Bad Poetry Thursday: My Own Beast of the Mind

Back in the mid 1980s, when I decided to take up poetry writing, I used rhyming schematics. For a while, I found it a lot of fun trying to work out the rhyming aspect while fashioning words that helped convey meaning around it. At some point, I decided I was fairly bad at it and moved over to non-rhyming schematics, as it made it far easier to write what was on my mind. About six or seven years ago, I gave up on that too…because I was really bad at it. And I mean really bad. And I still am, hence the naming convention I have chosen for Thursday blog posts:  Bad Poetry Thursday. I know it sounds like I am being self-defeatist and just beating myself down with some self-deprecating humor, which I have been told by a lot of people I need to stop doing it. But this isn’t just a humorous attempt at naming what I do – its a reality check for myself too. There are folks that really like the poetry I write, including the open verse material. I’m flattered that they do, but I still consider it to be some of the worst writing that I do. Maybe I am my own worst critic – and I probably am. Most writers tend to be.

So, for today’s Bad Poetry Thursday I thought I would try to go back to rhyming poetry. The below work was written in about five to seven minutes. I added a few more minutes to go through and do some formatting to how its written. I hope you enjoy it, but I am not going to be offended if you hold your nose through the reading process.  #JustSayin’ 🙂

My Own Beast of the Mind

I hear you screaming in the landscape of my mind
Hunting me throughout my day, deep into my night
Somewhere in the dense fog of the unknown
Hidden far away from any part of my sight

I hide where I think I can not be seen
Aware of your steps throughout it all
I can hear your breath and smell your stench
The talons on your claws to drag me to my fall

I know you’re there, ready to attack
Sooner or later, I’ll have to do what’s right
Find whatever weapons that I can
Whether I want to or not, I will have to fight

I have to come out into the open and face you
Meet your green-eyed gaze and answer your call
Push the panic down and find my shield
Await your charge with my back against the wall

Because I have to…I have no choice
Or you will consume every part of me

–T /|\
10/22/2020

Photo by Jose Vega on Pexels.com

Trapped in Your Own Maze

Personal boundaries are always a necessary thing. At one point in my life, I had an extremely intricate set of personal boundaries. Certain people could have this part of my life, but not that part. Only certain people would I talk with about stuff like that. Everyone could get the very washed out “morning” versions of me on Facebook. It was a lot of compartmentalizing. And all of it was done for one reason – to protect myself from everyone else.

I guess to really illustrate this point, I need to provide a touch of background. When I was in my early twenties, I was a very open individual. You wanted to know something about me, all you had to do was ask. I had no problem telling you. But after a few years, certain people started exploiting that openness and would either use me for their own means or deliberately hurt me emotionally. This caused me to build my own walls, boundaries if you want and started placing people outside of certain pieces of who I was. I even started to compartmentalize my life. I would only talk about politics with these people. Only baseball with these people. Only work with these people. Only Pagan stuff with these people. And the number of people who had access to all of that information was infinitely small. Then there was the section where I held all the stuff about me. What I wanted out of life. What my dreams were. And no one had access to all of that except me; that was where I kept my heart and soul.

In 2006, one person finally got into all of that. And truthfully, I didn’t even realize it until a few years later. At that point, I was being torn to shreds over my inability to do the right thing and it hurt more than anything else. Somehow, she had managed to get past all the boundaries without me realizing it. She had complete access to my heart and soul. However, despite all of that, I kept my boundaries. In fact, I built more. Now, fast forward to 2018. Those walls and boundaries made life very quiet, sheltered, and lonely. That one person entered back into my life, and her unfettered access across the boundaries was still there. Through a few discussions, I started to realize what I had been doing wrong. I had made too many boundaries in my life. I needed to open up a bit more. Her access to every aspect of my life is still there. There are no boundaries and barriers for her. I want it that way. But I don’t have so many barriers and boundaries in my life anymore.

I live my life out in the open now. I’m a Pagan. I’m a Druid. I’m a Polytheist. I am polyamorous. I am fifty-five. I am an Information Technology data systems specialist. I am currently unemployed. I am so much more than all of that. And it’s out there for people to see. Why? Because it can’t be used as a weapon against me. None of it is a secret that I am hiding from anyone. If you don’t like any aspect of it, you can move on or you can choose to accept that my life is different from yours, but you still enjoy and respect me as your friend. There’s a boundary. It’s a simple one. I won’t tolerate being disrespected or anyone disrespecting those of my chosen family. There’s another boundary. So, I haven’t gotten rid of every boundary that I have. But opening up my boundaries has opened up my eyes to possibilities I had never contemplated before.

Aspects of my Druidry have changed a bit. Parts of my personality are changing slightly. Instead of being closed off to chances and opportunities in magick that I would never have chosen to work with except in dire emergencies, I’m open to some of these as first options. My perspective about dealing with things such as politics has altered a bit. Because, in losing many of those boundaries and walls, I can now see a little more objectively than before. I am not saying that my boundaries blinded me, just that my boundaries limited me. Yes, I built the boundaries to protect my heart, to keep me from being hurt. But I have learned that hurts like that can be healed, especially if you have someone that is willing to help heal and care for your heart and soul. Someone whose heart and soul that you want to help heal and protect as well. Because together, nothing can stop either of you.

Photo by Linz Franciz on Pexels.com

Don’t misunderstand. My first statement still holds true. Personal boundaries are always a necessary thing. But be careful about how many boundaries you create. Because you never know when you might trap yourself in your own maze. I’ve been there. It’s not a great feeling. Compartmentalizing your life, something I consider to be another form of boundary making, is a technique that I have found sucks the joy and happiness out of life. You spend all your time trying to remember how to act with this group but not with that group. Life has gotten a lot easier for me since I stopped doing all of that. I’m just me. I have no need or desire to hide pieces of myself away from polite company. Either accept me as I am or you don’t. It’s really that simple. And if you feel that the way I live my life makes it difficult for you to be my friend, I completely understand. My feelings are not going to be hurt if we part and go our separate ways. I’ve found my love, my family, and my tribe. All of this not only works for me, it is me. And to be honest, I’m just tired of hiding behind the walls of the maze.

–T /|\

Shadow’s Thoughts:

I have often surprised people with my lack of walls. Surprised, shocked, even scared them. 

“How can you do that? How can you just tell everybody everything?” 

Well, first off, that’s not what that means. Secondly, I don’t necessarily tell everybody everything. I just don’t shy away from answering questions. I wear my pentagram bracelet every day. I have crystals and a wheel of the year on display in my office cube. I have nothing to hide. I chose to live my life so that should I ever have to look back on my choices and decisions, I won’t regret them.

So how does this work in the real world? Simple. I am the same with every single person I meet. I am open, friendly, and helpful. If they have questions I answer. If they chastise me for my life, I smile and say okay. It’s clear I don’t agree with them and I’m not going to change anything about how I live my life but that doesn’t mean I need to engage with them over it. I don’t need to convince them of anything; I’m not going to change their mind. Instead, I continue my life, I continue to spread love, happiness, and light … and to point out those that Kharma might want to take a closer look at. :bright smile:

Walls make it harder to keep your life straight. Walls make it easier for others to use things against you. Clearly, if you’re “scared” to share information with certain people, that’s something that can be held over you. And if you’re open with things, well, what can they threaten you with? So fewer walls mean fewer divisions of who has access to what, fewer things to remember, and better friends. Because people know who you ‘really’ are when you have fewer walls and you’re likely to have stronger bonds with those who know they’re safe to be themselves with you. Then it becomes an ever-expanding ripple of people just being honest and kind. No downside there.

-S

Break Glass in Case of Emergency

So, let me tick off a list of things that I said I hardly ever do in my own Druidry practices. Spell work, check. Well planned and thought out ritual (as opposed to impromptu or off-the-cuff ritual), check. Darker magicks, check. Tarot cards, check. You will find a lot of commentary based around all of that throughout the blog. Well, guess what? Never, say never. You’re reading that correctly. In the last two weeks, parts of my Druidry have crossed over into the areas that I, personally, would ascribe as being much closer to Witchcraft than Druidry. What in the Nine Hells happened, huh? Mostly circumstance and need, but this illustrates the particular point of never saying never. All of these particular techniques can basically be considered as arrows in the quiver. And while those arrows may never be used until a need arises, what happens when you start to stretch and flex these magickal muscles that haven’t been used? And does it mean that my Druidry is changing?

Knocking the Rust Off

I have always said that magick use for me is always the option of last resort. I’m a Druid. I like to talk my way out of things, if possible. I like to find ways for cooler heads to prevail. If that does not work, physical mundane means are usually the next position to take. Essentially, roll up your sleeves and get the work done. However, if that is not possible – the last option is to turn to magick. This is a little flawed logic. Yes, I am admitting to using flawed logic in my approach to various things. Because, sometimes magick should be the first option, particularly if you are trying to bend the Will of another to see reason. No, I am not saying start throwing the curses the moment shit doesn’t go your way. Not at all. Rather, utilize some subtle magicks to help the other side see reason in an issue. Then, the talky bit might work a little better. Consider it to be greasing the hinges so the door doesn’t squeak, if you prefer. For me, this was a pretty tough realization to come to. It changes a lot of the tactics I have utilized in various dealings. This also means that I have to knock the rust off of a lot of techniques I have not used in years.

Flexing Muscles That Haven’t Been Used in Years

One of the very first magickal techniques I ever learned was shielding. My shielding was built a few decades ago. That’s right. Decades. Due to the recent changes in my life, I have been battered in ways I never could imagine. It took about a week to realize that my own personal shielding just wasn’t holding up. The problem for me was that I had literally forgotten how my shielding had been built. So I needed advice on what to do. So I turned to the person that taught me about shielding. Folks, I have been on a Pagan path for well over thirty years and here I was approaching an old friend on how she had taught me to build shielding because I had actually forgotten how. There’s a short lesson here – do not be afraid to reach out for help, no matter how long you have been on your Path. Realize when you are in over your head and find that lifeline you need. A quick re-learn-it session over Facebook Messenger, and I was ready to rebuild and reinforce my shielding. Even with the warnings about drawing too much energy to yourself, I did it anyway. I wound up being wide awake for most of the night. See, I wasn’t USED to using those muscles anymore. As Shadow had reminded me, much like coding – when you don’t practice it, you lose it and have to do some relearning. These are muscles that have weakened from disuse because my philosophical perspective was not entirely appropriate.

Is My Druidry Changing?

Three days after that, I have done two more rituals with intent and purpose behind them. One of those was my usual impromptu style ritual, which – well just didn’t have a lot of the “zing” (for lack of a better  word) I expected it to have. The other, I spent some time crafting out the pieces of the ritual. I included a list of things that were needed for the ritual. I included a set of semi-readable instructions for setting up for the ritual prior to creating Sacred Space. I wrote a step-by-step ritual with spoken and non-spoken aspects. I included an aspect of disposing of the detritus left over from everything. When I did the ritual, I was not great at what I was doing. I did not flow well within the ritual with my spoken parts and my non-spoken parts. I stopped several times to figure out where I was and what needed to be done next. From a theatrical perspective, it was shit. However, what was in my heart, what I brought forward from my soul….that made up for the shit part. I have always said that heartfelt intent is better than theatrics any single day of the week. But after I got done, I started looking back at all I have done over the course of two weeks (about sixteen days). As I noted, many of these things I have done have a feel that is closer to Witchcraft than Druidry. So I began to wonder out loud if my Druidry was changing into something else??

