When Michelle asked me write an article for Pagan Activist, I was at first unsure of what I would write about but I quickly realized that my identity as a Pagan and certainly my identity as an activist, each came to me in different yet similar ways.
Growing up in a Jewish household, religion and I parted ways fairly early on. Yet there was something undefined, unidentified and unvoiced that continued to grow with me all along the way. Feeling at home in the woods, being brought to tears at the first sign of Spring, recognizing a full moon slipping into my window before I fell asleep as a blessing, acknowledging the circularity of seasons and relationships and life in general – all of these were with me but there was no name I could put to them. There was no way in which I could explain their importance to me.
In 1994, when other parts of my life were about to take the most unexpected turns, I was drawn to the book The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. Yes, I know it is a work of fiction but I also know what a profound affect it had on me! It didn’t teach me things I didn’t know but rather defined things that I previously had no name for. It is hard to describe the joy, the liberation of reading about a reverence for the old ways (which I knew only instinctively) and a way of looking at the world in terms of Goddesses and Gods in the plural rather than one God only. Marion Zimmer Bradley wrote of a world in which I was so at home, so blissfully comfortable with connections to the Mother, so grateful to finally have a word of self definition. I was finally able to say, both internally and out loud… I know who I am. I am Debra, daughter of Bernice, granddaughter of Rose and I am Pagan. Since then I’ve learned some things on my own and have also come to know other Pagans from whom I have so much more to learn.
Move ahead to September and October of 2011. At first, after reading about Occupy Wall Street and seeing small bits on the news, my gut reaction was that something very important was in the process of being born. Several weeks later, I read about cities across the country giving birth to their own Occupy communities and I looked up the possibility of one such community being present in Hartford. They were here! I went to Turning Point Park (the name is now significant to Occupy and to me personally) to ask questions, see if help was needed and to connect. Sure enough, just as my literary discovery had helped name who I was spiritually, my talking with and learning from these dear people who were willing to put themselves out there for something greater than themselves, helped me to define myself in another way. How many times over the years had I reacted internally over this or that injustice, been so angry at the unwillingness of government to act responsibly or been horrified by the fortune of a few at the expense of the many, all the while feeling there was nothing I could do. I was, after all, only one person and certainly not up to the task of taking on society’s wrongs. But again, a blessing of discovery came to me in the form of Occupy. It opened my eyes to possibility, brought me together with people who have become another family to me and took my soul by the hand to show me that together we CAN and we WILL make changes. My personal change from all of this is that I was able to add another word to my definition of who I am. I am an Activist! Just as the “chance” reading of a book gave voice to my spirit, so did my “chance” discovery of Occupy give voice to my purpose. I am indeed very lucky to have been twice so blessed.
All of this came full circle for me this past weekend at a Mabon gathering – a gathering to which I was invited by a Pagan Occupy sister! We were all invited to bring things to the altar – things that are important to us and hold our deepest thoughts and wishes for this season of harvest and things to come. As part of my contribution, I placed a copy of GMO FAQs and the Non GMO Project’s Shopping Guide in the very center of the table. What better way to combine my spirit gratitude for the harvest and all that Mother Earth has provided along with my activist determination to make sure we continue to take care of her, respect her, honor her and work for a future where corporations do not take over our food supply and then tell us to be grateful.
I send this short story with gratitude to everyone, whether “fictional” characters in a book or the very real people in my life, both in the Pagan community and in Occupy. Thank you for helping me discover who I am.