Nine years ago a group of Muslim extremists hijacked four planes and rammed them into the World Trade Center towers in New York, into the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, and crashed one into a field in rural Pennsylvania after passengers and crew struggled to retake the aircraft. 2,977 innocents (of all faiths and backgrounds) died, and the United States, and some would say the world, hasn’t been the same since. The current upheaval over the “ground zero mosque” and burning Korans in our country stems from the unhealed wounds of that day. Today various protests, counter-protests, urgings, pleadings, rites, political functions, and events all centered on the 9/11 attacks will transpire.
September 11th was one of the things that started me on the path towards Pagan blogging and journalism. Years before The Wild Hunt I had a small proto-blog called MythWorks where I tried to find Pagan reactions to the madness that had just occurred. The 9/11 attacks awoke a need within me to find the stories we were ignoring or overlooking, to stop sitting on the sidelines of my faith community and become an active participant. I don’t think I could have realized that we would still be grieving, talking about, fighting over, and sadly exploiting, this day nearly a decade later. Some have tried to contextualize the tragedy by comparing it to larger events in wars past, perhaps in hope that it will bring perspective, but I don’t know if such a tactic can ever really work. I don’t think we should deny the ongoing importance of this event in our collective psyche, but I do think it shouldn’t be the only thing we as Pagans commemorate and remember this day.
We are a people of festival, of ancestor veneration, of connection. It is only proper that we understand the need for some to turn this into a sacred day. To a day when the dead are honored. Instead of resisting this impulse we should weave it into a tapestry of remembrance and hope. This year in India the Ganesh Chaturthi, the festival of Ganesha, begins on this day. How appropriate that millions are sending offerings to the remover of obstacles as we speak.
The Lalbaugcha Raja Ganesha image worshipped during Ganesh Festival in Mumbai, India.
Let us remove the obstacles that keep us from seeing that the sacred day of 9/11 is also a day of wonder and celebration. That the ancient Greek month of Boedromion started at sundown on Thursday 9th September, and that on this day Athene is traditionally honored. Let her wisdom and justice prevail on 9/11. Today is also the new year in the Coptic/Alexandrian calendar, so may this day be a new beginning for all of us.
This day is also the anniversary of the very first Parliament of the World’s Religions in 1893. A body that in its modern incarnation includes modern Pagan faiths in its leadership and gatherings. So this is a day for seeking understanding and dialog, for breaking bread, even with those we do not agree with. Finally, on this day in 1906 Mahatma Gandhi coined the term “Satyagraha” to characterize the Non-Violence movement in South Africa. So if we must struggle, if we feel that protest and counter-protest are the order of the day, let us do so in the spirit of Gandhi, and avoid adding hate to hate.
As Pagans, as polytheists, as those who hold and recognize many truths at once, let us wrap the tragedies of 9/11 into the tapestry of history. Let us recognize this day as a part of something far larger, let Pagans show the world how to find progress from the stalemate we now find ourselves in. Let us honor the dead and the sacredness of this day to create a new festival of veneration and hope.