Cultural Goats

Inspired by Kiya’s post on a reflection she gave at her UU church today, here’s what I did at my Unitarian church today…

The theme at New Unity this month has been ‘culture’. Instead of delivering a reflection on the subject, this week the minister asked if the congregation would be willing to share things from their own cultures and those that have influenced them. And how we shared: stories, poetry, reflections, songs. From poems that gazed into the death-stare of Kali, through traditional Irish folk songs, via reflections by Egyptian feminists, past freestyling on Greek-British culture, and onto a gorgeous rendition of ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’, culture was brought home as something many-varied, colourful, and deeply embedded in us. Afterwards, friends and I fell into talking about queer culture over coffee. So many cultures. So much richness of belonging.

This is what I read in the service. If anyone hasn’t overheard me and Shai talking about the ‘goats’, you will at some point. Three months after I met Shai, I became suddenly, surprisingly and distressingly ill. Sometime around then, Shai told me this story, a Jewish Eastern European one. It has been constantly referred to in our home ever since. This is my interpretation of the story.

A man lived in a small, very crowded house with his wife, his in-laws, six children and a dog.

One day he couldn’t take it anymore. The noise, mess and stress were too much for him. In desperation, he went to see his Rabbi, who was known to be a very wise man.

“Rabbi,” the man said, “You have GOT to help me. There are so many of us in our little house. I can’t cope with the crowdedness and the noise and the mess and the stress anymore. What do I do about this situation?”


The wise Rabbi pondered this for a moment. Then he said to the man, “Do you have a goat?”

Confused, the man replied, “Yes, Rabbi. We have quite a busy farm and I have two goats.”
 
“Then take the goats,” said the Rabbi, “and bring them into the house with you.”
 
“Bring them… into the house? With my wife, and my in-laws, and my six children and the dog?”
 
“That’s right,” said the Rabbi. “And then come back to me in a week.”
 
The man duly went home, got his goats, and brought them into the house. And then he went back to the Rabbi a week later.
 
“How’s it going?” asked the Rabbi.
 
“Rabbi!” said the man, “it’s terrible! We have even less space than before, and the goat is breaking everything, and there’s goat mess on the floor, and the children are very unhappy. How is this meant to have helped?”
 
The Rabbi thought for a moment. “Do you have a cow?”
 
“Well… yes,” said the man. “I have a cow.”
 
“OK,” said the Rabbi. “Bring the cow into the house with you.”
 
“Bring the cow… into the house? With my wife, and my in-laws, and my six children and the dog, and the goats?”
 
“That’s right,” said the Rabbi. “And then come back to me in a week.”
 
The man obediently went home, got his cow, and brought it into the house. And then he went back to the Rabbi a week later.
 
“How’s it going?” asked the Rabbi.
 
“Rabbi!” he said. “This is horrific! The goats and the cow are taking up so much space that we barely have anywhere to sleep anymore! They are fighting and they’re in the way and their mess is all over everything.”
 
“Tell me,” said the Rabbi, “do you have any chickens?”
 
“Yes, Rabbi,” said the man resignedly, “I have chickens.”
 
“Then take the chickens,” said the Rabbi, “and bring them into the house with you.”
 
“Bring them… into the house. With my wife, and my in-laws, and my six children and the dog, and the goats and the cow?”
 
“That’s right,” said the Rabbi. “And then come back to me in a week.”
 
A week later the man returned. He looked exhausted.
 
“How’s it going?” asked the Rabbi.
 
“Rabbi,” he said, “I officially cannot cope anymore. The goats and cow are trying to kill each other. The chickens are flapping around making noise all day and all night. We have nowhere to sleep, nowhere to eat, we’re now having to do most things outside, and their mess is everywhere. What are you doing to me?”
 
“Excellent,” said the Rabbi. “Now. Take the chickens, and the cow, and the goats, and put them back outside. And come back to me in a week.”
 
A week later, the man came back. He looked rested and happy. “Rabbi,” he said, “you have no idea how much better it is now. There is space again. It is quiet again. It is clean again! What a relief.
 
The Rabbi smiled. “Then go home,” he said, “and enjoy the wonderful life you have with your family. And remember, if it ever gets too much – there could always be a goat living with you.”

