Celebration of the Divine Feminine and Religious Freedom
Article ID: 14821
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 1,240
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Author: Caroline Kenner [a WitchVox Sponsor]
Posted: November 6th. 2011
Times Viewed: 3,262
Sponsored by: Sacred Space Conference
Location: Lafayette Square Park across from the White House, Washingto
Event Date(s): Sunday, October 30th, 2011
On Sunday, October 30th, a diverse group of about 70 Pagans held a lovely celebration of the Divine Feminine and Religious Freedom in Lafayette Square Park, across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House. The crowd included Druids, Asatru, Witches, Dianics, O.T.O members, devotees of African diaspora faiths, shamans, Theosophists, Reclaiming folks, and traditional and eclectic Wiccans.
The event in Lafayette Square Park was held to counter the 51 days of intercessory prayer targeting the national Pagan community. For 51 days, each state in reverse order of admission to the Union would suffer cursing prayer from operatives from the New Apostolic Reformation, beginning October 3rd and ending November 22nd. The New Apostolic Reformation is a subgroup of charismatic and pentecostal Christians, a subgroup that openly advocates fundamentalist Christian theocracy in the United States of America.
However slight the NAR’s chances of success in this venture, at least two of the Republican contenders for the presidential nomination are influenced by this subgroup of a fundamentalist Christian subculture. Rick Perry, Governor of Texas, and Representative Michele Bachmann, (R-Minnesota) are both influenced by the works of C. Peter Wagner and Cindy Jacobs, who write about spiritual warfare against pagan influences in American culture.
As described in their books, spiritual warfare is conducted on three levels, the highest level of which is strategic-level intercession. And this sort of negative cursing magic, to call a spade a spade, was what the NAR was planning against each of the 50 states in turn, and Washington, DC.
The NAR targeted the national Pagan community in particular because they believe all forms of female divinity are demonic, and they know many of us worship Goddesses. They are particularly averse to “The Queen of Heaven” which is a traditional title of several ancient Goddesses, especially Inanna of Babylon and Ur. And the New Apostolic Reformation would like to topple our hometown Goddess here in Washington, DC: Columbia, from whom our District takes its name, who stands atop the United States Capitol building.
Our organizational sponsor for the Layfayette Square Park event was the Sacred Space Conference. Now in its 22nd year, Sacred Space offers diverse workshops to a discerning and magicakally experienced audience. Featured guests for the upcoming conference in March 2012 are Druid leader John Michael Greer, eclectic Wiccan Ivo Dominguez, Jr., and Solomonic ceremonialist Lyratah Barrett.
Katrina Messenger, a writer, teacher, blogger, poet and Washington, DC native, agreed to be the main celebrant in Lafayette Square Park, despite the controversy within the local Pagan community about holding any sort of response event at all. One local group bound itself by vote not to react in any way unless the NAR arrived in person to disrupt one of their events.
Ms. Messenger said, "The NAR "prayer" campaign towards the entire USA and DC felt like a visit from the Klan. And just like a visit from the KKK, the community felt split on how to respond. Do we ignore them, meet them on the streets or celebrate the very qualities they despise? In the case of the Klan, many of us responded in the past with celebrations of diversity. So with NAR, we decided to honor the Goddesses of many traditions and faiths; and thereby honor the quintessential American value of religious freedom."
Normally when we hold a community event in downtown DC, we have few worries about security, especially since all the Federal sites are protected by at least two police forces. This time was a bit different. Our security team was headed up by a retired Lieutenant Colonel from the Army’s Military Police along with a former Staff Sargent. And people relaxed entirely when Frank Stormcatcher arrived to help. Frank is large and protective, and he is a Marshal of the Caomhnoiri Fian.
Our community’s ally, Reverend Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, was not able to join us as a speaker at the event, but did give us this nice quote for our press release:
“Some people think the Dominionists and the New Apostolic Reformation are a newfangled movement. I call them what they are: the Religious Right in a new gown. They're not fooling anyone. This is the same old bunch of theocrats we've been dealing with for more than 40 years. It's the same crew that believes only its narrow version of Christianity is acceptable and pleasing to God. It's the same collection of people who believe their religion gives them the right to run everyone else's lives.”
