Posts Tagged Pagan Federation

Sharing, Service and Gratitude

I want to say that this week has already been busy, but that’s not quite true. Saturday was busy. I spent the day at Witchfest Midlands, and from the moment I stepped out of my car, I was deluged with wonderful hugs, greetings, chat and updates from friends near and far (often known better via virtual ‘connection’ here!).

I gave a talk. It was… intense. Aware that I was surrounded by some very Big Name Pagans (all of whom I know and have spent crazy times with!), nonetheless I wanted to really give my all to those people who chose to sit and listen to me for an hour.

There was quite a few of them. Several dozen, in fact. As I talked, I noticed latecomers finding seats, and even sitting on the stairs in the little lecture theatre.

At the end, there was a deluge of lovely folks wanting to chat, buy books, share stories, get hugs… and say Thank you. I might’ve just made them cry, but I spoke truth, and I think most everyone heard.

I did intend to nip home and then return for the evening music, but by the time I was halfway to my hilltop, I was flagging. Loud music and song got me home, food had been prepared previously, and I fell over.

The day after had been set aside for Rest – but it turns out that wasn’t enough. Even today (Tuesday), I’ve been napping, because I’m still not quite recovered yet.

A lot of thinking has been going on, however. Such events always throw up their own wisdom, whether from other people’s talks or just chit-chat with like-minded folks. This time, there was so much synchronicity with recent lines of thought in my head… well, let’s say that it’s not so much Guidance from the Gods as a Good Kick in the Butt from Them.

I’ve started writing down ideas on what that’s all about offline, but don’t worry – it’ll be shared soon.

What I wanted to write about today was the more clear-cut synchronicity. The energy exchange of What I Do in very real form.

I gave my talk, yes. I spoke my truth, gave my all. Those who’ve seen me know that I don’t tend to hold back (sorry/not sorry). But I do not want, nor do I feel able to give half-measures. That’s always been my way. It has got me in trouble in the past (not often, and usually with folks who want to pick an argument!), but more often than not, it strikes chords with people and is both useful and needed.

I give hugs, gladly, and receive them just the same. I found glitter all over my cheek from a heartfelt kiss from a truly lovely lady, she of the fabulous crystal hairstick and wooly hair-falls!

I caught up with the amazing Cristina from Spirit of Artemisia, who provided some of her truly magical potions.

Myself and some creativity-loving friends made a small Yarn Corner in the restaurant, and shared much laughter.

I received the usual Very Squeezy Hugs and care from the Dagda, security without peer at most Pagan events these days!

I saw those I hadn’t met in person for years. I felt smiles light up as greetings were made, shy introductions and dirty jokes.

I sat quietly, observing more of this going on around, feeling the whirl of this, my community, dressed in its finery and free as it could ever be.

The space was held, across the rooms we used but in the little ritual space of the talks, the social bubbles of stalls and tea-tables, as social fears fell away. No matter how nervous you might be to join this gaggle of apparently crazy people, you quickly learned that It Is OK. You are safe here.

The tendrils of connection from that powerful day are still reaching out, even now. Folk have returned home, but inevitably reacquainted with new friends across the usual social media portals. I may be exhausted, but I’m smiling at every new picture and anecdote, and already have next year’s event in my 2020 calendar (a year which very much seems like The Future!).

It’s no secret that on Saturday morning, I was nervous too. The anxiety in me tried to stop me from taking those steps to get to the event, but I was determined, and I’m so glad that I did. I heard the same from others, too.

Never more have such loving communities been needed in this world, right here and right now. By which I mean as the news media is full of negativity and division, we have friends who selflessly help each other up, cheer us on and send support as needed. I always help if I can; and if I can’t, I always pass details on of others who are more qualified. Nobody is left out in the cold (I’ve been there, and it’s not fun).

The Children of Artemis work harder than most to make their events the best they can be. The Pagan Federation gladly offers support for all Pagans (not just members), and I see their Community Support Teams are really stepping up lately (particularly for Disabled and LBTQIA Pagans). The Police Pagan Association is working hard to have our voices heard, as are the Pagan & Heathen Symposium and personal, local representatives on various Multifaith Groups and Interfaith Councils.

I’ve had many volunteer and working titles over the years, but ultimately am just one person. I support those who have supported me, unreservedly and gladly. I’ve seen those who are ‘in it for themselves’ come and go. Those who give generously find themselves supported by those who see them and vote with their feet – hence this weekend’s event selling out well before the day itself!

Most of you know that I do this for a living. I have to do as much as I can, as I’m supported by this community; but also, everyone knows that I face my own challenges and need time for those as well.

So when I receive anything that helps. I’m often brought to tears by the generosity of those who freely offer.