 

There were a few goats in my house as I walked around Camden after church, getting some meanness about my scooter from fellow Camdonians, and thinking about the very hard week I’ve had of defending my stance on disability and access. But then there was tea and trees and work in Regents’ Park, and the goats were out of the house. For a little while. Everything can always wait until tomorrow.

 

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Regents Canal, where it meets the bridge at Regents Park, Camden, London

30 Days of Practice: Orlando, the One Sheep, and Me

I was doing so well last week. I was so proud of myself for doing at least some of what I’ve committed to (the daily devotionals – I’ve had a total failure mode around podcasts, but a post on failure can wait for another day). I was telling myself that I was doing really well. Am I not such a balanced spiritual person? Am I not such a great activist? Am I not so good at being a disabled person in a disablist world? I thought that maybe the key was to keep telling myself that, keep thinking positive, keep ‘acting great’ to be great.

And then there was Orlando.

The day before yesterday, my friend messaged me to tell me about the vigil. I was desperate to go, but unlike many of the people who went (probably), I had to think very carefully about going. Every moment had to be planned – from getting there (can’t park in Soho – too scared to get buses at the moment), to being in the crowds (will I get scared and have a meltdown and be an embarrassment to myself and everyone with me?), to getting around Soho (terrible accessibility of streets and I don’t know if I have the energy for pushing myself around), to going home (will I be able to find a taxi?) A huge amount of spoons had to be measured out and used – see later in the post for what that means. Another wheelchair user passed me in the crowd at one point, said “I’m glad I’m not the only mad wheelie here”. I knew what she meant. I felt vulnerable and stressed out for the whole thing. That was helped immensely by my amazing friends who stood between me and the crowd, and helped me get around, and did lots to support me – I couldn’t have asked for more support. But there I was, thinking about myself. Fifty people had died and more had been injured… and I was worrying about my comfort.

Then, without giving myself a rest, yesterday I spent seven hours volunteering, and being in settings where my brain and body do not cope well. After the first five-hour meeting (hardly any breaks), I came home briefly and I so desperately wanted to go to bed. It was serious desperation – and the idea of being around people and having to behave like a neurotypical person in a meeting was terrifying. My body was screaming at me and my brain was already beginning to hit ‘shutdown’ territory (which happens to some neurodivergent people after a long time of fighting to appear neurotypical and wearing ourselves out). But I went out to the next two-hour plus meeting anyway, because I had said I would, and being true to my word is part of the virtue of Honour. But I had forgotten to take stock of quite how much things had affected me this week, including the attack and the vigil. I was seriously running low on spoons. And there I was, thinking about myself. Again.

Much better people than me have written about Orlando. People who are writing, and silenced, from within the Latinx LGBT community, like Vincent Cervantes, and people writing about being Muslim and queer at a time like this, like Amanullah De Sondy. People who have called for voices to be amplified that are not being heard, in the midst of the narrative-creating and the news biases and the many, many agendas. People like Mariella Mosthof and Ferdiad and Theo Wildcroft and Pat Mosley. I’m seeing many white LGBT people pondering intersectionality and privilege in the wake of this tragedy. It’s important stuff – lived social theory, social justice in writing.

It’s also not helping. To admit this is to demonstrate my horrendous privilege. I can actually sit in my comfortable house, with its decent security, and know that I’m probably not going to be attacked tomorrow (although the rate of disability hate crime is rising and I feel more unsafe every time I leave the house). I sit here as a white, rich person (and as a neurodivergent* person and a disabled person who seriously struggles with life, and doesn’t admit that enough). I am someone who will never worry about where my next meal is coming from (someone who has been told by doctors for ten years that I’m making up my illnesses, and recently found out I’ve been denied treatment for one condition for at least that long, as a result). I am someone who can afford to run my car and even the taxis I need to get around, to help me avoid the struggles that most disabled people face while out and about (someone who, on account of using a wheelchair, nonetheless has to plan life in exceptional detail, and who, on account of neurodiversity in an ableist world, doesn’t cope well with the execution of those plans). I am someone who lives in a country with an NHS and will never go hungry in order to pay medical bills (someone whose chronic illness regularly ruins my life and never, ever lets up – even when I ‘look’ OK). I am someone who can send my PA out into the world to do things, and thereby avoid some of the daily disablism and abuse, because I can afford a PA (someone who gets shouted at in the streets and often has to tell people to stop pushing my wheelchair without asking me because you might be about to break my fingers, not to mention taking away my agency and my right to attempt the hill on my own and also my right not to be grabbed by a bloody stranger).