I had hoped to have a quote from one of Philip Carr-Gomm’s books for right here, but most of my personal library is sitting in a box in what will be my bedroom soon enough. So, in the meantime, I’ll have to improvise through this a little. Druids follow a path of Druidry. Witches follow their Paths in Witchcraft. However, there are some overlaps between the two, particularly in the usage of magickal workings. So, as I wring my magickal fingers and stretch my ritual muscles and re-learn processes that so many consider to be everyday basic stuff – much of these techniques have overlap between the two areas. So is my usage of techniques such as spell work, tarot cards for divination and what have you – changing me into a Witch? No, not really. What is happening is that I am re-learning techniques and concepts that I have set to the side for some very wrong perspectives. If you prefer, I am growing again in my Druidry in a direction I had previously not considered for anything other than a “break glass in case of emergency” moment. The reality is that I never needed to approach it from that point of view.

So, here’s where I admit that I am wrong about my perspective on magicks, spell usage, structured rituals, and tarot cards. And I further admit that my gorgeous editor AND my lifelong, always long-distance friend LL were both right. Unfortunately for me, it took a “break glass in case of emergency” moment to realize this. I’m just thankful that the two of them are gracious enough not to sing “I told you so” to my face too many times. 🙂 Finally, I would add this – take a good look at your “whys” when it comes to not using this or that magickal technique or concept. just check on it every once in a while. Turn it over in your mind and see if it still applies. Because you do change and grow, so do your perspectives.

–T /|\

Bad Poetry Thursday: “One Day, I’ll Listen…”

It is morning on the beach
Flat wisps of clouds caress the horizon
Over a flat, motionless pale blue sheet
That reflects the brightness of the rising sun

The soft, fluffy sands of the dunes around me
Move slowly with the hint of a slight breeze
Which carries the sounds of my phone’s music
Softly playing some country music artist’s lonely tale

I lean back on the dune looking upwards into the sky
As squadrons of seagulls drift along on wind currents
Unfelt dozens of feet beneath their altitude
Seemingly searching on pathways completely unseen

I have been here for hours but really only mere minutes
Just watching the scene playing out in front of me
Long before the daily crowd of sun worshippers arrive
Just me and the quiet life around – serenity for thinking

Playing the “what-ifs”, “what might have beens” over and over
Turning over every stone of the Past expecting something new
And finding the same brown soil that was already all around
An empty spiral rolling around and around with no end

Seeing a nearby rock, I reach over and pick it up
Half expecting to see something different than the sand beneath
For a moment, I realize what this means, what she had said
And again, she is right. One of these days, I’ll listen

I reach back and throw the rock into the glassy blue sheet
The ripples form immediately after the splash
I watch for a moment and then stand up
Gathering up my tennis shoes and socks, I walk to the parking lot

One of these days, I’ll listen
For right now, its time to jump

I have a few places I go to when I need moments alone. One of my favorites is a forest that is a special place for me. The beach scenario I describe above is one of the rare places I go. Usually, its for moments of necessary solitude, where I get to spend my time thinking. Yesterday (Tuesday, as I write this), I needed this place more than I have before. In real life, I’ve never seen this beach in my life. My thoughts are that it may be on the eastern shores of Florida or possibly even one of the beaches of southern California. Physically, wherever this beach is really doesn’t matter. The music playing from my phone is typically that of the so-called “Bakersfield Beat” which is a sub-genre of country music that is significantly influenced by the electric rock sound. The Eagles, Dwight Yoakum, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Poco and so many others typify this sound.

Oh?  The stone? That’s a symbol of the Past. Putting it back into the ocean….well, that’s an easy one to figure out. 🙂

–T /|\

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The Here and the Now

I just turned fifty-five years old eleven days ago. Fifty-five. I kept trying to wrap my head around that age and then I started thinking back to where I’ve been, what I’ve done, the things I hadn’t done, the things I can’t go back and correct now….and just stop. Anyone recognize the little trap I just stepped into? No? Didn’t even notice? I’m wearing it on my foot right here on my boot (pointing down at right foot). It’s me, living in the past. Did you notice how one thing led to another which lead to another and another and another….all focused on way back there (thumb pointed over shoulder)? Yeah. There’s a problem there. I keep focus on the past, I keep forgetting to see and appreciate what is right here in my face. Nor do I have an eye fixed to the horizon to see what may potentially arise in the near future.

Looking backwards to what you have done is a nice thing to do occasionally, after all, its a great way to have a quick look into experiences and see what you can draw from that. It is, after all, one of the ways that we learn:  looking back to what we’ve done before and applying that experience to something we are trying for the first time. But remember that those applications of technique are not necessarily the same as what you need to apply now. You may need to adjust things a little to make it work. Or just utilize the theory of “why” you did that back then and apply that to now, knowing that the actual application will look nothing like what you did before.

In Your Studies

One place where constantly looking backwards has a tendency to trip me up is in my own Ovate studies. I have spent a lot of time trying to compare the techniques that I utilized in my Bardic studies to what I should be doing in my Ovate studies. Well, Bardic studies are Bardic studies. Ovate studies are Ovate studies. Trying to lay a blueprint of one over the other is just silly. Taken in a different context, you are not going to study for your American History up until 1835 college class the same way you are going to prepare for a Realtor’s exam, right? It is nice; however, to look back on that Texas Government class that you took and nearly aced. It’s an achievement that you can really have pride in. But that nearly perfect class score (yes I did this. I managed to get every single point for my class, save four) is not going to allow you to pass a mathematics course you take the next semester. Focus on the here and now to accomplish what needs to be done.

In Your Mundane Life

The same concept holds true in other parts of your life too. Remember how you fixed that clogged drain in the bathtub? That was great. You did a few things you had read about elsewhere, then applied the clogged drain stuff and it worked. But that one achievement isn’t going to mean anything should you forget to take out the over-flowing trash can. That fixed drain might turn you into an overnight hero to your significant other, but that isn’t going to make up for the missed trash pickup. Yes, even in your job or career, you might make the big catch that saves the company millions. However, you slip a few deadlines and your reputation within the company is going to take a dive from that million-dollar hero status.

What Have You Done Lately?

Sure, I get it – this has the sounds of the ‘What have you done for me lately?” overtone. Except that it doesn’t have to. This is not really about throwing the Past into the garbage can and moving on to the next thing. I know it seems like it is, but its really not. This is about focusing on the results that need to be completed now. About making progress on your journey.

Every single one of us has taken those trips to the touristy locations. We have all seen the telescopes planted here and there that let you look into the distance for a quarter, or whatever denomination you can think of. Think about constantly looking into the Past in the same vein. You have stopped moving forward in whatever you are doing and you are taking that time to reminisce about what happened. Or maybe, you’re taking a moment to play out a “What-If” scenario in your mind. That stuff is ok from time to time. Nine Hells, its ok to stop, take a step back, and turn around to see where you have come from. But if you spend nearly forever doing that….you’re going nowhere. Your feet are firmly planted where you are. Take that momentary stop, but remember that you need to also keep going.

Looking Forward But Not Moving

Now, there is also the chance of looking forward and seeing everything that needs to be done and getting stuck in what analysts call “paralysis-by-analysis” mode. Where you spend moment after moment looking forward and trying to plot out all the directions and possibilities so that you know where to go, how to do it, and what to do when this or that might happen. Welcome to my world.

I am an extremely calculating individual. My analytical world is a pure flow-chart in my brain. Or, if you live in a programming world like I tend to do in my usual work-flow, its purely a Visio diagram. If this -> then this -> if not then this. That shit is cute outside of work, but it also keeps you from doing what you need to do. Sometimes, you have to throw caution to the wind, leave the calculated odds behind, and just move forward. Otherwise, you can find yourself not moving forward at all and losing out on chances of a lifetime. Other times, you have to ignore the calculated odds and take the damn jump – no matter how scary it may seem.

One Size Does Not Fit All

Now, let me return to something I usually state in nearly every blog post I write. This is my perspective, my understanding of living my life. Essentially, through this blog, I am living “out loud” – providing you aspects of what I have done, what I thought, what I am thinking as I type this….that doesn’t mean that I am saying this is the ONLY way to think. I am a strong believer in the individualistic aspect of each person. We all have our own choices to make. What works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for others. But the only absolute I will provide for you is this – follow your heart. Your Passion is important in life, in my opinion.

So, looking backwards to the Past is a good thing. Until you are doing it so much that you are going nowhere. Looking forwards to the future is not a bad thing either. Until you over-analysis everything, trying to remove some of the surprises that you may encounter. Those surprises might be the life experiences that you absolutely need to experience to move forward in another aspect of your life. The overall point is to be in the here and now. To not make everything in life into a calculated risk or into some flow-charted diagram in your head as is my tendency. Sure, removing the calculated risks may remove some of the bumps and bruises that you will encounter, but you will also miss out on some spectacular moments as well. Forget about what you HAVE or MAY HAVE missed. Take that step into the unknown and experience what you want.

Finally, one of my favorite movies is “The Dead Poet’s Society” with the late Robin Williams. The movie is about taking chances, finding your passion, and going forward with life. Not waiting for something to happen. Not conforming for the sake of conformity, but really living life. Without the flowcharts, without the calculated risks, and without the super-long glances at the Past. The here and the now…..if you have not seen the movie, give it a watch. Every couple of years, I’ll sit down and watch it…just to remember that Life is about taking risks.

–T /|\

Shadow’s Thoughts

I do not often look back. I find it fairly pointless, for most things. I experience a thing, decide whether I liked it or not, and toss out everything I deem unimportant. See, most of my past is trauma-related. From abandonment to all forms of abuse, I’ve lived a few lives in this single life. So when it comes to things from my past, I’m pretty ruthless about tossing things. I may end up with a fairly barebones, ramshackle frame of experience to carry forward but my theory is that I’m lighter. 

I have a tendency of jumping from cliffs, often with no parachute. If I carry all that baggage I plummet, but if I’m light then I have a greater chance to coast on thermals until I can safely land.

That isn’t to say that the past is pointless. I do carry some things on, mostly in how I mentally process things. I’m far more willing to give grace to others when I don’t know their story, their trauma that is influencing their current actions. I’m more willing to slow down and stretch out a hand while I coast, to help them find their own wind current to raise them up. But show me hateful living and you’ll find yourself relegated to my past. Things wither and die in my past because I don’t gaze upon them, study them, or give them anything to thrive on. I will nurture the lessons I learned, but nothing more. 

Some will say this is foolhardy. And that’s okay. Their opinion is valid for them. I found that carrying too much baggage, looking too often into my past, caused my depression to spiral out of control. So instead, I carry only the bare minimum with me and have no problem cutting people out of my life if they relegate themselves to my past. You don’t want to grow with me? Cool, but do it over there where you’re not pulling me down in your stagnation. Unless you’re part of my soul. Then I drag you kicking and screaming into the sun, walk you to the cliff, and teach you to jump.

-S

Photo by Erick Nuevo on Pexels.com

No Pedestals, Please. I’m Scared of Heights!

A long while back, at a Gulf Coast Gathering, one of the individuals that I initiated into the Bardic Grade with sought me out at the very beginning of camp. I think I had been in camp less than ten minutes at that point. He wanted to let me know that he was initiating into the Ovate Grade at this camp, which thrilled me to no end. That was quickly tempered by part of his next statement: “I was motivated by you going into the Ovate Grade last year. You inspired me to do this.” Inspired….I have always been uncomfortable with the position of being a mentor or a leader. So this particular statement really made me hold back for a moment before giving him a big hug (pre-COVID days, you know?). To provide a bit more context concerning my frame of mind and reaction, I need to take you back in time a little ways, as well as provide a piece of lyrical perspective from a Tommy Shaw solo song.

