[With only one week away from the final election day in the U.S., we invited Dr. Gwendolyn Reece, a Washington D.C. Witch and Priestess, to share her thoughts on the interplay between politics and magic. Through our guest writers, The Wild Hunt is able to offer perspectives and viewpoints beyond that of its regular columnists. If you enjoy this column and the diversity of voices visiting The Wild Hunt, consider donating to the 2016 Fall Fund Drive. We are now at 62% of the goal with 3 days left. Donate today to support Pagan and Heathen journalism.]
As a Hellenic Pagan and a priestess of Athena and Apollon, I consider my duties as a citizen to be sacred. These responsibilities include being deeply informed and engaged in political deliberation and always exercising my vote, in national and local elections; being ready and willing to serve on a jury; taking the Good of my communities and my polis (neighborhood, city, nation) into account in all of my decisions. This also includes working to serve the collective Good, even if it makes me unpopular; and dedicating time and effort to create opportunities for members of my community to engage in thoughtful discourse. I strive to serve with as much of my nature as I am able, which means, as a priestess and a magickal practitioner, in addition to “normal” political activities, I also perform magick for the good of the polis.
Political magick is a branch of magick that was important in many ancient cultures, and it is part of my greater work to collaborate with others in its revival. In our contemporary context, politics has a narrower meaning than it had in the ancient Hellenic Pagan perspective.
The word “politics” and all of its variants come from the Hellenic word polis, which means the community and also means the body of which we are a part. When Aristotle famously said that a human being is a “political animal” what he meant was that we naturally organize ourselves into communities that are larger than the family. This is, perhaps, the most essential aspect of human nature. We are naturally communal.
Accompanying this understanding, the primary emphasis for the citizens of any polis is on their responsibilities. Although the concept of individual rights is critically important, it is, in no small measure, intended to ensure that all of the members of the polis are able to fully participate in and meet their responsibilities to community.
I believe we are at a dangerous crossroads in our country, much of which has been laid bare in this election and the competing visions of what kind of country we want to create. I see this current situation in our nation within the context of a greater initiatory crisis for humanity. However, regardless of whether or not you concur with any of the following spiritual ideas, I believe we can agree on the objective facts that the economy of the United States is the largest in the world and our military is the largest in the world. Therefore, the citizens of this nation have an ethical obligation to wisely govern ourselves, not just for our own good, but for the good of the planet. Whether we want to acknowledge it or not, we are not just citizens of the United States, we are all citizens of the cosmos, the cosmopolis, and we have responsibilities to all of the beings with whom we share the Greater Earth.
I believe humanity, collectively, is in a coming of age initiatory crisis, as stated earlier. I am convinced in the reality of group minds and that we collectively learn from our past, becoming more “mature.” This is what I call “spiritual evolution.” The climate crisis is our initiatory challenge and that we are going to make it or die and, if we fail, it will not harm humanity alone. Our world is interdependent.
Democracy, the United States, and Spiritual Evolution
Two of the Great Ones who I believe are deeply invested and involved in helping humanity successfully pass this initiatory challenge are Athena and Apollon. Both of Them have clearly documented historical roles founding Democracy in Athens and, I think, were powerful influences in its rebirth here. So what does democracy, the rule of the people, have to do with spiritual evolution? It is not that democracy inherently leads to actual better government. Whether it does or not depends completely upon its citizens and, historically, it has often led to worse government than monarchy. However, one of the key characteristics of an adult is self-governance, including the taking of responsibility for the decisions one has to make, developing self-control, reason, deliberation, cooperation and compromise, and dealing with the consequences of one’s choices. That is what self-governance is, individually and collectively.
Democracy, when it is functioning, requires a tremendous amount from its citizens and, therefore, is a powerful stimulus to the group soul. In a complex society, our citizens must broaden their perspective into trying to understand global issues. Imagine, for a moment, what a truly functioning democracy would look like and what would be required of its citizenry.
It is my understanding that the United States, at this moment, has a crucial role to play in the spiritual evolution of humanity. Why was democracy reborn here? If Athena and Apollon (and possibly other Divine beings) were part of the inspiration that rebirthed democracy into the modern world, why were we chosen? The United States has a number of characteristics that are incredibly rare and bring important possibilities.With the exception of First Nations people, the blood-lines of everyone who is here are not from here. Many Americans feel some ancestral loss, but it also gives us flexibility and malleability in our national character that is rare. Although most of us are painfully aware that we are not doing as good a job as we need to do in terms of true equality and embracing our diversity, there is a reason the “melting pot” metaphor has poignancy. We don’t have thousands of years of parochial thought forms built into our national identity, and we are blended in ways that reflect the cosmopolis in microcosm.
