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Article ID: 8444
Age Group: Adult
Posted: May 1st. 2004
Pagan Drum Corps at the March for Women's Lives
by Caroline Kenner
It was the largest demonstration in support of women's rights since 1992. An estimated 1.2 million women, men and children took part in the "March for Women's Lives" on April 25th in Washington, D.C. Official delegations from more than 1,519 organizations and communities registered their solidarity. And for the first time, the roster of official delegations included one from the Washington-Baltimore Pagan community.
We marched together in every abortion rights march since the 1980s, but as far as we know, this was the first registered Pagan delegation from our area to a women's march. Those of us who marched believe it's important for our Pagan community to stand with others sending some powerful messages to Washington: Lay Off Women's Rights. Stop Eroding Women's Right to Choose Abortion. Support Gender Equality. Promote Gay Rights and Gay Marriage.
The last big march for reproductive rights was in 1992, so long ago that our local Pagan community was still rather small. Along with our growth in numbers, we have become more organized. There are now a wide range of Pagan groups locally: several community organizing groups, a few sizeable covens, some CUUPS chapters, two ADF groves. Since the delegation was the brainchild of people from diverse groups, we marched as the Pagan Drum Corps, a new entity.
Back in the 1980s, members of the band Kiva and their friends would meet downtown with dumbeks in hand to march together for women's rights. We always brought our drums and chanted to the Goddess while we marched. This was before we had the internet to organize a meeting place. It was harder to co-ordinate in those days, and we would just meet at a particular street corner.
That was a much simpler way of marching. This time, several weeks of preparation were required. We had our own banner. It was a received work designed to unify and protect the delegation. Witchvox sponsor Mara Seaforest of Warrenton, VA, designed fabulous buttons for our delegation. Having the banner and the buttons made us feel more unified, and the banner and the Peace sign high above people's heads helped us stay together amidst the massive crowd.
|77 size=2>One Pagan's Opinion on Abortion|
How do you explain to someone who is not Pagan that part of your strong support of abortion rights is based on a horrific past life memory? I have for many years had a strong memory of hanging myself in despair over a socially unacceptable pregnancy. To me, this is essential to understanding crisis pregnancy: some women will go to any lengths to end a problem pregnancy. Women will use dirty implements and risky procedures and any desperate measure they can to end a crisis pregnancy. Some women will even kill themselves rather than carry an unwanted child.
In my opinion, the starkest way to frame the abortion debate is this: without safe and legal abortion, grown up women who function in society will die; with abortion, small clumps of cells which contain infinite possibilities will perish. Perhaps, perhaps, life begins at conception. But then again, perhaps not. We will never know for sure. But we do know for sure without safe and legal abortion, women will die. Other women will survive back alley abortions damaged forever, their fertility destroyed.
Abortion is such a sensitive subject that people of good will and good conscience can vehemently disagree with each other about it, even in the Pagan world. I got hate mail in response to my organizing memo announcing the Pagan Drum Corps. I also got a lot of loving support from many powerful women. So many of the people who oppose abortion are men, how dare they seek to control something they'll never experience or even fully comprehend? In the 21st century, we Pagans once again demand respect for women's mysteries. My personal position is that abortion should be available on demand with no restrictions. At best, abortions should be rare, but I give the mother the benefit of the doubt, and remain convinced that women actually know what is best for themselves.
A small group met at my home the morning of the march. We had coffee and snacks before setting out. Patches, a member of Chesapeake Pagan Community, had knit festive purple and yellow arm bands for us, the colors of the march. Mara Seaforest arrived with the buttons. We packed and repacked our food, water and the t-shirts I had for sale designed by the artist, Robbie Conal, and his lovely spouse, designer Deborah Ross. The t-shirt was not related to the Pagan Drum Corps except through me.
The t-shirt shows a martyred woman crucified with the Caduceus snakes and/or the Kundalini snakes winding up her body. She gazes up to Heaven and the slogan at her feet reads: "Warning: The Bush Regime is Dangerous to Women's Lives. It is a stridently anti-Bush t-shirt, and I was easily able to sell quite a few on the Mall that day. Robbie Conal is a guerilla artist: he does postering campaigns all over the country with bitingly satiric works of political art. If you think all politicians have big heads and should be subjected to relentless mockery, take a look at Robbie's website, www.robbieconal.com. Robbie, Debbie and I conspired to make the t-shirts as a personal act of free speech in rebellion against the court-ordered Bush administration. Many of the Pagan Drum Corps agreed, and wore the t-shirt to march in.
