Supporting Columbia, and Lady Liberty

Some conservative Christians are planning on “laying siege” to the District of Columbia from October 3rd to November 11th, and I’m going to spend that time praying that this country preserves religious liberty as one of its foundational principles and most valuable ideals.

According to Right Wing Watch, the “spiritual warfare” effort is headed by John Benefiel, Cindy Jacobs, and others. Benefiel announced in August 2010 that the fact that Washington DC draws its name from Columbia, a personification of Liberty or Freedom, “gives her a legal right to mess things up in our nation’s capital,” and that this is why elected legislators “go crazy” when they get to DC.

To counter this influence, he declared that he had used his spiritual authority to “divorce Baal” (apparently the country was married to him in some sense). He proudly recounted that when someone asked, “How can you do that?” his response was, “Well, we just did it. … I have more authority than the US Congress does.” He added that [Christians are] “the real spiritual authority.” He also announced that he had repudiated the name “District of Columbia” and renamed the area the “District of Christ.” Hecate has the links and the legal commentary; check her out!

Now Benefiel is taking this attack on supposedly evil influences a step further by coordinating a nationwide prayer effort to “releas[e] the light and sound of eternal worship over the District of Christ.” This effort is variously named DC40, Forty Days of Light Over D.C., and 51 Days of Reformation Intercession. (It’s apparently 40 days in DC and the last 11 in Philadelphia.)

The main video for this effort calls on the country to “arise as one,” and uses explicit warfare imagery such as interlocked shields and each state taking a turn as “point man” in an effort to “change the spiritual atmosphere … forever.”

Additional videos, such as “What Is DC40?” say that Americans should “come as one people,” explicitly a Christian people, to “release the same spirit as the men who met in Philadelphia had once again.” The goal is to elect leaders who “find that compromise is not the way” because it is impossible to “compromise with unrigheousness” or immorality or what is not holy. These are supposed to be “leaders once again who have a fear of [the Christian] God.”

Another video announces that “The cry of the American Revolution was, ‘No King but Jesus!'” Historians would be amazed to discover that.

The “overview” page on the website is rather confusing, with mentions of “End-Time Handmaidens” and others involved in the effort, apparently praying for or against such things as “Islam” and particular people, but hopefully the forthcooming prayer guide will clear all that up, especially since it is produced by someone who has had “foundational truths of liberty burn[ing] in her heart for years.”

As someone who has a strong devotion to religious liberty, I find this “siege” dangerous and disgusting. It fundamentally misunderstands the nature of religious liberty which was built into our country at its founding. Whether one sees liberty as an idealization or as a personification, Liberty is a very strange creature: she says right up front, “Of course you have other gods besides me.”

Her law is to allow others their reverence so long as it harms no one. In direct contravention of that principle, these people are actively seeking to change the government of the United States so that my religion – indeed, any religion except their specific sub-sect of Christianity- would be disallowed, and public laws would compel private adherence to their interpretations of their spiritual directives, at the specific expense of religious liberty, and even personal liberty, for all who disagree.

In response to this, I have made a commitment to the personification of Liberty. You may call her Freedom, as in the statue crowning the dome of the Capitol building, or you may call her Columbia, patron goddess of the district, or you may know her as the ideal of religious toleration that Thomas Jefferson worked so tirelessly to embed in Virginia’s laws and which became part of America’s Bill of Rights, the very fabric of our legal existence.

I will be spending this time making a daily devotion to her, not against these conservative Christians, but in hopes that they and I might find ways to live peaceably together in a nation that values religious pluralism. I will also be reinforcing my personal and home wardings against those who would attack me and mine, and I will follow Hecate’s suggestion of writing to my legislators, with intent embedded, to importune them not to betray the foundational ideals of our country by working with those who would see me destroyed simply because I worship a different god(dess/es) than they do. If you value these ideas or have any reverence for the principle of religious Liberty, I encourage you to take similar action.

H/t Right Wing Watch (additional links can be found from there).

