Combine molasses and shortening in a large mixing bowl, beating well. Add soda to buttermilk, stirring until soda dissolves; add to molasses mixture, mixing well.
Sift together flour, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves in a large mixing bowl; gradually add to molasses mixture, stirring well after each addition. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Roll a small portion of dough to 1/2-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface, keeping remaining dough chilled until ready to use. Cut into 5- x 2- inch strips. Place on lightly greased cookie sheets.
Bake cookies at 350° for 15 minutes. Remove from cookie sheets, and cool on wire racks; brush with Brown Sugar Water, if desired. Repeat procedure with remaining dough.