I’ll admit up front to being a rather embarrassing Francophile. I’ve studied French ever since elementary school and, thanks to DuoLingo, I still begin every single morning of my life with at least one French lesson. (DuoLingo is free. You can get it on your mobile phone. The people who designed it obviously understand some important principles of education. I love it.) The French countryside, food, clothing, perfume, wine, literature, poetry — I’m hooked. If I didn’t have a full-time job, I’d have harvested my garlic today, as Bastille Day is the traditional day for those of us here in North America to dig our garlic out of the ground. I’ll dig mine this weekend and come inside, dirty and garlicky, to drink a glass of French (the only actual) champagne.
In France, La Fête nationale, or, as we English-speakers say, Bastille Day, commemorates what Wikipedia says is “the Storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1789, which was the culmination in Paris of a violent revolution that had begun two days earlier, as well as the Fête de la Fédération which celebrated the unity of the French people on 14 July 1790.” Wikipedia tells us that, “The oldest and largest regular military parade in Europe is held on the morning of 14 July, on the Champs-Élysées in Paris in front of the President of the Republic, along with other French officials and foreign guests,” which is interesting as Bastille Day was an attempt by the people to steal enough gunpowder and arms to hold off what they imagined would be a military attack upon them.
A beloved friend and I have been re-reading Barbara Ehrenreich‘s Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy and Ehrenreich has a lot to say about how military marches came to replace Pagan festivals and carnivals as Christianity and the Industrial Revolution overtook Europe. Although the march on Bastille started out in Carnival, it ended in control.
The revolutionary authorities acceded to the idea of a celebration commemorating the Bastille only reluctantly, fearing that mass gatherings could lead to unpredictable outbreaks of violence. . . . But the military spectacle represents an oddly inverted form of carnival: While carnival aims to mock all customary kinds of social hierarchy, the military spectacle only aims to reinforce them.
And, so, this morning, my daily practice included an invocation to Marianne, Goddess of the French Revolution, of liberty, reason, equality, and [sic] fraternity. She often wears the Phyrigian cap and is, in my cosmology, a sister to Athena, Liberatas, Columbia, Britannia, and Germania.
There’s been a recent trend among Pagans to attack, or at least to question, devotion to strong Goddesses. No one, of course, should worship a Goddess that they find offensive. But I will note that we seem to manage to deal with multi-dimensional Gods, such as Pan the rapist, Mercury the God of commerce, Odin, who wagered his wife, Apollo, who cursed Cassandra, or Loki, the trickster more easily than we deal with Goddesses who encompass both nice and not-so-nice aspects. We seem to like our Goddesses tame, “Bride the healer and Aphrodite the Lover” rather than Marianne who brings both revolution and the guillotine.
Why is that, do you suppose? Cough/Patriarchy/Cough