As a Goddess-centric Witch, I am always looking for new ways to connect with the myriad of global goddesses. Even though I know that I can have powerful relationships with different goddesses from the comfort of my home, I’ve also got a bit of a travel bug, so when I am wandering in new places, I try to hold myself open to spiritual experience and divine intervention. Sometimes, though, I only realize how magical the experience was after the fact. I'll be exploring these different experiences and goddesses on this blog.
Durga in the Streets of DC
Ten years ago, the year I turned twenty, I met Durga on the Washington Mall.
That spring, when I’d visited my local Planned Parenthood for my annual exam, I’d noticed a sign-up sheet for “The March for Women’s Lives”. It was an election year, and the administration of George W. Bush seemed to be amping up restrictive policies on women’s health issues, so a number of organizations, including NOW, Planned Parenthood, and the ACLU were staging a massive protest. For something ridiculously cheap (I think it was $25), I could sign up to attend, and I’d be bused the 600 miles to Washington and back again after the march.
My politics had been solidifying during my first two years of college, and my goddess-loving self had merged with my newly awakened feminist warrior, so of course I signed up. I boarded a bus full of strangers in the evening of April 24, and within minutes, they had become my sisters. The multi-generational, multi-ethnic women who rode with me from Michigan to DC were infused with energy, joy, and passion for our cause, and even after ten hours and little sleep, we took to the streets of the capitol with vigor and delight.
That day is probably one of the most powerful of my life.
Women and men swarmed the Washington Mall, between the Washington Monument and the capitol building, and we spent the morning raising even more energy than we’d arrived with. Performers sang, politicians spoke, and love, fiery devotion to the rights of all women, and laughter flowed through the crowd. It was overwhelming and powerful, and even now, ten years later, it’s hard to find the words to describe the force I felt that day.
After hours of rallying, we began to march. Organizers estimate that over a million people attended that day, which would make it the largest demonstration in U.S. history. Whatever the number, the crowd was tremendous, and while we walked, it felt like we could do anything, face any foe, and find victory. The counter protesters were quiet and scattered, and they weren’t able to dampen the energy that swelled in the streets that day.
At the time, I had no idea what to name the powerful force I encountered, but time (and my yoga practice) have made me realize that on April 25, 2004, Ma Durga walked among us, urging justice and passion, reminding us that sometimes we must fight for the things we believe.
Sometimes, in the years since that amazing demonstration, I’ve felt guilty for not continuing my forceful activism; I vote and I pester my students into getting registered to vote, but I haven’t taken physical action since I marched in Washington. I think, however, that for me, my Durga-fueled warrior depends on a lot of anger, and that’s not the way I live anymore. I’m finally able to see that there are infinite ways to be active and embody my beliefs, and as much as I loved the March for Women’s Lives, and as much as I want to fight the good fight, in this life at least, I am not as much a warrior as I am a witness.
We each have our part to play on this earth, and I have set down Durga’s sword and arrows in favor of her conch and lotus, but I still carry the energy of that day inside me. Power and justice take many forms; the march taught me that.
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