This past Saturday was Quietus, our celebration of the Queer Elder and the Winter Solstice. It’s typically regarded as a time of quiet reflection and collection, and honestly sees less attendance than our other events throughout the year. It can’t help, of course, that the blustery Chicago weather is often miserable and that most of us are experiencing event-burn-out from what’s usually a very busy, social December.
All that being said, this past weekend’s Quietus ritual was the best attended in at least five years. There were both new and old faces, and our community was stronger for our meeting. The large room at the ManKind Project was comfortably full, and spirits were high. There was a palpable desire in the air for the energies of energies of Quietus, of stillness and thought.
The centerpiece to each of our rituals is a message brought to us by the seasonal face of the Queer God of our order, and Quietus is certainly no different. His is a message of transformation, trust, and recognizing those things that hold importance in our lives.
His words from Saturday’s ritual follow, as closely as they could be recorded.
Reflections of the Elder, Jan. 9, 2016, as recounted by our Brother Adrian Moran
Have you walked the Labyrinth, my friends? You have, or you would not have gotten here to this place to be with me. We are deep within it now. As you moved through its twists and turns, you moved farther from the mundane and distracting cares outside. But sometimes, when you are walking and you can see your goal, you will notice that the path seems to lead you farther from the goal, the center. You must trust the path, trust the process, and keep moving. Know that you will reach the center and experience the mysteries contained within.
I want to talk to you about leaves. Think about the great canopy of green leaves that we see on trees in the summer. They are remarkable things. They hold the secret of photosynthesis, which is a kind of alchemy – they take sunlight and water and some minerals from the earth and they create something miraculous. They create energy, life. They transform these ingredients into something the tree can use to build its tall giant body, the energy to create blossoms or fruits or seeds. It is all fueled by the power of those leaves.
But every Fall, the leaves die away. They may have the glorious golds and reds or maybe they just turn brown and fall off. Either way, the leaves have given the tree something valuable and then there is a time when they return to the Earth. Think about what in your life is like these leaves. What has nourished you, but whose time is done and needs to be let go? This is the time of year when the so many trees stand bare, built strong and tall by the power of the leaves, but now standing without them, their plain, elegant branches waiting for a new Spring.
There’s another kind of tree, though, whose greenery is spiky needles instead of broad leaves. They’re a heartier, harsher breed, ready for the cold and snow. They don’t grow sweet smelling flowers, they have pine cones. They are evergreens, and as the name suggests, they stay green all winter long. The needles don’t stay alive forever, but they also don’t all fall off and blow away just because a little cold and snow are coming. They are on a different cycle, a longer cycle. They stick with the tree through the harsh times.
Think about what in your life is like the evergreen needles. Maybe not so luxurious and vibrant as those other leaves, but the kind that sticks with you in the harsher times. What nourishes you when the world seems cold and bleak? What in your life is ever-green?
On a separate topic, we talk a lot here about transformation. It is one of the most important themes of the Brotherhood. We seek to transform ourselves and to transform our communities. Remember, we must allow ourselves to be transformed. This means that we must shed expectations and conceptions of who we are. We must let go of our limitations, our insecurities, and those things from our past that hold us back.
Importantly, we also need to be open to transformation in others. We form ideas about people from our past experiences and rightfully so. Through time and experience, we decide if someone is compassionate, reliable, thoughtful – or if they are difficult, selfish, untrustworthy. But we must be open to the possibility that others can be transformed, just as we are transformed. Someone mousy and unimpressive can find their voice and become a powerful presence. Someone who has been indecisive and unreliable may finally “click” with a path that makes sense and they will be diligent in their pursuit. Many transformations take time, changing habits, therapy – all these can change the person you thought you knew into someone else. This is not to say it will definitely happen. Some people aren’t willing to do the work, or may not even be able to see what needs to change. But be sure you are open to see a change when it does happen, and not stuck in your previous ideas. Allow them to be transformed and their relationship to you and to the community is transformed.