The C Word

Things we have been pondering on your behalf.

We realise many of you may have questions about your upcoming ceremonies whether they be Wedding ceremony’s, Naming Ceremonies or Vow Renewals. Even more so now that venues are being told to close their doors.  For some, you will find the decisions are being made for you and for others you’ll feel confused with inconsistent advice and choices.

Please try not to worry. It’s important to stay calm so that preparations and decisions can be made that are right, and safe, for you and your family and friends.

A lot of what is going on is out-with our control and this feeling of lack of control can exacerbate anxiety.

Take a breath, pause and plan.

Love My Dress

Try use an acronym like BRAIN to help get things into perspective:

Benefits

Risks

Alternatives

Instinct

Nothing


Get together with your partner, discuss with wider family members and even close friends and guests. Do some serious WedMin and write these headings down and brainstorm, list, get everything out there.


What are the Benefits of carrying on as planned? For you and for others.


What are the Risks? Think of your family and guests, ages, travel, number of guests, finances etc


The Alternatives – what are they? Talk to each other about all the available options. Have you spoken to your service providers about potential alternatives, if not, do.

What is your Instinct, your gut feeling? Tune in and trust.

What if you decide to do Nothing different right now?

If you go through all of the above and decide to change nothing at the moment, that’s fine. Sit with it for a bit and return to the discussion.
You can wait to see what else unfolds and revisit your list, notes and conversations at anytime. Maybe start again adding and subtracting aspects previously considered, newly discovered and advised by Government.
Reflect and reschedule if necessary. If you’re ceremony is with one of us at Agnostic Scotland and you want to discuss options for a Plan B date. Get in touch.


You have each other and that is the main thing especially right now. Remember why you are planning all of this in the first place – because of love and trust.


What if you decide to, or have to, postpone your ceremony?
There will be no charge to reschedule the date of your ceremony. If your celebrant is not available then one of our Agnostic Scotland Life Celebrants may be. Pencil in a Plan B date as soon as possible.


Would you have to pay anything extra to change your date?
There is no extra charge to hold another date. Your deposit/fee would be transferred to the new date.


What if your Celebrant becomes ill or has to cocoon at home at the time of your ceremony?
At Agnostic Scotland we have discussed how to cover ceremonies in case of illness. Your back up Celebrant would have access to your final ceremony script and they would make contact with you to say hello and talk through anything with you prior to the ceremony.
We know that currently, with the support of the Registrars, we can obtain emergency discretion for a change of Celebrant, as long as that Celebrant is a member of a recognised belief body, if required due to illness.
We have also reached out to the National Records of Scotland for further advice in this ever changing situation.


Current Guidelines
The National Records of Scotland are currently drawing up guidelines for registrars. You can check here. You will probably know that in England (where Celebrants cannot legally conduct marriage ceremonies) Church wedding ceremonies are currently limited to the minimal people required which is 5.
The National Records of Scotland are currently drawing up guidelines for their own registrars. Keep an eye here for updates. You will know that in England (where celebrants cannot legally conduct marriage ceremonies) Church wedding ceremonies are currently limited to the minimal number of people required which is 5. Civil ceremonies, which are carried out by a registrar, are to be judged on a case by case basis.
The Church of Scotland have issued guidance saying only close family should attend weddings, but they did not state a number. In regard to civil ceremonies in Scotland it seems to depend on the registrars, and of course, the venue. After many venues being ‘told’ to close yesterday you may need to talk to your venue.
At the moment the government cannot instruct ‘organisers’ to cancel events but hopes organisers will follow advice to support our public services in responding to Covid – 19. Legislation may change this so keep up to date.
For WHO advice re: social distancing and more click here and from NHS Scotland here


What if important guests can’t make it to your ceremony due to number restrictions, travel restrictions or illness?


Have a cry then get creative.
Film the ceremony
Live stream the ceremony
WhatsApp video call
Tribute/blessing from the guests who can’t make it
They could pre record an audio or film piece to add to the ceremony or during speeches
Represent the person using symbolism – wearing something of theirs or something that you feel represents/includes them

Soulful Celebrant


Other wedding suppliers
Talk to them. Ask about a back up plan and discuss options. Communication is key.
This can get things in perspective, help feelings of helplessness and anxiety. It also allows you to feel and connect with the support that is out there.


What you can do to keep yourself safe and support your community.
Eat well, get plenty sleep, access your usual exercise regime, get fresh air, minimise Social Media – wash your hands – and ask for support and help. Talk things through with your nearest and dearest. Use BRAIN. Keep yourself informed with all the latest Government guidance and advice, health, and otherwise. Reach out to others. Support your suppliers who are likely small businesses by postponing not cancelling.

