Category Archives: Spirituality: The Path I walk

A bit of an editorial on at a distance learning …

The need for design thinking in small “at a distance” programs …

Lezlie Kinyon  (also published in  Pagans in HDSCN1672igher Education [Files]) ·

Over the past two years, I have been asked to teach basic psychology and systems design courses at four different “start-up” at-a-distance graduate programs. I have been asked to do this through professional contacts either through my graduate school, Saybrook, or through other organizations that I have affiliations for. Each time, the referral came through a trusted colleague, and that trust became the final portion of the agreement to accept the offer.  Save one, which I turned down flat out, and has no bearing on this conversation as it was/is a for-profit program.   The other three programs are the reason why I am writing this brief editorial in this blog.  (Please share your experiences in the comment area.)  In the spiritual “higher-ed” world, particularly as it attempts to cater to the needs of minority faith and indigenous peoples for training in pastoral needs, this issue is most relevant.  In the past decade various independent, small graduate programs have appeared at the Master’s level  looking to fill a perceived need within this population of scholars to staff, and to enroll as students, in programs offering “Goddess-oriented” and “Earth-centered” spirituality programs. Often attached to liberal seminaries and the smaller private, nonprofit, graduate programs that specialize in transpersonal psychology, these programs are also – very often – under funded and understaffed.  It will reward the potential student or faculty seeking these programs to undertake – first and foremost – a program of research about both the program in question, and the current models of successful at-a-distance learning in higher ed, before approaching these programs as anything like serious attempts at collegiate learning.

All of these programs suffered – categorically – from a model of distance learning that is both incomplete, and, in the long, run self-defeating.  While many of these conditions also exist for campus-based “brick & mortar” programs, they seem particularly relevant to discuss as the popularity of distance-learning models are adopted by small start-up programs and smaller departments in large universities as a means to cut costs. In brief, each program:

  • … offered payment to faculty that is so far below the accepted standard (even for adjunct teaching) that it is under the category of “volunteer work” for most qualified faculty
  • … so few students are enrolled in the program that no guarantee of enrollment in the course is offered, nor is the payment equal to the hours of prep work or actual student-faculty interactions.  Save for a tiny portion of professionals, this is neither cost nor time-effective.
  • … non-accreditation.  This may be problematical for start-up programs attached to a larger research oriented institution or for those who have developed a good reputation, for others it becomes a “minus” on the CV regarding future positions and research granting bodies. (It is certainly trouble for students enrolled who hope to continue on in higher ed as a career or in doctoral and post-doc programs.)
  • … little or no faculty support (no development or “in suit” training offered, no clerical support, no coverage of copyrighted material usage fees)
  • … the program offered no ombudsman nor any other method of resolving conflicts or disputes
  • … a non-collegial – and, in one instance hostile – working environment
  • …and, finally, (and most importantly) an incomplete model of distance learning that is – increasingly – reliant on unproven or cumbersome technological solutions as a substitution for face-to-face class time.

This last item, coupled with technical personnel who display that certain “techie arrogance” which creates failure within programs in all sectors of business and education in both visible and invisible ways. In one psych program I agreed to teach a course in (reluctantly, it must be admitted here: a “once burned twice shy” situation) the model had very little visible basis in design thinking, and resulting in a mid-term resignation because the “classroom time” solution provided by the institute did little more than get in the way of the actual teaching and left myself as well as at least one student nearly to tears in frustration in attempting to find “work a rounds” with no actual assistance from the program’s developers or technical staff.  When I found myself asked to find and pay for a solution on my own -and, did so, out of pocket –  the final decision was to cancel the course without further discussion.  This situation became so badly  addressed on every level, that seeing no recourse, and no alternatives with positive outcomes on any level, I immediately resigned.

This was not the worst of the programs, the first I had agreed to “fill in”  with a needed psychology class sent a syllabus that had no freedom for interpretation whatever, did not provide any prep time, and when the contract was sent finally, (after months of waiting) assigned no students to the course: faculty are, apparently, part of the “recruiting” mechanism for obtaining student enrollment in the program!  This method of recruitment is – although questionable at best – not unheard of and one that all potential faculty should thoroughly research before agreeing to anything. (Needless to say, I did not sign the contract.)

