First, my thoughts and love are with the people of Ferguson, Missouri today. I pray that Ma’at finds a way to prevail.
Second, this past weekend was Pantheon Foundation’s first Pagan Activism conference. My fellow Pagan Activist blogger Shauna was asked to present based on her work with consent culture and sexual ethics. I was surprised and thrilled when my name was offered as a potential presenter, and found myself on the Care and Feeding of Pagan Activists panel. Some of the panel focused on self care, which I have discussed here before. The majority of the panel concentrated on pagans, both activist and not, with various disabilities and how to manage that in community.
Caring for our community in their health problems seems to be a topic still in its infancy. Accessibility to events is still limited, either by location or by people unable to participate in events. Food became a big topic in the panel, in the form of restrictive diets and not having options for eating when attending events. Also, the language we use within community, which can diminish others who live with any kind of health issue.
General Care and Feeding
Want to care for yourself and not burn out? Not feel drained by work which may have nourished you so deeply at the start? Here is how to start.
1. Drink water! Stay hydrated because every cell of your body needs it.
2. Get enough sleep. I can’t stress this enough. Also go to bed at a reasonable hour if you can manage.
3. Eat good, real, nourishing food. Like the water and sleep, you need this to function.
4. Take breaks. Whether it be from talking online or taking a few days off after an action, the break will give you some time to recuperate.
5. You are not your cause. During the panel, John (effing!) Beckett said something to hit this one on the head: make yourself redundant. There is more to your life than your cause. You will need more to help you keep going, plus if anything happens to you, what would everyone else do?
6. Keep living and keep engaging in your practices. Your connection to Gods/spirits/etc. are great fuel and a way to further nurture and remind yourself of what is important.
Activism and Health
What are the issues facing our activists today? Fibromyalgia, endocrine (thyroid, adrenals) problems, food allergies, Celiac disease, depression, PTSD, autism spectrum, autoimmune problems. We’re a reflection of the world, where many people are dealing with these problems. And it’s not always the adults. Morgan Daimler has spoken (and I shared during the panel) about attending events with a complex child and that it is not always easy to negotiate attendance in these situations. But we should not be shunning them, we need to find a way to welcome and bring everyone into the communities further.
A great deal of talk focused on food, and what people can and cannot eat. Especially since discovering my gluten intolerance last year, I have become much more aware of what others may deal with. I know more than a few people who use diets based around traditional foods, paleo, primal, autoimmune paleo, and similar eating plans to manage chronic illness. While as a community pagans can be very successful accommodating restrictive diets of choice, handling needed restrictions is not always noticed.
A good start would be pagan events taking note of the major food allergens in the US.
For some, consuming these foods can cause a range of symptoms, from digestive issues and cognitive problems (like me + gluten = brain fog) to severe pain and anaphylactic shock. Even having some of these foods openly available in a room can be enough to cause distress to someone who is sensitive enough.
The panel discussion also included being heard with these issues. Not just in terms of what a person might need during a public ritual, but just being seen, heard, acknowledged, when you are a person who may be perceived as being less in our culture. If we need support, whether emotional, or just a chair for a ritual which the facilitator may have wanted all participants laying on the floor.
It’s past time for us to take accessibility, on all fronts, into consideration. Having accessibility coordinators as part of planning committees. Bringing in ASL interpreters for people with auditory issues. Having more food available than pizza and donuts (which happened to me at an event a few months ago). Giving people who have issues with mobility a way to be present and participate.
I’m only at the beginning of looking at these issues for myself. I’d love to hear from people who have handled these matters both in and out of the Pagan communities, and at least continue this discussion.
Thank you to the Pantheon Foundation for hosting this great conference, to Sam Webster, Lady Yeshe and Xochi for all the work they did, to my fellow panelists John (Effing!) Beckett, Rion Roberts, and Rhiannon Laasko, and everyone who attended.
EDIT: The Wild Hunt has a write-up of the conference as a whole, if you are interested.