Sara Shakeel


Are the Agnostic Scotland Celebrants keeping themselves safe?
Yes, we are! We love hugs, kisses and shaking hands but are saving that for a later date. We’re washing our hands, eating well, getting plenty of sleep and leaning into our Celebrant community for support. We are keeping ourselves up to date with all the latest advice from the Government and the Ceremony Sector. It must be acknowledge that keeping ourselves safe may also mean our advice to you would be to postpone your ceremony or go ahead but with only immediate family members, maintaining suitable distance. This is something we will discuss with each couple.
We are also acutely aware of the need to support other Celebrants and small businesses at this time as well as our families, friends, neighbours and local community.

The Wedding Collective


Reflect and reschedule if need be – don’t cancel L O V E


If you do decide to postpone take time to consider how you will spend the day that you were going to get married. Make an event of it, a ritual, for just the two of you, make it positive and make it part of your story, part of your ceremony and part of your wedding day when it comes.

We’re expanding our Celebrant network!

At Agnostic Scotland it’s been a busy year. We’ve sowed the seed of a beautiful new belief body and watched it grow. Our three founders, Linda Keys, Andrea Taylor and Onie Tibbitt, have been busy conducting ceremonies in grand hotels and family homes, on hilltops and lochsides, in crematoriums and burial grounds. At Agnostic Scotland, we offer ceremonies that respond to the unique blend of beliefs, values and wishes of the families involved. As one of our ambassadors says:

“In today’s Scotland, there are fewer formal rituals. But our souls still need them. Today, we need a safe space for our rites, our ceremonies. Somewhere where there are no stipulations on God. Or Gods. Or no God(s). Or on gender binaries. Or on what a family looks like. Or on what music you can and can’t sing, or play, or listen to. I am excited that Agnostic Scotland can hold those spaces, perform those rituals, celebrate those ceremonies. Everyone deserves a safe place to mark life’s milestones.”

Stella Hervey Birrell, Award Winning Poet and Writer, East Lothian, Scotland.

Since our launch in November, we’ve been humbled by the response from people across Scotland wishing us well, enquiring about working with us, and asking about how to support our Community Fund and join our Community Connection Gatherings. It’s been a magical year and we are now excited to begin the process of seeking out like-minded others to join our Scotland-wide Life Celebrant network.

“Sooner or later, though, no matter where in the world we live,
we must join the diaspora, venturing beyond our biological family to find our logical one, the one that actually makes sense for us.”

Armistead Maupin

If you are someone who has always held a deep fascination for life transitions, who loves to honour rites of passage through ritual and ceremony, who enjoys bringing individuals together in celebration, and who has a heart-centred and open-minded respect towards the many varied, sometimes contradictory, and often complicated beliefs, values and wishes of others, then becoming an Agnostic Scotland Life Celebrant could be the perfect role for you. No prior celebrancy experience is necessary, although experienced celebrants are also welcome to apply.

On 18-22nd November 2020, we will be hosting a 5-day Agnostic Scotland Life Celebrancy Training course in Edinburgh. The course will be comprehensive and will include all aspects of Celebrancy including Weddings, Namings, Funerals and other Life-Transition Ceremonies. We will be focussing on interactive content to build confidence in working with families, collecting information, holding the space, exploring rituals, presenting to a gathering, self-care and mindfulness, navigating challenges, understanding the legal responsibility and role of a celebrant, and more. There will be individual assessment at each stage of the training, and successful candidates would then be invited to participate in the Mentoring programme. Upon successful completion of the Mentoring programme you would be formally accredited as an Agnostic Scotland Life Celebrant. Agnostic Scotland is not an employer; applicants who are successful at all stages and who go on to complete their training will carry out their Life Celebrancy work on a self-employed basis.

We are keen to invite 10-15 Celebrants to join our network and we are limited to recruiting 1-2 Celebrants per geographical area. It is possible to apply to work in an area where you do not live. Ideally applicants should be interested in all aspects of Celebrancy – Weddings, Namings, Funerals, Life-Transition Ceremonies. However, we will consider applications from individuals wishing to only offer Funeral, Life Celebration and Memorial Ceremonies. Whilst we are already at capacity for Wedding Celebrants in the Lothians, we are happy to accept applications from individuals interested in working predominantly as Funeral Celebrants in the Lothians.

Applications will open on 1st June. The application deadline will be 19th August 2020. Interviews will be held on 22-24th September 2020 and the Training is on 18-22nd November.