I think my battles matter… to some extent. But I am struggling to balance my fear and exhaustion with my incredible privilege and my safety and my very comfortable life. It’s difficult. Those of us who have wide intersections in our lives between privilege and oppression sometimes struggle with this. It’s OK to admit it. But also, it isn’t.

I am not a queer Latinx. I am not a person of colour in the LGBT community. I am not living under US laws, with their bathroom segregation and removal of rights for trans people, or in US culture, with its violence towards my LGBT siblings (especially trans people). I am not a trans person on the American continent or in other countries, at high risk of being murdered, and at risk of having to survive via sex work in order to live and to pay for surgery (associated with even more risk of murder). I do not live in a country where it is illegal for me to be in a same-sex relationship. I do not live at a time when I could be sectioned or worse for being attracted to people of my sex or for being gender variant. There is so much I should be deeply grateful for.

But I am still writing a blog post about me, not about them, today. I am that person. I think that, today, I would rather admit it, than pretend to be better than I am.

It’s a fact I’m trying to take on board, that this tragedy has clearly affected us more than others (as an LGBTQI community) because it relates to us. It’s human to feel closer to our tribe than to the rest of humanity. It’s also deeply problematic.

Two metaphors: spoons and filters

Two metaphors are useful to talk about, at this point. ‘Spoons‘ are a metaphor widely used in the disability and chronic illness communities, to talk about measures of energy (or of coping skills, or similar). A lot of non-disabled people have at least enough spoons to get through the day. They may use one for a shower in the morning and one to make breakfast, but they still have two hundred left. In comparison, I may start the day with twenty. Then choices have to be made. Will I be able to make myself cups of tea today, or is it more important to be able to work? When I’m having a day with a few extra spoons, I may ‘look’ like I have as many as most people. But I’m still calculating in my head all the time. Do I have enough energy to buy the food that I’ve been asked to bring to the meeting, and still make it through the meeting? Do I have enough spoons to get myself lunch at the conference, or do I just have to sit here hungry so that I can get through the next talk without having to leave? Am I going to manage the whole of this event, or am I going to run out of spoons or the ability to act neurotypical, and have to run away (and be stared at as I leave oh gods please stop staring at me)?

The other useful metaphor is that of filters. I live my life filtering out my neurodiversity and its effects. I work hard every second of the day, using a lot of energy, thinking consciously about how to act in seminars and with supervisors and with friends and in meetings and in crowds and in pubs and in shops and on public transport. Imagine needing to think actively about every single thing you do, a mix of trying to get your brain to function in a world that you don’t fit into, and trying to act like it’s all unconscious and normal for you. Slowly, as I do more and more of this, and get more and more tired, my filters start to drop. You’ll begin to see more and more of the ‘real me’. You probably won’t like her – she’s irritating and unhelpful and gets a lot wrong.

Then the filters will fall away entirely. And then, collapse. Shutdown, or meltdown. A total giving up of brain (and body) that means nothing else is possible – literally – until I am out of ‘danger mode’ according to my neurological systems (which are far better at protecting me than I am).

Back to practice…

Last night, after the meetings were over, I did my daily devotional as planned. (I was too wired from ‘performing’ to sleep, anyway). I’ve been working with empty shrines, on the concept of stripping everything back, nothing left but myself and the Divine:

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Picture: my shrine to Beara, currently empty except for candle, taper and offering bowl.

After all the fear and struggles of the past few days, the emptiness hit me.

I just sat there, at Her empty shrine, and sobbed. The candles burned down. Darkness came. I sat. I loved. I longed. I hated myself. I was afraid. I wrote poetry in my head. I sat. I didn’t wake my spouse. This was about me, and my goddess, and the darkness, and the silence, and the empty altars – and me, empty. I sat.

Lighten our darkness… and by thy great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night.[1]
For the night is dark, and I am far from home.[2]

Soon I’ll start building up my shrines again. Starting with an ancestor shrine for the beloved dead of the Orlando shooting and of the many, many other terrorist attacks and state-sponsored violence going on around the world.

