Tuesday, May 29, 2012

An explosion of light

One of the things for me about living someplace new is learning the cycle of the seasons in the new place.  The rhythms of the light, the plants, the animals.

My first winter in Edinburgh felt longer and harder than I expected.  I know one of the medications I'm on completely messes with my thermo-regulation, but still!  I thought I was reasonably cold-hardy, after some of the places we've lived during winters in the US.  Hah. This winter made me feel like a cold wimp.  Winter in Edinburgh is cold, damp, raw, and dark.  At Winter Solstice, there weren't even seven whole hours of daylight

And then, about a week after Brigid, there was a sudden explosion of light.  It wasn't just that the days were longer and I noticed it, it was that Wow, there seemed to be so much more light! 

Beloved Wife and I have been noticing a similar change again starting right around Beltane.  Wow!  Once again, there is so much more light! 

I first noticed this when I woke up one morning to use the bathroom and it was not just light out, but bright.  Usually when this happens, it's about 6:00 am, and I have just enough time for a snooze before the alarm goes off.  I looked at my watch.  5:00 am.  5:00 am??

Unfortunately, the cats noticed the sun was up, too, and they thought it was a fine thing...

We've started closing the shutters when we go to bed, to block the morning sun so that we might actually sleep until the alarm goes off. 

Then we noticed the light in the evening. At Beltane, sunset was a little before 9:00 pm, and it was dark enough by 9:30 that the Beltane Fire Festival folks started their pyrotechnics then.  Now it's still fully light at 9:00 pm

This is delightful.  But confusing to my inner clock.  Yay, vitamin D!!  But it is hard to convince myself it's time to start winding down and getting ready to bed when it's still bright out, or cloudy but fully light.  Things will be interesting come Summer Solstice, when the days are really long.

For now, I am reveling in this delightful explosion of light and in getting to know this time of year in this place.  Blessed be.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Busy hands; centered worship; the web of community

I was in a meeting recently of a clearness committee I'd agreed to serve on.

Before we started, I said something along the lines of, "I just want to share with you all that if I crochet during our worship together, it's not disrespect; it's that with my disability, it helps me listen better.  I know there's been some talk -- not among this group here, but in the larger community, and so you may have heard it -- about my crocheting in worship.  So..."

The more I talked, the more shocked they looked.  I trailed off.

Our convenor, a strong and powerful woman, shared, in a way that was somehow serene, tender, and no-nonsense all at once, about someone she knows who has a learning disability, but as soon as she has something to do with her hands, can quiet and center herself. 

It was very clear I didn't need to explain myself.  These women completely understood and supported my doing handwork while we worshiped and worked together.

I felt held in the Light, and in the web of community.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

So, how did the Conference go??

I had a lovely time at the Scottish Pagan Federation Conference.  I'm glad I went.  Many thanks to the organizers for all their work!  

Somewhat at the last minute, a group of us, all from Reclaiming, tabled together with and for a handful of things:

This was nice, because it gave us a "home base"; the chance to meet people who came by, for those of us who hadn't been before; a chance to visit with each other between workshops and talks; a place to store supplies for later; etc.  It was also fun. :)

For me, it was also the least-stressful experience tabling I've ever had.  I think this was due in large part to the wonderful people I was tabling with, especially the ever-creative and highly-practical Lady of the East Wind.  (That's how I've decided to refer to her here, for now, especially as she stood East in our circle.)

I did not make it to all the talks, workshops, and performances I wanted to, but the ones I did make it to, I really enjoyed.  It was also lovely just to meet people and talk to people, and watch the crowd, watch people greet old friends and watch people greet newcomers...

There was also something else a little unexpected, perhaps because it hasn't happened for me in a long time in a group with other Pagans: that feeling of being with my people, among my tribe. Sometimes when I hang around with other Pagans, even when they're a great group of people or wonderful individuals whom I like, I feel like a space alien. But last weekend, I had a feeling of homecoming, and I appreciated that. 