Please do not register your interest unless you can attend on these dates. To register your interest with a view to applying, please contact us.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Trees for Life

Loch Katrine
All images by @soulfulcelebrant

Last year we decided to support a project run by Trees for Life, a conservation charity dedicated to rewilding the Caledonian Forest, a rich habitat found in the Scottish Highlands. So on Christmas Eve 2019 we bought a digital grove and have begun to donate trees. Our grove has now been populated with 60 native trees and you can have a look here

Our Agnostic Scotland grove is being planted in honour of the communities and the families whose ceremonies we conduct. Every time a couple are married, exchange vows or express their life commitment to one another we will plant a tree to celebrate their union. When babies are welcomed by family and friends we will plant a tree to celebrate their arrival. When families gather to celebrate the life of a loved one who has died we will plant a tree in their memory. When communities come together to collaborate and celebrate through ceremony and ritual we will plant a tree in support.

As Agnostic Scotland celebrants we are privileged to help individuals and families navigate important transitions in their lives and planting a trees in support of this wonderful rewilding project is such a perfect way to show our appreciation to all the remarkable individuals, families and communities we are lucky enough to encounter through in our work. It is also an opportunity to express our respect, gratitude and hope for the natural world that sustains us all.

For those of you who we have connected with recently or are working with currently we have donated trees to thank and honour you. We hope you enjoy thinking of your native Scottish tree happily growing into mature trees that will transform hillsides into young woodland, then mature into wild forests for future generations to enjoy.

Language – is what we do more important than what we say?

Welcome to our latest blog post.

My name is Andrea and I am one of the founders of Agnostic Scotland. I am a midwife and an Agnostic Celebrant. Over the last few years, while weaving the threads of both practices through my life, I have discovered so many parallels. One of the comparable areas, that I couldn’t help noticing quite quickly, is language and specifically the use of the word my.

Definition of my – of or relating to me or myself especially as possessor, agent, object of an action or familiar person

merriam-webster.com

In early 2018 the British Medical Journal published a blog which explored language used in maternity care. The authors put together an alternative language guide for midwives and medical staff and, of course, the media picked up on this with headlines in UK newspapers stating that midwives were “BANNED” (sic) from using certain terms because they could be disrespectful to women.
Well, as you know, you can’t ban people from using certain words and language but you can inspire people to reflect on their communication and the words and language they use.
This discussion is not new to the maternity services. Midwifery language and communication has been researched and written about repeatedly. There is still one specific area we can’t quite agree on though – what we call the women we care for.

Detail from The Great Scottish Tapestry

Patients – could be disempowering, the majority of pregnant women are not sick but well and healthy, they just happen to be pregnant. Ladies – is thought of as patronising. Clients – more suited to hairdressers and therapists. I have even heard midwives call women ‘birds’, or sometimes just ‘Room 8’ or whatever room/bed number the midwife is assigned to.

Personally, I call a woman I care for by her name.


For me what is even more irksome is when midwives talk about ‘my lady’ or ‘my woman’. The woman doesn’t belong to anyone and this kind of language is paternalistic. How we frame things, how we say things influences how we practice, what we do and ultimately how we treat people.

I have noticed a similarity in the wedding sector with celebrants, photographers and other ceremony suppliers often talking about ‘my couple’. Even though this is likely unconscious, and very well intended, it is the kind of language that has the ability to disempower and can influence a relationship.

The individuals that make up a couple don’t belong to anyone.

In our work and practice as celebrants we are not owners of the two people who, may function socially as a unit, but are individual autonomous adults and decision makers. We must promote working in partnership and recognise we are not owners but facilitators. Our language should regard and respect the current social norms, expectations and rights of the people we work with.

I know that in the past I have slipped into the negative terminology that dominates the culture I work in & failed to appreciate the impact my words have had, but after many years working with women, couples and families I feel I know I have made a shift and on the whole I am now mindful of the language I use. That shift came with self-awareness, reflection and a fundamental belief in respecting individuals, choice and equality.

Why not start reflecting on the language you use, the words you utter and type, make a shift if need be. When we are authentic and grounded in our practice it is not difficult to make the language we use about, and around, couples and families appropriate and respectful.

Changing the way we think can change our words and changing our words can change our way of thinking.

We would love to share with you our Launch Ceremony

[Agnostic Scotland Founder Celebrants: Linda Keys, Andrea Taylor and Onie Tibbitt]

We’ve been so thrilled with the overwhelmingly positive reception to the launch of Agnostic Scotland. Thank you to everyone who has been in touch with us since the launch to express an interest in our plans, our community vision and in working with us. We look forward to being in touch with you all as we develop our plans during 2020.

For those who were unable to join us at the Launch Ceremony in November and who wished to hear more about the event, here’s how the evening bloomed…

[Linda, our Chairperson, kicked off the evening with an Opening Speech]

Linda’s Opening Speech:

Friends, welcome. We have come together this evening to celebrate the launch of an organisation that is very close to our hearts. For the three founding members of Agnostic Scotland, it has been a labour of love to get us to this point, and it will continue to be so as we grow and develop over the coming weeks, months and years. 