The United States Air Force trained me how to be a leader and a mentor. I learned how to work with people of different personality traits and to show them how to do a task without taking over completely. Because there’s no experience like hands on. I went to two training schools to learn all of that, Non-Commissioned Officers’ Preparatory School and Airman Leadership School. But even when I was being trained to be able to do handle these leadership skills, I had a very difficult time adjusting my mind to the idea that I was “good enough” to be such a person. Yes, I struggle greatly with the perspective that I am not good enough to have success in my life. I have a fairly good idea where all that originates from, but its not so much something that will help me change that mind-set by confronting it.

Later in my eight-year career, I became a well-liked shift leader by my subordinates,. My leadership style; however, was far too unorthodox for my supervisors. I did not always follow the Air Force’s idea of military discipline. I treated my subordinates as equals in capability and knowledge. I felt that they deserved that much, since I was pouring my knowledge and understanding into them where the job was concerned. My ideal flight of individuals would be those who could do the job as well as I could. In knowledge and skills, they would be my equals. We just happened to be in the Air Force for different amounts of times. See, this was wrong because in the military there is a reason for rank – so a pecking order of who is in charge can be established. Me? I don’t give two shits about that. My focus was on getting the job done and making sure that the people in my flight were the most knowledgeable and capable that they could be. My job was to keep it all together and make sure everything got done. We worked as equals, not as supervisor/subordinate. See, I took the idea of “the mission’s success, at all costs” that I had been taught in my career and morphed it into my own philosophy. To this day, I’ve utilized that philosophy in my work, but to much less spectacular results. Life outside of the work place is much more important than what you do for a paycheck, a lesson I learned the very hard way.

I have always had an extreme fear about being a leader, especially a Spiritual one. I’ve watched scandal after scandal from Christian leaders and even Pagan ones, to not see the warning signs. Absolute power will corrupt absolutely. Tommy Shaw put out a song that succinctly explains my trepidation with all of this in a single lyrical moment. The song comes his first solo album, “Girls With Guns”. The song is called ‘Free to Love You”.

I don’t want to grow up
To be a preacher
I don’t want your soul in my hands

When I hear people call me an inspiration, these lyrics immediately spring to mind. When I hear those kinds of words, I feel myself being placed on a pedestal (and I really am scared of heights). I am truly no one special. Not to be put on that level. So I hear that kind of praise and I can imagine myself arguing with people and telling them to use the wood they are building the pedestal with for something else. Build a house, make a fire and cook food for everyone….anything but that.

What makes this even more difficult is when people start characterizing me as a person with the “best moral and ethical character that I know.” Back when the tv series The Mandalorian came out, Shadow wanted to sit down and watch the series with me. “He reminds me of you.” Sure as shit, she was right. The Mandalorian is not a leader. He gets a mission he fulfills it, sometimes using questionable tactics. But essentially, he’s just trying to make his way through life, while trying to do the right thing. This really epitomizes my daily walk. I’m no Saint. I have a moral code to what I do. I have an ethical responsibility to others as well. Sometimes those don’t mesh well with the typical perspective of the rest of society. I have done quite a few questionable things in my career, in order to get the job done. Sometimes even sacrificing my happiness. And honestly, that’s not a good choice. So I wouldn’t classify myself as a paragon of good virtue.

But.

Despite all of that, I have to grapple with one realization. I AM a teacher. As much as I want to deny that, I know I’m good at it. One of my styles of teaching is to inspire people to look at the topic and turn it over and over until it calls to them. I have been doing that since 1988, when my duty section Supervisor put me in charge of learning the new Uninterrupted Power Subsystem for the mainframe we worked on. Then tasked me with teaching all the other shifts. I was excited about a new piece of technology being added to the system. That showed when I tried to teach others. Even the ones that didn’t want to learn. This was exactly the style of teaching that I did in the collegiate classrooms later on in my life. I don’t always reach everyone, but I always said that if I reached a single student in a year, I would be satisfied with that effort.

Now I can’t teach any Druidic students because of where I am on my current Path. However, if I did – and OBOD would want me to do so – I would prefer to be a tutor in their system. Currently, I am headed to Houston, somewhere that I am not aware of many OBOD folks. I may not be able to run study groups, but I can try and build a social perspective within the area. At least gather folks together that have like-minded perspectives and want to spend time together. More on that much later, when I have my feet a bit more firmly on the ground there.

I can be an inspiration to others, just by living my life. Out loud. Out in the open. No fences. No apologies. I am definitely not everyone’s cup of tea, so to speak, but I am not worried about that anymore. I have my own Spiritual practice to work with. I have Gods that I work with. I have an equal partner in my life. I am a perpetual student. Somewhere in all of that, someone is drawing some kind of inspiration to move forward in their life, to seek joy, happiness and positivity in all that they do through the day. And if that is just one person in an entire lifetime, then I have provided my own little spark to their part of the Universe. And in that, I can rejoice. I just have to make sure no one puts me sky-high on a tiny platform.😉

–T /|\

The Crucible of Change

There are times that you need to clear away things in your Life, so that new growth can take place. Old hobbies that no longer interest you, clothes that no longer fit or cannot be repaired, and even entire parts of one’s past. A crucible is a ceramic or metal container where substances can be melted down or subjected to very high temperatures. This is sometimes done to burn away everything except the base metal itself. However, in this case, I am using the definition that a crucible is “a situation of severe trial, or in which different elements interact, leading to the creation of something new.” (Dictionary.com)

The Crucible of Change
10/6/2020

Looking back at the past
Burning bright in the distance
This had to be done
To be able to go forward

Not all is gone though
Some pieces of the past endure
The fires of destruction
The crucible of change

Those pieces are malleable
Able to evolve with a new focus, a new dream
Remaining as true as they were
When they started along on this Path

There is no sadness at the flames
No regrets to this complete reduction
This choice is the Path I am to walk
With these people whom I chosen as family

For  the new to grow joyfully and properly
The way must be cleared
For growth will require new soil, new life
For the roots to be true and deep

The Universe set all of this before you
You made the choice that you have
You stepped off into the void
Knowing the dragon would catch you

As it always will be, as it always shall be

Looking at the Tarot – My Perspective

Much of my Pagan Life, I have avoided the usage of Tarot Cards and other aspects of Divination. There were a lot of reasons behind this decision that I made, all of which – until recently – continued to be the logic behind my perspective. I want to take a little time to discuss some of these and why these are no longer valid for me. Perhaps you have had some of the same thoughts or maybe others that I do not address here. Perhaps it might be time to take a look at where things sit and attempt to reconsider your position based on those thoughts. I know it made a difference for me.

Which Deck?

Trying to figure out which deck worked best for me was always a confusing process to try and undertake. I never knew which one may be best for me and which one would not be suitable. When I asked folks how they figured out which deck was best for them, I get a myriad of answers that only confused me more. Look at the artwork, see it speaks to you. Hold the cards in your hands. See how they feel. Meditate over them for a few moments and see if any deck calls to you. Look at the price and see which one fits into your budget at the time (seriously). For me, the answer came in a little different manner. I attended my last Pantheacon in 2018, where Kristoffer Hughes was selling his Celtic Tarot deck. I had listened to a lot of Kristoffer’s talks and quickly realized that he spoke straight-forward and honestly on various topics. I surmised that the same would hold true for a Tarot Deck that he helped develop. I bought a deck and it made it to my bookshelf. Where it sat, unopened. Now, nearly a year and a half later, I finally opened the deck, spread it all over the floor so that I could create reverse cards within any given reading, brought the deck back together and started the process of my first reading. That reading not only turned out to be accurate, but quite a swift kick in my ass as well. Three more readings brought more navigational points that also pointed in the same direction. I realized that without thinking about it, without going through all the meditation processes, gazing at the artwork endlessly or even considering the price…I had found a deck that worked with me. But was it the deck or me? More on that in a moment.

Which Layouts?

When I first started looking at tarot I was astounded and confused by the large number of layouts that one could do a reading through. if you go to a search engine and try to find a card spread that you can examine and try working with – there are hundreds. Some are more complicated than others, some are rather simplistic. For my purposes, I stuck with the three-card layout that is in the accompanying book with the Celtic Tarot. While keeping the question in my mind, I shuffled the deck nine times (three times three…I’m a druid, so threes are important). The first card explores the issue itself. The second card explores the unconscious factors, or things that you may not be aware of. The third card brings the two together in a conclusive manner to offer guidance. For me, this particular layout was short, concise and to the point. Precisely what a novice such as myself needed.

Now others will swear by more complicated layouts where more cards are revealed. I’m sure those work with folks that have been using the cards for large amounts of time. But right now, I am just a novice at doing this. So the simple three-card layout seems to be the best option at this point.

Not Knowing Attributes by Memory

One of the most intimidating things about tarot cards is trying to discuss readings with others. Many of these folks have the attributes of each card in the deck memorized. They also have many layouts memorized and can just look at a spread of tarot cards and provide answers to you immediately. Little ol’ novice me has to take the time to open the associated book, flip through the pages to find the section on that card and then read what it written there. After that, comes a few moments of trying to analyze what I just read and piecing that together around the question that I asked. Then, moving on to each successive card and then trying to piece all of that information into a cognitive perspective. It has always been intimidating when the far more experienced tarot readers rattle things off so quickly and then are seemingly offended when you can’t quite keep up.

This used to turn me off to even getting involved with the tarot at all. I can’t get to where those people are over the course of a few days. I wind up feeling like I am just “not good enough” to do this. Until one day when I was refusing to attempt tarot readings in a meditation with Abnoba. She pointed out to me that at one time, I was just as much of a novice in programming languages. it took me time to learn the constructs of various programming schematics before I got fairly decent at putting these into practice without much thought. “You need to practice. Spend time with the cards of your choosing. You will get better. You know this.” After considering that, I started to realize that when discussing programming techniques with novice code-writers, I was probably just as intimidating and maybe even came off as a bit dismissive. Perspective truly means everything, folks.

Not Placing Faith in the Process

One of the most difficult parts of the process of working with the tarot, at least for me, is placing my faith in the process. One Witch that I have known wanted to work some magick on me. I consented, thinking the person was only playing at what they were doing, not really knowing that they had the skill and the power to do just what they were suggesting. That particular bit of spell work continues to work to this day. I was proven wrong (happily though).

The same holds true with working with the tarot. Have faith that what you are doing by working with these decks will produce results. The results may not be exactly what you intended or bring up more questions than get answered, but that is a result. More of a starting point than an ending place. One thing I have found to be completely true in any case, is that the magick is inside of you. have faith in your ability to put your personal magick into the reading. But that leads me to a final question.

Is It the Deck or You?

Where does the real power for all of this lie, in you or the deck of cards? I am no expert, but I would posit that it all lies within you. The deck merely acts as an amplifier or a magnifying glass concerning all that could be, that surrounds you. And by “could be”, I suggest that there are many places in Life where choices have to be made. Sometimes, the tarot can bring to light some of the points that may bring those choices to life.

I see the tarot as tool that amplifies all that is around you and shows you the potential of what can be, should you work with what you had asked in your original question. Its not a Magic Eight-ball with its crudely set choice of  x number of answers. Rather, it is a system and methodology of being able to plug deeper into your own thoughts and reactions. Of course, I have no proof of that, aside from the readings that I have done. It still remains to be seen how well the cards will continue to respond to my self-readings, much less the extra complication of doing readings for others.

