Monday, April 29, 2013

A spiritual check-in at Beltane

At 9:30 tonight, it was not yet fully dark, and the sky was an amazing deep, bright color, somewhere between deep turquoise and indigo. 

Where I live, the Sun set today at 7:48 pm.  And tomorrow, there will be four more minutes of daylight than there were today.

Tomorrow is May Eve, when some traditions celebrate Beltane; others wait until the following day, May Day itself. 

Happy Beltane!  Happy May Day! 

What is happening in nature where you live right now, this time of year?  What animals, plants, flowers, insects do you see?  How is that different from what was happening in mid-March?

What is the Sun doing where you live right now?  Has its angle in the sky changed since Spring Equinox?  How much longer are the days than they were in mid-March?  (For some help with this one, see this nifty set of tools at the US Naval Observatory:  You don't need to be in the US!)

What do Beltane and May Day mean to you?  Are they the same, or different?  

Weaving a May Pole is common in many cultural and religious traditions this time of year.  What are you weaving into your life now for the next year, over the next year? 

Ravenna Ravine May Pole, 2009.  (c) Stasa Morgan-Appel
Ravenna Ravine May Pole, 2009.  (c) Stasa Morgan-Appel

Weave, weave, weave, weave
Women weave the web of life
Sisters everywhere are weaving
Goddess every one.  
~ (c) Roses, Too! Tradition; to the tune of "Rose, Rose / Dear friend"

Welcome, Spring!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

On Violence and Language (the Day After the Explosions at the Boston Marathon)

I wrote this for my friends on Facebook.  And then people kept asking me if they could share it.  I am honored.  

Also, I am grateful to my professors in Third World Politics at UMBC for helping me to learn to think critically about these issues, and to Professor Clark R. McCauley at BMC for the opportunity I had to do research under his guidance into the development and prevention of violence in political movements. 

- sm

Beloved friends,

When you find yourself wanting to use the word "terrorist" right now in the wake of the explosions at the Boston Marathon, I invite you to think first.

"Terrorism" is political violence, whether it's violence from below (guerrilla groups) or violence from above (governments). "Terrorism" is not actually a catch-all term for senseless, deliberate violence inflicted by people on other people, though that's how we've come to use it.

What happens if, instead of using the word "terrorism," you use the phrase "political violence"? What does that do to the ways you think about and understand the situation, whether it's what happened in Boston, or another situation?

Contrary to popular belief, we cannot read the minds of those who perpetrate violence, though it's very tempting, because it allows us to make them "other" -- Not Like Us -- and easier for us to think we would never do such a thing.

But that is dangerous, for several reasons. One is that incorrect assumptions make it harder, not easier, to prevent future violence, and when we pretend we can read minds and therefore know motivations, we are making incorrect assumptions.

But one of the most important ways this is dangerous is that the primary thing which makes such violence possible is Other-ing. Specifically, seeing people as Other to the point where they are no longer considered fully human. Where we might not commit violence against other human beings, it's easier to commit violence against pigs.

Language choice is an essential step in this process towards violence.

I am not making this up. Decades of research into political violence, some of which I have been part of, bear this out.

So in the midst of this hurt and shock, I invite you to think. And I invite you to refuse to perpetuate the cycle of violence in the language you use.

Love and blessings,
Staṡa Morgan-Appel


(c) 2013 Stasa Morgan-Appel.  Permission to reprint with attribution.  
And please do leave a comment here with the link!

Monday, April 15, 2013

An open letter to Gavin Brown, MSP

Dear Gavin Brown,

Over the weekend, "Scotland for Marriage" put a horrible pamphlet through our letter slot urging residents in our area (Newington/Grange) to contact you about proposed equal marriage. 

The pamphlet is full of fear-mongering and threats.  A more accurate name for this group would be "Scotland for Marriage Discrimination." 

I am writing to tell you that our family support equal marriage.  We find this to be a matter of civil liberty and religious liberty. 

