I met my friend and teacher, Steven Posch at a Pagan gathering in 1999. Steven lives on the bleeding edge of Pagan theological discourse, and is one of the best-kept secrets of our religion. His revised book, Lost Gods of the Witches, will be in print this Summer.
paganism by reading the novels of Mary Renault and Rosemary Sutcliff.” How to think
like a pagan, how to do good ritual, what paganism looks like from the inside….It’s all right there. Especially Sutcliff. What Mary Renault was to Classical Greece, Rosemary Sutcliff was to ancient Britain. Her Arthurian novel, Sword at Sunset, has the single best literary portrayal of the witches’ sabbat that I know of, recontextualized to Dark Age Britain in an utterly convincing manner. Absolutely amazing. Anyone that loves the Horned One simply must read Nigel Jackson’s Masks of
Misrule, the single best book there is about the god of the witches. And as for Herself, well, you can’t do better than Robert Graves’ The White Goddess. It’s a prophetic book,and I mean that literally. An easy book, no. But if I had to pick 13 books to take with me to the desert island White Goddess would be on the list. Near the top, in fact. As for the rest…well, there shouldn’t be a pagan bookshelf in America—oranywhere else for that matter—without books about the local flora, fauna, and birds. All real paganism is by definition local.
three founding members—Magenta Griffith, Kay Schoenwetter, and myself—are still
actively engaged; there are 8 of us altogether. After 30 years together, we’ve basically become our own Fam Trad. We started off way back when as the Brash Young Things in town that shocked the Old Guard traditionalists because we didn’t cast circles, call quarters, or believe in male-female polarity, but we still got our share of grudging respect for the quality of our work. Now we’ve become one of the Grand Old Groups of Paganistan. Ah, life and its little ironies. I have to admit, I thoroughly enjoy showing us off to visitors. After three decades together, we’ve accumulated a vast repertoire of songs, stories, rituals, traditions, foods,
customs. We’re culture-rich, something for which there’s a great hunger in the pagan
community right now. I’ve even started to see the down side of tradition. With so much history behind us, it’s always easier to go with something we’ve done before that we know will work, than to take a chance on something new that may or may not work. That doesn’t stop us, though. Now we’re the Brash Old Things.
Paganism has changed a lot since then; in many ways, we’ve finally started to
grow up, thank the Goddess. Lately the pagan intelligentsia has actually been talking
about issues of “authenticity”; I’m so proud that we’ve reached the point at which we can have an honest conversation on such a topic. Still, it sometimes annoys me that we’ve become so blasted wholesome. Last November a friend sent me Starhawk’s Samhain-for-cowans essay, all meditation and profound spiritual experiences. I thought, Ye gods, whatever happened to schmeering on the dwale, flying off to the Bald Mountain, and (can I say this in a family blog?) s***ing the Devil’s hairy c*** until the rooster crows? Now that’s what I call real witchin’.
Gods by their very nature vary from tradition to tradition, but the Old Gods we all have in common. Hey, the Old Gods are so all-pervasive that even the monotheists worship one: Sky. A god you can’t see: go figure.
families and nobody raised their kids pagan. Whatever were we thinking? That said, there sure is a lot of room for improvement. The “Sunday school” model of teaching paganism doesn’t work. The best way to learn this stuff is by immersion. One doesn’t learn the Old Stuff by being lectured at in class; one learns by watching and asking questions, by participating and by taking it for granted until you meet someone else that does things differently. I hate condescending, dumbed-down “kid’s rituals.” We should be bringing the kids to the grown-up rituals. So what if they don’t understand everything they see? Maybe it will spark something in them, get them asking questions. And if our rituals are so dull that the kids are bored, then the grown-ups are probably bored, too. And if the grown-ups are bored, then the gods are probably bored too. And that means we need to rethink how we’re doing ritual and start doing something better. We need the kids to keep us honest. If we really love the Old Religions and want them to continue after us, we’ve got to engage the kids. And the very best way we can do that is to make for ourselves a pagan culture that covers all of life, and that’s so vibrant, so engaging, and so desirable that the kids will come to it and take ownership of their own accord.
pagan neighborhoods. Public shrines. We’re going to have holy places again, just like
they did in the Old Days. (If you don’t know where your local holy places are, it’s time to start looking.) We’re going to start raising standing stones again. I contend that pagans are actually an emergent ethnic group in the US. We won’t be a majority for the foreseeable future, but we’ll continue to exercise cultural clout in excess of our numbers because what we bring to the conversation is so different, so compelling, and so self- authenticating.
The past was pagan. Modern human beings have been around for how long? 250,000 years or so? From available evidence, we’ve been pagan that whole time. By comparison, anything else is the merest blip. Folks, the future is pagan, and the paganisms of the future are going to be based on what we do right now. That’s why we’ve got to work our butts off to get it right, and why only the very best that we can achieve is good enough. As Socrates said: If you want to understand the gods, look at