Advocacy

By Sylvia Rose

A young man is picked up by the police near Avebury. They are concerned that he is distressed and acting strangely. He talks somewhat incoherently of the summer solstice, of speaking with the Gods, of swords and magic. They have concerns that he might be psychotic, and pass him over to the local mental health team. A mental health assessment wonders whether he should be detained under the Mental Health Act.

However, he manages to phone his local PF District Manager. She confirms to the mental health team that he is indeed a member of the local Pagan community, amongst whom talking with the Gods is perfectly normal. And yes, there has just been a solstice ritual at the stones. Although the young man remains distressed and clearly in need of help, he is no longer treated as if he were mad.

The power of advocacy.

A care worker in a residential home is aware that one of the elderly people there is Pagan and would like to be involved with local Pagan activities, but management do not consider this an issue that they need to worry about. What can the worker do to support that person’s rights?

A woman with ongoing mental health needs, severe enough that she needs an enabler with her when she goes out, is having her care needs reviewed. There is a suggestion that instead of her employing her own enablers under a direct payments scheme, the health trust would prefer to outsource this care to a commissioned service, giving her little choice over who accompanies her. An advocate from the PF Disabilities Team is able to confirm that she is a valued member of the local Pagan community and regularly attends moots and rituals. (The note-taker for the meeting interrupts here to ask how “moot” is spelled.)

The advocate explains that in Pagan ritual there are no spectators, no congregation. Everyone who attends stands in circle, and everyone’s energy influences that of the whole group. Also rituals can go on very late, and there’s no way of guaranteeing when it (and subsequent feasting) will finish. Therefore it is crucial both for this young woman and for the other rituallers that she herself is able to choose who comes with her to ritual and to be sure that they are flexible in terms of time, fitting in, and possible exposure to adverse weather conditions and muddy walks. It also helps everyone if it can be the same person each time.

They added that Paganism as a spiritual belief system helps people to make sense of their lives and provides support when people are struggling. It therefore clearly meets the Section 117 aftercare criterion for people who have been treated for mental health needs, of helping to reduce the risk of a deterioration of their condition.

We shouldn’t need to be still arguing that Paganism and its various components are valid religious paths. But sometimes we are. Sometimes people need support to risk speaking up for themselves about being Pagan, for fear of prejudice or discrimination. Sometimes they need someone else to explain exactly what it means and what it entails.
And that’s where a representative of the PF has most power: in being able not just to back up but to also legitimate what someone is saying. To confirm that this is indeed a recognised spiritual path. And to remind professionals – tactfully – that under the Human Rights Act people have a right to practice the religion of their choice, and Paganism counts as one of those choices.

And that to us, our Gods are real, not just hallucinations.

 

Sylvia Rose

PF South West Disability Liaison

Watering and feeding

By Lisa

Hello to those of you I didn’t send off to sleep in the last blog! For this blog and the next, I’m going to cover the basics of how to keep your garden ticking over and growing well as we head into Summer. This means watering, feeding and the eternal battle against weeds, pests and diseases.

Gardening is hard enough work when you’re at full health, so for those of us who struggle, even when we have good days and bad, it can seem like a total nightmare. Watering cans and bags of compost weigh a tonne, then you’re fighting with the hosepipe and you’ve no idea if you’ve got the right feed for your plants. With a bit of careful planning, though you can take the sting out of it. I’m going to go more into planning your garden to suit you and your current needs in my Winter blog, but please do get in touch if you need any help in the meantime.

The condition of your soil is the key to good strong plants, and how healthy your soil is depends on the amount of organic matter it contains. Compost, leaf mould and well rotted manure all act to retain moisture, provide key nutrients, and attract beneficial microflora and fauna. Even if you can’t dig the ground over, adding a mulch of organic matter in Spring (and Autumn if you can manage it) will help to condition your soil over time, and will help to solve any problems you may be having.

Sandy soil is the driest and most nutritionally poor. Adding organic matter will act like a sponge, retaining water and preventing vital nutrients washing away. More nutrients are released as all those fantastic microplants and beasties break it down.

Clay soil sets like a brick in Summer and is a bog in winter. It is also, however nutritionally rich. Again by adding a compost mulch, you will improve the soil structure thanks to the tunneling actions of earthworms and other burrowing creatures that feed on it. This improves your drainage and stops the clay from being one solid mass in the Summer.

