Pagan Culture - Activism

Making It Real: Initiation, Seattle, WTO protests

© 2003 Beth Thompson

Making It Real:
Initiation, Seattle, WTO protests

It begins before you leave home in the predawn dark. Remove all jewelry, everything you truly are unwilling to lose. Leave behind your ID, forget your name. Take only what will sustain you or serve you: apples, sandwiches, chocolate, nail clippers for the plastic handcuffs, a bandanna soaked in vinegar against tear gas.

Make your way through dark streets to the meeting place. Waving the banners that have not yet been confiscated, begin the procession. Beat the drums. They have forbidden you to gather - your challenge is to disobey.

Get as far as you can before the police stop you. Your challenge now is to walk unarmed up to the massed lines of men of known violence, to face the weapons, the clubs, the tear gas with nothing but your body and the power of your spirit.

Keep your focus on the meaning of what you are doing as your hands are cuffed behind you. Your challenge now and for a long time to come will be to remember, at each stage of what happens to you, that you have a choice: to acquiesce or to resist. Choose your battles mindfully - there will be many of them and you cannot fight them all, but every instance of resistance slows the system down, lessens its power.

Eventually the time will come to move through the next gate of this initiation. At each one, another layer of your former self is stripped away. Now they take all your outer clothing, your packs, your food, everything from your pockets, your shoelaces. No matter how they intimidate you, do not give your name.

Your challenge is to walk proudly in shackles, wrists and ankles cuffed together, a chain around your waist.

Inanna descends into the underworld. Now they will strip you of your last layer of individuality. They take your clothes, issue you identical blue pants and shirts, white plastic sandals, the same size underwear for all, the same name: Jane WTO. Your challenge, locked in a small, concrete box, is to laugh, to put on a fashion show. And when they take you away and lock you up in a tiny, airless concrete cell in ones and twos, your challenge is not to despair, not to lose your connection.

Keep breathing. Remember, every molecule of oxygen that makes its way through these concrete walls is a gift of the ancestors. Close your eyes and you will see them marching in rivers that swell and grow, breaking through concrete, tearing down walls.

You are a vessel of a larger spirit that rises up again and again. Something new is being born here, something that will not quiet down and go away when the weekend is over. Your challenge is to be a midwife. At the end of the day, locked down until the protest outside is over, dance the spiral dance. Rising, rising, the earth is rising; turning, turning, the tide is turning.

At night in the underworld, lying in that hot, airless cell, keep breathing. Use your magic, remember your power, call on the elements which exist within your body even if this place is designed to shut them off. Your cellmate massages your feet, wets towels to cool you. The air presses down but the burning within you is kindling a deeper fire. Close your eyes. A lake of burning light is rising, cracking through the concrete. Webs form, grass pushes up through cement. Structures that seemed invincible fall. Si, se puede!

Initiation. Not a culmination, but a beginning. - Starhawk, excerpted and adapted from Webs of Power: Notes from the Global Uprising, 2002, NewSociety Press, reprinted with permission. See more on her work at

See the related articles:

Pentacle of Activism - 5 Steps to Unifying Politics & Spirituality

How to Survive Your First Protest


» Originally appeared in newWitch #04

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