DPVP does NaPoWriMo – Tips

In our preparation for National Poetry Writing Months, where we’re encouraging everyone to write poetry (and share it with us, if you’re feeling brave enough!), here’s author, editor, bloggist, artist and team Web Elf, Nimue Brown, with some top tips!


Never written a poem but want to have a go? Here are some pointers that will help you avoid the mistakes new poets often make and jump straight in with something strong and engaging.

  • Read some poems. Particularly, read some poems by professional poets. Don’t worry about analysing them, just let them happen to you. Poets who read poetry are greatly advantaged in their own writing. Or, get on youtube and listen.
  • Go with that first rush of emotion and inspiration. Then leave what you’ve written alone for a bit and come back. Don’t treat those words as sacred. Take what works, ditch what doesn’t. You need inspiration and crafting to make a good poem.
  • Try reading it out loud if you can – that often reveals places where the words don’t flow well.
  • You do not have to rhyme. In fact, too much rhyming can sound naive or forced. Don’t sacrifice meaning for the sake of rhyming. If you have to stretch a line to hit the rhyme at the end, ditch it. Those never sound good.
  • Think about who you are writing for. There is nothing wrong with writing poetry as catharsis, but ask who is going to want to read it? Do the catharsis first, then come back on your second draft and think about who the poem is for, and what they will get out of it. If you are just wallowing in misery – as too many amateur poets do – it gets dull really fast for the reader. If what you’ve written is so full of personal references that no one else could hope to understand it, then it won’t work for a reader. The aim is not to write a cryptic puzzle for other people to try and figure out. The aim is to communicate something. Don’t baffle your readers, enlighten them.
  • A poem is not a collection of metaphors thrown at an idea to see what sticks. If you like metaphors, don’t throw them at each other randomly. Also, watch out for mixed metaphors that make no sense. Go and listen to this song, and then do some other thing. https://youtu.be/8vVuVn1Yb8A (unless, like Mitch Benn, you’re doing it for laughs, that’s always fine.)
  • Simple is often best. Use the language you speak in. Don’t shoehorn in Shakespearean thees and thous and cants and hasts – if that’s not how you talk it will, I promise you, sound weird. Don’t use words whose meaning you are unsure of – I’ve seen people do it and you can undermine what you meant to say so very easily. The language you use is good enough. Go listen to some Kate Tempest for a fine example of someone using her own voice. https://youtu.be/z4qGLDkK9TA
  • Be you. Be real. Be authentic. Be bold. Be brave. Say what matters. Say something you’ve never heard anyone else say but that needs to be out there. Say what you love. Say what you’re angry about. Say what needs to change. Write poetry to change the world.

Batty Nan – Here for you…

We have an entirely fictional character known as Batty Nan who acts as a figurehead for the team and appears on this website in the shape and form of an agony aunt with some knowledge and experience of Paganism and witchcraft. Questions sent to Batty Nan will be answered by the whole Disabilities Team, usually by who we feel has the most expertise in the area covered by the question.

This enables our community to get the best possible advice but please be aware that we are all volunteers with different backgrounds and none of us are doctors or health care professionals so always consult your doctor or other health professional before changing your lifestyle, health regime or medication.

To ask our Agony Aunt team a question, get advice, or to submit a spoof scenario for Batty Nan, go to our Contacts page and use the Disabled Pagans Voices Project contact form, with “Batty Nan” at the head of your message.

By doing so you are agreeing that your question and our response may appear on this website in an anonymised form.

If you are looking for a more private response then use the Contact the Disabilities Team form on the same page.

DPVP does NaPoWriMo

Do you love a good acronym?
For anyone who doesn’t know; DPVP is the Disabled Pagans Voices Project. This project, hosted by the Pagan Federation Disabilities Team, gives a space for disabled Pagans (and their carers and families) to raise their voices. We invite submissions in the way of blogs, essays, short stories, art, music, poetry and more. We welcome any creative offering that you would like to share.

Here’s Debi Gregory talking about the DPVP, two years ago at the Online Lughnasadh Festival about ways in which Disabled Voices could be heard.

One of my first interactions with the Pagan Federation Disabilities Team was to submit a poem to the DPVP.