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About Literata

Literata is a Wiccan priestess and writer. She edited Crossing the River: An Anthology in Honor of Sacred Journeys, and her poetry, rituals, and nonfiction have appeared in works such as Mandragora, Unto Herself, and Anointed as well as multiple periodicals. Literata has presented rituals and workshops at Sacred Space conference, Fertile Ground Gathering, and other mid-Atlantic venues. Literata offers healing and divination services as well as customized life-cycle rituals. She is currently completing her doctoral dissertation in history with the support of her husband and four cats.
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32 Responses to Supporting Columbia, and Lady Liberty

  1. I just have to burst your bubble. The statue, Lady Liberty is the statue of a pagan Roman goddess, Libertas. People just don’t see any difference between YHVH and Satan. That could be very costly.

  2. Literata,

    I have goose bumps reading this. I’ll be doing daily devotions along with you. That Lady on top of the United States Capitol would be appalled at what the Dominionists are up to.

  3. cara schulz says:

    Hail Columbia! No matter if you call Her Columbia Libertas, Columbia Eleutheria, or Lady Liberty – it is She who watches over us and lights the lamp of freedom and justice.

    I have been honoring Her for many years, now. I’ve also heard from Pagans in the military that they carry coins with Her image on it with them when they are deployed – trusting in Her and and trying to live up to the ideals of our Constitution.

    http://pncminnesota.wordpress.com/2011/07/04/patriotism-has-a-place/
    http://politics.pagannewswirecollective.com/2010/07/04/columbia-patron-goddess-of-the-united-states/

    I find the idea of changing the District of Columbia to the District of Christ offensive and worrisome. Especially the interpretation of Christ that those people ascribe to.

    • Literata says:

      Thanks, Cara and Hecate! I’ll check out the links – I know that my partner also takes his responsibility to the Constitution and its principles, including Liberty, very seriously.

      Maybe we can work on developing some devotions to her to be shared during this time in particular and any time people want to honor her and her place in our national life? What have others developed along those lines? I’m joyfully learning that people devoted to the same deity or aspect can be of great help to each other. Thank you!

      • cara schulz says:

        Some Hellenics have been honoring Her for a number of years. We make offerings of corn, turkey, tomatoes, and sage. (All are unique to the Americas or are tied to this land) Those offerings are usually burnt or placed on an altar. We pour libations of American wines. We have Her main festival over the 4th of July.

        We could go over more of the details of what we (Hellenics) do and have done in the past if you wish.

  4. cara schulz says:

    BTW- you might be interested to know that up until 1931, “Hail Columbia” was our unofficial National Anthem. It’s a very happy, jaunty tune. It not only treats Columbia as a deity, it sees Washington and other Founding Fathers as Heroes (in the Hellenic, semi-divine sense) and clearly expects them to still protect the land if needed.

    Hail Columbia, happy land!
    Hail, ye heroes, heav’n-born band,
    Who fought and bled in freedom’s cause,
    Who fought and bled in freedom’s cause,
    And when the storm of war was gone
    Enjoy’d the peace your valor won.
    Let independence be our boast,
    Ever mindful what it cost;
    Ever grateful for the prize,
    Let its altar reach the skies.

    Chorus
    Firm, united let us be,
    Rallying round our liberty,
    As a band of brothers joined,
    Peace and safety we shall find.

    Immortal patriots, rise once more,
    Defend your rights, defend your shore!
    Let no rude foe, with impious hand,
    Let no rude foe, with impious hand,
    Invade the shrine where sacred lies
    Of toil and blood, the well-earned prize,
    While off’ring peace, sincere and just,
    In Heaven’s we place a manly trust,
    That truth and justice will prevail,
    And every scheme of bondage fail.

    Chorus
    Firm, united let us be,
    Rallying round our liberty,
    As a band of brothers joined,
    Peace and safety we shall find.

    Behold the chief who now commands,
    Once more to serve his country stands.
    The rock on which the storm will break,
    The rock on which the storm will break,
    But armed in virtue, firm, and true,
    His hopes are fixed on Heav’n and you.
    When hope was sinking in dismay,
    When glooms obscured Columbia’s day,
    His steady mind, from changes free,
    Resolved on death or liberty.

    Chorus
    Firm, united let us be,
    Rallying round our liberty,
    As a band of brothers joined,
    Peace and safety we shall find.