Organic matter will get to work quicker if dug in, but again, even a surface mulch will bring benefits to any soil over time.

Watering Methods

I’m moving my veggie patch from the shady back garden into the baking sunshine of the front. Watering is going to be a big issue – the front is hot and the soil is drier and gravelly; there are no outdoor taps anywhere near, and it’s too big an area to heave my watering can up & down enough to water it properly. I also try to keep my time in the front to a minimum when I feel anti-social, or I just don’t get the time.

 

My idea, therefore is to run a seeper hose from the back garden right down into the front. I can water everywhere at once by connecting up my hose in the back, leave it on for half an hour, maybe an hour or so, and hey presto, happy veggies, happy Lisa!

As you can see here, I’ve dug down about 2 feet and enriched the top soil with compost before returning it. The seeper hose is just laid on the surface, and I’ll just cover it in a thin layer of soil. I made my seeper hose, but you can buy professional ones if you want to, and want less hassle. I’ve blocked the end off an old hose offcut, added a connector at the end by the tap, and poked quite large holes along the length. Getting an even flow was a matter of trial and error, but it’s been tested & seems to be working great.

If you are growing in containers, you can buy irrigation kits, or buy multi-connectors and run old hose offcuts into the pots to achieve the same easy watering system.

Where you can, I’d recommend having a water butt installed to run your seeper hose or to water from. It’s great for the environment, and, depending on where you live, the pH balance of tap water can be wrong for plants such as rhododendron, azalea and pieris, which need a higher pH level. You can also add nutrients to the butt, such as comfrey or nettles, so you’re giving your garden an extra boost every time you water. I couldn’t have a water butt in the front because the drainpipe is right next to the path.

If you grow in pots, you can poke holes in plastic drinks bottles and sink them in next to your plants, just topping them up as you need to, and you can also try soil additives when you are planting up.

Especially for containers and baskets, which dry out pretty quickly, soil additives can hold a large volume of water and slowly release it back into the soil. You can buy special water-retaining compost or a bag of pellets that you add into your own compost. You can also try using old soaked cardboard, newspaper or even a fully drenched (unused!) nappy at the bottom of the pot. Remember a layer of gravel or broken crocks at the very bottom though, to aid drainage and stop the drainage hole getting clogged.

To help keep in more of that precious moisture, a mulch is a must on the ground and in pots. You can add a layer of compost, bark, coir, gravel, ornamental glass chips etc that act as a blanket. It slows down how fast the soil dries, retains warmth in cold spells, hampers weeds from forming, discourages slug and snail activity.

If your ground is always damp, there isn’t much else you can do outside of looking at land drainage. You could always try a reasonably high raised bed (making sure the base is treated against rot) or large terracotta pots (terracotta holds a lot of moisture). There are many, many beautiful plants that will thrive in this environment, however, so you could roll with the punches and try to suit your space instead of forcing it to suit you.

Composting and Feeding

I’ve gone on at great lengths about compost, but haven’t talked about sourcing it. The best way, if you have room, is to make your own. It costs nothing, it’s recycling at it’s best, it will feed your plants a panacea of nutrients (we’ll get to specifics later) and it will boost your quota of beetles, worms, spiders and all those other lovely little creepy crawlies that work their magic keeping your soil in good condition and preying on pests.

For composting, you’ll need a bin (I have an old wheelie bin with the bottom cut off so the worms can get in). Just throw hedge clippings, leaves, grass cuttings (add shredded newspaper with this) vegetable peelings (not onion), teabags, eggshells, banana skins in there. Once it’s full, it will need a year or two to fully rot down before you add it to your garden. It will also need turning a few times (emptying, mixing up & putting back), which is a heavy job. You can buy worm bins on a frame that you can spin by turning a wheel if that suits you better. It’s ready when it looks and feels like soil and carries a sweet smell. This is a long process, so if you have room, you can have more than one bin on the go for a more consistent supply.

If you have pesky cats like mine, it may be a good idea to leave out the larger vegetable matter as you’ll get small furry mouse presents delivered.

Leaf mould is another fantastic soil conditioner. Sweep up all those Autumn leaves, put them in a bin bag and forget about them until they’ve crumbled down. Then just use them like you would compost.

If you’re buying in compost, please buy peat-free. Peat is a carbon sink, and removing and drying it releases CO2 back into the atmosphere. There are many great alternatives available.