From a Human Systems perspective, all of these issues can (and, should) be addressed from a design perspective.  The people creating these programs are, very often, well-meaning, educated, and – to a fault – passionately working, even sacrificing personal life and professional goals, to create programs that are both academically interesting and meeting a perceived need.  The failure point, in each case, has been in the distance-learning model used by the program.  Until that is addressed, each of these programs will continue to struggle for acceptance, an adequate financial foundation to work from (faculty research grants, endowments, etc. etc.) qualified faculty, and student success in the world-beyond-graduate-school.



More Music, This Time for The Harvest

As time has continued ever on (as it always does) and the summer Handfasting season has drawn to a close.  We begin to look forward to the Harvest season, I thought I’d post a couple songs for the season that have become favorites with my sacred performance circle in our annual Lughnasadh (first harvest) celebration. In o particular order – enjoy!

“Witches’ Rune” (SJ Tucker): (you can download this from here.)

“Fields of Gold” (Eva Cassidy, Sting) (with some lyric changes by my circle-mate, Lauren)

“Navigatio” (Jeff Johnson – with some lyric changes by my circle-mate, Lauren, to suit the holiday – we changed “sins” to something more PaganImage)

“Lughnasadh Dance” (Gwydion Pendderwen)

Lughnasadh” (Damh the Bard”)

“Blue Boat Home” (Meyer & Prichard)

“Dancin’ in the Moonlight” (King Harvest)

Suggested for this year to evoke the God: Hymm to Pan – it streams from this site: & you can download a copy (free) by “liking” Faerieworlds FB “events” page:

2-credit course on Ritual Construction

Please note: Until Akamai has a sensible policy in place concerning the use of copyrighted materials in course readers – and an IRB committee in place, this course will be delayed.  You can still speak with Elliot about enrolling when those two things are in place.

L. Kinyon - all rights reserved - 2012

Spiral Path: Sibley Volcanic Preserve – L. Kinyon – all rights reserved – 2012

Announcing! 2-credit course on Ritual Construction at Akamai (a progressive program in Psychology) – CE credits are available. Contact: “Elliot Benjamin” <ben496@_at_prexar(dot)com> for registration details. Ask me about contents. This class is “at-a-distance”, designed for students, but is also useful for the practitioner hoping to hone her/is skills in ritual creation.  (Ecumenical approach, but very Pagan-friendly in its design.)

Course description:  Beginning Ritual Construction (overview) This is an introductory course. (suggested: 6-8 weeks) Fully ecumenical in approach.

What makes for a meaning, beautiful ritual? Creating ritual in a spiritual community is an art form and a life-long learning process.  Different kinds of ritual and ritual events, from a meal blessing or a full moon observance to a large, public event celebrating the equinoxes or solstices to rite of passage have been created with more (and, less) success.  This course proposes to provide an introductory overview for the ritualist-in-training and the practitioner who wishes explore ritual creation in a deeper way.

Theory: Readings in reflection, wisdom, intent, and mindfulness. Practicum: readings and exercises in group dynamics & Human Activity Systems, organizing large & small events. There will be 3 short essays on selected topics a required final project.

We will explore the elements of a successful ritual:

  • Differences & similarities between a ceremony, a liturgy, ritual performance, and a ritual
  • The use of music, poetry, visual art, and dance.
  • Adapting for specific occasions and differing spiritual traditions with some emphasis on weddings/handfasting and other rites-of-passage.
  • Festival rituals for the “casts of thousands”

There will also be an on-line discussion forum for all students enrolled in the course for mutual sharing of knowledge & support.  For SF Bay area students (and those willing to travel) we will meet bi-monthly for hands-on discussion. Those in training in specific Pagan traditions will be required to actively participate in 2 of the 8 major Sabbats, at least one Esbat and present feedback from their respective clergy.  Other students in specific spiritual paths will have an equivalent requirement.

Handfasting Gown

Handfasting Gown!

The gown St Celcilia is wearing in this painting has inspired me: It would make a beautiful wedding/handfasting gown. I am prepared to create it for any bride who contacts me & will give me a year for the handwork. I will do the corresponding bridesmaids gowns as well – (so long as there are fewer than 4). Warning! It won’t be a “budget dress” – but – you will look glorious!

And- more Handfasting Music …

The forecast is sunny and warm and we are all eagerly awaiting the eclipse tomorrow.   My partner is working on a CD project for our friend Marc Silber and the music drifting downstairs to the office reminds me to post some more handfasting song suggestions.

