The Feast of Libertas
Posted by Erik on July 4, 2009
I thought for sure that I had talked about the Religio Americana concept/movement here before, but apparently not. Allow me to fix that now.
Back in 2002, I had been involved in some discussions on the ADF lists with Ceisiwr Serith, John Michael Greer and some others about the idea of a distinctly American paganism – what it might look like, where it would develop from, and so on. (We were certainly not the only ones thinking about this in the early years of this decade – you can read some great stuff here, here and here from 2004 on the same subject.)
With these conversations fresh in my mind, I posted a fairly minor (I thought) question on the Hellenismos/Religio Romana board on Beliefnet, and suddenly a whole wide-ranging conversation was taking place (see here and here – I’m “Dawnpiper”). Very little of this was my inspiration (Kallistos has a huge chunk of the ensuing discussion, as you will see… although I do take credit for coining the fairly obvious name “Religio Americana”), but it pleases me that I may have had a hand in helping to trigger a coalescence of some people’s thinking on the subject. Which I’m trying to do again by posting about it here! :D
Religio Americana means different things to different people – for some it’s a way of explicitly sacralizing our “civil religion“, for others incorporating (post-colonization) American folklore into their existing (generally Pagan) religious experience, and still others emphasize different aspects altogether.
If you want to learn or discuss further, there are a couple of places to go – I’m always more than happy to talk about it here, or at the RA Yahoogroup that Kallistos set up; and for ADF members there is also an ADF American SIG (special interest group) d-list. At least, there was when we left, and since someone expressed interest in taking over moderating it, I hope and assume it’s still a going concern.
Let me close with a short note and prayer proper to the occasion. In the Religio paradigm, I consider Independence Day to be, among other things, the Feast of Libertas (Lady Liberty), the USA’s central patron and most important civic deity. On this day most Americans give Her offerings of meat and beer, and in cities and towns across the Nation there are triumphal processions and fireworks in Her honor. Her sacred hymns are sung, and in many places Her worshippers renew their fealty to Her and to the Flag, another member of the pantheon.
Libertas is the guardian of liberty, which is not the same thing as freedom and not at all the same thing as license (for a dense discussion of the difference between freedom and liberty, I suggest David Hackett Fischer’s book, Liberty and Freedom: A Visual History of America’s Founding Ideas). When we use our liberty well – when we order our lives to the greater benefit not only of ourselves and our kin (the root of the original idea of freedom), but to the greater benefit of our community as well – then we do Her honor.
Libertas – Guardian of liberty, Protector of the Nation, Holder of our highest hopes, dreams and aspirations. Blessed Lady, on this Your festival day, we solemnly thank You for Your care of our nation, its laws and institutions; and we pray that You will continue to guide and guard them from threats both foreign and domestic, whether from terrorists, armies or those who in the name of defending You would desecrate that which is most sacred to You. We pray also that You will guide our leaders in the ways of wisdom and right policy. May it be so.