Bought compost has the advantage of a pretty universal nutritional level, whereas your own will depend on what it’s made from. Some plants need an extra boost with some fertilizer.

Nutrients

The three main nutrients plants need are Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K). I’ve included their elemental symbol because fertilisers have an N:P:K rating on them, to help you decide what you need to get the most out of your plants.

Nitrogen contributes to healthy growth of leaves, phosphorus contributes to root growth, and potassium encourages flowers and fruits. All fertilisers carry a number such as 5:5:8 – this is the NPK rating, and in this example, tells us that the K (Potassium) level is higher, so this will help boost flowering.

Compost carries a pretty level N:P:K rating, but you can tailor it with additives. I very often use Fish, Blood and Bone, just sprinkled around my plants, this is high in phosphates and helps boost their root growth. Tomato feed will be high in potassium to boost flower and fruit set, and this works for any flowering plant. Banana skins in the compost can give an extra potassium boost for free.

If you garden in containers, you must feed regularly, as the potting mix will have run low on nutrients after about 6 months. Ideally, you need to re-pot in fresh compost, but liquid feeds and slow release pellets are easier to use.

There is also an ancient technique called ‘Hugelkulture’ where you bury logs under your plants. They gently rot down and feed your plants. This could be handy if you have recently had any tree work and no way to dispose of the cuttings. I have some reservations about this encouraging fungal growth, but it’s been around a lot longer than I have!

Well watered, well fed plants will grow strong, and will be better able to fight off weeds, pests and diseases, but I’ll go into how best to deal with these next time.

I hope this has helped and been informative, as always, let me know if you need any advice, or have any feedback. Blessings and happy gardening!

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.
https://www.facebook.com/DramaticDebi/videos/681926315292091/

One of my first interactions with the Pagan Federation Disabilities Team was to submit a poem to the DPVP.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9oTlIA1XqV0

 

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.

http://www.napowrimo.net/

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!

 

Jenny
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

Future plans from the Disabilities Team!

The festivals began as a way to reach out to the disabled within the community but it went so much further than that by reaching out to not only the disabled but carers, families, people with strict working hours so that anyone, even those who find it easy to attend regular festivals, wanted to be a part of what we created. This far exceeded our expectations.

We wanted to bring a small part of the community to those who felt like they were on the inside looking out at the world and what happened was, rather than bringing you outside or bringing the outside in, we just broke down those walls and now everyone is together and a part of it… Whatever it is! Even we still don’t know!

We can’t tell you all of our plans for the future as we don’t want to get your hopes up for things that may not be possible BUT we can confirm that a retreat is in the discussion stages, as are plans to fill the spaces between our quarterly festivals.

We’re looking into opening our own team shop to bring you some amazing work from our resident artist, Carl, and Batty Nan and there are big plans for other resources that we hope will engage you, inspire you and energise you all!

Part of this, is to move the Online Festivals on to the main Pagan Federation page and to expand them so we hope you will join us there and continue to support us in our work! 🙂

https://www.facebook.com/paganfederation/

Regards and Blessings

The PF Disabilities Team

 

Resilience

by Becky Dowley

If, like me, you have been nurturing seedlings in a greenhouse or on a windowsill throughout Imbolc and Beltane, you will be glad when midsummer is upon us. Then you can stand back and let your seedlings stand on their own. You will have got to know their strengths and weaknesses and their individuality, having provided them with soil, water and warmth. There comes a day when they have to be strong enough and resilient enough to be planted out and left to grow and develop.

We humans are the same. If we are lucky enough to be nurtured in supportive surroundings we too can be encouraged into the world to grow and develop. If we have a disability or poor health, we may have extra needs. We may have to have someone there to assist us. In the case of autism, which I have, we might prefer to do things alone and not know when we need help.
What we must do is develop resilience. Resilience grows out of experience from knowing that we can cope, especially if we are supported.

Just as when our seedlings are tossed about by the wind and rain, sometimes we can feel as if we are being battered, bent and shaken by life. This can seem relentless and never ending. Our tolerance, strength and courage can be tested beyond limits. We might sometimes question “why me?” or “why now?” and feel as if we cannot go on. We might question where difficult events or things that test us fit into the greater plan. Disability and illness can be isolating and it is important that we surround ourselves by people who can encourage and support us.