So what about the NaPoWriMo?
It is National Poetry Writing Month, an annual poetry project where poets (and the poetically curious) are encouraged to write a poem, every day for the month of April. The project was the brain child of poet Maureen Thorson who was inspired by National Novel Writing Month. Maureen started back publishing on her own blog in 2003 and as the project grew she started an independent website where people could link their own poetry.
NaPoWriMo is an amazing way to get people committing to writing poetry. Each day there is an optional prompt that you can work with. Everything from trying out different poetic forms like a Tanka (the Haiku’s older, longer, Granddaddy) or writing a New York Style poem (which is a veritable recipe and makes for really bizarre but enjoyable poem). It’s fun, its challenging and an excellent way to flex your creative muscle.


Like any challenge it is meant to be fun, if you can’t commit to a month, do what you can. If you have never written a poem, feel free to find your muse and have a try. I’ve been participating in NaPoWriMo since 2014. What makes it special for me is having a community to share with. So this year I thought it might be nice to get DPVP poets and aspiring poets to participate in writing along with NaPoWriMo.

If you feel inspired to join in, send your poems or your blog links and we will publish them on the DPVP blog.

To get involved with the DPVP’s NaPoWriMo, email dpvp@paganfederation.co.uk and use NaPoWriMo in the title!


National Deputy Disabilities Manager
District Disabilities Liaison – South East

The online Imbolc Festival 2018

The Pagan Federation Team recently ran an online disabilities festival for Imbolc – this was held on Facebook, and some of the videos were posted directly to Facebook in a way that makes sharing them outside of that space difficult. In this post, we offer you the videos that also went up on youtube, so if you missed the event itself you can still enjoy much of the content.

Online Imbolc Festival 2018 – Awakening – Meet the International Disabilities Liaison. Pagan Federation Scotland Disabilities and Inclusion Officer, Lauren Edwards, introduces herself as Pagan Fed (England & Wales) new International Disabilities Liaison.


Catkins and urban nature with Nimue Brown


Imbolc Ceremonial Drumming 2018


National Deputy Disabilities Manager and District Disabilities Liaison for the South East! Jenny Luddington!


Secret Strength with Cat Treadwell


Transdruid blogger, Alex Bear, discusses awakenings and the many changes we have in our lives!


You can find the online festival in full at https://www.facebook.com/PFDisabilities/


Spoons and Spanners in the Works…

Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in your own reality and to forget, at least for a time, that your reality and someone else’s isn’t always the same thing. Even if you experience the same situations, in the exact same way, your perceptions of those experiences, the way your minds process them, can be worlds apart.

It’s not always as simple as saying “this happened and this is how you should all react” because one person’s offence is another person’s humour. What one individual may find traumatic, another may not even notice has happened and that’s all before you take personality and personal circumstances into account! It’s both a fascinating and excruciatingly complex part of the human condition… And when you’re in a situation where you have to navigate these experiences, both your own and others’, on a regular basis, it is quite literally impossible to get it right 100% of the time. On top of all this is the fact that even if perceptions align, support is given in the right places and personalities don’t rub the wrong way, we must also walk the tightrope of constructive communication.

Many of you may have noticed that the Disabilities Team had a bit of a breakdown of communication some weeks ago. This wasn’t the whole team; I’d like to make that very clear. This was a case of unsuccessful communication between the management and, as I’m the Disabilities Manager, the blame for that has to rest on me, at least partly.

I won’t go into too many details because, frankly, this was a private matter that should have remained private, but I made a choice to support my community in a certain way and part of the way I do that is by being as honest and frank as I feel is appropriate… And what I feel is appropriate is often too honest and frank for some people! So, with respect to the others involved, I’d like to give you the explanation I feel you deserve but I ask that in return, you, as the community I serve, remember that one side of a story, or even two or three sides, even combined together, don’t always reflect the truth because perceptions differ, so the best policy is to remember that if you weren’t there, it probably isn’t any of your business… This is a lesson I’ve learned the hard way and the long road to the discovery has caused me many a headache, including the one that led to this particular miscommunication.

Long story short, I said some rather inadvisable things during what I thought was just a usual bought of low mood in a private capacity. As it turns out, this was more than a case of simple low mood and more of one of those times that I probably should have been shut in my bedroom and had cookies thrown at me through a cat flap until I was safe to come out again. Instead, I refused to accept that I was feeling quite as bad as I really did and when it was pointed out to me by someone I cared about, I did what we typically do and I lashed out. What can I say; I’m only human!

