elinor: (Default)
This Facebook note (public) - and all of the comments that follow - is an important read. This is how things can go wrong. This is how hard it is for people to report abuse when the influential elements of a community are against them. For those who said they 'couldn't have known', you are liars: https://www.facebook.com/notes/oberyn-kunning/the-ordeal/10152374341857847

And this is how we can make our communities safer: http://wildhunt.org/2014/04/guest-post-responding-to-abuse-in-the-pagan-community.html
elinor: (zoe)
I'm a bisexual, (mostly) cis-gendered woman. I identify as queer and place myself within LGBT and feminist political movements. This places me in an often uncomfortable intersectional, personal and political position.

You see, a lot of monosexual people within LGBT and feminist movements regard me with suspicion, because I claim queer identity, yet I'm in a long-term relationship with a man. Apparently this means I have across-the-board heterosexual privilege.

Yeah, right.

It's taken me a long time to sort out my thinking about privilege in relation to my sexual orientation. (For those of you unfamiliar with privilege as a term, I suggest you go here.) On the surface, being in a long-term relationship with a man does give me some of the benefits of heterosexual privilege. I can talk about my partner openly in mainstream society without fear of hate speech or violence. I can go to any mainstream venue with my partner, hold hands and kiss in public, without fear of hate speech or violence.

But heterosexual privilege isn't just about that.

Here is a heteresoxual privilege questionnaire, which I have amended to test whether bisexuality gives me heterosexual privilege. (It's long. Feel free to skip to the bottom! I found it here.)

Behind a cut tag, because it's long. )

So, that's a definite YES to just 2 out of 40 questions, i.e. according to this questionnaire I have just 5% heterosexual privilege. So why do so many 'radical' feminists - and a fair number of normally apolitical lesbians - insist on telling me that I have it in spades?

I think it's because that's what they see: they see me being able to go anywhere with my male partner, hold hands, kiss in public, talk about him at work, get married (if we wanted to), be treated as human beings in mainstream society, without reserve.

But what they see is only a tiny part of the picture of my life: they see me passing in public as heterosexual, whether I want to or not. And passing? Passing is not privilege. It is a daily, grinding reminder of how much I don't fit in. It confronts me with and rubs my face in all of the ways in which I am not understood, all of the ways in which there is no place for me in either mainstream or queer society, except as a travesty of myself.

It's no accident that bisexual people have much worse mental health than either our heterosexual or our lesbian and gay counterparts. The dissonance between what we know ourselves to be and what we are perceived to be and is projected on to us - even if we are continuously and loudly OUT - can be unbearable. And when all our attempts to be out are met with reassertions that we are either gay or straight, the effort can become too much.

Even in academia, in a social science/research environment, where people should really know better, my friends have talked to me as if they believe that they are greater experts in my experience than I am, that there is no alternative to 'choosing' between gay and straight, between women and men (never mind all the other gradations and expressions of gender which exist).

My very existence is daily erased. And this is something I share with my trans sisters.

The same 'radical' feminists who tell me that I have heterosexual privilege are busy telling trans women, loud and long, that they have male privilege. And it strikes me that trans women, and genderqueer people assigned female at birth, are in a similar position in this to bisexual women.

Because when trans women are born, right up until they transition and beyond, they are passing as boys and men, whether they want to or not. (If you doubt that, I refer you to Lana Wachowski's moving HRC Visibility Award acceptance speech:

(Here's a link in case the embed doesn't work.)

The same applies to trans men, of course. And passing, if one goes on mental health experience, is much more distressing for trans folk than it is even for bi folk. Because while sexual orientation is an important aspect of identity within society, sex and gender are foundational. We don't need to know why or how or when those aspects of identity emerge or are shaped to know that.

Passing is not privilege. It corrodes our sense of ourselves. It stymies our attempts to be and feel part of society, whether mainstream or queer. It eats away at our sanity. And people who claim the personal is political as their watchword need to recognise that.
elinor: (Default)
Today I got the first inkling I've ever had of why monosexual people – straight people and gay or lesbian people – might find bisexual and pansexual people difficult to understand.

I was emptying the dishwasher, and noticed as I did so that I couldn't always put things in what I consider to be their correct places, because my partner had emptied the dishwasher last time, and had filled some spots in the kitchen with things that, in my universe, Didn't Belong.


Like a bolt from the blue, I had a sudden moment of understanding and compassion for monosexuals trying – and failing – to wrap their minds around multiple gendered attraction. You see, in the kitchen-dishwasher scenario, I'm the monosexual, and my partner is the bi- or pansexual one.

I like every thing to have its place. I'm not necessarily good at keeping my home tidy, but as long as everything has its place I know theoretically where I would put it, should I decide to neaten the place up. In the kitchen, in the office and in work planning, this tendency veers into what my partner regards as OCD territory. When I get a glazed, far-off look in my eye thinking about mind-maps, checklists and creating filing systems, he says, “Yes, Twilight.”

Twilight Sparkle and Her Checklist
Twilight Sparkle from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic.
She has a thing for checklists.

My partner doesn't think in straight lines, or even in curves. His thinking is more like this:

Geometric Network with Random Points
Most of the time in our day to day lives, this doesn't cause any issues at all. But when we share a task like emptying the dishwasher, I can easily get frustrated. He puts things in the Wrong Place. And it's not even as if he's consistent in the Wrong Place that he puts things – it's different every time. For him, the right place for a ladle is somewhere in the general area where cooking implements are kept. For me, the right place for a ladle is the third hook from the left, under the bowls.

Are you getting the analogy yet?

There's nothing wrong with his system of kitchen organisation. Everything gets put away, and it's easy enough to scan the general area of the kitchen where he knows a particular item will be and find it. But it bugs the tits off me, because... because... because that's just not where it's supposed to be, dammit!

Not really a rational objection, is it? But the emotion runs deep, because as far as my fight-or-flight systems are concerned, it's not just my ordering of the kitchen which is at stake, it's the ordering of the Universe, and my place within it.


Bi- and panphobic monosexual people really, really need to get over their irrational distrust and dislike of bi- and pansexual people, and especially their insistence that we don't exist, but I do have some empathy with where they're coming from now.

I'm not going to change my partner, and I don't want to: he thinks the way he thinks; it's part of who he is. But I also think the way I think; it's part of who I am, and I'm not going to change either. It's my turn to recognise my annoyance and let it go.

I really wish monosexual people would do the same.
elinor: (witch in the woods)
I haven't been here at this blog in way too long. It's like I've just woken from a long nap, looked around and realised exactly how much time has past: "I haven't posted here since 5th December? Really?!" (And a lot longer if you're reading this at LiveJournal.)

But I have been writing, and posting, at A Sense of Place, a blog I had the idea for back in October, and came to fruition at the beginning of December, thanks to Christine Hoff Kraemer, the managing editor of the Patheos Pagan channel.

