The last two days have been a touch emotional for me, as my Druidry order (Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids) goes through a change in the position of Chosen Chief. Philip Carr-Gomm gave a farewell address on Friday (6/5), and a succession ceremony was done in virtual space (due to COVID restrictions) passing the mantle of leadership of the order to Eimer Burke. The ceremony was beautiful, and Philip’s farewell address was just the message I wanted and needed to hear. But shortly after he finished his address on Friday, I began to sit and think about how much he has influenced my own personal Path. This took my thoughts down another route, thinking about all the other Pagans that have had influence on my Path, and I decided a blog post would be a fitting place for discussion. The following are Pagans that have been in my life at one point or another since 1986 – some just in their writings and teachings, others face-to-face. When I was looking for a format, I remember having read an interview with Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson of the band Rush, where both of them were asked to give a list of ten songs that influenced them as musicians over the years. This was the format that I decided on. So without further pontification, these are ten Pagans who have influenced my Path over the thirty-plus years – in no particular order.
I came across Philip’s books early in my steps on the Druidry part of my life’s Path. The first book I picked up was a used, dog-eared copy of “The Elements of the Druid Tradition” (which I still have). That led me to “What Do Druids Believe?” These two books were instrumental in propelling me down the Path that I am still on. A few years back, I had the pleasure of getting to meet Philip at a Gulf Coast Gathering, and listening to him speak. His gentle and calm demeanor are hardcore inspirations for how I try to live my life. Being a rather fiery and passionate Libra, I need that kind of temperance in my daily Life.
The late Margot Adler’s book “Drawing Down the Moon” was one of the first books I read on my initial steps along my Path, but it wasn’t the first. That was Starhawk’s “The Spiral Dance.” Margot’s book was, for me, the better read. I was introduced to the perspective of the myriad of Pagan Paths that are out there. When I get someone that asks how to go about studying Paganism in earnest, this book is what I usually cite or lend. And in lending, I have found myself buying several copies of this book over the years to replace those “borrowed, but never returned” copies. I will, occasionally, pick up her book for a reference point, and find myself lost in thought as I read beyond what I was searching for. The words contained in the book still call to me. Another of her books “Heretic’s Heart: A Journey through Spirit and Revolution” was even more inspirational to me concerning the Solitary aspect of my Paganism. I never got a chance to meet Margot before her passing beyond the veil, but her writings have been a constant companion for me.
One of my all-time favorite Pagans, and a woman I am fortunate enough to call a friend here in Cyberspace. I have never met Cat face-to-face, but I hope to change that in the future. I came across Cat through Damh the Bard’s podcast, “Druidcast” – Episode 61. She mentioned her blog (The Catbox), I searched it out, found it – and I have been reading her ever since. Her books “A Druid’s Tale” and “Facing the Darkness” are beloved within my library and I cannot recommend them highly enough – especially ‘Facing the Darkness” which deals with working through moments of crisis and depression. An absolute gem to have on the shelf. I took a class (Second litter!) on Introductory Druidry with her, and it helped to broaden my perspective on connection within my Druidry. I still go back to my notes from those assignments, and have even redone a few of them – just to strengthen my own steps. I know Cat is probably reading this and blushing beyond compare…but she really is a strong part of my daily walk. I am fortunate to be able to call her a friend.
Another Pagan writer that I have had the chance to befriend via cyberspace is Nimue. While her many books are amazing, its her writings on her blog “Druid Life” which I want to highlight. Nimue always posts things that have me rereading more than twice, and pondering long after I’ve closed the web browser. And she is a crazy-talented writer. Thought provoking, proving insight in areas you might never consider there to be any more depth – her writing shines a light into the unused corners of your thought processes. One day Nimue, I’ll get the chance to hug you and Tom when we met face-to-face.
I’ve known Chris for quite some time. Usually, we met face-to-face every February at the ADF Imbolc Retreat, which has been held at a Unitarian Universalist retreat down near Mountain Home, Texas. Chris is probably the most amazing Ritualist that I have ever seen. He is absolutely amazing at leading group rituals. The energy he puts into the rituals and conveys to all the practitioners within is something truly amazing to behold. Truly, he is like a director of an orchestra, leading everyone to bring their energies together. Back when I was podcasting, I drove nearly six hours in one direction (from near the Texas/Oklahoma border to Austin, Texas) to do an interview with him. We did that interview during a Pagan Pride Day (I think that was what was happening) on a picnic table in the middle of a small group of trees. During the interview, it started raining, which provided such a wonderful backdrop to the interview. I marvel at how his energy meshes with the world around him.
Emma‘s books are wonderful reading, especially curled up on the couch with a cup of coffee on a cold winter’s day. That was the case with her stunning book on Animism – “The Wakeful World: Animism, Mind and the Self in Nature“. I have always been a believer that all things are living, this book brought all of that into a far sharper focus for me. Other books of hers on Druidry also adorn my shelf, and have also provided sharper focus into areas of my own personal Path. However, her book on Animism has been a powerful foundation to certain aspects of my own Path.
