For this blog post, I decided to cross some very familiar territory. Some of this will be a bit of a look back. Some of it is a bit of finality in drawing boundaries for me. Much of it is about adding some more framework to how I will define my Druidry going forward.
So, where are we headed to? Well, back to some labels and terms. Priest. Teacher. Mentor. Shaman. Elder. Druid. Generally, the terms that I have struggled with in the past and continue to struggle with here in the present. In the groups that I am a part of, these terms are used fluidly to describe what many believe is the quintessential aspect of any Pagan-ish training. Each is utilized as the very end of the trail we all traverse in our studies. These are the goals that many seem to hold in highest regard. For me, these are just labels. Nothing overly special. Not even the slightest bit of goal-oriented thinking. Not any type of an objective to attain. Just loose descriptors. After all, each term/label carries a connotation that can wobble slightly from one person to another, in terms of descriptive understanding.
Probably the most difficult of all these terms for me is that of Priest. Growing up in a non-religious household, the terminology never meant all that much to me, until my parents sent me to private Catholic schooling. The term “Priest” in my mind will always conjure the image of the Jesuit Priests that were at the forefront of my education. At least as the first iconic imagery that comes to my mind. Later in life, there were the pastors of the Baptist faith that I explored, prior to Paganism. For me, a Priest is an individual that leads the religious education of others, as well as being at the forefront of ritual for a group of people. Honestly, none of that is me. I have no desire to be considered the “authority” on anyone’s faith, other than my own.
Teacher is probably the easier term for me to deal with. I have been a teacher in my professional life. For three years, I taught collegiate students about Information Systems, and did my best to show them some of the real-world applications of these systems. Granted, I strayed far from the textbook in doing so, but from the first day I taught out of that text – I believed it to be a shitty manner of showcasing what information was in our current environment. However, my style of teaching is not an easy one for a student – I will readily admit that. I prefer to hand the information to the student, let them assimilate the information the best that they can, and be available to them for any questions. Within a Pagan context, I know that this can be difficult for others to handle. So, I know my own limits towards being a teacher. However, even with that warning, if a student persisted – I would likely be open to being a mentor. The difference between teacher and mentor? A mentor gently guides. A teacher is a lot more hands-on. 😊 There is a song lyric from Halestorm’s song “Break In” that goes “Put your lighter in the air and lead me back home.” This is about as far as I want to get to being at the forefront of anyone’s religious education or instruction. My ideal perspective is to help lead others to where they are trying to get to, not force them down my own Path.
Shaman. What a charged term this one is. Because of my ties to Crow and Coyote, I have heard people mutter the term “Shaman” in my direction before. I have also heard the murmurs of cultural appropriation as well. Well, to put it bluntly, when I started working with Crow, it was made very plain to me that I was not of “The People” and my dealings would have absolutely nothing to do with the religious or ritual aspects of the First Nations. I am not working in sweat lodges nor am I undertaking a vision quest. Those are not for me. I am not of The People. I am also not a Shaman. Any thought that I would head down the path of the First Nations is categorically incorrect. I work with two First Nations’ Gods because the Gods approach those that They approach. Simple as that. I have always been, and always will be, uncomfortable with the notion that I am trying to work some Shamanistic approach.
Elder. Gods, I hate the term but I have been on my Pagan Path since 1986. Whether I like it nor, the basic definitive application of the term certainly can be levied at me. As a point of levity, in the movie ‘We Are Soldiers”, Sergeant Major Plumley makes the statement “If any of you sons of bitches calls me grandpa, I’ll kill you.” In many ways, I feel the same way when people express astonishment about the length of time I have been on my Pagan Path, as if longevity makes me wise or sagacious. Really, its just a notation of time, not a marker of knowledge. I am uncomfortable being noted as a ‘Pagan Elder” but I also understand why such a charge is levied at me. I only wish that people would stop reacting to it as if it is a badge of honor. Because, frankly, it’s not.
Druid. Well, I am a Druid. Even if I am just within my Ovate grade in the order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids (OBOD). Regardless if I continue into my Druid grade or even finish that grade – I am still a Druid. In the past, I was always reticent about utilizing the term, especially when I had not finished all three of the grades within OBOD. However, it is not the grades that make me into a Druid. It is me. With or without OBOD’s training, I am a Druid. With or without the training of another Druid order, I am still a Druid. You may, honestly, have no idea how difficult it was for me to come to that understanding. Or how much that still has me dancing on my tiptoes in nervousness. Yes, it is an aspect of Imposter Syndrome. Going beyond that…. well, it will take time.
Happy Thoughts, Lying on Green Grass, Under Blue Skies
In the end, this whole aspect of labels and terms will matter more to some people, and far less to others. For me, I could give a shit what you call me. Just don’t call me late to dinner. I know what I am. I know what I believe. I know what I need to get done on my Spiritual Path. Just like anyone else, I have certain images and concepts mixed with the terms we all utilize so inter-changeably. Some of those will match up with what you understand. Some of it won’t. Where it matters the most is not to me or anyone else. What matters is how it matches up with what you believe, how you are a Pagan or whatever. If titles, labels, and descriptives hold that much meaning to you – that is awesome. None of that holds any major weight with me, though. And that should not matter one whit to you, me, or anyone else.
I promised you happy thoughts while lying on green grass, underneath blue skies. Well, for me there is happiness going forward. My path is my own. I walk under a framework provided to me by OBOD, but with the knowledge that structuring things beyond that is up to me, and me alone. Your connection to the world around you is up to you. You provide the depth and detail that works for you. You explore in the manner that provides the most meaning and representation to you. All of that will be different from the way that I do it – from the way anyone else does it. Because your connectivity to the world around you is yours – and yours alone. Revel in that. Soak it in like the sunshine in the daytime or the moonlight in the night. Your choice, your approach. You get to define that. You get to live that.
Long ago there was a dream, had to make a choice or two
Leaving all I loved behind for what nobody knew
Stepped out on the stage
A life under lights and judging eyes
Now the applause has died and I can dream again
Is there anybody listening?
Is there anyone that sees what’s going on?
Read between the lines, criticize the words they’re selling
Think for yourself and feel the walls
Become sand beneath your feet
–Queensryche, “Anybody Listening?”