So far I've written on the complexities of relating to the spirit of place in the modern world, building relationships with the Sidhe, being a country girl who grew up in the city, and how to know you're in Britain at Yule.

It's a lot of fun, and I hope you'll join me over there :-)
elinor: (greatness)
Ellie Di recently shone her trademark thought-provoking laser light onto the positive thinking movement, and its paradoxical negative effects. She writes:

“You can do and be anything if only you believe the right things about yourself!” they say.

But the “right things” are the things they say are right; you don’t get to decide because that could lead to negative thinking. Only positive, self-love, “I am the center of the universe because I deserve to be” thoughts are allowed.

But the system doesn’t work because if you have a single negative thought – if you don’t manifest a house on the French Rivera or even if you miss your doctor’s appointment – they’ll tell you it’s because you didn’t

In many ways, I agree with Ellie on this. Many of the messages I see around Law of Attraction and other aspects of the 'positive thinking' movement have an air of anxiety about them. The messages are imperatives, as if the world will fall apart if you don't follow the rules.

"Get rid of the negative people around you," they say. But what if the 'negative' person is your mother, or your partner, or your child? What of the value of our relationships, and accepting one another as we are?

"Rid yourself of negative thoughts," they say. But what if someone you love has just died, or you yourself are facing a painful illness? What of the soul-shaping value of loss and grief?

"You're responsible for everything in your life," they say.

You may know that in March this year, my house burned down. I don't think for even a second that, on this everyday, material level, my house burned down because I 'wanted' it to. I can accept that, on a cosmic level, I was responsible for the fire, but at the time that didn't really help me, my partner or our dogs. It simply wasn't relevant. 

But I do have time for positive thinking and responsibility in its appropriate place.

Taking responsibility for my *response* to the situation of losing our home and almost all of our belongings has been vital to my mental and emotional health. When I choose how to respond - whatever thoughts are going through my head, or emotions running through my body - I come back to myself, my centre, my source of power. I'm re-energised.

Looking for the opportunity and the positive in the aftermath has lifted me and others up. By allowing the possibility that I am held by Life and by Love, and that therefore this loss could open the doorway to an expansion of joy in our lives, I was able to notice the positive. We were all still alive. We had good friends and neighbours who caught us before we could fall. We had, purely by accident, the most kickass insurance in the history of ever.

And some days I've just wanted to rage and cry and smash things up. And that's okay. Allowing myself to feel what I'm feeling, when I'm feeling it has been just as important as the response-ability and the positive thinking. Compassion: for myself -- and my partner, and his for me -- without judgement.

In letting those feelings swirl and shift and do their thing without trying to control them, I've allowed my animal self, traumatised by the loss of its den, pitched into fight or flight mode, to do what it needs to begin to recognise that actually, we're alive, we're safe, and it's okay. 

Compassion creates more space

When we're faced with negativity from others or from our own mind and emotions, or when we're faced with - or with the memory of - traumatic experiences, the last thing we need is judgement placed on us that we're doing it 'wrong'. All that does is create anxiety, which constricts and compresses us, making it harder and harder for our animal self to feel safe.

Compassion opens us, allows us to hold everything - our thoughts, our emotions, and other people's - lightly, with curiosity, rather than with anxiety or fear. It creates more space for us to breathe, and relax, to connect and to love.

And what could be more positive than that?
elinor: (Default)
On Wednesday, 14th March this year, at about 6.50pm, a fire started inside the wall of our kitchen, due to a process called pyrolysis. Within 10 minutes, the house was full of smoke; within 20 minutes, the roof had started to burn away. My partner and I stood outside, waiting for the fire brigade, me in just a t-shirt, knickers, dressing gown and my wellington boots.

Despite the fire brigade's best efforts, this is what our house looks like now:

Mid Raeburn after the fire
Mid Raeburn after the fire

But that's not what this post is about. This post is about what it takes to receive kindness, and to feel true gratitude.

Meeting our survival needs: shelter, water, food

The two of us and our two dogs piled into the 4x4 and drove over the bridge to keep out of the way when the fire engines arrived. As we sat there, my partner reporting the fire to our insurance company, I got a call on my mobile phone from a friend at the other end of the valley, asking me if we needed somewhere to stay. 

As you can imagine, I was somewhat surprised, but extremely grateful. The insurance company had been trying to get us temporary hotel accommodation, but with the nearest town 15 miles away, and two very large dogs in tow, that was proving to be a challenge. So the prospect of accommodation within the same area, with people we knew, was amazing.

(And how did he know to call us? The farmer who lives a mile up the track from us had posted on her Facebook page that our house was on fire. Social media may have its issues, but I have been a solid gold fan since that moment.)

When we arrived at our new, temporary home, it was midnight, yet our friend stayed up to make sure the room we were staying in was warm enough, that we had Internet access so we could let our families know we were safe, and even made us supper when he found out we hadn't eaten since lunchtime.

Caring for our self-esteem: cleanliness and clothing

Even though it was 1am by the time we got settled in, we had to shower before we went to sleep. Our clothes and hair stank of smoke - not the sweet scent of woodsmoke, but the cloying, tarry stench of burning paint, wires and fibreglass. Our friend had provided us with soap and made sure there was plenty of hot water. Still, the prospect of putting on our smokey clothes again the next day wasn't one we relished. 

Fortunately, we didn't have to wear them for too long. On Thursday afternoon, an acquaintance showed up with a big bag full of clothes - some from her, some from her neighbours, and some from the nearby Buddhist centre - along with a smaller bag full of toiletries: shower gel, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, toothbrushes and toothpaste.

Even though they were items which would not be missed by their previous owners, this felt like such a huge act of generosity to me, it was all I could do not to cry on the spot. 

What it takes to receive others' generosity - or why 'charity' gets a bad name

We were in genuine need, and our friends' and neighbours' recognition of our need, and generosity towards us in meeting it, was equally genuine. We were recipients of charity, and very, very glad of it.

But so often when people are in need, they reject the very idea of receiving kindness from strangers, neighbours, friends or even family. "We don't need charity," people say. It is as though the honest movement of the human heart to help another person has become confused with an attempt to denigrate the recipient as less than - less capable, less valuable, less worthwhile.

Particularly in societies and cultures like those of the USA and to a certain extent the UK, in which self-sufficiency is seen as the ideal, any need for 'hand-outs' can easily become a trigger for perceiving one's social and self-esteem to be under threat, and lead to a knee jerk reaction of misplaced pride. And for those who are donating, charity can sometimes become a way of saying "I'm doing alright, because I'm better off than those people." Giving becomes a way of separating, of reinforcing an 'us and them' mentality.