*                                        *                                        *                                      *                                         *

Here are two relevant stories that I’ve been pondering recently – told in my own words, so don’t trust their theological accuracy – they are very much my interpretations.

The One Found Sheep

A shepherd had a hundred sheep. He could always tell his own from the others in the fields — he knew their sound, their movement, their little ways. Every evening he took the measure of his sheep, and there they were, always a hundred of them. And then he could sleep as dusk came in, his shepherd’s crook curled around him, the sound of his sheep’s voices a constant in his dreams.

One evening he counted his sheep… and there were ninety-nine of them.

He panicked. Who is missing? Where are they? He searched the places that he could reach and still have his other sheep in sight, but the lost sheep was not there.

And so he left his fields, and left all the rest of his sheep, and went into the roads and out into the far edges of the country. And there he found it, lost in a ditch, unable to get itself unstuck.  

And he carried it home.

– From the Christian tradition

The Myth of Sophia

Sophia was the first creation of the God. She was his Wisdom.

Her daughter, Sophia the younger, was beautiful, but she was not satisfied with her existence, nor with her heavenly consort the Christ. She looked down into the mortal realms and saw a great Light. She longed to be with it. “Why,” she said to the God, “can I not bring the world light and life, and create as you do?”

The God sighed a great, defeated sigh. “You are the child of Wisdom,” he says. “If you think it is wise, go, and create as I do.”

And so, enchanted by the world of matter, Sophia fell. And she created. But her first creations were born of chaos and darkness and fear. Her first son looked at the world and wanted to possess it – and he could not see that anything existed above him. From darkness he ruled the world. He denied wisdom to Adam and Eve.

But Divine Wisdom stayed with them.

The earth-bound Sophia could see that humanity was lost. She sent them the Serpent to teach them that they could think for themselves – but though they began to, they were already corrupted by the darkness and weighed down by the struggles of a corrupted world.

But Divine Wisdom stayed with them.

Unwilling to leave humanity alone, Sophia called on her mother, Sophia the Elder, to send the Christ, if he was willing to leave heaven and come to join her, to help this world and its people.

“And the Logos was made flesh, and dwelt among us.”

And Divine Wisdom stayed with them.

– From the Gnostic tradition

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What if we are not always the sheep, but sometimes the shepherd?

What if we are sometimes Sophia, and sometimes the Christ?

What if we can only rescue ourselves?

And what if we don’t matter?

I have no conclusions. There is only silence, and the empty shrine.

Video: the Gay Men’s Chorus singing at the London vigil for Orlando. A wheelchair’s-eye view.

ETA: The list of the dead and injured in last weekend’s shooting. I’m sorry it took me so long to think to add this to my post. As the Wiccans say, what is remembered, lives.

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*Neurodivergent: a non-medical term used by the community of people affected by autism/ADHD/dypraxia/dyslexia and many other neurologically-affected different ways of being. Those of us who think differently from the ‘neurotypical’ people.  The world is full of neurodiversity. We are different, but not less.

[1] From the traditional night service of the Church of England.
[2] From the hymn ‘Lead Kindly Light’.

I Stand with ‘Gods and Radicals’

The reactions to Rhyd Wildermuth’s post on Paganism and the New Right have been incredible and disturbing.

Essentially, Rhyd wrote about the influences of racist and ethnocentric ideologies on various traditions of Paganism. It was brave and it was necessary. Extremely important stuff. And Paganism/polytheism have exploded at him and his allies.

And not just that, but Rhyd is saying some things that I consider to be *very clearly* a problem in Paganism, and that I have believed for quite some time. So I had no idea people would react quite so negatively. I suppose I should have realised that not everyone in Paganism shares these radical views. But it’s so easy to create Paganism in your own image. To believe that it’s what you want it to be. Only, it’s not. The reactions to Rhyd’s post, and his co-founder Alley Valkyrie’s support of it, make that clear.

I think I am most upset by the idea, shared in response to the post, that the *gods* demand new right and racist ideologies. And that without these ideologies we cannot be devotional polytheists. What a way to wheedle out of responsibility for your own behaviour. “The gods told me to.” Only following orders?

