Friday, October 29, 2010


I have been thinking a lot over the last few weeks about Samhain ("Saw-wen"), which is also known in different traditions as Hallowe'en or Hallowmas.

In my tradition of Feminist Witchcraft, Samhain is the Third Harvest, the Witches' New Year, and the Feast of the Beloved Dead.  This is the time when we honor those who have gone before, our literal ancestors and our spiritual ancestors, those whose names we know and those whose names are lost to us.  We mourn endings and losses of the past year.  And we welcome babies who were born this year and honor new beginnings from this last year. 

It can be a very tender time of year for many of us.  A time to gather together, grieve, and rejoice. 

For our potluck, my particular little group often sets our theme as "Remembrance Food: Food that honors your ancestors or cultures that have nurtured you."

The time between Samhain and Winter Solstice is the time between death and rebirth.  At Winter Solstice, the Sun is reborn -- on the shortest day, the Sun comes back to us; "life comes new from Death" [Schrag, "Kore, Evohe"]. 

In our culture, we're used to thinking of birth as the beginning of life, and death as the end.  But really, death and life are a circle, and we can't actually say what comes first: death paves the way for new life.  Without the death of the old year, the new year can't be born; without the death of the old leaves, new leaves can't be born; without time in the Darkness, seeds, ideas, and babies can't germinate; without the sacrifice of our food -- the grain and the animals, Lugh and the Horned One -- we wouldn't eat; all light casts a shadow. 

Every seed becomes a promise
Kore takes them in Her hands
Into the Earth, and into the Darkness
And into the quiet lands...
- John Schrag, "Kore, Evohe"

With every change comes some kind of end: without the "death" of an old way of being, the new way wouldn't be "born."  Loss is inherent in change. 

Witches have a saying:  All things must change, or die; and death is change. 

This Samhain, I am remembering my grandparents, their parents, and others who have died over the years and who will always be with me -- friends, loved ones, family members, former partners, teachers, mentors, spouses of friends, beloved pets... 

I'm also honoring people who have died this year, or whose deaths I've just learned of this year, several of whom I've mentioned on this blog under the tag "Samhain."  Christine Oliger, Father Emery Tang, George Willoughby, Morton Kravitz, Mabel Lang, Art Gish, Carolyn Diem, Sarah Leuze, Lynn Waddington, Gene Stotlzfus, Betty Nebel, and others.  And people I didn't know personally, but still honor, like Miep Gies, Dr. William Harrison, Daniel Schorr, and others. 

This Samhain, who are you honoring?  
  • Who are your ancestors, literal, spiritual, metaphorical?  Known and unknown? 
  • Who are your beloved dead you honor?  
  • Who are your not-so-beloved dead you are glad to release?
  • Who are you mourning?  
  • What new beginnings do you honor from this last year? 
  • What new babies did you welcome this last year? 

Who is remembered, lives.  

Blessed be. 

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Open house week at many mosques and Islamic centers in US

I just found out that last week was a week of open houses at many mosques and Islamic centers in the US.  I wish I'd realized; I would have gladly visited our local Islamic center... 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Information on Fragrance-free Quaker Meetings, Churches, and Gatherings?

The Ministry and Counsel Committee at the Meeting where I am sojourning, New Brunswick, has brought forward a minute to Monthly Meeting for Business recommending that the Meeting become fragrance-free, as a matter of accessibility.

Meeting for Worship for Business is not yet in unity with the principle of becoming a fragrance-free Meeting.  The matter has been referred back to Ministry and Counsel, which would like to find out about other Quaker organizations which are fragrance-free, and if possible, see some of the policies of those organizations. 

So I am working with Ministry and Counsel to collect some of that information, and I was wondering if you all might be able to help me.

  • Do you know of any Quaker Meetings, Quaker Churches, or Quaker Gatherings which are fragrance-free?  Which ones?  
  • Can you email me any specific policies, or any language in announcements (stasa dot website at gmail dot com)?  (Or post a comment with links to any on-line policies?)

New Brunswick Friends Meeting, and I, would be immensely grateful. :)

Thank you, Friends!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Writing my principal

I am beginning to write on this blog about my experiences in high school.  I've received some gentle, powerful, thoughtful responses, both in comments and privately.  Thank you.  It's helping me do more work on this. 

Before reading this post, I invite you to read the two I've written so far.  While you can absolutely read this one free-standing, the prior two provide some good background:

Today's post is a letter, one that was surprisingly scary to write.  Some part of me still feels like that scared high school froshling or sophomore who's being blamed for being bullied.  (And I was blamed for being bullied.)  Some part of me almost expects them to say, "Well, what do you expect?  You did
turn out to be a lesbian."  To which my grown-up self says, "That attitude is exactly why LGBTQ teens have an even-higher risk of being bullied and of committing suicide than their straight and cisgender peers.  That needs to stop." 

Why this post, now?, and the encouragement of my Garrison friends on Facebook and of Andre Robert Lee.  Thank you.

October 12, 2010

Melinda Bihn
Head of the Upper School

G. Peter O’Neill, Jr.
Head of School
Garrison Forest School
300 Garrison Forest Road
Owings Mills, MD  21117

Dear Ms. Bihn and Mr. O’Neill,

            I’m a 1986 alumna of Garrison Forest School.  Several things are prompting me to write to you today: the Write Your Principal Project (; conversations I had during this year’s National Coming Out Day; the increased attention currently being paid to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer teenagers who have recently committed suicide; and the heartbreaking fact that even after those deaths, more LGBTQ teenagers are committing suicide every day. 

But what’s prompting me most of all to write are the conversations I am starting to have with other Garrison alumnae about our experiences of bullying when we were at Garrison – and in particular, the pain from anti-lesbian bullying I experienced when I was a Garrison girl.  That pain remains with me to this day, poisoning the legacy of what was in so many other ways a wonderful education, and poisoning my present-day relationship with GFS. 

