Saturday, August 25, 2007

Working with the Elderly

On Thursday I attended another luncheon meeting of the Marin Interfaith Council, the topic of which was "Serving Your Senior Community." Our speakers, Jenefer Duane, CEO/Executive Director of Elder Financial Protection Network, and Lee Pullen, Program Manager for Adult Protective Services, spoke about elder needs and care. Since these events are mainly directed towards clergy of the mainstream persuasions, they sought to educate about issues such folks encounter in their ministries.

They came well prepared, with a power point presentation, statistics, and handouts containing written information, resources and contacts. Elder financial abuse is a growing problem. Most perpetrators have a close relationship to the victim. Besides financial abuse, lonely, often dependent and confused, elders suffer physical assault, constraint or deprivation, neglect, over and under medication, and abandonment.

Elders may become neglectful of personal hygiene, malnourished or dehydrated. Memory loss, fear of loss of independence, feelings of shame and embarrassment, and dependence on the perpetrator(s) lead to underreporting of these crimes.

Our discussion included the argument for not isolating populations by age. Contemporary American lifestyles tend to group small children with each other, youth with youth, and elders with elders. We are better served when communities are age-integrated.

For Pagan readers of this blog, I quote the definition of clergy for mandated reporting:

"Clergy member" means priest, minister, rabbi, religious practitioner, or similar functionary of a church, synagogue, temple, mosque, or recognized religious denomination or organization.

"Clergy member" does not include unpaid volunteers who periodically visit elder or dependent adults, unless their main occupation or vocation involves active or ordained ministry.
I leave it to the individual Pagan to decide in what capacity she or he is functioning. Local and regional resources and more detailed information, by state, about elder abuse and reporting at the National Center on Elder Abuse.

If there is one thing I want Pagans to take away from this is the knowledge that if we encounter anything resembling elder abuse, we are mandated reporters. Most of you probably know we are mandated reporters for suspected child abuse, but the law requiring 'clergy' to report suspected elder abuse is recent. So now you know. May you never have to do it.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Friends Old & New

One of the most compelling reasons for me to belong to CoG is the friends I've made through it. I hadn't attended CoG's annual meeting for several years, for reasons I won't go into here, until this year when Laura asked me to present at the Leadership Institute.

Some of the dear friends I was able to visit with this year are: Cat Chapin-Bishop and Peter Bishop, creators of QuakerPagan Reflections blog. Go there to read Cat's remarkable seven-part spiritual journey.

It's always a treat to see Penny and Mike Novack. Penny is fey if anyone ever was. I had last seen her at Dandelion 2 in May of '06. I was pleased that so many other CoG members who'd only known Penny online got to experience the full impact of her.

For the first time I met in person some co-conspirators who helped me write Witchcraft and the Web, in particular Jehana Silverwing, who did the MerryMeet07 website, and Carol Maltby, whose observations over the years, both in the business of writing that book and beyond, I've always found to be wise and compassionate. Plus she has beautiful gray braids.

My friend Jennifer Bennett, another CHS teacher, generously shared her dorm room with me. She embodied CoG's matron Coventina at the main ritual. She wore a beautiful shade of blue and carried a cornucopia. At the end of the ritual, participants were given an image of Coventina on a ribbon, handmade by the Witches of Evergreen Coven. I'm not terribly familiar with Coventina. I learned more about her from a slide show by Don Frew and Anna Korn of their trip to Coventina's well a couple of years ago, but I'd not previously known Her to be conceived as a tripartite goddess.

Our EarthSpirit colleagues produced the main ritual. I had a small part paired at opposite sides of the with Eric. Moira choreographed, Deirdre taught us a couple of new chants from MotherTongue's new album, "Weaving the Web," that I guarantee I'll be spreading around.

MotherTongue performed for us after dinner on Saturday night. In addition to chants from their new album, Andras entertained us with a raunchy contemporary version of "Gently Johnny" from The Wicker Man. This is the first time I've seen MotherTongue with their new director, Christopher LaFond.

Other non-members lives in Western Massachusetts and are my witchy pals: Mark Roblee, known in magical circles as Mark Moth. Mark and I go way back from when he lived in San Francisco. He and his wife Jacky (Wacky Jac) live in a Kahlo-esque house in the woods with their two young sons. They don't socialize much. I left MerryMeet one afternoon to have a cappuccino and schmooze with Mark, to the envy of some of his local friends who rarely see him. He's delving into learning Greek, with a goal of learning more about Greek magic. I told him about Tony's work and will recommend Tony's writings.

