Archive for the ‘Rituals & Spirituality’ Category

A pamphlet from the Asatru Folk Assembly appeared in my letterbox and alerted my interest.  I wondered whether it had been delivered by someone aware of my involvement in paganism or whether there’s been a wide-ranging pamphlet drop.  Printed in black and white it advertised four meetings to be held in Fitzgerald Avenue during January.

It says: Asatru is the reconstructed spirituality of pre-Christian  European peoples.  It was the faith for most of northern Europe prior to the spread of Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) around 1,500 years ago.

Apparently Asatru started in 1972 and is now the largest non-Christian religion in Iceland and the fastest growing.  It’s a modern version of pre-Christian pagan worship.  The name means faith in the AEsir who are the Germanic gods.  A person who practises Asatru is called an Asatruar, sometimes referred to as a Heathen.  Some on the extreme right fringe are white supremacists, but this is being countered by such groups as Vikings Against Racism and the Alliance for Inclusive Heathenry.

I don’t intend to go to any of the advertised meetings, but would be interested to hear from someone who does.  The pamphlet gives no contact details, no phone number, email, or website, and that makes me suspicious.  Over many years I’ve organised meetings and courses on feminist spirituality and ritual, and I’ve always been open about this and given my contact details, even when there was a possibility of misunderstanding.  In these internet days when anyone can use an anonymous gmail address, the lack of contact details seems odd.  Personally I will stick with my inclusive feminist spirituality.

“I’d be intrigued to find out who
is leading local Asatru.”


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I wanted to celebrate my 70th birthday, but took time to decide just how.  For my 50th I’d had a big party, someone to speak about each decade, an Irish band, and dancing.  My 60th was smaller, a garden party with 20 people who each brought something to add to a garden collage.  When I was a child, birthday parties were often small because so many families were away on holiday, but I’ve always wanted to celebrate on The Day, even though the fact it’s a public holiday can bring challenges.  The only time I’ve celebrated on a different day was for my 21st, and that was because we were travelling to another city for a wedding on New Year’s Day.  Prior to The Earthquake my birthday was often marked with dinner at the Octagon, an inner city restaurant that was open when many others were closed, and had live music.  Although that historic building is being repaired it has no tenant yet.  I hope it may be the venue for a future birthday dinner.

For this year’s significant birthday I invited a selection of women friends, and fourteen of us gathered on the back patio on a very warm summer’s day.  Although the walnut tree provided shade to most, a few on the western side needed the protection of umbrellas.

Some needed sunshades

With the temperature over 30 degrees we started with cold drinks and were glad of the breeze, although the fact the wind was nor-west meant planes occasionally flew noisily overhead.  I’d asked people not to bring gifts, but there were some, as well as a number of beautiful cards with wonderfully thoughtful messages written on them.  Several women brought me bunches of flowers from their gardens.

Cards and Flowers

I welcomed everyone, acknowledging three good friends who’d been present at my 60th and had since died, and mentioned my daughters fast asleep in England.  To cast the circle I asked everyone to share when and where they’d met me, which produced warm memories.  There were three things I’d asked everyone to think about beforehand:

  • Something you’ve done that you’re proud of
  • One thing you do to stay well, physically or mentally
  • A hope for 2019

In sharing these we learned about each other’s life journey, and we finished by singing ‘Never Turning Back‘ which we’d also sung at my 50th.  It was time for afternoon tea.  Stephen managed to light the birthday cake candles, but some had succumbed to the wind before I could blow them out.

Cutting the cake

I was pleased that people stayed and socialised, moving chairs further back into the garden where by now there was more shade.  This was an immensely satisfying way to mark my 70th birthday.  I wonder what I’ll do for my 80th?

That evening I received an email from Charities Services reminding me that the financial year for an organisation I’m the Treasurer of ended two days ago and I need to start preparing the financial accounts.  They might have waited until after my birthday!

‘A decade calls for celebration
and this was an ideal creation.’

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I was honoured to be presented with a Civic Award last evening.

My Civic Award

The event was held in the great Hall of the Arts Centre.  Awards were presented by the Mayor Lianne Dalziel, there was music from a string quartet of the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra, and refreshments afterwards.

Receiving the Award from the Mayor.

