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Join me in Love

Showing them the Ropes

hartmans Thursday June 10, 2021
We'll call him H. He asked some questions about polyamory. After exchanges some answers we got together for drinks. We had the opportunity to help someone who was exploring how he thought about relationships. We were able to show him that through communication and intentional love work, we had built something wonderful between us.
We were also able to show H that that his fears and doubts were a normal part of growing as a lover. Everyone goes through something similar. That doesn't make them less real, less important, or even less personal. It does give us a greater hope of empathy.
One of the biggest challenges H faced is that negotiation and communication about what relationship structure he's hoping for seem awkward and challenging especially at the beginning. Of course he's absolutely right. Negotiation gets easier with time, but it starts out hard. We need to be vulnerable enough to ask for what we want at a point where we may not even be comfortable admitting it to ourselves. We don't know whether our desires will come across as strange, or how they will be received. We don't even know if our vulnerability will be greeted with compassion. Yes, some of that is always true, but as we get experience and confidence, it gets easier.
My vassal and I didn't have any easy answers. But we were able to help H think about the different options for how poly might work, and give practical examples of how communication worked. We were also able to tell our stories of how negotiation worked in practice both around scenes and around relationship boundaries. We didn't make it easy, but we walked away feeling like we'd managed to demystify some of the hard work of being a lover.
If it ended right there, I would have been happy with a job well done. But a couple of weeks later, H wrote to my vassal to explore the possibility of getting together for some play. And so H got to practice negotiation and he worked with my vassal to see what was possible. I found myself teaching an introductory rope class.
So many things worked well. It was gratifying to see H picking up on negotiation skills and asking for what he wanted while being clear about his boundaries. This also required more advanced negotiations from my vassal and it was neat to see how far she's come in the kink community. For myself, I realize that my rope skill has reached a level where I can confidently and safely introduce someone to rope. It felt really good to acknowledge that growth. And it felt good to see H begin to take strides in something he had wanted to explore for a while.

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Venus and the TSA

hartmans Monday May 31, 2021
The TSA decided that my idol of Venus is too dangerous to fly in my carry-on luggage. I have a sculpture of Venus that has been a central figure on my altar throughout most of my practice. She inhabits a hollow log. Being able to take her with me to various spiritual events was an important consideration when I had her commissioned. So, she's small enough to easily fit into carry-on luggage.
I've had very little trouble flying with her until my most recent trip. We were moving from the Boston area to Denver, and so we had all our most fragile possessions with us. The TSA agent examining my bag called over his supervisor because he was concerned that Venus was a club or bludgeon. She doesn't have any good handles. I mean, yes, you could hit someone with the sculptureyou can hit someone with anythingbut it would be awkward and relatively ineffective.
The process was entirely humiliating. The supervisor demanded my documentation that Venus was religious art. When I stopped to think about what paperwork I had with medid I have any of the discussions with the artist or any pictures of her on an altarhe insisted I answer immediately. "Yes or no! Answer now." Later he made jokes with the agent about how they didn't let baseball bats through, and so they certainly wouldn't let this through. (The sculpture is smaller, less dense, and less designed for hitting than a baseball bat).
I overheard him saying that the agent was right to ask for help; this was on the edge, and he considered letting the sculpture through, but it was always best to be safe and not let something through when there were doubts.
There's a huge cost to that. My spirituality has been tainted with a feeling of powerlessness and helplessness. There was no way I could protest his actions. He refused to even document his actions and formally write down his decision. I still struggle approaching Venus to avoid thinking about how I had no way to stand up for my spirituality- -no way to be strong.
And this has irreparably damaged my ability to bring the symbols of my path to events. If I bring Venus I'm going to be dreading the entire airport experience, worried about what I will face and whether she will be damaged as checked baggage. If I don't run into trouble getting to the event, it's going to be a low level anxiety that I cannot step aside from during a time where my mind should be faced on my spirituality. And of course if I don't bring her, I'll be reminded whenever I realize her sculpture is not there that I have allowed our culture of fear and non-consensual dominance to intrude onto my path of personal power and love.
In closing, if you were going to use a club, would you rather be stuck with a hollow log with no easy handles or a nice big solid crucifix with a cross-bar to swing from. Who wants to bet the TSA would have been as reluctant to let me take a crucifix through as a pagan artifact? No takers? Really? Yeah, I'm not surprised.

