The aftermath of a difficult situation

This post will touch on themes some readers may feel are uncomfortable.  In particular the use of restraint for esoteric or erotic purposes – better known as bondage.

I will make it plain here that I have very little knowledge of bondage or any aspect of BDSM practices. The topic came up recently in a druid forum and I need to express some of my thoughts on the situation that resulted.

Essentially a member of a forum I am on brought up the topic of BDSM and bondage in particular in relation to a new practice he was developing that combined aspects of shamanic journeying with light bondage.  He explained something of what he was trying to do and asked if anyone would be interested in learning more.  He framed this topic in a manner that was familiar to him as someone who had been involved in aspects of BDSM for several years.  He posted this in a forum space that was set up for heated discussion and on a board that prides itself on being a “safe” space for members to express their different forms of Druid practice.  I presume he felt that he should be “safe” to introduce this topic and as it’s usually a quiet board leave it for a few days before coming back to see if there were any responses.

Sadly his post was not received well by several members.  Reactions were heated and hostile with one of the worst responses accusing him of breaking the law and causing harm, while another severe response accusing him of trying to solicit sexual partners.

I was frankly shocked by the heat of the responses.

The original poster was asked to clarify his intentions with his opening post and when he didn’t immediately appear to do so there were further heated replies.  This is a board where usual interactions are considered and thoughtful, where it is not unusual to have days between responses and yet there was an expectation that for this topic the poster should be there straight away to respond.

It wasn’t that long before the poster did respond and I felt he did so very well.  He accepted people had been upset and apologised.  He explained himself eloquently in my opinion but still the heated responses continued.  He chose to remove his post as there were several responses on the thread saying it should be removed and that took the responses with it.  Another member tried to start a thread for healing from the situation but that too became heated with members now expressing anger that the thread had been removed even though that was what they had said they wanted.

None of these individuals seemed to give the original poster the benefit of the doubt.  He had been judged and found wanting merely because he had raised a controversial topic and perhaps not phrased things as carefully as he might have done at another time.  But he probably thought he would be safe in this space to raise this without tiptoeing around the subject.  And indeed why should he have to tiptoe around it anyway?

The conflict, and therefore the original poster as the start of the situation, were likened to Islamic radicals and white fundamentalists  in one post, to a murderer in another, just because he had shocked some members of this space.  Some stated they no longer felt “safe” there because of what he had raised.  I’m not sure I feel safe there having witnessed all these heated reactions.  Who will they turn on next and why?

And then there’s my own feelings of confusion over all this.  Did I do enough by witnessing this the way I did?  Did I speak up clearly enough? Should I have said more, done more, to defend this man?  Did he need defending?  Will he feel this space is “safe” for him to continue in.

I do know this person a bit and I know that he has a hard won strong sense of personal identity.  This isn’t the first time he has experienced reactions like this from what I understand so hopefully he will weather the storm reasonably well.

Did I stand by my own principles well enough?  I’m not sure.  I didn’t let my anger and growing disgust at the responses I was reading get the better of me so that’s good.  I did write something in support of the original poster so at least I spoke up to some extent.  Should I have done more?  Realistically could I have done more?  I don’t really know.

I’m not upset by the thought of someone using BDSM practices as part of their own religious practice.  I’m a self diagnosed autistic with sensory needs that mean I often seek really tight hugs and even being pinned down.  It’s not that much of a stretch to go from the feelings of relaxation I get from deep pressure to accepting that bondage can lead to a change in consciousness especially when handled in a way to enhance that sort of effect.  I don’t have a clue how that might look practically but that’s not the point, I can trust that this man knows what he is doing.

I accept other definitions of what it is to walk a Druid path.  I listen to other points of view and think carefully before I respond.  I expected those in the forum this took place in to do the same, to think carefully, to give the benefit of the doubt, to respect alternative practices and views.  I am still upset that so many didn’t do that, that so many didn’t seem to take that step back and seek further information before reaction so strongly.  And at the moment I am less likely to share my thoughts and practices in that space because of what happened.

 

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A bit of this and a bit of that

It’s been a busy month for me with lots of different things going on which means my mind has often been jumping about from one topic to another.  It also means that I’m feeling a bit drained.  Much of these happenings have been good things.