Meeting the other Pagan Drummers coming from all directions was a challenge among more than a million people. Witchvox sponsor Chrionna Pastin ni Graham of the Crescent Moon Service Corps got to the meeting point first and called me on my cell phone. That made it easier to pick where to get off Metro. Shortly after that, everyone's cell phones stopped working. We heard later the police frequencies were blocking cell phone transmissions. Welcome to Washington, D.C., in the Bush administration! And many marchers were planning to meet people at the March using their cell phones.
When we got to our meeting spot, it was heartening to find so many familiar faces from Pagan political actions of the past. Honored elder Diccon Frankborn, who has been Pagan so long his photograph appears in Drawing Down the Moon, brandished his cane as he marched with us, Diana McFadden of Kiva was there, and many of the usual local suspects: Vivienne Colquhoun, Tyrtle, Lafing Frog, Drake, Maeve, Seanara. People came from Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Delaware. We enjoyed seeing all the familiar faces and also making new friends. Kalabran, president of Chesapeake Pagan Community, was our standard-bearer. He dressed as the Green Man, a deliberate irony in the face of excessive fertility. Our delegation was about 25 people strong at the beginning of the march.
At the beginning, everyone stood slowly inching forwards, crowded together. Our drumming helped people restrain their impatience to move forward, and instead use their energy to dance while standing in place. We only had a few drummers (THANK YOU!!!) but they were really good. We had a large number of people with percussion instruments to add spice to the drumming.
Finally we made the turn, got off the Mall and walked onto the avenue. We could stretch our legs at last. Then we saw what we were walking into: a gauntlet of anti-abortion demonstrators on the sidewalks behind barricades. They were holding grisly signs and accusing us of heartless murder. It was too much for one of the younger marchers, who tried to steal a gory sign from an anti-abortion protestor. Her friends pulled the young woman away from the anti. Attracted by the drama, a March organizer intervened.
We drummed more intensely. Serendipity arrived in the form of the Sax Man from Baltimore. He was hot, wailing on his saxophone, using our rhythms to anchor a cascade of honks and squeaks. Everyone started to dance around us. Our infectious rhythms brushed back the tide of animosity from the anti-abortion demonstrators. We reached a crescendo and dropped our hands. "Pagan Drum Corps Rocks!" shouted a fellow demonstrator, and we got a big round of applause.
Once we got to the Ellipse, we found many other Pagans. We heard their drums calling. The little river of the Pagan Drum Corps joined a larger lake of rainbow people, some Pagan, in a colorful tribal crowd. There were Goddess parade puppets and belly dancers and the fabulous Ms. Imani was there. We saw friends from Foxwood Temple. There was at least one other official delegation of Pagans, Goddesses for Choice. A beautiful woman asked if we had met in jail after an anti-globalization march. The Rhythm Workers' Union had a huge drum-mobile made from a garden cart with tom-toms attached. We merged into a mass circle, and drummed and danced for some ecstatic moments.
Finally, a March organizer shooed us along the route as we were falling behind. We danced shamelessly along Pennsylvania Avenue as a colorful Pagan herd, sharing our rhythmic power. A single line of fundamentalists stood at the side of the street, shouting at us. Our marchers stood in front of the fundamentalists, holding up pro-choice signs to conceal the anti's pathology lab photos. There were literally a thousand of us for each of them. I rattled and sang to detoxify the current of anger the anti-abortion marchers projected.
The March for Women's Lives was the most powerful march I've ever attended. It was the largest women's march in history, and also the friendliest. It made me feel powerful to march. Many people marched with their whole families. There were lots of three generational family groups, and lots of men. There were also a lot of Gay groups, which was nice to see. The same lawmakers who oppose Gay rights also oppose women's rights.
Above all, we marchers had a feeling of unity, which was very empowering. I am praying for continued unity in this country, a unity of purpose that will allow us to foment regime change at the ballot box in November.
| ABOUT... |
Location: Silver Spring, Maryland
Author's Profile: To learn more about Caroline Kenner - Click HERE
Bio: Caroline Kenner is a Pagan Witch and shamanic healer living in Silver Spring, Maryland. She offers free shamanic healing circles celebrating the Pagan High Holidays at Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church in Adelphi, MD, sponsored by The Chesapeake Pagan Community. She is a graduate of the Foundation for Shamanic Studies Three Year Program in shamanism and shamanic healing. Caroline is a proud sponsor of The Witches' Voice.
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