People's rights should never be subject to popular vote.  Homophobia should not be protected legally. 

I direct your attention to several responses to both consultations by religious groups who wish to perform same-sex marriages as a matter of religious liberty.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Best wishes,
Stasa Morgan-Appel


UPDATE:  I received the following email from the Equality Network, whom I had notified about the flier campaign.  - sm

Hi Stasa,

Thank you for bringing this to our attention. 

We have been made aware of similar leaflet campaigns in other areas across Scotland.

The Equality Network is encouraging supporters of equal marriage to contact their MSPs using our online email tool: 

In the coming months, as the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) bill is introduced to the Scottish Parliament, we will be launching a new campaign drive to ensure that the voice of those supporting equal marriage is not lost.

Unfortunately we do not have the level of funding that Scotland for Marriage are able to utilise to produce and distribute their mass leaflet campaign. We know that Scotland for Marriage have, by their own admission, spent at least £60,000 and possibly a lot more on their campaign against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality.

In contrast, the Equality Network has only been able to spend a fraction of this amount as we rely on individual donations to fund the Equal Marriage campaign.

Please encourage your friends to contact their MSPs, and if you are interested in fundraising for the campaign do let us know and we'll do what we can to support your efforts!

Thanks for your help!

Best wishes,


Tom French

Policy Coordinator,

T: 0131 467 6039 
M: 07502 214 598
The Equality Network is a company limited by guarantee (SC220213) and a registered Scottish charity (SC037852) both at 30 Bernard Street, Edinburgh, EH6 6PR.  

Take action for Equal Marriage:

You can now donate directly to the Equality Network's Equal Marriage campaign: 

Mobile: Text 'LGBT77 £10' to 70070 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Wheel of the Year & the Slinky of Spiritual Growth

The eight spokes on the Wheel of the Year are lovely waypoints for me to check in spiritually -- with myself, with my spiritual friends, with That-Which-Is.

How are things going?  What is happening in my spiritual life?  In all parts of my life?  What is happening in nature?  How is what's happening in my spiritual life connected with what's happening in nature?  (Is it?)  

A photograph of a painted Wheel of the Year from the Museum of Witchcraft, Boscastle
Used with permission.

The spiral of the seasons -- a circle that never quite returns to the same place it was, but keeps progressing through time -- reflects for me the rhythms of life, and also provides a model for my spiritual life and spiritual growth.

Picture a slinky in your hands.  (If you have a real-life slinky, feel free to take an actual slinky in your hands!)

Is it a classic silver one, or perhaps one of the rainbow plastic ones?

classic silver slinky in arc shape
Used with permission.

rainbow plastic slinky in arc shape
Used with permission.

Take the slinky in one hand.  Take your other hand, grasp the top, and pull it up; stretch it out vertically, so it looks more like the path a spiral ramp or spiral staircase would take. 

Granville Road Spiral ramp footbridge
Used with permission.

Spiral staircase in Cologne Germany
Used with permission.

Imagine you are walking along that spiral.  As the spiral curves gently upward, imagine Spring Equinox; about an eighth of the way around, imagine Beltane; a quarter around, Litha; another eighth, Lammas; half-way around, Fall Equinox; another eighth, Samhain; three-quarters of the way around, Yule; another eighth, Brigid; and, as you reach the spot directly above where you started, Spring Equinox again. 

The repeated cycles of the Wheel of the Year travel in time along this vertical spiral.

At Spring Equinox each year, I might be at the same place on the spiral in one sense.  But I am at a completely different place in another sense.  Those two loops of the slinky, those two loops of the ramp, those two steps on the staircase, cannot occupy the same place at the same time.

As I have traveled the spiral, I have continued to travel in time -- and hopefully in other ways, too. I'm in a similar place, but it's not possible for me to be in the exact same place. 

How does your spiritual life resemble a spiral?

How is the image of a slinky, or a ramp, or a staircase, useful to you?  How does it help you?