Closing Ritual

hartmans Wednesday May 12, 2021
Tonight we released the blessing of our home and let go of the temple we made there. We gave thanks for all the magic we found in this space and to the gods that accompanied us here. We called to those things we wish to take forward. It's a sad moment. So much good has happened here. Rena and I have grown closer and we've used that to touch the world and those around us.
And yet the journey is happy and excitement is building for the next phase. We've been focused on finding where we need to be, and I've been silent for months. Hawaii was great; it gave us what we needed, but Hawaii will not be our home. This Sunday we fly to Denver and take occupancy of the new place. All signs point to us being able to find community and connection in Denver. Thanks to all who gave us advice. We look forward to seeing anyone who is actually in the Denver area, and we'll be back to visit Massachusetts from time to time.

Hermes

hartmans Thursday December 31, 2020
We're going on an adventure to figure out where we need to be and to find our tribe and family. The first stage is to go to Hawaii. I was doing ritual work that I thought was focused on whether I should bring my Venus idol with me. Of course she will be there in Spirit. The question was whether she should make the trip.
The ritual had other ideas. My plan was a celebratory dance/playlist divination ritual. By playlist divination, I mean I put together some set of music—hopefully long enough ago that I don't remember what I have—and play it on shuffle. Sometimes i ask specific questions before a song transition, sometimes I just let it all flow. The celebration of course was to give gratitude and thanks.
The dance ended up being fast paced and ecstatic. In the early part of the ritual, I stumbled into the altar. Every male symbol on the altar fell over; the candle was extinguished. Shortly there after, Rabbit's Song began to play.

Oh, right, Hermes! Oops, yeah, I guess that's a question that needs more consideration than Venus. As part of establishing Lovers Grove I started work with Hermes in his role as messenger. Chuck was the one who had the connection to Hermes. I was hoping to learn through Chuck how to establish my own connection. Before I gained comfort with that connection, Chuck and I parted ways.
Connecting with Hermes was a stretch. Looking back, part of it is that I had stories of Hermes but not any modern practice. It's unsurprising that I wouldn't connect with an ancient Greek view of theft and crime. Besides, let's face it Zeus is a thug and an ass; and I'm nervous approaching his right-hand enforcer when I don't have much connection with Zeus himself. Everyone thinks Hermes is a a natural fit. I mean messenger—you know, Internet and all that. Perhaps, although it seemed to me like if the Internet was going to have a goddess, she’d be new, not Mercury in his pumped up kicks.
Even so, I’ve continued to do messenger work. I’ve written around 380,000 words of fiction around exploring love, sexuality, in connection outside of the context of our fucked up world. I’ve continued to live my life as an example and to connect with people one-on-one. I continue to hear the shouting and yearn with all my heart for another way.
And I could use help in all that. Some of my fiction is really good, but I need help getting it out there. I know that I alone—even R and I together—aren’t going to be the messenger I hope to be. There are aspects of marketing, timing, and finding audiences that I’m just not good at. And perhaps that means I won’t be that kind of messenger. I know I don’t want to live my life at the social media pace. If that’s what it takes to reach people, then I won’t be the one doing it.
Gods can help. They can give us the courage to believe in ourselves. They can make connections between people. And they can help us explore who we want to be.
As I danced, I apologized for not thinking of Hermes and celebrated what work I’ve done as a Sacred Messenger of the Grove. I celebrated the people I’ve connected with, and the fiction I’ve written. I received an acceptance from Hermes I don’t think I’ve gotten before. “I’m still here. We can work together; you don’t need anyone else to reach out to me.”
Then I thought about how there are things I still do every day that are tributes to Hermes. Whether it’s the importance of motion, the easy traveling food I always have, I do have a Hermes practice ready. I was just afraid to call it that and actually honor him in the practice.
The past few days since that ritual, I’ve been working on calling out to him explicitly. It feels good. I’ve already started to brainstorm ways I could reach out and move forward on messenger projects that have been blocked.
More than that, I need his advice on this adventure. I need to figure out what the role of messenger is in my life. That is part of figuring out where we need to be, just like my Venus work as lover.