At Witchfest, I was given lovely gifts, words and hugs. Since then, in my email Inbox I’ve received many messages of thanks, and still more stories. These all mean so much, and I am deeply grateful to those who share their tales with me.

Today, in my postbox, came a package from a friend. Amusingly, as I got up this morning, I realized that today I have No Spoons (for information on Spoon Theory, click here). Until…

I’m often gifted real spoons, and usually attach them to my desk or my knitting project bags. This one may be placed in the kitchen, to keep me reminded with its brightness, of the love and care of friends. So very, very touched.

Then this afternoon, it wasn’t spoons that were sent, but coffee! I’d all but forgotten about my page on Ko-Fi, a lovely site that allows you to send virtual coffee to friends – and something had been sent, from across the world. I’m still amazed that anyone outside of the UK knows me, but I always want to grab a handy TARDIS and zoom over to hug thanks in person!

I have a Patreon, which many writers, artists and general creative folks use to keep themselves going while we Do Our Thing. Again, it means so much, and more Special Posts will be going up there soon as personal thanks.

As we move forward into this new century, we are finding new ways to show our support and love, of how much we value those who work hard but in a manner that’s new, outside of the usual Working World. There’s no ‘Employment Ladder’ here (is that even a thing anymore?), but there is tremendous give and take.

I spoke on Saturday about energy. As I gave my words, I felt the connection with those I spoke to, of their understanding at a deeper level than at any mandatory Powerpoint Meeting I’d ever attended in an office environment! And I’d rather this path than that, on any day.

So long as I get a wee bit of time to recover before the next adventure…

Huge love, dear ones. We are all walking our paths, together.

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A Idea…

A while ago, I was at the fantastic Enchanted Market Pagan event in Bracknell. About to present a talk, I was, as always, a bit nervous. So I sat down at the Colouring-In Table (for children, and children at heart) and took time to calm myself as best I could.

As those of you who’ve visited the Enchanted Market know, they have an area called Steampunk Alley. Lots of creativity and wonderment, with hugely friendly people – one of whom approached me, smiling widely. This was Duke Box, organiser and MC… and he showed me that Steampunks are indeed prepared for ALL eventualities!

Organized in Lincoln via the regular Steampunk events in that city, the Anxiety Auxiliaries are a group of volunteers who help out at large gatherings, assisting people who are a bit overwhelmed by it all. They have quiet space, tea and a listening ear should one be needed.

I was awed. What an incredible idea! Why haven’t I heard of such a thing before?

Then I realized that I had. A good friend had told me about a similar system organized by fans at conventions for the TV show ‘Supernatural’. A system of badges identifies helpers and those who are particularly vulnerable or delicate (for whatever reason). But either way, people are there to assist those in need, with care and without judgement.

This idea snagged in my head. I’m often at Pagan events, usually talking to people about mental health and ‘spoon‘ (energy) issues in general. If ever a group needed such support, it’s us Pagans…

I composed the beginnings of A Plan, and began to run it by some friends. Folk from the Pagan Federation liked it. Their Online Conference organisers liked it. The magical Lord of Spoons himself, artist Tom Brown, is pondering a recognisable logo.

And so, the Cauldron of Calm is being born!

I’m looking for a few individuals who attend Pagan gatherings, willing to volunteer to wear our lanyard and be available to hold quiet space or just provide a listening ear (and maybe medicinal tea) to those in need. This can be due to being overwhelmed by the  crowds, overheated, nervous before a talk (!) or whatever – just someone to Be There. Because this is a community. I often assure people that they’re not alone – now I want to prove it.

I’m putting this plan into the world now at this early stage because I’ll be at the Pagan Pride events in Nottingham and Milton Keynes this month, as well as the Artemis Gathering. Please do find me and give me your thoughts and feedback on this! Ideas are very welcome as I bring it all together. All being well, the official launch will be later this year, probably to coincide with one of the PF Online seasonal festivals, so as to reach as many people as possible.

What do you think? Do you attend many events? Do you avoid them, due to the excess People? Would this sort of thing help?

Let’s make this Cauldron a place for inspiration – and for Calm.

PS – Do feel free to share this and get in touch here too!

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The Dark Side

Years ago, I was quietly told that it was a tricky thing to be a ‘public’ Pagan. You raise your head above the parapet, you’re liable to get it shot at.

This is entirely true (and not just of Pagans, of course!). When you publicly identify as anything, there are those who will take umbrage at this, whether for your perceived audacity at doing so, or just that they think you’re wrong because they don’t like what you do.

In Paganism, there’s a practice that’s come to be known as ‘Bitchcraft’. This kind be genial – gossiping around campfire, for example, tipsy joking with no real malice – or nastier, more insidious talk. Words, as we know, are powerful things.

