Thursday, January 31, 2013

bread and roses spiritual nurture

Edinburgh's Third Annual
Winter Solstice Celebration
A Celebration of the Darkness and the Light
with Songs and Stories

Saturday, 21 December, 7:00-8:30 pm
Location to be determined
  • Songs, stories, candle-lighting, silent meditation, singing, and more  
  • Suitable for children and adults
  • Sliding-scale donation requested to cover the costs of hall hire and supplies; all are welcome regardless of ability to make a donation
  • For disability accessibility reasons, please do not wear perfume/essential oils or other personal care products with fragrance

For more info:

 Click here for the Facebook event page:

Contact Stasa for more information

A presentation of A Winter Solstice Singing Ritual by Julie Forest Middleton & Stasa Morgan-Appel.

Book and compact disc available now through the website (click here), or through Stasa, and soon at at bookstores in Edinburgh.

Yes, it's ridiculously early, but I'm getting information about this out now, anyway!  - sm

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Sexism and size-ism in health care

I follow Ragen Chastain's blog, Dances with Fat (

Today I was reading an article of hers which jolted me and got me to see a bunch of things differently than I usually do -- in one of those lightning-flash kinds of ways:

Many people who contacted me were told that it was simply impossible to properly diagnose someone of their BMI, or that treating them is a “waste of time” since they are likely to re-injure themselves anyway.  One woman was told that, at 5’4, 250 pounds, she was simply to big to get an MRI. 
I find that interesting because last week the following people received the absolute best medical  treatment, including in some cases MRI,  with no discussion of weight loss at all: 
6’2, 308 pounds   – knee injury – “class 3 obesity” (Super Fat!)
6’4, 285 pounds – arm injury – “class 2 obese”
6’4, 263 pounds – ankle injury – “class 1 obese”
6’3, 260 pounds  – achiles injury – “class 1 obese” 
These are, in fact, just a handful of “obese” people who were afforded evidence-based medical care for injuries without being required to lose weight and despite the fact that they are very, very likely to re-injure themselves. 
Read on:

The message, to me, is really clear:
  • If you are male and are "obese" and play (American) football (especially for the NFL), you get one standard of care.  
  • If you are female and are "obese", it doesn't much matter what activities you're capable of -- international competitive dance being one -- and you get a different standard of care.  One where you don't actually get treatment for what's wrong with you.  

This leads me to ask:
  • What activities do we, as a society, place value on?  
  • Which people are we willing to treat with evidence-based care, and which people do we demand undergo "treatments" that have no supporting evidence, but lots of supporting cultural narrative?  
  • Why do our cultural narratives support evidence-based care for one group, but not another?  

Thursday, January 24, 2013

"Are you willing to suffer to learn?"

I was reminded of this question recently during a conversation with a friend and another acquaintance.

"Are you willing to suffer to learn?" is a traditional question in Wicca and Witchcraft, particularly during initiation into a tradition, or to a new level within a tradition.

It's very easy to focus on this as physical suffering, or persecution -- the sorts of things which are imposed externally, by other people, by the world, by circumstance, etc.  Discrimination, financial hardship, physical pain, what have you.

But I see certain kinds of "suffering" as something much deeper, as a natural consequence of some of the deepest mysteries of Witchcraft, those of spiritual growth, self-knowledge, and self-discipline.

The self-discipline (and self-knowledge and spiritual growth) required in Witchcraft is not easy, and while like any other form of self-discipline it has its rewards, it's not always pleasant.

(Awwww, man, you're saying.  And here I thought it was unicorns and rainbows and skittles and purple sparkly hats all the time.)

Learning new skills

Some examples from my own experience spring to mind.  Is practicing scales on a musical instrument always pleasant?  Is step practice in Scottish country dance always fun?  Are vocal warm-ups or other voice exercises exciting and interesting all the time?  Are stretches?  How about learning to read a new pattern, or learning a new stitch, in handwork?  Learning to work with a new yarn?  Learning to paddle a canoe or a kayak, or learning to paddle it with a partner (or a new partner!), or learning to paddle it in a different kind of water?

Hah.  Struggle all the way.

Is it fun, or pleasant, to continue on when one is struggling to learn something, feeling foolish, not doing it well or correctly or gracefully, the whole nine yards?


