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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Neanderthal Goddess

In The Inheritors, William Golding tells the story of the last Neanderthals.

For Golding's Neanderthals, Earth is goddess. They call her Oa.


Novelist William Golding (1911-1993) is probably best known for his novel Lord of the Flies. Pagans might perhaps be aware that it was also he who named the Gaia Hypothesis.

It turns out that scientist James Lovelock was expostulating to his longtime friend and neighbor concerning his ideas about Earth as a self-regulating system.

His Earth-as-single-being needed a name. “What about 'Gaia'?” suggested Golding.

It's hard not to see metaphor here: Science and Literature as friends and neighbors, grabbing a pint together down at the local, maybe.

Golding's Neanderthal novel is a literary tour de force, a leap of cheeky imagination: it's written in Neanderthal, you see. Or it would be, if Neanderthals spoke English.

The primal magic of that name still haunts me: Oa.

To these last Neanderthals, Earth is big Oa. They carry with them a pebble that bears the natural form of a woman: little Oa. In Hindu theology, this would be called swayambhu murti: a self-manifest image.

I carry one such myself.

Our beloved old Earth of many summers is a goddess of many names, and there's deep magic to be found in all of them.


Above: Acheulian "Goddess"

(circa 75,000 [?] BCE)


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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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