We packed up our table and got ready for ritual.  How did that go?  I'm not ready to say too much about it yet, because we haven't had our debrief/processing meeting yet, but I can say that I had a lot of fun, I had a deep experience, I loved working with this Priest/essing team in circle, and that the folks who came and participated in the ritual were a pretty great group.  I had some moments of awe and magic.  I feel like I was faithful in my service to the Goddess.  Oh, and the ribbon wands were great! 

And Margot Adler can dance.  

Oh, yeah, and you know what else?  I'd never been part of a circle before where there was impromptu ceilidh dancing during energy-raising, but I have now! Hurrah, Scotland!

Monday, May 21, 2012

A very brief introduction to Radical Feminism

Or, "Yes.  I can still say with integrity that I am a radical feminist."

When I was enrolled in the Women's Studies Program at UMBC more than 20 years ago now, one of my all-time favorite courses was Theories of Feminism with Dr. Carole McCann.

It was a revelation.

I was already a feminist, but formal study of the feminist theory awed and astonished me.

public domain, via Wikimedia
I worked hard in that class, and I loved it.  The analysis that made even further sense of my real life and my experience, and also of so much more; the theoretical wranglings; the combination of mental gymnastics and hard practicality.  Learning and applying the rigors of feminist analysis.  Seeing how it all fit together.  The power of how it could be taken so much further.  Developing my sense of where I fit in with those who had gone before, and with the feminists I found around me -- my teachers, my sister students, activist friends in the community.

That level of feminist theory and analysis was not something I'd experienced when I was at Bryn Mawr the first time around. 

I was furious and crushed over having been forced to leave Bryn Mawr by the effects of sexual assault, by illness, by unthinking sexism in medical care, and by money and class.  I'd had to fight so hard to go to college in the first place, and then I'd had to leave.  Then I had to fight all over again to return to college, at UMBC.  And on top of it, I had to put up with the most incredible casual sexism on campus there.

And here was this silver lining, this life-changing, powerful, unexpected silver lining.  Not only in the form of the Women's Studies Program (now Gender and Women's Studies), but in all the courageous women -- in so many of my classes, not just my Women's Studies classes, and in the Women's Union and Students for Choice -- and in the courageous people of all genders, but especially the women, in the Gay/Lesbian Organization (which we got renamed the Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Alliance).  In the levels of engagement and activism. 

It was a revelation.

And as happy as I was when I managed to return to Bryn Mawr and complete my degree there, I really missed my sisters and the Women's Studies Program at UMBC, as well as in the wider peace and social justice activist community in that area.  

I still have all my reading materials from Theories of Feminism, in a box which came with me to Scotland.*  Including radicalesbians' "The Woman-Identified Woman," which I invite you to read here: 

radicalesbians, "The Woman-Identified Woman" 

Click here for the herstory of radicalesbians.  It rocks. 

I still identify as a feminist.

Frequent readers of this blog are unsurprised.

I have also said all along that I still identify as a radical feminist.

But when I was recently invited to a radical feminist conference where I found myself in such serious disagreement with the organizers that I not only can't imagine going, I can't imagine promoting the conference to anyone else, I found myself wondering:

Does my 20-odd-years-older self really still identify as a radical feminist?  If I look at radical feminism square-on, is that me?

So today, I went digging.

from the Wikipedia page on "Radical feminism":

Radical feminism is a current theoretical perspective within feminism that focuses on the theory of patriarchy as a system of power that organizes society into a complex of relationships based on an assumption that male supremacy[1] oppresses women. Radical feminism aims to challenge and overthrow patriarchy by opposing standard gender roles and oppression of women and calls for a radical reordering of society.[1]

Yep, that sounds like me.

from the About.com page on "Radical Feminism":

Radical feminism is a philosophy emphasizing the patriarchal roots of inequality between men and women... Radical feminism views patriarchy as dividing rights, privileges and power primarily by gender, and as a result oppressing women and privileging men.

Radical feminists tend to be more militant in their approach (radical as "getting to the root")... radical feminists tend to... support cultural change that undermines patriarchy and associated hierarchical structures.

Radical feminism opposes patriarchy, not men...

Mmmm, yep, that also sounds like me.

(Actually, I agree pretty much entirely with that entire article, and encourage you to read it, since I don't have permission to quote it in entirety!)