However, instead of this episode of private health issues and personality clashes being kept private, it was taken further and I asked for help. It seems that I asked for help in the wrong place as when I expected the support system I had helped to create to support me, it collapsed. This is partly my fault and partly the fault of others but I want to make it perfectly clear that no malicious intent was intended by anyone. This was a series of misunderstandings, bad communication and general human error on the part of a few people who are all trying to do the work of ten people each… That drastic workload being undertaken by a brave few could not keep on going without something unfortunate happening… And, as usual, my impatience and inability to just let things go brought it all to a head.

I want to apologise for the confusion, the upset and the distress that this situation has brought about to my friends, my colleagues, their families and the community. I couldn’t keep going forever and I’m now, in hindsight, rather shocked at just how long I managed without having a total meltdown (I have the support of my team and you people in the community to thank for lasting so long!)…

Procedures were in place to stop this sort of thing from happening but since the team has gone through some pretty drastic changes over the last year, those procedures needed updating and communicating to people and it is directly my fault that this wasn’t done and I really can’t apologise enough for that.

After discussions with the PF Committee and the Disabilities Team, I’ve decided that, if you’ll all still have me, I would like to remain in my post as Disabilities Manager, after a break and some readjusting of roles and support procedures to reflect what this unfortunate episode has highlighted…

I hope that you will join me in applauding the team and how they have dealt with this issue with dignity and integrity and I hope you all had a Happy Yule and a blessed new year.

xXx Debi xXx

A single word…

A single word…

A single word is all it takes…
Words are funny things. A single word, placed just so, has the power to make or break a relationship, to empower or destroy, to encourage or obliterate.
A single word is enough to say “no”, it’s enough to say “yes.”
A single word is enough to say “I just can’t”, “no more” and “I don’t have anything left in me.”
It’s enough to say “I understand”, “I’m here” and “I won’t let you fall.”
A single word is enough to fill the breach and enough to cause a chasm.

A single word is all it takes…
But sometimes saying that single word is too much to bear and hearing it is grim.
A single word but which to choose? Which to use? Which is best?
The wrong word could cause catastrophe but using no word would be worse.

A single word is all it takes…
Sometimes we use a word and think it’s right but the ears hear another meaning than the one we intend…
Sometimes it’s the right word for us, the only word we can manage and the ears refuse to hear it, caught up in their own hurricane of loquacity.
A single word but one word from many voices, many faces, for only two ears and one mind, is sometimes too much.

A single word but which to choose? Which to listen to? Which to act upon?
A single word but which is right? Which is true? Which is the one?

A single word is all it takes… But which to hear? Which to say?

A single word was all it took… That word was “help”…

Thoughts on how to complain

Sylvia Rose writes about how to bring up issues if your needs are not being met.

Firstly, it may help to see it not as “complaining” but as a somewhat more constructive process. And for that you may need to be clear in advance what you want the outcome of your complaint to be. Often when people complain they’re splurging their anger at something that’s just happened. That may be useful and it may be what you need, but it doesn’t usually help you in getting heard. Venting your frustrations may be better done on Facebook.

Something has happened which you think shouldn’t have. Do you want to give feedback to help make sure that it doesn’t happen again? Do you want to appeal an unfair decision? Do you want some form of apology or compensation? It helps to choose your strategy. And if your brain is inclined to be hazy (mine often is) it’s worth listing beforehand the points you want to cover, and what responses you are asking for.

Knowing your rights helps, be it disability rights, consumer legislation, whatever (see my previous post). This info is fairly easily accessed online, and it’s worth knowing what grounds you stand on before taking on an unsympathetic organisation.

And how you actually communicate can play a large part in how successful you are in getting your points across. It helps to aim to be assertive, not aggressive or aggrieved. If you can, watch your body language, your vocabulary (keep it polite) and your tone of voice. In my experience, nothing spoils your chance of being listened to as much as sounding shrieky and high-pitched. Aim for calm and reasonable. And in the interests of this, listen well to them as well. Acknowledge that they are human too, try to see where they are coming from, as well as not losing sight of your own agenda.

In addition to formal situations of complaint, there are innumerable ones where, as people with disabilities, we have to stand up for our rights to be different, often with people we like and respect, and who runs groups or rituals we want to still be welcome at. This may take more subtlety. Firstly, I find it helps to really deep-down believe in disability rights as important, and that in challenging someone’s “ableism” I’m arguing not just for my own good but for that of everyone who comes after me who could find themself in a similar situation. Often these are times when we can’t change what’s just happened, but we could help avoid it happening again. But only if we make our case in a way that can be heard.