My name is Linda Keys, and I am so proud to be a founding member and the Chair of Agnostic Scotland. I am passionate about what we are bringing to Scotland by setting up this non-profit organisation. 

This evening we are going to have a short ceremony where you will hear from the three of us who are Agnostic Scotland’s founding members. We will – of course – include a ritual element and we shall close with a performance of a song.

[We were delighted so many people travelled to join us – from Glasgow, Fife, Edinburgh, Perthshire and the Borders]

I was working as an Independent Celebrant when Onie Tibbitt first reached out to me about collaborating. At the time, I didn’t anticipate how big this would be. Even when we, with the wonderful Andrea Taylor, had our inaugural meeting in a noisy cafe in the West End, I didn’t anticipate how much space it would take up in my head or my heart. I didn’t appreciate what an impactful decision it would be to work together. 

That understanding would dawn on me quite quickly though. It has to be said that Onie is an absolute powerhouse of a woman, and Andrea and I would both like to express our gratitude to Onie for being the one to bring us together and really being the engine that got us moving and off the ground so quickly. 

Now that we are established, we operate as a true team and it is wonderful to have such inspiring colleagues. As a team, we are thorough, principled, committed and passionate. Our meetings are vibrant and purposeful. We work through decisions collaboratively and respectfully, with love and appreciation for what one another bring to the table. (Happily, the “table” is usually laden with delicious and nourishing food, because we know what matters when humans connect!)

Our motivation to create Agnostic Scotland was rooted in a desire to broaden the spectrum of ceremonies available to the people of Scotland; we knew of no belief body that was able to offer a ceremony that responded to and reflected a full range of ideologies, values and wishes. After all, in 2019 many couples and families have complex, nuanced, and often fluid belief systems, which – regardless of romantic or familial ties – may differ from one another. We also felt it was important that these couples who were asking us to perform their weddings received the legal recognition for the ceremony they wanted. Which is not something that as Independent Celebrants we could offer. So we were delighted when in June of this year, we were recognised by the National Records of Scotland as a belief body and as such are now able to apply for temporary legal licences for each of the weddings we conduct. A significant milestone for the families we work with. 

[We are grateful for all the endorsements we have received for our work so far]

So, by June, we had well and truly achieved our aim of setting up a belief body that created this distinct space for all couples and families to have person-centred ceremonies, and we had even been granted our first legal licence. But hang on… we were still running out of time during our regular and productive meetings, we were still sending one another emails at 6 in the morning or 11.30 at night. Hadn’t we achieved what we had set out to do? Well, it turns out, no. 

Because when three values-led practitioners get together, there will always be the ambition to expand the offerings and develop new initiatives. And so we turned our attention to our Community Connection Gatherings, bringing people together to explore issues of interest, to be in nature together, to be inspired by the cultural offerings of Scotland, and to cultivate collective and individual wellbeing. We believe in human connection as the cornerstone to a harmonious and tolerant society. And we set up our Community Fund, which will offer donation-based wellbeing workshops and ceremonies to people who would otherwise struggle to pay for them. We believe that everyone has the right to live well and to ceremonially mark the significant milestones in their lives. 

[Our beautiful leaflets feature couples and families we have worked with over the years and who have generously agreed to let us use their gorgeous photos]

We believe in equality of opportunity. And when we looked around the table at one of our meetings and it dawned on us that what we saw were three white, non-disabled, cis, middle-class women, we realised that we could perhaps become more diverse as an organisation! And so we are building a steering group of people, recruited based on merit, knowledge, skills and values but also with an eye on broadening the diversity of Agnostic Scotland as we go forward. We are so happy to have some of your here this evening.

We look ahead to creating opportunities for more celebrants around Scotland to work with us as we broaden the geographical reach of Agnostic Scotland, thus ensuring that the bespoke, person-centred ceremonies we are so proud to provide are available throughout the country. And further down the line, we will offer training programmes for new celebrants with a clear aspiration to increase the quality of – and diversify – celebrancy in Scotland. 

[It was especially lovely to meet so many wonderful celebrants at the Launch]

And then – who knows what next? Because, in front of these witnesses here tonight, I promise that we will always strive for Agnostic Scotland to bring positive change to our communities. We look forward to collaborating with you along the way.  I’d like to now hand over to Onie…

Onie’s reading about Agnosticism:

Hello, Everyone. I am Onie and I’m really delighted to be standing here with you all and with my two wonderful colleagues, Linda and Andrea, to launch Agnostic Scotland. Thank you for joining us.