I went from a half-skeptical individual to believing in the tarot’s possible capabilities. That will teach me to close off my mind to the possibilities. And I have so much more to learn.

–T /|\

Introducing Shadow

Well, it was inevitable that the blog would undergo changes of one sort or another. Shadow Byrd has stepped in to help with basic grammar, spelling, and capitalization errors (thank you Shadow!) In the not-so-distant past, I dropped the number of blog posts from three to two and immediately added back the third with a return to a poetry post for the week at a request of one long-time reader. That first post happened this past Thursday with “Changes. The Step to Take. Trust.” Now if you read that and thought it had something to do with me, you’re right. It does. In fact, its a story of me and Shadow.

Shadow and I met a touch over fourteen years on LiveJournal. LiveJournal, or LJ for short, was a blogging site where you could write posts with an associated level of privacy/security so as to limit certain material to a specified audience.  Anyways, you get the picture. Well, on LJ, there would be certain contests for writing, pictures, and the such that folks could vote on. One was a “contest” for an event called “Babes of LiveJournal”. I had come across Shadow’s posts a few weeks back and thought she was gorgeous from her LJ icon photo, so I nominated her.

Almost immediately, she posted to her LJ account asking for whoever nominated her to fess up to the deed. I did so, somewhat grudgingly. I thought I had offended her. Instead, we struck up a private conversation and even traded a few Emails until I asked if it was ok to meet. She lived in the central part of the Dallas/Fort Worth area and I was living north of her in Denton. We agreed on a day and time, and I drove down to meet her.

When I arrived, I pulled up directly in front of her house and stepped out of my truck. I made it to where the sidewalk to her front door met the common sidewalk by the curb and the front door burst open. Shadow ran directly down the sidewalk from the front door, right at me moving at what seemed like full speed, tackling me like an NFL linebacker. I had seen her coming and had braced myself to keep from being knocked down, just barely. She flung her arms around me and held on tightly for what felt like three or four minutes. It took all of six seconds to be overwhelmed by the super-strong connection between the two of us. I put my arms around her and just stayed in that embrace with her. Eventually, we made it inside.

We spent time talking with one another in the living room on the first floor. Just your typical small talk, mostly about things like “did you read so-and-so’s post on LJ yesterday?” All that time, the energy I had felt out in front of the house continued to build and rise. I asked her if she wanted to get something to eat. Once it was solved that we wanted food, we headed out the door to the truck. I opened the passenger door for her and then got in on my side. Driving the whole way there, we held hands as she directed me to the nearby Olive Garden, which was completely packed. I found a parking spot and we sat in the truck for a few moments, until I leaned over to kiss her. We did make it inside but never ordered food. We sat across from one another holding hands at that little table and we immediately decided to leave. This confused our waiter quite a bit, but we certainly were not staying. We spent the rest of the evening in one another’s arms.

You hear it a lot from people about just knowing that this person was “the one” over similar moments like this. I knew Shadow was “the one” the moment we touched in front of the house. That was an overwhelming feeling. I knew our souls were completely intertwined after that first kiss. I know that sounds completely cheesy, but it really is true.

So everything was happily ever after, right? No. Hardly. See, I have never encountered a connection with anyone like this before. Frankly, it scared me to death. When she fell on hardship and pleaded for me to come and be with her and try to work it all out together, I freaked out. I just didn’t know how to deal with everything that was happening and I pushed her away. Eventually, she found another and moved south to Houston to live her life there.

But we never let go of that connection. Even when Shadow shoved me completely out of her life and refused to speak with me, I would check in on her via online platforms to see how she was doing. I wouldn’t write her or leave a message because I wanted to respect her privacy since she had told me not to contact her. I didn’t know that she was doing the same thing with me. Neither of us wanted to let that connection break because we just couldn’t. We are a part of each other’s lives.

It took a few years for us to start talking again. And another few years before we would see each other face-to-face again. The connection was still there. Instead of being faint and old – it was still strong and much more powerful than before. There was also a potential complicating factor since she had married again, but a few conversations between the three of us and we agreed on a poly relationship.

A little over a year has passed since that moment, which brings us to today. I asked Shadow for a handfasting a few months back, and she said yes. We have been planning for our April 10th ceremony for a little bit of time now. Here in a few weeks, I am going to take an even larger step and move down to Houston with her. All of this is the culmination of what started fourteen years ago. An intricate knotwork that we have intertwined through our souls together. I have had some apprehension over this change in my life and did a three-card reading with Kristoffer Hughes’s Celtic Tarot deck which was outlined and explained in the poem. Needless to say, the spread read like someone kicking me in the ass and saying: “Get on with it, you fool. You should have done this long ago.”

So, Shadow is my partner. No part of my life is off-limits with her. As such, she is the editor of this blog. I hope, in the future to entice her to become a co-writer on the blog…co-writing with me from time to time. If you are inclined, Shadow can be found on Facebook or on her own blog, Shadow’s Knit Knacks. Still, I would like for her to write some stuff here if she is game for it.

Without Shadow, I would be completely lost. I intend to spend the rest of my life walking our Path hand-in-hand, long past the end-point of time. Through fourteen years of tears and loss, we have still managed to endure. A connection that cuts through time and space, unbroken and slightly blemished.

–T /|\

Shadow and I at Austin WitchFest 2020…in the rain

Changes. The Step to Take. Trust.

Lots of changes come into our lives. Some are easy to handle. Others are a lot more complicated and can be somewhat uncomfortable. Sometimes that uncomfortable nature can force us to run from things or people we need to have in our lives. Running from change only prolongs what will happen. Embrace that change, find ways to be at peace with what is going on and you may find a far more harmonious and breathtakingly wonderful life ahead for you. Not every change is bad, but every change is inevitable. Its about growth. Sometimes to grow, you have to release what you leave behind.

We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us. –Joseph Campbell

Joseph Campbell

Changes. The Step to Take. Trust.

He stepped out of the truck
To find himself in front of her house
She burst from the front door
Running towards him at full pace

She tackled him with the force of a linebacker
That first touch, they both knew
This was meant to be throughout Time
That first kiss was the absolute clincher

Later, she beckoned him to live their lives together
For they both knew the destiny that was involved
But he had never felt these strong emotions before
He became frightened of his feelings and could not do as she asked

She pleaded with him to rethink his denial
They were meant to be together, he knew that too
When he still remained frightened of his feelings
She parted with him, broken-hearted

The years went by and their lives continued apart
But they both would look in on one another
The longing to just hear the other’s voice was too strong
Two souls connected forever so long ago

In and out they weaved within each other
Continuing to form the intricate knot that they had started
Binding to one another as no one else could
In a manner that she knew all along

After so many years apart, she asked him one last time
Could he commit to what they should have had long ago
She announced her feelings for him were still there
And he finally admitted his were still there too

He continued to hold off the idea of commitment
Seeking the “perfect moment” to go forward
Soon he realized that there was no “perfect moment”
They needed to move forward together

The three card spread provide the final assessment for his change
Two of Wands (Reversed), The Tower, Queen of Cauldrons
To move forward meant the destruction of all he had known
Taking a step off the walls of the castle into thin air

Don’t be afraid when everything seemingly falls into place
Take that step from the high walls
The Dragon will be there to catch you
She certainly will be, of that all is certain, for She is never wrong

Remembering What is Important

I have  question for you to think about. Have you ever decided that something was to be a priority in your life, only to let something else be more important according to your actions? Put another way, do your actions not match your words? I have. And very recently. I had to take a long few moments and (a) figure out what I was doing wrong, (b) figure out what I needed to do to change that, and (c) apologize to Shadow for doing it. And (d) have a long heart-to-heart over the entire aspect. What have you done when you’ve realized this? Froze and did nothing? ::raising hand:: I have been there too. Totally given up because you can’t see a way to change things?  ::raising other hand:: Been there too. ::looking at hands:: Oh look, I’m surrendering.

Let me try and explain the process that I have gone through. Maybe you will get something out of the methodology, maybe you won’t. But maybe reading what I went through, you might get something out of it.

Taking Stock of What You Are Doing

I was in a position where my actions were not matching my words. In short, I kept balking at making a commitment. I sat down and took stock of what I had been doing and why I made something else my top priority over what I had said I would do. To be completely open and honest, I went through a similar struggle when Crow first introduced himself into my Life. Crow had agreed to take me under his wing, so to speak, but kept making demands of me that made me look comical. That is until I put my foot down and demanded to know why I was being treated as a fool. Part of that answer was that there was a need for me to have a backbone, even to a God. The other part of that answer came in a statement questioning my commitment to the relationship I had entered into. To try and figure out what I needed to do, I had to understand out just what I had been doing. Taking stock of everything in my life, documenting in my head the things I had committed to and what was most important was the start. After I had that squared away in my mind, the next step was to figure out what priorities I was actually putting first.

Checking Against Priorities

This particular step sounds easy, but it requires a lot of analyzing your actions against your words. It also requires crystal clear honesty with yourself. And that honesty can really cut deep. Remember, you’re trying to reconcile your stated priorities over the reality of what you are doing. You are questioning everything you are doing against everything you have said. With Shadow, my Honor and my Word are paramount things. When I say I am going to do something, that Honor requires me to do just that. My Word becomes sacrosanct at that moment. Not doing what I said I was going to do or dragging my feet over the issue is not providing any of that. With Crow, it was also a manner of doing what I had said and intended in a timely manner. When I didn’t follow through over a couple of months, it became a frank statement of whether I was going to be faithful to my stated oath.

Change and Owing Up to Your Mistakes

Altering a pattern of behavior can be difficult, especially if you are comfortable with that pattern. Finding the balls to make that change also means you have to admit that you were wrong. Not just to yourself but to those you have wronged. Trust me, that’s not an easy thing to do. Especially when you expect someone to tear you apart over the matter. In this, I’m lucky. Shadow is a kind person, willing to listen, and completely capable of forgiving. Yes, I fucked up. There is a ghost of our pasts that I will have to continually fight to make amends. I have a sword, a staff, and two knives. I am willing to fight that Ghost whenever it arises. And it will arise.

Crow was a matter of atonement over a period of time, followed by immediately doing what had been asked of me.  Patching that issue up took a lot of work and it continually means that I am looked at concerning living up to my bargains.

In both instances, its a matter of changing behavior. Proving you can live up to your word. Not just once, but continually. It’s all a matter of rebuilding and solidifying that trust factor. If you look at it and think that it’s not worth it – you will walk away. I believe it’s not only worth it, but its what must be done. I am not walking away. I have no intention of doing so.

Remembering to Stop and Recheck

One of the most difficult things to remember to do in going forward is to periodically stop and check with how you are doing. For Shadow and I that will mean occasionally coming back to this conversation and making sure I am still setting my priorities correctly. It also means that we will need to check on how she is doing as well, as well as how we are doing together. Relationships require work, honesty, very open communication, and effort. There will be smiles, happiness, joy, sorrow, tears, and even angry moments. But sitting down and re-checking things from time to time is a helpful side of checking the health of things and listening to how things can be made better.

With Crow, things like this are not that easy to work through. There is a lot of give and take when working with the Gods, as well as understanding how everything is moving along. Gods are not always as expressive about where your relationship is with them. So there’s a lot of unspoken cues you have to work with, especially in how you are being treated. You can ask a direct question along those lines – just don’t expect a direct answer.