Yes.  I can still say with integrity that I am a radical feminist.

Thanks for joining me on this little exploration.  I hope it's helpful for you in terms of some of the myths about what feminism is, and isn't.

More soon, I hope, on how my radical feminism doesn't include hate speech, and how hate speech promotes violence.  That, as they say, is another blog post. 

* Dr. McCann co-edited what looks like a wonderful book, which I must get my hands on:

Friday, May 18, 2012

Margot Adler's "Amazing Grace," without shame

Last Saturday, I went to the Pagan Federation Scotland's Annual Conference for the first time.  (I had a great time, and I'm really glad I went.)

Margot Adler was the keynote speaker at the Conference, and she also did a chants workshop, which was wonderful. She closed the workshop with her piece "The Witches' Amazing Grace."

And I had a completely different experience with that piece than I've ever had before.  

I have known this piece for years.  I've taught it to other Witches, to other Goddess-women, to Pagans, Quakers, those who are both, to allies.  I've sung it in worship-sharing, and, very occasionally, in Meeting for Worship; I've heard it or sung it at Pagan potlucks, get-togethers, in circle, etc.

And every time I've sung it, or taught it, or have been part of a group that's sung it, or heard other people sing it... there's been a little frisson of... something.

Discomfort.  Shame.  Defiance.  Disquiet.  Fear. 

Not just for me.  Other people have often made it clear that they feel it, too. 

Saturday, for me, for the first time, it was a completely different experience. 

We were standing in a circle together, in a bright pool of light in a dark, welcoming space, holding hands, singing joyfully in harmony.

Joy and gratitude were like an electric current passing through all of us. 

With no shame, and no fear, and with joy and a simple feeling of rightness, I sang:

Amazing grace!  How sweet the Earth
That formed a Witch like me...

Yes.  She did.

How sweet that sheltered space where magic -- transformation and change -- could happen.  Where I could have the experience for a few timeless minutes of being a Witch and being completely unafraid.


We create those sheltered spaces for ourselves as minorities -- as women; as lesbians, gay men, bisexual people, transgender people, and queer people; as people of color; as disabled people; as poor people; as religious minorities -- in part to have spaces where we have different experiences than those we have every day.  Places where we can stand tall without being squashed.  Where we can be ourselves without danger, physical or otherwise.

Where we can begin to learn what it might be like to live without oppression, free.  

May I carry forward with me that knowledge, of what it's like to be a Witch without fear, or shame.

Amazing grace!  How sweet the Earth
That formed a Witch like me...


(from Margot's workshop at PantheaCon 2008)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Western Friend, April/May 2012: Friends on Aging and Dying

Western Friend, April/May 2012: Friends on Aging and Dying

"Have you had a chance yet to read the April/May issue of WF? It's raising the level of conversation among Friends around issues of aging and dying. Read more- including Mary Ann Percy's stories from working as a hospice chaplain- here online!"

Monday, May 14, 2012

Recommended article: "I Crochet Because I'm Hooked" (Tape Flags and First Thoughts)

"I Crochet Because I'm Hooked" (Tape Flags and First Thoughts)

I crocheted my way through the Midwinter Gathering, and liked it. I felt like I had joined the community of stitchy people. But I was also interested to notice that crocheting seemed to keep me from blurting out jokes at inappropriate times during business meeting, one of my less attractive habits. I also found that having my hands busy allowed me to focus my mind more effectively; often I have a notebook open in biz meeting, and end up doodling or thinking about to-do lists or starting to write something. A pen and a blank sheet of paper is too appealing.

(Disclaimer up-front: Su links to an article of mine in her post.  I didn't know that when I started reading her post, and had already decided I wanted to link to her post, because I like what she said and it made me think.)

I wish I had figured it out about handwork earlier.  My love affair with Quaker process would have gone more smoothly, earlier, I think, if I had had some form of handwork in Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business sooner.  Actually, I did want to do handwork earlier, and even tried to learn to knit for the third time -- and failed for the third time.

But, I learned to crochet when I did, and it definitely helps keep me centered, and helps me listen better.

