Friday, September 28, 2012

Recommended article: "Open Letter to the Editors of The Cambridge Student"

This is so awesome, I just want to quote you the whole article.  Not realistic, alas.

"Open Letter to the Editors of The Cambridge Student"

If you think women and girls should take specific steps to avoid rape, please read this article. 

If you've ever sat or stood there wondering how to respond when someone tells you that you should take specific steps to avoid rape / what specific steps to take to avoid rape, you'll likely want to read this, too. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Singing the Goddess Workshop

bread & roses spiritual nurture

Reclaiming Scotia 

invite you 

Sing the Goddess

Saturday, 10 November, 2-5 pm
The Hall at St. John’s Church
Princes Street & Lothian Road, Edinburgh

Singing the Goddess workshop will include songs from simple chants and rounds to more complicated pieces, drawn mostly from the Earth spirituality movement and the feminist spirituality movement.

Come as you are, whether or not you think of yourself as a singer.  No music-reading needed.  All genders welcome.

For more information, contact Staśa. 

Free; donations requested to cover hall hire. 

Please share widely!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Edinburgh Solstice Singers, and Singing the Goddess in Edinburgh

October or November: Singing the Goddess -- give date input now

bread & roses spiritual nurture and Reclaiming Scotia are co-sponsoring a singing workshop which I am facilitating in October or November.

I would like to schedule it for when the
greatest number of people who are are interested can make it.  The proposed dates are Saturday afternoons in October or November, except for two dates where I have conflicts.

I need to make the booking for the hall by Monday at the latest.  So if you live within reach of Edinburgh for a Saturday and are interested, please let me know which dates will work for you, or are particularly good or bad for you.  


Workshop description draft:

bread & roses spiritual nurture and Reclaiming Scotia invite you to a 3-hour workshop with songs ranging from simple chants and rounds to more complicated pieces, drawn mostly from the Earth spirituality movement and the feminist spirituality movement.  Come as you are, whether or not you think of yourself as a singer!  No music-reading needed. All genders welcome.  [TIME, DATE, MORE INFO.]

Edinburgh Solstice Singers -- forming now

I am now forming the Edinburgh Solstice Singers, to sing in the December Winter Solstice Celebrations in Edinburgh.

We meet once a week for song-learning sessions / rehearsals.
  • We are a non-audition ensemble.
  • You do not need to read music, although if you do, that can be helpful.
  • All genders and voice ranges are welcome.
  • Our music is written for sopranos and altos; we can make adjustments for tenors and basses.  (I am willing to work with tenors and basses if you are willing to work with my inexperience with those voice ranges.)
  • There are no dues, but there may be a small charge for room hire for rehearsals.
We have a few copies of the songbook available to borrow during sessions, but not to take home.  You may choose to purchase your own copy, which comes with a compact disc that includes recordings of all the songs in performance, as well as teaching tracks for songs with harmony parts.

If you are curious about or interested in joining, please contact me.  More information at -- particularly the links for Edinburgh 2012 and Edinburgh Solstice Singers

Come sing with us! 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Recommended article: "Access in the Academy: Accommodating faculty members with disabilities can help everyone," by Stephanie L. Kerschbaum

Access in the Academy:
Accommodating faculty members with disabilities can help everyone

By Stephanie L. Kerschbaum

I recommend this article to individuals, Meetings, Pagan organizations, UU churches, singing groups, and other groups, for a whole handful of reasons. 

As I read it, I found myself gleefully muttering, "Yes, yes, yes," over and over.  

The biggest reason I'm recommending it is that Kerschbaum offers ways of thinking about disability and access that are interesting, useful, and very likely different from how we/you are used to thinking about disability and accessibility.

There is so, so much good stuff in this article, it's hard to pull out even a fragment for you.  But I will lift up / pull out two things:

One is that I am reminded of how the fragrance-free policies in various groups and events ( benefit everyone there, not only people with chemical and fragrance sensitivities. 

Another is the issue of nametags, and how happy I am that Kerschbaum brings up nametags as an accessibility issue.

Nametags make events more accessible for me.  Plain and simple. 

