American Ancestors

In 2004 I was a guest at a conference on the East Coast the weekend after the Presidential Election. As we drove along the freeway I noticed an exit marked “Valley Forge”, and it occurred to me that the Founding Fathers would probably be as concerned about some of the things that were going on in America as I was. Certainly the recurrent attempts to define the United States as an exclusively “Christian Nation” were far from what I remembered as the ideal of religious toleration enshrined in the Constitution.

That got me thinking about the way the Founding Fathers themselves are remembered. When it came time to memorialize the founders, the first citizens of the U.S., scrambling to create traditions for their new nation, drew inspiration from the kinds of shrines the ancient Greeks built for their heroes. What they did instinctively, pagans do with intention, honoring the ancestors along with the spirits of the land and the gods. It occurred to me then that since Washington D.C. already had “temples” for our greatest leaders, they could be used to focus energy to invoke the spirits of the Founding Fathers to defend the freedoms and ideals they had fought so hard to establish.

Some of the local pagans thought this was a great idea, and so the Freedomfathers project was born. It eventually resulted in a website that presents a pagan perspective on our national holidays, and includes ideas for working with our Founding Fathers and Lady Liberty in a pagan context, using techniques such as visualization to reactivate their memories and ideals in the popular consciousness. In 2007, I was invited to lead a ritual honoring the Founding Fathers at the Pagan Fourth of July celebration in Lafayette Park, across the street from the White House.

Periodically I develop the concept a little more, most recently in the sermon at the  Thanksgiving Sunday service at the historic First Unitarian Church in Baltimore.