Advice Following Town of Greece from a Witch with Experience

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The Wild Hunt has reported recently on a number of instances in which local officials use the power of their office to discriminate against Pagans. In the wake of Town of Greece, we’re likely to see more of this.

I talked with Byron Ballard, who’s had her share of run-ins with local officials who don’t seem to care much for the First Amendment to see what advice she has for Pagans dealing with these sorts of issues. Thanks to Byron for taking the time to discuss what she’s learned!

Q: Please tell us about your experience.

A: Mine isn’t only one instance. It’s an ongoing war of wills so my answers may be rather general.

The most recent focus in my area has been the inappropriate “Christian default setting” in the public schools. What started it was the delivery of Gideon bibles to a public elementary school and that set up a domino effect that is still playing out here.

Q: Did you reach out to groups such as ACLU or Americans United and, if so, what was your interaction with them? Do you have suggestions for those who seek the assistance of such groups?

A: We called on Lady Liberty League (LLL) and state and national ACLU, and LLL got us in touch with Americans United for Separation of Church and State. ACLU NC, AU, and LLL were all excellent allies with strong responses. There was a sense from them that the behavior was both egregious and illegal, and their legal support was especially helpful in getting two policies passed at the Board of Education level. Because of the intense scrutiny, the school board also put in place the Superintendent’s Faith-Based Leadership Advisory Council, on which I serve.

There are still ongoing violations that have to be brought to the Superintendent’s attention and then acted upon, but we are making baby steps in the right direction. I personally got to live out a fantasy of mine when I sat at a boardroom table across from the superintendent (who is actually a good guy) and the school systems legal department. I slid a fat folder across the table to the lawyer and watched as he opened it to reveal a letter from the lawyer who was letting the system know–in no uncertain terms–that without a policy in place an expensive lawsuit was the next step. The lawyer read the letter, closed the folder and slid it back across the table to me and I smiled.

Q: Did you work any magic around the issue?

A: Yes, we did do magical workings in support of the desired outcome.

Q: Did you publicize your issue on social media? Why or why not? Was it helpful? Do you have suggestions for others in similar situations about when/how to use social media?

A: Media–yes, and ugh. The Pagan woman who brought the initial complaint went to the local media very quickly and it got on the wire services not long after. This was not necessarily helpful, as it solidified opinion on both sides. We set up a support page on Facebook and that was comforting for the family involved and gave their supporters a place to interact. We also worked with the local interfaith council (I was at the time the convener of the group). They were moderately helpful, especially at public meetings.

Q: Can you share some tips with people who find themselves in similar situations?

Suggestions–

Keep a detailed written timeline of suspect events. Detailed. Written. Timeline.

Stay calm, listen, be professional and persistent. Be firm and professional and try to control your temper and your fear.

Don’t be afraid to check on the status of your case and be aware that your is not the only one being dealt with.

Be strategic. Create a multi-pronged approach, especially as regards the media.

Find your allies and be expressive in your gratitude for their assistance. You can’t do this alone.

Go directly to the person or persons who can remedy the situation and go with a willingness to fix the problem, to find solutions, even to–gasp!–compromise, if need be.

Do not charge into a situation demanding heads on pikes.

Be patient and persistent.

Don’t be a drama queen.

Don’t be vague about details.

Listen really hard and read all materials–emails etc–thoroughly.

Try to establish relationships with the people who can make the needed change. It doesn’t hurt you and it can make things a bit smoother. That’s it, I think. Hope some of this helps!

Picture of Byron found here.

A Place Without a Witch — Chapter Forty-One

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“Gem-me!” Susan said, striding uninvited in to Gemmy’s cubicle and using the pronunciation of her name that sounded kind of like a baby, happy to have learned how to make sounds. “You busy? I’m dropping by — part of my ‘managing by walking around’ technique — just to have a friendly chat with you about this request that you sort-of submitted.”

Gemmy grounded, Goddess help her, she did. Thankfully, it had become almost second-nature by now. And she drew in a deep breath before responding to Susan, who, within a period of 48 hours, had managed to alienate nearly everyone at Interior.

“What do you mean, ‘sort-of submitted’?” Gemmy asked. “I did submit a request to use a fraction of my accrued leave. Is that what you mean?”

“Well, Gem,” Susan chirped, “of course I want people to take their legitimate leave. It’s good for morale and that’s good for my departments. Of course, you seem to have failed to really explain the purpose of your leave. You just wrote, ‘Personal Time,’ which doesn’t really tell me what you’re doing. And now that I’m in charge of productivity here, I have to know WHY people want leave before I can sign off on it. So I’m not approving this request. You’ll need to work these days,” Susan said, giving Gemmy a long, slow, direct look.

