In Praise of Athena Ergane

Kage Baker was a proud working woman. She honored Athena Ergane, which was Athena in her aspect of the patroness of workers and artisans. Kage dedicated one of her books to Athena Ergane, though right at the moment, I shamefully cannot recall which one …

If one of you, Dear Readers, does remember, do please let me know.

Anyway, Kage also took Athena Ergane as a patroness. It fit in nicely with her personal life efforts, as a scholar and as a woman of her hands; Kage never abandoned purely physical arts entirely. She always had her pens and brushes to hand should something need illustrating. She took up carving in her 50’s, producing (among other things) faux bluestone pylons carved with cup and ring marks for the garden of the Inn at Renaissance faires. In her last couple of years of life, she was experimenting with casting little figures in rubber and plastic: also, lots of her own hands … we had some freaky pot holders for a while, but they had a tendency to melt.

Most of the ladies in Kage’s stories were likewise artisans; certainly, all the female Operatives. She favoured practical, self-sufficient women in her distaff characters – except when being a disaster was a plot point, as with Mendoza and her cataclysmic love life. Most of them were more like Nefer and Nan among the Operatives, and Mary Griffith, the Empress of Mars.

That was Kage’s idea of a true heroine. From an early age, she admired Dorothy Gale of Kansas; whom Frank Baum made utterly practical and unflappable. “No help for it!” cries Dorothy, falling from the skies with a talking hen, and manages to both land on her feet and catch the chicken.

Today, a dear friend (and likewise a determined woman of her hands), sent me a fascinating link to an article. See below:

This relates that a medieval nun’s skull has been found with ultramarine pigment between her teeth. As this was an insanely expensive pigment, made from crushed lapis lazuli and worth more than gold, it was only used by skilled and honoured scribes. Which means this lady, a nun in a cloister a thousand years ago, was very much a skilled scribe.

This is a nice snoot cocking, as well as a poke in the same, for all those who deny medieval intelligence in general and the abilities of women in particular. Puella virtute!

This is especially nice because I will shortly be inquiring as to the status of a novel I dropped off with a publisher over the summer. One of the main characters is a scribe-nun … at least until the world gets weird and she runs off for a life of adventure, cocktails and really wild things. She was modelled on Kage, by me, long ago. Also last year, when I rewrote the entire damned book for submission.

I am taking this as a fortunate augury. Praise to Athena Ergane!

And thank you, Stacey Jo.




About Kate

I am Kage Baker's sister. Kage was/is a well-known science fiction writer, who died on January 31, 2010. She told me to keep her work going - I'm doing that. This blog will document the process.
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1 Response to In Praise of Athena Ergane

  1. Press on regardless and full of hope!


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