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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Green Men, Yes, But Why So Few Green Women?



Deep and Deeper

Take a look at any random collection of historic Leaf Mask images. What you will find is many Green Men, but few (if any) Green Women.

Why not?

If words like “sexism” and “patriarchy” are coming into your head right now, don't let them distract you.

The answer is simpler and more basic than that.


Green Pubes

It was one of those Winters that seemed like it was never going to end.

Just at the point—here in the frozen North it happens pretty much every year—that I was beginning to feel that Winter was eternal and Spring a mere figment of my Winter-bruised imagination—I had a dream so impacting that I'll never forget it.

In the dream, I'm gazing down contemplatively over the expanse of my own naked body. In place of pubic hair, a crisp little thicket of glossy green leaves grows directly from my skin.

Hair : animals :: leaves : plants.



The Leaf Mask motif first emerges in art in the Mediterranean world at the beginning of the first millennium, growing out of the common Dionysiac image of a reveler crowned with vine-leaves.

At a traveling exhibit of items from Pompeii (destroyed 79 CE) that came through the Twin Cities some years ago, I saw a painting which struck me as a kind of proto-Green Man: a male head wearing a vine-leaf crown, in which the hair and the leaves of the crown merged visually in such a way that you couldn't tell which was which.

Becoming one with the vine: it doesn't get more bacchic than that.



The plant-animal hybrid that is the Green Man motif articulates a kind of primal fantasy: what would it be like to be a plant?

In the earliest Green Men—before, that is, the sordid imagination of the Middle Ages began to envision them as exhaling (or disgorging) greenery—hair translates into vegetation.

That's why Green Men, historically speaking, outnumber Green Women hands-down.

Beards and mustaches being typically male attributes, our question comes down to a simple matter of added visual interest.

As Bill Clinton (in his usual supercilious way) would put it: It's the facial hair, stupid.


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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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