Meet The Family

Adventures in the Underworld. Mentioning you home educate is to be treated like a vampire at a blood donation drive. May as well go with the flow, and just openly admit we stay up late at night and avoid morning school runs like the plague. Well, morning full stop, actually. Oh yes, we're also pagans.. may as well run with the theme... must see if was can find Vincent Price voice software to read this out to you as you load the page... evil laugh...bwahaawaahaaahaaaa drop of water in cavern echo...

Wednesday, 26 January 2011


A terrible situation has come to light, here at Unhallowed Ground. A terrible situation when you some to think of it, given our lack of sunlight...

But we have to warn all fellow home educators, of the horror we have discovered, and ask everyone to join us in a boycott. For the Government are after us, again, and they have found a perfect way to find us all.

You must listen.

This is a real threat.

The Government are gathering data on us. REAL data. That they can use. And yet everyone thinks this is A Good Thing. But it's so not a good thing... you have to REGISTER your children.

Yes, you read that right... you have to REGISTER your children

And you have to give such personal details... how old they are... where they live... what books they read.

Yes, that's right, you have to tell the Government what books your children read.

Can you imagine?

Can you imagine what awful use the Government will put this information to? Use this system of registration, and Social Services can access what books your child reads?

Can you imagine? Any child, can have their reading age cross-reference against their actual age. Can you imagine what the Government would do with this information?

And that's before they get to the books themselves. For the scheme we've become aware of, allows your child to be exposed to all sorts of uncensored information. Books on, for instance... vaccines, witchcraft, sex education and violence. Wars! Book on wars. Freely available for your children, and then, registered in a central computer to The Government know what your child is reading?

Can you imagine?

It's just despicable. Truly despicable. We must act. We must stop this scheme. We ask all home educators to....


It is just totally unacceptable, that you have to register to use a public library. That's not very 'public', is it? It's just completely facist, that they make a record of what books you take out. Taking a register of what books a child reads... how exactly is that useful? And we know what the record is on Government employees and children. Did you know that if you want to take a book out of the library, a librarian has to interact with your child? I ask you.. can't you see how suspect that is? WHY are the Government insisting on this?

Does anyone have the answer? We thought not.

So please, PLEASE, if you care about children, and home education, boycott public libraries. Don't give them the information they need. You never know how they will use it against you.

Until public libraries hand out books to anyone who wants them, without any questions asked, and without the need to prove who you are, to the need to record what you took... don't use them.


Your children are too important. Books should just be handed out to everyone, on demand, with no computer records. Especially those reference books. What's that all about, really? Have you noticed all reference books sections has a camera on them? Think that's coincidence? Fool!

And whilst we're at it... what's with this opening hours shit....

Friday, 7 May 2010

Let It Be...

In the middle of all the chaos this morning, there are few still voices. That is, one supposes, the result of a media election. There has to be something found to be said, to keep people on the screen.

Well, there is a simpler truth... there doesn't really need to be anything said it all. It's all much plainer, and more simple: we're confused. The election results reflect that. We're not sure who we are, where we are going, and what we are fighting for.

Is this a surprise to anyone? If it is, you've not be paying attention.

In the past 250 years, our world, society, culture and politics have changed beyond recognition. In the past 100 years, equally. Again, in the past five decades, we've changed so fundamentally in how we operate, who we think we are, and how to proceed with out vision of the world... we can barely recognise our own grandparents.

It's less than one hundred years since Universal suffrage in the UK. In 1918, only after the war, did all males of a certain age, receive the vote. It was only ten years later, for all females of the same age. Contrary to popular myth, the female suffragette movement did not herald in female suffrage. If anything, it delayed it. (And what does that say about who were were? The women giving their liberty and lives to the vote, only made the Powers That Be more stubborn about giving it?) The needs of a society to adapt to the decimation of the First World War, brought in one man, one vote, and a short decade later, one person, one vote (more or less, it's complicated!).

We have this myth that we are a stable people: we are not. We are in the very infancy of working out who we are, and what we want from the world. We once thought we knew what we wanted, and that the issue was how to achieve it... no more. We know what we do not want... but we are not sure of what we do want. Hence, the hung Parliament.

There are two things to say about this.

One.. that feeling of doom and gloom when we woke up this morning, or wiped the sleep from our tired eyes and stared at the flickering screen once more... and found nothing had changed.