            When I was at Garrison, great care was paid to the issue of teen suicide.  However, no care at all was paid to the fact that LGBTQ teens were at a much higher risk of suicide than their straight and cisgender peers. 

What’s more, bullying against perceived lesbians and against girls and women who didn’t conform to gender stereotypes was rampant during my four years in Garrison’s Upper School.  Both students and adults were targets, and both students and faculty perpetrated this kind of bullying.  This created an unsafe climate for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students, faculty, and staff, as well as for members of the Garrison community who were straight and cisgender allies. 

            Nationally, LGBTQ teens are still at a higher risk of suicide and at a higher risk of experiencing bullying than are their straight and cisgender peers. 

·       According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, LGBTQ youth are 3-4 times as likely to attempt suicide as straight and cisgender youth – not as a result of being LGBTQ, but as a result of bullying and harassment. 

·       The Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network’s 2009 National School Climate Survey found that, due to perceived sexual orientation or to gender expression:

o      85% of LGBT students experienced school harassment within the last year
o      61% felt unsafe at school
o      30% had stayed away from school for at least a day within the last month due to safety concerns
o      LGBT students who experienced increased rates of harassment and victimization experienced increased levels of depression
o      GLSEN also reported on positive steps schools can take to enhance students’ safety. 

            I graduated in 1986; it’s now 2010.  So I ask you:

1)    What has changed in the nearly 25 years since I graduated from Garrison? 

2)    How is Garrison safer now for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and ally students, faculty, and staff? 

3)    How does Garrison prevent – and when prevention fails, how does it stop – bullying against LGBTQ and ally members of the Garrison community? 

4)    How does Garrison support LGBTQ and ally students, faculty, and staff? 

I very much look forward to hearing from you. 

Yours truly,
Staśa Morgan-Appel
Class of 1986

Columbus Day; Indigenous Peoples' Day

Two good videos, with some thought-provoking perspective on Columbus Day.

"Happy Columbus Day"
(via Native Appropriations)

And "Reconsider Columbus Day"

Enjoy... both the funny bits, and the uncomfortable, thought-provoking bits.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Reprise: "Not the National Coming Out Day conversation I expected"

I wanted to share again my post from last year for National Coming Out Day.

...I'm always surprised when people who know me at all well are surprised to find out I'm a lesbian. It's less startling, but still frustrating, when people are surprised I'm bi, because there's still an assumption of monosexuality in this culture: either you're homosexual or you're heterosexual. Folks who are startled to learn I'm bi either know I've had successful romantic relationships with men and assume those are invalid now (because I must be monosexual), or assume that because I have been involved only with women since they've known me and am not that interested in men, I must be monosexual.

But those are still the conversations I more or less expect to have. The kind where I refer to my partner or spouse in conversation at an event, the other person asks what my husband does, and I say, "My wife is a mathematician," and they blink. The kind where someone I've known for a long time says in shock, "You had a husband!?," and I say, "Yes, my first partner was male, and yes, I was out before we got together. He took me to my first Pride event."

But these conversations have progressed and changed over time. For example, more and more over the last few years, the conversations I've been having around the fact that I'm a lesbian center around civil rights, and especially marriage equality.

And while there's one little thread on my Facebook Wall about National Coming Out Day and how people identify and what labels mean (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer), there's another, completely different, conversation I've ended up having about the reality of my life as a lesbian in today's society.

And it really does feel like a coming-out conversation: Here is my reality. Here is the truth of my experience.

And as with many other such conversations over the years, I'm finding someone I'm talking with disbelieves the uncomfortable truth...

Click here for more.

What about National Coming Out Day?

So, today's National Coming Out Day. 

What does that mean

For me, that meaning has evolved over the years.  I wrote a little last year about how that's changed -- how my conversations have changed from stark conversations about existence ("I didn't know you're bisexual/a lesbian") to more nuanced conversations about the day-to-day reality of my life and the legal realities of second-class citizenship ("For $100 you can get the same benefits as legal marriage!") (Yeah, right...). 

But I'm curious.  What does National Coming Out Day mean to you?  If you're a lesbian woman, a gay man, a bisexual woman or man, a transgender woman or man, a queer woman or man, a cis ally, a straight ally, someone who's none of those things, someone who's confused about it all -- what does National Coming Out Day mean to you? 

Thursday, October 7, 2010

More "I'm a Witch - I'm You" response videos

The Pagan Newswire Collective is, well, collecting "I'm a Witch - I'm You" response videos (like the one I posted here yesterday) on their You Tube Channel.

Thanks, PNC!

Check out the playlist here (especially as new ones may have been uploaded since I posted this)!

In the meantime, here are some more:

Holding Patrick McCollum in the Light today

Even though all US citizens, regardless of religion or lack of religion, are supposedly equal under US law, non-Christians face several interesting forms of discrimination. 

I wrote about some of the specifics in my post Difference and Discrimination in the US and the Religious Society of Friends.  One of the situations I wrote about was not being allowed to work as a chaplain in the prison system. 

Rev. Patrick McCollum filed suit in CA over being barred from being allowed to work as a paid chaplain in the CA prison system.  He's in court today for one of the hearings pertaining to his case -- click here to read details over at the Wild Hunt

Patrick's friends and supporters, including folks at Cherry Hill Seminary, are asking people to send Patrick and his legal team spiritual support today especially. 

I know I am holding Patrick and everyone involved in the Light today, and I invite you to do so as well. 

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Recommended video: "I'm a Witch - I'm you"

What a lovely response, not only to a certain DE political candidate, but to the media coverage surrounding the whole thing. 

Star Foster, this rocks.