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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Scars of Honor

 Zoos and Zodiacs: The Lascaux Shaft Scene – Alistair Coombs


At the end of the rites of man-making, the new-made men line up and receive their ritual scarification.

(You're never fully a man until you've shed your blood for the People. Same goes for women. This was true back when; it's still true now.)

These days, we have a new custom. Once the New Spears have received their scarification, those of us who somehow or other have managed to make our way to manhood without benefit of rite line up and get our scars too.

(In the old days, of course, there would have been no need for this. In these darksome times, alas, there is. Manhood without benefit of rite: disgraceful.)

That's how I got mine. If you look closely, you can see them, right here on my left pectoral.

Near the heart.

At the time—shame be upon me—it never occurred to me to ask the elder who cut me what they meant.

Now it's too late to ask. He's gone.


You know those old stories about how the Devil nips you on your shoulder-blade (left again), and that's your witch mark?

Same mark, different place.

Still near the heart.


A while back, I realized that, after all these years, I finally understood what the marks meant. Once I knew that, everything fell into place, and it all made perfect sense.

Naturally—once I'd thought of it—it seemed perfectly obvious: as if, indeed, these were the only possible meanings that these scars could bear.

We bear this knowledge on our body.


If you go as deep as you can go into the famed painted animal cave of Lascaux in France, you'll come to the Shaft.

Climb down to the bottom of the Shaft—it's about 14 feet deep—and you'll find, by the flickering light of the fat lamp that you've carefully carried with you, the only image of a human being in the entire cave.

It's a famous scene (but was it all painted at once? we don't know): a wounded bison, its guts hanging out, charging an ithyphallic man who seems to be falling backwards. Beneath him is a bird on a stick. A witch-man, perhaps? (That's how you say “shaman” in Witch.) We don't know; we never will.



On the floor of the Shaft was discovered a beautifully-wrought lamp of polished red sandstone. On its handle is engraved a number of marks just like the ones that I bear on my left pectoral, just like those that witches wear on their left shoulder-blades.

The lamp is about 17,000 years old.

Mind you, I make no claims here. Really, there's no need to.

No need whatsoever.


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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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