As I’ve said before, I’ve been on the receiving end of ‘How dare you’ diatribes before, generally for the reasons above. I try to be open to discussion and comment, and so must expect the negative with the positive. The difficulty comes when the muck-thrower is more interested in the throwing of muck than discussing something with a view to resolving the issue.

Together with other public Pagans, I’ve been accused of some ridiculous things, with arguments which go around for as long as they’re sustained, because the basic premise is incorrect and the person with a chip on their shoulder doesn’t actually want to discuss matters – they want to have an argument. Because they’re right, automatically, and anyone who disagrees is wrong. There’s no debate with such an approach. This is the time to ‘not feed the trolls’ (in internet terms) and just walk away; this fire will not burn without fuel.

However, situations can become even nastier. I’ve heard of people actively persecuted by Pagan-identified groups, with physical assault and damage being caused because the recipient does not practice in a way that the attackers consider ‘right’ or ‘proper’. I recently received a letter from someone who doesn’t want to identify publicly as Pagan – she’s still finding her way – and yet her local group are sending her threats, curses, physically damaging her property and generally assaulting her… because she won’t ‘come out’ as Pagan. This is, to my mind, wholly unacceptable on many levels.

A few months ago, I was asked at a Moot about the ‘Pagan Police’, and what to do if there was information about assaults occurring within a group or coven. I’d never come across such a thing myself, but presumed that the Pagan Police were actually the same as the real Police – if someone is acting illegally, that’s true no matter what their faith. There is the Pagan Police Association in the UK, who act for Pagan Police Officers, so it’s safe to presume that you won’t get mocked if the issue is a faith-based one (but you may need to push to find a representative in your area). Groups such as the Pagan Federation also have legal representation for Pagans as needed.

But it was then suggested that a ‘Pagan Police’ is somehow formed. A group which moderates behaviour within our ‘community’. I thought about this… would such a thing not be impossible at base, and vigilanteeism at worst?

Think about it. The Pagan Community is a very amorphous thing, made up of multitudes of different views. Those in authority are often regarded with suspicion, even when they are trying to help (see the point of this post); many groups who work hard to represent Pagans tirelessly and often thanklessly (the PF, TDN, OBOD, etc) can be on the receiving end of perceived ‘power-seeking’ or accused of taking ‘authority’ positions. This can be a real no-win situation. How can we have authority if we won’t accept authority, railing against it with suspicion – even though it’s made up of folk like ourselves?

So it’s up to us, in our individual communities, to moderate behaviour. Sometimes that does mean walking away. At other times, it may mean bravely taking a stand – retorting to the gossip or slanderer. A simple ‘That’s extremely rude’ perhaps, or ‘Actually, I don’t agree.’ ‘Why do you think that?’ is a great precursor to discussion. Sometimes the person is only whinging to make noise, and quiet down once challenged – or even be inspired to think about why they’re saying what they are.

Each situation is unique, I think, because each person is. Sometimes the nay-sayer is crying out because they’re been abused themselves, and need help or support. It can be a matter of ego too, the desire to be heard. We can listen to these people, then, and respond appropriately. The challenge here is not to becomes uncaring bullies in return.

However, greater difficulty comes when boundaries need to be set and proper behaviour has to be moderated. This isn’t ‘power-gaming’ – this is polite society, with respect for others. If you speak up, you will be heard, so expect to receive a response. You might not like that, but then it’s up to you to respond in turn. This is intelligent adult discussion. Sometimes it’s not as simple as ‘I’m right/you’re wrong’ – Paganism accepts shades of grey (doesn’t it)?

Issues such as those I’ve mentioned cannot always be solved with ‘love and light’. The peaceful nature of many Pagans makes conflict hard to deal with. But sometimes we need that maturity and strength, taking a stand to remind others that they cannot always get away with acting like children – or those whom they rail against.

And taking responsibility does not mean you’re seeking power; sometimes it’s just standing up for yourself and/or others. This is needed. We walk between worlds: our own perceived ‘Pagan’ society and the ‘Muggle’ world. We’re not playing, as we see that our words and actions have consequences.

I stand up and represent my Paganism, in my Druidry. I get challenged, and I’m glad of that – often the questions inspire me to think more deeply about a matter! But my way may not be yours, and occasionally you may need to be challenged as well. Great care must be taken that passion does not turn into denigration or abuse.

What are we doing… how are we listening and responding?

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Practical Druidry

Today has been busy. I’ve been working on the events surrounding my forthcoming book, updating handfasting ceremonies, planning tomorrow’s workshop, pondering Book 2…

Then I sat down to have a much-needed tea-break, and found this waiting to be watched:  ‘Chaplains: Angels of Mersey‘.

There really isn’t much about religion of any sort on television these days. With the need for equality, the media seems fairly nervous of even mentioning faith issues, for fear of offending somebody – which leaves very little in the way of information about any spiritual path (or the need for spirituality at all).