Require name tags at department events and socials. Even if you know everyone in your department, there are often visitors at such events who may not. For some people, it can take many repeated encounters to remember another person’s name; for others, memory is visual rather than aural. In both cases, the name tag eases some of the social stress of the event. 

Yes, yes, yes.  

In the US, many (but definitely not all!) Quaker Meetings and organizations I've been part of have used nametags.  So have many dance groups; folk and Scottish dancers in the US, in fact, will often sport name tags whether they're provided or not.  In Pagan groups and organizations, this has varied widely. And so forth.

In Scotland in the last year, I have been to two, exactly two, Quaker events where there were supposed to be nametags... and they were missing from the first one (no one could find the box), and there were no provisions for substitute nametags.  This is seen as a cultural issue, not an access issue.

It places one more barrier for me to full participation in community.  

So far, when I've brought up that nametags are useful, not just for me with my particular disability, but for other people with other issues as well, I've been told variations on, "We don't do that here."  

I have hopes of addressing this more successfully in other Quaker groups I'm part of here.

Read the full article here

Friday, September 14, 2012

What it feels like to be full, spiritually

From the final FLGBTQC (Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Concerns) worship at FGC Gathering this summer:

I am so tired physically.  And yet I do not feel depleted.  I feel full. 
It has been so long since I felt full in this way.  I think that often I am reaching because my spiritual reserves or reservoirs feel empty.  And yet as exhausted as I am I do not feel depleted; I feel abundant.  I feel filled.  
I'm thinking about how wonderful working with [a particular group of people in Edinburgh] has felt.  And yet after, I feel in myself that reaching, because doing that work with those lovely people feels like a scarcity.  A wonderful drink of cold, clear water, leaving me wanting more, to drink until I am not thirsty.  
My spiritual hunger has been fed this week.  
In so many ways.  
And it is wonderful.  

Thursday, September 13, 2012

"Sex without consent is rape. We can stop it."

A new campaign designed to highlight vital changes in sexual offences legislation was launched in Edinburgh today.

With the tagline “We can stop it”, the campaign invites people, and in particular young men between 18 to 27 years old, to consider their own attitudes and behaviour and the role they can play in preventing rape. 

Some of the most important information the campaign provides are definitions of consent (and when consent cannot legally be assumed), and that victims can be of any gender.

For more information about the campaign, see:

We Can Stop It: 
Rape Crisis Scotland: 

Some facts that might (or might not) surprise you:
  • Nearly one in four women worldwide may experience sexual violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime (WHO, 2002).
  • Most serious sexual assualts are carried out by a man known to the woman - 86% of victims said they knew the offender in some way (Scottish Crime and Justice Survey, 2010 – 2011).
  • A third of teenage girls in a relationship suffer an unwanted sexual act (NSPCC survey, 2009).
  • 40% of young people know girls whose boyfriends have coerced or pressurised them to have sex (EVAW, 2006).
  • Conservative estimates indicate alcohol is prevalent in 34% of reported rape cases, and drugs in 12% of cases (Finch and Munroe, 2006).
  • The victim is male in approximately 8% of all recorded rape cases however the actual number is thought to be higher (Stern Review, 2010).
  • The UK charity Mankind estimates 3 in 20 men are victims of sexual violence (Stern Review, 2010).

The We Can Stop It website includes:
  • Did You Know? -- information about rape and sexual assault
  • What Is the Law? -- information about the Sexual Offences Act (Scotland) 2009, including What Is Rape?, What Is Consent?, and What Is Sexual Assault?
  • What Can You Do?
  • Our Stories
  • News
  • Contacts

It's comprehensive and well-put-together.  I strongly recommend checking it out and passing it on.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Recommended article: Amanda Marcotte's "It's Really Time for the Harassment to End"

Amanda Marcotte's "It's Really Time for the Harassment to End" is just brilliant.