I am a devotional polytheist. I am a social and political radical. My gods and my radicalism are so closely intertwined that they are inseparable. You cannot divide the threads without pulling apart the tapestry. It is not possible to be neutral, to be apolitical. It is only possible to pretend that you are not political. And the less you understand the ways in which you are political, the ways in which ideology controls your behaviour, the more your hidden politicism can be used against you. Your life, too, is inseparable from your politics and ideologies. Including your ideas about race, ancestry, genetics, culture, the land, the country, empires, colonialism. Maybe you just can’t see where the threads of these things are determining your behaviour towards others. But they always do. There is no such thing as neutral. Decide where you stand.

I have stood in all-white Pagan gatherings and despaired that no one else seems to notice the lack of representation of people of colour, nor seems to care that their nativist ideologies are keeping away Pagans of colour. I have sighed as the Pagan message board where I post has been inundated with people saying that they believe they can only worship the ‘Celtic’ gods because their ancestors were ‘mostly Irish and Welsh’ a very long time ago. I have screamed internally as people said ‘Africans’ should worship ‘their own gods’ and should not come to druid gatherings. I have walked out of meetings where a speaker talks about ‘Celtic values’ like being physically perfect (and probably white) and the importance of this to ‘the gods’.

But I have not spoken out enough. It’s time for me to stop being so quiet about these things. Silence is complicity.

Don’t you dare tell ‘Gods & Radicals’ that it should lose the moniker ‘gods’ because it’s ‘not polytheist enough’. Our polytheism is inseparable from our politics. Mine is inseparable from my radicalism. I cannot have one without the other. I essentially left Christianity because its god did not demand enough radicalism from me. I refuse to listen to another group of people telling me what my gods should or should not ask for me. Didn’t a lot of us already leave a religion that told us what to do, and what values to hold, because we disagreed with those actions and values? Can we really drift into another religion or tradition that does the same?

My Lady Bhearra asks for my total commitment to social justice, to the light that flickers in the chaos of human society. That is my reason for writing on a site that is aptly named ‘Gods and Radicals’. My radicalism is polytheist. Let ‘Pagandom’ dare to tell me otherwise. I would never again follow a deity who asked any less than that. Who asked me to compromise my own values and principles. Who asked me to put myself before others. Who asked me to be silent in the face of racism, neocolonialism and right-wing politics.

I remain a member of ADF (my membership has accidentally lapsed, actually), though I am giving this some thought. My first thought on being confronted face-to-face with ideologies ADF is influenced by, was not to be offended, but to start thinking. I can’t even claim I never realised this stuff before. I’ve just never confronted it so directly. I need to consider whether I can continue to stand with ADF and with reconstructionist polytheism more widely. This will probably involve shadow work, deep work with my goddess, and real, practical thought about social justice. I left OBOD, rather publicly, because I considered its policies disablist. That was something that directly affected me, and was easy to stand against, as a result. What about ideologies where I have the privilege and others do not? Am I truly committed to social justice if I remain silent on these things? Maybe there are no groups I can be a member of anymore. Maybe that’s OK. Right now I feel like am always likely to be a polytheist with reconstructionist tendencies. But maybe I should allow my goddess of Chaos to tear even that down and make me start again. Any ideology I hold should be held onto lightly, whether it is religious, political or something else.

I stand alone on the seashore, between land, sea and sky, and the gods call me to be better than my ancestors. Am I strong enough to answer this call? I don’t know. But I can try.

I stand with Gods and Radicals. I stand with Rhyd Wildermuth and Alley Valkyrie. I am a polytheist. I am a radical. I am a social justice druid. Go on, tell me I’m not allowed to do or be any one of these things. Great gods of justice stand with me. And Truth will out.

Social Justice Druid t-shirts. I need dis.

Other things worth reading that are not-unrelated:

Daughters of Eve – a blog by Pagans of colour, as well as many of the people Crystal Blanton mentions in this post (and everything Crystal writes)

Truth and Joy: Confronting Racism in Religion by T. Thorn Coyle

Yvonne Aburrow on getting out of the bubble of complacency

And everyone should read Kavita Maya‘s research on racism in Paganism, specifically the Goddess movement. She is a great thinker who is much needed by modern Paganism.