Don’t Forget the Apology

Lastly, don’t forget the apology. Particularly, if you are considered to be in the wrong. Don’t argue the semantics of rightness or wrongness. Forget that nonsense. It’s not a battle of right and wrong. Its an issue of manners and respect. Treat your partner as an equal, not an inferior. Shadow is my equal. I never, ever forget that. And as my equal, I do my best to work through feelings and emotions in ways that I expect she would do for me.

I offered an apology to Crow for my inability to do things the right way. I never received an acknowledgment of that apology. But Gods work differently than humans do. What we may perceive as offense behavior might be simple, everyday behavior to Them, and vice versa. Still, I felt the need and desire to apologize, so I did.

Conclusion

Look folks, there’s a time to be stubborn about things when you are in a relationship. There is also a time to acknowledge when you make mistakes. The relationship Shadow and I have is a paramount priority in my life…for somewhere around fourteen years of our lives to this point. I will do anything to make sure things are right, especially when I do the wrong thing. Crow and I don’t have nearly as much time in our relationship. However, it’s still important to me. If it wasn’t, I would not feed time and energy into it, I would merely walk away. Check your priorities against your word. See if they match. If they do, awesome sauce! But if they don’t – and the relationship in question is supposed to be a high priority of importance…change what you’re doing to match what you’re saying. Trust me, every ounce of energy you put into the process is worth it. There will be tears. There may even be some anger. But you need to face all of that to start making the change you need to. I’m extremely happy that I made that effort.

NOTE: Much thanks to Shadow for her editing on all of this. Not just in the small, basic typos that I make, the capitalization mistakes that make my writing suffer, but for all the love and patience she provides me. I truly would be lost without her.

–T /|\

Thinking About: Individual Self-Image in Contrast With Fictional Characters (Part Two of Two)

Remembering Episode One

So far, in trying to answer a question that was snarkily (my impression) posed to me in wondering if I thought I was Aragorn from the Lord of the Rings, I have discussed some of the fictional and re-imagined historical figures that I identify with in movies, tv shows and novels. In re-reading what I have written to this point, I feel like I am completely psychoanalyzing myself to a large degree. In this follow-up second part, I wanted to take some of what I have written and swing it back around to my Spirituality. I mean, this blog is about me, but the primary focus is on my own Spirituality. All of that is done in the hopes that maybe one person gets something out of all of this and has their own personal revelation as to how these fictional stories helps provide the necessary cement to hold these concepts together. This particular post is no exception.

Somewhat Circling Back to Science Fiction as a Gateway to Paganism

Back in 2016, I attended one of the three Pantheacon conventions I ever made. At this particular convention, I attended a panel entitled “Morphing the Myth” which was about Paganism in popular fiction. I wrote a handful of posts inspired by this particular panel (“Morphing the Myth – a Personal Look“, “Morphing the Myth – Gateway to Paganism“, and “Morphing the Myth: What Does Myth Mean to You?“). However, I wanted to take this time to circle back to the idea of Science Fiction and Fantasy as a gateway into Paganism. or at least part of the role that these science fiction characters play within my own life. When I go back and look at the characters that I named, there is a strong note of independence between all of them. That concept of being able to do what was necessary, even without the help of anyone else or whatever the odds might be. To use another Star Wars character that I strongly identify with, look at Jyn Erso in the movie Stars Wars: Rogue One. One perspective that I didn’t mention earlier was what others have described as my ability to be an inspirational leader. Jyn is also fiercely independent. She inspires a group of others to walk away from the Rebel Alliance party line and follow her in what was definitely a suicide mission just to obtain the plans of the Death Star so the Alliance could find its weakness and destroy it. Now, I don’t think that the character of Jyn Erso would have drawn me towards Paganism, if I were younger and not thirty-plus years on my own Path. However, I can see where someone younger might be inspired by the independent nature of Erso to look into other alternative areas of Life. Perhaps, in that search, they might come across Paganism. Who knows? Who can say? But the possibility is there. However, I can pull up a few dozen Science Fiction and Fantasy novels and series that could directly point a person into searching through Paganism as an alternative to their desired Spirituality. As Shadow has often reminded me:  “Words have meaning.” And as I have to often remind myself: “That meaning is derived from the individual reading those words.”

So did all of the characters I mentioned previously, as well as the ones I have not mentioned, turn me into a raging Pagan? No, not really. However, each of these characters, as they are written and portrayed, have provided thematic moments that have helped cement the character traits that I have. My sense of Honor. My buildup of Trust with others. My understanding of what is my own “tribe” of people. None of these characters fully describe me as a person. None of these characters are full amalgamations of what is my Druidry, what is my Paganism or the complex connections I have with the world around me. At best, they are good descriptors of a handful of all of that. These cinematic and novelized moments are; however, excellent visual descriptives to bring to those that are trying to understand aspects of who and what I am. These are absolutely not the greatest descriptives, but in each of these are handles that others can readily grasp and understand at the most minimal of levels. Deeper discussions can take place around a fire late at night, under the moon, with drinks of our desire of the moment in our hands.

Why I Believe Fictional Characters are So Important

These fictional characters are important in our lives. That’s right. I believe that these characters reinforce parts of who we are. When Billy refused to give up Chavez to the lynch mob outside, it shows that he values his friends in all matters – no matter the skin color of that friend.

Billy the Kid:  See, you get three or four good pals. Well, then you’ve got yourself a tribe. And there ain’t nothing stronger than that.

For me, this is an example of the meaning of the word “pals” as is stated at the end of the movie. These people that are part of your tribe are important. That moment in the movie only helped reinforce that idea. I am sure that there are many, many moments in movies and novels and tv series and nearly anything else you can comment on, which do the same for others. All of these pieces of entertainment that we watch are mirrors for parts of ourselves. Yes, even the evil, horrible, blood spraying horror movies that make an ‘R’ rating. All of this places a mirror in front of us, where we can see what we are made of. Now, I am not claiming that these things show us the psycho killer in all of us. Rather, these films show us ways that we stand up to such exciting villains in our own manners of thinking.

Curly Bill: You know what I’d do? I’d take that deal ‘n’ crawfish, then drill that ol’ Devil in the ass. What about you Johnny, what would you do?

Johnny Ringo: I already did it.

These two are speaking of a stage-play of Faust making a deal with the Devil. Haven’t you watched a scene where you had imagined what you might have done in that situation? How you would have responded? Have you ever diagnosed it a bit deeper and tried to figure out how your own personality traits would have made that scene different? Or how the character that is in the dilemma has responded exactly as you would have? Many of these stories allow us to place our own personalities into the mix for our imaginations to work through. In many instances in real life, we may find ourselves thinking back to how a favorite character might have responded to some of the situations we find ourselves in. And those quick summations in our minds may provide the inspiration for a better response than we had initially thought of. These fictional characters provide archetypes that we can form our own hypotheses around.

Should This Matter to You?

So, after writing all of these thoughts, there really is only one final question: should any of this really matter to you? Well, the only person that can really answer that is you. Much of drawing inspiration from popular media sources really lies within you. Not everyone is going to see themselves in characters of a movie, tv series, or novel. Some folks do watch and read all of this as an escape from reality. They are not trying to inject themselves into these characters – even if that injection is only a small part of who they are. They are wanting storylines that give them relief from a world around them, not solutions or inspirations for the very real pressures of Life. I completely grok that perspective and I respect it highly. Everyone has to make their own way through Life in the manner that works best for them. And honestly, there will be a lot of people that cannot agree with my perspective of self-identifying with characters and situations from a fictional world. But then, I am not suggesting that every single human needs to do things exactly as I do. I prefer people to think and do for themselves. I am only representing something that does help me and inspire me to find solutions of my own.

Bringing This Saga to an End/Final Thoughts

Wearing one of the masks that Shadow lovingly made for me

In my opinion, there is a lot to unpack for someone here. Furthermore, I know there will be folks who disagree with my assessment of some of the characters, as well as the self-assessment I have splattered all over these two posts. I am perfectly fine with those differences. Life is not always clean and easy. There is a lot of dirty to trying to live life as authentically as you can. When you start adding more and more factors into all of that – politics, dealing with other people, paying bills, working a job – the mud gets deeper and thicker. I do see a lot of these characters in myself. Not complete work-ups of me. Just smaller parts. And some of those parts are contradictory. And those contradictions are sometimes Gordian knots that you just cannot get untied easily. And some of them you don’t want to get untied because those contradictions make you who you are. In the end, we decide what fits our self-image and what doesn’t. Sometimes, we don’t know about all the aspects of our image. Others see us in a different way. And reconciling those different aspects can be even more tedious and difficult. This was just my way of trying to explain pieces of my own self-image drawn against the backdrop of particular fictional characters. Your mileage will definitely vary.

–T /|\

Thinking About: Individual Self-Image in Contrast With Fictional Characters (Part One of Two)

Much of what you are about to read came from a snarky question thrown in my face in a private Facebook message that I tried to turn into a single post answer.

So what gives with all the Ranger stuff? Do you believe you are Aragorn now?

Someone asked if I would take another picture of me wearing the mask correctly. So I obliged.

My initial reaction was to be a touch offended. Then I started laughing to myself, as I thought it was a touch funny to have myself compared to a character that I truly am not near in any psychological or emotional aspect. However, I started thinking about the characters that I do deeply associate myself with. Fictional characters (or in some cases interpretations of historical figures from the perspective of a writer, producer and actor) that I can see pieces of myself within. I quickly realized that I was not going to be able to answer the question without approaching this without taking a deeper dive than usual.

Looking at Characters from Various Mediums

So, yes, I do see aspects of myself in various characters from fictional works. I tend to look at these characters to be archetypes of smaller pieces of who I am. None of these characters, or the ones to come later in my life, are complete parts of me. Most characters from these stories are barely on the threshold of being three-dimensional, complex characters. Sometimes, the creator of these stories will provide some complexity to the characters, thus providing a touch deeper aspect of realism and reality to them and the stories that they are encompassed within, but even then, the full manner of approaching the complexity of a real human is still a much further reach. Certainly, there will be those that would disagree with me, which I am perfectly fine with. Essentially this little blog post (or essay if you will), is just my own personal perspective.

Billy the Kid
One of the characters that I completely identify with is that of Billy the Kid from the two Young Guns movies. I have often said that I likely was born in the wrong time frame of the world. I am drawn to that genre of the West very strongly. Now, given that, my pull is more towards the difficult times that encompassed that part of the world. A time when we were invaders into the First Nations. We had more difficulty in trying to work with the original inhabitants of that new environment because of our blindness for a new experience, a chance to live free from the rules of the Old World and the far more “civilized” eastern parts of the United States. The discovery of gold – and its terminal sickness of greed – paired with a lust of land ownership, only made things worse. Young Guns was not truly set in a world where that took place. Young Guns tends to lean more towards the romanticized thoughts of the old West. Billy the Kid is a leader of a loose band of friends that are caught up in the cattle wars and vendettas of the unincorporated New Mexico area during the Lincoln County War. Billy (real name Henry McCarty) spends much of the movie wise-cracking his way through various encounters with rival ranch hands, bounty hunters and eventually law enforcement. However, it is Billy’s unswerving loyalty to his ranch boss, even after he is killed by rival ranch hands, that rings true. This is also mirrored in a moment at a whorehouse, where Billy’s gang is surrounded by townspeople and the local law enforcement (Young Guns II). When the local Sherriff offers up the half-Mexican, half Native American Chavez y Chavez as an atonement to the crowd that is lusting for a lynching, Billy refuses, citing that the Sheriff doesn’t understand the meaning of the word ‘pals.” This is an example of Billy’s commitment to his companions. When he finds people he cares deeply about, he has a sense of loyalty to them, even when they turn sides on him as Pat Garret does in the second movie.