Rev. Lynn went on to say, “I have news for them: Wiccans and Pagans are part of the American religious mosaic, and they're here to stay. Founding Fathers like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison gave us religious liberty - and that means religious liberty for everyone. The followers of nature-based faiths are going to use it because they don't want to lose it. What could be more in keeping with the great American tradition?”
Washington, DC bloggers Hecate Demeter and Literata were involved in the co-creation of the event from the beginning. Hecate Demeter is perforce inside the Broom Closet, but she was able to be quietly supportive. We give thanks to Hecate Demeter for helping to pay for the professional stage we needed. Hecate Demeter also bought professional-quality patriotic bunting, to add that all-American touch to our Goddess altar.
Literata was able to join us for the event, and she offered a prayer to the Goddess Columbia. Literata inspired us: “Hail Columbia, matron goddess of your district and of our government! You represent our highest ideals of freedom and liberty. Help us to strive towards the fullest expression of those values. Columbia, stand firm to defend the wall of separation between church and state that protects our precious religious liberty, so that we may continue to honor you. As we do, help us resist oppression and ensure justice. Hail Columbia!”
Each prayer to each Goddess was interspersed with an appropriate song from Firesong, founder of the Universal Temple of Spirits, a global trance possession tradition that welcomes all spirits. Firesong has an exquisite voice and is nicknamed the Human iPod for the number and diversity of songs she knows. Her opening song was the Ancient Mother song, all Goddesses being the holy Descendants of the Stone Age Goddesses worshiped by our Ancestors.
Some of the most powerful and profound Pagan celebrants in Washington, DC came to offer prayers. Two priestesses from Becoming, an Earth-based pantheistic spiritual community in DC, joined us. Angela Raincatcher offered a passionate and heartfelt invocation to Brighid. Ketzirah is a Kohenet, or Jewish priestess. She offered a beautiful reading praising the Shekinah, the divine feminine indwelling presence of God. While standing before our diverse altar, Ketzirah preceded her prayer: “I am standing nervously before an entire table full of idols, but since you are not asking me to bow down before them, it is all right.”
And that encapsulated the whole point of our ritual: we wouldn’t have dreamed of asking Ketzirah to bow down before our Goddesses, any more than Ketzirah would have demanded that we bow down before her tabernacle.
Other celebrants included Adam Miramon, a healer and student at Reflections Mystery School, who offered a prayer to Ix Chel, Maya Goddess of the Moon and Healing. Adam arrived early with his image of Ix Chel for our altar, and made himself so useful during set up that he was better than a Swiss Army knife. David Dashifen Kees, webmaster for the Hail, Columbia project, joined us all the way from Illinois. He offered a prayer to Ma’at, Egyptian Goddess of Truth and Justice. Gryffyn Moonrite, an Alexandrian priest, offered a Wiccan invocation to Hecate of the Crossroads. Gryffyn also served as our main drummer and did an excellent job leading the rhythm section.
A local Unitarian Universalist minister gave a rousing prayer titled “We Dare Not Fence the Spirit” which enlivened the whole crowd. And Gwendolyn Reece, Theosophist and Witch, offered a splendid invocation to Athena, designed to protect our democracy: “Beloved Athena, may we meet the challenge you gave us so very, very many years ago with your gift of Democracy; the challenge to rise above the forces of fear and the petty self-centeredness that would keep us small, so that we may stand as full, responsible, spiritual adults, ruled by reason and by compassion. With your gift, you told us that the days in which humanity could, like children, lay their burdens in the laps of the Great Ones has ended. The Gods will no longer fix the problems we cause for us. That is our work to do.”
