A ritual for strength to do the work that must be done.
The dream Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of was of an America that cared for every citizen. As congress works to remove our country’s social safety nets, as local governments attempt to avoid calls for accountability for our public servants, such as police officers, as the cabinet picks for our incoming presidency point to corporate rule and the deteriorating world security his dream seems misty and fading. Times such as these require us to take compassionate action to build the world we dream of and the world that Rev. King dreamt of.
Historically marginalized and oppressed people are at risk. For each way in which someone lacks privilege: education, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, first language, citizenship, income, complexion, religion, sexual orientation, weight, disability, age, a target is drawn on their back that affects their ability to get a job, access health care, buy groceries, protect their children, dream, create, or simply live. It’s a kind of bulls-eye of hate or fear of otherness that affects every aspect of life. We seek to expand that bulls-eye into ever widening circles of compassion.
It is our work, to expand our circles of compassion.
This work is difficult. Choosing a cause to work on can be daunting. Figuring out what your own gift to the world might be, and then finding the place to plug in, is challenging. It is even dangerous for many of us.
The following ritual is for social justice warriors AND for people of conscience who have never used the words “social justice” before. As we act, we need to find the source of our strength. As we act we each need to become more clear to whom we wish to be accountable. As we start the work we need to know which work is our work.
I invite you to do this ritual this week. You may find that you refer to it again in the days to come.
- Color pens or pencils or crayons
- Your own body
- A rose color pillar candle (Or choose another color that evokes compassion for you.)
- A chalice or bowl large enough to hold the base of the candle
- A small pitcher of water
- Whatever ritual supplies you use when working at your altar or in your magikal workings space.
Before you begin:
I. a. Learn this song
I will be gentle with myself. I will love myself.
I am a child of the universe, being born each moment. [LINK]
I. b. And the American Sign Language that goes with it:
Gentle = looks like you are patting a bunny. Cradle the bunny in your left hand and gently stroke the fur with your right hand.
Love = cross your arms over your chest in a ‘hug’, your hands in loose fists.
Child = hold your arms as though you are cradling an infant
Universe= two “U” signs circle each other like planets. (the U is made by tucking all but the fore-finger and middle finger down. (Hold the two straight fingers together – when separated they are a “V”.)
Born (sprout/grow) = send your right hand and arm (to the elbow) up through the loosely held fist in your left hand
Moment (day/hour) = beginning with the previous sign (your left hand is loosely wrapped around your right elbow, right hand is pointing up with the back of the hand facing out.) flatten your left hand, palm facing down, toward be the ground, under your right elbow. Turn your right palm to face left. Keeping your right elbow on your left hand, bring your right hand down to your left elbow, as though tracing the path of the sun across the sky, or as though your forearm is the hand of an analog clock.
II. b. Meditate on those who will be harmed in the coming years as social safety nets are reduced. Bring to mind persons who will be harmed as those who hate feel emboldened. Picture those who will be harmed as laws protecting our siblings who are diverse are rolled back. As people appear in your mind’s eye, use your pens/pencils/crayons to represent those who will be most harmed, in the center of the circles. (or write a description in the center.) For the first ring, anyone who has close family members in that center bulls-eye can go there, along with people with some pieces of privilege but not a lot. For the third ring, imagine those who have more distant connections to those in the bullseye, or visualize those who have just a few marginalized identities can be added. Continue in this way as you move out. If you can, recall real people from your daily life and name them in the circles. Use as many colors in your drawings/words as you heart desires. Complete this process by naming yourself in one of the rings. For example, as a a white woman of privilege who is an earth-relating UU and who loves her family members who do not speak English as a first language, who are immigrants, who are dark skinned, who grew up poor, who are trans*, or Muslim or disabled, I put myself in the second ring.
Option: If you have space and materials (yarn, chalk, ?) you might want to create these concentric circles large enough for you to position yourself in one of the rings (or the center.)
II. c. Draw some rose color arrows going in. Compassion and support go in. Just as when someone is in hospital, the compassion and support move inward from those less affected toward those who are more affected.
II. d. Draw some green arrows pointing out. The call to learn more and grow in capacity to help, requests for assistance, flow outward from those most affected toward those least affected. Assistance, like casseroles, and learning, like a quick course on how to talk with someone who has cancer, are the responsibilities of those surrounding the person who is undergoing cancer treatment. Assistance, like creating safe spaces, supporting free medical clinics, and interrupting bullying, and learning, like a class on “intersectionality”, are the responsibilities of those surrounding the targeted person.
Beginning the ritual:
Set up your altar/work area. Cleanse and sanctify the space using your usual methods… smudge, sweep, asperge… If you decorate with colorful cloths and elements brought in from the natural world, do so. Cast a protective boundary circle with salt, with your imagination, with crystals, with feathers, with chant, or anything else that works for you.
Add some water in the chalice. The water represents the tears of grief, the sweat from work, the blood that flows the same in all human hearts, and the water of life that gives us hope.
Ground yourself into the source of your power. Sing the song, to yourself. You may want to imagine yourself as a tiny baby being held in your arms. Forgive yourself the mistakes of the past. Send yourself all the love in the universe. Feel the joy of the opportunities for growth, rebirth and service that you have before you. May I be happy. May I be well. May I be safe. May I be peaceful and at ease. When you feel nurtured and filled up, move to the next phase of the ritual.
Center of the ritual:
Select a person from the center of the concentric circle. Now imagine that person as a baby. In your heart and mind, put that baby into your arms and sing them the song. You can do it with all the motions or just the body position for “baby”. As you sing the song, beam all the good things you wish for them. Safety, health, housing, well being, respect, peace, moments of peace and joy… Beam all your good wishes to them. Sing the song as many times as you need to while focusing all your love and good wishes on this infant in your arms. May you be happy. May you be well. May you be safe. May you be peaceful and at ease.
One by one, move outward on the rings, repeating the song and the love. A note, especially for those who carry marginalized identies, note where you are on the concentric circles. When you face in, emphasize the loving nurture being sent to those closer to the center than you/in the center with you. When you face out, emphasize the opportunity for forgiveness and renewed call to support and learning being sent to those further out from the center from you.
Completing the ritual:
Thank divine love for being with you in this working.
Extinguish the flame so that the candle can be used again.
Release the sacred space and go out into the world to do the work that must be done!