Wicca Priestess Leigha LaFleur passes ginger lemonade during a ceremony to amplify energy to Bernie Sanders, on Friday, May 13,
Wicca Priestess Leigha LaFleur passes ginger lemonade during a ceremony to "amplify energy" to Bernie Sanders, on Friday, May 13, Doug Brown

"This is sacred space" says Wiccan priestess Leigha LaFleur, who just put down a rug on the Woodstock Park grass on this warm Friday evening. We're on the other side of the park from the youth softball game, 30 yards from a group of cyclists drinking a case of beer, and near a handful of folks playing fetch with their dogs. "Before entering a sacred space, you need to be smudged."

LaFleur grabs a small bundle of sweetgrass and uses a lighter to burn the end. First up is Skye. LaFleur moves the smudge near the front of her body, then she turns around. I'm next—I came to cover the event, but decided to join in. Now Sandy is up, then Paul, then Abby and her infant son. We're all properly smudged now and we sit in a circle around the rug.

"The theme of this ritual is the amplification of the positive energy of Bernie Sanders and the progressive movement," LaFleur says. LaFleur, 41, has been Wiccan for nearly 30 years. She's also a huge Bernie Sanders supporter, and organized this Friday night event. The Mercury posted a now semi-viral blog post earlier in the day about how the Wicca ritual is officially listed on the Sanders campaign website, so other media showed up, too, but they chose to not get smudged and they're watching from the outside. "We're going to put our energy into the ballot and put the ballot in the ballot box."

"We are all in a sacred place," the priestess says, and we all stand up and face east for the formal ceremony to begin.

"Welcome, east. Welcome air and communication, welcome thought, welcome talking Bernie to me."

We all turn.

"Welcome, south. Welcome fire, welcome passion, action, activism, welcome feeling the Bern."

We turn.

"Welcome, west. Welcome water, welcome the flow of oceans and the flow of emotions, welcome the flow to a more progressive left in our country. Welcome, west."

We turn.

"Welcome, north. Welcome earth and groundedness, welcome roots that grow deep, welcome all of the animals that live in all of the ecosystems on earth, welcome grassroots of the political revolution that grow deep. Welcome, north."

Standing in the circle, we all face each other.

"And we welcome center. Welcome all that is above and all that is below, welcome all that ever has been and all that ever shall be, welcome ancestors' ancestors' ancestors, and future ancestors' ancestors' ancestors. Welcome all of the people who want to make change in the world for the positive, to a more generous and gentle and loving, positive future. Welcome, center."

We all sit back down in the circle, and explain why we're here. Leigha's been a fan of Sanders since he was the mayor of Burlington, Vermont. Paul lines up with him politically "90 percent" and "we need help on all levels that exist," including Wicca. Sandy wants "a positive future and a positive direction for the country to go in." Skye used to be a Hillary Clinton supporter, until the debates. Abby's worried about future generations.

"I honestly do worry about the future for my son," Abby tells the group. "I worry about who's next in office, who's going to be an advocate for those who can't vote, the little guys. Bernie is definitely in line with what I feel is important."

Next is the "ballot magic portion," LaFleur explains. She passes out copies of ballots with the bubble next to Sanders' name filled in, and tells us to blurt out the things they are voting for, and for the rest of the group to repeat it in unison.

"I'm voting for the end of private prisons."

"I'm voting for removing corporate money from politics."

"I'm trying to vote for the eroding of class divisions."

"I'm voting for single payer healthcare."

"I'm voting for an ideal, for more access to college."

"I'm voting for $15 an hour minimum wage."

"I'm voting for getting more women in office."

"I'm voting for rebuilding of infrastructure..."

"I'm voting Bernie Sanders for president."

LaFleur retrieves a makeshift symbolic ballot box—a shoe box with Sanders stickers and a slit cut from the top—and goes around the circle, chanting "Feel the Bern, be the Bern," as we deposit the symbolic ballot.

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It's now time to dance. We hold hands and walk around the rug, chanting "Be the Bern" over and over again. (Los Angeles Times reporter Chris Megerian took some video of this; I'm the guy with the hat and backpack)


We finish the dance.

"Now we're going to take the energy we just raised" and release it upwards. They all lift their hands upwards, then get on their knees to touch the ground to "let the energy flow through you and back through the earth."

Next: "A little magic we're going to do for the down ticket," says Leigha. "As Bernie said, it's the movement, not the moment. We need to put our energy into being the Bern, into manifesting the future we want to have." She tells us to blurt out the local and statewide issues important to us.

"For people who are marginalized to have dignity and housing."

"I'd like for Oregon to be a sustainable agriculture mecca."

I finally speak up: "I would like better public records laws to allow for greater transparency in government." It doesn't hurt to try.

LaFleur leads us in a singsongy chant, which we repeat five times: "We are a circle, within a circle, with no beginning and never ending." She says she like that one because it relates to the federal government.

She grabs a bowl of fresh cherries ("red like fire") and a bottle of ginger lemonade ("to feel the Bern"). We pass the cherries around, taking one, telling the person to our left "may you never hunger." We pass the ginger lemonade around, taking a sip, telling the person to our left "may you never thirst."

"We have one more thing to do to close the circle," she says.

We all stand up and face each other.

"We start in the center. We say thank you, center, thank you for being in our space this evening, thank you for your wisdom and your infinite compassion. Go if you must, stay if you will, blessed be."

We turn.

"Thank you, north. Thank you for hold us on your sacred body, thank you for being with us... Go if you must, stay if you will, blessed be."

We turn.

"Thank you, west. Thank you communication, thank you flow of the oceans and the emotions. Thank you for your presence in our circle here this evening. Go if you must, stay if you will, blessed be."

We turn.

"Thank you, south. Thank you fire, thank you passion and action, thank you for feeling the Bern, thank you for your presence in our circle this evening. Go if you must, stay if you will, blessed be."

We turn.

"And we thank the east, we thank the air, we thank the flow of communication, we thank you for the presence in our circle this evening. Go if you must stay if you will, blessed be."

We're back facing the center.

"The circle is open, yet never broken. May the love of the goddess be ever in our hearts. Merry meet, merry part, and merry meet again. Blessed be."

***

Here are some mediocre pictures I took.

Wicca Priestess Leigha LaFleur smudging Skye
Wicca Priestess Leigha LaFleur "smudging" Skye Doug Brown

The smudge, a burnt bundle of sweetgrass
The smudge, a burnt bundle of sweetgrass Doug Brown

LaFleur smudging Sandy
LaFleur "smudging" Sandy Doug Brown

Paul gets smudged
Paul gets smudged Doug Brown

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Doug Brown

Leigha LaFleuer
Leigha LaFleuer Doug Brown

The symbolic ballot box
The symbolic ballot box Doug Brown

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Doug Brown

After the dance, releasing the energy upwards...
After the dance, releasing the energy upwards... Doug Brown

... and back through the ground
... and back through the ground Doug Brown

May you never hunger
"May you never hunger" Doug Brown

May you never thirst
"May you never thirst" Doug Brown

May you never thirst
"May you never thirst" Doug Brown

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Doug Brown

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Doug Brown

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Doug Brown