[Onie spoke about what it means to launch a belief body celebrating Agnosticism]

It’s been a fascinating process launching a belief body around Agnosticism. When we sent out emails inviting endorsements to fellow agnostics, or people who we thought might have a shared interest in our goals, we received many wonderful responses. We also received a lot of questions. A key one being:

‘If one’s beliefs are that one doesn’t know the answer, is that still a belief. Or, to use Richard Holloway’s phrase, ‘more a commitment to complicated doubt.’

Well, I’ve been an Independent Celebrant since 2013 and I’ve had the great pleasure of working with many families and couples who, when planning their shared ceremonies, felt they didn’t quite fit with the existing offerings among belief bodies in Scotland. The truth is that most of the families and couples I’ve worked with with do have a complex myriad of beliefs – or doubts – either individually, or as a couple and a family. It may not be that they are seeking an agnostic ceremony, as such, but more a ceremony that is open-minded, respectful and collaborative. One that will enable them to hold the space in a shared way that entirely and mutually reflects their own unique blend of beliefs, values and wishes. 

[Our banner says it all…]

To use one of my favourite quotes of Henri Thoreau:

“The universe is wider than our views of it’ 

At Agnostic Scotland, we feel that by acknowledging and admitting that we don’t know everything, and we are never likely to know everything, we are able to be more accepting, more understanding and more respectful towards the beautifully complex, often shared, and sometimes contradictory beliefs of individuals and families. We are able to create entirely unique ceremonies that really matter to the families involved.

[Every ceremony reflects the beliefs, values and wishes of the family involved]

Talking of matter, I can’t resist slipping in a beautiful extract from a wonderful book I read recently, Underland, by Robert MacFarlane:

At one point in his journey to understand the human connection with the vast array of tunnels, chambers and caverns beneath our feet, Robert MacFarlane talks about meeting a young dark matter physicist. 

Dr. Christopher Toph is working at a depth of 3000ft in a laboratory off a salt mine tunnel network that extends for 600 miles beneath the moorland and dales of North Yorkshire and under the North Sea. The scientist is searching for evidence of the shadowy presence at the heart of the universe. Dark matter. 

In order to do this he has set up complicated experiments to capture the very infrequent and hard to see interactions between the tiniest particles currently researched by humans – neutrinos. These particles are so miniscule they pass through our world like wind through a net curtain. Dr. Toth hopes that by capturing information on these interactions he may be able to infer something about the properties of the ever elusive dark matter. 

At one point, Robert MacFarlane asks Dr. Toth if the search for dark matter is an act of faith, and he replies,

“I grew up as a very serious Christian. Then I lost my faith almost entirely when I found physics. Now that faith has returned, but in a much changed form. It’s true that we dark matter researchers have less proof than other scientists in terms of what we seek to discover and what we believe we know. As to God? Well, if there were a divinity then it would be utterly separate from both scientific enquiry and human longing. No divinity I would wish to believe in would declare itself by means of what we would recognise as evidence.”

“But does it change the way you feel about the world?” Robert MacFarlane asks him. “Knowing that 100 trillion neutrinos pass through our bodies every second, perforating our brains and hearts?”

“When I am out for a walk with my wife,” Dr. Toph replies, “along the cliff tops, on a sunny day, I know our bodies are wide-meshed nets, and the cliffs we are walking on are nets too, and sometimes it seems, yes, as miraculous as if in our everyday world we suddenly found ourselves walking on water, or air. And I wonder what it must be like, sometimes, not to know that. But mostly, and in several ways I’m amazed that I’m able to hold the hand of the person I love.”

At Agnostic Scotland, we believe that we are not likely to ever have the answers. We are comfortable with our complicated doubt and we are really happy to be able to offer ceremonies that are beautiful, person-centred and meaningful to families who feel the same.

Thank you. I’d like to now hand over to Andrea who is going to share with you one of the many wonderful rituals in our human history about celebrating love and togetherness. 

[Andrea introducing the sweet Agnostic Scotland Clootie Tree]

Andrea’s speech and the Clootie Tree Ritual:

My name is Andrea Taylor and I, just like Onie and Linda, am thrilled to be a part of this new organisation and also very proud of what we have achieved so far,  specifically the seeds we have planted in regards to our Community Connection Gatherings and Community Fund.  Our commitment to nurturing human connection,  inspiring collaboration and consistently investing in the community is already thoroughly rooted.

We are honoured that you have all come together this evening to spend some of your time with us, to find out more about Agnostic Scotland and to meet and connect with others.  That step, that offering in itself, sends us a collective message of support and we thank you all so much for that.