There was a moment, a glorious moment, when the possibility that it could all change... was with us. Rather like the first week of the National Lottery and we clutched our dreams with our single ticket and thought "It can happen.." we were left with the bitter taste of despair. In some sense, we didn't care what replaced the stalemate, the deadlock... we just wanted to know it was possible.

Whilst not liking that it really wasn't possible... it was a dream... I'm quite relieved there wasn't an overnight miracle and we woke up to a LibDem victory - which would have been them in second place somehow. I'm relieved that the worry-mongering of "Vote for LibDem and you vote for a hung parliament...." didn't happen. No one can look at this hung parliament and 'blame' the LibDem swing.

It's hung, because we are. We have no idea how to proceed. We're not sure. We don't like stuff... but we have no idea of what we do like. We want freedoms, liberties... but not to pay for them.

This is hardly surprising. Like all humans, we are making it all up as we go along. And we're doing it at such speed, we forget we are blood and bone and mammal, and pretend we are somehow more than we are: the need to survive. What does that mean in a world with enough food, but not enough housing? In a world with enough money, but little wealth? In a world where our children are targeted as the future, via growth charts and SATS? Where a packet of crisps is presented as much more of a threat to their well-being, as them being forced into formal schooling at 3 years old?

What does it mean for us to survive? A middle class agenda of "economic well being"?

Apparently, not.

We've also been refusing to look. As all home educators became aware, the present Government has been eroding civil liberties at a frightening speed. Nothing illustrates this as much as the debacle of those who could not vote last night. Arrogance, and incompetence, disenfranchised parts of the electorate last night. That's the core element of this saga. Not a deliberate, concious and planned out conspiracy. A simple, arrogant, inability to prepare properly, to understand the issues.

And total chaos on how to deal with it. No strong direction and understanding of purpose.

How, and why, last night happened, is patently clear. The thinking that allowed the lack of resources, of understanding, that is a motif of the current Government. The complete consternation at being caught out...

Why would lots of people vote? Why would cutting resources, to save money, affect services? Who will notice?

Who will care?

Labour's absolute arrogance, at not listening, not paying attention, pushing their own fiscal agenda at the costs of basic tenets of not just what our society believes in, and were elected to uphold.... illuminated perfectly by there not being enough ballots, and not enough staff. And how they felt they could allow it to happen... well, who cares? No one has noticed before...

Our absolute arrogance in letting them do it, again and again and again...

How dare lots of people turn up to vote! And not bring their polling cards and make us do some work! Preposterous!

We have the Parliament we deserve. We voted for confusion. We have to see it through.

Let it be.... and see. We have chosen this path, freely. We deserve to walk it to the end, and see where we end up.

In the midst of a world wide recession, with terror and fear threatening to blow up half the world... we are paying for our arrogance, and our complacency.

The cavalry did not arrive last night.

There is no lottery ticket to get us out of this.

We have to work to find a collective, common vision, of what we want to achieve, and not just concentrate on what we don't want.

And that means we have to put the work in, and talk, and agree, and move forward... together.


Without it, we're hung out to dry.

Let's see what happens, and accept we did this, and only we, can get out of it.

We are the barbarians at our own gates. We are also the cavalry.

Let's make sure enough ballot papers are printed, next time.

And there is room for everyone: not just us.

Enlightened self interest starts with enlightened, not self.


Saturday, 6 March 2010

The Dark Secret

I probably haven't mentioned this, as we've been a bit busy on other things, since we started. But I probably should mention our family's Dark Secret.

It's not that we are autonomous. Well, actually, Osiris is as un-autonomous as you can get, as a significant other.. but I digress. I mean, of course, that we are allowing Beltane to take charge of his own learning. We not only home school, in the USA parlance, we unschool.

Being an autonomous educator at the moment, especially in the UK, is to live in perilous times. I've been reading some other blog links this week, from other autonomous educators, and most of them have started with... a list of "don'ts". Don't get worried about...

And I have to say, it's not usually a list I have resonated with. Usually, I'm not worried about one thing on the list!

I have, in fact, a litany of non-worry behind me. I'm so not worried about making sure Beltane has access to work sheets, curriculum texts, good reading sources and ahem.. socialisation opportunities... that I may end up being a Badman study all of my very own.

All the things I'm not worried about. The timetabling, the resources, the scheduling, the socialisation issues... all the things that apparently make other unschoolers a little worried.. a little tense, about. A little "Are we doing the right thing?" about.

Are things I never worry about.