The stories of these chaplains, practical Priests in their communities, were absolutely inspiring.

I love hearing the tales of working priests. I’ve been almost assaulted in the past by lady vicars wanting to make friends, curious monks, confused academics – all with a story to tell, and eager to hear mine in turn. It’s a listening profession, after all, but with so much give and take, generosity and real heart, I feel quite privileged to be a subject of interest, and am fascinated by them in turn.

A lot of the stories are familiar. In these programmes, I’ve seen an Anglican vicar trying to engage students at a Freshers Fair; a hospital chaplaincy helping in a time of crisis; street pastors busy with Saturday night drunks.

I’ve got my own stories, of course. I’m sure they’d be of great interest to documentary-makers, but I’m only interested in media insofar as it allows me to show the wider public that Pagan Priests exist at all – that we’re there to help if needed. Certainly not to garner ‘fame’ (or notoriety) or pander to egos.

This makes me realize, every time, that my constant question is still there for me as well.

What Am I Doing?

Ultimately, I’m one person, sitting here, tapping away with a sleeping dog beside me, on the afternoon of Good Friday. A relatively quiet day. Yet busy with the list of tasks above, and more besides. Life is certainly interesting right now!

Please note: this is not (and never has been) about publicising myself. It actually occurred that I would probably be happy to give my book away for free to those who expressed interest – although my publisher would scalp me, and probably my bank manager too.

It’s about living as I promised. I’m out there, living my faith in my community (physical and virtual) in order to help others, whether Pagan, Christian, atheist, whatever.  That was my choice, and I stand by it.

However, I’ve noticed that Paganism generally seems to have become a very insular spirituality. While folk do seek others of like mind to meet up and chat, in pubs or at Camps, generally their practise is kept private, at home or in quiet places outside, alone. This may be due to fear of ridicule, actual need for secrecy because of misunderstanding, or just a preference for a solitary mode of worship; I’ve no problem with that at all. Ultimately, any conversation that you have with deity is just the two of you.

But is that doing us, as a faith-based community, a disservice? Is our self-imposed isolation stifling our spirituality, rather than allowing it to flourish in the real world?

I’m not suggesting we get out on the streets with leaflets, or knock on doors with copies of ‘Pagan Dawn.’ I’m asking how you express your faith outside of the safety of your own home/room/head-space. My Druidry lives in the places of darkness and difficulty as well as love and light.

For the last few months, I’ve been asking members of The Druid Network to send stories of any community projects they may be involved in. I’ve had very few replies.

I’ve asked local Pagan Federation members for ideas on meet-ups and events, to help our regional community. Again, virtual silence.

Yet my inbox has messages every day from people asking for information, meetings, events, a need for connection with others. It seems that everyone wants something provided for them as Pagans (Wiccans/Druids/Heathens/etc)… but nobody wants to be the instigator. Nobody is willing to stand up and live their faith publicly, to help others, or even just to inspire by their work or creativity. Apathy is easier than hard work.

Except, of course, for myself and the others who do. Some of whom slowly slide into the background again after a time, fed up of the politics of the wider Pagan world, with its egos and challenges; others who have been called ‘media tarts’ simply for standing up to represent their Paganism.

I have also noticed that those who shout others down, be it with anger or mockery, rarely stand up themselves to do the hard work. It’s easy to put on the appropriate garb and join in at a large gathering, or get vocal behind the veil of an internet group, but when a Priest is called upon to teach, minister a service or provide chaplaincy during a life crisis, those loud voices suddenly go quiet.

I know it’s difficult. Trust me, I know. Public Priesting is not at all for everyone.

But it’s not so difficult to get out and honour yourself and your Gods by quiet actions in the world. An allotment or orchard project to bring pleasure to others and food to your family. Litter-picking as you take the dog for a walk, or the kids to school. Even volunteering to help your local space, be it Neighbourhood Watch, local environmental groups or charity work. Consider how best to connect your faith to your life, and do it. Take responsibility, rise to a self-imposed challenge. Be adventurous, explore – find your own quest!

Both The Druid Network and The Pagan Federation exist because of and for their members. Neither is about hierarchical religion or dogmatic dictat; they’re simply there to help. There are local equivalents – get in touch, make contact, grow that community. If you don’t like it, tell why, instigate change, add your voice to the song.

Paganism is incredibly diverse – that’s one of the reasons I’m attracted to it. I may not understand everyone’s point of view, but I do my best to respect it, and not be afraid to ask to find out more. We all make up a kaleidoscopic picture, each working in their own way to represent themselves and their spirituality. How are you a part of that? How are you moving it forward – and how is it moving you forward?

I love to hear stories of these journeys too.

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