[Delicious food (thank you, Embo) and great conversations]

Of course, as Celebrants, we felt it was very important to celebrate and mark this milestone through ceremony and ritual. To take a moment to recognise the potency of change and transition.

One of our intentions in holding this launch party, a ritual in itself,  is to create a demarcation, a line, between the past and the future, the old and the new and to cultivate a true course for Agnostic Scotland. 

Also, like many ceremonies, many rituals, this event is about holding a space to bring people together, to welcome you all, to create opportunity for everyone here to tap into commonalities which have the potential to unite and fortify, ourselves, our own communities and the wider community across Scotland.

[We love bringing people together….]

Rituals can also offer a moment of reflection and time to consider someone or something that is meaningful to you and a time to tend your own wellbeing or send some positive thoughts to someone you love.

Therefore we would like to offer an opportunity for all of you to take part in a ritual this evening.

The chosen ritual is based on the long standing, rich tradition of fastening fabric and ribbons to trees that is widespread across the world. I have recently heard of this described as Tree Dressing. So this is what we have decided to call our version of this practice.

You may have heard about the ancient Scottish Clootie Tree, cloot is a Scots word for cloth, and also of the global practice of Prayer Trees or Wishing Trees.

[The stage of our Launch Ceremony and the sweet apple Clootie Tree]

Trees are wonderfully symbolic in their own right, representing long life and health, stability, shelter and security. Trees are a perfect example of how to live, grow, transition, change and even die with grace.

In Scotland, soaking a ‘cloot’ in spring water and tying onto a tree which was growing close to the revered well was associated with improving health and wellbeing of yourself and loved ones or often whole villages or clans.

In Canada there is reportedly an increase in Ribbon Trees appearing in remote areas placed by those who have historic ties to the land. In Turkey and Cyprus people tie rags to low branches on ancient fig trees for good luck. This evening, when our wee ceremony comes to an end, we invite you to do something similar to what many people have done before us over the years and are still doing across the globe.

For our ‘Agnostic Scotland Tree Dressing’ this evening we have brought,  from my garden in Portobello,  a tree that we felt was perfect for this ritual as apple trees are symbolic of nurturing energies. In Celtic mythology Apple trees are a symbol of good health, future happiness and of bringing a sense of wholeness, togetherness and connection with nature

  • this tree has been grown from a pip that had sprouted in an apple my husband, Alex, was eating one day around 10 years ago.
  • we also have some water collected from the North Sea (I swim in the sea regularly so collected the water that morning)
  • strips of natural fabric

Choose a piece of fabric and soak your fragment of cloth, or cloot, in the seawater and then hold the fabric close, take a moment to ponder and reflect, think of a word, a dedication. Send love, gratitude, a merit or positive thoughts to someone that is known to you, to yourself, the wider community,  the planet, to everyone here tonight …..

[Guests dipping their cloots in the seawater]

whatever inspires you  

Hold your ‘cloot’ close and take a moment to let that word, that thought, that feeling register in your mind and in your heart. When you are ready tie your soaked fabric to the tree.

[Tying the cloots and sending out an intention, a prayer, a wish, a merit…]

At the end of the evening Alex and I will take our tree back to our garden in Portobello and one day soon we will plant it with all your wishes, blessings, hopes and aspirations attached.

The cloots/cloth will stay in place until the elements wear them away, the fabric will disintegrate dispersing your thoughts, your words into the air, into the universe.

Thank You.

It is now my great pleasure to introduce Lesley Walker who will sing Hamish Henderson’s Freedom Come All Ye. We have chosen this song because of its positivity around community, love and connection, disregarding labels and celebrating diversity, and humanity. 

Lesley, we are so grateful to have your beautiful voice singing this wonderful song for us all tonight, and this will close the ceremony. Thank you all! 

*Sadly we don’t have a photo of Lesley singing an exquisite and heartfelt rendition of Freedom Come All Ye. She was absolutely incredible and made four people weep with her beautiful performance. It was a beautiful way to wrap up our Launch Ceremony – after all, a ceremony isn’t a ceremony without both laughter and tears. Thank you, Lesley!

[The three Agnostic Scotland Founders tying their cloots]
[The Agnostic Scotland Clootie Tree at home in Portobello with everyone’s cloots attached]

Photos by Laura Kate McLean – thanks so much! And thanks also to all the incredible people who volunteered their time and help on the launch night. We are so grateful! ❤️🌿

I am, because we are.

I remember first hearing about the philosophy of Ubuntu and feeling like almost everything I’d wanted to say about community, humanity, and our interconnectedness as people was represented in this one simple (and yet profound) concept:

I am, because we are.

Image by Anke Sundermeier from Pixabay

The term Ubuntu comes from the Zulu and Xhosa languages and roughly translates as “humanity towards others”*.

