It is not always a popular notion within Paganism to express patriotic sentiments. Then again, I’ve never been one to worry excessively about being popular.
I love this country. I have a full realization of how fortunate I am to have been born here and I try not to take that for granted. I honor Columbia, Patron Goddess of our land, and I hope She continues to bless us even though we often don’t uphold Her ideals.
When I make a statement like that around fellow Pagans I get three types of responses. The rarest is agreement. More common is a list of all the wrongs our country has perpetrated over the span of its existence. The third type of response is a cautionary tale of tribalism, nationalism, and veiled insinuation that to love your country is to be racist and oppressive.
I am aware of the bad and the good my country does, yet my opinion stands. Just as my spouse is aware of my virtues and my faults, loves me anyway, and chooses each and every day to stay with me (poor bastard) – I love my country and prefer it to all others. I love it with my eyes and my heart wide open.
But doesn’t loving your country and admitting to feeling patriotic surges in your heart mean you are in danger of the worst excesses of nationalism? Oppression and racism? Just because I love my country doesn’t mean I hate other countries any more than loving my house means I want to burn yours down. Don’t believe me? Invite me over for dinner. I’ll respect your home and enjoy your company just as I appreciated the various countries I’ve visited and lived in. I give good guest.
Today I wholeheartedly celebrate the start of the current cycle of ‘rebirth’ of our land – the date when the signing of the Declaration of Independence was announced. When the Founding Fathers of the United States looked for a model to base our government on, they looked as much to the Iroquois Confederacy (the worlds oldest continuous democracy) as they did to Pagan Greece and Rome. Franklin, Jefferson, John Adams, and Washington were all familiar with the Iroquois polity. European philosophers such as Locke, Roussea, More, and Hobbes were influenced by the societies of the First Nations. When I celebrate the 4th of July, I honor those cultures and the profound impact they have in shaping the United States and our current form of governance. I celebrate our place in the cycle of the land, I honor those who came before and who come after me.
Today I pour a libation and shoot off a few fireworks for the Goddess of this land – Columbia Eleutheria (Freedom), also called Libertas (Liberty). Lady Liberty. She has walked this land since it formed and is a guardian of freedom and a generous granter of plenty. It is She who stands in the New York harbor welcoming those seeking a better life. She will guard this land long after we are dust and our government falls and a new takes its place. She always works to light the fires of justice, compassion, and liberty in the hearts of whoever resides on her shores.
Some see her as a construct, something made up similar to Uncle Sam or the Easter Bunny. They are welcome to their opinion, but as a polytheist I see the divine as always revealing itself to us, not something we call into existence out of some pathetic need for things larger than ourselves. The world is filled with Gods and Goddesses willing to reveal themselves if we open ourselves up. Land spirits and other gods tied to a place abound. Old Man Mississippi and the water nymphs at Coldwater Spring are as deserving of honor and reverence as Gods like Okeanos and Brighid. Columbia is no less deserving of libations in the United States than Athene is in Athens.
Tonight I’ll honor Her with offerings and pray that She blesses us with Her gifts. Guide us – our country seems to be at a crossroads and is facing difficult times. Our nation’s identity and ethics are muddled. Like many times before, we have lost sight of Her, and we need Her beacon to guide us back on the path to respect for the rights of the individual coupled with acknowledgment of the needs of the community. But above all…freedom.
Freedom to practice our religion unimpeded by the government.
Freedom to say what we think without fear of imprisonment.
Freedom to keep arms.
Freedom against having the government illegally search our property and take our belongings.
Freedom to have a fair and just legal system.
I hope you enjoy a wonderful 4th of July celebration today – whether you join the increasing number of Pagans who celebrate it as a festival day in honor of Columbia Liberty or if it is a purely secular holiday for you.