“Look, Susan,” Gemmy said, “You and I both know that ‘Personal Time’ is what everyone writes to explain their use of accrued leave. You don’t get to decide what is, or isn’t, appropriate. But since you seem to want to know, I’ll tell you. I am going to take those days off to go to Virginia Beach with Paris. He’s going to a conference and he asked me to go with him. We’re looking forward to spending more time together and telling each other our stories. I understand that’s rough for you. I get that you’d hoped that you two could rekindle your high-school flame. But Paris and I are together, we’re going to Virginia Beach, and you’re not going to stop it. Am I clear?”

Susan stood for a long, long time, glaring at Gemmy. “Oh, well, in that case, go ahead,” she finally chirped. “You could have just said so. No one here cares.”

A few days later, Gemmy slid into the front seat of Paris’ truck. He threw her suitcase into the back seat and handed her a steaming latte, bowing and laughing, “Your beverage de travel, Mademoiselle.”

“Merci,” Gemmy laughed, inhaling the scent of roasted coffee beans and grabbing Paris’ hand. “I can’t wait to get to the beach. My neighbors are feeding Peschecat. I have a new bathing suit. My work e-mail is turned off for the next few days and you, my love, are going to tell me all about your childhood in the French city of lights. Go ahead, I’m all ears and we have a long drive ahead of us.”

Paris laughed. “You’re going to be bored. My childhood was boringly, pedestrianly, normal. You see, my hippy parents moved to Paris in the 60′s . . . .”

Picture found here.

Sunday Ballet Blogging

Saturday Night Slow Dancing on the Porch Blogging

Lughnasadah’s Coming

Wednesday Evening Poetry Blogging

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Custom

~ Carl Phillips

There is a difference it used to make,
seeing three swans in this versus four in that
quadrant of sky. I am not imagining. It was very large, as its
effects were. Declarations of war, the timing fixed upon for a sea-
             departure; or,
about love, a sudden decision not to, to pretend instead to a kind
of choice. It was dramatic, as it should be. Without drama,
what is ritual? I look for omens everywhere, because they are everywhere
to be found. They come to me like strays, like the damaged,
something that could know better, and should, therefore—but does not:
a form of faith, you’ve said. I call it sacrifice—an instinct for it, or a habit
             at first, that
becomes required, the way art can become, eventually, all we have
of what was true. You shouldn’t look at me like that. Like one of those
             saints
on whom the birds once settled freely.

Picture found here.

Tuesday Evening Potpourri

Hygeia by Klimt

Hygeia by Klimt

Here’s one of the best things I’ve ever seen concerning how to use the Moon to help you plant. I especially like the acknowledgement that sometimes, you just have to plant when you can plant or reap when you can reap. (Right now, if I’m not out there picking the pattypan squash and bok choy at least every other day, they grow too big. It’s a nice problem to have.)

Here’s the crux of the advice:

“The core of moon gardening is very simple: the moon has a 29-day cycle made up of two halves, the waxing and waning. That cycle is also split into four quarters – the new moon, the first quarter, full moon, and the last quarter – each of which has its own characteristics and influences.

“The tides are highest at new and full moon and with the moisture rising, that’s when we plant everything that produces its crop underground – the roots, potatoes etc. In the first quarter, we plant everything that produces a crop above the ground – the corns, flowers, legumes and the rest. Full moon is when there is maximum moisture within the soil, and the plant is extracting as much out of the ground as possible – this gives you the best flavour, and the better keeping quality.

“In the last quarter, when the water table is dropping to its lowest, we do all our digging and manuring, taking cuttings and pruning hedges.”

Do you pay attention to the Moon when you garden?

Lettuce is another crop that can bolt quickly this time of year. Here’s a new way to use up even some of the tougher leaves: Lettuce Soup.

The always-brilliant Digby explains to tea-partiers why everything they think they know about America being a “Christian nation” is wrong.

Here are some wonderful pictures of Andy Goldsworthy’s art.

I’m adding this to my To-Read list:

Thanks to Anne Niven for pointing us to this interesting post about the Witch in modern fiction. I especially liked the discussion of survey respondents who discussed:

the trope of some person or group “finding an ancient magical tome which then confers powers on them,” and went on to lament, “This is NOT how it works.”

Sad, but true.

Happy birthday (one day late) to Gustav Klimt, one of my favorite artists.

Picture found here.