A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, based from a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu

I do not need to feel threatened by your success, or proud that I am “beating you” at whatever game (chess, politics, careers) we might be playing. All of this is a construct. In reality, when any member of our society suffers, we all suffer. We are all weakened and lessened. We are all less “good”.

I am, because we all are.

Ubuntu helps me remember that I am not alone, or independent of others. I only exist as myself because of my interactions and relationships with others. Sometimes we are guilty, as a society, of labelling people as “in receipt of support”. In fact, we all rely on the support of others at times, and we collectively rely upon the giftedness of every person in our communities.

…we are all bound together in ways that are invisible to the eye… we achieve ourselves by sharing ourselves with others, and caring for those around us.

Barack Obama (speaking of the concept of Ubuntu at Nelson Mandela’s memorial)

Ubuntu is, I believe, an inherently (inclusive) feminist concept too; we need to lift others up in order to mutually and collectively benefit from the gifts and offerings of all our fellow humans. We need to notice and check our privilege, because it might be getting in the way of someone else’s progress. We need to be community-minded and collaborative.

At Agnostic Scotland, we have already begun to bring people together at our Community Connection Gatherings. As we grow, we look forward to providing more of these opportunities to connect and explore our common humanity together. We endorse no single faith or belief system, but delight in the diversity that exists within humankind. We exist, probably because other belief bodies exist, and we do so with an open-hearted appreciation for what others believe and create.

I am, because we are.

You are, because we are.

We are, because we ALL are.

Agnostic Scotland is officially launched!

We would like to thank everyone who joined us last night at our launch party, for making the evening so very special and positive. The three of us left the lovely venue (thank you, Timberbush!) feeling abuzz with optimism and excitement about what the future holds for Agnostic Scotland, and so appreciate the warm reception you all offered.

Celebrants, photographers, and wedding suppliers came to support us along with interested community members and of course our wonderful friends and family. We are grateful to you all!

Our fabulous Chair, Linda Keys, kick-started the evening with a speech about the background and goals of Agnostic Scotland. Our desire to bring people together through our Community Connection Gatherings, to bolster our Community Fund and bring beautiful, person-centred and affordable ceremonies to those who would otherwise struggle to pay for them. Our plans to broaden the diversity of Agnostic Scotland and to build steering group of people, recruited based on merit, knowledge and skills, to ensure we reach all communities. And our vision to creating opportunities for more celebrants around Scotland to work with us as we broaden the reach of Agnostic Scotland.

Onie Tibbitt spoke about Agnosticism and what it means to admit that we don’t know everything, and that we are never likely to know everything. And how, in doing so as celebrants, we are able to be more respectful, more open minded and more accepting of the complex myriad of beliefs – or doubts – held by individuals, couples and families when it comes to the planning of their shared ceremonies.

Andrea Taylor lead the gathering through a beautiful ritual based on the ancient tradition of Clootie Trees, or Tree Dressing, and invited everyone attending to soak their ‘cloot’ (or natural cloth) into the seawater provided then tie it to the apple tree whilst making a wish, sending a merit or thought, of setting an intention, for themselves, for someone they love or for the wider world.

Lesley, who kindly agreed to sing at the launch, wowed everyone with an exquisite rendition of ‘Freedom Come All Ye’ – a song that we feel embodies our desire to work in respectful harmony and collaboration with all people.

Onie’s daughter pulled the name of the lucky winner of the free Agnostic Scotland Ceremony out of the hat and we were delighted to inform Claire Ritchie today that she can choose a ceremony of her choice during 2020.

Moving forward now, we are so excited to begin the process of reflecting on the positive energy of our launch and developing Agnostic Scotland in heart-centred ways to achieve the goals we have envisioned. And we are so excited to work with you along the way. Thank you again for being in touch, being so supportive and interested in Agnostic Scotland. See you all soon!

The beautiful clootie tree, ready to be planted in its new home!

1 day to go to the launch of Agnostic Scotland…

Tomorrow, we launch Agnostic Scotland, a new not-for-profit organisation bringing beautiful, people-centred Wedding, Naming and Funeral Ceremonies, and Community Connection Gatherings to Scotland. All surplus is reinvested into our Agnostic Scotland Community Fund and Community Connection Gatherings. Check out our Founding Statement.

We hope you’ve enjoyed our weekly blog posts and look forward to welcoming those who can join us at our Agnostic Scotland Launch tomorrow.

Sign up to be a Supporter

Like what you’ve read? We’d love to welcome you to our Agnostic Scotland family. Become a Supporter for just £2 per month, or £20 per year, and feel great about helping to bring affordable ceremonies and donations-based wellbeing workshops and Community Connection Gatherings to Scotland.