The first two weeks of April are school holidays here so there were visits from school friends to co-ordinate, trips out to arrange and space for relaxing and unwinding to be managed. This year my son also needed to fit in some study time for exams that take place in May.  Juggling the desires of a highly selectively social teen with a bouncy sensory seeking ten year old while remaining sane myself can be challenging and by the end of the school holidays I am very happy to get back into term time routines!

My husband, Neil, is a keen amateur landscape photographer and on Saturday 7 April he was up at Fort William for the launch of an exhibition with the Society of Scottish Landscape Photographers which including one of his images. I wasn’t able to go with him and I still haven’t seen the exhibition but it’s moving to an exhibition space in Leith, Edinburgh on Saturday 5 May so I’ll get to see it when it’s there.  If you’ve not yet seen Neil’s photos please do take a look at his site Awen Photos, you can also find him on Facebook. Needless to say I am rather proud of his photographic skills!

Saturday 14 May saw Neil and I at the Druid Network AGM at the Bilberry Hill Centre near Birmingham. It’s a location that the Druid Network have used for several years and we are all rather fond of it.  The Druid Network (TDN) AGM has a formal side to it but it is also a time of community connection, discussion, shared food and fun.  It is a full day event and many of us stay overnight before dispersing across the UK the following day.  Last year I stepped into a new role at the AGM, that of minute taker.  I found that having a task to do helped me manage my social anxiety and this year I continued in that role.  I’m not a fan of taking minutes for meetings usually but when both I and the group can benefit I am much more keen. Thanks to years of University committee experience it’s not a role I find difficult and TDN AGMs are more fun to minute than anything I have done in the past.

Just last week I had another AGM to attend.  This one was for the RDA Glasgow Group and I was anticipating a much more boring and formal meeting. I was pleasantly surprised.  It was anything but boring!  This AGM took place on Wednesday 25 April in the evening in the RDA Glasgow Group conference room. The discussions that followed the formal reports were lively and I found the whole meeting much more interesting than I had anticipated.  I was very tired afterwards though as there was a lot to concentrate on.

I’m becoming more involved with the RDA.  While I was recovering from my unscheduled dismount and not fit enough to help out in classes I helped out in the office instead and took on the RDA Glasgow Newsletter preparation.  I will be doing the next issue too although I’m not sure what’s happening after that as yet.  I’ve also been doing a bit of work on updates for the RDA Glasgow website (feedback always welcome by the way).  I’m now building up my fitness for helping in classes again and it’s great to be back doing that but I still plan to help out in other areas.

Which reminds me, today being the last day of April is also the last day of Autism Awareness month for several countries. World Autism Awareness Day is 2 April each year.  Some areas of the world use the whole of April as Autism Awareness month.  In the UK the National Autistic Society held a week long focus of events from 26 March  – 2 April.  Anyway, RDA National has been working on a new addition to its online learning courses aimed primarily at RDA volunteers and staff.  This one is on Autism Awareness and it’s going to be officially launched very soon.  I took part in the testing of the course and I am delighted to say that in my opinion they have done a really good job on this course with a good balance of information and practical suggestions.

These are a few of the highlights from my busy month.  I’ve also been continuing in my book writing efforts and trying not to let self doubt stop me.  I’ve been healing from my own injury and continuing to coordinate requests to the Pagan Healing Circle. And, as always, I’ve been continuing to devote time to my family and my devotional practices.

 

 

To be or not to be an author…

I am already an author here on this blog, I’ve also written articles that have been published in the Pagan Dawn magazine in the past.  I am currently musing on the idea of writing a book.  I had tentative ideas of writing a book once before on urban druidry.  That never came to pass and others have written books on forms of urban paganism since that time.  If I go forward this time though it would be something on being a (mostly) Brythonic polytheist.  Brython have plans to write and produce a primer that would cover various aspects of Brythonic polytheism.  I don’t want to write something like that though and frankly I don’t think my scholarship is up to that type of book although I’d probably make a good draft reader for the project if they get that far.  If I do write something, and I’m really not sure if I will, it is likely to be more personal and experiential.

