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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'One (Fem.) Who Brings Forth Virginally,' or: A Little Night Theology




n. one (f.) who brings forth without benefit of intercourse


I coined the word parthenogenetrix while still in high school. (Yes, I was a pagan egghead back then. I suppose I still am.) My long-term intent was to see it in the OED.

The word has potential biological applications (ask any domestic pigeon or California condor), but I intended it theologically at the time. (This was, after all, during the Silver Age of Matriarchy.) Poetic it's not, but parthenogenetrix has at least the advantage of transparency—to the hyper-literate, anyway—readily construing as a portmanteau of parthenogenesis (“virgin” birth—or, at least, conception) and genetrix (the grammatically feminine form of genitor—one who begets or creates).

Parthenogenetrix tells a story, an origin story. This is no creation ex nihilo, but rather ex ipsa, from herself. That's how the Lady does things. With Her, it's all personal.

Goddess bless him, my best friend at the time (and fellow egghead) Doug Julius used to make a point of using the word regularly in conversation—which, as you can well imagine, required some pretty impressive intellectual gymnastics. He also, to my delight, made jokes about “parthenogenetricks.” When the punning starts, you know it's the real thing.

These days, a quick web-search turns up a handful of parthenogenetrices, virtually all in religious or mythological contexts. The Virgin Mary, Sophia, the Goddess of Witches: parthenogenetrices all. Each occurrence, surely, constitutes an independent coinage. Given context, the word virtually suggests itself.

Decades on, my vocabulary has lost much of its aureate Latinity and now hoves toward the terse and Saxon instead. But I freely confess a continuing affection for parthenogenetrix, both term and theological reality.

And let the bloody OED see to itself.


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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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