Most times when I'm in the area, Orion Stormcrow shows up. This time was no different; along he came, all dressed for the masquerade and looking great. I was glad for his company at the ball, glad to do some booty dancing with him.

I only got to wave at Charles Boyce, former Tech Dean of CHS, and his wife Kaitlin in passing. Kaitlin starred in a playlette called "The PerfectTear," by Silkie O-Ishi, about Cuchulain's encounter with Fand of the sidhe in the New York subway and his marital conversations with Emer.

Then there are Pagan friends who are neither members of CoG nor do they live in Western Mass: Michael York and Richard Switzer. Met for the first time in person Thea Collins and our new PIO, Jane Raeburn, both from Maine and both working with CHS. Spent a fair amount of time with CHS Board members Holli Emore from South Carolina and Debbie Fields-Berry from Boston.

I met several folks for the first time whom I know I will carry a fondness for from now on: Ludmilla, Coral, Cosette, Cuchulain, Coyote, and some whose names escape my senior mind at the moment.

Margot Adler gave a great talk about her new edition of DDTM, which opened up into a panel of long-time Witches. I was reluctant to go up to the table, but Cosette and Cuchulain urged me to. We had a fascinating discussion going on, with the likes of Glenn Turner, Penny, Andras Arthen, Anna Korn and others, but, as usual, not nearly enough time. Just like the panel at Starwood the week before. Oh, well, leave 'em wanting more, I say.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Oldsters & Youngsters

Earlier in the month at MerryMeet in Massachusetts, Laura "Spellweaver" Wildman-Hanlon organized a conversation between long-time Pagans and younger Pagans. The older folks, myself among them, were mainly Witches. The younger folks included both teens who were brought up in Pagan families and college students from U-Mass' SPIRALS Pagan student group. The latter were people brought up in more conventional households.

I learned a lot and left feeling optimistic about our survivability as a religious movement.

I had the pleasure of meeting a younger, though neither teen from a Pagan family nor student Pagan, Cosette from Miami (a member of Everglades Moon Local Council* of CoG), as well as the teen children of Ariadne (I think of her as Ariadne even though now she goes by her give name of Lisa) and Macha/Rachel (not me). Ariadne is a long-time member of of CoG active in the Antelope Valley of California, formerly of Orange County** Local Council.

One of the highlights of this discussion, for me, was hearing Joan C. tell about her early exposure to Witchcraft in Boston. I knew her about 30 years ago when she lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, and have had the good fortune to reconnect with her on my occasional broomstick trips to Western Massachusetts. She participated in a workshop on death and dying that I facilitated at Mary Colleen McDougall & Ted Tarr's late Tarr & Feathers store in Greenfield. (Also got to chat with Mary Colleen & Ted at MM.) Then in March '06 I learned that she's a member of Apple & Oak Coven, of which Laura Spellweaver is High Priestess. I hope the younger Pagans were as fascinated by her tales as I was.

Another highlight was hearing from a young college student about how he and his spiritual beliefs are accepted in his fraternity.

I should mention that this discussion was deftly facilitated by Thea Collins, author and faculty member at Cherry Hill Seminary.

A few months earlier I'd been asked by Ariel Monserrat, the new editor of the revised Green Egg, to write something about elders and eldership. Being pressed for time, I reread an article I'd written on the same topic for the same publication back in 1996. I felt it held up to the passage of time, so resubmitted it. It appears in the Beltaine 2007 issue, which also contains lots of

I don't have enough time to keep up on all the endless discussions about elders and eldership that seem to be taking place everywhere I look. I know Druid Michael Gorman , whom I featured on a panel discussion at PSR last year, wrote one in a recent GE, and I'm aware that the legendary GE Forum has been host to lively discussion on those topics. I also notice that PanGaia magazine has been publishing articles and discussion about elders.

It's always been a topic of interest to me, perhaps because we had so few when I was new to Paganism. I could probably name the ones I knew or had heard of on one hand (at least here in California): Victor and Cora Anderson (Feri/Faery); Grandma Julie Tower (Tower Family); George Patterson (Georgian). Other friends grew to become elders during the time I knew them: Judy Foster (NROOGD); Alison Harlow (Feri/Faery).

