Posts Tagged Pagan Pride

Inspiration from A Bad Day

Last weekend, I had  the pleasure of attending Pagan Pride in Nottingham. I’ve been there every year since the very beginning ten years ago, and it’s always a joy. I’ve seen it blossom and grow, under the careful tending of hard-working volunteers, a community truly coming together in friendship and shared interests.

As is usual, I gave a talk – this time about mental health, and how my Pagan practice helps me to manage it. There were tears, and I felt myself falter several times as I struggled to put words to very amorphous feelings. But I think I helped.

Pagan Pride 2018

(Picture by Victoria Furminger)

The weekend was glorious. Dear friends stayed over, Pride was a full and fun day… but then came the inevitable fallout. I had called in credit on spoons, it seemed, and my inner overdraft had hit its limit.

I’m often asked how my life is, on a normal regular day. I suspect some people imagine me rising with the dawn, greeting the sun and then feeding the dogs and cats like some sort of Druid Snow White, before heading to my desk to crank out a novel or two… 😉 Not quite!

So. For those who’ve asked, and as a PS to last weekend’s talk… here’s what today has looked like.

Today was A Very Bad Day, in terms of health. Mentally, my brain was done. Out of energy. Unable to focus. But still believing that it could, it seemed to be careening all over the inside of my skull like a pinball – or rather, with ideas like multiple pinballs, not letting me catch one for long enough to do much. And then all the balls would fall to earth with the weight of The One Ring. And I would collapse.

Physically, this meant I was almost exhausted. Regular fits of tears (today has been a Three-Hankie Day, so far), feeling like an exposed nerve in terms of anything setting me off, headaches, tension, aching joints, having to force myself to eat. Unable to focus, remember?

I did call my local Community Mental Health Team at one point, by the way. But my regular (lovely) Doctor wasn’t there. A random CPN was less than helpful.

I know going for a walk may do me good. I know I have to work to get better. But in the depths of crisis… not an option. (I do wonder if these individuals, well-meaning though they are, have ever experienced such intense feelings. I suspect I’d know if they had, in the same way that I see the solidarity in the faces of those who come up to hug me after the aforementioned Talks.)

The thought of leaving the house was terrifying, daunting beyond belief. I should have been getting on with jobs – going to the Post Office, joining my husband at an event that he’s enjoying. No. Impossible. Which led to the inevitable guilt, that my illness was taking over my life, I’m useless to everyone, what’s even the point, I might as well stop… spiralling down, ever down…

This is the Darkness which I speak of, which I’ve written of. It begins quietly, like a small tug, but quickly becomes an undertow and then a vortex. The easiest metaphor is to ‘ride the waves’, but often it’s just keeping a head above water.

Tactics were tried. Knitting was a good one, with a special skein of beautiful, tactile yarn that had been saved for just such an occasion. Tea, of course, and cookies. Amusing podcasts or Youtube clips, to provide friendly voices. Ultimately, however, the blanket fort was needed. Bed, with a book.

Books have saved my life so many times. And duvets. Each should come with vouchers to obtain the other.

The sun is now setting.

I am still here. The window is open, and my little guardian who has stayed by me all day is busy hopping outside and then back in, to check all is well. She slept with me today, but always with an eye cracked if I moved. In case of fuss, you understand.

Ink August 2018

I sit, looking around, and just letting things be. Breathing. The trick is to keep breathing. To find the stillness that I know is here, in these late hours of this day. The tiny magics are the most important, right now.

I’m knitting, with yarn from a friendly local shop. A beautiful, simple pattern that will make a portable hug.

I’m breathing the fresh air from my garden, combined with sweet incense gifted by a dear friend. I can hear the blackbirds singing. The last few cars heading home.

Himself is away, busy with his Knights. I should have been with him, but am hearing stories from those who were there, having fun and sharing their pleasure.

Ultimately, I’m being kept afloat by the love and good wishes of others. Through gifts passed on, carefully-made items that make me smile (and often well up, but in a good way this time). Through stories, quick messages of understanding. Chatting to friends miles – and hundreds of miles – away, who get it and who give a virtual hand to hold. Cooking a lovely meal from something  Himself prepared a while ago and froze, for just such an occasion as this.