There is a Buddhist saying that all speech should first pass through three gates: “is it true”, “is it necessary” and “is it kind”. This can be a helpful reminder.

Non Violent Communication theory is another way of helping us look at how we ask for things to be changed. It runs roughly along the lines of: name the issue, say how you feel, say what you’d like changed. So maybe “when you tell us all in ritual to stand up, I feel embarrassed because I can’t. Perhaps in future you could take that into account”. Not “you make me feel horrible about myself because I can’t stand for long”.

Starhawk has written in The Empowerment Manual that many problems in groups can be helped by having a group commitment to feedback as a useful process. This means both finding ways of giving it, as kindly as possible, and being open to receiving it too, in the interests of all learning to work better together for our common purpose. People don’t know what disability feels like unless we tell them.
Donald Engstrom-Reese, another Reclaiming teacher, has put together what is my favourite guide to critique. Before you speak, ask yourself: is this feedback given with the other person’s permission? Am I speaking for myself not for unspecified others? Am I saying this at a good time and place, not just when it occurs to me? Am I specific and clear? Am I focusing on something that can actually be changed (because if not, there’s not much point)? Is my intention to be helpful, not just to sound off about how I feel? And am I open to receiving feedback in turn, because if I’m not, it’s a bit hypocritical of me? http://wearewalkinginbeauty.org/Walking_in_Beauty/Sustainable_Critique.html

These things are of course not easy, especially in the heat of the moment. And disability needs are so shockingly ignored that often we are right to be angry about it. But let’s also remember that as Pagans we can see the bigger picture, and hold our intent of moving things forward in the best way for everyone.

Disability legislation made easy

Sylvia Rose explains some key legal points about disabilities rights.

It’s tough having a long term illness, impairment or disability, and even tougher in these times of austerity cuts. But something that cheers me up is knowing that there is legislation that supports our disability rights, in various ways. And knowing about it can really help. In theory at least, the law is on our side.

First and most important is the Human Rights Act 1998. Under this, disability is a “protected characteristic”, which makes it illegal to discriminate against anyone because of their disability. This is fundamental legislation that underpins our rights, and can come in handy in all sorts of circumstances.

Next comes the Equality Act 2010, which incorporated all the provisions of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.  Amongst other things, it makes it illegal for providers of goods and services to give a lesser service to someone because of their disability, unless they have good reason. So, anyone with a “substantial and enduring disability” can make a reasonable request for a service provision to be varied in order to meet their specific needs, and if the provider refuses and is challenged, it is up to them to then justify why their refusal is reasonable. So, if you have mobility difficulties and need to borrow a wheelchair to get round a large supermarket, that might be a reasonable request. If you’re asking for the provision of one to get around a public park, they might say, bring your own.
Incidentally, provision of goods and services can also apply to Pagan events, and there doesn’t need to be money involved. Anyone who is running a Pagan event or ritual that is open to the public is responsible under this and other legislation, and can potentially be sued. (Many Pagans would be shocked to know this).
This Act also puts a duty on local authorities to promote the rights of people with disabilities.

Then there’s the Care Act 2014, which gives adults the right to an assessment of their care needs by their local authority – i.e. by adult social care social workers. If they are found to have “eligible needs” due to either a physical or a mental condition, a care plan must be drawn up of how these needs will be met. This can include the provision of services direct to the person, or direct payments to them for them to arrange and pay for these services themselves.
If the person has a carer, that carer is also entitled to an assessment of their own needs for support.

Finally, if a person with disabilities has children, and due to their disability they struggle to care for them, then under section 17 of the Children’s Act 1989 those children could be deemed “children in need” and the local authority children’s services department would have a duty to provide support and help, to ensure those children are not disadvantaged compared to other children. This could be financial help, respite care, or funding of childminding or whatever would help. (This does not mean that the person would be assessed as an inadequate parent.)