But In A Course In Miracles, it says, "To give and to receive are one in truth." Real charity bring us together; it is an expression of the truth that we are part of one another, and that in meeting my neighbour's need, I am meeting my own.  As human beings we are social animals; we have evolved to take care of one another as well as ourselves. We need to untangle our sense of our own worth and value - which should be permanent - from our ability to meet all of our own needs - which is always going to be temporary.

For me, recognising my needs, having people around me open their hearts and homes to meet that need, and opening my own heart to receive their generosity, was a deeply moving experience. My sense of self worth and value actually increased, because along with the gifts of shelter, food, cleanliness and clothing, I was being given something even more valuable: evidence that I am part of a web of relationships with all sorts of people who are ready to catch me and support me when I fall. 

I welcome your comments and look forward to hearing about your experiences with kindness and gratitude. Just click 'Reply' at the bottom right of this post.

This post is a part of the Soul Salon, a monthly discussion of the topics that move our Spirit. For a list of all of the Soul Salon posts check out the full line up here: http://openroadscoaching.com/soul-salon-gratitude/
elinor: (monsters inside us)
Yesterday, 11th November, at 11.11am, I was cleaning the house - a deeply spiritual practice in my tradition. As I swept and mopped, I prayed to the God of the Underworld for all those who have died in war:

For the members of the armed forces:

Whether they joined the army, navy or air force as enthusiasts or as conscripts.
Whether they joined battle out of love or out of hate.
Whether they killed with a will or with anguish.

May they be cleansed of their distress, find comfort in your embrace, and enter your realm in peace.

For civilians:
Whether they died of a sudden or after long torture.
Whether they were killed running from battle or standing to protect their people.
Whether they starved in fear or in determination.

May they be cleansed of their distress, find comfort in your embrace, and enter your realm in peace.

Amen. Blessed be.
elinor: (desire)
I am very excited indeed about Danielle Laporte's new book, The Desire Map. It promises an entirely new way of planning everything - guided by desire and feeling. AWESOME.

Will you be joining me at the launch party?

elinor: (hellbender)
This blog post is part of the Samhain Tarot Blog Hop. The previous post in the hop is by Stella T'arot and can be found here.

Our brief for Samhain is to talk about our own Shadows - the parts of ourselves we don't admit to, that we hide in the dark, and which occasionally venture out into daylight without our permission.
For me Shadows in this sense are best exemplified in Major Arcana card 15: The Devil.

The Devil represents all those things that keep us trapped: our unconscious drives, compulsions and obsessions, those parts of us which sap our will, over which we have no control, because - consciously or otherwise - we deny them, reject them or suppress them. Thus, they are able to control us.

Excess and distraction

Until I moved to Scotland, I had always been afraid of the dark. As an adolescent, I attended school two bus rides away. In the autumn and winter, by the time I got off the second bus, half a mile's walk from home, the sky was already dark, streetlamps casting pools of sickly orange on the pavement, hiding more in the darkness between them than they showed in their light.

To distract myself from my fear of the dark, and of the terrors - human and inhuman - that my imagination told me would be lurking there, I crossed the road from the bus stop every evening, went to the newsagents and bought a comic and a chocolate bar. On the walk home, I buried my head in the comic, so as not to see the darkness, and ate the chocolate bar, a consolation and a reward for facing this daily terror.

This was the start of my less-than-helpful relationship with chocolate. Before these evenings of walking home in the dark, whenever I had a chocolate bar I would hide it in my wardrobe and eat just one chunk at a time. Sometimes weeks would pass between one chunk of chocolate and the next.

Ever since, though, I've found it difficult, if not impossible, to begin to eat a chocolate bar without finishing it in the same sitting. I feel sick. I feel out of control. I want to stop, but I don't know how.

I've had periods of time when I'm able to reduce my eating to a very small amount, or even stop eating it altogether, but it never lasts. Chocolate is the food I turn to when I'm under any kind of mental or emotional stress; it's still distracting me from the terrors in the dark.

Becoming invisible

Another behaviour which I see as my Shadows coming out to play is my tendency to hide when under stress, particularly when facing a challenging social activity -- which is to say, any activity which involves interacting with other people at times when I feel ill equipped to do so.

When I was in sixth form, I would have weeks when I felt ill equipped for social interaction. I would leave the house and take the bus into the city centre, as I was meant to. But I wouldn't take the second bus which would take me to school. Instead, I
 would go to the museum and art gallery - all of its galleries free in those halcyon days for public services.

I would disappear into its quiet, lofty halls, and feast my eyes and my heart on Burne-Jones and de Morgan, on Epstein and Degas, on voluminous Victorian textiles and tiny Japanese sculptures. It was my retreat from the world, from human interaction, into the expression of humanity. It was my retreat, my resting place, where I soothed and nourished the parts of my psyche and soul that were battered and bruised. I was protected by the building's strong walls and labyrinth of galleries from all that troubled me, for a time.

And now, when faced with tasks involving others which fill me with anxiety, my tendency is still to retreat, to find a safe place, and to hide. Of course, it's only a temporary salve. The task is still there, but now the people I should be working with are disappointed, annoyed or worried by my absence.

Loving the Devil

So how to deal with these Shadow-driven, self-defeating behaviours? Perhaps by remembering that in the Christian mythology from which The Devil derives, He is a fallen angel, an angel who rebelled against God, and was therefore cast out of heaven as 'evil'.

There is an old Middle Eastern tale, from Yezidi cultures, about another 'evil' angel, cast out of heaven. This angel lands on the earth, bruised, bloody and broken, where he is found by a shepherd. The shepherd's heart is filled with pity and compassion, and he cares for this being, bringing him back to health. When the angel is well again, he reveals himself to the shepherd as the 'evil' one cast out from heaven, and advises the shepherd to treat all evil in the world as the angel himself has been treated by the shepherd: with pity, compassion and caring.

Our Shadow parts are those parts of ourselves which we have believed to be evil, fearful or dangerous, and have tried to cast out, as the Devil is cast out of heaven. But they cannot be cast out: they are ours, whatever we do with them.

What if we do what the shepherd did in that story? What if we face our shadows, take them back in, and treat them with pity, compassion and caring?

That's what I'm renewing my commitment to this Samhain season.

How about you?

To reply to this post, click on 'Reply' below to the right.

This blog post is part of the Samhain Tarot Blog Hop. The next post in the hop is by John Marani and can be found 
elinor: (paradox)
Between the the push against rape culture, the battle for abortion rights, fat activism and general resurgence of feminism(s) that's been happening recently I've had cause to say to myself and to others, "My body. My life. My choice." As a political slogan to stand by, it's pretty effective. But as a personal statement about my own direct experience of bodily life, it's not quite accurate, because the phrase 'my body' implies that 'me' and 'my body' are two separate things.