Why do I never worry about them? Well, that's the Dark Secret (TM) copyright Unhallowed Ground.

I never worry about them, because I am a... teacher.

Yes, that's right. I am a teacher. Not an education facilitator, a resource provider or a learning opportunity provider... a teacher. Qualified Teacher Status. And not just any teacher, oh no! I'm a super uber teacher. I did independent research into how to teach.. creativity. I am a Very High Level Creative teacher. With paperwork.

Which is why, I can happily ignore all the other fears and terrors of being an autonomous un-educator. I can also flip Badman the bird. Anyone comes near me, and I can prove "Homework has no proven benefit." before you can say "Yes, we fed him today."

I am still a paid up teaching union member, and a highly respected member of the teaching community.

Love teaching, hate schools.

I'm lucky enough to have worked in, and trained with, the best of the best. High achieving academic stardom. I've been trained in brain based learning, and how to facilitate teaching in all but the clinically brain dead. I have actually taught brain dead students, and got them a 'G' at GCSE. On the basis that I got written work out of them, when most other teachers couldn't. (They weren't actually brain dead, btw, just so turned off education, you might assign them that status out of self-defence.)

I have a first class honours degrees, a masters in education, and most of a PhD.

I am learn-ed.

And thus, I know that schooling, and knowledge and learning, are not obvious bedfellows.

It is a heavy burden I bear, at times. I can tell you. All around me, parents angst, and obsess, and wonder... am I doing the right thing for my child? Is it okay for me not to send them to school?

Yes. It's okay.

(It's also okay, actually, to send them, if you would. Schools are as good as their teachers. There are some rip-roaring excellent teachers out there. No matter how bad a school is, and how much damage it is doing.. there are some kids who will thrive. Your kid might be one of them.)

I also understand, that no matter how good a school is, educationally.. most of them beat the desire to learn right out of their kids. Especially the best ones. That in a tick-box culture, adding more work to the reward list on excellent work.. is not A Good Thing. That fast tracking excellent kids through Maths, for instance, is a good way to make sure they never do Maths again in their entire lives. Therefore.. what's the point? Oh yes, that would be your own tick-box from the headteacher, and your OFSTED rating?

My OFSTED rating is 'outstanding' okay? Well, it was, when OFSTED were allowed to tell you your own rating...

I also know that most teachers love their job, and their kids, and hate the school system they are locked into. Where there are no real consequences to negative behaviour, and where true innovation cannot be contained. And where, really, they'd just like to teach, without the garbage of the tick-list.

And I also know... and this is the biggy.. that kids learn. They do. They learn to the level of experience and living put in front of them. Birth a kid into an orphanage in Romania, and they will have jelly for brains inside 5 years. Birth a child into a living breathing household, with a happy adult and several books, that are read, and human interaction and excitement for life.. and they will learn everything and anything.

Children are the blotting paper of our own lives.

Whatever we put in front of them - they will absorb. They have a gazillion little neurons in their brain, called mirror neurons. When they watch someone do something in front of them, mirror neurons fire as if they had physically done it themselves. Chop an onion in front of a toddler, the toddler's brain reacts as if they toddler picked up the knife and did the chopping. When they get to do some chopping on their own, the brain remembers it knows how to - it's fired itself to do the action.

When kids see some one doing something in front of them, the mirror neurons fire, and they need to copy it - to do the thing they are seeing. When they repeat it, the neuron firing in their brain, locks the lesson of what they've seen, and what they've then done... into their hard wiring. It's called 'learning'. And the most efficient form of learning is looking, and then doing.

So no need to worry about reading, writing, 'rithmatic or rocket science. If you read in front of them, write in front of them, and count in front of them, they will learn to do so. If you speak your emotions and discuss emotional difficulties - they will learn to do so. If you attack problems as things that can be overcome.. they will learn to do so. If you cook in front of them, if you clean in front of them... they will learn to do so.

If you encourage them to take part, when they volunteer their desire to do so... they will learn.

Autonomous education is the art of living by example.

If you live in a tribal village and build canoes to fish.. your child will learn to build canoes and to fish. If you live by the computer... your child will learn to live by the computer. Further, your child will learn to read.. as they can't use a computer unless they can!

Watching you, is their first major lesson in all life skills. Copying, their second. Live a full happy life in front of your kids... they will learn to live a full and happy life. Show skills as you do them.. they will learn skills as they go.