Yule: Return of the Sun

hartmans Tuesday December 29, 2020
The theme for this year's Yule ritual was Return of the Sun. And why not: we're going to Hawaii.
Normally, Yule is a time of reflection for me. It tends to be the time of year when I reflect on the price of the rebirth to come. I don't actually do sacrifice work at Yule, but I do tend to think back and honor the sacrifices that make new life possible. This year, there is too much darkness already. So we jumped right to the promise of the returning sun and how we'll bring that rebirth forth within ourselves.
We are starting on a journey to find our tribe and our family. The two of us are closer than ever: facing the challenges of the pandemic deepened our dynamic and our gratitude practice. But sometimes with the isolation of the pandemic, it's felt like it's just been the two of us trying to stand strong against the world. Reflecting on this, we confirmed what has been a growing suspicion: we don't have enough of a tribe here in Massachusetts to meet our needs. It's getting worse as people move away from the city. Our inability to drive makes it challenging to keep up with people in New Hampshire or Rhode Island. We two have something really wonderful going on. But if we could find a bit larger we to belong to, it could be more stable, stronger, and we think bring us to even greater levels of happiness and love.
At Yule this year, we focused on setting intent for this journey. We aren't being shy about what we want. Ideally, we'd find someone else (or a couple) to join our family. Someone who could drive and fill in some of the other gaps in our life would turn something that is great into something even bigger. I don't think we're unicorn hunting, at least not in a bad way. We have the experience with polyamory to navigate another relationship. We have the time and energy to make it work. And we have the experience changing and growing to adapt our lives to someone else. we have a lot to offer: experience in the art of happiness, art of love, and in manifesting what we seek. We're not afraid to reach out and accept the gifts the universe offers. We are constantly growing and teaching, and can offer that. Somewhere out there, there's someone for which this could be a great deal. We aren't going to find them (and they aren't going to find us) unless we try. And so we set intent and asked our gods and goddesses to help us.
Beyond our family, we seek tribe. We'd like to find a community to belong to. Probably a relatively kinky, love and sex positive community. We haven't managed to find that in Massachusetts. There is kink and sex positivity in surrounding states, and it appears to be emerging a bit here. I haven't found the kind of connection between that and spirituality I've found elsewhere. Also, this keeps pushing further away from the city, and our lack of driving impacts things.
We've been drawn to Boulder Colorado, and that may be where we end up.
But the first step is healing enough for us to connect with our desires and what the universe will manifest. The pandemic has taken its toll, and we aren't ready for that. Yule is a time of rebirth---a time when we can rekindle the spark of life within ourselves. What better to do that after the cold, dark times of 2020, than starting 2021 in the literal sun of Hawaii. So, as is proper, magic spirals around reality, and we embark on a spiritual and literal adventure. First Hawaii, then the rest of our lives.

Samhain

hartmans Saturday October 31, 2020
This year the power is at Samhain; the sabbat falls on a full moon. So it is a time of magic both in this world and the next; a time when the veil between is weak at a time when magic is strong in this world. Perhaps at a time when the wisdom of those who went before (and shall come again) can guide us in working real change.