The way of thinking that underlies this phrase and so much of our language and action, without our realising it, goes back at least as far as Descartes' "I think, therefore I am." His statement suggests that my ability to think - my consciousness, my mind - is the site of my self. This simple idea led to what is known as Cartesian dualism: the idea that the mind and body are separate, even opposed, and that the mind is superior as the 'true' site of the self.

But my experience, and the experience of many other Pagans, Buddhists and earth mystics, suggests that not only is the mind not the site of the self, but the mind itself has no location; is, in fact, itself not a thing at all.

I've started listening to
Faith, Fern and Compass recently, a conversational Druid podcast with Jeff Lilly and Alison Leigh Lilly. In one of their pre-launch podcasts, back in April, they talked a lot about bees, hive minds and consciousness. I was particularly struck by this thought from Alison:
mind is "...not something that is just like a contained object. Mind is more a relationship... a process. Mind is an activity that you engage in, in the context of the landscape and the other beings that you share it with." [emphasis mine]

I am multiple. I am mind and body, consciousness and action, feeling and perceiving, and more. I am not a spiritual being having a physical experience, I am a spiritual-physical being having a spiritual-physical experience. And so are you.

What are your thoughts on this? Do you agree, disagree, ...? Click Reply at the bottom right of this post and let me know.
elinor: (scholar)
26th-27th April 2013
St Mary’s University College, Twickenham, London, UK.

This two-day multidisciplinary conference seeks to explore the intersection between gender, revolt and power across the Americas. Women have been central in stretching the definitions of legal rights, challenging old concepts of power, and establishing new parameters of freedom across the Americas throughout the twentieth century. Not all of these struggles have been exclusively for the rights of women; feminist and womanist interpretations of power structures have in turn encouraged dynamic protest among many subaltern groups. Our conference seeks to create links between historical, regional and current movements for change, and to capitalize on a new momentum that has emerged in relation to discourses of gender and power.

We encourage scholars and delegates to think anew about the ways that women have challenged prevailing systems, to examine women’s efforts to renegotiate power paradigms and to consider how the past informs the future as we extend our concepts of freedom within the context of the whole continent.

The conference aims to address two areas which merit further scholarly development. Firstly, we want to challenge the tendency to see the struggles of women in North America as separate from those struggles in Central and Latin America, and we aim to encourage comparative transcontinental discussions. Secondly, we wish to encourage new and interdisciplinary approaches to the issue of women’s agency. This conference will bring together complementary strands of research on the experiences of women in the Americas, and include the voices of activists, and will contribute to our understanding of gender, rights and power in a broad American context.

Potential themes for papers include but are not limited to: labour activism, civil rights, suffrage, environmental activism, approaches to feminism, developments in feminist theory, women in government and foreign policy, women in protest organizations, environmental activism, legal rights, LGBTQ activism, religious and spiritual interests, reproductive rights, anti-war activity or pacifism, and the development of gendered strategies against sexualized and racialized violence.

Proposals for papers should not exceed 500 words and must be accompanied by a working title and CV. Abstracts should be submitted to the organizers by Friday 4th January 2013. A selection of papers from the conference will be published in an edited volume. We ask potential contributors to indicate with their abstract as to whether they wish for their submission to be considered for the edited volume. Complete papers for the edited volume must be submitted by 30th June 2013.

Submissions should be emailed to the organizers at: freedomrightspower2013@gmail.com

Sinead McEneaney
Imaobong Umoren
Dawn-Marie Gibson
Althea Legal-Miller
elinor: (hellbender)
I used to dread autumn: not the turning of the leaves, green becoming gold and brown and red; not the bounty of the harvest of apple, parsnip, cabbage, cauliflower, potato and swede; not the wonder of frosty mornings, every leaf edge and fence post turned to lace; not the sight of geese in a trailing arrow across the morning sky; simply, the coming of darkness.

'autumn dusk' by http://flickr.com/photos/herefordcat

My body is firmly of the opinion that I should be allowed to hibernate. In an average year, the slowing of its functions begins in September, intensifying until a week before the winter solstice, when I shut down almost completely. Planning any kind of activity between 14th December and 6th January which involves me stepping beyond home without company every step of the way is an exercise in absolute futility. All I'm capable of entirely by myself is staying at home and, on days when I can get out of bed, baking up a storm of cakes, biscuits and sweet breads.

I don't properly emerge from this depleted state until anywhere between the middle of March and the end of April.

That is what Seasonal Affective Disorder looks like. It's acronym - SAD - is bitterly appropriate.

Last year, though, I learned to use the portable light box my mum bought me the year before for my birthday properly. I still slowed down, but my mood, my energy and my will were within acceptable tolerance for working, socialising and generally living during this period for the first time I can remember since early adolescence.

I'd also just recently been diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Anyone who's languished with a chronic conditions for years and then got a definitive diagnosis - even when there's not curative treatment available - will understand the sense of grounding and the heady burst of energy that comes with knowing that you're not imagining things or malingering, that your state of being has a name.

Of course, I'm settled into the diagnosis now, and the light box went the way of almost all of [livejournal.com profile] tanais's and my possessions in the house fire in March.

It shows.

I'm sure my SAD symptoms are no worse this year than they are in a normal year, but I am noticing them much more, and the impact they're having on me is much greater, much earlier. Today has been a bad day. I've stayed in bed all day, unable to do very much of anything.

A few years ago, how I felt today would have made it a relatively good day, one in which I would have gone to work and socialised, despite the fact that I would have been running on fumes - no actual fuel in my tank at all.

I'm grateful for all of the support I've had - personal and chemical - over the past few years that is enabling me to recognise when I need to rest, and for my flexible working situation, which let's me actually take that rest.

To add a comment, click 'Reply' - at the bottom to the right.
elinor: (loveheart)
I just read a beautiful piece about kindness. Sadly, the comments appear to be closed, so I've brought my stories of kindness here, instead. To begin:

The story of the mountain, the bus and the teachers

Cader Idris - Arthur's Seat
Cader Idris - Arthur's Seat

When I was 15, we went on a family holiday to Wales. We stayed at a caravan park on the coast between Borth and Aberystwyth. I spent a lot of time exploring by myself that holiday, including going to climb Cader Idris, by public transport, by myself.

I didn't quite make it to the top: mist started to descend, and thankfully I had the common sense to start downwards as soon as it appeared. This was a Very Good Thing, as I my common sense had not extended to bringing a map or compass. I made it safe to the bottom of the mountain, and crossed the road to stand and wait for the last bus back to Machynlleth, with plenty of time to spare. 

The bus came - and drove straight past me, as I stood, arm outstretched, in broad daylight.

Did I mention it was the last bus that day?

This was in 1985, a decade or more before mobile phones became ubiquitous, and before GPS in every hand was even thought of. There was no public telephone box within sight. I had no map. I was completely at a loss as to what to do.

