It’s been a bad year. Last week was an especially bad week in 2017, both for me as a city priestess and for justice in the world in general. First, four people died in a workplace shooting in San Francisco. Then the verdict for the death of Philando Castile came in with an acquittal. For those unfamiliar with the story, a police officer was caught on camera shooting Castile at point blank range during a traffic stop prompted by a broken tail light. This tragedy happened in front of his wife and child while he was in the process of attempting to obey the law. There have been protests in one city and grieving and fundraising in the other. Both are necessary during these times of crisis.
As a city priestess, my role falls in the strange in-betweens. I had to talk to the dead men – even the shooter. The city spirit in San Francisco demanded it. I gave them all a last night together with me, out in the city with friends, to spread some healing, and told the three victims at the end of the night to go be with their families since I sensed that only one had done much preparation for death. Their loved ones needed guidance from them. The shooter I gave to Anubis; it’s tempting to act as a judge in those cases, but it’s just not my role.
I am too far away and have never filled a sacred role in Saint Paul, but grief and pain are experiences I understand. They can be cathartic for awhile, but cathartic can quickly become emetic, and left unbalanced can lead to a relenteless spewing of chaos. Both San Francisco and Saint Paul are filled with grief, pain, confusion, and a sense of rage at the utter ineffable unfairness that we so often mislabel as fate.
For these situations, there is ritual, to fill the emotional cracks our social rules and mores can’t. The city priestess role isn’t one of serving deity, it’s one of serving all the beings that build the microorganism/microclimate in which you also receive sustenance. Administration and prescription of ritual is a routine part of this work. Mass emotional states are a barometer to watch. Solutions aren’t provided so much as they are created – the tradition of a city priestess disappeared after ancient Rome fell, and those of us called to do it don’t really have manuals on it written for the modern day.
Given the pain I’m feeling from my friends in Minnesota and that I’m sensing just walking the streets in San Francisco, and seeing the way multiple friends locally had direct connections to the victims, ritual prescription is in order. Something that allows the purge – and then allows an equilbrium to be restored.
All you need is water, and ground.
Ritual of Grief and Equilibrium
I’ve gotten less picky about what deities you call for what these days – it’s more important that you have a relationship where they answer than it is that you pick the right one. Many of my coaching clients fall on the Catholic spectrum, so the line between god and saint has blurred significantly for me. I’ve met not quite as many saints as I have gods at this point; they don’t feel the same but they don’t feel fictional to me either. Call who you speak to most; if it’s a healthy relationship, that being will have an interest in how you feel.
Go outside – a private space, a public space, a parking lot, it doesn’t matter. Take your water bottle or bowl of water and poor out a splash of water, calling out the names of the slain slowly, thoughtfully, one at a time. Reserve half the water. After you call each one out, pause. Gather that emotional energy – go as far into the hidden layers of emotion that you can access. (For many of us we won’t be able to get all the way down there.) Let that emotion out, ejecting as much energy as you can. Yell, grunt, speak a single word or phrase – release that energy. After you have honored each person, drink the remaining water. Do so in a slow, deliberate manner. You are calling that water that connects all life to rebalance you – to gather the remaining pain from your body, flush the excess and give you the rest to draw on in your own magical and/or practical work.
Now, after consuming the water, sit with yourself. Wait and see what predominant emotion sits with you. Your direction comes from that emotion. While, as Anansi on American Gods says, “Angry gets shit done,” other emotions can call other also useful actions into being. You may feel sadness – this is a call to either focus on your own healing, or to find ways to extend healing energy to what is near you. If you feel relief (and you may feel some consequent guilt) then honor that relief by letting go of something physical to pair with the mental/emotional burden you were carrying. If you feel confused, you may want to pursue a meditation practice the next week with clarity as your goal. Be with your emotions. Feel them. Release them, look at what remains, and make a plan to act on them. Equilibrium is established when we follow our own heart and can recognize that the way we feel is meant to change.
Before you go to bed, pour out one more bowl or bottle of water for the spirit of your community. You have centered yourself – send some rebalance into it as well.
This ritual is an act of connection, to help you link to your feelings instead of fighting them. Let those feelings act as guides, but not as final decision makers. There are many jobs to do in a city and in a society, not just one. Some must protest. Others must triage. Others must create.