Pagans (and Masons) at the Inauguration

Inaugural fever is heating up in Washington DC, and millions of people are expected to be on hand for Barack Obama’s inauguration. Since all those people won’t fit into (or weren’t invited to) the 10 official balls the Obamas will be attending, several lobbies, special interest groups, and private citizens are throwing their own bashes (with varying degrees of fabulousness).  Unsurprisingly, Pagans, who overwhelmingly supported Obama in the election, are getting in on the action. The day before the inauguration, a group of Pagans and magical/spiritual progressives will be gathering at the Jefferson Memorial to do some cleansing spell-work (and since these are Pagans, have a drum-jam). The Washington, D.C. community of magical and spiritual progressives will join together on Monday afternoon, January 19th, at the Jefferson Memorial Plaza to sweep the town clean and welcome President-elect Obama and his administration to the White House. The Ritual of Unity and Blessing is organized by a triumvirate of native Washingtonians, one of whom is the great-granddaughter of slaves, one the great-granddaughter of slave owners, and one the daughter of a populist New Deal Congressman.  The ceremony will begin promptly at 2pm with a Witches’ Broom Dance, intended to cleanse Washington of the malfeasance, deceit and partisanship of the last eight years.

Slow Time and Secret Societies

A couple of interesting book-related articles to check out this morning, the first comes from the San Francisco Gate, who interviews Pagan author Waverly Fitzgerald concerning her new book “Slow Time: Recovering the Natural Rhythm of Life”.”Spiritual teacher and author Waverly Fitzgerald believes we’d all benefit by changing our ideas and relationships with time. In her new book, “Slow Time,” Fitzgerald, who has written for Beliefnet and Sage Woman magazine, provides exercises and ideas intended to inspire people to align themselves with nature’s natural rhythms – night and day, the monthly lunar cycle and the yearly solar round – rather than living their lives to the frenzied beat of industrial time.”For Fitzgerald, connecting religiously with the changing seasons is one way to “slow” your conception of time from the “frenetic” pace of our industrialized world.”Most of the major religions have a seasonal liturgy, even though it may be sort of buried. If you look at Christianity, with the Easter cycle and the Christmas birth, there is this lovely use of the seasons to tell a story, and the same is true in the Jewish religion. And, of course, the pagan religion really works with this notion of the seasons and the cycle. So there is a very deep connection between this notion of cyclical time and spirituality.

New Books of Note

There are some new books of interest to Pagans, Heathens, and occultists of many stripes that I would like to spotlight today. The first is “Fire Child”, the long-awaited autobiography of English “Witch Queen” Maxine Sanders. Sanders is well-known in Witchcraft circles as a co-founder of Alexandrian Wicca, and for the many striking photographs taken of her performing rituals with Alex Sanders and their coven in the 1960s.According to Sanders, the book is a way of answering the many questions she encountered from Witches about the history and development of the Craft.”Last year I met American witches from different traditions of modern Craft who asked good questions and were not afraid to ask the sensitive ones. They made me see the impact Alex and I have had on the Craft. They had the right to ask and I felt obliged to answer.

Return of the Masons

NPR has a story about the changing face of Freemasonry. While much smaller than in its glory days (membership is around 1.8 million down from 4 million in the 1940s and 50s), the society with secrets is attracting a younger demographic interested not only in the fraternal aspects, but in reviving its esoteric rites.”…the current renewed interest in Freemasonry has brought in men who take a more serious approach to the ritual than older generations did, and who want to tighten initiation standards and raise dues. But he says the fraternity must watch out for men who sign up because of misguided theories linking Freemasonry to ‘divine secrets.'”This is tied to a larger push to revive the organization and attract new members.”The lodge also hired a public relations firm to spread the word about its 225th anniversary, which was last month. And the Masons have run advertisements in movie theaters and run one-day classes to award the first three Masonic degrees in a single session. Until then, would-be Masons had to spend months learning what they needed to know to rise from Entered Apprentice to Fellowcraft to Master Mason.”It would be interesting to see how the Masons navigate a middle ground between a more open membership and recruitment while pleasing newer members who want to return Freemasonry to a more ritualistic society with stringent entrance requirements.