As I have been nurturing my seedlings this Spring I have been grieving the loss of my younger brother. Nearly two years my junior he was funny, handsome, clever and a family man. He is interwoven with my life from when I can remember him being in his pram, from when he was a tiny little boy with big brown eyes and a coat that was too big for him. He died in February after a brave fight. I was with him when he died as the warm sun flooded in the window and I spoke gentle words in his ear to comfort him on his way. His wife and I held his hands and his friends and family gathered to support him as he set off on his last journey.

My resilience was tested. I had lost my mum to the same illness four years previously. I had lost my baby daughter, my father. Why them? I felt so alone and with my mum, my dad and my brother gone I felt bereft and the only one left.

My autism makes it hard for me to express my emotions and during this spring there have been times when I have been overwhelmed by my sadness, my helplessness and my anger. It’s been during these occasions when I have felt so vulnerable, weak and low. People with autism are mistakenly assumed to have no emotions, but the fact is that research has shown that we have very deep emotions that we find hard to share. Friends and family have supported me. They have sometimes just sat next to me as I cry or walked with me as I speak of him. Quiet reminders to listen to the birdsong, to walk bare foot in the wet grass. To write poetry with my niece. Gifts of smiling roses and frames to put photographs of my brother in. The gift of a new god child due in autumn, conceived as my brother died.

I have had reminders to come back to my beliefs. Just as the tiny seedlings need support towards being resilient, so do us human beings. I have been reminded to come back to what I know is certain. To feel the heat of the sun on my face, to pick and eat my allotment vegetables and admire the deep pink clematis. To remember that everything is interconnected and everything is part of the wheel of life. Just as winter ravages, spring renews and summer replenishes.

As spring has worn on and the black cloak of grief has lifted a little I can see that I am not alone and that I have my precious family, my sister in law, my niece and nephew and their strength inspires me. I am surrounded by love and positivity. The cycle of life and the wheel of the year turn and bring wonder and joy.

As I write this I am travelling by train to see my brothers loving, resilient family. This weekend we will scatter his ashes together. The sun is pouring in the window as I write, across the page and across my face. I know he is near.

This spring has taught me what it is to be resilient. When I return home to Cornwall I will walk barefoot across the wet grass to tend my sturdy seedlings and think of my beautiful brother with a smile. My autism has meant that a lot of my journey through grief has seemed to be alone but woven around me have been love, support and this wondrous world we live in giving me the strength to look forward to the future.

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.

 

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.

 

Are You Having Any Fun?

Morning folks.

 
I was just going through my memories here on Facebook and came across something that was said by Carl Johnson, Disabilities Liaison for the Mid-West & Wales. I thought I’d share it…
 
“I think people make this awful mistake of thinking they have to grow up and be adult. I know how crushing depression and illness can be. Which is why I think we all need to grab the fun silly bits whenever we can.”
 
I couldn’t agree more with this. Many years ago I worked with various military charities, raising money, awareness and morale within the veteran and military community and I became good friends with a man named William. He gave me some advice that has stuck with me for many, many years and I’d like to share it with you now.
Basically; have a little wiggle! Now, I know many of us have physical issues that may prevent a decent jiggle but even if only a mental wiggle is had, I feel this counts. Stick on a song, any song! A song that makes it impossible for you to sit still! A song that makes you want to dance and shake that bootay! Set it as your alarm in the morning and wake up to a wiggle! Even if you just wiggle a finger! Find something you can wiggle or belt out to and start the morning on a high of giggles!
Carl is right; people take life far too seriously and who does that more than us? The ones whose lives are serious by necessity, the ones who are too busy counting our pain medication, concentrating on physio, ignoring the puddles instead of jumping in them because putting one foot in front of the other without crying out in pain is far more important. But we need fun too! We need to stop and smell the roses, jump in the puddles, smile at the rainbows. We need that more than most because if we don’t take that time, the weight of reality can crush us.So, even if you’re like me and no good at self care… Even if you’re riddled with anxiety or crippled by pain… Do yourself this favour, this kindness; have a little wiggle!If you do decide that you can do this, I’d love to hear the songs you find irresistible! Please share them with me so I can giggle along with you!

Here are some of my favourites…


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UB_RFcpRXoE
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KUqo31PUpgohttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HOou5i3IVsU