. At 14 I first read The White Goddess, and haven’t looked back since.

For better and for worse, the Old Religion has been my life’s oldest and truest love. My life has been a tribute to the work of three men: Robert Graves, Fred (“Feraferia”) Adams, and Tony (“Pagan Movement in Britain and Ireland”) Kelly. Be careful what you write: the life you change may be someone else’s.

In ‘77 I emigrated to Minneapolis, Minnesota, now known as “Paganistan” (I named it myself in 1989) . In the Glorious Autumn of ’79, Magenta Griffith, Kay Schoenwetter, and I together founded Prodea, the Twin Cities’ oldest ongoing coven. We soon became known as the “bad witch” group in town: though we broke all the rules, we got our share of (grudging) admiration because our work was top-notch. Thirty years on—having become essentially a fam trad, and one of the local Grand Old Covens—we’re still the “bad witch” group, we still break all the rules, and we still do great stuff.


Those Prodea Witches

dude watch out for those
Prodea witches cause
they’re like way scary
they go off in the woods
at night and conjure up
Death or sometimes
this antler guy cause
he’s like their god
or something and when
you see him three times
then you die they’re always
hexing people I mean
wax dolls and stuff
and on Halloween they have
this zombie cake and if you
eat it your mouth turns blue
and then you turn into
a zombie too so watch


If you’ve been around Pagandom for very long, chances are you’ve encountered my work. Ever hear of Yule ogress Mother Berhta and her goat Gnasher Skeggi? I spearheaded the Berhta revival in the US. (What? You’ve never heard of Mother Berhta? Well, well, well, pull up a chair….) Hel, I even wrote the song. (“Oh you’d better watch out/when winter comes nigh.…”) Both the song, and tales of Berhta (among others) , can be found on my story-album Radio Paganistan: Folk-tales of the Urban Witches, which has been terrifying and delighting listeners since 2001.

I’m first and foremost a word-guy: storyteller, poet, writer. But my favorite art-form is ritual, and quite frankly, when it comes to ritualists, I’m one of the best we’ve got. (Modesty is not one of the pagan virtues. Honor is a pagan virtue. Telling the truth is a pagan virtue. Keeping your word is a pagan virtue.) When, in 1981, I helped co-found Covenant of the Goddess’ Northern Dawn Council (I named that one too, for our spectacular—and uncanny—Aurora Borealis) , one of our express aims was to serve our community by offering public ritual four times a year. (Twenty-odd years later, we’re still doing just that. Anyone who thinks pagans incapable of creating lasting institutions needs to grab the next broom for Paganistan.) Those rituals were the atelier in which I mastered my craft.

Is anyone else out there actually doing the Sabbat in the grand old style anymore? I wish you could have been at the 2006 “Return to Avalon” Old-Time Witches’ Sabbat. A steamy summer night on a forested ridge in SW Witchconsin: more than a hundred of us, shining with dwale, sweat, and firelight. Old Hornie cross-legged on the altar laughing, and when he stood, I swear his antlers touched the trees. (Surely those were constellations revolving between his horns.) Wild music, the rending and rising, frenzied drums and dancing. Couples coupling in the shadows. "It was just like the woodcuts, " people said next day.

And yes, I’m a thinker too, gods help us. (There’s no great ritual without mind behind it.) My essay “Lost Gods of the Witches: A User’s Guide to Post-Ragnarok Polytheism” (Pentacle, Autumn 2009) has already become something of an underground cause célèbre, the focus for what some are beginning to call “Core Craft” or “Elder Craft, ” for its grounding in humanity's oldest pantheon.



Each of us knows them intimately
already, being the ground of every birth:
Earth, mighty mother of us all; Sun,
splendid in royal self-immolation;
Moon, queen of witches, threefold
mistress of fate; Storm, called Thunder
by the ancestors; Sea, the fish-tailed
lady of the deep; the winged Winds,
wide-faring; Fire, youngest elder,
fallen from heaven; the Horned One,
master of animals—ourselves among
them—and the Green his firstborn
brother, lord of leaf and tendril.
These themselves are they,
themselves themselves.


My heart-god, of course, is Old Hornie; one could say it’s bred in the bone. (Our part of Staffordshire was once Cornovii territory—and yes, it does mean “People of the Horn.”) First blooded to him at 16 in the woods down by Lake Erie, I’ve run with him ever since, the young buck with the Old. I am privileged to be both his priest and keeper of the Minnesota Ooser.

While I don’t believe in personal immortality (“polyatheist” is another of my coinages) , I do indeed believe in cultural immortality. And as long as they’re telling my stories, working my rites, and living my lore down the years, then somehow or other, baby, I’ll be there.

And let us all say: So mote it be.

"Raised in the forests of western Pennsylvania by white-tailed deer (that's the story, anyway) , Poet Laureate of Paganistan, storyteller and scholar Steven Posch has been called the 'pagan rabbi' and 'the most dangerous ritualist in America.' His ambition is to be the first witch of modern times to be burned at the stake by other witches. He likes the term 'warlock' too." (Stefanos Elafeos, "'Rhymes with Gauche': An Interview with 'Paganistani' Poet Steven Posch")

*Sculptor Roc Patterson told me: “Posch, you son of a bitch, now I’ve got to rethink every single thing I’ve done in the past 16 years!”

All material © Steven W. Posch 2009

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