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Article ID: 13131
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Animating the Spirit of Democracy
Author: Caroline Kenner [a WitchVox Sponsor] Posted: January 25th. 2009 Times Viewed: 5,831
The mild winter sun shone on the white marble of the Jefferson Memorial on January 19th. A huddle of well-bundled Pagans and Wiccans stood outside the concrete barriers protecting the memorial, along with a portable sound system, folded chairs, thermoses of hot tea and beribboned Witches' Brooms. We were waiting for that important initiation that precedes all public Washington ceremonies: the Once-Over by the Bomb-Sniffing Dog.
Our luggage and accoutrements having been Canine Certified Bomb Free, we were permitted to take our equipment to the plaza of the Jefferson Memorial, overlooking the frozen Tidal Basin. We were on this historic spot at this historic time to Animate the Spirit of Democracy with a Ritual of Unity and Blessing. We planned to sweep Washington clean with our consecrated Witches' Brooms, and then bless and protect our incoming leaders, our beautiful and beloved city, and the greater world.
But first, we needed to plug the sound system in. Sigh. The electrical access panel was locked. This would be the third time out of three ceremonies that we didn't receive electricity promised to us by the National Park Service. At least this time, we knew they were exceptionally busy with all the events for the Obama inauguration.
Fortunately, our tech department is highly trained and we were packing a marine battery. With only a little adjustment, we had the sound system powered up long before the maintenance crew person arrived to unlock the panel.
Hosted by three Washington Wyrd Sisters, Caroline Casey, Katrina Messenger and Caroline Kenner, Animating the Spirit of Democracy with a Ritual of Unity and Blessing was our response to Barack Obama's inauguration. We are all three native Washingtonians, which is unusual. Most people treat Washington, DC, like a graduate school for people interested in government. The population ebbs and flows with the political tides of Washington: people move to Washington following leaders who come to power and then leave Washington when their mentors are defeated. Only the few, the brave stay on for life, for as Caroline Casey has often remarked, Washington, DC, is a hardship post for a spiritual person.
Nonetheless, we have a large, active and well-organized Pagan community in Washington. And many of us locals supported Barack Obama's campaign for president, and many of us are filled with joy to see him be sworn in as our Chief Executive. Animating the Spirit of Democracy with a Ritual of Unity and Blessing was planned to give both the locals and any Pagan out-of-towners here for the inauguration a particularly Pagan ceremony to attend. We wanted to add our spicy sacred seasonings to the inaugural stew brewed by Obama's myriad supporters, to add our Pagan blessings to the chorus of well-wishers, and importantly, to use our magical abilities to cleanse this city and to bless and protect our leaders.
But this being Washington, first we needed to fill out the paperwork. Getting the permit for the Jefferson Memorial wasn't easy. The Obama inaugural committee had the right of first refusal to the site, and they didn't yield that right until shortly before the old year waned. I screamed with joy when I saw the envelope in my mailbox on New Year's Eve. I had almost given up hope that we would receive the permit.
Then we had nineteen days to find the right allies, envision the ceremony, tweak it until everyone was happy, and advance the event. This is where having an experienced group of co-conspirators is vital! I especially want to thank all of you adorable bloggers out there who helped our event go viral on the internet! Thank YOU for passing on the press release to all and sundry so we could get the word out!
We received a groundswell of support from all over the country! Clearly our event hit a nerve, both for good and for ill. Many groups around the country supported our event, many people linked their ceremonies and their energies with ours to uphold the sacred work. We know of ceremonies in Delaware, North Carolina, Bloomington, IN, Kalamazoo, MI, California, Utah and Colorado, and we believe there are many we didn't hear about. We also received hate mail. We expected to receive hate mail from the defeated supporters of President Bush, but we were surprised by the venom our event elicited from people further to the Left.