There is so much in here; I suggest the whole thing.  But I will start you out with this snippet:

Jen McCreight has hung up her marvelous blog Blag Hag, even though she loves writing, because of all the abuse she’s been getting due to the rest storm in the atheist blogosphere over whether or not women are required to give any man attention because he wants it. The feminists say no, and support policies at conventions that state clearly to men that women’s consent matters. If a woman declines to give you anything—sex, flirting, any kind of attention—that is her right, and exacting your revenge by harassing her is unacceptable. A loud minority of atheist dudes find this unacceptable, and refuse to budge from their belief that they are owed women’s attention. They claim “free speech” gives them a right to an audience with the woman of their choosing, and claim that the requirement that a woman consents to an interaction means the end of flirting and sex. They grind their teeth over and over at the nerve of Rebecca Watson saying that it’s not cool to corner an unwilling woman in an elevator; their “right” to have a woman’s attention if they want it means that they are allowed any tactic, no matter how scary, to extract that attention, even if it means approaching a woman when she literally has no immediate means of escape. Hitting on a woman in an enclosed space sends the signal that she is not allowed, in your opinion, to decline the interaction. The anti-feminists occasionally pull sad faces and say they’re sorry that it has to be this way, but a man’s right to “free speech”, i.e. to extract attention from any woman at any time, trumps a woman’s right to free association.

To say otherwise—to say that a woman has a right to decline to give you attention—is “misandry”. The response to women who state boldly that a woman’s consent is required for any interaction has been many variations of “I’ll give you something to cry about.” Richard Dawkins raising the subject of serious oppression of women in some Muslim countries. Translation: “You should be grateful that we’re only demanding forced flirting, because there’s a lot more hellish things we could force you to do.” Many, many rape threats thrown at female bloggers who speak out: “You think forced flirting is bad, but there’s worse things we could force on you.” The notion of abandoning force altogether is preposterous to these men. There will always be force, they seem to be saying. Extracting what you desire from women by force is just the way of the world. You should be grateful that we demand so little of you, in terms of non-consensual interactions. 


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Theaological diversity among Friends

In July, I co-led an interest group at FGC Gathering with John Hunter from NC.

Actually, it was two interest groups merged into one: "Theological Diversity Within Our Meetings," and "Every Quaker Has a Place in This Meeting."

The interest groups sub-committee had asked John and me if we would merge our proposed interest groups, since on the surface they seemed so similar.  John and I emailed with each other, spoke on the phone, and agreed; once at Gathering, we met, settled on how we'd facilitate the evening, and finalized our queries.  What we came up with was somewhat different than what either of us would have done on our own; I think it was an interesting compromise, and led to a richer experience for the folks who attended -- and certainly more so than if there had been two separate interest groups, because among other things, there was definitely a richer mix of Friends present than those who would have chosen to go to one of the interest groups over the other.

The two interest groups were:

Theological Diversity Within Our Meetings - A great Strength of Quakerism

We all "have a place in the choir" at our home meetings.  This is true even as we may hold different personal theological beliefs.  We will explore how unity in such diversity might be a great strength for Quakerism.  A presentation will be followed by small groups where we each may explore our own theological assumptions and how we are included in our meetings and in the wider body of Friends.

Every Quaker Has a Place in This Meeting
Three Friends walk into Meeting for Worship: a Christian, a Pagan, a Jew, a Buddhist, a Non-Theist.  Each gives vocal ministry from their own experience; all experience gathered worship.  Come create the rest of the story: coming together, supporting each other, building community, helping each other sing in our own unique voices, singing in harmony. 

(They do ask you, when you put in a proposal, to consider the Gathering theme...)

58 people attended -- the room was certainly full!

We opened with silent worship.  John and I introduced ourselves, talked about what we planned to do with our evening (hour and 45 minutes), asked those present to introduce themselves -- your name, where you're from and where you attend Meeting, if you do; one word describing how you feel right now; one word describing what drew you to this interest group. 

John and I each gave our presentations, and then we divided the room up into small groups, handing out slips of paper with guidelines for Claremont Dialogues (similar to worship-sharing, but with some differences) and with the queries/prompts for the dialogues. 

The small groups seemed energized, respectful, and enthusiastic.  I very much liked the feel of the energy among them.

The small groups didn't all "feel" the same to me -- many of them seemed to develop their own short-term sense of group identity.  Some were quieter in their listening; some more boisterous, as folks' answers sparked resonating or sympathetic laughter from others in the group; some intensely talkative.  At least one was quiet and intense during the dialogue rounds, finished early, and then took the rest of the time for what seemed to be deep and enthusiastic conversation. Each group really did seem to have its own little bubble of energy and space around it, as cramped as the room was. 

