It has taken me months to wrap my mind around how to write something that makes any sense at all about reciprocity, and how our communities desperately need a deep understanding of it in a post-capitalist culture. We need this praxis so that we can build structures for our lives that are able to outlast the economic and societal devastation that continually unfolds around us.
As I pondered this, the Work I most desire to engage in has crystallized for me into two distinct yet related purposes:
First, that I want to support the elders, teachers, and priests in my community; and second, that I want to bring them and the communities they serve into healthier, reciprocal relationships with one another.
When I talk about community, I am talking about the ways people group together and coalesce around shared ideals, beliefs, and culture. As a child, my community was primarily made up of the people my parents and I attended church with, and in smaller ways, my family of origin. As an adult, my community has grown and shifted as I myself have grown from experiences, from the work of self-awareness, and from circumstance.
The community I am most concerned with, both in my capacity as a student in a lineaged, oathbound mystery tradition, and in my capacity as a starry-eyed lover of the sacred and the real, is my local pagan community. “Pagan” may not be the best descriptor here, but it is the shorthand most often used by the community itself, and we use it to identify ourselves as well as one another. Many of my pagan friends and family are neurodivergent, and many of us have chronic illnesses and disabilities; so when I talk about my local pagan community, I am not just referring to people who are able to come in person to events, or people who happen to all live in the same geographical area. Our connections began when we first met one another, and we carry those connections with us wherever we go next.
When I talk about reciprocity, I am talking about the ways in which we develop and sustain relationships between ourselves and deity, between ourselves and others in our community, and between ourselves and our spiritual specialists.
Spiritual specialists are the people whose life’s true Work is to teach, to serve, to lead by example. Spiritual specialists go into the dirtiest, most harrowing of situations, to bring the light. They are the people we call on when there is a death, a loss, an impending personal doom, a marriage, a new baby, a haunting, a possession, a schism between friends, a health crisis, an arrest, a recurring life pattern.
Spiritual specialists are our priests, elders, ministers, teachers, shamans, medicine men, and village witches. Every tradition has a particular set of requirements for a person to be styled a priest, elder, shaman, and so on — but one of the ways a community can know that someone is worthy of the trust such a title implies is that they have a solid reputation within that community of showing up, of doing the Work, and of being held accountable by those they serve and by their peers, elders and teachers. My teacher often tells us that a true elder does not call themself an elder — the community does that, because that is who they are.
Communities need the skills and the service of their spiritual specialists, and spiritual specialists need the trust and support of their communities.
The model of reciprocity is the oldest model I know of that ties a community to its spiritual specialists in this close, vulnerable, and powerfully meaningful way.
Different cultures refer to reciprocity by different names. In my tradition, which comes from pre-Roman Celtic peoples, we call it ghosti. The Northern tradition sometimes calls it gebo. It is a powerful concept that requires truthfulness, accountability, vulnerability, and trust: and a recognition of one’s own worth and the inherent and earned worth of others.
To live in reciprocity with the land, with your ancestors, with your deities, with your family, and with your community, is a difficult, challenging, and beautiful work.
My Work is to help bring you — whatever your role in your community — into greater reciprocity with others.
I am working with individuals to create structures for their lives and their work that help them recognize deeper ways that they can be in reciprocal relationships with their clients, with their communities, and with those that serve their communities.
Choose how you’d like to access that support.
I am working with spiritual specialists to create structures that enable them to do the Work with specific logistical, emotional, and spiritual support, and to enable their communities to sustain them financially.
Find out what I can offer you.