Changing the world is hard work, and not for the faint of heart or fearful of spirit. One hundred people showed up for our ceremony, with about 75 in circle at any given time. People came to join us from Detroit, from New Jersey, from Tennessee, from Delaware, from California and from West Virginia, as well as from closer locales. Others joined us serendipitously: their tour bus happened by the Jefferson Memorial while we were in ceremony, and our circle looked like fun to them.
Debby Morris, an ordained Witch trained by the Nomadic Chantry of the Gramarye and now working with Circle Sanctuary, used her military experience to conduct the Clean Sweep Witches' Broom Dance at the beginning of the ceremony. The Witches' Broom Dance was an integral part of our sacred work: we felt the need to cleanse Washington of the malfeasance, deceit and partisanship of eight years of the George W. Bush regime. With our Witches' Brooms, we swept Washington clean of politics-as-usual and set the stage for a new administration with an entirely different set of ethics.
Some of my mundane friends suggested using heavier equipment than our consecrated Brooms to sweep Washington clean, such as bulldozers. However, those of us who do magic know it isn't the size of the Broom that's important, it is the size of the mojo that is working the Broom. Our ceremony had plenty of good juice and to spare. The toxic taint of eight years of bad governance has been banished by our work.
And here are the words I used to seal the spell: May our sweeping cleanse Washington of past negativity! May our sweeping cleanse us of anger and shame! May our cleansing set the stage for justice, protection, blessing and healing! So Mote It Be!
The Witches' Broom Dance was the first vision I received when questing to discover how we should use our precious ritual time at the Jefferson Memorial. Apparently the image was powerful to many people. An Associated Press cameraman took video of the entire ceremony, yet the Broom Dance was what grabbed most peoples' attention, nationally and internationally.
Once we'd performed the much-needed cleansing, we could set the stage for our blessings and our protection work.
Katrina Messenger served as priestess to Animating the Spirit of Democracy with a Ritual of Unity and Blessing. Katrina was trained in the Reclaiming tradition and has since developed her own special ways of working. Katrina describes herself as "Poet, Priestess, Warrior, Witch." Founder of ConnectDC, a ten year old organization specializing in presenting public accessible ritual on the Solstices and Equinoxes, Katrina also leads Reflections Mystery School and teaches at Cherry Hill Seminary.
Michael Gryffyn, joined Katrina to priest our ritual. Michael is an Alexandrian Witch serving a local coven as High Priest, and is also a sound healer and drum mage. Michael was our drum leader for the event, and his beautiful Lady Leah helped lead the Broom Dance in her elegant velvet coat.
Our elemental invokers included Nybor of Haven, a much-loved elder in the eco-spiritual community who came all the way from West Virginia. Angela Raincatcher Roberts of Becoming, an interfaith pantheist church, brought in the waters of the West with such eloquence I cried. And Robin Yvonne Gough enlightened us calling the fires of the South.
Caroline W. Casey, daughter of a populist New Deal Congressman and lifelong Washingtonian, is a Visionary Activist Astrologer, devoted to the principle that Imagination lays the tracks for the Reality Train to follow. Therefore the cultivation of imagination coupled with the capacity for complex story-telling is a key strategy for personal and collective change. Caroline is dedicated to the wild blooming of the Compassionate Trickster Heart stirring within all of us everywhere. She is the found of the Coyote Network News, a mytho-politico news service.
Caroline broadcasts her live weekly radio show, "The Visionary Activist Show", wedding spiritual magic to ingenious social action to Pacifica station KPFA (94.1) in Northern California , replayed on L.A.s KPFK (and can be heard live on the web, by going to www.KPFA.org at 2pm PT on Thursdays) .
Here are some excerpts from Caroline Casey's remarks at the Jefferson Memorial: "Those of us who were born here have been waiting for this moment! And to all of you who have moved here or are visiting, thank you -- we need fresh blood! We are the pragmatic mystics, and we say: "Atlantis is rising under Mordor!"
