[Pagan, mystic, and activist T. Thorn Coyle is founder and head of Solar Cross Temple and Morningstar Mystery School and lives by the San Francisco Bay. For information on her writing, podcasts, blog, and new video teaching series – Fiat LVX! – please visit http://www.thorncoyle.com]
“We have a society in which money is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few people, and in which that concentration of income and wealth threatens to make us a democracy in name only.” – Paul Krugman, Economist
“The occupy movement is important to Pagans because we understand just how important the right to a voice is and how it is essential in meeting the needs of all people… The voice and presence of any collective is the most important instrument that we can use.” – Wiccan Priestess Crystal Blanton
“At its essence, the message of the Occupations is simply this: ’Here in the face of power we will sit and create a new society, in which you do count. Your voice carries weight,your contributions have value, whoever you may be. We care for one another, and we say that love and care are the true foundations for the society we want to live in. We’ll stand with the poor and sleep with the homeless if that’s what it takes to get justice. We’ll build a new world.’” – Starhawk, Activist and Co-Founder of Reclaiming
“It may be a mostly “secular” movement, yet the term “Occupy” itself draws people to understand its meaning in broader terms—as containing an invitation to mindfulness and participation in ways that are simultaneously spiritual and earthly: Occupy the Earth, Occupy your Life, Occupy Everything.” – Pagan scholar Lee Gilmore
The Sacred Web
We do our sacred work on this earth, of this earth, with this earth. We enact theurgy -God action – theology in motion.
Not all Pagans or Magick Workers support the Occupy movement. I would not expect them to. However, I am unsurprised at the large number of us who do. We are used to linking the spiritual with the material, honoring the sacred in the baking bread, the programmed pixels, the words we speak, the trees, the earth, the sky. Some of us find comfort in humanity and some from our Gods. For me, the Occupy movement includes all of this. Also, Occupy is about the spirit of individual people striving to connect with one another, to feed each other, to fight for each other, and to lift each other up.
How have Pagans contributed to this, and why? Second Wave Feminists often said that the personal is the political, so I’ll start with myself: the whys can be found in my own personal history which you can read about here if you wish.
Meditating in public has long been my favored form of engaging in public action, that, working in my local soup kitchen, and providing spiritual tech to activists. After years of blockading, marching, and getting arrested, I took to sitting in silence as an anchor to large Direct Actions. So, after the incredible violence Tuesday the 25th, heading to downtown Oakland to meditate with others was my first response. Recognizing the need for porta-potties was my second. As a Pagan, one activity did not feel more important than the other. Both were responses to the sacred here with us, and both wished to fill a need. I continued to go out to the Occupy camp for meditation, while using Solar Cross Temple to organize funds for outdoor toilets and a handwashing station.
Many Pagans have had similar responses. Pagans and magick workers are supporting this movement of occupation in many other ways. I’ve had reports of Thelemites doing teach-ins in San Francisco, Witches organizing in Austin and Chicago, Pagans marching in Melbourne, bringing food and blankets to D.C., sending money and supplies from New Mexico, doing consensus trainings in Los Angeles, making magick in the streets, organizing rituals for justice, and spreading information around the globe. Some Pagans have even been harassed by Fox News for their efforts.
Owner of the Oakland magickal shop Ancient Ways,which hosts the country’s largest indoor Pagan gathering – Pantheacon – Glenn Turner helped with organization of Oakland’s General Strike, offering the shop as a distribution point for posters, talking with the mainstream media and closing the shop the day of the strike. As a long-term leader in Pagan circles she says this of her role helping with Occupy: “When there is a leader, people simply wait around. Here we know that no one but ourselves is going to step up. So we do.”
This is echoed by the words of Sam Webster of the Open Source Order of the Golden Dawn: “The Occupy movement is the first step in massively networked decision making, which is the only meaningful challenge to the hierarchical command structures that dominate our world and got us into the current crisis.”