    Sound, sound the trump of fame,
    Let Washington’s great name
    Ring through the world with loud applause,
    Ring through the world with loud applause,
    Let ev’ry clime to freedom dear,
    Listen with a joyful ear,
    With equal skill, with God-like pow’r
    He governs in the fearful hour
    Of horrid war, or guides with ease
    The happier time of honest peace.

    Chorus
    Firm, united let us be,
    Rallying round our liberty,
    As a band of brothers joined,
    Peace and safety we shall find.

    http://www.gutenberg.org/files/21566/21566-h/images/hail.pdf

    • Literata says:

      That’s a great place to start. I might have to work in a few changes (not having “manly” trust, myself), but very cool.

      The Masonic memorial to Washington is near here, too, and it is absolutely a shrine to an apotheosized Hero in the Hellenic sense. Another good place to start, especially since Washington was intensely private about his religious beliefs (if any).

    • Stephen Glaser says:

      There is also a competing one called “Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean”. It is sometimes called “Columbia, Gem of the Sea”, but every reference to the latter that I found were instrumentals. I found the lyrics to the former.
      O Columbia! the gem of the ocean,
      The home of the brave and the free,
      The shrine of each patriot’s devotion,
      A world offers homage to thee;
      Thy mandates make heroes assemble,
      When Liberty’s form stands in view;
      Thy banners make tyranny tremble,
      When borne by the red, white, and blue,
      When borne by the red, white, and blue,
      When borne by the red, white, and blue,
      Thy banners make tyranny tremble,
      When borne by the red, white and blue.

      When war wing’d its wide desolation,
      And threaten’d the land to deform,
      The ark then of freedom’s foundation,
      Columbia rode safe thro’ the storm;
      With her garlands of vict’ry around her,
      When so proudly she bore her brave crew;
      With her flag proudly floating before her,
      The boast of the red, white and blue,
      The boast of the red, white and blue,
      The boast of the red, white, and blue,
      With her flag proudly floating before her,
      The boast of the red, white and blue.

      The Union, the Union forever,
      Our glorious nation’s sweet hymn,
      May the wreaths it has won never wither,
      Nor the stars of its glory grow dim,
      May the service united ne’er sever,

      But they to their colors prove true.
      The Army and Navy forever,
      Three cheers for the red, white, and blue,
      Three cheers for the red, white, and blue,
      Three cheers for the red, white, and blue,
      The Army and Navy for ever,
      Three cheers for the red, white and blue.

      (A slightly different third verse)

      The star spangled banner bring hither,
      O’er Columbia’s true sons let it wave;
      May the wreaths they have won never wither,
      Nor its stars cease to shine on the brave.
      May thy service united ne’er sever,
      But hold to the colors so true;
      The army and navy forever,
      Three cheers for the red, white, and blue!
      Three cheers for the red, white, and blue!
      The army and navy forever,
      Three cheers for the red, white, and blue

  5. One of the supporters of Texas Governer Perry’s “The Response” Prayer rally on August 6th of this year is adamant that the Statue of Liberty is a “Pagan Idol” instead of what she is, an emblem of freedom. I additionally propose that we pray on THAT day as well for our country to KEEP in mind that religious liberty IS one of our foundational principles……

    • Literata says:

      That’s a great point. On the one hand, I hate to feed their fears (I am a Witch, but I try not to cackle!) but I think that seeing all these representations as aspects of Columbia is absolutely appropriate. I don’t worship the Statue of Liberty, but I revere the idea she stands for.

      I’ll definitely be active on Aug. 6th, too.

    • Nicole Youngman says:

      Ah, but you see, freedom (as WE define it) IS a “pagan idol” for these people. Anything that says we should all co-exist peacefully and be allowed to practice our own religions as we see fit as long as no harm is done is very much against their “xians should rule” belief system (Christian reconstructionism/dominion theology). This brand of fundamentalism is scarily, deeply anti-democratic at its core.

  6. Dav says:

    “Washington DC draws its name from Columbia, a personification of Liberty or Freedom, “gives her a legal right to mess things up in our nation’s capital,” and that this is why elected legislators “go crazy” when they get to DC.”