Each Awardee was invited to come up and stand with the Mayor while their citation was read.  Mine was ‘For Community Service’ and I had been nominated by members of the Volunteering Canterbury Board, particularly for what I’d done during the earthquakes and re-organising VolCan afterwards.  These Awards are usually for voluntary service, and I was surprised to receive one for fulfilling my paid role.  However, it’s true that when you’re in a paid role in the voluntary sector, the boundaries are often blurred and you end up doing voluntary hours as well (especially when there have been earthquakes).  I also saw the Award as being recognition of the value of managing and supporting volunteers.  I was able to refer to these aspects in the very short speech I gave afterwards.  We had not been warned that there would be an opportunity for the Awardees to speak, and it’s a few years since I’ve done impromptu public speaking.  It would have been good to have had a chance to prepare for this!

Over the years I’ve organised about thirty Volunteer Awards events, and it was interesting to be on the other side of such an occasion.  I was pleased to have Stephen and two close friends share the evening with me.  Afterwards there were group photos, including one of all the Awardees with the City Councillors.

I’m seated, second from left

You can see my citation and official photograph here.

‘This unexpected recognition
acknowledged my earthquake position.’



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Spiritual Sisters

Forty women met yesterday to share the legacy of the past thirty years, look at the place of spirituality in 2018, and consider the future of spirituality in Aotearoa.  Many of us had attended an Ecumenical Women’s Spirituality Conference held at Rangi Ruru in 1988.  As at that previous conference, pagan women were in the minority.  Most who came were or had been connected with Christian churches.

Some of the women who gathered – photo by Ro Soryl

Sande Ramage, who has been an Anglican priest, spoke about ‘Re-imagining Women’s Soul beyond institutional religious control’.  She ended with this wonderful video by Nina Paley.

In the afternoon we had the opportunity to each attend two workshops.  I enjoyed ‘Poetry -writing our story’ with Kathleen Gallagher.  I also enjoyed planning and facilitating a session on ‘Life ceremonies in our modern world’ where we looked at alternative ways of marking life transitions.

It was excellent to reconnect with old friends, and meet new ones.  This gathering was a time of sisterhood, nostalgia, and hope.

‘We sang and danced within a spiral
and hope our ideas may go viral.’



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Beltane at the start of November is a time of renewal,  the maiden entering menarche and becoming a woman.  Warm weather makes us want to throw off the outer layers and dance around the maypole.

We can celebrate the profusion of flowers as the earth bursts with new growth.  I’ve felt a renewed surge of creativity as I plan for a Women’s Spirituality Gathering next week.   What new ideas are developing within you?

‘Beltane’s the time for something new
that has not happened hitherto.’


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Ruth & Denny, April 2016

Today the woman who has been my close friend for more than thirty years is dead.  Tears are falling, and I want to pay tribute to Denny Anker who was an amazing and inspiring friend to me and to many others.

Our initial contact was through the Values Party.  Both of us were Values candidates in the 1984 election, and our shared politics gave an extra dimension to our friendship.  We also shared a feminist spirituality which sustained and exhilarated us.

Denny had many challenges throughout her life, particularly in the area of health.   Her various disabilities were often not visible, especially the Multiple Chemical Sensitivities which were believed to be originally caused by exposure to chemicals sprayed for weed control near her Mount Pleasant home in the 1970s.   This illness meant that she could be unknowingly assaulted by people wearing perfume and other cosmetics, and it was often difficult for her to be in public places.  She continually worked to raise awareness of the need for fragrance-free venues and events, so that people in her situation might take part in ordinary, everyday activities in safety.

Denny was passionate about justice, peace, sustainability, and community.  She worked as a Mediator with the Human Rights Commission, for Restorative Justice Services, for Patients Rights, for the Green Party, and for many other causes.

Denny and I have shared so much over the years.  Together we went to political meetings, movies, concerts, on walks and holidays, and enjoyed games of scrabble and cards.  In recent years her physical condition limited her actions, but her mind was always alert, ranging over many subjects, and she was a frequent letter writer to the “Press”.

I will miss Denny, but I’m glad her struggle is now over, and I believe that somewhere she is re-united with her beloved Barry.


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This beautifully crafted story is poignant, and at times so personal that reading it feels like an intrusion.  I was particularly interested because I spent a night in Juliet’s bach some thirty years ago, and I was part of her One Hundred Women Project at Te Henga in 1986.  In this book the changing seasons of nature and of Juliet’s life are skilfully woven together.  No reader could fail to be moved by the way Juliet has overcome challenges and developed new ways of being.  This book is a blessing.

“Her life and bach are both transformed
and by this book our hearts are warmed.”

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