Into the Night: A Samhain Ritual in Poetry

Downtown Portland, Maine
Saturday, Nov. 3
7 p.m.

Jane Raeburn offers an quiet, contemplative evening of poetry and remembrance in honor of the Samhain season. Poems will bridge the gap between this world and the next, will legitimize our losses and ways of expressing grief.

There will be time for individuals to offer personal remembrances of those they have lost, as well as community tributes to those lost in war and service, and to those who perished due to hate. Themes include the varieties of loss and the power of nature to heal both itself and us.

Samhain rites tend to stir up the emotions, and I do not feel this one to be appropriate for children or for those who have never attended a ritual.

After the ritual, we will share food and drink, and perform divinatory readings, which are believed to be particularly effective at this time of year.

SPACE IS VERY LIMITED. If you can attend, please reply to me privately here on Facebook or at jane@janeraeburn.com. I ask that you commit to attending because I may well have to declare the event “full,” and I don’t want to turn away people unnecessarily.

BRING: food or drink to share, and your divination tool(s) of choice. If you are moved to do so, bring a poem, photo and/or personal object to honor someone you have lost.

WEAR: Clothes. (Casual dress is fine.)

STUFF TO KNOW: I have cats. It’s OK to share this announcement within the Maine Pagan community.

Ritual with special-needs kids

Meredith, at Witchtastic, has an excellent post from her experience as a Pagan and mother to a child with special needs. She makes some interesting points about creating ritual experiences that can include her boy, who has sensory integration issues:

  • Heavy work — some kids find it comforting to get their whole bodies involved in a process like casting the circle, pushing on walls or otherwise getting their physical selves deeply immersed in the experience of creating the temple.
  • Inclusion despite limits — Meredith’s son is nonverbal, but can wave hello to the elements or the gods. She uses a push light for “fire” to give him a way to safely invoke that element.
  • Respecting where he is — if he’s not up for doing ritual at a given time, he doesn’t have to.

I know many Pagan parents struggle with how to keep their own spirituality alive while respecting their children’s individual needs and abilities (whether or not they are “neurotypical”). It’s nice to see a voice publicly speaking up for inclusion.

Clothes and the Pagan

Last fall I joined a movement called The Great American Apparel Diet, in which participants refrain from buying new clothing for a year. It started as a way to curb my impulsive spending, and has wound up making me more mindful on a number of levels. Hence today’s post, Who makes your clothes?

As a disabled person, I value clothes that are easy to put on and take off, easy to care for, and help conceal the figure flaws that come with the territory for my condition. As a Pagan, I value clothes that feel comfortable and beautiful on me. Because I work from home, I have more freedom than many to choose the clothes I like for every day.

For some Pagans, of course, part of the charm of the religion is that whole “naked in your rites” business. Between snow and black flies, Maine is a tough place to try to do that. What do you wear? What would you wear if you could?

Doing it right

Burning ManI am not the sort of person who goes to Burning Man. But I know lots of such people, and in the context of a conversation I had occasion to look up the Burning Man Web site.

If you haven’t heard of it, Burning Man is a large festival, or as they call it, “experiment in temporary community,” which takes place in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada every year. Participants create art, music, theme camps, and communities, and then they pack it all up and go away again. The challenge is that along with participating in the event on whatever level pleases you, you also have to provide for your own survival in a very challenging environment, including your own food, water and protection from the sun.

As I say, I’m not a Burning Man sort of person. My kind of festival takes place in a nice hotel with modern plumbing. But I was impressed by the Burning Man page on Wheelchairs on the Playa. It neither encourages nor discourages people with disabilities from attending. It just tells you what you need to know to have a good experience. Planners and promoters of Pagan festivals might do well to take this attitude to heart.

Mithras Reader, vol. 3

Channing Tatum in "The Eagle"

Channing Tatum in "The Eagle"

This hasn’t got anything to do with disability, but I did want to note that I have a story (really the first chapter of a novel in progress) called “The Lioness” in the latest Mithras Reader. It’s an interesting collection of scholarly articles, personal gnosis and art related to the ancient worship of the god Mithras. My story draws on the very scanty evidence we have for women being associated with some Mithraic groups in the ancient Roman world, and envisions a situation in which a woman might have joined such a temple and what she might have experienced there.

Incidentally, if you happened to see the movie “The Eagle,” you will notice the character Marcus Aquila (played by the very nice-looking Channing Tatum) offering prayers to Mithras, who was considered a “soldier’s god.”

Buy the Mithras Reader

from your local independent bookseller or, if you don’t have one, at lulu.com.

It really does get better

I doubt anyone reading this blog has gone through life without experiencing the feeling of being different, perhaps even being excluded or bullied or abused for your differences. I think that may be one reason so many of us resonate to the “It Gets Better” project, started by columnist Dan Savage to try to stem a wave of suicides among young people who were (or were thought by their peers to be) gay.

Likewise, you don’t have to have ever carried an extra pound on your body to understand why Maura Kelly was wrong when she wrote in Marie Claire about how much she hates watching fat people walk or kiss. But you have to be a pretty awesome person to realize that Kelly’s hatred comes from a place of fear and self-hatred, as the awesome Plumcake of Manolo for the Big Girl does in this excellent post. Sample quote:

Other people don’t need to be bad to make you feel good. Other people don’t need to be ugly for you to be beautiful. It’s not a zero-sum game. Never has been.

And I’ll warn you that this video made me cry like a baby, and you should totally watch it anyway, and share it with everyone you know who is, or has been, hurt by others for being different.

If you’re reading this and other people are making your life miserable because of your religion or your race or your sexuality or your disability, please know that this is not forever, that you can live to prove everyone wrong about you, just by pursuing happiness on your terms. But the key word is “live.”

Disability Goddess?

Venus de Milo (sculpture in the Louvre)When I was looking for a name for this blog, I did a little searching to try to find the name of an ancient goddess who had some kind of disabiity. Aside from Themis, the Greek goddess of justice (who is blindfolded, not blind, and was not even blindfolded in early depictions), I found nothing.

It is tempting to argue that in cultures both ancient and modern, there is more of a role for the man with a disability than a woman, that women are/were simply expected to be beautiful and perfect, and ignored if they are/were not.

But I don’t want to imply that being disabled is any less of a problem for men (indeed, in today’s cowboy-up culture it may be more difficult for a man to admit he needs help), and I also am aware that there are many areas of world religion where my knowledge is scanty. So: Are there any disabled goddesses?

Time Warp: A Lesson in Dance and Mobility

Here’s a lesson in inclusiveness from “Glee,” of all things. (Gosh, I feel old. I remember when “Rocky Horror” was the dirtiest movie I’d ever seen.) The dance, as described in the lyrics, includes jumping, stepping and pelvic thrusting, yet who can doubt that the guy in the wheelchair is well and truly a part of this Time Warp?