I crossed the road to the car park at the base of the mountain, mainly to get out of the way of traffic, if any should pass, as the mist had descended down the mountain with me as rain, obscuring visibility. I wasn't visibly panicking, I wasn't crying or frantic, but I must have looked lost, as two men who'd just come down the mountain together came over and asked me if I was okay. I told them my story - never having learned not to trust strangers - and they offered me a lift to Machynlleth, whence they were returning anyway. 

They were both English, bearded, perhaps in their late-20s, teachers by profession, and in retrospect probably a couple. They sat in the front seats of their car, giving me the back seat to myself. We talked about life, the universe and everything all the way to Machynlleth, where they dropped me at the train station for my train back to Aberystwyth.

I hate to think what would have happened if I hadn't trusted them. A 15 mile walk to Machynlleth - and then what? A night spent in cold and damp at the foot of the mountain? But kindness and help was available, and I was open and willing to receive it.
elinor: (makato)
Like all of us, I'm a being of many aspects, many parts. I've been struggling with one particular part of myself for some time now: my felt need to control everything around me.

It's not something I was conscious of, at all, until last year, when my counsellor pointed it out to me. I've always thought of myself as a go-with-the-flow kind of a person, ready to surrender to the direction of Life. But when it comes to the day to day of living in the world, with other human beings... Well, let's just say I find it a challenge to find my way, and to feel safe.

I always have. I'm an introvert by nature; as much as I enjoy company, and like to show off, it's only by being by myself or with one or two trusted friends that I can recharge my batteries. 

I don't know whether it's a common thing with introverts, but for me, I can only feel safe and secure when I know what the relationship is between me and other people, when I know how to place other people in my world.

I know. Meeting strangers in controlled environments works well for me: meeting a friend of friends, teaching or learning in a class on something I'm passionate about, being part a team working towards a common goal, chatting to someone at a bus stop or on a half-empty train carriage, interacting with a shop assistant.

Outside of those environments, where roles aren't defined, where I don't know how I relate to people, how to place people in my world, life gets stressful, and, if I can, I retreat into my shell. When I can't, I'm constantly putting effort and energy into subconsciously monitoring and attempting to manage myself and my environment to bring it all under control, to make it safe.

Even with people I trust, who I know how to place, this tendency arises. When the other person's perception of me matters, when how they judge me affects my self-perception, I leap ahead in time, trying to work out what they're thinking and why they're thinking it, trying to anticipate their movements of thought and feeling several steps ahead.

The closer the person is to me, the more often I get it wrong, and the worse the emotional consequences. 

I'd not made the connection before, but I'm wondering if that's why I've recently reincorporated silent meditation and contemplation into my regular spiritual practice / self-care: learning again to be present, to step out of fear and into a deeply rooted feeling of safety in myself.

So mote it be.

Comments, thoughts and stories from your own experience are welcome here - click reply below right.

elinor: (witch in the woods)

I've identified with Reclaiming for a long time. I've practiced as a solitary, been to Witchcamps in the UK and Spain, have been a member of International and British cells, was a member of Weavers, co-founded Dragon Rise camp, and started Reclaiming Scotia. I've been around a bit.

My identification with Reclaiming began in 1997, in fact, the very year the original Principles of Unity were agreed upon by Bay Area Reclaiming Collective, which enabled Reclaiming to shift from being a local collective of Witches to being an international spiritual and religious tradition.

Reclaiming communities often fail to live up to these principles. Like many other ostensibly non-hierarchical groups, many of those who are attracted to it have major issues with power - their own and other people's. Shadow hierarchies develop; there are in-crowds and people who are marginalised; language is used to exclude and as a weapon.

I've experienced all this before, as a member of a workers' co-operative and a housing co-operative in the early 1990s in Birmingham, UK. We had a member who would plan, prepare and act without group consensus, presenting their proposal as a fait accompli. We had a member who ignored the needs of the group, holding the business back, so that he could do things his own sweet way, and not seeing that as a problem in the slightest: anarchism is all about individual autonomy, isn't it? We had interpersonal rivalries, dislikes, and out and out conflict.

But on the whole, it worked, because most people knew themselves at least somewhat, had some skills in self-management, could look at issues rationally as well as emotionally, could take into account not only their own needs, but the needs of the whole, and were prepared to put words into action.

And also, we had two major things that helped us: kick-ass structures and tools, and the solidarity of a broad, active and well-functioning national community. )

We also didn't have the added complicating factor of working magic together. The energetic ties, emotional bonding/conflict and shadows that arise when magic is put into the mix ramp everything up hugely. It's often not possible for most people to step back and be rational. Plus, of course, as part of reclaiming parts of ourselves devalued in mainstream culture and religion, we tend to foreground emotion in Witchcraft, and leave the rational mind far behind.

Which is all a prelude to my main point: that BIRCH (the Broad Intra-Reclaiming Council of Hubs), for me, fundamentally doesn't work. The recent change in the Reclaiming Principles of Unity (new version here - see if you can spot the difference) has demonstrated that to me with no room for doubt.

Whether one agrees with the new wording or not is beside the point - personally, I am not yet decided. What matters to me is:
1. That there is no clear boundary as to who is invited to BIRCH and who is not. This leads to the question: is it time to have a formal membership process for Reclaiming tradition? N.B. I am not advocating initiation as the arbiter of membership, simply some measure that enables us to say, "This person is a member of Reclaiming, and therefore has to be included in decisions affecting the tradition; this person is not, and so we don't have to worry about them in that regard".

2. That BIRCH appears to have developed an authority over the tradition, without reference back to Reclaiming communities and solitaries around the world to ratify its decisions; this I find unacceptable.

3. That BIRCH and its processes are inaccessible to any Reclaiming Witch or Reclaiming community from outside the USA, and also to a great many Reclaiming Witches within the USA.
i. The meeting was at the busiest time of year for Reclaiming Witchcamps. Anyone organising, teaching at, or attending a Witchamp in late July or early August was effectively excluded from attending.
ii. The meeting was at the most expensive time of year for travel. To buy a plane ticket to go to this year's Dandelion gathering from the UK, and thus attend BIRCH, would have cost approximately £2000 per person.

Whatever conversations happened around the world on the issue of gender in our theology, or on any other question, only those voices which were at the meeting were actually heard. Thus the majority of the broader Reclaiming tradition were de facto excluded.

I want to remain part of Reclaiming; I want to know what it is that I am remaining a part of; I want to know that I am recognised as a part of Reclaiming.

In this world, and in this work, only with clear boundaries can we be truly free. I would like to see something like the Radical Routes secondary co-operative process operating within Reclaiming. I have no idea how to begin a conversation about this, when access to BIRCH is beyond me.

