Hello, Beloved –
Pre-script – don’t forget to read the post-script!
Today, I write about one aspect of what is sometimes called, “The Witches’ Pyramid.” It is a set of four ways of being, each associated with a different Cardinal Direction, and also, in some ways, with a different season.
The side of the Pyramid of which I write today is, interestingly, “To keep silent.”
In the Witches’ Pyramid, “to be silent” is generally thought of as keeping the secrets of a Mystery Tradition. And that is important indeed, for example, in the tradition of Stone Circle Wicca of which I am a part. The experience of Mystery, of revelation (more closely translated from the Greek as apocaplypse), or permanent and radical change, then the Mystery must be a gift. And like many gifts it comes wrapped. In the case of the Mysteries of a tradition, that wrapping is secrecy, and that secrecy is right and good.
Secrecy can certainly be a tool of oppression. A way to lord it over others. A way to say, “Nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah. I know and youuuuuuuuu don’t!” But that is not what a witch’s secrecy should be for. It must be a condition maintained in love and for love and in the service of giving the gift of learning or Mystery.
There is more, these days, about keeping silence than only the practices of Mystery traditions and their initiates’ practice.
It’s an interesting thing to choose for a letter, I suppose, this idea of keeping silent.
You might think, in these days when silence is rarely called for, that “keeping silent ” is always the opposite of what we need.
Keeping silent might even seem to be the action of cowardice, especially when speaking out against injustice is essential. When calling in beloved colleagues and friends who are making mistakes and hurting people is invaluable in the service of love. When speaking truth to power is becoming harder and harder and therefore more and more necessary.
There is another position, though, that is necessary. Especially for those of us with privilege – and, I would argue, especially for those of us with white skin privilege. That position is one of listening. Simply cocking our heads to one side (at least, that’s what I sometimes do when I am listening closely; sometimes I just look directly ahead and wait), and listening to those who live on the margins. Whether they live on the margins because of skin color or immigration status, because of gender identity or expression, because of disability or divergence, or because of their body’s shape or size.
Let us listen.
Let us listen to those on the margins, and then let us listen to the responses of our own hearts, and then let us talk with people we trust who may understand more than we do and who share identities with us, and then let us decide how to respond.
Sometimes this process can happen quite quickly. Sometimes it’s happened enough times that we can act quickly and decisively and without fear. We can interrupt harm because we know what harm is and we will not allow it to go unchallenged.
But first, we have to have listened. In order to learn how to respond, we have to listen. And we need to listen to people we have come to know at some level—whether by reading their words or hearing them speak or looking deeply into their eyes and holding their hands.
And in order to listen, friends, we must be silent. We must keep our traps shut. We must listen when we’re uncomfortable. We must not confuse discomfort with harm or damage to our hearts and souls. We must recognize that conflict can lead to transformation. Not only to resolution, to the end of a conflict, but to transformation, true change of the hearts involved in the fight. But for that to happen, there must be listening.
And I am saying we need more white people to listen to more Indigenous and other People of Color. I am saying that especially Boomer-aged white men need to sit down and be quiet for longer than is comfortable. I am saying that I need to be still and silent and listen and wait for longer than is comfortable for me.
As a white extrovert brought up in an academic household, I am sometimes prone to entering the fray too rapidly. I am sometimes inclined to type in the middle of the night when my mind and heart are not fully engaged and responsive, rather than reactive. When I’m not shut down by the fear that comes with being nice, I’ll speak before I think in mixed gatherings, even.
I need to pay attention. I need to listen. I need to keep still and keep silent.
Do you? Or do you need to claim your place at the center?
Sometimes that’s what I need to do too! It’s not a zero-sum game. And many, if not most of us are not middle-aged, slender and able-bodied, neurotypical, straight, white, cis men. Many of us carry multiple identities. And so sometimes we need to take the risk to be at the center.
And the Witches’ Pyramid speaks to that too, when it reminds us, “to dare.” We all need to dare more than is comfortable, but sometimes that daring is daring to let our voices be absent from a conversation. Sometimes it is daring to speak, but sometimes it is daring to let the space where we have been open up for someone else, and for what they need to say.
May we all be committed to learning, to listening, to love.
A thousand blessings –