They say it's Earth's moon-blood, from which we're all born.

We've been painting ourselves and our dead with it since before we were sapiens.

Red ocher.

FeO2: iron oxide. Hematite (from Greek hêma, “blood”). It's found practically everywhere, and practically everywhere our people make use of it for purposes both religious and practical.

Rubbed on the skin, it acts as sunscreen, and keeps off bugs.

Sprinkled on the dead, it hastens rebirth.

We used to joke that if we were a Wiccan tradition, it would have to be Cro-Magnon Wicca. Really, once you start using red ocher in ritual, you'll never stop. There's nothing, nothing, nothing more authentic.

Here in the Upper Midwest, we've been using it since the end of the last Ice Age. (Before that, there were no people here, only ice.) There's even an archaeological horizon known as the Red Ocher People.

Be warned: this stuff is pretty damn close to permanent. Some years ago, I was privileged to see the original Willendorf Mother at an exhibit of Ice Age art. Even at 40,000 years, you could still see the red ocher in her hair.

(Mammoth Woman's Finest Red Ocher: Lasts 50,000 Years or Your Clamshells Back.)

When I die, lay me in Earth crouched like a fetus in the womb. (I swear, if you bury me on my back—afterlife or no afterlife—I will come back and haunt you.)

Into my hands, tuck the little violin-shaped goddess that stands on the altar next to my bed. I've taken her everywhere I've traveled in this world; I might as well take her into the Next as well.

Then sprinkle me thickly, thickly—coat me—with red ocher.

Let's see what the archaeologists make of that.