Longtime Druid leader Will Pierson attended the event, and had this comment: “All those guiding our service today did so with a strength, a power and a precise focus often lacking in Pagan prayers. You all marvelously rose to the need by calling forth those quite specific actions dictated by They who grant us faith, the Old Ones. All too often we bask in Their glory without taking up Their labors. We must strive to move ourselves past the innocent days of childhood when "do as ye will" sufficed as the whole of the law. Earth cries out now for us to grow up, to become the adults in Her Kindred.” Will Pierson and I were founding trustees of the original DC Pagan religious rights group, Coalition for Pagan Religious Rights, formed in the early 1990s in response to the Iron Oak situation.
There were moments of light-heartedness in joyous but serious ceremony. I invoked Durga, one of the three Goddesses I serve, and told the story of her battle with the Buffalo Demon. In my version of this classic tale, the Buffalo Demon, a very profane individual, looks upon the beautiful Durga with inappropriate desire: “Baby, you are so hot with all of those weapons twirling in your hands! I like the sexy way you ride that Tiger! Come closer, and kiss me!” And Durga responds “I draw close so you will feel the kiss of my steel. I rejoice to see the blood flow from your insolent mouth. You will meet your death at my tender hands. As I slay you, my heart will sing with joy.”
Then I invited Durga to come ride her Tiger in downtown Washington, DC, where I promised she would find a multitude of Buffalo Demons to slay.
Firesong followed the invocation to Durga with the classic song Jai Ma, Victory to the Great Mother. By chance, by happenstance, a Hindu family was passing by just then. They seemed happy (although amazed) to see Durga and Kali on our altar, and hear the famous song echoing in front of the White House.
Firesong and I are both devoted to the deities of the African diaspora to the Americas and the Caribbean. Firesong is devoted to Ellegua and I am devoted to Oya. But it was Yemaya, Mother of the Ocean, who demanded a prayer in our ceremony. Yemaya is the Mother of Fishes, the Great Mother who birthed all the Orishas. And after she prayed to Yemaya, Firesong sang yet another amazing song to honor our Mother of the Ocean.
My favorite song of the entire ritual was to Freyja of the Norse, the third Goddess I serve. I am devoted to Freyja through my initiation with Gavin Bone and Janet Farrar, my English priest and priestess living in Ireland. Firesong knows a plaintive sweet melody, with the words in original German, honoring beloved Freyja. And yet Freyja is also formidable Goddess. Like Durga, I invited Freyja to ride the streets of our nation, alongside her Valkyries.
Katrina Messenger wrapped up the prayers with her invocation to Inanna. "Hail Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth, I am your daughter and priestess. I who bow in your presence and revel in your love and pray that you bless this work and these people and gathered in your honor. We greet you as our queen, our guide and our mother. and We ask that you bless this work and hear our prayers. Teach us how to reach outside of our comfort and for the work that is ours and true. Give us courage to take what is ours by birth and defend these traditions and mysteries and against the tyranny of fear. Delight in our beauty and innocence and while gently nudging us forward on our path. Help us to hear the call to healing and and step on the journey of transformation. Open our hands, so we can let go of what is non-essential. Hold us close when despair takes hold. Revive us with the waters of life and and guide us back into the living light. Hail Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth, we who are your children, please protect us with your love.”
Following the prayers and songs, Sherry Marts, a Dianic Witch and longtime community leader, led a Spiral Dance. As we spiraled and chanted Isis Astarte to a quickening pace, the Goddesses on our altar looked upon our revels with a powerful and benevolent satisfaction. All of the Goddesses from the chant were present upon our altar: Isis, Astarte, Diana, Hecate, Demeter, Kali, and Inanna. All the Goddesses graced that holy place, hallowed by the blood of Americans who lived by and died for the freedoms we now enjoy.
As the pace of the dance quickened, the words of the chant merged in my throat into a transcendent tone and I transfigured into light, offering my spirit wholeheartedly to our group effort. Our cone of power rose into the heavens like a beacon of glittering light, like a magnificent Pharos, a huge Lighthouse beaming the radiance of our Goddesses to all 50 states, the District of our beloved Columbia and out to the entire world. The radiance of our Goddesses gilded the day, while any negative prayers that might have drifted our way transmuted into flowers and fell as a blessing of sweet petals onto the Earth.