For me, it's way cool when I've learned it.  I might have to get a step or a figure or a dance broken down into all its pieces, take it from the beginning, and do it over and over and over until I get it right, but ohmigoodness, when I do?  WOW.  Yes, then, I am happy; then, I am having fun; then, when I realise that yes, I'm really learning this, moment by frustrating moment, yes, that's exciting!; when I'm figuring out which things will help me learn this, yes, that's interesting.

None of this prevents me from falling on my face (usually metaphorically) when I am learning something.  Or re-learning something I haven't done in a while, or never learned well.  (Or practicing something I'm just not good at, plain and simple.)

None of this prevents me from frogging an awful lot of crochet before I understand a new pattern, or a new project, and can actually do it.

How does this relate to Witchcraft and to spiritual growth?

Spiritual skills are like any other.  Spiritual growth is like any other kind of growth.  One can't be skilled using the tools of Witchcraft without practice.  And none of us is graceful or skilled the first time we pick up a hammer, either.

None of us can hammer non-stop all day at first, either.

We need to learn to use new tools, and we need to build up our stamina.

So, yes, we need practice.

Letting ourselves be uncomfortable

But we also have to move out of our comfort zones.  We have to be willing to be uncomfortable.  We have to put down the book, the computer, the instructions, and do.

We have to be willing to be unskilled at first, in order to develop skill.  We have to be willing to be not-very-muscular at first, in order to build up muscles.

This is true for spiritual skills and spiritual muscles in the same ways as physical skills and physical muscles.  (In Witchcraft, there's no real separation.)

We have to be willing to be embarrassed.  Definitely at first.  And, at least in my experience, again and again in the future, as well.

Letting go

In addition to learning new skills, and refining already-existing skills, something else comes to mind -- and that's letting go.  Which can also bring loss and grief.

Spiritual growth, self-knowledge, and self-discipline, along with learning new ways of doing things, also mean letting go of old ways of thinking and old ways of doing things.  Even when the new things we're bringing into our lives are positive, that can mean loss, and loss can be both positive and hard.  Even when the things we're letting go aren't good for us, even when we're eager to let them go, we need to give ourselves permission to mourn their absence -- even as we fill that gap with things that are healthier for us, that nurture us and our spiritual lives better.

Witchcraft calls many of us to think very differently than how we were brought up.  Indeed, that's often part of its appeal, part of what speaks to some of us very strongly.

But at the same time, letting go of old patterns can be challenging and painful.

What else?

So, "suffering" -- some of the kinds of suffering I've identified are being bored, being embarrassed, doing repetitive tasks, not doing new things well, being frustrated, grieving and being sad, being spiritually challenged, and sore muscles, both physical and spiritual.  There are others; that's just what came to mind over the weekend.

What else?

We also have to be willing to be thrilled down to our toes.

That's the whole point of this, isn't it?  To be open to the Mysteries?  To be open to the experience of Joy?

Are you willing to suffer in order to learn?

Are you willing to be bored?  Are you willing to be embarrassed?  Are you willing to be unskilled?  Are you willing to be ignorant?

Are you willing to build new skills, new self-knowledge, new knowledge in the world?

Are you willing to be thrilled down to your toes, over and over?

Are you willing to be filled with wonder?  Are you willing to be filled with joy?

Are you willing to learn your own power?

Monday, January 21, 2013

Reclaiming Scotia Elements of Witchcraft Class

The Elements of Witchcraft
An introduction to Reclaiming style and tradition of Magic

8th – 10th March, 2013

at The Golden Leaf, Peebles 
facilitated by Elinor Prędota
Cost: £75 (£65 concessions)

All living beings are supported by the sacred elements of air, fire, water, earth and spirit. Join us for this fun weekend, in which you will deepen your connection with these elements, and learn the basic tools, approaches and thealogy of Reclaiming tradition.

We will meet on the evening of Friday, 8th March, to focus our attention and intention together with ritual, then move through the elements together over the weekend. By the end of the weekend, you will have begun or strengthened your relationship with the elements, and have a range of tools to support your magical practice and your spiritual path.

Email or visit our Facebook group “Reclaiming Scotia” to ask any questions and to request a booking form.

You can also get a booking form and this flyer from the “Core Classes” page at our website

[Please note: To be more accessible, this event will be alcohol- and chem-free, and we will also endeavour to have as fragrance-free an environment as possible (including asking participants to refrain from wearing perfume, essential oils, and personal care products containing fragrance).  

For more information on helping to make spaces and events accessible to people with chemical sensitivities, and for tips for participating in such events, please see  - sm]