And of course there’s lots more: these are just the headline Acts. Some is decided by case law or government guidance; some is down to what the local authority can actually afford when it balances these requirements against all the other demands on it. But I think it’s good to know what the rules are.
As I write this, I can hear people saying, yes that’s all very well, but I couldn’t afford a lawyer, or don’t have the energy, to challenge breaches of it. Well, there are several answers to that, as well as that you have my great sympathy. One is that there are various disability organisations that can advise you, and sometimes even pursue a case on your behalf. These tend to be related to the specific illness or disability in question. Another is that, in these times of legal aid cutbacks courts or tribunals are increasingly sympathetic to people conducting their own cases without legal help – you’d just need to have done some basic research first, and maybe bring a friend along for support.
And lastly, there is the power of threat. It works, but it helps knowing your rights first. Try suggesting that you will launch a formal complaint to their organisation, or write to your MP, or even sue. Then drop in exactly which Act you are planning to sue them under. It’s remarkable how it can focus people’s minds. My favourite helpfully non-confrontational phrase is “I wouldn’t want to have to resort to legislation, but….”.  Which is a polite way of reminding others that these laws exist.

You’re not being difficult or demanding. You didn’t choose to have these extra needs.These laws are a fundamental part of living in a civilised society, and are there to be used.

World Mental Health Day and further musings.

So, today is World Mental Health Day and we were going to make a HUGE deal out of it but, as is typical, we all seem to be in low function mode right now. It’s a bit of a daft time of year for this sort of thing really… Most people who suffer with mental health conditions in this country notice a marked difference in their mood when the days start to darken… So the chances of us being productive at this time of year are much slimmer than in, say, May or June…

You may have noticed that we’ve been a bit quieter and if you were with us last year, you’ll probably have noticed it then too… The team is made up of disabled people and so, we made the decision very early on that we would not try to fight this and would, instead, go with the flow. Therefore, we’re going into hibernation mode!

Don’t worry! We’re not completely gone, we’re just not going to be working much until the Spring comes. We’re still here if you need us and we hope that you can join in our conversations in the support group and will still feel confident in coming to us if you need our support but there will be slow progress in our usual work for the next few months.

We hope to see you at our festival in a few weeks though, as that is definitely still going on!

On a more personal note, you may have noticed that i’m being quieter than usual… Some of you may have even noticed why! This time of year always has a bizarre effect on me… I tend to be a little more… Difficult, let’s say difficult, for the sake of being polite… I’m a little more difficult at this time of year and so i try to take myself out of situations where i may cause offence or upset… Well… That is… I do when i start noticing that i’m doing it… Which is usually after i’ve caused a bit of trouble… And it seems i’ve come to this point now! So, with this in mind, i’ll see you on the other side of this… Whatever it is… And i sincerely hope i see none of you during it! 😉

Stay safe, be blessed and much love!

xXx Debi xXx

Finding new ways to be accessible

Nimue Brown writes about new ideas from the Pagan Federation Disabilities team

The online disabilities events were set up more than a year ago to provide a way for people who can’t get to events to get some of the benefits those spaces offer. There are lots of reasons that public events aren’t viable for many Pagans – access is not just an issue at the venue, but it’s an issue for getting to the venue. For some people, pain and fatigue make events too draining to contemplate. For people with anxiety issues, public gatherings can be just too much, and for folk who are not neuro-typical, big, busy, noisy spaces can be impossible. The list goes on. Sometimes it isn’t enough to adapt existing spaces to accommodate needs. Sometimes you have to build a whole new space.

Poverty is also a real barrier to attending events, and it is an appalling truth that disability is very likely to put you in poverty.

So, online events became a thing, with speakers, and subtitles and free access, and it’s been good. We’ve just discovered a way to take this forward and include more people in the festivals.

Not everyone can record videos. There are all kinds of reasons that might stop a person talking to a camera for five to ten minutes. We’re going to find readers to present pieces for people who, for whatever reason, can’t make their own video. There will be a round of this for the Samhain festival, and then we really want to open things out for midwinter.

Midwinter will be a bardic gathering this year, and we’re inviting people to submit poetry, short stories and songs. If you aren’t able to read or perform yourself, then you can send things in and we’ll find someone to do it for you. Please get in early so that we have time to find readers and film them. I’m also offering to put a poem to music for the event – it will need to come in by early December, and I can probably only do one, so if there are a few I will go with whatever I think I have the best shot at making work.

Email disabilities.web@paganfederation.co.uk if you’ve a poem that might be set, or anything you want read, or let me know if you’ve any videos you’d like to share. we’re looking for Pagan content, first and foremost. Seasonal is nice, but not essential, and if you want to use your bardic skills to raise a disabilities issue – that’s always welcome.