Be the first to hear about our news and events and have our eternal thanks for helping to bring what we believe is a wonderful and much-longed for approach to the forefront of Scotland’s life events ecosystem. Click on the links below to sign up:

Help boost our Community Fund for just £2 per month

Prefer to pay annually? Join for £20 per year

Join our Launch Party on 7th November in Edinburgh

RSVP here.

Win an Agnostic Scotland Ceremony

Sign up to our e-newsletter by the launch date and we will enter you into a prize draw to win an Agnostic Scotland Ceremony of your choosing in Edinburgh and the Lothians (or further afield if you are happy to cover travel and accommodation).  Winner will be announced at the Agnostic Scotland Launch Event on 7th November.

Sign up to our Agnostic Scotland e-newsletter and enter our prize draw

3 days to go to the Agnostic Scotland Launch…

Agnostic Scotland is a new not-for-profit organisation bringing beautiful, people-centred Wedding, Naming and Funeral Ceremonies, and Community Connection Gatherings to Scotland. All surplus is reinvested into our Agnostic Scotland Community Fund and Community Connection Gatherings. Check out our Founding Statement.

We’re more excited than we can say to be able to offer legal wedding ceremonies through Agnostic Scotland, as well as naming and funeral ceremonies, any other events of significance to you.

In addition to growing our Celebrant network, we’re hoping to grow our network across Scotland and reach more people through our Agnostic Scotland Community Fund and Community Connection Gatherings.

Interested in working with us?

During 2020, we will be accepting applications for a limited number of spaces from experienced Celebrants who wish to work with us. Initially we are prioritising applications from people who help us achieve our aim for a broader geographic spread throughout Scotland offering person-centred ceremonies and Community Connection Gatherings, and people who help us achieve our aim to become a truly diverse organisation. You need to have attended a recognised Celebrant Training course in the UK, have at least one year’s experience as a practicing Celebrant, and be able to provide client testimonials. Our interview process is rigorous and if you are successful we require you to attend additional in-house training and mentoring. Please do contact us if you are interested. At this stage we are simply collecting contact information from interested Celebrants and will be in touch as soon as we have finalised the application process.

We would also love to hear from outdoor instructors, yoga teachers, mindfulness coaches, and wellbeing practitioners who would like to get involved in helping to run our Community Connection Gathering programme, particularly outside Edinburgh and the Lothians.

Please do get in touch.

Win an Agnostic Scotland Ceremony

Sign up to our e-newsletter by the launch date and we will enter you into a prize draw to win an Agnostic Scotland Ceremony of your choosing in Edinburgh/East Lothian (or further afield if you are happy to cover travel and accommodation).  Winner will be announced at the Agnostic Scotland Launch Event on 7th November.

Sign up to our Agnostic Scotland e-newsletter and enter our prize draw

Join our Launch Party on 7th November in Edinburgh

RSVP here.

1 week to go to Launch: Join an Agnostic Scotland Community Connection Gathering

Only 1 week to go until we launch Agnostic Scotland, a new not-for-profit organisation bringing beautiful, people-centred Wedding, Naming and Funeral Ceremonies, and Community Connection Gatherings to Scotland. All surplus is reinvested into our Agnostic Scotland Community Fund and Community Connection Gatherings. Check out our Founding Statement.

Community Connection Gatherings

We love people… and gatherings… and one of our aims is to bring you all together to do some fun activities.

Join us! We’d love to welcome you to our Community Connection Gatherings. Where possible we get outdoors in nature for some walking, wild swimming, picnics and fun – and to help out with nature clean-ups and litter picks.

We’ll also be attending interesting events, talks, film screenings and workshops that are relevant to our values and of interest to our Supporters. As well as offering donations-based wellbeing workshops such as yoga, mindfulness and relaxation.

Agnostic Scotland Community Connection Gatherings are a wonderful way to meet others, relax in nature and enjoy social time.

As our network grows, we’ll be organising more get-togethers across Scotland. Some events are family-friendly, some for adults only. Please note that all activities are undertaken at your own personal responsibility and risk.

Where possible, we’ve tried to keep things free of charge. Where needed, we suggest a donation to help contribute to our costs. We’ll never turn anyone away if you aren’t able to afford the suggested donation.

See our upcoming events here.

Join us at our Launch Party

Win an Agnostic Scotland Ceremony

Sign up to our e-newsletter by the launch date and we will enter you into a prize draw to win an Agnostic Scotland Ceremony of your choosing in Edinburgh and the Lothians (or further afield if you are happy to cover travel and accommodation).  Winner will be announced at the Agnostic Scotland Launch Event on 7th November.

Sign up to our Agnostic Scotland e-newsletter and enter our prize draw