I’ve been on my path as a pagan for a little over twenty years now.  I started learning about druidry with the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids  (OBOD) in March 1998. I have grown and developed in that time as you would expect and so has my path.  In the last decade I have developed much more of a Brythonic polytheist practice.  In that time I’ve gone through a number of personal changes as well that have affected all aspects of my life.

We are at a time when books about various polytheist paths are gradually increasing.  Is it time for one on what it is to walk a mostly Brythonic polytheist path?

But why would I write this? For the gods or for my own sense of ego? Probably a bit of both but is the balance right?  Would I do this more for the gods and to give others signposts for their journeys?

And would it be something others would want to read?

I think I could do this but should I?  And if I did would it even get published, be read by others, be enjoyed?

More questions than answers.  I’d welcome thoughts from readers of this blog about this.

Healing Needs

Over the years I’ve felt the need to do something of a healing nature.  There have also been times I’ve needed some healing support myself.  Most of the time what I have done has been as an individual. I’ve prayed; dedicated and lit candles; developed and carried out healing spells; chanted and sung; sent out distance healing using Reiki; visited people in hospital and given healing in the form of Reiki and similar types of spiritual healing; and I’ve asked for some of these for myself from people I know that also do forms of spiritual healing.

I have a whiteboard hung on the wall by my shrine to those deities I have special relationships with and on it are the names of people I know of that have asked for healing either directly or via a trusted loved one.

I’m not medically trained.  I’m not trained in one of the many and varied healing  and associated professions  and I’ve never been called to do that sort of vital work.  What I can offer, what I do, can not replace good medical care and expertise.  What I offer is something that can support the heart and soul, something that helps with feeling loved, feeling cared for and supported all of which aids physical healing.

Recently though, I have felt the need to do more.

One aspect of doing more is to take on the role of healthcare chaplaincy coordinator with the Scottish Pagan Federation.  The basics of this role is to ensure NHS trusts in Scotland know where to come to if they wish for Pagan information and support.  Another is to provide a visiting service to any Pagan who is in hospital and would like a Pagan visitor.  I can’t do all of this myself by any means but there are volunteers across the country who will do what they can to support Pagans who find themselves in hospital.

The reality of our current society is that much of the longer term healthcare takes place in the home and community.  Now many Pagans will have some form of Pagan community they can turn to for support at these times, that might be an online community or a moot they attend when well enough but there are many that for all sorts of reasons will not have that support.  Part of the role I have with the Scottish Pagan Federation is to try and provide some support for Pagans in Scotland that find themselves isolated and in need due to their health, physical or mental.  Being able to support people though does rely on someone letting the Scottish Pagan Federation (via their contact form) or myself know that there is someone in need support and that’s not always easy in itself as often we don’t like to ask for support for ourselves even when we need it.

But I felt I needed to do something more.  I felt pushed, prodded, urged to set up some form of virtual healing group.  I bounced my ideas of a few others, some of whom are, or have been, involved in other healing groups.  I wanted something which was open to those of any type of Pagan and Heathen path to join.  I wanted something that didn’t restrict how healing was done or sent, other than it would be virtual.  I wanted something that had a central hub that requests to join and requests for healing went through.  And I wanted something that had the potential to grow.

I think in the Pagan Healing Circle that I have set up, I have planted the seeds.  It’s young yet but already I have close to a dozen individuals who have joined me in this circle.  Healing is being sent out for a couple of individuals already and I hope that as word spreads others will ask for healing too.

Healing requests come to me on a dedicated email address.  I then send them out to the rest of the circle and make a note of what date they are sent round.  The plan is that requests stay active for a month unless we get follow-up requests or feedback of some kind asking us to keep sending.  A minimum of a first name and what the healing is for is asked for, I don’t circulate the whole email I receive, just the request itself.  This is to preserve as much privacy as possible while still providing support and healing.

If you want to know more about this healing circle, would like to join or wish to make a healing request please do email me on paganhealingcircle@gmail.com.

Oh and we’ll happily accept healing requests for beloved animal companions too.

Image thanks to Awen Photos

A Scottish Hearth Druid response to the question of how to respond to the varying issues of Brexit, Trump and increasing xenophobia be?

The subject of this post is inspired by a topic of discussion the the Druid Network members’ message board referred to as “social_dot”.  Reading other responses on “social_dot” felt like a clarion call to me to start blogging again.

