Resurrection of Care at Bohemian Grove

Our Ceremony & Theirs
July 18, 2004
by Daniel Borgström

In the midst of a dense forest of tall redwoods about 70 miles north of San Francisco, two opposing ceremonies are held each summer in July. The location is Bohemian Grove, a 2700 acre estate near the town of Monte Rio, on the Russian River. The first ceremony takes place inside the Grove, the second at the entrance to the Grove.

For the last century, an elite group, called the "Bohemian Club," has been gathering at the grove for a yearly retreat. The "Bohemians," also called "Bohos" or "Grovers," are an all-male pack of corporate, financial, military and government leaders. No women are allowed. The group has included every Republican president since Herbert Hoover. Both Bushes have been here; so have Henry Kissinger, Dick Cheney, and Collin Powell, as well as a horde of lesser-known Bohos. All together, some 2000 of them descend upon Sonoma County each summer in July and assemble in the depths of the dark forest to imbibe huge quantities of costly alcohol, to piss on the trees, and to let it all hang out for the duration of sixteen days.

"Weaving spiders come not here," is the club's motto, meaning that they're here to relax and not to negotiate business. Nevertheless, the more sober of these men spend their days conferring on economic, military and political matters which eventually come to impact all of us. The Manhattan Project was nurtured in Bohemian Grove, and it was also here that Eisenhower was selected to be the Republican candidate for 1952. In 1968 Nixon met here with Reagan and talked him out of running for president that year.

Twice a day there are "Lakeside Talks." These are off-the-record presentations on a wide variety of topics and issues by men such as Antonin Scalia, William Safire, Casper Weinberger, Edward Teller and Charlie Rose. In effect, the Grove functions as an informal conference where ideas are floated before they eventually become public policy. But before doing any of this, the first order of business for the 2-week campout is a sinister ritual called "The Cremation of Care." This is the first of the two opposing ceremonies.

In this bizarre ritual, Bohemians, dressed in red-hooded robes, stand at the base of a 40-foot concrete owl and burn an effigy of "Care" in a roaring fire.

There has been much speculation of what the meaning of this may actually be, and some investigators have asserted that the owl represents Moloch, a bloodthirsty deity of the ancient Phoenicians which demanded child-sacrifice. Other investigators point out that Moloch was depicted as bull, not an owl, and, that the Cremation of Care ritual was devised in the 1890's. What the Bohemian founders of this bizarre ceremony intended was probably to free its members from the tensions of everyday life so that they could spend a couple of carefree weeks at the retreat. For some Grovers this may still be true.

Nevertheless, given the context of today's world and the role these men play in it, the form of the Cremation of Care ritual -- the priests in hooded robes, the mythologem of human sacrifice -- seems to symbolize the mindset of men who profit from war, chop up the forests, pollute the environment and scheme to privatize Social Security. The ritual most likely creates an fraternal atmosphere in which they can bond and set the stage for future cooperation in the exercise of evil.

That seems to be the essence of what the Bohemians bring out from the Grove and foist upon the rest of us. Our response, which began in 1980, has been to counter this ceremony with one of our own, a yearly protest with an opposing theme, that of resurrecting care. Our ceremony is a plea to bring compassion back into this world.

Resurrection of Care
on July 18, 2004

Three of us drove up from Oakland and found our way to the small town of Monte Rio. The protest was to begin with a march from the parking lot above the river; and we were among the first to arrive. It was a hot day, as one might expect in mid-summer. People were showing up with banners, signs, masks and puppets.

"Terror alert! Ashcroft's on the loose!" read one sign; another said, "Follow the Leader -- Do like Bush and Go AWOL!" One person carried a huge papier-mâché likeness of Cheney's head.

Eventually I counted about 114 people who ranged in age from babies in strollers to the elderly. Most seemed to come from various towns here in Sonoma Country, and they represented several groups and organizations. Not In Our Name of Sonoma County is the group which organized the event. The person who would lead us in performing the Resurrection of Care ceremony was a woman named Dusty who carried a drum and wore feathers in her hair.

Dusty began by giving a short talk on the ceremonies and their significance. There were also a couple other speakers, one a woman from South Africa. The fellow acting as our liaison with the police told us that there should be no problems. The police had asked us to use only the right-hand lane of the road as we marched.

It was about 2 p.m. and the sun was beating down quite intensely as we set out, across a bridge over the Russian River and up a lane towards the entrance to the Bohemian Grove. There were a few scattered houses along the way; tall redwoods on both sides of the rather narrow asphalt road offered us shade.

We'd gone about a quarter of a mile when a row of police stopped us; from what I could see, we weren’t too far from the gate, though it was hard to tell. This was a pretty thick forest where it was hard to see much of anything.

So here, in the middle of the asphalt road, Dusty set up a cauldron and we formed a large circle around her as she filled it with water from several sources, and began to stir it with a branch. She stirred the cauldron counterclockwise to release negative forces, and as she did this told us to call out the undesirable things we wanted to see turned into mulch and reworked into something positive. She cautioned us to remember that it wasn’t individual people we hated. It was what they stood for, and the evil they did.

"Bush!" Someone called out. "Cheney!" said another. "GMOs!" "The Neocons!" "War!" "Privatization!" "Corporations!" "Pollution!" "Republicans!" "The Democratic Party!" "Electronic voting machines!"

The listing went on, and, after some time, Dusty told us to think of good things we wanted to see and protect, and to call them out. She now stirred clockwise to strengthen the things we cared about. "Compassion!" "Redwood trees!" "The ozone layer!" "Democracy!" "Honest elections!" "Universal health care!" "Socialism!" "Peace!" "Love!" "All living things!"

The naming and the stirring went on for some time. There were other parts to the ceremony, including facing the four directions and saying a few words to each. There were some chants. Not the usual political ones, but incantations with a magical sense. At the end, Dusty took this water, now symbolically infused with our collective intentions, and poured it out across the road over which the Bohemians would later have to drive.

With that we marched back down the road, stopping to pick and eat blackberries along the way, and this time went to a grassy amphitheater where the second part of our event was to be held.

Driving back to Oakland that evening, we knew we hadn’t stopped the planetary elite in their schemes of world domination, but we had bonded with each other and felt that, symbolically at least, we’d stood up to the forces of evil.

July 2004

A report from the following year's event, 2005:
Bohemian Grove and the 25th Vigil