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  • Becoming Columbia

    From PNC-DC’s David Salisbury

    Columbia atop the US Capitol building

    I love living in Washington, DC. Just ask anyone who knows me at all. The first time I visited DC was in 2007 and as soon as I entered the District I knew I would live in the area some day. The call from the land to connect was stronger anything any other land call I had ever felt before. Two years later my life somewhat imploded in a way that pushed me to peruse my dream of living in the capital area and working for the civil rights organization I work for now. It turns out the call to live here came for very specific reasons. I immediately immersed myself in the local community here with activism, leadership, and community service. I joined a coven I’m still happily with that I’d give my life for. I made friendships that will last until the day I die. I believe that all of this was a call from Columbia. She wanted me to come her and also to become her. Let me explain.

    Whether you think of Columbia as a goddess, a land spirit, or an archetype, most people who work with her in some way will tell you that she is very real and very alive. Standing atop the dome of the Capitol Building, I pass by her many times in the week as I leave my office and make my way around town. Her posture is regal and protective, sovereign and welcoming. To me, she is a goddess of the area I live in as well as the United States itself. She is known also as Lady Liberty or Libertas, protecting the largest city in the country, New York City. In New York, she welcomed hundreds of thousands of immigrants to the shores of America in our early melting pot days. I wonder if those settlers felt the same type of call I do when I talk past her in DC?

    Columbia is a featured goddess in my personal pantheon because of the spirit she embodies, justice and freedom. And no, I don’t mean the overused patriarchal use of “freedom” as in the colonization of other countries and the greed of war. When I speak of freedom, I mean our ability to live our own authentic lives while we co-create a better world with those around us. Freedom to me means that I rely on myself to create the changes I need to make myself happy and to assist my beloved community I’m a part of. Like Lady Liberty, I pick up the torch and light my own path because I’m confident in my power to do so. This is becoming Columbia. When aspecting Columbia, she doesn’t seem to respond to lengthy invocations or petitionary appeals. Instead, she looks to see how I carry myself, how I speak, and what I do for others. Her words of challenge are “what have you done for others today?” She does not help those who do not try to first help themselves. She teaches me personal responsibility every single day.

    Columbia with petition for the rights of women – artist David Savage

    If Columbia is a patron goddess of DC and the US, then surely the Fourth of July would be among the most sacred of her feast days. Today I will make donations to social service programs that help the poor in DC. I will direct energy from my home to Columbia’s statue atop the Capitol dome and ask for her continued blessing. Most importantly, I will rededicate myself to a continued life of activism and service. In doing so, I become Columbia. I become the spirit of Liberty and Justice for all.

    [For more information about Columbia and defending the rights of Pagan in the US, visit HailColumbia.us.]

    O Liberty–the dearest word
    A bleeding country ever heard,–
    We lay our hopes upon thy shrine
    And offer up our lives for thine.
    You gave us many happy years
    Of peace and plenty ere the tears
    A mourning country wept were dried
    Above the graves of those who died
    Upon thy threshold. And again
    When newer wars were bred, and men
    Went marching in the cannon’s breath
    And died for thee and loved the death,
    While, high above them, gleaming bright,
    The dear old flag remained in sight,
    And lighted up their dying eyes
    With smiles that brightened paradise.
    O Liberty, it is thy power
    To gladden us in every hour
    Of gloom, and lead us by thy hand
    As little children through a land
    Of bud and blossom; while the days
    Are filled with sunshine, and thy praise
    Is warbled in the roundelays
    Of joyous birds, and in the song
    Of waters, murmuring along
    The paths of peace, whose flowery fringe
    Has roses finding deeper tinge
    Of crimson, looking on themselves
    Reflected–leaning from the shelves
    Of cliff and crag and mossy mound
    Of emerald splendor shadow-drowned.–
    We hail thy presence, as you come
    With bugle blast and rolling drum
    James Whitcomb Riley – Liberty, 1878

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