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/

 

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.

 

Being a Disabled Pagan by Sylvia Rose.

Post by Sylvia Rose who is our District Disabilities Liaison for Devon, Cornwall, and the Isles

What’s it like to be a disabled Pagan?
In some ways, much like being an able-bodied one; in other ways it can be different. Obviously there can be physical limitations: you can’t get to rituals because you can’t walk that far, manage being cold for that long, or maybe can’t even get out of bed that day. More insidious are the internal differences. If you’re too spaced out for your brain to focus, even dragging yourself physically to a ritual wouldn’t mean that in your mind you were able to meaningfully participate.

So, you need to be kind to yourself. Maybe you didn’t even notice the last full moon. You didn’t mark the last seasonal festival. That doesn’t make you a worse Pagan: it makes you someone with a lot extra to be dealing with too. Over the last couple of years, as my health has become much worse, the usual seasonal celebrations have become painful for me. Not just the getting out of bed, but that that’s so much not where I’m personally at. Celebrating the burgeoning promise of spring when life feels more a matter of surviving than of looking forward? Dancing (or not, in my case) the maypole when rampant sexuality is the very last thing on my mind? I’ll opt out and stay in bed. And that’s ok. If where I’m at is somewhere very different, I have to make the best of what I actually can connect with. Birds nesting, swallows returning, flowers blooming, sunset lengthening and now shortening again, these are all the ways in which, intermittently, I stay in touch with where we are in the year, and with celebrating its pleasures. Sometimes that’s enough: it’s just different. I’ve certainly spent a lot more time watching the sparrows on the bird feeder than I ever did before when I was working.

And sometimes it gets harder to have faith. While everyone else is happily trilling how the Gods send you what you need/ask for/manifest from your own subconscious, it starts to look like by being so ill/disabled/debilitated, you’ve not being doing your Paganism quite right. Which is of course completely not true. Who knows why illness comes, but it’s certainly not sent by the Gods because of anything we’ve done or not done. Yes, you can learn things from debility: you can learn things from any adversity. It doesn’t mean that others are entitled to project their own views of the meaning of illness onto you, Pagan or otherwise. And if you yourself feel further from the Gods, uncertain of what you truly believe, that’s ok too. Don’t ever blame yourself, just go with it and see what might still make sense or give you a feeling of real connection to the greater world. (See sparrows above).

Don’t ever feel embarrassed to ask for healing, as if you might seem greedy for wanting more than your fair share of a ritual’s energy. If others are blessed with being able bodied, why shouldn’t they do something to help those who are less privileged? I’m sure that if the situation were reversed, you’d do the same. And in any case, working with healing energies benefits everyone, not just the intended recipient.

But you might want to spend some time thinking about what healing would actually look like for you. Able bodied people tend to assume that everyone wants to be like them, therefore healing is just about restoring someone to “normal” functioning. Which might be true for you too. But it might be something more complex, something deeper. Most people with a long term health condition, I think, would say that their illness or debility has gone towards making them who they are now. And if you don’t regret who you are, can you regret what it was that made you that way? So true healing might be in living better with your current reality, making your peace with how things are, having more options or less pain. Or maybe not. That’s the great thing about being a Pagan: no-one else can tell you what’s right for you. This Lammastide, the question I’m working with is from Starhawk’s The Spiral Dance: “what do you hope to harvest?”

And be creative. Do things intuitively, not by the book. If you can’t do things standing up, can you do them lying down? There are some strands of Pagan practice that use a lot of external props – the right colour candles and flowers, the right blend of incense, facing the right direction etc. In my view (others may disagree) externalities are useful in as much as they help us connect with something deeper, something beyond. But the true magic is going on within your own head, out of your own will and intent. So lie down and do it all as a trance journey, and you can have whatever colour candles you want, without having to do shopping first. Yes, it’s nice to work energy with other people there, or standing at your altar, but if you can’t, it still works from your sofa instead.