I met Paul at the Allied Command and Control Message Processing Center (ACCMPS) at Sembach Air Base in Germany. A Ceremonial Magician, most of what we did was talk and share time together at work. Yes, we worked together. He also came out to the “Pagan Support Group” that was created by a group of Pagans in the Kaiserslautern Military Community. He didn’t speak often at public gatherings, but when he did – what he said had a degree of impact. When I was being discharged from the military, Paul volunteered his personal time to drive me from Sembach to the Frankfurt International Airport. Sadly, this was the last time I ever saw him, and we have lost touch with one another. However, I do think about him from time to time, and remember his methodical approach to magick.
Rudy is another individual I met while I was in Germany. I spent a lot of time with Rudy, who was US Army and stationed at one of the many Kasernes in the area. Rudy was where I went to bounce my thoughts off of. We spent a lot of time walking in the woods, talking. I vividly recall Rudy taking me to a ruined hilltop fortress in the wooded area between Kindsbach and Bann. That was a cold morning, and a misty fog had settled into the forest. The world seemed so calm and quiet. We went to this ruined fortress, and we sat and talked for a while. We did this kind of thing quite often, as we went and explored another ruined fortress, where Satanic rituals where supposed to have been held. We spent quite a lot of time walking all over that location. Mostly, we found remains of campfires and the remains of meals, along with a ton of graffiti. Rudy has always had a way of turning topics and subjects over and over in a manner of forensic examination that has fascinated me. I do the best that I can to emulate this process in my own examination of issues. One day, I hope to have the mastery that he does.
I have known Mary for most of the years that I have been on my Pagan Path. Mary was my second High Priestess during my first foray into Wicca. Gods, I was young back then. I was in the Air Force at Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth, Texas. Once a month, I would drive from there to Mary’s home in Plano, Texas. That’s quite a drive, folks. Especially back in those days. The current Metro-mess of Dallas/Fort Worth was not quite that well defined back then. As a point of reference, US 75 had a median strip between it and was two lanes going north, and two lanes going south. That won’t make much sense to folks that don’t live here, but US 75 (aka Central Expressway or Central Distressway) is now three to four lanes in either direction with a concrete barrier between, for most of the southern portion leading into Dallas. Mary had patience with me during the first year classes. She understood that my military duty didn’t always provide dates and times that would fit a “normal” class schedule. We conversed back and forth on the Bulletin Board System (BBS) that she and her (then) husband ran. This was also the method by which I got to send in my assignments. Mary always had a kind word and a gentle hug for me. And she has always shown me that compassion is the key to making everything fall together and click.
Crow and Coyote
Yeah, I know. They are Gods. But They are huge influences in my Life and my Path. I never have truly understood what a pair of First Nations Gods would want in a kid with Germanic heritage. Yet, here we all are. I have learned more about humility, finding humor in one’s self, and how to examine a situation through these two Gods than I ever thought I would. Crow is the primary influence in my Life these days, but Coyote has never left. These two inspire all kinds of shenanigans around the Gulf Coast Gathering camp, for which I am sure my fellow Gulf Coast gathering denizens would prefer not to happen all the time. But truly, I never really looked for the humor in Life until these two entered the scene. A lot of laughter, some mirth, and even some pointedly absurd lessons have been the keynotes to all of that has happened. For that, I am grateful. I do spend a lot of time navel gazing, and sometimes not enough time finding the fun in Life.
I know I said ten, and that included Kristoffer here makes it eleven. But let’s consider that Kristoffer is the tenth HUMAN. I was introduced to Kristoffer at my first Pantheacon. I had no idea what I was getting into. Since then, I have seen and talked with Kristoffer at two other Pantheacons, as well as a Gulf Coast Gathering and an East Coast Gathering. Kristoffer also has several books out, all of which are wonderful, but it was his book, “The Journey Into Spirit: A Pagan’s Perspective on Death, Dying & Bereavement” that really left a mark on my Path. Kristoffer’s mundane job is working in a mortuary, which has some similarities to my father’s profession as a Clinical Pathologist, so I was a bit familiar with some of the terminology used in his book. But it was his points about how the process of passing beyond the veil doesn’t have a lot of ritualistic aspects to it as a one of the passages of Life. As morbid as it sounds, its made me take a long look at what I want to have done when I approach the veil, and the process I wish to attain (most of which I am still working through). In real life, Kristoffer gives the best bear hugs, which usually have me going a foot off the ground (Kristoffer is MUCH taller than I am). His laughter is infectious, and his flippant manner of seeing Life will have you shaking your head and laughing. Certainly, Kristoffer finds the fun in everything, but does have a super serious side to him as well. I absolutely adore him.
All of these folks, and these two Gods have had, and continue to have, a profound influence on my life. There are many, many more that I could name – but that would make the blog post go on forever. I just picked the people who have left the deepest imprints in my Spiritual Path. Some of them have made even deeper imprints into my life as friends, and as non-DNA family. A few of them might not even realize that I count them in such a way, but I do. While I truly hope that you enjoyed reading this, I hope that this will spur you to take a moment and think about the great influencers on your own Path. Who are they? How have they influenced you? Remember that, and take a moment out of your day to do a a small ritual of gratitude for them. Just a momentary gathering of energy to send to them – a warm fuzzy, if you will. You know you. You know what shape to make such intent that will work for you. Just remember, from these folks comes the foundation of who you are. I am proud to have these folks, and so many others as a foundation to what I do on my daily Path.
To quote the Grateful Dead: Nothin’ left to do but smile, smile, smile