I've always maintained that until the full spectrum of human lives is included within our ranks, we are merely a club, a clique or a fad. By the full spectrum, I mean the unborn, the babies, the children and youth, the adults, the elders, and the ancestors. If Paganism is to survive -- I believe it will -- it must reflect all the stages of life, and have a place or places for everyone in our communities. This leads to a whole different discussion beyond the scope of this little post.

In any case, I continue to ponder where we're going. I look at other cultural phenomena and see how they sustain themselves, and how they regard elders. I love history. I find it such a rich resource of observations about human nature, human behavior, human strengths and foibles.

Shorty after I came home, I received an email from a young Pagan named Gwinevere Rain, editor of Copper Moon E-Zine: A Witch's Publication for Teens and Early Twenties, an online zine in which I was interviewed a few years ago. She reminds us that Copper Moon is alive and seeking to serve younger Pagans:

Copper Moon is an online blog magazine for Wiccan/Pagan practitioners in their teens and early twenties. Our features include eye-opening author interviews, articles, book reviews and more! This interactive site enables readers to comment on individual articles, subscribe through e-mail or in a RSS reader! Our aim is to have at least one new article or book review up each week. Since 2002 we have been providing a venue for young practitioners to express their opinions and have their writing showcased. If you are 13 to 26 we'd love to read your submission. Thanks for considering Copper Moon, one of the leading publications for young adult Wiccan/Pagans on the web.

* In fact, in addition to the two EMLC folks I already knew to be fun and standup and honorable, Canu and Rayna, I met several other cool folks from that LC: Coral Tran, Lord Cuchulain, and Lord Coyote, who happens to share a Pisces birthday with me.

** Here's a fascinating tidbit: Orange County is a conservative Republican area of California, yet Cherry Hill Seminary has more students from Orange County than from any other single region of the country. Go figure.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Beside Myself

You know that crazy expression that someone is "beside herself"? You're jumping with joy so much that you may be multiplying, or your image becomes blurred with all that jumping? Or you're so excited you're looking at yourself in wonderment that that person who is you is so stoked? Well, I'm not literally jumping because I'm too heavy at the moment to do much hopping and jumping without injuring myself. But if I could, that's what I'd be doing. Let's just say I'm so excited I can barely contain myself. Why, you wonder?

Cherry Hill Seminary has just launched a brand new Chaplaincy Program under the direction of Patrick McCollum. Patrick, Brighde Indigo, Malendia Maccree and I (as Chair of the Public Ministry Department, of which this is our first really big official program) worked out this program over a period of months. We've been ready to launch it since January, but only now has CHS filled in our infrastructure sufficiently, with the hiring of two wonderful new volunteer professionals, Jane Raeburn, our PIO in Maine, and Eddie Cranford, our Tech Dean in South Carolina, to announce it to the world.

Hooray for Jane and Eddie! Hooray for Patrick, Brighde, Malendia and me! Hooray for those students who join us! Hooray for Pagandom!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

More on Starwood '07

Talk about horny!

Among the first performers we saw on the night Corby and I arrived was
Incus, great drumming, great fusion music, wonderful belly dancers with a PoMo twist.

We spent a lot of time schmoozing with Chameleons Ian & Liafal, A.J., Steph, Maddox & little Sydney Ginger. Their pavilion is a communication hub and a welcoming 'green room' for presenters. We sampled some of A.J.'s amazing elderberry mead, as well as all manner of cookies baked by A.J. and his 10-year-old son Maddox. Three-month-old Sydney Ginger was conceived at Starwood '06. Her brother intends to use her as a babe magnet when she's a toddler.

Again this year we feasted with Druid colleagues at the ADF potluck, giving us more leisurely time to become better acquainted with Kirk Thomas from Sonoran Sunrise Grove in Tucson and other Druids from faraway places. They didn't seem to have much familiarity with Northern California groves.

Later in the week we enjoyed the singing of Awen, the duet of Ian and Liafal. Jack from Maryland was enchanted by their rendition of "Jack in the Green," one of my favorite Spring Equinox songs. They also sang a beautiful Stephen Foster song that seems to have made its way into Pagan music, "Hard Times Come Again No More."