The behaviour of online Pagans, and why I’m going ‘stealth’ online again

My name has been publicly associated with accusations against someone. If you must read about it, see this post – and most importantly the response below, by Aine, the person being accused. (Trigger warning: the post contains references to abuse, transmisogyny, and disturbing accusations with no forum for addressing them.) The original post contained my real name and links to my professional twitter. (The poster has since replaced these references with my online psuedonym, after I tracked them down and begged.)

For some reason I can’t directly reblog at tumblr the reply that Aine has written – possibly because I’m blocked by the original poster. So I’m posting here instead. In the link above makes she makes clear that she is treating this as libel and dealing with it via her attorney.

I do not know the original poster, nor anything about the situation in the post. I have already been sought out (by other strangers) at my professional twitter to be told I’m ‘enabling abuse’. This linking of me and my real name to a situation I have nothing to do with is really appalling behaviour.

When I talked to the original poster about this, they told me I was causing them stress (??) but that their behaviour was fine. They said they didn’t have to ask before talking about me in a callout post, apparently not when even using my real name and professional twitter link. They took down my real name, but didn’t see anything wrong with initially putting it in. (By the way, they would have had to do quite a bit of online stalking of me to find my professional twitter, if all they initially had was my blog link.)

When I talked to Aine, my friend, about it, her immediate concern was for me.

Of course, that contrast doesn’t prove anything in itself. But I have no interest in discussing the details of this. Tumblr ‘callout culture’ is toxic. There are ways to deal with concerns like this – especially given the seriousness of what’s being accused – and I don’t think posts on tumblr are the way to go in the first instance. They are nearly impossible to refute or address, because they go off being reblogged in all directions, with no way for the accused to have input or respond, except via their own reblogs. I have been nervous of tumblr for a long time, even though I have a (barely-used) account there. The place is rife with accusations that can’t be addressed and other terrible behaviour. It has a culture all its own where people gain status and think they have more power than they actually do. It’s very ‘mean girls’. This is the last straw for me and tumblr – I’m taking my account down, when I get round to it, and I won’t be going there anymore. I’m very glad that Aine is dealing with this through legal channels.

I am not opening comments on this blog post. Aine has asked that people send her their questions about this. (I think this is a very good sign – openness and willingness to address these issues is what I look for in this kind of situation.) Please do as she asks and talk to her rather than me. This never had anything to do with me, and Aine is being very generous in wanting to keep me out of it.

I would like to point anyone reading this to my Hospitality and Zero-Tolerance Policy. If you talk to me here, or talk about me online, I think hospitality should be maintained. It happens to be a key religious value of mine. There are ways to talk about people, and places to talk about them. And there ways not to talk about people, and places not to talk about them.

Related to that, I’m going ‘under the radar’ again. For several years I’ve been ‘out’ in the Pagan/polytheist communities, but I’ve always felt a little bit nervous of what could happen as a result. I think we should be able to be open and ourselves in religious communities, both offline and online. But let’s be clear here: it’s not because of discrimination from the non-Pagan world that I have to go ‘stealth’ online. It’s because of the behaviour of members of the Pagan community. I consider that very telling. Pagans are always talking about how horrible members of other religions are towards them. I’ve never experienced that. I have experienced repeated awful behaviour from Pagans that make me reluctant to admit in public that I am one.

I think that’s a difference worth pondering.

In future please refer to me only as Léithin Cluan in comments in, or references to, this blog. Many thanks.

*EDITED TO ADD*

Well now this is getting ridiculous. Let’s clear up a few of the things I’m now being accused of elsewhere.

Firstly, I have not sent anyone to ask for my name to be taken out of the original post, and I would really rather people didn’t do this. As the poster claims, I did indeed say it was fine for them to keep my username in. It’s the right of the original poster to include it if they want to. The behaviour I found particularly dishonourable was when they included my full name and professional twitter account in the post. Yes, you will see from this post that I used to include my full name here and have now had to rescind that policy – it’s no secret – but it was always as a clarifier to my pseudonym Leithin Cluan, which was always the primary name I used here, and which is the name I use in my modern druid community. I have never linked my professional materials here and I do not know how the original poster found my professional twitter account, not least because I use a slightly different name in my work life. I have now taken down my real name due to the realisation that I cannot trust people in the Pagan community not to do appalling things with my identity. Pseudonyms, though, I can’t do anything about being written about elsewhere. People generally have the right to write about people, as long as no one’s being hurt.