"Magic begins with a willingness to cooperate with everything. Each moment awaits our imaginative dedication. All of Nature is awaiting our willingness and wonder to engage in collaborative harmony. That way we are more and more informed, so that we become dedicated to a culture of Reverent Ingenuity.
"True power is that which heals. Let us re-assume responsibility for dreaming the world back into being, animating, conjuring, imagining the story of collaborative reciprocal blessing. The Empire is going down, Regenerative culture is going up. Dedication is the antidote to fear.
"O, Spirit of the Compassionate Trickster residing within each one of us, come on in! After you've waited through 2000 years of Empire for this moment! Open the path before us so we may be danced into place, where each of us can do the most good while having the most fun. May It Be So!
"Our incoming president is well-named: Barack means "Lightning" in Hebrew, "Blessing" in Arabic, Hussein means Beloved of God and Obama means The Good. So even if some snarky commentator is saying his name with a negative inflection, he's actually invoking "Lightning! Blessing! Beloved of God! The Good!"
"Today we are also breaking the spell of martyrdom. Better a Trickster than a Martyr be! So as one of our acts of magic today, let us imagine Barack Hussein Obama honored like Nelson Mandela, celebrated by a grateful nation on his 96th birthday, along with his beautiful wife, the former President Michelle Obama, and his kids and his grandkids. If we can get there, it implies so much good! That is what we are animating today!"
Then we began the blessings offered by the community. Each of the celebrants brought a different flavor to the ceremony. Elspeth of Haven began with the Crone's Blessing, giving a deserved place of respect and honor to women elders as we do in the Pagan traditions. Grandmother Elspeth said, "Spirits of the Land, Land Wights, spirits of the Trees, Water Devas, come and bless this work. Let us all pull together here to bring this dream to fruition."
Charles Butler Neto, founder of Ecumenicon Fellowship and a talented composer, is a dual citizen of America and Brazil. A priest of the African disapora tradition, Charles offered blessings in the name of Obatala the Weaver. "Each of us is essential, each of our threads is integral to the weaving. If any of us holds back from their work, allows their thread to drop from the weaving, the cloth will come unraveled."
Ketzirah Carly, who describes herself as a Magelet, or practitioner of Earth-based Jewish magical practices, offered a blessing, in both Hebrew and in translation, for Tikkun Hanefesh, or the repairing of the soul. Ketzirah said, "President Obama, welcome to Washington! May this city embrace and support you, and the work you have to do here. Blessed be and Amen!"
Rev. Eric Eldritch, interfaith minister and community organizer, said "I've worked throughout the mid-Atlantic region to connect Pagans and to help us embrace change in ourselves first, as we move out to embrace change more widely in the world. We welcome the change brought about by the American people through this historic incoming administration. We expect to change, and we will work, and pray, and drum, and chant to make this change manifest." Eldritch ended with his signature phrase: "See Clearly. Love Deeply. Live Boldly. All the Gods Bless America!"
Suzanne Krall, an eclectic Witch trained by the late Rosemary Kooiman and now connected to Circle Sanctuary, offered a lovely blessing on behalf of America's animals. Suzanne was the only other person in the ceremony native to the DC area beside the two Carolines and Katrina. Suzanne invoked "The wise and sacred Owl in the East, the passionate Wolf in the South, the loving Salmon in the West and the Wild Turkey in the North…..and all of the other animals that make up this great Earth of the Animals in between. All of these Animals welcome our new President here with love, and ask not to be decimated as they have been in the past."
Priest Michael Gryffyn also offered this blessing: "I call from the heart of creation across race and religion. I call to every nation. I call to the Idea of Freedom and to that which we believe in: May there be Love and Peace and Freedom for us all. May all beings know Peace in our lifetime."
