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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Eggs for Ashtart

If I believed in reincarnation, I'd say that it's probably a Long Memory. Since I don't, I can only say that I don't know.

She's old, and something is wrong, badly wrong. That's why the old country woman has come to the city, and is standing here nervously in the crowded street, looking up to the high temple, golden in the morning sunlight, that crowns the top of the hill. She has come to see the Lady, because she needs a favor, and she needs it badly. On her hip she bears her gift: you don't come empty-handed to the Lady, especially when you have a favor to ask. It's a poor woman's offering, a basket of eggs, but she has lovingly painted each one with the brightest colors she can find, to make them beautiful for the goddess.

That's it: as it were, a snapshot from the past. No before, no after. It's a memory, or rather an image, that I've had in my head since early childhood at least, one still frame from a vanished movie.

Since then, I've been places and read books. For quite a while now I've been aware that the setting will have been a city on the Phoenician coast. (Just listen to those jibbering Canaanites.) If so, the old woman would have called the Lady Ba'alat, and maybe Ashtart.


A picture, from National Geographic, maybe? But I'm not looking at the old woman, I'm looking out of her eyes. A scene from a novel? Ironically—because the alphabet you're reading this in is a gift of the land of Purple—nobody writes novels about the Phoenicians. Something from a film, some Biblical epic? If so, which one? Ancestral memory? (In theory, some of my people came from that part of the world at one time.) But if so, by what mechanism? That's not how the human brain works. And if (perhaps most likely) it's a creation of my own fertile imagination, then what was the seed that sired it?

A crowded, dusty street, a temple of shining golden stone, a basket of eggs in beautiful colors: these are the clear-edged images I remember, along with the sense of desperation, the drive of naked need.

Whoever she was, real or imagined, I feel enough affection for that worried old woman in her dusty dark veil to hope that the Ba'alat will have answered her prayer, whatever it was.

Gods know she needed it.


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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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