Distressed at the notion that the three female punk rockers from the six-member group, Pussy Riot, were being slapped down way too hard for their anti-Putin protest in Moscow's Christ the Saviour Cathedral on February 21, we joined 300 other Parisians this broiling noon hour (Friday, the 17th) in a demonstration of solidarity at the famous Niki St. Phalle fountain next to the Pompidou Museum. (That's the fountain in our masthead, above.)
As the world knows, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and her band-mates Yekaterina Samutsevich and Maria Alyokhina, wearing knitted balaclavas, burst into the Orthodox church with three other band members (who are currently in hiding) and performed a song beseeching the Virgin Mary to oust the Russian leader, Vladimir Putin, who was standing for re-election.
The choice of venue, and of the Virgin, were a protest against the way the church has become, in the eyes of the band and other Russians, an arm of the Putin State during his twelve years in power.
Pussy Riot specializes in sudden, often illegal public performances, of the kind associated with flash mobs, including one in Moscow's Red Square. In a freer tradition, Pussy Riot would be recognized as the honored form of Trickster we call the court jester, the holy fool whose job/art it is to tell truth to power.
The State was not amused.
The women, all in their twenties, were arrested and charged with "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred," because their performance was called, by the government, a hate crime against the church. Pussy Riot called it free speech.
We call it myth. You don't have to believe in myth; it unfolds all around you, whether or not you believe in it.
In these last few days of Leo, with the Sun and Moon both in the sign, we've noticed many cat posts on Facebook. We're spending a lot of time with Marley, just admiring his feline beauty. And today, we're in a public square awaiting the verdict on Pussy Riot.
I've been re-reading Candide. Just imagine what Voltaire would have to say about this miserable witch-burning still going on in Russia. Enlightened Eighteenth Century philosophers, writers and politicians in England, the U.S. and France, were clear about the need to keep church and state separate, and to allow free speech, without repressive repercussions from religion or the government.
In an earlier age, the band, Pussy Riot, would have been burned as witches. There is a reason why cats and witches are connected. Cats are creatures of mystery. They are beautiful, not utilitarian. You don't see cats out herding cattle and sheep.
Zoologist Desmond Morris said, "Cats are artists, dogs are soldiers." Soldiers of the state like Putin don't understand artists or witches. Witches were probably early feminists, equally versed in magic and nature. They wanted to transform the world, as artists do. As these singers did, appealing to the Virgin Mary to stop Putin.
On a mythical level, the Virgin Mary is the goddess, Demeter. She is an earth goddess. In earlier times, women addressed the goddesses with such protests, and no man would dream of silencing them.
Despite worldwide protests, and appeals for leniency by creative artists ranging from Danny De Vito to Yoko Ono to Paul McCartney, the women, who were jailed for the five months awaiting trial, faced up to seven years in prison.
Our Paris demonstration, as well as others across Europe, were held at the time the court was to release its verdict. Organized by the French chapter of Amnesty International, aided by the International Federation for Human Rights, this Paris iteration attracted a cross-section of Parisians, including members of the local Federation of Anarchists. They carried black flags, and didn't mix much.
Despite the lack of shade, and an eighty-eight degree Fahrenheit temperature (31 Celsius), the fashion for the day was the balaclava, in spandex, leopard, or you-name-it, with or without slogans.
While the length of sentence was not handed down before the demonstration ended, the crowd was told by the event's Amnesty International host, who was monitoring the Internet on his iPhone, that the members of Pussy Riot were found guilty, expected information that was met with a chorus of boos.
Later Friday, the judge, Marina Sirovaya, sentenced the trio to two years in prison.
Astrology is just the time dimension, the seasonal aspect of myth. And today, as Leo draws to a close, the pussy cats are rioting.