Doc Scurlock:  You son of a bitch! You’re starting to believe what they’re writing about you, aren’t you? Let me tell you what you really are! You rode a 15 year old boy straight to his grave, and the rest of us straight to hell… straight to hell! William H. Bonney! You are NOT a god! (Cocking his rifle and pointing it at Bill)

Billy the Kid:  Why don’t you pull the trigger and find out.

Billy’s loose grasp of leadership, treating all of his friends as equals, is a quality I have seen in myself. This came in very handy when I was a Sergeant in the Air Force. The Airmen that I was charged with supervising never felt that I had to lord my authority over them. I treated them as equals in the job, relying as much on their knowledge as I did on my own. Billy’s loyalty to his friends is a quality I have always prized within myself. Even when Doc turns on Billy, as noted in the above quote, Billy’s response is a quiet determination for Doc to go ahead and pull the trigger. Billy is loyal enough to not doubt Doc, even when staring the barrel of Doc’s rifle.

Obi-Wan Kenobi
Obi-Wan Kenobi’s character gets to be a little specific. I absolutely loved Alec Guinness’ portrayal of the character, but I never really identified much with the character in Episode IV. However, Ewan McGregor’s portrayal of Kenobi in Episodes II and III were far easier to find myself within. Kenobi at this point is trying his utmost best to be several things all at once. A mentor to Anakin, a sitting member of the Jedi Council and a friend to both Anakin and Padme during a time where he is seemingly aware of the extreme close relationship the two have developed with one another – contradicting a personal code of conduct that Jedi are implied to follow. It wasn’t until I started watching the animated Clone Wars that I realized that Kenobi had found himself in the exact same situation as Anakin. I stumbled across this bit of information about Kenobi and Duchess Satine from a YouTube video that took parts of Kenobi from all aspects of Star Wars to create a fanfic tribute to the character. This only cemented my identification with the character, as Kenobi was shown to make good decisions, but also suffer from mental blindness in others because of his emotions for others. To this end, I could see a lot of the character traits of Kenobi within myself. Kenobi also has an ability to zero in on the completion of his assigned mission over everything else, a definite trait that I can see in myself – and often times, a personal failing of my own. Kenobi’s sense of honor and duty are very easily mapped on to my own sensibilities. But there is another very important quote of Kenobi’s that I find resonates deeply within me.


Obi-Wan Kenobi:  If you define yourself by the power to take life, the desire to dominate, to possess…then you have nothing.

This particular quote defines a difference between myself and some of my supervisors that I have worked for. I have no desire to dominate. I have no reason to try and make myself look or seem greater than anyone else. I do not see a single way or path to accomplish what I am asked to do. Some ways or methods are longer in a time frame, but the results – in my way of thinking – might be better defined, explained and sourced. Honestly, this is a part of me that has started to come out more often than not. I do not seek to make myself right. I seek to follow where my footfalls may take me. I am not seeking a position of dominance or power. Neither of those fit into the goals of where I seek to go. To someone seeking drive, power, glory, name recognition and the such – I can readily see where our perspectives would clash.

The Mandalorian
The Mandalorian is a bit more of a difficult character to work through for me. The perspective is a little easier to understand though. The Mandalorian is only trying to make his way through Life, trying to provide for his clan in a manner befitting the honor he is trying to keep. As a bounty hunter, he wants to make sure that Justice is served towards those who broke their oaths and agreements to others. He is trying to do the “right thing”. When his bounty is to bring The Child to an individual that seemingly does not have its best interests at heart, the Mandalorian steps back into action saving The Child’s life. Not only is the Mandalorian driven by a sense of Justice, but he is also driven by a sense of Honor. Both aspects are larger parts of what drives me on in life, so there is a strong correlation there. A few friends have admitted that the sense and style of the Mandalorian character are very similar to who I am, at least in their eyes. For me, I am not completely sure that the similarities are as tight as others may perceive, but I also have to remember that I am looking into a mirror, where as they are looking directly at me. However, much like Kenobi’s direction towards accomplishing the mission, the Mandalorian does have a single-minded move towards accomplishing what the bounty requests. However, he does not sacrifice his friends to accomplish those ends, a trait in common with the Billy the Kid character from the Young Guns movies.


Hawkeye
This is not the character from the tv series M*A*S*H though I do I adore the zaniness of that character. This is actually the lead character in the book and movie, The Last of the Mohicans. This is perhaps the easiest character for me to self identify with. Hawkeye has a strong individualistic trait that is combined with a super-strong sense of tribalism with those he cares deeply about. For me, both of these are core traits as to who I am and what I believe.

Maj. Duncan Heyward: I thought all our colonial scouts were in the militia. The militia is fighting the French in the north.

Hawkeye: I ain’t your scout. And we sure ain’t no damn militia.

That perspective of being what is not expected of you is a big part of my past, as well as my present.  I suspect it will be the same going into my future as well. This actually figures into a lot of what I am. When I was in the military, I sought out repair methods that were not traditional – not to be different – but to get the job done. The military’s stance, at least at that time, was not to improvise. Follow the repair instructions to the letter. I never consulted the instructions unless I ran into a dead-end and needed some inspiration on a different direction to try. My Druidry is much the same. I see the direction I am pointed, I walk it for a while and then try to find some parallel Path that allows me to explore in my own manner. I guess, it could be said that I am strictly unconventional. Not sure how that would sit with those that prefer a more conventional approach to Life, but then that’s their approach. I would never say their approach was bad for them. I would say, its likely not to work out as neatly for me.

The Ranger class of Dungeons and Dragons
Ok. Don’t laugh. In fact, try and have a little bit of an open mind. I have played dozens upon dozens of games of Dungeons and Dragons. Nearly every single character that I have played is the Ranger. When taking those inane Question/Answer personality quizzes that you see floating around Facebook, every single one of the Dungeons and Dragons themed quizzes have brought me the result of the Ranger.

Though a ranger might make a living as a hunter, a guide, or a tracker, a ranger’s true calling is to defend the outskirts of civilization from the ravages of monsters and humanoid hordes that press in from the wild.

This fierce independence makes them well suited to adventuring, since they are accustomed to life far from the comforts of a dry bed and warm water. Some rangers find the responsibility of protecting the rest of an adventuring party to be burdensome, but most quickly find that other adventurers who can carry their own weight in a fight against civilization’s foes are worth any extra burden. City-bred adventurers might not know how to feed themselves or find fresh water in the wild, but they make up for it in other ways. A ranger’s talents and abilities are honed with deadly focus on the grim task of protecting the borderlands.

Warriors of the wilderness, rangers specialize in hunting the monsters that threaten the edges of civilization—humanoid raiders, rampaging beasts and monstrosities, terrible giants, and even dragons. They learn to track their prey as a predator does, moving stealthily through the wilds and hiding themselves in brush and rubble. Rangers focus their combat training on techniques that are particularly useful against their specific favored foes. Thanks to their intimate familiarity with the wilds, rangers also acquire the ability to cast spells that harness nature’s power, much as a druid does. Their spells, like their combat abilities, focus on speed, stealth, and the hunt.”  

“Classes –Ranger”, Dungeons & Dragons website, located at https://dnd.wizards.com/dungeons-and-dragons/what-is-dnd/classes/ranger

The point that stands right out for me is the concept of fierce independence, followed quickly by a desire to defend others against forces aligned against them. I have always felt a desire to protect and defend others. My military service was filled with the perspective that part of my duty as a military member was to defend the Constitution of the United States against all aggressors – foreign and domestic.” And while I don’t serve in the military any longer, I still hold that oath as being in place with who I am. Admittedly, its not the easiest of perspectives to maintain in this day and age, with the swirling political waters we found ourselves in. I have lost a few friends refuting their perspectives of what is appropriate for a President to do with Constitutional proof that its the exact opposite. Politically, I hold no party affiliation nor do I have a desire to affiliate or find any form of allegiance to one. I have taken that particular stand since I was eighteen. I’m nearly fifty-five now (in just a few days, in fact). For some indelible reason that I cannot firmly place my fingers on, I feel a kindred spirit with this particular class in a table-top role-playing game.

Cinematic Cliff Hanger for Part One

These are just some of the characters that I find myself associating with. Certainly there are others, but these were the first ones that came to mind when I was writing this. Just as I am sure there will be others going into the future as well. With this particular section now approaching 2500 words, I’ll bring this to a stop here. In the next post, the second half of this, I want to take a look at how stories with these archetypal characters influence us on levels that we might not even be aware of. I will also take a step back to looking at Science Fiction and Fantasy as potential gateways for folks into Paganism, something I have done before. Lastly, I want to explore one more aspect – if all of this should matter to you at all – a rhetorical question I will probably dance around the edges of, but one that I think might be useful for some folks to explore.

Thanks for reading part One. I hope you stick around to read Part Two which I’ll post tomorrow.

–T /|\

Samhain Approaches….That Time of Year

Morning, well at least that is what it is here, as I type this blog post out. Somewhere along the line here in Tejas, the weather has decided to take a turn for Fall. Though the leaves have not seemed to have gotten the note just yet. Still green in color and still clinging tightly to the branches. Still the weather is nice and conducive to some longer walks through the neighborhood, if the rains from the tropical depression down south would just hold off for a while.

The onset of Fall is still a reminder that Samhain is right around the corner. This is not a time of year that I get terribly excited about. Trick or treating is a wonderful tradition for younger kids and in the past I have enjoyed giving candy out to the kids. However, in the time of COVID, I am a touch more concerned about doing so. Even the idea of leaving little “gift packs” of candy at the front door has me a bit worried about the spread of COVID to kids – and to some degree, me. So I am beginning to think that this tradition is probably off-the-table, at least for this year. As would attending most Samhain functions. With the pre-existing conditions that I have, I always have to make super cautious decisions based on being out in public.

All of this leads into a recent question I got in Facebook Messenger.

What do you do for Samhain?

As one whose Spiritual Path is done mostly solo, the snide answer is “not much.” But this is mostly a self-defense type of answer designed to stop the questioning. I am not sure I want to completely come off as Mr. Wilson. Mr. Wilson is Dennis the Menace’s curmudgeonly neighbor, if you are trying to grasp the reference. Some of you younger folks might still not get it…google it, if you need to. ::smile:: Anyways, tossing a snide retort is not really answering the question, so let’s unpack a bit more. After all, I get tired of all these Spiritual travel bags….

For me, Samhain occupies two particular points on the Wheel of the Year. I know, I know – there’s more to Samhain than just two points, but this is where it falls in my own Spiritual Path. My approach would probably be considered a statistical outlier, if we were mapping this on a graph of relevancy. However, this is where I am. Samhain is the point where the Wheel of the Year ends and begins. The Old Year falls away and the New Year begins anew. The second point is that this is the time frame on the Wheel of the Year where the veil between this world and those beyond is at its thinnest. For me, this means a time where I can work with the darker, deeper aspects of my Spiritual Path without a heavy effort.

