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Article ID: 11910
Age Group: Adult
Posted: July 22nd. 2007
4th of July Pagan Religious Rights Rally and Ritual and Chesapeake Pagan Community Summer Gathering
by Caroline Kenner
The poignant wail of bagpipes mourning our Pagan dead opened the 4th of July 2007 Pagan Religious Rights Rally and Ritual held outside the White House in Lafayette Square Park, Washington, DC. Although the piper played a dirge, the mood of the crowd was one of quiet triumph. Many of the key players in the Pentacle Quest victory attended the 4th of July Washington rally. Working together, in alliance with Americans United for Separation of Church and State, we Pagans achieved the victory we had sought for ten years.
We dedicated the bagpipe dirges to the veterans who could now be properly memorialized with a Pentacle, especially Patrick Stewart, Rosemary and Abe Kooiman, and Jan O’Rourke. It was satisfying to take our position on the axis between the White House and the Department of Veterans Affairs, where the Pentacle Quest had been forestalled for ten years. Here we were at the heart of American political power, savoring our victory and celebrating with speeches and a Pagan ritual.
The rally and ritual were months in the making. I filed the initial paperwork before Thanksgiving of 2006, thinking that we might not have the Pentacle Quest matter solved by the 4th of July 2007. I felt we needed a Pagan ritual to really shake things up, held in Lafayette Square Park, a powerful geomantic spot very close to the White House. To lead such a ritual required an expert: Diana L. Paxson, noted writer of fantasy literature and former Steerswoman of The Troth, presented a Founding Ancestors of America Ritual, along the lines of her fascinating article in Pangaia Magazine (Issue #45) .
Finally after all these months, we were listening to brave speeches about freedom of religion, and the need for a Pagan chaplain in the military, the need for Thor’s Hammer and the Druid Awen symbol to be recognized by the VA as the Pentacle has been. We had a diverse roster of speakers representing many national Pagan organizations: The Troth, Asatru Folk Assembly, Military Pagan Network, Sacred Well Congregation, Ar nDraoicht Fein and Circle Sanctuary. It was inspiring to see so many diverse Pagans working together, people with very different beliefs, practices and deities sharing a common purpose.
We were proud to welcome Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary, speaking at the Washington rally for a second year. Her tireless advocacy of the Pentacle was key to our victory. Mike Akins spoke for the Military Pagan Network, the group that filed the first inquiry about VA approval of the Pentacle for memorial markers ten years ago. Also for the second year, Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State opened the rally. We Pagans owe a real debt of gratitude to Barry Lynn and Americans United for their advocacy of the Pentacle Quest.
One of the things that people outside Paganism often don’t understand about us is the diversity of religions within our domain. Now that veterans have the right to show their Wiccan faith on their memorial markers, it is time to begin the same process for the Druids and the Asatru. Skip Ellison and Steve McNallen spoke eloquently of the need for VA approval of the Druids’ Awen symbol and Thor’s Hammer.
Marci Drewry of Sacred Well, and Mike Akins spoke of the need for a Pagan chaplain in the military. To most of us, this seems like a no-brainer. If the military is going to have chaplains, our Pagan soldiers need one. Other religions with the same number or fewer devotees in the military have one or more chaplains. We ask only for parity with other religions. But apparently to the non-Pagan world of mainstream religious leaders and theologians, it is not necessarily obvious that Pagans need a chaplain in the military.
After the speakers came Diana Paxson’s Founding Ancestors ritual. Washington, DC is a designed city, a place created to be a seat of government for the new nation. Whether you call it geomancy or feng shui, the physical form of Washington upholds the power of the government on an energetic and magical level.
Our Pagan ritual tapped very strongly into the energetic grid of the city. Our desire for universal religious freedom is in harmony with the beliefs of the Founders. We were standing at a potent place on a powerful day, invoking Founding American Ancestors who codified or fiercely protected the freedoms we hold dear. The energy of our ritual shimmered in the hot sun, resounding like the note of a bell through many realms.
It was always part of the goal for the rally and ritual to get some positive media coverage in the service of Pagan religious rights. The Pagan chaplain issue was the aspect of the rally and ritual that commanded the attention of Sally Quinn, newspaperwoman extraordinaire, one of the most powerful women in Washington.
Ms. Quinn asked Diana Paxson to write an essay about Paganism for her internet publication, On Faith, a joint project of The Washington Post and Newsweek. She asked Marci Drewry to record a video segment for the site. Most importantly, Ms. Quinn asked the On Faith columnists this question: “This July 4, Pagans rallied outside the White House. They want the military to add a Pagan chaplain. Should they get one? Would you vote for a Pagan for public office?”
Fifteen of their regular columnists replied with short essays, including Starhawk, Wendy Doniger of the University of Chicago, Bob Edgar of the National Council of Churches and Charles “Chuck” Colson, the Watergate burglar. I was surprised at the diversity opinion among these mainstream religious leaders and scholars. Several of them admitted they knew little or nothing about our Pagan religions, although their lack of knowledge didn’t stop them from judging us unfavorably. It was very interesting to read the responses, which are still up on the On Faith archives. http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/2007/07/pagans/all.html
Having fifteen religious leaders write about the Pagan chaplaincy issue is good exposure for us, in my opinion, however negative and ignorant some of the essays are. These essays allow us a glimpse of public opinion about Paganism at the highest levels of academia and mainstream religious leadership, which is enlightening and useful for us. The diversity of responses has led me to initiate the paperwork for the 4th of July 2008 Pagan religious rights rally and ritual.