I have written this piece, which I will spread around the Reclaiming multiverse. I can and will open a conversation within Reclaiming Scotia. I may or may not have the energy and emotional fortitude to have conversations via email groups.

Am I alone in these thoughts and feelings? 

To reply: 
click 'Reply' in the bottom right of this post. If you don't have a Dreamwidth account, select either 'OpenID' (if you have one of those) or 'Anonymous'. I'd be grateful if you'd put your name to any anonymous replies :-)
elinor: (paradox)

Today is Celebrate Bisexuality Day. Here are some things I want monosexual people, straight, lesbian and gay, to know:

1. There are as many different ways to be bisexual / pansexual (attracted to both men and women and/or attracted to people regardless of gender) as there are bisexual and pansexual people. Saying 'bisexual people are...' makes no sense in reality.

2. Saying bisexual people are 'greedy' is like saying that being attracted to both people with blue eyes and people with brown eyes is 'greedy'. It's nonsense.

3. Everyone's self-exploration around their sexuality and their identity deserves respect. For *some* people, a bisexual identity is part of their self-exploration which eventually leads them to an identity as a lesbian or a gay man. For some people, a lesbian or gay male identity is part of their self-exploration which eventually leads them to an identity as bisexual or pansexual. Each person's journey is their own, and each identity which is part of their journey is equally real.

4. Just because bisexuality or pansexuality is outside of your own range of experience, doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

5. Polyamory is not a necessary part of bisexuality. Some bisexual people are polyamorous, just as some straight people, lesbians and gay men are. Some bisexual people are monogamous, just as some straight people, lesbians and gay men are.

6. I'm in a long-term, monogamous relationship with a man. This doesn't mean I've made a 'choice' to be 'straight'. It means I've chosen one person to share my life with. His gender doesn't enter into it.

7. Bisexual people most often end up with people of another gender, because there are more people attracted to 'the opposite' gender than themselves (i.e. straight people + bisexual/pansexual people) than there are people attracted to the same gender as themselves (i.e. lesbians/gay men + bisexual/pansexual people). Plus, there are plenty of lesbians/gay men who refuse to even consider a relationship with a bisexual or pansexual person.

8. Bisexual people do not benefit from heterosexual privilege by being bisexual. Those of us in a monogamous relationship with a person of 'the opposite' gender are assumed to be heterosexual; we pass as heterosexual, whether we want to or not. Even when we're out as bisexual, most monosexual people ignore our statements and categorise us as straight. This is not heterosexual privilege, but something far more complex, and, in fact, psychologically damaging.

9. If in doubt, ask. Comments open for any and all questions. Click 'Reply' at bottom right - if you don't have a Dreamwidth account choose either 'Anonymous' or 'Open ID' option.

elinor: (hellbender)
This post is part of the autumn equinox Tarot bloghop. The previous post in the hop is by Joy Vernon, and can be found here.

The brief for this autumn equinox Tarot bloghop is to choose a Tarot card that speaks to us of transformation.

Transformation is not a tidy process. It involves rotting down what is to make what will be. To make mead, grapes and honey must rot together. To create rich compost, differing vegetable matter must rot into one pile. To bring about transformation in our own lives, we must take what we have and rot it down to create something new.

But those analogies imply a conscious, deliberate process, which we choose for ourselves. Sometimes, transformation doesn't start as a conscious, deliberate process.

Sometimes, transformation starts like this:

The Tower by Azrael the 7th Murderer

I'm eight years old. I'm expecting a younger brother or sister. Instead, I visit my mother in hospital on Christmas Day, after her nearly fatal miscarriage.

The Tower, Linda Dalton Walker

I'm nine years old. I love my seventeen year old ballet teacher with all my heart. I have private lessons with her after she leaves the dance school I've been at for three years. Then she's gone, permanently, having jumped from the seventh floor of the hospital where she was being 'treated' for anorexia nervosa.

The Tower by winters magic

I'm twenty years old. It's a dark afternoon in January. It's raining. I'm crossing the road, taking no notice of the traffic lights, rushing to get the bus. From nowhere, a car is coming towards me. It hits me. Next thing, I'm in an ambulance with my mother on the way to A&E.

The Tower (Carnivale Mystere Tarot) by Reddawgi

I'm forty one years old. I'm in my 'office', in bed, working. Five minutes later, I'm standing outside my home with my partner and our dogs, in the dark, in a t-shirt, dressing gown and wellies, watching my house burn down while waiting for the fire brigade.

Rider-Waite Tower

The traumatic disruption of The Tower is not itself transformation, but it can be the beginning of transformation. It presents us with the opportunity to look at our life with fresh eyes, with all of our comfortable assumptions and perceptions swept away. When life throws shit - or worse - at the fan, if we try to keep going as if nothing has happened, we risk losing ourselves.


Whatever doesn't kill us makes us stronger, if we can do the work to really look at the broken pieces left behind, to allow real space, air and light to our emotions, and to make a choice for what we want, deepest in our hearts and souls, now and for the future.

What has been your experience with transformation brought about by your response to traumatic events?

Comment below by clicking on the 'Reply' link at the bottom right of this post. If you don't have a Dreamwidth account, select either the 'Anonymous' or the 'Open ID' option. 

This post is part of the autumn equinox Tarot bloghop. The next post in the hop is by Donna L. Faber and can be found here.
elinor: (greatness)
Last week, a couple of Patheos bloggers had some things to say about forgiveness.

First, Fred Clark, a progressive Christian blogger, wrote about perverting and inverting forgiveness. Then, Star Foster, a Pagan blogger and editor of the Pagan parts of Patheos, wrote about why she doesn't believe in forgiveness.

I think there's a lot of confusion about the concept of forgiveness; so many people use it in different ways - as you can see in those posts and in the comments to them.

Here are some of the things that forgiveness might be:

Obligation: (a) Something that you have to do to show to your peers that you're a good Christian / Buddhist / New Ager / whatever, regardless of whether you have that movement of heart going on or not.

ation: (b) A way of earning entry to heaven / Nirvana.

These two are quite clearly, to me, toxic ideas about forgiveness, which do a huge amount of damage, and allow cultures of abuse to remain intact and to flourish. They also, in my view, amount to self-harming, forcibly ignoring one's own emotions and experience of pain, in favour of an idea about 'being good'; a self-delusion of piety, to be avoided like the plague.

Something that a hurt person does to let their offender off the hook for their actions and the consequences of them.

The effects of this way of looking at and 'doing' forgiveness varies according to the relative power of the hurt person and the offender, but it almost always results in a continuation of the particular power dynamic in effect.

If a more powerful person forgives a less powerful person in this way, it acts to bolster their power, as a magnanimous act of the 'Lady Bountiful' variety; also, the chances are that it was the powerful person who got to set the rules as to what is and isn't an offence in the first place, with no input from the less powerful party.