Sometimes illness feels to me like living in a bubble that’s floating gradually away from the quotidian world, to a place where my life is just so different from the usual day to day living that others can’t really follow me there. Which is true. So why would we expect able-bodied Paganism to reach out to our other place? We need to find our own disabled Paganism that works for us, individually, however we are. Which may be less about being connected with the cycles of the sun and moon, which can seem a bit distant, and more with our own immediate energy needs, and systems of self healing.

Some of these can be quite formal, such as reiki or chakra work, and some take more concentration than I can usually summon up. Some can be physical movements, which are useful when your body is working better than your brain. And sometimes I just don’t feel motivated, so I’m kind to myself and don’t. But here’s my favourite self-healing-while-lying-completely-still:

Take yourself into a trance state, whatever way works for you. Then see yourself entering a healing temple. Explore the edges, the quarters: what do you find there? Are there more things you’d like to add? Stand before the altar. What’s on it? Are there candles to be lit, incense to burn, water to purify yourself with? Is this temple sacred to a particular deity? (I usually work with Brigid, but there are many healing Gods). Invoke them, feel their presence. Maybe dance a bit, sing to them. (When you can’t dance in mundane life, dancing in a trance journey comes a close second). Are there other allies you’d like to be there to? Invite them. Then when you’re ready, go to a comfortable couch in the centre of the temple, lie down, and just open yourself to healing. Let energy, light, strength, whatever you need, surround you and flow into you. Luxuriate in it. Drink it in for as long as you wish, and then some more too. Then when you’re full, stand up, say your thanks and goodbyes and return slowly to the mundane world.
This temple is now yours.

It will be there for you whenever you need it and for whatever you need it for.

You deserve it.

Sylvia Rose – District Disabilities Liaison for Devon, Cornwall & the Isles.

 

Health Information Week

As a Staffordshire library assistant I’m very aware of the various campaigns run throughout the year to provide services for the public; your local library can provide a wealth of information and services for all walks of life from Baby Bounce and Rhyme sessions to access to Ancestry and Genealogy websites and training in the use of computers.

The beginning of July sees Health Information week, which the NHS explains as:

“Health Information Week is a multi-sector campaign to promote the good quality health resources that are available to the public. This campaign aims to encourage partnership working across sectors and benefit all staff and the public by raising awareness of the resources that are available to them.”

http://kfh.libraryservices.nhs.uk/patient-and-public-information/health-information-week/

But basically it’s about promoting good health practice and communication so that you know who to contact and who/how to get in touch.

Here in Staffordshire for example, this includes stalls and displays on a wide variety of health themes from Mental health and the availability of books on prescription* through to arthritis support and blood pressure testing, the  NHS site suggests that Health information week should help promote the following

Reduce the number of people who smoke
•Reduce obesity / increase exercise
•Support sensible drinking
•Improve sexual health
•Improve mental health and wellbeing
•Tackle health inequalities

Throughout the UK libraries will be running similar projects so it’s always worth popping in and having a word if you do need information.

*https://www.staffordshire.gov.uk/leisure/librariesnew/whatsavailable/Reading/Reading-for-Health/Reading-for-Health.aspx

Carl Johnson – District Disabilities Liaison for Mid-West & Wales.

National Arthritis Week with Catherine

Catherine Manning, our Disabilities Liaison for London, talks about National Arthritis Week.

If you weren’t aware this week is National Arthritis Week. I’ve had arthritis since I was 12 years old. I have 3 forms of arthritis and a number of other conditions thrown into the mix just to make life a little more interesting and challenging.

Arthritis is not just an old persons disease. It affects any age at any time. If I had £1 for every time someone has said “oh you’re very young to have that ” I’d be a rich woman. Another misconception is that it only affects joints. Rheumatoid Arthritis can and does affect joints, lungs, lining of the heart,connective tissue, eyes . I have RA in all joints and nodules in my lungs caused by inflammation.