Lazy parenting is the most efficient parenting there is. Forget teaching them to do something... do it yourself and let them copy you! And that's my teacher-ly credentials speaking - honest!

So here's my official teacher based 'don't worry' list for parents considering autonomous home education. My three tops tips:

1) Don't worry about socialisation. Worry about play. When people ask about the socialisation, reply "My child plays with other kids a lot." Make that happen. Every time someone mentions socialisation - reframe the conversation to 'play'. You'll worry a whole lot less when you do this, and people will stop asking you about it, a whole lot more. Never use the word 'socialisation', just set up a lot of play dates. Tell them a good and experienced teacher you know, has pointed out how important play is, and how much you agree with that, and move on. If you don't have access to enough other kids to do this.. play with them yourself. Get down on your hands and knees and play cowboys and endangered indigenous peoples. The play is the thing.

2) Don't worry about reading, writing or arithmetic: read, write, and count up things on your fingers. When singing alphabet rhymes, you write the letters in front of them. When working out the petrol bill, write the figures down so they can see it. Do, don't teach. Got one of those kid's sized black boards things? Put an adult chair next to it, for when you use it.

A special word about reading here. It's not read to them: read for yourself. (Of course, you read to them too!) Sit with a book in your own lap, every day. Do it in front of your child. Let them know that it's an important thing you are doing, and don't let them interrupt you. Say in an exasperated voice "I'm trying to read here!" every now and then. Talk to other adults about great books you've read, and have the conversation in front of the kids. Lead by example. Kids learn from you what is important in life. The inner space of a book, combined with the outer contact of information, makes books the number one resource in all our lives. Read that resource for yourself, in front of them. Praise the resource, and enjoy the book for you. They'll yearn for the day they too can say "Mum, get out of here, I'm reading." If books are important to you, show them that.

3) Don't worry about progression. Kids don't get better at something, in a straight line. They learn things, forget them, pick them back up and then make sudden leaps in understanding. They have to visit any new thing, at least five times, before effective memory retention is created. And that's neural. A neural connection being made in the brain, is the physical location of the learning. That neural connection is not strong and in place, until it has been fired at least five times. And it won't connect to another neuron, another bit of learning, until that connections has been hit five times... and connections can be random. So there is no such thing as "We did this yesterday, you should know it by now." Forget progression - think progress. Look at the world in yearly sections, or half yearly. Your child will be able to show a lot of progress in six months, or a year. Don't fuss about anything less - simply not worth it. Time is the biggest investment home educating families give to their children: let them mature slowly, like cheese.

Don't worry about these three things - and you'll do great! Don't worry and angst and wonder about if you are doing the right things... just live a full and happy life, with your kids standing beside you. Let them see you do... and they will too! It's science!

Trust me, I'm a teacher!


Thursday, 25 February 2010

Complaining to the BBC

There are no words to be said, about the day of Victoria's final memorial ceremony, in what would have been her 18th year, being the day they use Khyra as a whipping girl to beat home education.

However, there is a lot to be said for HOW you complain to the BBC.

The BBC self regulates its content. OFCOM rules do not apply to it. HOWEVER, and it is a big however, the principles of the Broadcasting Code apply.

If you are complaining to the BBC today, do not just tell them you are disgusted, annoyed, ashamed etc.

Make a formal complaint and use the language of the Broadcasting Code. State upfront you know the complaint goes to them, the BBC, but use the language and principles of The Code. State you wish a response from them, in terms of your complaint about The Code breeches.

Relevant bits: Impartiality and Accuracy

The BBC has a responsibility to follow the Broadcasting Code on impartial and accurate information. Complaints about this, are dealt with in-house. By the BBC. However, the BBC Trust oversees the complaints are handled properly. If you are complaining, state you wish to be informed of the BBC Trust's response, to the volume of complaints being received ont he Khyra issue. You can also copy your complaint to the BBC Trust. If the BBC doesn't respond well to the original complaint, you can then complain to the BBC Trust, about how the BBC handled your complaint.

Code is also required in the case of the BBC by the BBC Agreement(-3-)and, in the case of S4C, by statute.

Some things you may wish to use in your complaint:

Due impartiality and due accuracy in news

5.1 News, in whatever form, must be reported with due accuracy and presented with due impartiality.

5.2 Significant mistakes in news should normally be acknowledged and corrected on air quickly. Corrections should be appropriately scheduled.