    Such a great post. I do kind of wonder what sort of world it would be where that was true; the ghost of Washington, or many Washingtons, having nefarious power over their bit of turf. Martin Luther King infused in the pavement of every MLK Jr drive in the US. The passing of power from Amsterdam to York as New York was renamed. It’s an incredible view of the world, where names are literally power. How would one buy a house, or name a child? If you name your child Michael, which Michael gets rights of control? The archangel? One of the old emperors? Michael Flatley, lord of the dance?

    From a public policy standpoint, however, not so awesome. (Also: maybe they should deal with Devil’s Den, Wyoming before moving onto Liberty. Priorities, you know?)

    I’d like to do something to recognize Liberty, but I’m not sure how squicky that is, appropriation-wise, since I’m agnostic.

    • Literata says:

      Thanks! I have also had strange musings about why a part of US 1 in Arlington, VA, part of the DC metro area, is named “Jefferson Davis Highway.” Really? You had to go with the name of a defeated, deposed traitor on a highway leading into the national capital?

      Actually, I think it would be terribly appropriate for you as an agnostic to uphold the value of Liberty and especially religious liberty. You could think of her as the ideal that we strive for; I don’t think that’s taking away anybody else’s toys, and I for one would heartily welcome it as support. I don’t know how you feel about prayer, but a wish, an affirmation, and a letter to your representatives when appropriate would all be great expressions.

      • Dav says:

        Neat! I’ll come up with something along those lines, then.

        Belief is so complicated. I don’t explicitly believe in personifications of deities, but I don’t disbelieve, either, and sometimes it seems important to affirm, even without the explicit belief of the personification. It’s all ouroboric. So, yay Liberty.

        Especially with the news that China is trying to shoulder into North Korea and “administer” it, with the pretty obvious intention of continuing to “administer” it after its seemingly-inevitable collapse. That’s . . . not good.

  7. cara schulz says:

    Jefferson Davis was in charge of designing most of the capital area of Washington DC.

    • Literata says:

      Really? Wasn’t it L’Enfant and Ellicott? I don’t think Davis had yet been born or was very, very young when most of the design was laid out.

      • cara schulz says:

        Jefferson Davis (when he was sec. of War) was in charge of the Capitol construction and its decorations. It’s why the statue of Columbia on top of the capital isn’t wearing the cap of freedom (the cap slaves wore when they were freed in Rome) Davis objected to Crawford’s original design. So a helmet was placed on the statue instead.

      • Medusa says:

        L’Enfant designed the layout of the streets of DC.
        Great post! Also appreciate Hecate’s post on this.
        Am adding this blog to my blogroll :-)

        • Literata says:

          Yup, I was confusing Cara’s reference to the Capitol building with the design of the capital city itself. Thanks for adding me; look forward to seeing you around!

  8. Leigh Roberts says:

    They creep me out, and I’m an Episcopalian. Fascinating how one of the ultimate institutions of the American establishment became a church honestly struggling towards gender and sexual equality… that’s probably why they hate us almost as much as they hate you.

    I pray that they eventually experience the conversion that we have experienced so far, and that we continue our conversion. We are saved, we are being saved, we hope for salvation, we are working out our salvation… may we never be so arrogant as to pronounce ourselves finished works.

    Be blessed on your own path :)

  9. Amaryllis says:

    It creeps me out, and I’m at least a nominal Catholic. “District of Christ,” indeed. I don’t know whether it’s sillier or scarier.

    And I agree with Hecate’s point in one of the links: can you imagine the outcry if a Pagan group, no matter how small or obscure, mounted a “spiritual attack” on Christianity during Yule?

    As for the D.C. layout, there’s an old belief in some quarters that the whole thing is demonic, something to do with Masonic symbols hidden in the street grid. As one site puts it: “Occultists the world over believe that, once a symbol is created, it acquires power of its own, and more power is generated when such symbol(s) are created without the profane [uninitiated] knowing about it. And, the greatest power of all is created in the symbol(s) if the uninitiated NEVER discover that the symbol exists. ”

    Which seems exactly backwards to me, but what do I know?

    If it comes to poetry (and when doesn’t it?) perhaps Walt Whitman’s “America” would be appropriate:

    Centre of equal daughters, equal sons,
    All, all alike endear’d, grown, ungrown, young or old,
    Strong, ample, fair, enduring, capable, rich,
    Perennial with the Earth, with Freedom, Law and Love,
    A grand, sane, towering, seated Mother,
    Chair’d in the adamant of Time.