I have another event tomorrow. Part of me has been terrified at the prospect. But the louder part, which is now winning, is reminding me who it is that keeps me going.

I have friends. I have those who care, and for whom I care in turn. When those ‘brain weasels’ arrive to tell me how useless, awful and unloved I am, I can prove them wrong. As I said last weekend, the tears sometimes have to flow, to let that vileness out. The pressure will ease. I can breathe freely again.

And I write. Just to prove that today has not been a total loss. Things had to be moved around, yes, but that was ok. People understand.

I’ll see some of those friends tomorrow, and in weeks to come. No doubt there’ll be ebbs and flows of health again, but I am well-armed, by all of you. To those who stand with me, I am so very grateful. Know that I’m with you too.

Onward.

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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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Power

Some weeks ago, I came across this quote, from the inspiring writing of Rowan Pendragon:

‘Don’t be afraid of the word “power” or to call yourself powerful. If you’re not owning your power, someone else is!’

Short and sweet. But it stuck with me.

At the end of July, my partner and I took our annual trip to Druid Camp. I realized that I’d been going there for over ten years now, and every single year is different – usually with new things to learn, and experiences that push me forward (often in a quite undignified way). It’s a powerful time, as well as one of great community and friendship.

This year’s theme was the Cauldron of Cerridwen, the Tale of Taliesin. We were there to be inspired, after all, and for the duration of the week, a huge black cauldron was placed in the centre of the Camp, in the ritual circle that we created, into which we would place our offerings – as well as take time to guard it. This latter time became quite a social gathering as people came forward to talk, very much in the presence of the divine brew, words spilling forth and being heard. The rite culminated on Saturday in a great gathering of over 100 people, coming together to work with the Goddess, Cauldron, the Awen and what came forth from it.

Every evening, different groups were asked to perform ritual for the Camp as a whole, with my own Hearth undertaking the Friday night. What would be our focus? How would we tie in to this theme of inspiration, as well as facilitate a meaningful ceremony for what could well be quite a number of people of very varied shades of belief?

I suggested power. We invite those present to step forward, into the centre of the circle, and tell all present who they are, what they are doing, and what they promise to achieve in the next year – until we meet again at Camp 2012. Including ourselves.

And so we did. Around 50 people bravely stepped forward, making their vows, telling their tales, as the energy moved around the circle holding us together. Our community was strong, our inspiration flowed… and we all moved forward.

(Photo by William Camden Harding)

Last weekend was the annual Pagan Pride festival in Nottingham. Over 500 pagans, dressed in their finest, gathered in the centre of a modern Midlands city to march and declare their faith and unity. On a Sunday morning. Just as the shops were opening.

And again, we did it. So many people told me that it was their first ever pagan event… as we strode through the Marketplace and down the centre of the Boulevard! Police stopped traffic, Muggles lined the streets to stare and take photographs. Drums beat a compelling rhythm as we all shouted ‘We Are Pagan – We Are Proud!’

On both days, many people stood up publicly and proudly and declared themselves. All ages, all colours, all physical and mental ability. They claimed their own personal power, displayed their bravery in stating their words, proud in their resolve and determination. To quote a Druid phrase, ‘Heart to heart, hand to hand.’ Each time, the energy is tangible, active and potent.

Since then, the atmosphere in Britain has changed. Public displays of power are there for all to see: the anger of burning buildings, communities retaliating with brooms. Both groups joining on virtual networks before meeting in person. Everyone has something to say.

I sincerely hope that the displays of power that I have experienced this last month have been indicative of a growth in the sense of unity, joined community and like-mindedness. For too long, we have witnessed largely apathy, whingeing and unwillingness to take action. A change is in the air, it seems now, as people are starting to move, realizing the importance of our actions in life, taking a stand for their beliefs. Slowly, there is recognition of greater need for articulation, intelligent debate, asking questions.

We stand in our power, here, together. What do we do with it?

We move forward.

 

For more on Pagan Pride, visit organiser Esme Knight’s wonderful blog, or see more pictures c/o the BBC.

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