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Honoring Political Ancestors

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

You can, as we all know, put four Pagans in a room and get (at least) six definitions of Paganism. So it's not universally true, but it's more-true-than-not and more-true-of-us-than-of-the-general-public that Pagans honor our ancestors. Daughter of a dysfunctional family, I've had to work on this practice. I've reached back into time, through meditation and trance, and developed a family tree that works for me and I've adopted more than a few Ancestors of the Spirit: people whose writings, and actions, and lives "raised" me much more so, in many cases, than did my own blood relatives.

And I would not be who I am today were it not for the spiritual and political DNA that I received from the Pankhursts, from Margaret Sanger, from Susan B. Anthony, from all of the known and anonymous suffragettes, and from Second Wave feminists. And, so, it is, maybe, quite appropriate that I am writing this post on the ninety-second anniversary of the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. Ninety-two years isn't really a very long time. My own grandmothers were young women in 1920 when it became legal for a woman to cast a vote.

A friend's husband posted:

The first national constitutional amendment [for women's suffrage] had been proposed in Congress in 1878, and in every Congress session after that. Finally, in 1919, it narrowly passed both houses of Congress and was sent to the states to be ratified. Most Southern states opposed the amendment, and on August 18, 1920, it all came down to Tennessee. The pro-amendment faction wore yellow roses in their lapels, and the "anti" faction wore red American Beauty roses. It was a close battle and the state legislature was tied 48 to 48. The decision came down to one vote: that of 24-year-old Harry Burn, the youngest state legislator. He had been expected to vote against it, but he had in his pocket a note from his mother, which read: "Dear Son: Hurrah, and vote for suffrage! Don't keep them in doubt. I noticed some of the speeches against. They were bitter. I have been watching to see how you stood, but have not noticed anything yet. Don't forget to be a good boy and help Mrs. Catt put the 'rat' in ratification. Your Mother." He voted in favor of the amendment.

And so I will pour a blot this evening for Harry Burn and his blessed mother, whom I adopt today as a Spiritual Great Grandmother. (I shan't be gone long; you come, too. She can be your Spiritual Great Grandmother, as well, if you approach her with honor and reverence, I think. Will that make us cousins? Yes, yes it will.) I'll let you draw your own conclusions between the women who were thrown back then in jail for "obstructing sidewalk traffic" and the young women thrown yesterday into a penal colony for hooliganism.

Simple and succinct (a rarity, I'm afraid, in the law) the Nineteenth Amendment states:

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

For me, part of honoring my ancestors is taking seriously the sacrifices that my ancestors made for me. And that means that, however crappy the choices (and they are, often, crappy), I will will NEVER not show up and vote. Too many of my ancestors of the spirit -- smacked around by their husbands, ridiculed by mobs, jailed and force fed -- worked too hard and sacrificed too much for me to have this right. I will never dishonor them by failing to show up and vote.

I write this post in August, only a few weeks before our national election on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. There's an old saying in Wicca (well, as old as sayings can be in New Religions) that the best magic spell for a new job involves filling out a job application. I'll posit today that the best spell for honoring your ancestors involves filling out an application to vote in your local district. If you need to do so, now's the time. It's generally not too complicated. Google "Application to Vote [Name of Your State]" and follow the directions. Many states make it easy to register to vote when you apply for a drivers' license or other benefits.

However -- and here's the real issue -- many state legislatures are now making it MORE DIFFICULT for citizens to vote. These efforts are led by Republicans and we can all just take a few moments and consider what it says about a party and its agenda that its members believe that they are more likely to prevail if it is more difficult for many people to vote.

Under the guise of preventing "voter fraud" -- the notion that I might, for example, show up once to vote under my "real" name and once to vote as Hecate Demetersdatter or as some now-dead resident of my neighborhood -- states across America have imposed requirements that will make it more difficult for many people to vote. As just one example, many states will now require voters to show some form of "government-issued ID" (no, your card for food stamps nor your card for other benefits, oddly, won't count). Unless you can show up with, for example, a Passport or a driver's license (something that poor people who ride the busses in urban areas and students are unlikely to have), you won't be allowed to vote.

Now, as a surburbanite with a driver's license and a passport, you might think that this old, white, property-owning woman (with copies of mortgage statements, water bills, paycheck stubs, and utility bills at her address) would be safe. Not so fast. Oddly, my voter ID card from the State of Virginia might say that I live on 19th Street, North, while my driver's license says that I live on North 19th Street. BZZZZZZTTTT! Danger, danger, this does not compute!. And, so, when I show up at the same little community center that I've shown up at for every election since I moved to my little cottage, I could be told that I can't vote. I'll argue about that and will call Election Protection. This will, of course, create a backup in the line of voters, some of whom can't afford to show up late for work. As the line grows longer and longer, those at the bottom of the employment ladder are more and more likely to peel off and just give up, as I argue that 19th Street North and North 19th Street are the same thing. Feature, not a bug.

So, that's very interesting, but what does it have to do with Pagans? If you honor your ancestors, both your ancestors of blood and your ancestors of spirit, you need to find out what it now takes to vote in your district and make sure -- now, in August -- that you've worked out any glitches. If the name on my driver's license says Hecate N. Demetersdatter, but the name on my voter ID says Hecate D. Datter, I need to get that fixed, now. If it will be helpful (it will) to show up with an electric bill, a rental notice, a water bill, a bank statement, and a paycheck stub with your address, now is the time to put those into a file for election day.

And Tuesday, November 6, 2012, is the day to wake up, pour a blot to Harry Burn, Susan B. Anthony, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and go vote. Vote the hell out of the franchise that you have. Because your ancestors gave a lot for you to be able to do that. That's an act of deep magic and serious ancestor worship. Me, I'm going to stand in the early morning light of my small community center, show all the fucking government papers I've got, vote, and yell, "For Febb Ensminger Burn of Niota, Tennessee!!!" Then I'll go quietly.

I shan't be gone long; you come, too. I'm asking so much less of you than our Grandmothers asked of each other. What will you do?

Last modified on
Tagged in: ancestors Politics
HecateDemeter is a woman, a Witch, a mother, a grandmother, an ecofeminist, a lawyer, a gardener, a reader, a writer, and a priestess of the Great Mother Earth.


  • Rose
    Rose Saturday, 18 August 2012

    Your hyperlinks codes are visible and it's difficult to read your piece.

  • Hec
    Hec Saturday, 18 August 2012


    My mistakes entirely. Anne and her DH have now fixed my mess and it is, hopefully, easier to read. Thanks so much for commenting.

  • Rose
    Rose Monday, 20 August 2012

    Glad you fixed it. It was beautiful. The clip you used should be used in all History classes, including college Intro courses to American history.


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