The preservation of due impartiality
5.7 Views and facts must not be misrepresented. Views must also be presented with due weight over appropriate timeframes.

Matters of major political or industrial controversy and major matters relating to current public policy

5.12 In dealing with matters of major political and industrial controversy and major matters relating to current public policy an appropriately wide range of significant views must be included and given due weight in each programme or in clearly linked and timely programmes. Views and facts must not be misrepresented.

The prevention of undue prominence of views and opinions on matters of political or industrial controversy and matters relating to current public policy

5.13 Broadcasters should not give undue prominence to the views and opinions of particular persons or bodies on matters of political or industrial controversy and matters relating to current public policy in all the programmes included in any service (listed above) taken as a whole.


As we know, Khyra was not home educated. This information is n the public domain. Complaints about inaccuracy, would point out the sequence of the removal from school, after Social Services had been alerted. It is sloppy reporting for the BBC not to mention this. They are reporting inaccurately.

This is being published, the week the Bill was voted on and moved to the Lords. Therefore it is part and parcel of a wider public debate. Badman was not part of the Khyra case, yet he is reported in the BBC article. There is no opposing voice, from home educators, to balance his assertion. This is not due impartiality.

If you find good articles - send the BBC the text in your complaint. Let them see what impartial and accurate looks like, compared to their coverage.

If you are going to complain - complain effectively. :-) And if commercial TV or radio do any of this - straight to OFCOM. For newspapers, is the Press Complaints Commission, and it's Accuracy under The Editor's Code.



i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures.

ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and - where appropriate - an apology published.

iii) The Press, whilst free to be partisan, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.

iv) A publication must report fairly and accurately the outcome of an action for defamation to which it has been a party, unless an agreed settlement states otherwise, or an agreed statement is published.


Thursday, 11 February 2010

Musings On Veils....

Apart from the wonderful irony of Baronees Deech attacking Muslim home educators in the same week we started this blog on home education matters, and referred to it as us slipping under the veil... I have been thinking about veils a lot.

I attended the funeral of a significant family member last month - January is the month of death in the Northern Europe pagan calander. Snowdrops, those lovely white promises of spring and warmth, as they push through the cold dead earth... were often referred to as death flowers. When the snowdrops appear, the old and sick, would fade. January and February have the highest death tolls amongst the old and sick, even today.

I thought about veils, as I sat in the pew at the deceased's funeral mass, and observed his widow of 55 years marriage, cope with people making eye contact with her. She desperately needed a veil. When I was a child, she could have worn one. I remember sitting in Church, with women with veils over their faces, when it was a funeral. It wasn't common, but it was normal. If old fashioned. I sat watching the widow grieve, and not know how to respond when people, the priest, strangers, kept engaging in eye contact with her, and she did not want to have to face them. To face them.

So I have been thinking about it a lot. Was it better that we'd thrown out that mourning ritual, and allowed the grief to show? Except it wasn't showing. The problem was she had to wear a mask, as she did not have access to the veil: too old fashioned. A mask that she was 'doing all right'. Subsequently, she isn't going outside, unless she feels very strong: her face gives her away. Her grief is written large upon it, and it is locked into her eyes. To go out, she has to find the strength for a mask, so she isn't going through. Is pushing a mask over your grief, better than pulling a veil over your face? I don't think so. I vote for a veil.

The whole "we don't like women being forced to wear veils as signs of religion" thing confuses me, utterly. I grew up with women who wore veils as a sign of their religious belief, and it was both respected, and held up as a role model. A spiritual role model, it had to be said. Whilst many a Catholic mother fantasised about one of the sons (Never their only son) being a priest, few wanted their daughters to be nuns. Nuns were divorced from their blood families, and weren't there for shopping, cleaning, tea, gossip and babies. A woman was always going to rely on her daughters, to care for her in old age, and having a nun as a daughter had to be a sign of the daughter's devotion to God, above her devotion to her blood family. So it was a two edged sword. Many girls who went into Holy Orders, did so under a cloud, as their income was lost from the family, as well as their domestic work. So on all aspects, it was difficult. It might be less so, in large families with a range of children in ages and running up to double digits... but few of those families existed when I was growing up. even families with 4 or 5 kids.. the 'loss' of a daughter to The Veil, was significant. As was the emotional loss - she left the family in order to join another.

So the taking of the veil was significant, on many counts. And for all the double edgedness of the sword, it was always respected. Nuns were 'special'. They had given up something significant, to take the veil, and that sacrifice, and the sacrifice of a life in service to another, was seen as worthy of respect and honour.

