Thursday, February 24, 2011

An accessibility ally

At a Quaker retreat last weekend, during the introductory announcements about the site, the schedule, etc., a member of the Planning Committee made some announcements about accessibility, including an announcement about the fragrance-free nature of the gathering.

I was grumpy and overwhelmed at that point.  I felt that fragrance issues hadn't quite been handled adequately so far, in a community with a history of handling them very well.  I'd been trying to negotiate with my (well-meaning and responsive) cabin-mates, who'd brought fragranced personal care products with them.  I certainly did not expect to have the reaction I did to zir announcement.

Ze stated very clearly that this was a fragrance-free gathering, and that this was for accessibility reasons and is an accessibility issue.  Ze explained plainly and clearly several of the problems fragranced products can cause for people with medical conditions triggered or exacerbated by chemicals in fragrances, and how such exposure would prevent members of our community from participating in the gathering. 

But ze went further.  Ze announced that the Planning Committee was providing fragrance-free soap, shampoo, and conditioner.  Ze added, "So there's no excuse for using scented products."  Ze also said, If you are wearing something scented and someone with a fragrance sensitivity can smell it, you have already made them sick.  Then ze said (I'm paraphrasing), If we can smell a fragrance, those of us without fragrance sensitivities, being allies and advocates, are the ones who should take it upon ourselves to say something in situations like that, rather than leaving it to people who are sensitive.

How did I feel? 

This heavy load lifted from my shoulders.  There were all sorts of things ze had said, and so I didn't have to.  There were all sorts of ways ze was advocating for me and for other people there with this accessibility issue, and ze was calling other allies to do so, and so we didn't have to.  I was off duty.  It was amazing.  It gets so completely exhausting doing self-advocacy around disability accessibility (and not just disability).  This weight just lifted from my shoulders. 

I made a point, later, of telling ze how much I appreciated what ze had said and the language ze had used.  Ze said it was heart-felt, and that was how ze had chosen zir words, and that ze appreciated the feedback. 

Me, I appreciated zir advocacy, and I appreciated how the whole community -- once again -- embraced responsibility for accessibility for vulnerable members of our community. 

Someone over the weekend reminded us vocally that "community is a Quaker testimony."  Yes. 

Blessed be.  Thank you, Friends. 

Friday, February 4, 2011

A review of Ben Whitmore’s "Trials of the Moon: Reopening the Case for Historical Witchcraft"

I don't have the brain right now to digest and analyze this fully, but I find it really interesting.  - Stasa


Here is an excerpt:

This is a review of Ben Whitmore’s Trials of the Moon: Reopening the Case for Historical Witchcraft. A Critique of Ronald Hutton’s Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft. Auckland: Aotearoa / New Zealand, 2010

I am glad someone took on the task of providing a detailed critique of Hutton’s book. Ben Whitmore, a Pagan priest in New Zealand, does not hail from the school of Wicca-is-a-direct-transmission-of-ancient-Pagan-tradition. He is clear “that today’s witchcraft is largely a reinvention” and favors  examining the foundational myths of modern neopaganism with a critical eye. At the same time, he feels a spiritual kinship with past traditions and holds out the possibility of recovering their authentic roots:

“I feel it is high time that Wicca and Paganism be permitted to have not just myths, but a history as well.” Hear, hear.
Hutton, although himself a Pagan, has systematically attacked the idea of pagan survivals in medieval Europe, and not just in this book. He hews to an orthodox focus on literary sources as the font of culture, with a corresponding disregard for the testimony of folk tradition and its conservational power. We hear from Diane Purkiss about how the English school of witchcraft history had “hardened into an orthodoxy”since the 1970s. Whitmore points out that they ignore the rich documentation of folk paganism by continental historians (a disregard, paired with sputterings about “rigor,” that I have been protesting for years).

Hutton’s earlier book is described as taking a “withering” approach  toward neopagans while rhapsodizing about christianity. Such attitudes are unsurprising in most academic circles, but Hutton’s dismissals have been taken up by some Pagans as well. Whitmore recounts “one rather sad conversation I had with a bright young High Priest and High Priestess who were abandoning the Craft because Triumph had convinced them they were living a lie.”[2-3]

Whitmore makes an effort to be evenhanded. He praises Hutton’s chapters on Wicca as “balanced and comprehensive.” He corrects an error about the succession in Alexandrian Wicca. [3] It’s been years since I read Triumph of the Moon, so I don’t remember if the feminist branches of Wicca were included. In any case, modern paganism is not the main thrust of Trials of the Moon; it is about making the case for a historical connection between pagan ethnic religion, including goddess reverence, and later witches and witch traditions.

Whitmore counters Hutton’s exaggerated claim of “a tidal wave of accumulating research which [in the 1990s] swept away … any possibility of doubt regarding the lack of correlation between paganism and early modern witchcraft.”He lays out the misrepresentations and revisionism in Triumph of the Moon by reviewing the historical literature that Hutton cites, and systematically showing that his sources do not say what he claims they do. In some cases they say the complete opposite. The quotes that Whitmore provides shows that they affirm rather than deny the persistence of pre-Christian spiritual traditions, including shamanic ones. The exception is Muchembled, but even he acknowledged the demonization of folk beliefs and observances in constructing the myth of the Witches’ Sabbath. [6-8]

So the book tests Hutton’s evidence and provides some much-needed historiography. It also offers  helpful summaries of ideas by various authors. P.G. Maxwell-Stuart, for example, talks about the incompleteness of European conversion into the middle ages, and tracks the imposition of elite ideas about diabolical pact and witches’ sects onto folk culture. (Hmm: a footnote alludes to the famous case of two German villages where only two women were left alive. Maxwell-Stuart, however, appears to have erased the specific targeting of women, rendering it as only two “residents”spared by the hunts. [9 fn 27]) Still, I’d like to read his discussion of the number of accused witches who actually were cunning folk, healers, diviners, or people who had dealings with the faeries. [10]

Read more:

Conflict and Quaker process

I was thinking recently about a conflict in the Meeting where I'm sojourning.  And then I found myself thinking back on conflicts -- and potential conflicts that never were -- in other Meetings and Quaker organizations I am or have been part of.

I posted the following to Facebook: 

...reflecting today that whenever I've been really angry over, disturbed about, or hurt by a conflict in a Quaker meeting or organization I've been part of, the real root of my pain hasn't been the conflict, but a lack of Quaker process. Whereas the most potentially terrible conflicts have been transformed in the deepest love through worshipful decision-making, leading-seeking, and truth-seeking together.

Thoughts?  Reflections on your own experience?

What are the parallels or analogs in Pagan groups or organizations? 

Thursday, February 3, 2011

6th Annual Brigid Poetry Festival

It's the 6th annual Brigid Poetry Festival! All over the internet! 

I found out about this a few years ago through Deborah Oak Cooper, Reya Mellicker, and Anne Hill

A quick web search of Brigid poetry brings all sorts of results for this year's festival.  


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Blessed Brigid to you!

A happy and blessed Brigid to you!

Brigid is the Goddess of smithcraft, healing, and poetry. How is She moving in your life today? 

If this is Imbolc, Candlemas, or Brigid, to you, what does the holiday mean to you?