First, there are a couple of sites popping up with general advice for handfasting couples: Oak & Mistletoe at has sample vows and the general overall structure you will need to make it a legally recognized wedding in the US, Canada, and the UK.   I will add others as they come up. Please feel free to add your links in the comments section below. (Warning: this page is moderated, proselytizing messages for other religions will be deleted.)

While exploring this music, I realized that all of these songs are infinitely suitable for rituals celebrating the heiros gamnos (holy marriage of Earth & Sky) at Beltane or Midsummer.  The thought – also– has come to me that a songbook might be really helpful for couples (along with their friends and families) in planning their Big Event.  More thoughts on this to come…there is a lot to think about when considering publishing music in print form (or POD).  Obtaining good sheet music and permissions from the songwriters is just the beginning.  While I may need to tap a musician as a co-author, please send me your suggestions and experiences in doing this kind of project. while on the subject of books, it is very important that, when you create the “order of service” for your handfasting, that you credit the songwriters and composers of the music that you use.  This simple courtesy is often left out, and it should not be.  If you love it enough to use it on your handfasting day, then a thank you! to the songwriter is a small thing to do.

In the “Pagan song cannon” are some beautiful songs by Deborah and Rick Hamouris’ on their classic 1986 recording Welcome to Annwfn.  Available from CB Baby @ (clips and downloads are also  to be found here.)  In particular, Strolling Song, the classic chant We Are a Circle, and Love as a River lend themselves to handfasting planning.  We are a Circle is widely used, often without crediting the songwriters, and in questionable time signatures.  It never hurts to consult the original.

Also in the cannon is Demeter’s Song by Starhawk (1983); a beautiful blessing song designed for prosperity and good fortune and sung at events from Reclaiming’s annual Spiral Dance to smaller sabbats everywhere. From Let It Begin Now: Music from the Spiral Dance, which can be ordered from the Reclaiming Quarterly. Also on Moonrise: Demeter’s Song available on Amazon at: (A lyric sheet can be found here:  A tiny bit of tweaking here and there, and this song could easily form the basis for handfasting vows.

My linked entries for today are  songs by New Mexico’s singer/songwriter, Celia Farran.  All  links include lyrics and a downloadable MP3.  (all songs are copyrighted: By Celia © 2012 Red Granite Goddess ASCAP )

This is terrific for the meditative opening of any ritual: Ground, Center, & Shield also on For The Asking.

A nice song to call the gathered celebrants to the circle: “For The Asking”

This is fun –Please Take My Hand on Carry Me Home. (3:51)

Also on Carry Me Home is a lovely blessing song that is useful for creating sacred space: Bless This Space  (3:28)

Enjoy and— remember: laugh … kiss your sweetie often …and, breathe… especially when trying on your gown!

Well… it’s that season again …

The season for the green Earth to flower has come again.  That crazy season when siren that song that leads us into love – or, love again – or remember who we love and who we want to dance with once again in the soft starry nights of spring-into-summer.

For those who have danced this dance several times and are ready for it: it’s  wedding & Handfasting season.  As an artist and Priestess, I have assisted several couples in “tying the knot”  – a literal knot for Wiccan couples!  As everyone who has planned a Handfasting knows, the process is crazy-making, fun, annoying, occasionally infuriating, and sublimely joyous all in turn – sometimes in the same hour.  There are one thousand decisions to make: from the invitation list, the place, to the particulars of the ritual itself.  Lest we forget, (of course!) there is also the dress, the appetizer menu, parking, and, of great importance to many, the subject of this post: music.

I will use this space to make some suggestions to the couple and their friends and family, and the officiating priest/ess/es/ on tying the knots while reserving a modicum of sanity.

Music, as no other medium can, will bring together the disparate collection of friends and relatives at a Handfasting.  It will set the tone of the event and move things along in a natural, organic way.  The selection of music can bring your parents to tears (of joy, one hopes), bring smiles to lips of the gathered, cause the lovers in attendance to gaze at another and share in your joy, uplift the spirits of one and all, and, finally, make the feet of even your Ancient Aunt Trudy to tap her toes at the after-ritual reception.  It might even get her up for a turn around the dance floor.

