In tarot, the Hierophant represents the fundamental principles of one’s values and belief systems. The Hierophant is also a teacher, mentor and guide. With this in mind, Guerrilla Translation recently gathered for the first time in over two years to clarify and realign with our principles and ideals and to bask in each other’s guidance, mentorship and support. Thus was born the long-overdue Berlin Hierophant Meeting, 2021.
The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged us in many of the same ways that it has most people. One way in which we were well prepared as a collective, however, is that we were already used to working remotely and maintaining steady working rhythms and relationships online. We take pride in our unique use of online digital tools and our systemic distribution of care. That said, we have never ceased to recognise the value of in-person, face-to-face meetings. Past gatherings in Hervás have always resulted in boosted morale, shared focus and stronger interpersonal bonds (not to mention countless stories, but what happens in Hervás stays in Hervás). Being separated for such a long stint, coupled with Corona fatigue, was beginning to take its toll on our momentum and sharpness of vision. Accordingly, the Hierophant Meeting was intended to help us reassess our position, reflect on our strengths and weaknesses and collectively create an updated vision of where we want Guerrilla Translation to be. With a few changes on the horizon, it couldn’t have been better timed.
Son of Cups
Five of seven active Guerrilla Translation members were able to attend: Silvia López, Sara Escribano, Marta Cazorla and Javier Roma, hosted by me, Timothy McKeon, representing GT’s Berlin branch. We opened the weekend with a reflective meditation from Lama Rod Owens’ book Love and Rage and the Son of Cups from Kim Krans’ The Wild Unknown Tarot. Looking inward and drawing from our creativity, we spent four hours reflecting on Guerrilla Translation’s recent past. In an explosion of sharpies and fluorescent-coloured post-its, we brainstormed what we’re happy about, what challenges we face and what our wishlist for the future is.
To no surprise, there was a lot of cohesion regarding how happy we are with the culture we’ve fostered within the collective, how we work together and how we stick to our ideals. Challenges included staying on top of some internal procedures and small details of our governance model that need updating, as well as continuing to foster relationships with other collectives and activist groups even during difficult and uncertain times. As for our wishlist, we talked about ways to streamline our processes, grow our networks and expand operations without compromising our integrity. The exercise was a fantastic way to take stock and refocus our energies, and it opened up a number of important conversations that would unfold over the course of the weekend.
That evening we took our invigorated energy and sang our hearts out in a private booth at Monster Ronson’s Ichiban Karaoke. We serenaded each other in four languages to the likes of Lita Ford, Rocío Jurado, Stromae and Spider Murphy Gang. This was one of the most important parts of our time together. Before the weekend started, we set the very gentle expectation that even if we didn’t get very much ‘productive’ work done, at least we would spend time bonding together. This is as important as anything, for we have always recognised that the collective is a living, human entity and should be cared for as such. And what’s more human than singing Tracy Chapman deep into the night?
The next day, the group experienced the German tradition of the Schrebergarten. Similar to allotments in the UK, these individually rented garden plots are organised under community associations, often occupying what would otherwise be prime urban real estate in cities across the country. These communities are often driven by commons practices, with gardeners pooling resources and following a set of agreed bylaws to maintain these spaces. It seemed like the perfect setting to continue our conversations.
This time we put our post-its to work on an exercise exploring the intersection of two binaries: internal-external and positive-negative. These included positive internal aspects (strengths), negative internal aspects (weaknesses), positive external aspects (opportunities) and negative external aspects (threats). These two axes end up revealing problems and solutions side by side; most weaknesses can be remedied with already existing strengths, and most threats can be assuaged with opportunities that are within reach. It sounds simple enough, but it really takes sitting down together with intention and physically mapping these ideas out to come to a solid understanding of how to proceed in a group. After that, we brainstormed practical strategies under the categories of survival, defense, positioning and reorientation.
Two of Pentacles
On our final day, we had the privilege of being hosted by Ela Kagel at Supermarkt, a wonderful community space in Kreuzberg dedicated to digital culture, collaborative economies and new forms of work. This day was dedicated to discussing money and finances, and appropriately the Two of Pentacles, from The Spacious Tarot, was the card drawn at the beginning of the meeting. It reminds us of the balance and stability that must be maintained right after seeds have been planted, the care that must be given to small, daily details when working towards a big and meaningful goal. Right on point for our agenda.
We used this opportunity to revisit an activity offered in The Hum’s (highly recommended) course in Patterns for Decentralised Organising. It involves examining all of the money-related experiences and emotions that have shaped us throughout our lives. As a collective of people who came together in order to seek respite from cut-throat capitalism and financial exploitation, we all have our own share of emotional baggage and anxiety around the concept of money. There’s no reason that that should affect our relationship to our professional careers negatively though. Through sharing our stories, we learned that we can receive our monetary value as professionals without letting money define our worth as people.
To wrap up the day, Marta led an activity in clarifying our identity, refining our business proposal and further defining our clientele. By examining what makes our services unique, what resources we have at our disposal and the communities around us, we were able to gain a new depth of insight into what exactly Guerrilla Translation is and could be.
To conclude, we made a list of meaningful takeaways and actionable next steps. We have a new website in the works, and our aim is to use this new external makeover to better share and reflect what goes on internally in Guerrilla Translation. We’ve reminded ourselves that we have so much to offer, both in terms of linguistic services as well as decentralised organisation and feminist economics, and we’re leaving this meeting with renewed drive and enthusiasm to keep fighting the good fight. The Hierophant has shown us the way.
Our reunion was brief, but much needed and well spent. Another closing realisation was that time spent together in one physical space must be a priority for the future. We love our remote work life and our shared digital spaces, but every now and then it’s necessary to go analogue, cook for each other, sing some karaoke and recharge our collective battery.