Looking at Su's pictures, I have a vision of her making a rainbow octopi for the FLGBTQC auction at FGC Gathering. *grin*

Thursday, May 10, 2012

from Full Moon Worship

We hosted Full Moon Worship Monday night, and it was truly lovely.

Those who gather choose worship or worship-sharing, depending on their spiritual needs or simply what they want.  In recent months, worship-sharing has been popular, but on Monday, those gathered chose worship.  

Two cats chose to join us, and helped deepen our worship. 

There were a few vocal messages, and with a distinct theme.  It seemed to speak to those present, given the conversation afterwards. 

As is often the case, there was music with me in worship; in this case, "Shadow/Light." This is a piece written by Juliet Spitzer, adapting two poems of Rumi's, and recorded by SheWho.  (This is a piece which I love to teach.) 

Here are snippets of the two poems:

You must have shadow and light-source both
Listen, and lay your head under the tree of awe...

This door is not the door of hopelessness and frustration
This door is open...
Come, come as you are.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

President Obama: "I think same-sex couples should be able to get married"

from the New York Times:

WASHINGTON — President Obama on Wednesday ended nearly two years of “evolving” on the issue of same-sex marriage by publicly endorsing it in a television interview, taking a definitive stand on one of the most contentious and politically charged social issues of the day.

“At a certain point, I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married,” Mr. Obama told ABC News in an interview that came after the president faced mounting pressure to clarify his position.

Read more... 

Pagan Values Event 2012!

"When we are discussing the Values of Paganism, we are speaking to the deep philosophical and moral pillars of our beliefs; Values, Ethics, and Virtues, the living of a good and moral life as a Contemporary Pagan and of the importance in our lives of these ideas and ideals, and of how we carry these things with us out into our lives in the larger everyday world outside of our rituals and festivals."

Pax, of the blog Chrysalis, has posted the invitation for the 2012 Pagan Values Event:

Welcome to the 2012 Pagan Values event.

Started as a blog carnival in 2009 and expanded into an open event for bloggers and podcasters in 2010, this event lasts the month of June and provides a bully pulpit for Pagans and Polytheists and many others to speak about our Values. In a world where our many faiths and paths are often held up for ridicule or as straw dogs of evil for Fundamentalists, it would be easy to remain silent; especially as articulating our values and how we act upon them challenges the Fundamentalist’s claim of ownership over all Values and Virtues, and can attract unwanted attention from them

However, in not articulating these things we also miss out on the friendships and connections that can arise with like-minded folks of many Faiths and Paths. We miss out on the opportunity to speak the Truth of who we are and what we do. We miss the chance to perhaps bring some much needed change and inspiration to a world in need.

What are the Ethics, the Virtues, and Values that Contemporary Paganism has taught you to cherish, to live, to bring with you in your every interaction with the world? What do you do, inspired by these values? What adventures, or misadventures, has your Paganism and the Values and Virtues and Ethics it has inspired led you too? What and who have you encountered on your spiritual and moral journey as a Pagan? How have you acted upon these Values. What have you done inspired by these Virtues? What wrestling matches have you had when these Ethics encountered the real world?

Write of these things on your blogs, speak of them on your podcasts, share the links with me either in the comments section of the Pagan Values Blogject event announcement post or on the Facebook page for the 2012 event:


I invite you to take part.

What are your Pagan values?  How do you walk in the world as a Pagan? 

(I also welcome guest posts for this project.)

Happy Beltane! Happy May Day!

What do Beltane and May Day mean to you?

For me, connection -- to the past, to the future, to community around the world, to social justice and collective work, and to the land, what's happening in Nature.

It's also about those who have gone before -- loved ones who have died near Beltane, especially those who loved May Day or Beltane -- and those who will come after -- young ones I have watched growing up dancing around the May Pole, or eating strawberries and cream for May Day breakfast. 

It's about faithfulness -- about weaving a Maypole every year, heeding that inner prompting, even when I don't fully understand why it's there, or why doing so is important. 

Weaving connection, weaving community, weaving justice, weaving spring and life's continuation.