Endings, Beginnings

The simpler of these two points is the ending of one year and the beginning of a new one. Think along the lines of December 31st/January 1st on the Gregorian calendar. At that point in time this year, we will say goodbye to a horrible 2020 year and hello to a hopefully better 2021 year. For me, the end of the old year and the beginning of a new cycle on the revolution of the Wheel is much the same. Except that I don’t toast the end of one and the beginning of the other with alcoholic drinks and a massive party. For me, its a much quieter moment. On the first night of the full moon, I stay up through midnight and spend my time in study and meditation. For me, this is the way that I wish to end my old year. Around midnight, I change over to doing journal work. I write about the previous year that has just ended. I try to recall everything of major significance that I can and record my thoughts at that time. I also pull out my previous year’s list of goals and desires so that I can see where I managed to stay on expectations and where I came up a little short (or a lot depending on what happened). My desire is to step into my new year with my mind recalling the old year in detail. Once finished, I go to sleep. When I wake, I spend my day plotting out goals. Short-term goals, long-term goals – I try to get a focus on where I hope to be by the end of the next turning of the Wheel.

And that’s it. See? I told you that I am likely the outlier where all this is considered. Wha? Oh. Yeah. There is a bit more. I’d kind of hoped you might have forgotten. However I did type it back up there, didn’t I?

Diving Deeper and Darker

Starting around the mid-point of October and carrying over into the mid-point of November, I start doing some deeper – and sometimes darker – Spiritual work. I do my best to work with the Spirits of my Ancestors. This is not easy work for me. In my family, I am considered to be the ultimate outsider. Most, if not all of my family (Ancestors included) do not share in my beliefs. Working with Ancestors who glaringly disapprove of your Spiritual Path is not the easiest Path to walk. I try my best. I honor those who have crossed the Veil before me in the best manner that I can. However, aside from working with my Ancestors (arguably, the weakest link within my Druidry), I also take a walk down much darker Paths. On these Paths, I work with some of the emotions that I tend to push back – sorrow, anger, rage, jealousy and even hate.

These strong – and arguably – negative emotions are my truest Achilles heal. Back when I was a much younger man, I was ruled completely by my emotions. Those who knew me when I was younger know quite well how easy it was for me to reach for and grab a handful of the mane of Anger. Having learned that burning the lands you stand on will leave you in a very barren place where it takes even more time to nurture and regrow friendships, I have learned to push the strongest of emotions deep down inside of me. This does not mean that I do not get angry. I do. I just try and do my best to contain that anger the best that I can. An individual cannot contain all of that within themselves. I tend to refer to this as working the darker Path of myself because I am grasping very tightly a set of emotions that I tend to suppress within myself. In a sense of description, I am embracing my darker Self – the one that is wrought completely with the emotions that I desire not to work with immediately.

One thing that I have learned over the many years I have been a Pagan, is that the Earth is more than capable of taking these negative energies that I have and turning them to Her own need. From mid-October to mid-November, I spend a lot of time working on my earth-grounding exercises. Except that these are not exercises, its a necessary moment in time for me. And I choose this time of the year for a specific reason. By removing these energies from myself, allowing myself to completely feel all of these emotions before I bury them into the ground, I am completely a rite of dying and re-birth for myself. I lose the energies that have been building up inside me, I work through the issues that created all of this and I arise at the other side of the turning of the Wheel with a new personal perspective.

Yes, I am wearing the mask upside down. This was meant to be a sight gag…but no one seemed to notice in the first hour…. 😦

Yeah, I see the doubt on your face. But I will be honest with you, I’m ok with anyone that doubts this entire process. Everyone approaches the world around them in a different manner. We all find our own ways of making it through the everyday shit that Life tends to bring in front of us. All I am doing here is sharing what it is that I do. There is no mandate that YOU HAVE TO do this as well. Even if you were my student, I wouldn’t lay this down as something you need to do. You’re an individual, just as I am. We might walk the exact same Path, but we still walk as individuals. Condemning you for not doing as I do means that I have no respect for what you believe or practice (or not). I share, not in the hopes that others will do exactly as I do, but that others will find ways, rituals, Paths and what-not that work for them. I only present what I do as a potential starting point for others. If all of this sparks a desire or an intent in you to find a Spiritual Path for yourself (if you don’t have one), or a new method of how to approach your Spiritual path (if you do have one), that’s all I have ever intended.

There is a road, no simple highway
Between the dawn and the dark of night
And if you go no one may follow
That path is for your steps alone

The Grateful Dead, “Ripple”

Thinking About: How Endings Can Really Be Beginnings

Usually, I save the ‘Thinking About” posts for Thursdays, but that has not really worked out the last few times. So, I sit here in a darkened office, with music playing in the background on a borderline Saturday night/Sunday morning with my mind trying to take in what is essentially some stolen time. Time to take in the last few days and juxtapose that against some of the other times I recall in my life.

At this point, it has been a little more than twenty four hours since the news of Justice Ginsberg’s passing reached my ears and eyes. Her death has not really been a shock to me. At eighty-seven years of age with failing health issues, the length of her time on this side of the veil was quite apparent to be short. Her passing means that another Supreme Court seat is now to be filled. Ironically, it comes with even shorter time than it did for the end of President Obama’s second term, a Senate hearing for the position that was held up by Senate Republicans claiming that it should be filled by the people’s choice for the Presidency. Now, the seat on the Supreme Court needs to be filled immediately, according to those same Senate Republicans. Hypocrisy at its finest. Capitol Hill politics as usual (remember, we were supposed to have the swamp drained from such political antics by the Blowhard-in-Chief when he took office four years ago?). For me, someone who has watched the Capitol Hill scene since the early years of the Reagan Administration, all of this is nothing new to me. For many of the younger folks out there, its a moment of sheer outrage. How can these politicians not do what they were elected for? For a lot of others, Justice Ginsberg’s death feels like a death knell in their lives. Without Ginsberg to provide the moral compass for the Supreme Court, all is certainly lost.

Mid-March of 1994. I had arrived at the airport in Shreveport, Louisiana the night before. My flight schedule had been an early afternoon non-stop flight from Frankfurt, Germany to a late-night arrival at Dallas-Fort Worth International airport. All I was carrying with me was a backpack and a jacket. My suitcase was in the belly of the plane. Both that suitcase and myself had to run a race of time across two terminals to reach the flight from Dallas to Shreveport. Otherwise, I would be waiting another eight-plus hours for the 6am flight the next day. Honestly, if I had missed the flight – it would have been faster to rent a car and drive the distance. I would have arrived two hours before that flight left Dallas. But apparently we both made it to the flight – moments before they closed the doors.

The morning after the marathon flight, I borrowed my father’s F100 1975 Pickup truck and drive along Interstate-20. I crossed over the Red River and arrived at the back gate to Barksdale Air Force Base. My instructions were to go through the front gate to the base, but if I had done that I would have needed to register the vehicle at the gate for what was a 150-yard walk from the back gate. I parked in the parking lot just outside the gate and gathered myself for the walk. I was wearing my Class-A Blue Uniform, with a dark-blue tie, and all my ribbons displayed. My correct rank of Airman First Class, which I had been stripped down to just two weeks ago, was correctly sewn on my uniform. I had a copy of my duty transfer paperwork, which released me from my squadron at Sembach Air Base to the Consolidated Base Personnel Office (CBPO) here at Barksdale. This was the last transfer of duty station in my eight years with the Air Force.

I was being released from my six-year commitment that I had made four years ago at Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth. A base that had been erased from history just seven months prior by the 1991 Base Realignment and Closure Commission appointed by President George W. Bush. The base’s problem was it was expensive to maintain. My problem was that I missed a mandatory formation. I overslept. That was enough to remove me from my position in the military. It was enough to reduce me in rank from an E-4 Sergeant to an E-3 Airman First-Class. The Air Force made the decision to separate me from their ranks. After eight years of not completely fitting into what they wanted as a model Non-Commissioned Officer and member of the Air Force, I completely agreed. Our compatibility just wasn’t there and we both knew it.

The entire ordeal took approximately thirty-five minutes to complete from the time I walked into the building to the time I was back on the sidewalk with my discharge paperwork in hand. Despite the fact that I was technically a civilian, I still provided a hand salute to the Captain I passed on the sidewalk, as well as a “Good morning, ma’am,” along with a smile. I made it to my father’s truck and drove back to his house on the west side of Shreveport. That evening, he started the conversation that I did not know how to finish: “So what are you going to do now?”

I had not really thought about this. The Air Force had sent me to a class on how to write my military experience into a resume. Most of my skill sets did not translate well into Corporate America. Most military positions don’t. Not every Corporation out there has need for a Command-and-Control Communications Systems Specialist. Most of the equipment that I knew and was essentially an expert on were well over a decade or more in the world of obsolescence. Plus no one in the Computer Communications needed a systems operator or technician that was trained in the usage of small arms, rifles and combat techniques. What in the world was I going to do?

One thing the military did teach me well was how to adapt to situations. I needed about another three weeks to sit down and assess where the technology world was and contrast that with where I was in terms of skills. I needed education. I knew how to deal with processes, how to learn new technologies on the fly, but I lacked the modern language to discuss those aspects of myself. With the help of my parents, I enrolled at Bossier Parish Community College and started to learn. I listened to how the professors talked. I talked with other students who were already employed in the computer fields. I learned the vernacular. I learned the technology. Two years later, I found myself employed at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas and my career in Information Technology started its step-by-step process to where I am today.

Justice Ginsberg is gone. Her legacy remains. All the work she has done in her life to bring equality for women is well detailed. I certainly understand that it feels like the paved road just ended and you may feel like you are back on the dirt road. However, her passing is not the end of the struggle to gain equality for all. Her legacy is the foundation from which we build FURTHER. The end of my military career had that same distinct feeling of the end. I had envisioned a twenty to twenty-five year career with the military. That road wound up only being eight years long. I was twenty years old when I enlisted. I was twenty-seven when I was ejected from that world. I used the experience that I got from that short time to build into a new career. And with the loss of each successive job after that, with the transition from one part of the Information technology world to the next, I built the experience and career that I have now. All of that wasn’t pretty. Some of it was downright scary. Very little of it was precisely what I had intended for it to be. However, I found ways of making it work. This movement that we currently have going – the desire for equality throughout human-kind regardless of color, race, creed, gender (or non-gender), hair color, eye color, height, weight – whatever else we can dream up as a difference between all of us….it continues on without Justice Ginsberg among the ranks. But we continue to build, we continue to grow…using her work, her energy, her drive as the continued foundation. And we use the same from so many other people as well, some not even known to any large contingent of folks, we continue to build on that foundation to make a world equal for all.

One thing I have learned throughout my life, there is always another way to continue. If there wasn’t another way to continue, I don’t think I would have survived as long as I have. Adaptability is the name of the game. I cannot tell you how many times I have broken rules and laws to keep computer systems working in the short-term so that I can develop a long-term repair to replace the illegal or improper repair that I created to keep things going. Whenever my commanders or supervisors asked me how I fixed something so quickly, I always replied with “Sir, Ma’am – with all due respect, its better that you don’t know.”

So, cry over Justice Ginsberg’s passing. But remember what she stood for – Change, Equality, Justice and the Law. And remember, when you feel you have mourned enough, there is still work to be done. Work that is done for the change for others, seeking equality, demanding justice and following the law. But in all of that, done in the name of love. Love for us all. Justice Ginsberg, I believe, would never have wanted anything less.

To be able to change, we must be able to adapt. To be able to adapt, we have to want to live. If we want to live, we have to want to love. to be able to love, we have to open our hearts to everybody. Those seeds do not perish for a lack of watering or planting. Those seeds die for a lack of empathy for all.