Choose songs for the ritual itself that have meaning to you, the Handfasing couple.  Songs that you would sing to one another.  Temper these selections with your clergy’s suggestions of songs and/or chants that will move the ritual forward and keep that sense of participation by all gathered that mark a Pagan event from all others.  Sing and dance your way up the “aisle”? Go for it!  A folk-style circle dance or spiral dance to begin or end the ritual? A processional to or from the Circle into the reception hall while singing? Hire the local Morris or Sword team to take you to the circle? Great fun!  All of these are good.  Once upon a time, a wedding had special songs for the groom, the groomsmen, the bride, the bride’s women, the family, the clergy, generally speaking, for everyone present.  A Handfasting is a serious ritual of commitment, but it is also an occasion for celebration and merriment. Keep it serious, but remember to laugh. (and… breathe … remember to savor the day… it’s yours forever.)

Today, I am going to address music with a sampling of songs, with a little commentary, that I have heard over the years which lend themselves well to the celebration of love and commitment that a Handfasting is meant to be.    … and … to the heart of the matter!  These are songs drawn from the popular “cannon” that have some familiarity across generations.  The next blog ( entry will focus on Pagan artists’ music. I will add more as I think of them, and, please, use the comments section below to add your favorites.

For the gathering period as the hall, garden, or park (or your living room) fills with your friends and relations, a little instrumental music will “set the tone” for the event.  Unless you know the gathered crowd very well, save the dancing for the reception.  Choose music that will allow for the moments of confusion invariably happen as your guests gather, but keep the attention of those already seated.  Many couple choose a recording of classical or folk music.  Some hire a string quartet, others a single instrumentalist, or a folk ensemble for this period.  Plan for about 30 to 40 minutes and signal the start of the ritual itself with a song – either sung by a performer or by the guests – or, some combination of both.  I recommend that, even if  the music provided during the reception is all recorded or a DJ is enjoined to provide music, (especially for a large Handfasting) for this part of the day, that live musicians provide the music.

Suggestion: There is a lot of class in a harp ensemble. This is a video by Diana Rowan whose harping is exceptional, (Diana’s website:

Songs for the ritual itself:

Rubylove: Cat Stevens (Cat Stevens – Rubylove, live at Vorst Nationaal, Brussels – June 2nd 2011. Cat Stevens / Yusuf Islam live at Forest National)

A good around, easy to sing and  choice.  A great song for processionals, recessionals, circle and spiral dancing. Or for just general celebrating and merriment.  If your relations “came of age” in the 60s & 70s, they will probably know this song, and – if asked – will sing along.  The translation of the lyrics sung in Greek are (insert your names):

Ruby glykeia (Ruby my sweet)
Ela xana (come again)
Ela xana konta mou (come again close to me)
Ela proi (come in the morning)
Me tin avgi (by dawn)
Hrisi san iliahtida (gold as a sunbeam)
Ruby mou mikri (You small Ruby)

Hired a band? Why not a little rock & roll to start things off with? a couple could Make an Entrance to remember with this one! (David Bowie – Modern Love – Live 2004 )

While we are discussing Bowie – (so…when isn’t it OK to discuss Bowie?) – every Handfasting needs a passionate love song as an integral part of the ritual:  (David Bowie- Wild is the Wind [live] )

There is a place in most Handfastings when the couple shares food and drink (champagne & cake?) this song lends itself to the  action in a beautiful way…(Sally Oldfield – Fire and Honey – “Water Bearer” (1978)

This lovely song by folksinger Loreena McKennitt will also lend itself well to this ritual sharing of food and drink.  Many couples will share the chalice and the place with the guests as well as in any ritual. This action always takes a little time to complete – a live musician will be able to judge and improvise accordingly to create that time far better than relying on a recording. (Loreena McKennitt– Dark Night of The Soul)

May you always find joy and laughter! BB!

Inspiration Potion

I got a special little container. It is green glass with the word “Inspire” etched into it.

Iron Venice Potion Bottles

So I made a magic potion:

1 Meyer lemon – shave off the zest, then quarter.  Add the whole fruit

1 or 2 satsuma oranges, quartered, again, add whole fruit.

3 green cardamom pods

one piece of star anise

1/4 tsp mahleb powder

1 cinnamon stick

pinch nutmeg

1 cup sugar

31/2 cups  water

5 saffron threads

Put everything into a crock pot or on the stove at the very lowest heat. Simmer until the sugar is fully incorporated and the steam is aromatic. Cool, strain through a seive and put it into your favorite decanter.  Serve either warm or chilled when you need a little inspiration.