And in this respect and honour, everyone was very aware of why the hair was being covered by the veil. It was a sign of humility, and dedication, and of being chaste. Women's hair was dangerous: it enticed men. A woman's hair was "her crowing glory" and should be covered at times of worship. All Catholic women wore the veil when I grew up - hair had to be covered in Mass. And if you asked why, you were told upfront and without censure: in case the beauty of a woman's hair, should distract a man from prayer. Women being responsible for how men reacted to their femaleness, was deeply entrenched in my culture. "Asking for it" was a very prominent feature of how a woman could come to be punished, chastised or raped for her inappropriate behaviour. Decent women covered themselves... decently. And in Church, all women covered their hair, in order to be decent before God.

So it does confuse me, that now that women of Islamic faiths also wear their veils... it's such a bad thing. It's not like we presumed Christian women, don't. Even if you're not Catholic, and therefore didn't do the entire First Holy Communion thing, with your 7 year old girls turning up for their first Eucharist dressed as Brides, it the hope they too will one day move on to be Brides of Christ... we're all indoctrinated from very early on, for the joy of the moment we get to wear our veil.

Wearing our veil is something we are all told to aspire to, and dream off. The defining moment in the defining day of being female. When you lift your pretty white lacy veil... and kiss your husband for the first time. Thousands of hours and often hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds, are spent on the at veil. On the moment of reveal and the moment of perfection, when you walk down the aisle, and your father hands you to your husband... and your veil is lifted for his eyes, and his eyes only.

So, remind me again why veils are a sign of abuse, intolerance, subjugation and mysogeny? Something to protect women from, in case they don't know what is good for them?

I can hear some of your screaming, you know. You're all shouting at the screen and saying "IT'S OKAY IF YOU _WANT_ TO WEAR ONE, BUT NO ONE CAN MAKE YOU WEAR ONE." And yes, intrinsically, you are correct. Forcing women under the veil, is a very bad thing indeed. And we can agree, utterly, that many women who are forced to wear one, hate it. And it's A Very Bad Thing Indeed.

But there are two things to be said there. One, define 'forced'. I was forced to wear a veil for a few hours of my life, every Sunday whilst I was growing up. Several times, I was forced to do so, by women who had voluntarily chosen to wear a veil for their entire lives. Not to wear one, in Church, was a sign of disrespect. Just like my shoes had to be polished, my knickers clean, my face clean of make up and the paperback I'd smuggled into my hymn book, removed. I was made to conform, in all aspects of the social conditioning my culture operated in. But when I got to be an adult, I could throw it all away. Or keep it, if I wanted. I find it fascinating that the moment the veil is Islamic, there is no such things as free choice. How many of the so called 'forced' women around you are wearing their veils because they choose to? Quite a few, I imagine. How can you then use the presence of that veil and 'subjugation'? I'd call your assumption, racist. And if you argue that, please go up and 'liberate' the next Nun you see. I'm sure she'll be happy for you to have freed her from her male oppressors.

Do the same to a bride at her wedding! That will be such a laugh. Honestly, you'll split your sides.

As a teacher in State schools until recently, I often observed girls of Islamic faith coming in with a hijab one day, and not wearing one the next. It often depended how they felt in the morning, as they got dressed. No doubt some days they felt the yoke of oppression, and others they didn't.

The other point is that as I got older, Vatican 2 had begun to impact, and the rules relaxed: they changed, they moved with the people. The rules on both religious dress, and religious observance, changed. Many of the older habits were replaced with less cloth, and more face. Sometimes, even hair!

Religions are not set in stone: they adapt to the ideas of the people running them. I watched these changes occur, throughout my childhood, with the covering of hair in Church. Many chose hats rather than head scarves, and after cheap package holidays many wore lace Mantillas from Spain, rather than more dowdy head scarves. So much so, in fact, one memorable rant from the pulpit reminded the 'women of the parish' that covering female hair was about respecting God, and not entrancing the men... spending hours getting your hair teased out and putting a frothy lace concoction on it, to catch the eye.. Was Not The Point.