Orion Foxwood, Wiccan priest and author of "The Faery Teachings" and the recently released "The Tree of Enchantment" published by Samuel Weiser, offered a powerful blessing: "Stand I at the Crossroads at the place between night and day, and with my Witch's finger, I open the Faery Way. Stand I at the Crossroads at the place between life and death. I bless each one of you with my Witch's breath." Then Orion went on to say, "I call all of those who have come across the Atlantic and the Pacific, I call to those who walked here to America, in bone and blood, in hope and dreams, to get here to this place and time. May our Ancestors rise up from our blood in pride and joy! And may They know that the vision They fought and lived and died for is being made manifest tomorrow! It has taken almost 300 years, but finally, we are bringing some color into the White House! And this is blessed!"
We ended the blessings with Misha Houser, who came to our ceremony all the way from Orange County, California. Misha was in Washington to watch the swearing in of the president she had supported for months as a candidate and as a convention delegate. As far as we know, Misha and one other Pagan delegate at the most recent Democratic Convention were the first openly Pagan delegates in history. Misha was raised in the Scottish shamanic tradition Faile Gleidhte. As part of her blessing, Misha encouraged us to "…Become the Flame, as we go forth from this place today remember to keep the fire in your heart. Every person you share that flame with becomes the change, every one of us has just as big a part in this week, in this ceremonial observation, in this place and in this most sacred of inaugurations. I call upon all of us to tend this flame as our Ancestors did." Then Misha sang a song in Scottish Gaelic invoking Brighid, which was so moving I wept. We were delighted to have Misha with us in Washington, and look forward to staying in touch with her.
Katrina Messenger spoke last. Katrina is such a strong priestess that it is often given to her to wrap up ceremonies. Here are some excerpts from her powerful words: "We are all somewhat aware of the areas of our Earth which are experiencing violence. We are aware of the challenges we face in our country, with the global economic crisis, the abysmal state of our healthcare system and the crisis with the political system that just isn't over yet. We are also aware of the challenges we face as a species with the growing toxic load in our water and our air. We may even be aware of how this has affected each of us, and tainted our dreams and our hopes for the future.
"Then, suddenly, on the horizon there is a rising level of hope and optimism, rising like the Golden Sun and invoking the ancient qualities of the Solar King. We have an incoming president with all the mythical qualities of the Day Reborn. In short, we have crossed a threshold as a people, as a culture, as a planet. Up in that celestial vault of our highest ideals, it is morning again, and the Sun does rise. Let us approach this gleaming temple and lay upon this altar all of our brightest dreams and hopes.
"And remember: It is not Obama that rises on the bright sky of our ancient memories. It is all of us reawakened from our slumber of despair. Here is where we build our sacred shrine! Here, in the presence of the Gods and the Ancestors, we charge ourselves with the work of turning this Great Cosmic Wheel towards the horizon. This is where we step up. Many of us have been talking as if the change starts tomorrow, or started in November, or started whenever that long primary season began. But the change began as soon as you woke up and thought, There is Hope.
"I am 53 years old, and I am not hardly the oldest one here. I never dreamed for a moment that this country would feel this good after an election! I want you to think about that. This has something to do more than with who is in office. This is the work of the Ancients. This is the promised reward, this is the turning of the wheel.
"We've been traveling as a people through the Underworld. We've been eating dust and drinking dirty water in the realm of Ereshkigal in the Underworld. Now this is the place where we join hands and wake up from that dark despair! We open our eyes, we open our hearts, and we look around at people, and we say: "It's not just about me, it's about all of us!"
"Let's start reaching out now. Let us all wake up! Let us all start marching up that mountain back to the top and back to the sunshine. Because if we are sitting around waiting for Barack Hussein Obama to make our world better, we are missing an opportunity that we have to change the world.
"But here's the thing: we have to be willing to accept the parts of ourselves that are not so great, and we also have to accept the things about others which are not so great. Because we don't get there by being pure. We get there by being real.
