How not to plan an accessible event

Enjoyed this post from Autistic Hoya about How Not To Plan Disability Conferences. Some of these tips are relevant to anyone (like, say, a Pagan ritual or festival organizing group):


4. Rethink who is on the planning committee. Don’t invite people as tokens — actually talk to disabled people who you know and ask them to take a substantive leadership role in the planning of your conference. More than one. More than two.

,,,, include easily findable information about access and accommodations.

… Establish a low-fragrance policy. Establish a no flash photography — and no photography of any kind without consent of those in the picture — policy. Mention if there will be a break room where attendees can take a break from the stimulation. (Seriously, that’s not just autistics; it’s also people with anxiety, people with physical disabilities or chronic pain, people with depression, etc. etc. etc.) These are all little things that you can do for minimal cost, and that advertising and talking about publicly can send a strong message that you’re expecting and trying to be as welcoming as possible for disabled people.

… Speak up if someone else in your planning group is saying or doing these shitty things. If they’re saying them in front of the whole group, and you know they’re wrong, and you have the ability to speak out, then do. That’s called practicing good allyship. Because if disabled people aren’t in the room to begin with, then all we can hope for is someone who’s in there to say something.


Galina Krasskova (whom I once had the pleasure of meeting) writes about a controversy over the use of the word “lame” to refer to the smith god Hephaestus (Vulcan, for you Roman fans).

She starts by pointing out that the Norse tradition, too, has its deities with disabilities:

I practice a tradition that has many impaired and disfigured Gods: Odin is missing an eye, Heimdall by some accounts his ears, Hodr is blind, Tyr lost a hand, and other Gods are scarred and so on and so forth. There’s power and tremendous wisdom in each account of how these Deities became as They are. Sometimes, as with Odin, the act of disfigurement is a hugely important part of His mythos, one of the defining moments of His nature as a God. So when I come upon a Deity that has specific epithets that refer to, as in this case, lameness, I pay attention.

While it would be less than polite to refer to a person with mobility issues as lame, Krasskova argues that the use of the word in describing the god is a different case:

Homer presents Him as having crafted delicate, almost sentient automatons (the first AIs!) for instance, and almost never refers to Him as the “lame God” without also referencing His strength and vigor. It’s as though the two are inextricably linked. For this reason, not to mention simple respect for these Gods, we ought to be careful before we strip those holy titles away.

Like Krasskova, I am pleased that our gods are imperfect, for that helps us to understand our own disabilities and abilities. One thing I find troubling is that imperfections — lameness, missing limbs or eyes, scars — are far more common in historical descriptions of male deities than female. This offers us — Krasskova, me, and other Pagan women with disabilities — a challenge, to create our own mythos and role models.

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 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

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.”