(I confess I was vastly entertained by the myriad ways timekeepers in each group chose to undertake their tasks: everything appeared from watches, to people watching the wall clock, to smartphone apps going "Ding!" every few minutes and prompting more laughter.) 

Towards the end, we brought the group back together for large-group discussion to talk about what we learned -- any surprises, etc? 

There was a marvelous sunset out the wide windows of the room we were in, which someone pointed out, and we took a moment to open all the shades and admire it. 

We ended with silent worship. 

A number of people stayed for more conversation; some left for other commitments; some stayed for a bit then headed out for other commitments.

I felt blessed.

* * * * *

Would you like me to facilitate a similar workshop in your Meeting, Coven, Church, Circle, or other spiritual group?  Contact me at stasa dot website at gmail dot com. 

* * * * *

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Recommended article: "Things I Wish White Pagans Realized"

"Things I Wish White Pagans Realized"

...far too often, the question of racism in paganism, along with all the other -isms that exist in society get brushed aside, silenced when mentioned, or are casually dismissed as being ‘not important to the circle and its workings’.  So, here’s my list of things I wish white Pagans realized when PoC (Pagans of Color) join the circle, (all of these are written in the first person singular, because these are things I WISH they realized, each PoC’s list will be different by a little or a lot, that is part of the joy of dealing with people NOT as a single voice for their ETHNICITY OR RACE, but as the INDIVIDUALS they ARE): (Read more...)

YES, yes, yes.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Also reposted at Daughters of Eve (in a font  I find easier to read):

Monday, September 3, 2012

Ritual outline for Meeting for Worship

There is an arc to the ritual in unprogrammed Quaker Meeting for Worship. 

It's plain to me.  And it's something I can't help seeing, with my background and training -- in my undergraduate and graduate studies; in my spiritual and religious work; as a Friend; as a Priestess & Witch.

I've written and talked about this in Meeting for Worship some before, including in "'Four Doors to Meeting for Worship' from a Quaker Witch's Perspective" ( 

But I've been thinking about it a lot again lately.  

* * * * *

Here's the ritual outline for how Meeting for Worship went in one of the Meetings where I was active for several years:

Outline for Meeting for Worship at [Blank] Friends Meeting: 
  • Gather
  • Meeting for Worship begins when first person starts to worship, usually a few minutes before 11:00 am
  • 11:10, doors close; latecomers are not admitted until children leave
  • There might or might not be vocal ministry
  • At 11:20, an appointed person signals that it's time for the children to leave; the children leave worship and latecomers enter worship
  • There might or might not be vocal ministry 
  • At 11:50, the appointed person stands and explains Joys and Sorrows
  • Joys and Sorrows
  • At app. 12:00, the appointed person shakes hands with the person next to them; shaking of hands continues
  • The appointed person stands, makes some routine/regular/repeated announcements about the Meeting; welcomes newcomers and visitors and asks them and those who have not been there for a while to stand and introduce themselves; makes additional announcements and passes out printed announcements; requests donations; other Friends may ask to make other announcements; eventually, appointed person declares we are done and invites everyone to social hour / coffee, tea, snacks
  • Room is cleaned up

That looks like a ritual outline to my experienced eye.  A pretty simple ritual outline, but a ritual outline. 

How does this look in other Meetings, or in general?

Well, as with all ritual, there are things we need to do ahead of time, and there's what happens during the event itself. 

Ahead of time:
  • Make sure the chairs and/or benches are set up the right way / the way we like them / the way approved by the appropriate committee (Worship and Ministry, Ministry and Counsel, Elders & Overseers, etc) -- whether in a circle, in rows, in squares
  • Put small tables between some of the chairs
  • Put the central table in place
  • Make sure the guest book is in its place, that it has a pen, and that the light is on over the guest book, etc.
  • Put books and literature on facing benches or central table, some on smaller tables: Faith and Practice, Advices and Queries, different versions of Hebrew and Christian scriptures, hymnals, printed announcements, the monthly newsletter, other announcements, etc.
  • Put bowls for contributions on central table or envelopes for contributions on facing benches or appropriate places
  • Put carafe of water and empty glasses on central table (or appropriate places)
  • Put flowers on central table (or appropriate places)
  • Turn on loop hearing system
  • Decide who closes Meeting
  • Decide who speaks at rise of Meeting
  • Decide who has care of Meeting (which member/s of Worship & Ministry or Ministry & Counsel, Elders & Overseers, etc., are expected to be present)
  • If there's a special collection, decide who will talk about it
  • If children are present for the first part of worship, decide who determines when it's time for them to leave
  • Decide who will clean up room; if it's a rented/hired space, who puts chairs back, etc.
  • Determine who is responsible for social hour -- coffee / tea / snacks / etc. -- providing these, serving these, cleaning up afterwards, etc.
  • Decide who closes the doors to latecomers and who opens them again