Which was, in fact, quite funny. Because compared to Protestant repressed Scottish Catholicism, actual Spanish Catholicism was a harlot's dream. Those very lace mantillas causing problems in Scottish Catholic Churches, would have been used as handkerchiefs in Spain, where the statues of the Holy Mother had lipstick and blusher on them, and real jewels embroidered on her clothes. Where Spanish women may have had their hair covered in Church, but the concept that they were doing to HIDE themselves, was funny. Where respect and decorum was the right type of attire, in the right circumstance, but you could still DISPLAY the goods. And that, of course, is one of the huge problems about veils: they engender mystery. And mystery is a tease. The chaste women covering herself in self-respect... is the harlot doing the dance of the seven veils ten minutes and two hits of sambucha, later.

Veils and females... is actually quite complicated. They are sometimes about both hiding yourself, and at other times about rejecting the vision of others. Men in our culture don't like their gaze being shut out. It quite offends them. Women are to be looked at, and heaven help any woman who robs you of that pleasure, on your terms.

Veils can be about subjugation of the female to male desire.. and they can be about female independence. Not free to walk around with leering men.. but free to decide where and when your public and private spaces, meet. Veils can be a triumph of personal insight and reflection to your own character. I've witnessed two veilings in my life, when a female has undertaken the sacrament of marriage to Christ, and earned her veil. Both were some of the most powerful spiritual moments I've witnessed.

I also routinely wear a veil, to worship. When I work magically within Qabaliq tradition, I wear my head completely covered, and my hair utterly out of sight. I don't do it because I think I should, or because someone told me, in a book, or in person, that it's 'right'. I do it, because when I decide to commune with that type of power, it feels the right way to do it. Have I absorbed all those comments and rulings over all the years... I'll never know. But I know that as pagan, I use the veil a lot. Both as something that signals there is a time for withdrawal, and a time for self reflection, and for introspection. And it's got nothing to do with anyone looking at me.

I know, that as a pagan woman, the veil stands for many things in my life, and that often makes others uncomfortable. The veil is how we refer to moving from life, to death. The veil is a shadowing of light. Shadows are important, to pagans. We reject the duality of the light/dark divide to be found amongst the Children of Abraham. We respect you believe differently.. but we reject it as a world view. Likewise, we reject that the role of woman is to civilise, and make better, the male. Women and men are equal in both intent, and power, within pagan religions. The idea that a women must protect a male from seeing her beauty, to prevent a rape, or an inappropriate advance: bollocks.

Likewise, no women can claim she went mad over the sight of a beautiful male. Does that sound silly to you, the concept that male beauty can astound, defy and befuddle the senses? If it does, then odds are you are not pagan. Our male Gods are beautiful, and deadly in that beauty, too. In fact, as we are currently operating in a Wiccan mode, our male deity is spring and Green wood and green Earth, and hunting and blood and a hell of a lot of romps in the fields. Like I said, we reject duality. All people can be all things, and shadows are a valued part of the whole. Sex is valued, and is beauty, and we can cover ourselves at ritual, or work stark naked.

We can choose to work with veils. Women and veils have a natural affinity. Women carry life, and wonder for ten long moons if the life will make it out, or die aborning. We carry death as we carry our young, as a mother's heart is fearful from the moment of conception.. on how she will cope with loss, if this life is lost to her. We birth the young and we wash the dead. Women are the natural Guardians of the Veil, despite how patriarchy may then try and abuse that, and force us into servitude in its name. I think my biggest objection to those who comment on the veil.. is the person who sees a veil as a sign of a backward culture. Yes, we'll readily admit that we (read 'Christian') once wore them, and some may still do (nice Nuns) but the concept that women of other faiths still wear them.. is as sign that those women are not yet liberated. The poor Jewish woman, the poor Islamic women.. those who haven't 'advanced' enough to shrug of their veils. No concept that it might be an active, ancient, and fully endorsed by that women, choice. The religiously repressed loony Christians in the far right Bible Belt of the USA.. why some of them still cover their hair!

How many bad hair days have you looked at .. and thought... oh God, what I'd give to just be able to... But no, the tyranny of always look beautiful, and always looking well turned out, and always having tried to look good... prevails. Besides, someone might think you were a religious geek. I once had a severe ear infection, that put me is hospital for several days. In December. When I emerged, I wore a shawl wrapped around my head, covering my ears, and sat in the pub having my lunch. A man came and sat opposite me, and engaged in some extremely pointed anti-Islam comments. Because, of course, all single women in Hijab are having lunch alone in a pub... you can't just have a shawl wrapped around your head without reason. What woman would want to own that stigma without cause?

