Monday 31 January 2011

Thousands Killed In British Nursing Homes

The Office for National Statistics have compiled a report into deaths over the past five years in nursing homes.

Analysts found there were 667 victims of dehydration, 157 of malnutrition and 1,928 deaths linked to superbugs. Some 1,446 died suffering with pressure ulcers, otherwise know as bedsores, while 4,866 died with septicaemia, or blood poisoning. Another 4,881 had fatal falls.
According to the figures, the number of deaths linked to dehydration doubled, while those involving superbugs rose sevenfold during the previous Labour government's rule.

It's easy to make snide political points as the Tory Care Services Minister does, but the situation is not the same in an economically and culturally similar country, Ireland, which suggests that the problem is not entirely financial. There, the whole concept of caring for the elderly is perceived very differently. The vast majority of Irish nursing home staff speak the same language as the people in their care which is not a requirement here in the UK, their elderly are valued culturally and Catholicism perceives sacrifice and charitable love as virtues. It's not a perfect system but the UK warehousing and euthanizing of our elderly is bitterly shameful, attracting minimum wages and deeply unskilled workers whose efforts are not valued in any way.

Is there a link between UK secularism, where our only value is in how much we consume and can be taxed, and the ways in which we treat each other? I tend to think there is. Paganism has lots to offer society but we don't yet have a thealogy of caring for people - we're great at planting trees - and since we're not getting any younger we need to spend some time discussing that.

Sunday 30 January 2011

Voices of The Sacred Feminine

Join Macha live on Wed., Feb. 2, at 6 pm PT, for a discussion of Pagan culture: Pagans in interfaith; Pagan seminaries; creating institutions for children and parents (schools, camps, etc.); creating (renting or purchasing) community space; caring/providing for our elders; growing Pagan elders.

Listen at
Show archived for later listening.

Monday 24 January 2011

Pagan Clergy Ministering in Hospitals

A guest post from Terry Riley . . .
 I am the founding High Priest of the Southern Delta Church of Wicca - ATC. established in 1994 in Jonesboro, Arkansas.  Over the years I have ministered to my congregation in the hospital many times. I have found there is a need for pastoral work in this area, even for Pagans. Most people when they are in the hospital have a desire to know that someone cares about them. Sometimes there are Spiritual rites and prayers that people need. This I believe is the duties of Clergy.
 Overs the years I have been called, sometimes in the middle of the night, by members of my Church in need of counseling, healing, prayers, and even Last Rites performed while they were in the hospital. I have always been willing to answer my calling as Pagan Clergy. At the SDCW - ATC  in our Clergy training courses this has always been expected as part of  the pastoral duties of Ordained Clergy.
 This is sometimes difficult to do since most Pagan Clergy are not paid and have to work full time jobs. That's why I believe that this job is a calling rather than a choice. It means submitting yourself unto the will of yours Gods and  fulfilling Divine Labor.
Rev. Terry Riley

Sunday 16 January 2011

Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.

In the UK, many older hospitals were built on the sites of workhouses.(For further information Google 'hospital workhouse')

As late as 1984 I worked in a ‘mental health unit’ that still had one elderly woman who’d been born into that institution when it was a workhouse. The destruction of her entire being was pitiful, not helped by crazed attempts to find some personality with the help of ECT.

If we have any concept of Spirit of Place, then perhaps some of the misery experienced by destitute and despised people, separated from their spouse, parents and children has seeped into bricks, floors and window frames, becoming as much a part of the fabric of these old institutions as the mortar that holds them together.

Hospitals, new and old, are liminal sites, one of the places we go to when we’re not capable of living as part of the Apparent world. Hospitals and religious institutions are surprisingly close in function attended by a priesthood attempting to cure illnesses caused by our sins, whether that’s blasphemy, gluttony or smoking so that we can return to our communities renewed.

Regular readers will know that I resist and contest any nonsense about Communing With The Spirits ™, ‘Healing’, Bringing Into The Light and other dreadful bollocks. Grave upset, often centuries of it, cannot be ‘healed’ by someone warbling breathily with a rattle or by planting crystals. I do wonder, however, about the land under the foundations, the foundations themselves, the accumulated experience – not all of it painful – of the hospital environment. In some of the older hospitals I’ve visited the natural places, places where gardeners spend time, are comfortable and often very pleasant to spend time with. Gardening has been used for centuries as rehabilitation, particularly for people with chronic conditions, and it would seem that these little precious spaces are glad to be tended, will give themselves in return.

