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.

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that have been used in the blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Login
    Login Login form

Reading the New Goddess Iconography



When, while camping this summer, I lost the little silver goddess that I've worn for years—alas the day!—I did what any “21st” century pagan would do.

I gave myself some time to mourn, then image-searched “goddess pendant silver.”

Of course, I turned up many different images of many different pendants. What surprised me most—try it for yourself—was that not just the majority, but that the vast majority of them, took on a single iconic form:

a stylized (usually nude) female with legs together, pointed toes, and arms raised over her head, often in such a way that her raised arms form a circle whose curves mirror those of her lower body.

What intrigued me most about this imagery is that it does not reflect any known (to me, anyway) historical prototype. This representation of the Goddess is new to our day.

If this really is so—at this point, of course, all conclusions must be tentative ones—just what does this new iconography say about the Goddess and her reemergence in our time?

First off, of course, we must remark that the image does, in many ways, follow historical precedent: the nudity, the pointed toes, are characteristic of much ancient “goddess” imagery. Our new imagery has continuity with the old.

It is the port-de-bras which distinguishes these figures from those that came before them. Goddesses with raised arms, of course, do occur in antiquity, though not commonly (detached arms invite breakage): certain pre-Dynastic Egyptian figurines come to mind, not to mention the charming little faience “Snake Goddesses” from Knossos.

It is the joined arms though, in their circularity, that mark off this representation as new.

Stand up tall. Raise your arms over your head and touch the tips of your fingers together, enhaloing your head. What do you feel?

This is not, of course, an everyday gesture. It has a special, balletic feel. What we see here, paradoxically, is kinesis in stillness: one movement from a dance.

This is a goddess in motion.

The gesture is one of opening, of self-revelation. This is a goddess revealing herself, herself her own revelation. This is a glyph of the Return of the Goddess.

The main axis of the image being primarily vertical, heightened by the upswept arms, we see here, frozen in mid-movement, the act of upward self-extension. Behold the Goddess Rising.

Her arms frame her head. She is her own context, rotating on her own axis.

It is a commonplace of pagan Weltanschauung that the gods reveal themselves—inter alia—through the work of artists. As the Big Box religions fragment into warring anti-modernist fundamentalisms and vague post-modern "spiritual-but-not-religious" nostalgia, something simultaneously very new and very old is happening, something which, in the end, will transform everything. Call it, if you like, the Return of the Goddess.

And lo! Behold Her sign.



For W. Holman Keith










Last modified on
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.


Additional information