The local community was very supportive of the 4th of July 2007 Pagan religious rights rally and ritual. Far too many people helped with various aspects of the rally and ritual for me to name them all here, although I am deeply grateful to all of them. There were representatives of Connect DC, CedarLight Grove ADF, Gladsheim Kindred, the DC Radical Faeries, Assembly of the Sacred Wheel, Sacred Grove, the Sacred Space conference, Chesapeake Pagan Community, Ecumenicon, NOVA-WABA Pagan Pride, the magical family of Rosemary and Abe Kooiman, the Order of the Pentacle from Circle Sanctuary, the Military Pagan Network, The Troth, Asatru Folk Assembly and many other people and organizations in attendance. The event was a real community effort.
There was considerable flux in the crowd over the course of a four-hour event. But we estimate that there were 225 people at the height of the crowd, and almost 300 over the entire afternoon. Very few local events draw as many people, even if those events last an entire weekend. And a few people came from a long way away, often motivated by having their own religious rights violated.
The next day, a group people from the rally did radio interviews on Culture Shocks, Barry Lynn’s own radio show. It is syndicated in several markets besides being available here in DC.
And then it was time to begin a different type of holy work: putting on the Chesapeake Pagan Community’s 2007 Gathering: Ancestors, Runes and Trance. Diana Paxson was our keynote presenter, offering a series of workshops and a ritual on runes, oracular prophecy and seidr trancework.
Diana has been practicing seidr for some years now, and had some amazing assistants with her, Lorrie and Raudhildr. The ritual of ancestor contact with Raudhildr as the seeress was extremely powerful, and many people were impressed with messages from their loved ones.
Selena Fox and Steve McNallen also joined us to teach classes about the Ancestors from their spiritual perspectives, which were interestingly contrasted. We were very happy to welcome Black Lotus to our gathering again. He is a Protean who is also an initiate of Ammachi of Kerala, the Hindu saint. Black Lotus taught several classes and presented a beautiful Kali Puja.
Alexei Kondratiev, the Celtic scholar and linguist, also joined us to teach a class on Ogham, a Celtic companion to the Runes class Diana Paxson had presented.
My own offering was the Conjure Dance, a New Orleans Voodoo dance of spirit possession invented by Marie Laveau to manifest an end to slavery. We dedicated this Conjure Dance to the escaping slaves who stayed briefly at the campground when it was a stop on the Underground Railroad. Many people enjoyed their first experience of spirit possession, and everyone loved Mz.imani’s subtle and beautiful drumming.
There were many other skilled workshop presenters with a variety of classes, people well known to the local community like Wilddragon, Myth and Thoron Woodling, and Michael Gryffyn. Tyrtle and Miriam Shulameet Benson provided the community with sacred sweat circles.
We in Chesapeake Pagan Community enjoy the diversity of each other’s spiritual paths. We are interested in continuing to make progress on our own spiritual paths, and sharing with others the fruits of our labor. The classes at our gathering are generally more advanced than those at most summer camping events, and there is an emphasis on Pagan religious worship rather than partying. If this sounds like a fun challenge to you, please join us! Next year’s gathering will be held at the same campground in Darlington, Maryland, July 17th through the 20th, 2008.
The entire event, from the 4th of July Pagan religious rights rally and ritual outside the White House through the Chesapeake Pagan Community gathering in northern Maryland, comprised a symphonic magical working on the themes of Ancestors and Freedom. It is only seldom that we get so many highly skilled practitioners collaborating to present their variations on such important themes. The members of Chesapeake Pagan Community extend our gratitude to our many brilliant co-conspirators. May the Ancestors smile with joy at our magic, and help us promote positive change in all the realms. Let Freedom Ring! So Mote It Be!
All photos captured by Caryn MacLuan, CedarLight Grove ADF (from top)
1. Setting the Altar with Selena Fox
2. Community members listening to speeches in the shade
3. Diana Paxson's Ritual Circle, with statue of President Andrew "Stonewall" Jackson in the background. The White House is out of sight on the right, the VA is out of sight on the left.
4th of July 2007 Pagan Religious Rights Rally and Ritual And Review of Chesapeake Pagan Community’s 2007 Gathering: “Ancestors, Runes and Trance”
| ABOUT... |
Location: Silver Spring, Maryland
Author's Profile: To learn more about Caroline Kenner - Click HERE
Bio: Caroline Kenner is a Washington Witchdoctor, a Pagan activist and shamanic healer who also practices the Washington art of advocacy media. She is a shamanic healer, trained for twelve years by Michael Harner, Sandra Ingerman and the Foundation for Shamanic Studies. She is initiated into two branches of Wicca: the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel, a Wiccan organization based in the mid-Atlantic, and the magical family of internationally famous Anglo-Irish Witches Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone. Caroline is also a proud initiate of La Regla de Ocha de Lukumi, also known as Cuban Santeria. Caroline has also practiced media arts as a longtime spokesperson for the Washington, DC and Baltimore Pagan community. She has spent years working to dispel the many misconceptions in the public mind about Paganism and Witchcraft. Caroline holds an A.B. in anthropology from Bryn Mawr College, and an M.S. in communications from Boston University. See Caroline's website at www.mythkenner.com
Other Articles: Caroline Kenner has posted 24 additional articles- View them?
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