I finished out the season at Crossroads
as I often do
Friday ritual was dedicated to work at the crossroads: work in the liminal spaces between, work with the travelers and messengers, and work with their gods. It's been a long time since I have focused on my Hermes work
and long past time to offer thanks. Three and a half years ago, I made commitments to Hermes and Venus to teach and practice love, to stand as an example to others, and to work to stop the shouting and start listening. Often during that time, I have called to Venus. But of late, the messenger work has been strong and it was time to acknowledge that.
As I sat in the ritual run-through, I realized that I have not honored Hermes’s role in that communications work. My Debian work
is all about stepping past the shouting and listening to each other. Two things stood in my way when I tried to honor Hermes.
First, Chuck brought Hermes to our work. He had a deeper connection with the gods’ messenger. The chasm opened between Chuck and me before I could develop my own relationship with Hermes.
Second, I have been downplaying the spiritual aspects of my Debian work. I have been worried that members of the project might be uncomfortable that I see trying to help our community as a form of worship and magic. I told a few people, but I have not focused on it.
My Debian work is spiritual.
Debian has been a community close to my hart for approaching twenty years. I’ve been part of Debian longer than I’ve been dedicated to Venus. I saw my home tearing itself apart. I offered to sacrifice my time to come in and work magic to see if I could help Debian stop the shouting and gain more genuine connection. When talking to the project, I wouldn’t use the l-word, (and would not dream of saying magic) because it would be misunderstood. But in my heart, I know that I’m teaching a kind of love; the love of tribe and home. I’m offering to teach how to disagree and grow in a world with the dynamic tension that allows a loving community to thrive.
And yes, the work is magic
. At one level, I am using communication tools like consensus building and NVC to build connection and understanding. I am also acting with my intent, using my will to manifest change in the community. Each time we find a tool that works, we move things closer to a culture of compassion. We are building our own rituals that can hold us together with a new level of connection.
It is working. I’ve seen others pick up some of the patterns of communication I have used. I’ve seen them succeed. Before I left for Crossroads, I received multiple compliments on a difficult message I sent. People said that I managed to present things so they felt connected to them rather than building conflict.
And so I offer thanks to Hermes. I offered my dance Friday night, and what a dance it was. And I offer him thanks in words here and now.
Saturday we did some of the most difficult messenger work I have seen done in a ritual context. Each of us took a ribbon dedicated to harm in the world. Racism, sexism, sexual abuse, body shaming, slut shaming, and disability were all represented. The ribbon represented the harmful act as well as the impact that might result. We were invited to read these ribbons in our own voice. We were invited to connect both with the one acting and the one acted on.
I stood there mocking someone for crying, for expressing themselves. “Stop being such a pussy,” I said. How could I do this? That is not me! As I flipped over the ribbon, I realized that is no idle question. That’s the key question to empathy. That empathy is the first step to a connection deep enough to request change.
On the other side of that ribbon, I was the person denied their expression. I was denied one of the things most precious to me: denied my feelings and my internal voice. But the text on the ribbon allowed me to take a stand demanding that everyone be given voice to their feelings, without diminishing themselves.
Standing and witnessing was not easy. As the ribbons came to the focus, we might face harm we brought about or harm that was all too close to our personal experience. But we were together as tribe, supporting ourselves. And after the last ribbon was read, we began to place the ribbons and what they symbolized into the fire.
It was not just a ritual of release. As the ribbons burned, we were challenged to act to change the world. Right then, we were asked to find what we would do to bring the world closer to the one we would live in. If we do not want to always be tied down by these ribbons—if we do not want to be the ones tying others down—we are the only ones who can act for change.
Under the surface of the ritual there was much more. This was a ritual about taking responsibility for our role in bringing harm into the world. But it was a ritual about being whole in a world where we will cause harm. So, it was a ritual about stepping past judgment, stepping past write/wrong, good/bad. We will all cause harm. Sometimes intentionally. If we face that from a place of judgment, the guilt and shame can get in the way of happiness and positive change. Instead, this ritual was about acting with intent, heart open, and awareness of our impacts on others.
This too is related to my Debian work. One of the things ripping through the Debian community is the challenge to embrace awareness of those around us enough to foster respect and diversity. Earlier this year I was talking about pronouns and how asking people about their pronouns was just a form of treating people as they would want to be treated. I gave another example talking about myself and pointing out that some blind people might not enjoy their blindness being used as the way to identify them. Perhaps I don’t want to be described as “the blind guy over there.” I don’t mind as it turns out, but figuring that out is a way that you can respect me rather than objectifying me. “That’s unreasonable to expect people to do,” was the answer I got.
This ritual was about understanding why that answer amplifies harm in the world. Fighting that battle is yet more Hermes work standing ahead in Debian.
Not all Easy
The ritual work was very good. Yet I am still struggling to fit into the ritual team. I’m not a maker of physical objects. I do less physical ordeal work than most of the people around that fire. My talents lie elsewhere. It is hard to find a voice, hard to find ways that the things I could bring can be integrated.
- I was talking to one of my mentors from the earliest times in my spirituality. I wanted to give gratitude and talk about how I was finding ways to do good work based around bringing compassion to the world in Debian. Without even understanding the context, without even asking how things were going, he told me how to do my job. I appreciate his advice, but I was hurt that there was no room for my existing success to be heard. Why does he know better than I do how to approach a community I’ve lived in for 20 years?
- One of the primary points of the Saturday ritual was almost lost. There was no discussion of our responsibility for change. It almost turned into a simple release ritual rather than a transformational experience. One of the ritual team felt called to discuss an article about change and our role in creating it as the ribbons burned. I’m really good at that kind of integration work. Yet the way we write rituals, there is no room for me to be involved and help. I guess at one level, why complain? It’s working. Yet I know based on contributions I have made elsewhere that I can help.