Secondly, if we’re in ‘callout culture’ here, I want to call out anyone who would send people to harass a person (particularly an autistic person) about their support or otherwise of someone who is having unproven allegations aimed at them, and who is currently taking legal action against those accusations. Asking people to seek out a person online and harass them to take any kind of stance on unproven allegations towards friends is neither honourable nor courageous. If you want to engage with me, do so on the basis of honour, especially if you claim to be in shared community with me. I already linked to my zero-tolerance hospitality policy above. I consider that that applies off this blog as well as on it. Of course, I can’t enforce this policy away from this blog – I can’t make people behave honourably towards others. But I will not engage with people who don’t treat me honourably and hospitably.

I will not be persuaded of anything as a result of this appalling, dishonourable shitstorm, and anyone attempting to ‘persuade’ me will be given short shrift. I believe in protecting myself from things that I find oppressive in conjunction with my impairments. I’m not standing for any crap. I’m also contacting tumblr to ask them to remove posts that call for my harassment.

Thanks so much.

31 Days of Offerings – Day 16: Something For Nothing?

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I have been praying to St Cajetan on behalf of a friend.

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‘Our Lady Breaker of Chains’

Novenas (nine-day prayers) to saints are something I’ve been doing for many years. I’ve long since moved past the theology of it, past wondering whether my prayers will be heard, or asking why they would be. I do know that the offering is a bit of a struggle. Half way through the second ‘Our Father’ I’m usually getting a bit bored. By the third ‘Glory Be’ I’ve either started heading towards mystical union with the divine, or I’ve fallen asleep. It varies.

These days I see novenas as a ‘do ut des’ thing, a ‘deal’ made with spiritual ancestors, with them watching the content of my character as I ask them for something… “Are you honourable enough? Are you dedicated enough?”

I give that you may give. Asking something for nothing is not good for community, or for me. The offering I give in exchange for the saint’s favour may be words, perseverence, steadfastly remembering a friend, or candlelight… I’m not sure where the offering to the saint starts and the gift to the friend begins.

And all of that pales when I start to realise that the shaping of my own character is the greatest gift, and I’m giving it to myself.

You know me? You don’t know me

I am not a reconstructionist.

There. I said it. I feel better now, I think.

I was strongly drawn to reconstructionism in the beginning. It seems so academic. (The fact that most academics would find what reconstructionists do rather… inaccurate and confusing, is an entirely different issue.) It seems so clear. Got questions about a deity? The answers are out there, waiting to be uncovered by (usually amateur) archeologists/linguists/folklorists/mythicists.

Except they aren’t. And I feel, increasingly, that this is not a way to do religion or spirituality.

I love looking for clues in the stories of the land. My deities can all be spotted there, or at least, shadows of them – including Baoi (Beara), Dovinia/Duibhne (of the Corca Dhuibhne people), and the Three Sisters (Lasair, Latiaran and Gobnait-who-is-sometimes-Inghean Buidhe-or-sometimes she’s-one-of-the-others-and-sometimes-she’s-Crobh-Derg). But they are, as you can see even when I just try to say their names, not all that easy to pin down. The Three Sisters are deeply rooted in the land around Cork and Kerry, and if you ask the locals about St Latiaran, they will know who you mean, and they will tell you stories about her that you’ve never heard before. But these deities also have precedents across the water and across Ireland. Does that make them any less local? No. It makes them a far bigger mystery than they first seem. The clues are there, but they will slip out of your hands when you try to grasp them. Continue reading

Kindness (and Bees)

The kindness of strangers can make all the difference. Mostly, to people you’ll never know it’s made a difference to.

Last week I chose the hottest day of the year to drive to Birmingham and give a talk with 3FF* in a Muslim-majority school. I spoke to two different primary school classes about being a Pagan. A humanist and a Shia Muslim also spoke. I can’t speak highly enough about the school administrators’ hospitality. It’s Ramadan, so almost everyone there was fasting, but they provided us with an absolute feast – fruit, sandwiches, cake. As we were leaving, the headmaster gave us gift bags with sweets and English copies of the Qur’an. Absolutely wonderful people. Continue reading