Despite our petty squabbles, Pagans are good at networks. Those with a Pagan bent tend to look toward matrices of connection: in Nature, in our theologies, and in our groups. In this sense, Occupy is a dynamic enactment of our magical values. It also can reflect how we view and interact with magick and the world. David Salisbury of Capital Witch writes: “The first thing I noticed while attending Occupy DC was the type of energy the occupation as a whole was putting out. You could clearly tell that this was not just some solitary band of rebels camping in the park. What they held in their encampment was clearly connected to something far greater than just my city… Stepping into the encampment was like crossing the threshold into sacred space. I felt immediately grounded but also infused with power – the power needed to do major Work.”
The Power is Rising
That power Salisbury speaks of has been mentioned by many people involved in Occupy, not just Pagans. I have felt it myself, tears springing to my eyes at several moments. It reminds me of accounts from earlier mass social movements – the Paris Commune, the English Diggers – and is encapsulated by this quote from Mary Heaton Vorse, reporting on the Lawrenceville “Bread and Roses” strikes of 1912: “It was the spirit of the workers that was dangerous. The tired, gray crowds ebbing and flowing perpetually into the mills had waked and opened their mouths to sing.”
That singing spirit was strongly present in the music playing, dancing, marching crowds on Wednesday, during the General Strike in Oakland in which at least 10,000 people – if not more – shut down the 5th largest working port in the U.S. Here’s a helicopter viewof the crowd.
Reclaiming Witch Riyana has eloquently written about her experiences that day: “Imagine listening to… powerful voices singing beneath a nearly-dark sky and brass instruments blaring and drums grooving when the news finally reaches us, for the first time, over bullhorn and people’s mic that we’ve actually done it – we’ve shut down the port.”
I ran into many Pagans the day of the strike, including a lively crew that contained Riyana, Pagan musician Brook , and Reclaiming Quarterly editor George Franklin among other faces both familiar and unfamiliar. They enlisted me to help lead a spiral dance indowntown Oakland. David Wiegleb, owner of Fields Books, the oldest metaphysical bookshop in the country, danced with us. In speaking to why he was there, he said this: “The pagan philosopher Plato describes the character of a good city thus: ‘Clearly, then, it will be wise, brave, temperate [literally: healthy-minded], and just. As a pagan, I want to see my city fully express Plato’s civic virtues. However, it can only really do so in a nation that is also wise, brave, temperate, and just. In a world that is wise, brave, temperate, and just. And only if I embody them in my own sovereignty as well.”
Photo by Gae Sídhe
Gae Sídhe, who walked close to 17 miles shutting down banks and the Port that day said, “Ever since I came to identify as Pagan I’ve been devoted to the path of the Pagan warrior as manifesting today in the liberation struggle and revolutionary activism. I’m Occupying against the Big Lie, and to help plant a seed of a beautiful and powerful new Truth to come…”
Rhett Aultman, who has been out at Occupy Oakland, and live tweeted the Oakland City Council meeting Thursday night reflected: “As an atheist Pagan, my sense of moral mandate doesn’t come from divine forces but instead from my philosophical conclusions that the human condition is universal– that we must all struggle with the profound challenges of our mortality and drive to resolve the challenge of our mortality by making meaning of our existence.”
We make meaning of our condition, right here, right now. We make meaning with our lives, with each other. For me, this is sacred activity. Ritual is the process of making meaning. Occupy, to echo David Salisbury, is a form of ritual, a banding together of those who are saying: “This space, this time, is sacred. We matter.”
Thelemite, author and musician Gerald del Campo puts it this way: “The Law of Thelema is. We are subject to it with or without our awareness. You can tell the ones that have alligned themselves with it by the way they stand in opposition to socio-political issues which are diametrically opposed to Truth, Equity and Freedom – like the folks inconveniencing themselves and putting themselves in harms way at the various OWS protests all over the world. To see the world as it is, is easy because it is only a projection of the Demiurge: it is what we’re supposed to see. Nuit represents potential, and as such those that see the world as it can be are her lovers and soldiers for freedom.”
There is a world that is, a world that was, and the world that is becoming. We have a chance right now to co-create this world, to put our best thoughts and actions together and manifest something we can feel proud to have built. We can do this magick, if we choose to.