A ritual is an act or a series of actions typically prescribed by a religion or by the traditions of community. Anthropologists have discovered rituals performed across the globe, in every conceivable culture. Rituals are routinely performed in compliance with religious obligations or ideals. But they can serve many diverse purposes – from the satisfaction of spiritual or emotional needs to the strengthening of social bonds. Or, sometimes, just for the pleasure of the ritual itself!
Thus, over time, men of Gay Spirit Visions inherited, adopted and cultivated rituals that are not only an integral part of our events but nourish our daily lives and interpersonal relationships.
The Four Directions
East, West, North, South – without the four directions, our world would not have a framework within which to function. They rule the seasons and our days; they establish time and space. Most tribes indigenous to the Americas honor the directions, and many tribes have different colors and animals to represent each direction. To some, in fact, the four directions are wise Spirits, advisers in the ways of this world.
Many also believe it is advisable to “call in” the directions when doing any sacred work. GSV brothers call in the directions at most events… done simply by facing each direction and reciting prayers or affirmations – and they can change from year to year, keeping the ritual fresh and original.
At the finish of sacred work, it is important to offer thanks and release the directions.
Sometimes we forget that fire is essential in the development of civilization, not merely a source of light or warmth.
To the Greeks and Romans, it was associated with the qualities of energy, assertiveness, and passion. In Chinese tradition, fire represents the qualities of dynamism, strength and persistence; it is also believed to govern the heart. Throughout the world, fire has been an integral component of life, ritual, ceremonial magic and celebration since pre-history.
Historically, each Gay Spirit Visions fall conference begins with an ancient tradition, the lighting of a sacred fire. We have collected ashes from all previous conference fires and mix a bit of them into the fire pit before building anew. This sacred fire is an elemental force that connects us to nature, the Divine and the deep wisdom of our own hearts. We believe there is transformative energy in our sacred fire; it is a source of renewal for the soul.
And fire provides a natural way for people to come together. At many of our events you will find GSV brothers gathered around a fire engaged in conversation, sometimes drumming and dancing. Every attempt is made to keep the sacred fire burning for the duration of the fall conference; men are asked to refrain from throwing trash into the flames.
Gay Spirit Visions organizes several retreats and a fall conference each year, but naturally not everyone familiar with the organization is able to attend every event. As we light a fire for those who are able to gather, anyone can join us in spirit by lighting a candle in their own home – we call this a fire bridge, or fire bridging. For instance, our fall conference spans four days, so you may want to burn candles at home during that time as a symbol of solidarity.
GSV brothers regularly create fire bridges to mark an occasion. Fire bridging is an alternative way of honoring someone who has passed from this life. When someone a great distance away has died, it may not be possible for all those who wish to attend a memorial or funeral to do so. However, it only takes one person to coordinate a memorial fire bridge for several hours.
Heart Circles have been part of the Radical Faerie traditions since their inception in 1979. Likewise, they have been part of the Gay Spirit Visions experience from our beginnings in 1990. Because it’s such a simple concept, it’s reasonable to believe Heart Circles would have been around for thousands of years, practiced by people all over the world.
But what is a Heart Circle? Typically, you would sit in a circle, a candle is lit, a talisman is passed, and people are encouraged to speak from the heart. This can take place within the context of a small group, or even in larger settings such as our retreats and conferences. At a GSV Heart Circle, the talisman is a “talking stick” – whoever holds it receives the group’s full attention. Holding the talking stick gives you the opportunity to directly communicate what you feel in the moment. Share what you want to create – or have created – in your life. Share your happiness, your gratefulness and your passions. There is no cross talking, analysis or judgment – we witness. And it’s perfectly acceptable not to share – simply state your name and pass the talking stick.
GSV uses the tradition to provide a safe space for men who love men to speak intentionally from their hearts. And we believe it’s an excellent way to manifest joy in your personal life while building friendships and strengthening community.
Our Heart Circles are not psychotherapy groups, nor are they traditional support or recovery groups.
Drumming is a practice that spans the globe and has a presence in every culture. Indigenous peoples of the Earth have known for thousands of years that drumming is a powerful spiritual tool. Many believe it has the potential to awaken dormant emotions or even boost the immune system and promote healing. We believe drumming is a language that unites – rhythm succeeds where words fail!
What is a drum circle? It’s simply a group of people gathered into a circle for the purpose of making music with drums or other percussion instruments. Some drumming circles are content to jam and have noisy fun, others prefer to explore intricate patterns of rhythm, and still others gather for shamanic drumming. The main objective is to share rhythm and get in tune with each other and themselves. It’s not about musical virtuosity, but rather personal transformation, consciousness expansion and community building.
While drumming is welcome and encouraged at any of our events, it is especially popular at our fall conference. Men of all levels of musical expertise gather around our sacred fire to drum and dance – anyone is welcome to join in. And for those who like to say, “I don’t have any rhythm,” we suggest you reconsider. Rhythm is our natural inheritance; it exists in all bodies – we breathe, our hearts beat. We all have rhythm!