If a less powerful person forgives a more powerful person, it is likely to be because, as far as social rules go, the more powerful person is 'owed' their forgiveness, or perhaps because there is no viable way for the less powerful person to hold the more powerful person to account, so the only option available to them is to forgive. Alternatively, it may be a way for the less powerful person to feel some power over the situation, however illusory.

This kind of forgiveness can also result in perpetuation of abuse - for example, a child forgiving an abusive parent - if there is not a balancing, sincere feeling of contrition and action of atonement on the part of the offender - preferably a public one.

Of course, if the relationship between the hurt person and the offender isn't an ongoing one, it can be a way for the hurt person not to have to think about the hurt any more, and thus not hurt themselves further.

Letting go: (a) a way for a hurt person to release anger or hurt that's past it's sell-by date and has become poisonous to them.

Letting go: (b) letting go of what we want to be the case, and letting situations and other people be what and who they are.

When I was having counselling last year, I talked about forgiving someone in this way with my counsellor. She rejected the idea that I was talking about forgiveness at all, and suggested that what I was talking about was simply acceptance. Either way, my experience is that both (a) and (b) are very healthy things to do.

I may wish that the person who hurt me hadn't; but the truth is that they did what they did, and I was hurt in consequence.

I may wish that the person who hurt me would show some regret; but the truth is that they don't.

I may wish that our peers, who observed the other person's actions and the hurt it caused me, had stepped in to support me; but the truth is that they didn't.

Going over and over what happened doesn't change any of it. Initially, my hurt told me that something was wrong, and my anger told me that it was something that needed to change. But if the wrong isn't righted, and the change doesn't happen, despite my efforts, then thinking about it all the time and wishing things were different is just self-harming; like repeatedly poking at a wound, it prevents healing.

This kind of forgiveness is often, necessarily, accompanied by an ending of a relationship with an individual or a group. If a person has hurt me and is not willing to take responsibility for their actions, and if the group of peers around us has done nothing, then it is probably in my best interests to cut myself off from them, at least for a while, until my emotional wounds are not so raw.

If I choose to re-associate with them, I can go back forearmed with knowledge of what signs to look out for that the past might repeat itself, and a clear set of boundaries - a firm inner sense of what behaviours I will and will not tolerate - and how I will respond if they are breached; or I can choose to still be linked to them, but never to see them again; or any option in between.

Dropping a demand for recompense or change - whether physical, behavioural or emotional - from an offender, when it becomes clear that they simply cannot, for whatever reason, pay it.

This is very similar, in many ways, to letting go, and also may require a cutting off of a relationship for the person doing the forgiving not to put themselves in a situation of continued harm. It has the added element, however, of compassion - both for oneself, in not continually focusing on something that isn't ever going to happen, and for the offender, in recognising their (current) limits.

It is treating both oneself and the other person as human.

If the offender sincerely wants to offer recompense and to change, but finds themselves currently unable to, this mode of forgiveness can lead to a deeper, more loving relationship - albeit probably one in a different form - by focusing on the connection in the present, not on the hurt in the past. For example, an abusive person who is sincerely sorry and wants to change, but currently finds it very hard to do so, may not be someone who their partner is able to continue living with, but friendship at a distance may be possible - especially if external support, such as counselling and supportive peers, is available.

An operation of Grace, a mysterious movement of Spirit within the human heart and mind, leading to a transformed relationship.

Buddhist teacher, Jack Kornfield, in his book A Path With Heart, describes forgiveness as an unwillingness to eject another human being from your heart. He talks about a meditation student of his who had experienced terrible sexual abuse at the hands of a relative when she was a child.

She had gone through all of her emotions, her anger and fear and all the rest, and had come to a place of peace. In this place of peace, she found that, although she knew absolutely that what had been done to her by this relative was a terrible wrong, she was not willing to put him out of her heart. The same week of her realisation, she received a letter from him, expressing his deep sorrow for his actions, and offering her a sincere and heartfelt apology. 

I do not recall whether or not she began a new connection with this relative, or whether she was simply able to continue in peace and an open heart with the knowledge of his contrition, as well as her own healing. Either way, this kind of forgiveness, this unwillingness to close one's heart, offers cleansing and wholeness; it has a mysterious operation not only in our own lives, but in the lives of those who we refuse to hold apart from love. 

This kind of forgiveness does not belong to the realm of offence and recompense, of power dynamics, of justice; it is not something to replace the offering of apology and atonement. It belongs to the realm of Love. It is outside of time and space, where there is no separation between the person who is hurt and the person who hurt them.

This kind of forgiveness cannot be faked, cannot be forced, cannot be brought into being through ignoring our pain, or pretending that nothing happened, or through an act of will. It is an action of Grace, a movement of Spirit, a blessing. 

All we can do is be willing, perhaps, one day, to allow it space in our hearts.

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elinor: (witch in the woods)
This post is part of the August Tarot Bloghop. The previous post in the Hop is here.

Lughnasadh is the festival of first fruits - brambles, raspberries, gooseberries, currants, and more all share their abundance at this time. The festival is also known as Lammas, or ‘loaf-mass’. It is the time when, in many parts of Britain, the wheat crop is ripe and ready to be brought in. The first grain is ground into flour, and turned into bread. Corn dollies are made with the stalks, to symbolically preserve the life of the plant and the soil into the next sowing.

It’s a time to think of positives, of what we ourselves are beginning to harvest in our lives, both the sweet first fruits and the nourishing staple foods which are the result of our endeavours.

But what if we got things wrong in our planting, or in our care for the soil and the wheat over the preceding months? What if we forgot to plant altogether? What if we poured poison, deliberately or otherwise, on the hedgerows around us? There will be no first fruits, no first grain, no sweet and nourishing harvest for us; our harvest will be only regret and an empty belly.

This is the potential for bitter harvest which the seven of pentacles in Norbert Lösche's Cosmic Tarot points to.

Seven of Pentacles - The Cosmic Tarot, Norbert Lösche

I have often experienced this bitter harvest myself in my life, always around the area of income and recognition for my work. (I’ve talked a little about it before.) I commit resources I don’t have, or walk away just as the fruits of my labours are almost ready to be harvested. This seven of pentacles, from the Cosmic Tarot by Norbert Lösche, speaks to me deeply of squandered resources, lost opportunities, and regret.

In the image, the seven pentacles are buried in the earth - dropped, left, abandoned, unvalued. They are chipped, worn and half buried in the earth.

They show a mixture of five pointed stars, or pentacles, and the star of David, a six pointed star made by two intersecting triangles, on their faces. The former represents the balance of the four earthly elements of air, fire, water and earth with the aetheric element of spirit; the latter represents the integration of opposing forces - masculine and feminine, dark and light, above and below.