"We as Pagans know about Paradox. We can stand in those places where it seems like nothing is going to come together, and Dance! I want you all to look inside yourselves, and find that Paradox that you've been holding: Yes, I can support a President who maybe invited someone to speak who I don't like. I can support a President who maybe didn't say exactly what you wanted to hear about marriage. And maybe you can say, I'm going to take it upon myself to stand in that Paradox, and to find Love not only within me, but around me.
"There's a beautiful song that says, Beauty is before me, behind me, on my left, on my right, above me and below me. Beauty is all around me. That attitude is only possible if we start from Love.
"So when Obama takes office, yes, that is an historic occasion. As the great granddaughter and granddaughter of people who had to pick cotton, I gotta tell you it is a Big Deal to me. But don't you ever forget: it is not him we should be most excited for. It is us."
There was a lot of media reaction to the event. We received coverage by the Associated Press, and the raw footage of the Broom Dance was featured nationally and internationally. It was picked up widely. Our event is being blogged about left, right and center. Some of the comments on fundamentalist sites aren't very nice, but perhaps doing Pagan ritual in public is a good way to help them open their minds about our beliefs and practices.
Both the Washington CityPaper and the Takoma Park and Silver Spring Voice, which are a local alternative weekly and monthly newpaper, wrote several favorable paragraphs about the event in larger stories about the inauguration. The Irish Times, a national circulation newspaper in the Republic of Ireland, quoted about our event from the Washington CityPaper article. A sound producer from Interfaith Voices recorded the entire ceremony. Interfaith Voices is a nationally syndicated show on National Public Radio. The show originates at WAMU-FM in Washington, DC.
Caroline W. Casey put up a good deal of sound from the ceremony on her show, which you can find at Coyote Network News
And we were delighted to welcome a news crew from our own community television, MagickTV, all the way from central Illinois! They have put up the entire 1 hour and 20 minute ceremony on Youtube....
In addition, they did stand-up interviews with Caroline Casey, Katrina Messenger and me
We understand enthusiasm for a favorite son here in Washington, as those tides have brought us many elected officials over the years. Certainly many people from Illinois are proud of President Obama. We really appreciate the dedication it took for the MagickTV crew of three to come all the way to Washington. We appreciate that your coverage means many more Pagans can view the footage, and see how the ceremony went. Thank you very much!
One of our allies, a professional sound man, has made a broadcast quality recording of the entire event. We also had a co-conspirator taking video footage. Other allies took still photos. We intend to give copies to the Library of Congress for their Sermons and Orations archive of religious responses to the Obama Inauguration. We are proud that Pagans will be taking part in this historic archive.
I will give the final words of this story to Caroline W. Casey, an eloquent purple-haired visionary: "Beautiful work, all of us! Barack Hussein Obama is our sail, and we are the wind."
Footnotes: Thanks to Cather Steincamp for the photos!
Author's Profile: To learn more about Caroline Kenner - Click HERE
Bio: Caroline Kenner is a Washington Witchdoctor, a shamanic healer trained for twelve years by Michael Harner and Sandra Ingerman of the Foundation for Shamanic Studies, and other fine shamanic teachers. In addition to her shamanic training, Caroline has received initiations and ceremonies in diverse spiritual traditions. She is a craft daughter of Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone, and has been initiated by the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel into their Order of Wandering Stars. Caroline has received several ceremonies in La Regla de Ocha de Lukumi, often known as Cuban Santeria. She wears the Necklaces, and holds the cauldron of the Warriors, and two soperas. Caroline is legally ordained in the state of Maryland, and is a board member of the Sacred Space Foundation, at www.sacredspacefoundation.org For many years, Caroline has worked as a religious freedom activist and media spokesperson for the Washington, DC/Baltimore Pagan community. Caroline has an A.B. degree from Bryn Mawr College in Anthropology, and an M.S. in Communications from Boston University. See www.mythkenner.com for more information about Caroline’s shamanic healing practice in Silver Spring, Maryland.
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