Although we stayed for another hour or two, drumming, singing and dancing to honor our beautiful and beloved Goddesses, our work was then done, and well done.
May the Blessings of the Queens of Heaven and Earth, the Divine Feminine that is found at the root of all religions, all spiritual traditions, resound throughout all the realms! May all citizens of our Earth come to know the religious freedom that we fought and died to achieve here in America! So Mote It Be!
A Prayer to God, from Voltaire’s Treatise on Tolerance, spoken by Caroline Kenner as part of the introduction to the Celebration of the Divine Feminine and Religious Freedom held in Lafayette Square Park October 30th 2011.
Like many of our American Founders, Voltaire was a deist rather than a Christian. This prayer was written in reaction to the biased trial and execution by torture on the wheel of Jean Calas, a Hugenot merchant in Toulouse, France in 1762. Calas lost his life because he was a Protestant in a Catholic country. Some members of the crowd at our event were descendants of Hugenot emigrants fleeing religious persecution in France.
PRAYER TO GOD
No longer then do I address myself to men, but to you, God of all beings, of all worlds, and of all ages; if it may be permitted weak creatures lost in immensity and imperceptible to the rest of the universe, to dare to ask something of you, you who have given everything, and whose decrees are immutable as they are eternal. Deign to look with pity on the errors attached to our nature; let not these errors prove ruinous to us. You have not given us hearts to hate ourselves with, and hands to kill one another. Grant then that we may mutually aid each other to support the burden of a painful and transitory life; that the trifling differences in the garments that cover our frail bodies, in our insufficient languages, in our ridiculous customs, in our imperfect laws, in our idle opinions, in all our conditions so disproportionate in our eyes, and so equal in yours, that all the little variations that differentiate the atoms called men not be signs of hatred and persecution; that those who light candles in broad daylight to worship you bear with those who content themselves with the light of your sun; that those who dress themselves in a white robe to say that we must love you do not detest those who say the same thing in cloaks of black wool; that it may be all the same to adore you in a dialect formed from an ancient or a modern language; that those whose coat is colored red or violet, who rule over a little parcel of a little heap of mud of this world, and who possess a few round fragments of a certain metal, enjoy without pride what they call grandeur and riches, and may others look on them without envy: for you know that there is nothing in all these vanities to inspire envy or pride.
May all men remember that they are brothers! May they hold in horror tyranny exerted over souls, just as they do the violence which forcibly seizes the products of peaceful industry! And if the scourge of war is inevitable, let us not hate one another, let us not destroy one another in the midst of peace, and let us use the moment of our existence to bless, in a thousand different languages, from Siam to California, your goodness which has given us this moment.
N.B. If you think I am being overdramatic to call Lafayette Square Park hallowed ground, please remember that the British burned the original White House to the ground during the War of 1812. Dolley Madison barely escaped, taking with her with the Constitution, a draft of the Declaration of Independence, the famous Lansdowne portrait of George Washington, and some of the silver. She is my favorite First Lady.
Spiral Dance with Rainbow Light:
Katrina Messenger Speaks:
David Rea, Fellowship of the Ancient White Stag ASW
Sacred Space Conference: www.sacredspacefoundation.org
Katrina Messenger’s speech, invocation and prayer to Inanna:
Literata’s suggested ritual for Columbia:
More Information about Columbia:
Copyright: (c) Caroline Kenner November 2011
Location: Silver Spring, Maryland
Author's Profile: To learn more about Caroline Kenner - Click HERE
Bio: Caroline Kenner is a Washington Witchdoctor. Caroline was born in Washington, DC during the Eisenhower administration and has lived in the Washington, DC environs most of her life. She has served her Pagan Gods and Goddesses for almost 30 years.
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