    • Stephen Glaser says:

      Hi, Amaryllis, I have read up on the symbols Washington DC was made with. I often call it Masonic Feng Shui. lol I do think that it gives occultism a bad name to deceive the uninitiated and refer to them as profane. That is why I agree with you in mentioning it to people, something about not “hiding one’s light under a bushel”. I am not even Christian, but I agree with that, especially in matters of public works. Under one’s own roof is a different matter.

  10. cara schulz says:

    Here are some of the prayers we say to Columbia on the 4th, Her high feast day.

    Columbia Eleutheria, You are the foundation of our nation. Guide our leaders to serve and care for the people dwelling in Your boundaries. I thank You for making me a citizen of this land of freedom, opportunity, and justice – which are enshrined in our Constitution. Send forth your Spirit to this country and make it a source of wisdom and strength, order and integrity throughout the world.

    ******************************
    Columbia Libertas, Protector of this land, grant your blessings on those who govern us. Grant to our President and his administration the ability to see clearly in complicated times. Let them serve all their subjects with truth and compassion. Inspire our Congresspersons with the courage to make laws for the good of all rather than the few. Give our Judges your Spirit of wisdom and understanding that they may discern the truth and impartially administer the law. And encourage all citizens to actively participate to make our way of government continue to work.

    *****************************
    Columbia, please direct the leaders of this great nation in this time of crisis. Grant them wisdom and understanding, and help them to respond quickly and effectively to (fill in ) situation. Unite all response agencies in an organized and harmonious fashion to resolve this crisis. Empower us as United States citizens to do our own part, financially, physically, emotionally, and spiritually to support all who have been affected by this tragedy. Encourage and strengthen our nation and bring peace and comfort to all those who are suffering as a result of this crisis.

    ******************************
    Columbia Soteira (means savior), prevent the destructive forces directed against us. Provide protection from evil attacks and stop the aggressors that attempt to bring destruction to our people. I stand against the spirit of fear that accompanies the cowardice acts of hatred. I also pray that You enter the hearts of the instigators of discord, so they recognize the harm they inflict on others, and choose to live in harmony with their fellow man. If they persist in destructive acts, may Nemesis grant them all that they deserve. Place Your hand of protection over us and bless us with peace and justice.

    • cara schulz says:

      After the prayer…say “Accept my offering of (list what it is)”

      You also use cult titles when praying to her. You can use the English or Greek version. I use English because we are in the USA and see her as tied to this land. A Titan.

      Defender (Eryma)
      Protector (Alalkomenêis)
      Counselor (Amboulia)
      Healer (Paiônia)

  11. I don’t see anything wrong with issuing prayers to Columbia or Liberty or anyone else, but these people are a political threat, and should be opposed politically. Their beliefs are completely contrary to fact so all their attempts to do… something, it’s not entirely clear what, are only relevant to others insofar as they have relevant consequences in the real world. All the praying they might do, even if you hold that prayer has the power to have consequences (I do not) won’t make a difference. They believe they have the spiritual authority to divorce America from Ba’al, but America was never married to Ba’al in the first place, so it’s meaningless. They believe they have the authority to rename D.C. to District of Christ but everyone will keep on calling it District of Columbia anyway, so their claimed authority has no consequences. If they convince people that laws should be passed that have real-life consequences based on their unreal supposedly-biblical beliefs, then that will impact everyone. That is what we should be worried about.

    • Literata says:

      I absolutely take positive political action, and when they act politically, I oppose them politically. There are also plans being worked on to keep Pagan demonstrations from being disrupted by counter-protesting, and to peacefully counter-protest gatherings that they may hold.

  12. I’m Christian as well, and find their entire movement both baffling and highly disturbing. On the other hand, I myself would never honor Liberty that way, but find it fascinating and lovely within your tradition. If they’re actually going to have a rally of some type, I would love to participate in a counter-protest multi-religion prayer and/or contemplation (for the atheists and agnostics) rally.

    • Literata says:

      Thanks. Plans are still being made, and we don’t want to overreact, but if something like that comes up, I’ll let you know. From my point of view, if you encourage your politicians to protect religious liberty, you’re honoring liberty in one of the most important ways of all. :)

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