Living with arthritis affects every part of my life from waking to going to sleep at night. It causes pain, swollen joints, extreme fatigue then you add the side effects of the medication into the mix…..nausea, sickness, thinning bones, weight gain. We take medication to counteract the side effects of the medication!

My life is made up of countless hospital appointments, physio and blood tests. My hubby helps with my day to day care. ….washing, dressing, cooking, cleaning. He’s an amazing gentleman but our relationship changes when he became my Carer instead of my lover. I know he’s worried and frustrated too and there’s not enough support for carers out there. Our wedding vows “in sickness and in health” are so true.

The hardest thing is to watch my 8 year old struggling and be in pain. He’s going through tests as it’s strongly suspected that he has Juvenile Arthritis. I can relate to everything he is feeling from worry to frustration to anger.

I had a wonderful job in the city but 2 years ago my contract was terminated because I couldn’t sustain my role due to pain, fatigue and hospital appointments. If I do something one day like taking the kids to school i then spend the rest of the day recovering.

Things that you take for granted, I struggle with such as holding a pen to write, cutting up my dinner, holding a cup of tea, brushing my hair, getting dressed. The list is endless but I won’t give up, arthritis will not win.

My name is Catherine and I have arthritis, arthritis doesn’t have me.

#nationalarthritisweek #nras #arthritisresearchuk

Catherine – District Disabilities Liaison for London

So, is your moot disability-friendly?

So, is your moot disability-friendly?

And no, I’m not talking about wheelchair access. Well, that’s a part of it, but there’s so much more. And no, we can’t always get it right, especially with limited choices of venue. But that shouldn’t stop us from trying. In a lot of ways, it’s often not so much about actual arrangements as about having an attitude of concern and inclusiveness.

Firstly, are there physical barriers to people attending? People with disabilities have, obviously, very differing needs and conditions, so there’s no “one size fits all”. There are people in wheelchairs who can do slopes but not steps, and people with balance difficulties who can do steps but not slopes. Is there Blue Badge parking nearby (this includes not only designated bays but also permission to park on double yellow lines so long as this does not cause an obstruction)? Are the chairs adequately comfortable for someone who might have difficulty sitting upright for too long? Are the lighting and acoustics good? If the answer to any of these questions is no, is there anything that can be done to help? And is all this information – or at least the most important bits – available online somewhere?

Then there may be emotional or cognitive barriers, which are often the more difficult ones to spot. If a new person has social phobias or anxieties, would they feel encouraged to ask for support such as meeting someone from the moot one-to-one first, before coming along to the moot itself? If they have particular needs, is there a space where they can ask for what they need? Is the moot tolerant of differences such as autism or learning disability? Are there assumptions that everyone is literate? If someone is too shy to speak out in a moot, could there be a go-round at the end specifically for people who haven’t spoken to have their say? Or use a talking stick? And not everyone likes to be hugged: many people, for reasons ranging from neurodiversity to a past history of child sexual abuse really don’t like to be touched – how would you make space for it to be ok for them to say so?

Disability, of whatever kind, has a tendency to restrict people’s ability to work, and therefore to be financially resilient. Many disabled people either can’t drive or can’t afford to run a car. Is your venue on a bus route, and if so, does the moot finish before the last bus runs? Would it help if someone offered them a lift home? If you’re in a pub, is there an expectation that everyone buys their own drink?

Part of the problem, it seems to me, is that humans, by design, think in categories. There’s normal and there’s not-normal. When someone is a wheelchair user, it’s fairly obvious what their restrictions might include. But when disabilities are invisible, the onus gets put on the person themself to explain their needs, which is easier done in an atmosphere of welcomingness, of inclusiveness, of sensitivity to difference and in individual needs.

I’m aware that this piece is really only a quick skim through these issues. If you can think of helpful suggestions that I’ve missed, please add them in the comments below, and I’ll see if I can collate them for a future piece.

Sylvia Rose
District Disabilities Liaison for Devon, Cornwall and Isles.