There are, additionally, certain aspects of our national character that, when we can embrace and embody them, put us in good stead to be able to meet the initiatory crisis of humanity. It is easier to see our national character when traveling abroad, but qualities of daring, creativity, optimism, forthrightness, and generosity are deeply rooted in the collective American psyche.
There are also deep challenges inherent in the American soul. We are suffering under the miasma, the spiritual pollution, of the genocide of the First Nations people and of the slavery of Africans and African-Americans. But these banes were present at the founding of the nation when we were tapped by the Great Powers for the rebirth of democracy, so I believe that we are capable of healing and purifying this miasma, if we can muster the courage and will to really address racism and oppression. I believe we can leverage the higher aspects of courage, daring, and forthrightness to meet this challenge….and we must. Justice is a human concept, it is not a fact in nature, and it is one of humanity’s spiritual duties to manifest it.
The Role of Political Magick
In many ways this sounds overwhelming and terrifying, but we also have good reason to hope. Because we are part of the group soul of humanity, our work, on this plane and on the inner levels of reality, can shift things powerfully. We don’t have to convince every individual. We need to get seminal and important thoughts to the tipping point where they make up part of the mental field of about 20% of our population. This, combined with emotional juice, will start shifting reality rapidly.
Magickal people know how to work directly in the realms of thought and with power. This is what many of us have been training for. We understand group souls. We understand thought power. We need to use our skills, as members of the group soul of humanity, and drag our collective consciousness over the threshold of initiation and make sure we don’t fall.
We can do many things working in the realm of mind. We can fortify hope and determination. We can construct and strengthen narratives of purpose. We can build heroic belief in change. Humans need to see themselves as heroes in meeting the crises we face.
And we can use our thought power to make people uncomfortable with the status quo, making sure we are not slowly boiling frogs, which is often our greatest danger. We can work to reinforce thought-streams about reforming those things that threaten the integrity of our government. We can continuously buttress the grand ideals that lie behind our polis and combat the cynicism and coarsening of our national discourse.In my practice, I work with Columbia as Athena Columbia, because I believe that she is the manifestation of Athena Polias for the United States. I do protection magick for the polis, including working with divine guardians. The psychic atmosphere around most structures of governance and courts is often quite polluted, which is not conductive to clear-headed, compassionate decision-making. I work on dispelling the poison, especially in my city, Washington, DC.
I magickally reinforce thought-forms about what a functioning democracy looks like and our national ideals. I perform magick to emphasize certain needs that require societal focus, either to protect or restore the integrity of the system (“get money out of politics,” “end gerrymandering,” “everyone’s vote should count equally”, “end mass incarceration”). I bless certain important events, such as the Paris Climate Change Summit, to support the courage and resolve of those attending. I feed the sense of urgency on the inner planes about great social issues that require focus.
In ancient Hellas the most important courts met outside under the light of Helios because Light is Truth. I work to reveal Truth and strip away glamour. Likewise, I use magick to boost the best aspects of our national character.
While all of this is part of my individual practice, it is also perfectly appropriate within the context of a 501(c)(3) organization, as many Pagan churches might be. It does not violate the separation of Church and State, because it is not endorsing nor opposing particular legislation or candidates. Magick that crosses that boundary is only properly performed outside of the context of a 501(c)(3) organization.
This summer, Theophania Temple of Athena and Apollon held its inaugural gathering for political magick, Thaumapolitikos. The event was tied to election cycles. In 2017, Sacred Space Conference will offer several sessions elaborating on content shared at Thaumapolitikos as well as one session sharing the specifics on how I do this kind of magick.
A Ritual to Strengthen the Vision of a Functional Government
As both an example of political magick and an offering to the community, I am providing a ritual that can be conducted individually or with a group that strengthens the thought forms about how our government and citizens should function. I encourage anyone who has the desire to work for the good of our polis to perform this ritual prior to the election and to carry its spirit with you through the election and beyond. Ideals need continuous reinforcement.
And of course, please vote.
* * *
About the Author: Gwendolyn Reece is the founding priestess of Theophania Temple of Athena and Apollon in Washington, DC and serves as Apollon’s mantis. She is also the President of the Sacred Space Foundation, which runs the Sacred Space Conference and is a member of The Fellowship of the Ancient White Stag, a coven in the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel.
* * *