Following the Brexit vote in the UK I feel that uncertainties and fears have steadily increased.  Added to the issues in the UK, where I live, has been the impact of changes in other influential countries in the world. Trump has in his first few days in office as the president of the United States of America made a number of executive orders that are internationally unpopular (to put it mildly).  Russia’s parliament has approved changes in legislation that seem to set human rights in that country further and further back.  Wars are rife in the Middle East with many other countries across the world involved and yet we still don’t call it a “World War”. And it seems that many countries are choosing to pick on some group or another as the scapegoats for these problems and in doing so become increasingly violent towards that group.  I’ve never been so scared of what the future will bring and yet I recognise that I am in a very privileged position compared to all too many people in this country let alone the rest of the world!

So what can I do?

One of the things I think we have to try and do is help each other to listen without becoming overwhelmed with everything that is going on.  I doubt that I am the only person I know who is struggling against the desire to “bury their head in the sand” and wait for it to be over.  I know I must not do that but I also struggle with figuring out what I can do. I struggle emotionally to believe that my single voice can make any difference and yet intellectually I know that single voices joined together are very powerful.

I am afraid for the future of my country.  I’m afraid for the future of other countries in the world, I am afraid for my children’s futures within this often chaotic world of ours. I am afraid I can’t do anything to make a difference and yet also afraid of standing by and not trying. I am afraid of being alone in my fears and even more afraid that all too many of us share the same fears.

What can I do? One person, one voice.

I can raise my voice for others to listen to so they know they are not alone.

I can listen.

I can witness.

I can act, even if only to type a few words on a keyboard, sign a petition or refuse to let my fears overwhelm me.

Orkney part 2 -guided journeys

Breakfast at our accommodation was excellent and very good fuel for the day ahead.

At 9am our wonderful guides Helen and Mark Woodsford-Dean of Spiritual Orkney joined us. We hadn’t met them face to face before although I had known Helen online for a while. I’d contacted Helen while we were planning the honeymoon trip to ask if she had availability in her calendar for the week we were going to be in Orkney.  She did and we had an exchange of emails and Facebook messages to arrange things during which she planned an itinerary for us based on what I’d told her about the sort of things we wanted to see.

It is possible they might have shown us a couple of places if we’d asked out of friendship  but personally I would have felt guilty taking up their time and expertise during the peak tourist summer season when tour guiding is one of the ways they make a living.  Besides we wanted to see lots of places and having experts showing us around was something we wanted to do. And not just expert tour guides but fellow Pagans and people we knew a bit about.  I can not stress enough how delighted we both are that we went down this route.  Helen and Mark are lovely people and great guides.

Our itinerary for our first full day included the Stones of Stenness, Barnhouse Neolithic Village, Ness of Brodgar, Ring of Brodgar, Skara Brae and a couple of hours on the Brough of Birsay.

As we journeyed around we were treated to a wonderful combination of archeological information, including from their own experiences digging at the Ness of Brodgar, and local folklore.

I’m not going to write huge amounts here about these wonderful places for a couple of reasons.  One is that so much has already been written about them, the other is that the experience of being at these places is unique to each person.  What I do have is a few of my husband’s photos to share as a picture can be worth a thousand words.

 

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Stones of Stenness

One of the more profound experiences for me visiting these places was that, thanks to Helen in particular, I could understand more about these places than I would have done otherwise.  Little details that helped me see something more of that ancient way of life that I’m pretty sure I would have overlooked without her explanations. Encouraged by Helen to really look at the houses of Skara Brae for example I could see not only the similarities between each structure but also the little differences that made me think of the way we all like to personalise our own spaces when we can.

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Skara Brae

On the Brough of Birsay (which is reached via a tidal causeway) we saw puffins, fulmars, razorbills and skuars flying from nests and resting places on the cliffs.  We also saw the Viking ruins there with their excellent drainage systems (again I’d never have realised what we were seeing without Helen pointing them out).  We also had the opportunity to scramble through a cave towards the top end of the Brough which Helen referred to a rebirth cave.  It was a couple of steps down to the entrance and then as you made your way through the cave it narrowed  until you came to the opening at the other end and had to crawl to get out.  While we didn’t have the opportunity to make a full formal ritual around doing this it still had that rebirth effect for me at least.

