The world has changed since Tuesday, September 11, 2001. All of us have come face to face with death on a massive scale, with the immense power of the forces of destruction, with our fragility, and with fear. The loudest voices around us in the U.S. are calling out for retaliation and revenge, led by the president and most of our public officials. In such a situation, what would the Goddess do?
In the Pagan tradition that I practice, the Goddess is not a role model. She's the great forces of birth, growth, death, and regeneration that move through the universe. In thealogian [a feminist theologians] Carol Christ's words, the Goddess is "intelligent, embodied love." Her many aspects are the faces we put on these forces so we can interact with them. She is immanent within us as well as in nature. So for me, the question shifts and becomes, "What can we do in the name of the powers of creativity and regeneration? How can we intelligently embody love in this crisis?"
First, we can mourn the dead. Death kills the body but not the spirit. Thus the prayers and energies people of all religions have been offering truly help the spirits of the dead pass to a place of peace.
We can support the families and friends, who have lost someone, by offering comfort and practical help, by being willing to listen, by sending prayers and love.
We can feel our grief. Our grief is not just for the dead, but for the world that existed before last Tuesday. Grief can be an opening; it can make us rethink our values and our priorities, and make us more compassionate.
We can speak for justice, not revenge. Retaliation is the quick fix that might restore our sense of being mighty and powerful, but can't actually make us safer. Revenge will simply exacerbate the tensions that led to the attack. If we bomb civilian populations, if we kill innocent women, men, and children, who had no part in these activities or voice in their governments' decisions, we become terrorists ourselves. The intelligent, embodied love of the universe does not value some groups of people over others, does not weigh the lives of Americans more heavily than the lives of Afghanis.
Witches know that words have power. If we continue to call this attack an 'act of war,' we turn the perpetrators into martyrs and heroes. A criminal act of murder is seen as despicable, but an attack on the heartland of the enemy in wartime is seen as admirable. If we go to war over this, we dignify the perpetrators. Instead we should call for them to be brought to justice and tried in a court of law.
These are painful issues to look at because they undercut our belief that the U.S. is a free and just society. But only by facing hard truths can we grow. And I do believe that out of this terrible time can come growth and transformation. The Goddess, who is the cycle of rebirth, teaches us that death is followed by regeneration. We need to hold that possibility in our minds through the moments of fear and despair.
As Witches, we know that energy follows imagination and leads to manifestation. We need to imagine a world in which love can flourish and the cycles of regeneration are cherished. We need to envision a world at peace.
We can speak and act for that vision. We can embody it in the ways we speak and treat each other, in every action we take. And we need to take action. We need our voices to be heard. When we speak out, we may receive unexpected support. My friend Nancy went out with her children in her small town and held a peace banner on an overpass, just a day after the attack. They expected to receive hostility or even threats, but instead people cheered, honked in support, or came over and said, "I'm so glad you're doing this. I was afraid to speak out. Can I join you?"
What would the Goddess do? Ultimately, any answer I give to that question is more honestly what I would do, what I urge you to do: Hold the vision. Speak for it. Act for it. Don't make decisions out of fear. Take risks because there is no longer any safety in inaction. Write letters, make phone calls. Organize your neighbors. Fill the streets and connect with one another. In times like these, we need support. Create places of healing, rituals, circles where people can come together and speak of how they feel. We can be the intelligent, embodied love of the Goddess for each other. Right now, we need each other as never before.