It appears to be inconceivable to some, that women might choose to work under a veil: it has to be enforced. Sometimes the veil is the front door: we choose to close it to others. But that is just as suspect as wearing the veil: why would we do that? Is it tyranny to force women under a veil? Yes. Is it tyranny to force a women not to wear one? Yes. So what is it if an observer assumes a women, of any age, wearing a veil, is being oppressed? That's racism, dummy. Oh, sorry, that's racism, Baroness...

I'd argue that the core objection to Baroness Deech's comments are actually about closed doors: how dare you close your front door to the The State. Closing your front door AND wearing a cloth around your head... two strikes on excluding The State from checking your business. I was raised by women in veils, educated by them in female only classes, and told to respect and honour their wearing of the veil as a sign of holiness and sacrifice in service of others. But I did so within the State School system. So it was okay and safe - the door of the classroom could be opened at any time, by a Government inspector. Authorities could check that whilst I was being taught within a religious framework, at the State's expense, they could also check I was being taught to be a socially responsible citizen of the State. And before you go on about bombings and jihads, and how unlikely it I would have been taught extremism... this was an Irish Catholic community in a Protestant country at the height of The Troubles. Bombs and bullets were not far from the communion wafers. And as for what happened when the Orange Walks paraded down our main street... I'll just remind you about the joke about the Glasgow man who punched out the two car bombers at Glasgow Airport a couple of years ago... "How dare you try and introduce religious extremism here, we know more about it than you!"

But it was the State Schooling System that taught me that women were responsible for the behaviour of men. That wearing short skirts would entice rape, and your were responsible for it if it happened. It taught me that the powerful Nun in charge of my world, deferred in all things to the Priest, and in turn, everyone deferred to the Bishop. The lessons I learned at home, matched those of the School System. So my indoctrination, and my learning about my lower role in life in general, but my exalted position as the female who had the power to redeem the feckless drunken men of the world... was utterly State sanctioned. And therefore it was acceptable. But the winds have changed on faith schools... for just to be taught by someone of faith, within the confines of that faith., is now dangerous.

They might not be teaching you to vote Labour at the next election.

As a former Labour die hard (Lanarkshire Labour for goodness sake!) you've no idea how much that statement pains me.

And that appears to be the Crux of the Matter of the Veil. Not, are these female children of those of the Islamic faiths, being given freedom to decide that as adults, they can take it off... but are they getting the correct State message on how to act, and work, in our society? Behind closed doors, the state cannot check the right messages are getting through. The current Labour obsession with education education education is about a firm belief that if you raise all children to be fair minded, responsible, hard working, fit and healthy citizens.. they will all vote Labour.

The home of fair minded, responsible, hard working fit and healthy citizens fighting for the right of all working class people to be.. middle class. The Labour Party is going to free all children from the chains of... being different. Only the right age, shape, weight, academically achieved and economically well being child should exist... and only the Labour Party can ensure this, through the State School System. Resist, and you are suspect. The New Labour Party is non-faithed - so all threats of religious viewpoint challenging the dominant mythology of the working class family crawling to suburbia.. will be exterminated. If you are not in school, you are in danger. If you are in a faith system strong enough for you to display that... you are in danger.

And You Will Be Saved!

Deviant women... women who educate... women with closed doors... women with veils... need not apply....

Too dangerous.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Dear Baroness Deech...

... when I said we were slipping under the veil, I had no idea you would take us so literally!

Just to say I am confused about one point. When I was at school, many many women around me wore the veil as a sign of their religious belief. It was perfectly acceptable and no one presumed that anyone in that religion, was automatically abusing children in their care behind closed doors. What's changed?

luv Hecate

"There should be some safeguard against home educated Muslim girls..."
Baroness Deech
February 10, 2010

Dear Baron Soley...

Just a note so say how much I appreciated your recent blog. Much of my pleasure on blog reading, is reading comments. So I'm a bit limited on what to say, since the blog has had no comments to date.

I'm sure this is Just A Glitch, and they will all appear quite soon! It's not as if you're going to take this project "encouraging dialogue between web users and Members of the House of Lords" and censor it, are you! :-)

So I'm sure the comments, all the comments, will appear soon. Look forward to them.

luv Hecate

ps, Just In Case the web system over there at The Other Place is straining, I'm sure you'll find that every comment posted so far, that has not appeared, is saved to hard drive somewhere. If you do have gaps in the comments page, we can help you fill them in! Best wishes, Hec.