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Puffins on Brough of Birsay

Our second day was also spent with our lovely guides and on that day we visited the cliffs at Yesnaby, Kirbuster Farm museum, the Broch of Gurness, the Tomb of the Dogs, Rennibister Earth House, Happy Valley and Unstan Cairn.  Again I’m using some of my husband’s photos to help show something of our experiences but as there’s less written about some of these places I’ll try and write a bit more too.

The cliffs at Yesnaby are wild and parts of the landscape look like they have been transplanted from another world.

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Top of cliffs at Yesnaby

On the heath before the cliffs you can find the rare primula scotica. This is a tiny little plant and not easy to spot unless you know what you are looking for so it will probably be no surprise for me to tell you that Helen found them and once we had been shown them we were able to find more in that area.

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Primula Scotica at Yesnaby

Kirbuster farm museum is a fascinating place.  Part of the buildings date back to the 16th century and there are recognisable features from the styles of buildings at Skara Brae and the other neolithic sites that have clearly been continued through the ages such as the sleeping alcoves and built in wall niches.  This is also a free museum with very knowledgable and friendly guides – well worth a visit.

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16th Century aspect of Kirbuster Farmhouse

By a narrow margin I think my favourite part of that day was the visit to Happy Valley. This lovely place has very unusual gardens by Orkney standards that were planted by the former owner who was something of a recluse during his life. Luckily the building and gardens are being preserved and cared for by the Friends of Happy Valley group.  It is a beautiful place and has a magical atmosphere to it.  I wish we could have stayed there much longer but my need for certain facilities meant we had to move on as the house was locked up.

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Happy Valley Gardens

I think I will write a separate post about experiences with tombs, cairns and the Rennibister Earth House and bring this section of our Orkney experiences to a close.

All photos copyright Neil Pitchford, Awen photos.

Perennial Druidry: Waves through Grasses Moon

As readers will know this year I decided to start working with the Perennial Druid course materials hosted on the Druid Network website. Unit Seven in the Perennial Druidry course is called Field Poppy Moon by Bobcat.  Poppies though are not very evident in this area at all so this name does not seem to fit here.  What is most noticeable to me is the grasses. In our local park many of the grasses are now almost as tall as me, some taller, with spots of delicate white and yellow wildflowers and the darker greens and purples of tall, vibrant thistles.  As the breeze blows the grasses gently wave, the sounds and sights remind me of the sea.  To me therefore this is Waves through Grasses Moon.
I have found that this moon I have had little time to devote to the course.  Partly that’s due to the demands of home and family and partly other reading leading to inspiration for new prayers for both Brigantia and Maponus.
This unit talks about midsummer as a festival time and a season of waning summer.  I don’t do anything separate to the summer solstice in terms of ritual for midsummer although I do note its passing and I don’t really feel the pause that Bobcat talks about, my perception of this time of year is different.  This moon started on 27 June and ended on 26 July so I’m a touch late writing up my reflections but that’s life.  For me this period is a very busy one.  Here in Glasgow the children break up for summer around midsummer so this moon marked the first weeks of the summer holidays.  For me juggling part time work with family time, organising cover for when I’m at work, getting school uniforms ready for the next school year and looking after two children with different needs is both hectic and often tiring.  Luckily I do have great family support but it’s still tough.  My energies have often been drained with day to day life this moon with little left over.
As I have been going about though, my eyes have been drawn often to long wild grasses along road verges, in our local park and in fields left fallow.  I’ve also been enchanted by dancing damselflies and summer birds like swifts sweeping over the grasses. I have had moments of wonderful inspiration leading to new prayers.  I’ve been able to take moments where I could pause and connect with the life in our local park and in my garden.  My garden in particular has taken on a deeper role as a place of grounding and re-energising for me. A few minutes wandering around doing a spot of weeding or dead-heading roses of an evening has taken on an increasing importance at this busy time.  These things link into the themes of this unit of energy, life, stillness and strength in the course.
Yesterday I honoured my ancestors as is my practice at the dark moon.  Today I prepare to move forward into the next moon.