I grew up with May Day as a welcome spring holiday and as a workers' holiday.  I went to a Quaker college that celebrated May Day with a day of canceled classes and festivities, including Maypole weaving/dancing (well, sometimes running).  They now hold May Day on the weekend, but many alumnae still celebrate wherever we are, even if our only outward observance is strawberries and cream.  I have celebrated Beltane in community with Pagans and Witches everywhere, even when all alone, even with (especially with?) myself and a lover.  I celebrated Beltane for many years with a community of feminist Witches and our extended community of many spiritualities and none at all.  I have hosted Maypole magic and May Day/Beltane potluck-food-and-hospitality magic from that Tradition in different parts of the US, and now in Scotland.  I have celebrated Beltane with regional Pagans in the DC area, and with Seattle's Radical Faeries and the Goddess Ravenna Ravine.   I have celebrated with friends and strangers. 

Weaving the web of life.

Blessed be. 

What are Beltane and May Day about for you?

Monday, May 7, 2012

Ritual with Reclaiming Scotia this Saturday

I am going to be part of presenting what has the chance to be a pretty spectacular ritual with Reclaiming Scotia this Saturday at the Scottish Pagan Federation Conference here in Edinburgh. 

Reclaiming Scotia is putting on the late afternoon ritual, in the time slot just before dinner -- I believe our talk-through will start at 4:30 pm (and really at 4:30 pm, not at Pagan Standard Time, *laughing*). 

Lots of pageantry, appeals to the senses, Mystery, and an opportunity for some deep work both within and out in the world. 

This will be my first time at the Conference, so I have no idea what the rest of it will be like -- though I'm looking forward to Margot Adler's talk and to learning more about other presenters. 

(For more on Margot Adler, here are two bios of her: http://www.cherryhillseminary.org/about/leadership/board-of-advisors/margot-adler/ and http://www.npr.org/people/2100166/margot-adler.) 

So if you're in Edinburgh this Saturday, or near enough to come to Edinburgh this Saturday, I invite you to our ritual. 

Friday, May 4, 2012

Crafting Magic (and Magic Crafting) with Reclaiming Scotia

Last fall, I began to go to the monthly socials put on by Reclaiming Scotia, the local chapter of the Reclaiming Collective.

One of the things we talked about at the socials was that Reclaiming Scotia had been asked to present the late afternoon ritual at this spring's Pagan Federation Scotland Conference, and who wanted to be involved in ritual planning and in doing the ritual?  And, what would the ritual be? 

I didn't particularly expect to be part of the planning or presentation -- I was so new, for one, and I wasn't even sure I was going to the Conference, even though it's only one day and it's here in Edinburgh -- but over time, I found myself first drawn into conversation, and then actively involved.  

And this has been a delightful, growthful, and deeply satisfying experience.

I love crafting magic.  And I am loving working with these particular people, individually, and all of us together.

Every single one of us has brought something this event wouldn't have had if that person wasn't part of this.  Every single one of us brings wisdom.  Every single one of us has knowledge and experience the others don't, and every single one of us respects and honors the others' experience.  This has been just wonderful for me. 

This interweaving, this whole-greater-than-the-sum, this collective creativity, this everyone-bringing-something-essential, has happened over and over -- from initial brainstorming; to discerning the big-picture concepts of what we want to offer in this experience; to determining finicky details like what to bring and who needs to be where, when; to buying craft supplies; to just about everything in our crafting afternoon last weekend when we made the ribbon wands we're going to use at the Conference ritual. 

This is not the ritual any of us would have planned ourselves.  These are not the wands any of us would have made ourselves.  And that's been a delight, because that's one of the things Reclaiming Tradition does best, at its best: working collectively. 

I have no idea how people will respond to the experience we are offering them.  We are preparing a container where people will have the opportunity to encounter Mystery; we're not actually in charge of what happens.  Based on 20-odd years of experience, some will think it's fabulous, and some will think it's awful, and some will be in between.  :)

No matter what other people's reactions, the process itself, the experience so far, has been magical and a blessing for me.

This brings me joy.  

Thank You, She-Who-Is; thank You, Hecate, Aengus, Bridhe; thank you, E, S, J, S; thank You, Spirits of Place.

Blessed be!