Thus, the central figure in the image can be seen to have failed to value his resources, or to care for them. He has also failed to integrate the different aspects of himself, and to manage the competing calls upon his money, time and energy.

In Pagan paths in general, and my own path of religious Witchcraft in particular, material resources, in both abundance and restriction, are of spiritual concern. Material abundance is good, for it enables us to maintain ourselves, those we love, and those in our communities who need our support. Although it has little part, beyond covering costs, in the teaching and celebration of the Craft, money is not seen as evil in itself, nor as promoting evil.

In my own life, I consciously seek to live a life of balance, while unconsciously being biased against the domain of earth by my Christian upbringing; I consciously seek to welcome abundance in my life, and to find ways to share it justly, while unconsciously being governed by the negative beliefs about money which I imbibed from my early involvement in socialist, anarchist and green politics.

No wonder I have been unable to consistently plant and care for a crop through to its full harvest! But all is not lost. As is always the case, the solution is in the problem itself: in the case of this card, valuing one’s resources, placing attention and energy into care and nurture, and enabling balance and integration.

Value starts with self

In contemplating why it might be that I deny myself success and wealth in various ways, I came upon the root of it: I don’t consider myself to be really, truly valuable. I have worked hard through the years on self-esteem; I can now stand, head held high, in any company, and know myself to be the equal of all, in who and what I am. But it seems that I have neglected self-worth.

I much prefer to offer gifts than to conduct money transactions. When I give a gift, my emotional focus is on the overflowing of my own heart towards other people, which is a very comfortable feeling. When I get paid for a service, my emotional focus is on the fact that I am stating the value of my service, and someone else is telling me, by their payment, that they agree with me that that service - something I have done - is of great value to them. This is not at all comfortable.

What right relationship between my value, the value of the work I do, the receipt of money I need to live, and of acclaim for my skill might look like has been completely shrouded to me. But this seven of pentacles tells me that I must start with allowing myself to be of value in the world, and with identifying and dissolving the blocks to that.

Care and nurture

Though the card shows dead trees and vultures in the background, there is grass on the ground, and signs of new, green shoots growing from the soil where the pentacles are planted. These shoots must be nurtured.

Past mistakes, the unmindful or wasteful use of resources represented by the pentacles in the soil, must be forgiven. Only then can lessons be learned from them, and those lessons nourish future action, serving as food for the steady growth of new shoots.

Once the new shoots are large enough to know whether they are useful and/or beautiful, or weeds - of no use, and capable of crowding out the desired harvest - decisions can be made on which to care for and which to pull up. But until then, all must be given equal care.

Balance and integration

My aim in life is to balance the elements of air, fire, water and earth, so that spirit can flow freely in me and through me. What this means in practical terms is that I do not let any one of my mind, will, heart or material needs to overshadow the others; that I develop my ability to know, will, dar and keep silent equally; that I value my intellect, my energy, my emotions and my body the same.

Of course, there are times when one or more of the four must take precedence, or a back seat. Balance is not a fixed thing, with exactly equal weight and force in all four directions, at all times. Balance is dynamic. (I’ve talked about that before, too.) It means that I can move between the elements like a pendulum - free yet centred.

While balance is about keeping different things in good relationship, integration is about bringing apparently opposing things and forces together in one’s own being, so they are no longer separate. Keeping them separate and opposed, or even worse valuing one more highly than the other, is the route to all kinds of badness. It is the root of all the ills of racism, misogyny, homophobia, of tribal conflict, and of all out war.

So I make sure that the rising energy of earth and the falling energy of the heavens come together in my daily centering practice; that spiritual service and material transactions come together in my work as a professional Priestess; that dark and light come together in my acceptance of both my destructive and creative tendencies, and the integral relationship between them.

These, for me, are the lessons of this seven of pentacles; what contributes to bitter harvest, and how to avoid it.

How about you? Do you value yourself? How do you care for and nurture your resources? Is balance and integration a regular practice for you, or a new idea? Do tell :-)

The next post in the Hop is here.

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elinor: (elinor)
Things have been moving with my fieldwork recently. We finally (finally!) had a dry day on Saturday, so I took a chance and drove up to the Drum. I sat in the car, watching young men passing by, heading to the woods, plastic bags in hand. It took me a while to build up my courage, but when I went to talk to some of them, it was so worth it. I am always struck by how polite, friendly and willing to talk young men in this area are.

I was in the Drum again yesterday, and happened to be passing by the top of Peel Glen Road as a horse-drawn hearse emerged at the head of a funeral cortege. Ornate glass carriage with black framing, in which the coffin sat pristine; two proud black horses, with black plumes rising from their heads; two drivers in black livery, wearing black top hats.

It was wonderful to see, and put me in mind of Ian Dury's funeral carriage:

Ian Dury's funeral carriage
(but without the ribald humour).

It may have seemed inappropriate, but it gave me a gentle smile as I went on my way.

On the theme of death, I came across a wonderful resource today, while listening to
Melissa Risdon's latest Raving Fan Radio programme: Soul Sitters: "a comforting community for those living through loss". On Melissa's show, the site's founder, Stacey Canfield, shared her step by step guide for being with someone at the end of life: smile when you enter their presence, touch them gently (forearm seems to be the safest, but be aware of areas of pain), make eye contact, be patient (don't fill the space between you with chatter) and offer service (ask them what they need, what you can do - practically, emotionally, spiritually).

This is the simplest, clearest and easiest to follow guide I've ever been introduced to around end of life. Her website also offers a free 'passage plan', so your loved ones know what kind of environment you want around you in your last days.

I know that most hospices work with family, friends and carers to support them in supporting the dying person, but there isn't much by way of simple guidance for this kind of preparation in advance.
Kristi Shmyr and Dr. Bob Uslander recently hosted A Life and Death Conversation. Another Way used to provide an end of life pack, with guidelines to help you write a living will, and to make clear exactly what your wishes are (and aren't) for your funeral. Then there's the Natural Death Handbook, and books like Stephen Levine's Who Dies? But there's not enough, and not enough conversation about death and dying in our day to day lives.

It's nearly a year since I conducted my last funeral, nearly ten since my association with Another Way, and nearly fifteen since I completed my training with
The Interfaith Seminary and with LifeRites. Funerals and end of life have never played as much of a role in my ministry and my Priestess-ing as I thought they would. And I'm not sure I want them to.

Designing and conducting funerals is one of the tenderest, most beautiful parts of being a Priestess, but I'll be honest, it leaves me exhausted. Well, with fibro, most things do, but there's something particular about funerals that wears me out. I'm not sure whether it's my own fear of death, or the way people's energy gets really sticky when they're very recently bereaved, or a combination of this with the sheer level of emotional energy that flows around a funeral.

It's not a top priority for me right now, but it's certainly something to sit with.

What are your thoughts and feelings on death?

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