One of the hospitals I worked in was set in acres of impeccable grounds, from a commercial golf course to minute atria, duck ponds to wilderness and there’s no doubt that this very old site can absorb suffering and genuinely offer healing to patients, visitors and staff. Simply walking from one unit to another via natural surroundings that are valued and sympathetically tended is more restful than marching down neon-lit corridors or hemmed in alleys lined with dodgy refuse skips and drains. It also demonstrates that the people responsible for the hospital also value things that others might consider peripheral to medicine, like aesthetics, nature, colour and environment.

Personally, I’ve always experienced older hospitals as more accepting, more en-souled than new builds. New hospitals are undoubtedly better designed, probably cleaner, possibly easier to get around but they’re a bit too sterile for my taste, a bit youthful and brash. It’s as if the fabric of an older institution has seen so much kindness and cruelty, pain and healing, care, death, birth, emergency and tedium; has soaked up centuries of therapeutic intent that it has settled down into a kind of positive melancholy. They remind me of landscapes that have been lived with and farmed sympathetically for centuries, interaction between us and the Land creating a new Being that is neither wilderness or slave monoculture, but which has a personality and rhythm of its own.

Just as we can pay attention to the Spirit of Place in woodland or wheat field, so there is something to be learned from the Spirit of Place of a hospital, old or new, and there’re different ways to be present to it. Walking through the corridors at night gives a sense of presence. In all traditions, sleep and dreaming are important for health and for hearing the Gods; the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans used dream temples as a kind of hospital

All these people, perhaps hundred of them, dreaming together, entering the Otherworlds together. Those few souls unable to sleep. Still rooms, empty operating theatres, the building breathing out and resting. This is the time to hear the voice of the Genius Loci, the protective spirit of place and to the voices of people, events, history. You don’t need holy water or smudge sticks or to Command Restless Souls or to do anything other than be aware and receptive. Just as you would when wanting to hear the voice of any place, make clear your intent, set your boundaries, make the invitation to all benevolent Beings, and wait.

Later in the day sit quietly in one of the hospital entrances. You are a liminal person sitting within a liminal space, inside of another liminal place. Watch people come and go, people who belong and don’t belong, who don’t want to be there and who are very grateful to come in and to leave. Doorways are sacred to Janus who also rules over beginnings and endings, and to Cardea who is also a Goddess of health. “Her power is to open what is shut; to shut what is open," (Ovid) attributes that have applications in healing. Hecate, too stands in these places, She who cares for women in labour and children being born, the dying and the dead, places that are neither one thing or another which may also include people under anaesthetic or heavily sedated, and Who guards those who ask for Her protection.

Saturday 15 January 2011

The Ghost of Nurses Past

On winter nights on a very old ward ice would form on the inside of the windows. There were 3 of us to 30 patients during these shifts and we kept warm by keeping patients warm, walking backwards and forwards with blankets and hot drinks. Getting off the ward was a relief when we could retreat to the office and stretch out over a heater or go to the canteen. The staff nurse took her break and my colleague and I watched her head canteen-wards. Half an hour later we were slightly peevish that rather than come straight back onto the ward she’d gone into the office, we’d heard the familiar sound of nurses shoes – shoes that clacked rather than rubber soled clogs – echoing up the long corridor, heard the door open and close. A few minutes later the staff nurse returned from the canteen – we’d heard her shoes come up the corridor too – and so we assumed someone else was in the office. There was no one.

 I distinctly remember being amazed that I wasn’t freaked right out, but instead was aware of a sense of connection, of lineage. For 70 years nurses had been clacking up and down the corridor, entering and leaving that office and whether it was The Ghost of Nurses Past or a repeating memory didn’t matter: something strange had happened, we couldn’t explain it and none of us felt frightened. We’d experienced what today would be called Shared Personal Gnosis (SPG) a supernatural event sensed independently by two or more people. After a moment of wide-eyed silence we accepted that it was likely that this had been a ghost, just as we might accept any other fact, and got on with work. This acceptance was as much part of the experience as hearing noises and finding an empty office.

A greater part of this acceptance was probably due to the demands of nursing – there wasn’t time to discuss it or to generate the fear and excitement that often goes with talking about ghosts - and there was also something about the way in which we simply agreed that ghosts exist and we’d just witnessed one. To this day I can't rationalise it.