Some of these don't apply to every Quaker Meeting; there are other things I haven't listed here that could also be included. 

During Meeting for Worship: 
  • Gather
  • Greeters / doorkeepers greet people at the door(s), makes sure newcomers know where to go, especially newcomers with children
  • Meeting for Worship begins when first person starts to worship 
  • Those who have official roles take their places -- care of Meeting / Elders & Overseers / members of Worship & Ministry or Ministry & Counsel, person closing Meeting, person handling announcements, etc.
  • There might or might not be vocal ministry
  • Greeters / doorkeepers / appointed person(s) close doors to keep latecomers from entering
  • If children are present for the first part of worship, children leave after X minutes
  • Latecomers enter; if not when children leave, greeters / doorkeepers / appointed person(s) open doors at pre-arranged time for latecomers
  • There might or might not be vocal ministry
  • If children come into worship later, or leave and return, children enter worship after Y minutes
  • There might or might not be vocal ministry
  • If Joys and Sorrows, Joys and Sorrows
  • Shaking of hands by appointed person at appointed time
  • Appointed person welcomes everyone and speaks about the Meeting in general, including requesting donations; also asks visitors, newcomers, and those returning after absences to introduce themselves
  • In some Meetings, all present introduce themselves
  • The children may share what they did during First Day School / Children's Meeting
  • Appointed person makes announcements; there may be additional announcements from the floor
  • If there is a special collection, a different appointed person speaks about that organization and requests money
  • There may be a reading from Advices & Queries
  • There may be a brief resumption of silent worship
  • Appointed person "releases" the meeting
  • Room is cleaned up

Again, some of these don't apply to every Quaker Meeting, and there are other things I haven't listed here that could also be included.

So, yes, we have ritual.

One question is, are we honest about it?

* * * * *

Friends (Quakers) like to say we don't have ritual.

Before I ever started attending Meeting for Worship regularly, I had a fair amount of experience as a Priestess & Witch analyzing spiritual and religious ritual, as well as some experience and undergraduate training with cultural ritual, too.  And as I spent more time in unprogrammed Meeting for Worship, it became pretty obvious to me that Quakers have ritual, without calling it that.

September 11, 2001, further convinced me of this.  That week, my Meeting, like many others, hosted Meetings for Worship outside our regular Sunday, or First Day, worship.  Suddenly, just how much ritual was involved each week became clearer to me.

Because the usual people from the usual committee were not always available, other people, who were less practiced, had to set up for Meeting for Worship, had to "run" Meeting for Worship, had to end it, had to herd people out at the end, etc.

Because we have no clergy / we're all clergy, and because we believe we all know how to do this, no one made plans ahead of time for who was responsible for worship -- and those of us from the Meeting who showed up found it hard going when we arrived.  Where were the guest book and pen?  The bibles and hymnals and copies of Faith and Practice for the facing benches?  Should we have informational pamphlets available?  Which ones?  Where are they stored?  Since we had so many people from the community, should someone introduce and explain Meeting for Worship at the beginning?  Who would close Meeting?  Did anyone have "care of Meeting," the particular task of holding the Meeting for Worship in the Light and helping to center it?  Should someone speak at the end after the shaking of hands?  What would they say?  (What did the usual people say?  Where was the script they used -- ?)

We muddled through.  It was stressful.

It was illuminating.

A few years later, I gained further academic experience analyzing ritual in religious and spiritual contexts.  From a religious studies point of view, from a ritual studies point of view, yes, Quakers have ritual.

It's very simple ritual.  But it's there.