It is certainly time to celebrate and honor the lives of those we have lost: the countless lives taken by the pandemic; those who have lost their lives in the struggle for racial justice and the surrounding violence; and all the others who have left us.. I will particularly miss Ruth Bader Ginsburg both because of the political tragedy that her death has become, but more because of the strength of her life. She fought to live in the best of all possible worlds, realizing I think more than most we find that world when we hold both our hopes and what we can actually achieve at the same time. We are the sum of what has come before; all these lives touch the magic of our world. But this year,her touch will be the symbol small enough for my mortal mind to grasp how one person's life can ripple across the world. We all touch and change the world, but it helps me at least to have a particular focus to remind myself that change happens.

More than ever we stand in the crossroads. For many of us it is symbolized by the crossroads of the election. But it is more than that. We stand between the reactionary and the radical. We stand between fear and hope. And oh, goddess, we stand apart. We shout, we doubt, our screams of anguish so loud that there is no room for love and connection. Often when I stand at the crossroads, I look at the choices before me and reject them all. Often, it's the middle path, somewhere in between, somewhere not obvious on first inspection that is the road I choose. If this crossroads is like that, it is less obvious than usual. All the obvious middle roads are horrible.

In planning a ritual, I find myself at a bit of a personal crossroads (or confluence) at least. I'm between the two psychopomps I work with. The Morrigan is my goddess of magic in much the same way some people I know work with Hecate. She has shown me power (and its risks) from a very early age. The two times I have worked with death in a a major way, she stood beside me or sat on my shoulder. And then there is Hermes, the messenger. I have never dealt with him as a psychopomp. But I serve him in the hopes of finding a way to end the shouting, to give love and reason a chance to shine forth. Old man, that's got to be a hard job these days. Let's see what we can find tonight to make it a little easier.


And so tonight, I call to ancestors strong and wise. Join me in Samhain rite, your wisdom sought, deep and bright. Help guide this world with magic's might. And in the place between here and there, our thanks to give for those still dear.

Screaming Impotently

hartmans Wednesday July 15, 2020
It seems like just as I'm building up enough emotional strength to stand tall again, there is another strong kick in the emotional gut. This time, it is President Trump Commuting the sentence of Roger Stone, a man convicted of obstructing Congress into their investigation of President Trump. He completely barrels past the obvious conflict of interest. To add salt to the wound, Stone’s plea was that he was afraid that he would die of Covid-19 if he went to prison. So if you are a wealthy white man who stops our legislature from holding the President of the United States Accountable, your sentence is commuted so that you don’t have to face a pandemic in our prisons.

This against the backdrop of Black Lives Matter. Cause I’m sure that a black man facing his first offense—oh, let’s say over a confrontation with an officer that escalated–would get the same sort of sympathy if he expressed fear for his life to the judge hearing his case. Oh wait, no I’m not. I am incoherent with feelings of rage and powerlessness. How can we do this? How can we set up such a double standard, treating those who are different than us with such contempt and disregard?

And how can we collectively stand there and do nothing when there is such an obvious disregard for justice? Even if you do not value the Black Lives matter movement and understand the horror of racial injustice, there is still the problem of Trump pardoning those who were accused of protecting Trump from judicial inquiry. Ah, yes, how can we stand aside? For most of us, I think the answer is that we do not feel that we have the power to accomplish anything. I tried voting (many times in fact, although only once per election). The candidates I thought might have a chance to help things lose. We protest. We decry. But when the fundamental mechanisms to bring justice to the world are subverted, what can we do?

I was about to embark on a rant against the Senate of the US. But then I had a chilling thought: what if the individual senators feel as powerless as I do? At one level, of course they have more power than I do, just as I have more power than those less privileged. But within an organization, where you are pressured by the party, afraid of stepping out of line alone, it may not seem that way. What if even they feel like they cannot act? Then what? How do we wake up and find our collective power?

It’s not enough to fight against Trump. We need to find real compassion, real justice, and real connection. I don’t think we’ll succeed in doing that while we’re bolstered together in our own little groups, holding tight with those who agree with us, not even listening to the other sides. Sure, I’d be happier if the people in power agreed with me than I am now. But in the long run, replacing one group of frightened defensive people with another will not help. To fix the inequities, to bring real justice, we need something bigger than any one side. And I have even less of an idea how to accomplish that than I did four years ago.