Presenter Lon Duquette arrived hungry, and so was I, so I took him over to Phill's Grille for a moderately priced, delicious Mediterranean repast. Phill's food is about a billion times better than you'll find at most Pagan festivals. Lon and I discovered that we had many more friends in common that just the late Tim Maroney who first introduced us some years ago. While sitting there, we also met Tara, who, with my pal Kevin Roddy and others, runs the Fire Tribe Hawaii festivals on the Solstices.

We hung a fair amount with presenters Jo Byers and Tony Mierzwicki. I enjoyed them immensely. Evidently, thanks to my pal Patrick McCollum, my reputation had preceded me because Tony told me what a great connection they'd had with Patrick and how he'd spoken highly of me. Always a great entré.

From Tony's website: back row: Tony, A.J. and Jo with
her arm around Michaela. In front of A.J. are Steph,
Sydney Ginger, and her big brother Maddox

I was pleasantly pleased to run into Minnesotans Nels & Judy from Sacred Harvest Festival and old CoG friend Vinnie Russo of Arsenic & Old Lace in Cambridge, MA.

Folks seemed to love my "Buffing & Polishing" workshops (two consecutive sessions). One of the men who came to one of my workshops was a NASA physicist from Florida, there because his children are interested in Paganism and he knew little about it.

One of the more remarkable presenters was Halim El-Dabh, an 84-year-old world-renowned musician from Egypt. His first name is Arabic, his middle name is Coptic, and his last name is Pharoic. A friendly man who hugs whenever the opportunity arises, Halim, accompanied by his wife Deborah, engaged in lively conversation wherever he went. I remember meeting him very briefly several years ago when he was doing a drumming workshop at a PCCO event in Ohio.

Corby and I and other Californians like LaSara Firefox are always blown away by the fire everywhere: luminaria lighting the pathways, campfires, tiki torches, candles in the notches of trees. Above all, fire dancing and twirling of flaming hula hoops as part of the spectacular Friday night fireworks display.

Late on Saturday we convened a panel, because both Ian and I love panels and we love talking with other Pagans about who we are and what we may mean in the world. In addition, Ian likes to talk about that irresolvable topic, thea/ology. This panel was on teaching methods.

Starting with the older known form of Paganism, Gardnerian Witchcraft, Deborah Lipp spoke of the older forms of training and how we cannot, in the present state of Paganism, teach everyone that way. She and I both still prefer that method, one that allows for a more gradual integration of knowledge, skills and experiences into the whole cloth of one's life, with guidance and mentoring. I spoke of Anderson Feri/Faery, since that precedes Reclaiming and is older than Church of All Worlds or ADF. Oberon Zell spoke about CAW, Ian Corrigan (later Skip Ellison) talked about ADF's training methods, I spoke of Reclaiming teaching as I knew it when I was active and as I observe it in the context of WitchCamps, which are an international phenomenon. Later Oberon explained something of his Grey School, a colorful endeavor with, not surprisingly, a strong scifi/fantasy flavor.

I got a chance to describe what we're doing at Cherry Hill Seminary in some detail. I think many there were surprised at the caliber of teachers and courses we have and the high bar we're attempting to set for Pagan seminaries that may follow us.

Although he was not officially on the panel, since there were two ADF folks already there, Isaac Bonewits contributed plenty of commentary.

I think it's fair to say we all enjoyed it. Our frustrations were two-fold: (1) It was scheduled too late, at the end of the day of the last full day of the festival, not a time when people are eager to take in more information. (2) We could have used lots more time; we were all juiced up when our time ran out.

Also from Tony's website: Corby, Gnorm our charioteer
and me wearing our glostiks all ready for the Saturday
night bonfire.

Me, Tony, Jo and Corby. Do we look like we're twinkling?

Bonfires are so primal and So Much Fun, especially for us Californians who have to be so much more fire-conscious. We found the Saturday night bonfire thrilling.

Sunday morning we cleaned up, packed, and embarked on our seemingly endless trip home.

I hope to go to more Starwoods in the future. Long may they thrive!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Passing Through

Just home from Starwood in Pennsylvania and off to MerryMeet in Massachusetts in a few hours. Lots to tell when I find time.

Celebrated Lughnasad at a fine nighttime ritual in the Nemeton with Druid friends of Ár nDraíocht Féin (ADF)

Lughnasad blessings to all!

And don't forget International Forgiveness Day on Sunday.