Hermes takes me to some odd places
Sometimes doing things for the gods and spirits takes you in unlikely directions. Yesterday I attended a neighborhood association meeting for the first time, and I’m considering writing a city grant application, and it’s all because of super-local polytheism.
See, I’ve been exploring the area within a mile radius of my house more lately, and have found myself particularly drawn to a few powerful, liminal sorts of spots, most of which have some kind of connection to Hermes for me. I’ve also been learning more about the history of this neighborhood, which enhances my experience of these places. One place that I’ve felt strongly about even before the super-local focus is a set of double stairs leading to nowhere. This is actually where I found my very first recently-dead animal which I processed into bones – a raccoon that I cared for over many months, and whose skull now rests on my Hermes shrine. I eventually discovered that these stairs were once a streetcar stop back in the very early 1900’s – so there’s a transportation connection to the god of travellers – which added to my interest. They also led to the first hospital in the city, now gone, and were across the street from our 1930’s baseball stadium, which sadly burned down last summer but is still important to many people here. So, lots of history right there.
But these stairs also have a large, blank concrete side that is very appealing to those with a can of spray paint and nothing better to do. It’s a constant battle of graffiti appearing (and never interesting or artistic graffiti, just ugly tagging), the city painting over it, then more graffiti appearing. For a long time I’ve wondered what might be done about it. Then it occurred to me that in this city at least, where we have many beautiful murals, the taggers seem to respect the art and leave the murals alone. Perhaps if we had a mural there it would end the graffiti. And perhaps the mural could reflect some of the rich history of the location. (I’ve also worried that the city might just decide to rip out the stairs eventually, to solve the problem, thereby losing an important piece of heritage.)
After a couple of inquiries, I found out that one can apply for a grant from the city for such a project, but that the first step is getting support from the board of the local neighborhood association. I also discovered that a candidate for city council lives right next to those stairs, and had had the same idea for a mural but hadn’t yet pursued it. It felt like a really appropriate and meaningful way to honor the spirits there, and Hermes, if I could make this happen, and change it from a trashy, neglected spot to something beautiful and interesting. So even though the thought of attending board meetings and writing grant applications and schmoozing politicians does not exactly fill me with glee, I decided to at least give it a shot.
To get to the meeting and back last night, I had to walk through the exact part of the neighborhood that has been calling me so strongly these last months, and as I wandered past enticingly numinous alleys and little free libraries and magical garden doors, it reaffirmed my desire to contribute to it in some way, to respond to the spirits there with something tangible. Much like deciding to pick up litter in your favorite nymph-haunted woods. Some people may term this “political” action, and if so that’s fine, but I think it’s important to note that it comes directly from engagement with the spirits, and not because of my own mundane inclinations or priorities, and is done only to honor Them. Other humans being involved is just an unfortunate necessity in this case.
So that’s another glimpse into my religious life for this month – sometimes it might not even look like I’m doing something spiritual from the outside, but everything I do starts with the gods.