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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The Clay Ladies

You could call them the “Clay Ladies,” as our coven kid Robin did.

They exist in their tens—if not hundreds—of thousands across the world.

Goddesses? Fertility magic? Who can say?

Clearly, they're symbolic. Clearly, they're meaningful. We shouldn't expect that they meant the same thing to every culture that made (and makes) them. But to claim that they have no religious significance (as some academics have done) seems to me to fly in the face of general human experience. And if (incredibly) they never did before: well, they certainly do now.

And sometimes, I think, we can also say: this much, at least.

I recently acquired a reproduction in terracotta of a patterned “goddess” from the Cucuteni culture, made famous by archaeologist and feminist ideologue Marija Gimbutas as “Old Europe.” Actually having the little figurine to hold and handle told me something that I can't prove but that I think we can be pretty damn sure of.


6500 years ago, someone in what is now Rumania sculpted this little woman in clay, and incised over her patterns that both divide and unite her body, articulating structure both internal and external, and made the patterns even more noticeable by in-filling them with white paste.

I think we can say here: mnemonic. These are the patterns of the white-clay body-paint for the—what to call her—priestess? Personifier? The patterns—perhaps—that call down the Moon from the sky.

And on nights of the full Moon, just as the Moon is rising from the waters of the lake, she too rises from among the lakeside reeds, naked and painted thus.

And then she speaks.

Whenever you have need of anything,

once in the month, and better it be when the moon is full....


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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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