A Long way from Love

hartmans Wednesday June 10, 2020
It's coming up on four years since the work I did at the post-election circle, trying to offer healing into a divided world. I'm frightened now, more than ever. It feels like we're a long way from a world of love.
In my own little section of the world, things are great. My vassal and I are closer than ever; our love fills me with awe. Its power is humbling. While the goddess is not as obviously present as at the beginning, our inner divinity is strong, and the goddess and lord are there inside us.
I have a job, we are healthy, and we do not have financial worries. In this time of pandemic, that is a cornucopia of good fortune.
Yet I find I have no emotional energy. I run through the day: a creative project in the morning, work, spending time with my lover, cooking and reading. And so long as that's all there is, I'm fine. But I don't have the energy to stay in contact with people outside of work. I don't have the energy to read social media and interact (nor am I convinced I'd find that healthy). Every time I make the mistake of reading news, I am less happy. And so, I am a lover, alone with my beloved, isolated from tribe and community.
And I worry about the future. If this isolation is just a phase, we'll get through it and be stronger. But what if it is more complicated than that? What if we become more afraid of disease—more afraid to touch, hug, and be close to each other? What if social distance becomes a virtue? How long until that physical distance turns into emotional distance? How can I create a temple of love, a space for the lover and beloved to circle each other, against that? How can we fight the shouting and begin to listen to each other against the backdrop of distance and a fear for our lives piled on top of the fears and shame that already drive us apart?
And then there is the world. Rage swells and it will not be denied. Black lives mattered four years ago, and they matter now, and yet we still cannot make that simple statement a reality. We’re finding some constructive pockets in all this rage. And to some extent it is work like the Enemy of Love Work. Perhaps through these protests we can work to cast out those things that hold us apart, that oppress, that hold us away from love.
And I hope that’s true, because beyond my own little bubble, the world looks grim. For beyond the rage and the protests (or perhaps beside them—it’s all related) is the economy, and the scramble to turn this pandemic to advantage for some regardless of the cost for everyone else. It’s easy to see a dark pit lurking below, and right now, I feel powerless to do anything about it.

The Year Behind the Silence

hartmans Tuesday June 2, 2020
The silence hear has been deafening; it's been months since i have written to my spiritual blog. And while the last year had its share of doubts, I am as dedicated to the path of love as much as ever. I've been so busy doing that I've had little in the way of time to write or even introspect. The introspection is important, so I am taking time to do that now. In this entry I will talk about where my time has been focused, and in future entries I will introspect on each of these areas.

  • In April of 2019 I started a one-year term as Debian Project Leader. I wrote about the spiritual implications of that work. I ended up writing monthly reports that served as my blogs to reflect on my term as DPL; see Bits From the DPL for 2019. Also, see my final reflections.

  • I've written about my work learning to DJ and to make music. That ended up being a huge focus as well; see the discussion of how that project got started. At DebConf 2019, I presented a live set with a somewhat different emphasis and we all had a great time. My sets are collected on Mixcloud.

  • Between October 2019 and May of 2020, I wrote a 200,000 word novel: Phoenix Rising: The Immortality Curse. It's by far my best fiction ever. The Gamelit genre has arisen in response to Ready Player One and a few other books. And as with practically every genre people sexuality and intimacy has become a theme—sometimes a major theme. Cringing at some of the attempts, I vowed to do better. I succeeded. Immortality Curse explores a world where the power imbalances are just a little less hidden than in our world, while challenging the characters of that world to face their universe with uncompromising vulnerability and openness. There are no easy answers.

When I look at all that, plus what I’ve accomplished at work, i can see why I had no chance to write here.

A Weekend of Hermes

hartmans Sunday September 22, 2019
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

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.

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