–T /|\

Wichtelmännchen on One’s Spiritual Path and Everyday Life

Most of my early youth was spent living in (what was then) West Germany during the 1970s. I saw large portions of the German countryside, thanks to my parents’ desire for the family to participate in what was termed as a “non-competitive fitness walking” – otherwise known as “Volksmarching.” Loosely translated, the word means “People’s walk” and were 5km, 10km and 20km walks throughout a local area. The trails were pre-determined by the local Volksmarch Association that put on the event. For me, as a child, the incentive was the “medal” that was given at the end of the walk. I have around eighty of these medals….somewhere. I cannot recall what each medal was for or what the walk for it looked like, but I do have some strong memories of a few walks through the Black Forest area of Germany.

The dark canopies were sometimes a bit frightening, particularly at times near dusk. I knew about the typical forest denizens to watch for – the hardly ever seen wolves and the more formidable (and far more territorial) wild Boar. However, I also looked into the tightly packed forest and wondered what might be deeper off the well-marked and well-worn Path that we were on. Perhaps, there was an evil Witch living just beyond the sight of normal humans, waiting for the wayward child to wander from the Path? Or maybe a wild pack of Goblins. A wild pack of “das Wichtelmännchen” (literally “Goblins”) making their way through the woods in parallel to those of us on the trail. Just waiting for the group to split into smaller numbers so as to make their attack all the more easy. Ah the wonders of a child’s over-active imagination. And yet….

The reality of living in 1970s Germany was a bit more frightening than some may have thought. My parents rarely spoke of the terrorists there, but there were active anti-American terrorist cells operating in Germany. The operations of the Red Army Faction, also known as the Baader-Meinhof Gang took place during the time I lived in Germany. I do not recall any of this and was only made aware of this type of danger upon my arrival in Germany in the 1990s for my own active-duty military tour.

There is danger everywhere. Even danger that you are not fully aware of, if ever. I lived in a country during a time where service members and their families were considered “legitimate” targets by those opposed to the American forces on stationed on German soil (a conversation for another time). I can recall the numerous times that my friends and I would wander into the fields directly across the street from base housing and wander throughout the wooded area. In one area, there was a cave that had been constructed into the rock of a hill side, where all the dependent children would go to smoke and do things that kids do as a form of rebellion from their parents. We were off of base housing, off of military housing and there were certainly a lot of “shady” Germans that wandered through the area as well. There were no guard shacks barring entry to the base housing area. Certainly, military police patrolled the area frequently, but safeguards here were not the same as those on the actual military installations. Civilian traffic frequently utilized part of base housing as a “shortcut” from one area to another. Thinking it through my head today, we were such easy, exploitable targets for an organization with no ethical core, such as the Baader-Meinhof Gang.

Thinking back, I always wondered at my complete innocence over something so real, while I had that great chill down my spine over the potential existence of das Wichtelmännchen. The real difference was in how I assimilated information and formulated the concept of danger. I am quite sure I saw news stories about the Baader-Meinhof Gang’s exploits on Armed Forces Network (AFN) television. But that was television. At age eight, it was difficult to understand and formulate the concept of danger.

I wonder if, in some ways, much of this type of adjustment to danger can be applied to Pagans that are new on their Path? They meet all these new Pagan folks that are nice to them, welcoming and so loving and helpful. They open their arms in trust and walk right into the arms of the Predators that are prevalent in the community. Yes, there are predators within the Pagan community. Individuals seeking sex, power and even wealth from unsuspecting newbies. We have all heard about these situations before. Either directly from such victims (typically after the fact) or third-hand from others. They step on the Path and come to the large public gatherings. They meet so many other people, including those that promise to divulge the deep, dark secrets of Great, the Amazing Witch of the South. All you need to do is become my students and follow the instructions that I provide to you. Yeah. Thirty-plus years as a Pagan, I’m highly unlike to fall for crap like that. Someone that is thirty-plus days on their own Path, likely sees that Path to get-Witch-quick, a chance to be as powerful, knowledge and wise as those that are thirty years on their Pagan Paths and those newbies leap for it. Right into the jaws of their predators.

Honestly, they didn’t know any better. They are moving along their path and they see Power for what it is – Power. And they think they don’t have it. And they need it. They want it. They want the short-cut, so they don’t have to do the work. Because they still feel the pull of the overly commercialized and power-driven world we live in. They hear the call of the pack of das Wichtelmännchen just beyond the trees. Instead of being frightened by it, instead of being on guard because of it…they are curious and drawn towards it. What they will need is someone that is on the Path that can intervene and tell them that it is best to stay on the well-worn Path for the time being. To learn from others that teach them not for a sexual favor, but for a love of the knowledge and a desire to pass it on to others. Those who teach have an obligation to do so ethically, but to also nurture their students into a love of the knowledge as well. Those that do not teach, should have a desire to protect wherever possible. Between these two points is where I find myself.

What do you think? Not just as an individual to whatever Path, tradition or organization that you find yourself, do you find yourself in a position to teach these new Pagans on how to find and walk their own path? Do you find a desire to help them avoid some of the pitfalls that others can find themselves on? I’m a Druid. I’ll help any individual that needs to find an ethical group or individual to learn from, regardless if its my Path as a Druid or not. I owe it to them to be the helping hand that I needed so badly back on the beginnings of my Path. I owe it to that new Pagan that had such difficult understanding where his own footing was, right in the middle of the Witch Wars of Dallas and then at the initial footsteps of the Satanic Panic of the 1980s. I know we all laugh about the newbies and the Rainbow Pagans and the White-Lighters that we all encounter. But those fluffy bunnies are typically new to their respective Paths and in some cases are not sure of where to step without creating offense to others. I’m not really feeling a need to let them run into das Wichtelmännchen on chance…..

–T /|\

Circling Back to Gate Keeping….

About ten days back, I wrote a blog post, I Prefer Individualism Over Gate Keeping, within which I worked through some of the issues I have with the concept of Gate Keeping and why it clashes with my personal default setting of Individualism. Statistically, its the most popular blog post I’ve written this year. However, in discussing this with a few people, I have come to realize that part of it seems to be misunderstood. So I thought it might be a good point to come back and clarify a few points and be a little more clear about what I was intending.

If you are learning from someone else or from some tradition, the lessons that you are taught or typically is what is considered to the basics. You do the best to walk in the manner that they wish to – until you finish the way they want to you or you just can’t finish.

Seemingly, this has been taken to mean that you only learn what you want from some Order or Group or Individual and then you move on when you feel like you’re fulfilled enough to travel in your own direction. Sure, if you want to do things in that manner, that really becomes your business. However, as I have said previously elsewhere, I take my oaths seriously. When I started down my Path within OBOD (Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids), my initiatory perspective was to finish what I was starting. I was, and still am determined to work my way through the three grades. I finished my Bardic grade and am currently working in my Ovate grade. I am determined (and hopefully) that when I finish my Ovate grade, I will be accepted into the Druid grade for the lessons contained therein. Am I after some title? Hardly, my desire is to learn whatever is being offered to me and add all of that to what I do now and into the future. However, there is a moment of Gate Keeping here.

See, there was always the chance that I could have been stopped from going forward from the Bardic to the Ovate grade. There is an aspect of Gate Keeping here. Its not my opinion that matters at this point, its the perspective of others. In fact, if we look at other aspects of Pagan belief systems, we can find all kinds of issues of Gate Keeping that takes place. And like it or not, in those instances, its a necessary thing.

Let’s work from a very specific example – initiatory rites. According to various locations on the internet (various Dictionaries and Wikipedia), an initiation is the action of admitting someone into a secret organization or group, sometimes through the act of a ritual. Most all of us have gone through a form of initiatory rites to be a part of an organization or group that we desired to be a part of. In those initiatory rites, we all faced challenges of some kind. Those challenges were a part of Gate Keeping. You either answered the right way or the wrong way. The right way led you in to become a member of the group or organization. The wrong way led you back to the outside where you were before.

Let’s face some facts here, shall we? Paganism in whatever flavor you can dream up is just not for everyone. And it shouldn’t be. Just as Christianity is not for everyone, as it wasn’t for me. Some aspects of Gate Keeping are necessary to help put some folks on their proper Paths. Or, if you prefer, to help them off the Paths that are not really conducive to their learning. This type of Gate Keeping develops boundaries that are necessary. This is not meant to be the creation of an “exclusive” group of people that are “better” than others. These boundaries are helpful in defining what path individuals are on. For example, the concept of Priesthood. Becoming a Priest is not something everyone will need. Truthfully, Pagans can be defined as their own “Priests” and “Priestesses” as the charge of handling your Spirituality is in your hands. However, Priests, Priestesses and many other roles are also people with specific duties and that is where the boundaries are helpful. Knowing who is who.

To bring another example into all of this, me. I do feel the pull for a formalized role of Priest. However, knowing the roles of a Priest….and being aware of my own limitations at this time…its not something I can fulfill at this time. I have a lot more to learn. I also have a lot of things to “unlearn” as well. In a manner of speaking, I am Gate Keeping myself, if you will allow. I know where my boundaries lay and how these boundaries do not intersect with a defined role as a Priest. I am a Priest unto myself. However, I currently do not intersect with the boundaries laid out for being a formal Priest. One day, I might be ready for that role. In the meantime, I accept where I am and continue to move through Life.

Now, I am referring to some extremely precise points, in terms of Gate Keeping. You just can’t walk up into a group, organization or a tradition and just proclaim you’re part of them. You have to be accepted in, learn their ways and knowledge, and work your way through the organization to become a trusted and respected member. All of that takes time, effort, patience and humility, all preceded by acceptance.

Being a Pagan is a little different. You decide that you are a Pagan, as far as I am concerned – you are just that. Its your self-identity. You want to be a Polytheist, you believe in multiple Gods or in many faces of an Archetypal God and Goddess figure. You are a Polytheist. Your views on Polytheism might be different than my own, but I am hardly the person to tell you that you are or are not one. Your heart is yours. You know it better than I do. I can only go by your words and actions.

I will admit, I detest Gate Keeping, particularly when someone tells me that I am not something that I believe that I am. Just like anyone else, I don’t take too kindly to rudely being told I am wrong. I am; however, open-minded enough to listen. I think that some of the knee jerk reactions to Gate Keeping are likely from the manner in which it is brought up to someone else. However, I am not a Gate Keeper of anything other than what is in my heart and part of my personal existence. And thus, the reason that I prefer Individualism over Gate Keeping. I enjoy getting to know people and placing barriers between us is not likely to allow that to happen. In the end, we will likely discover that we are both different Pagans with opinions that might be in diametrical opposition to one another. However, in my mind, you’re still a Pagan. You’re still a Polytheist (or not if you said you weren’t). Most importantly to me, you’re still you. And Gate Keeping is still a necessary function to help place some defining boundaries in the world around us. But I am still not going to tell you how to walk your own individual Path or how you should approach the Gods (or if you even should). Gate Keeping or not, we all have to walk our Paths individually. “That Path is for your steps alone…”

Hopefully, all of that helps clear up some of the misty version I seemed to have written earlier.

–T /|\

Frightened of the Future But Still Hopeful

After I had written Thursday’s blog, My Oaths Place Me on Common Ground, I got challenged over it with a single question:

So you’re scared of the future?

The question stung enough to hurt, but it also let me offer up a glimpse into things that I see and rarely talk about. My response:

Yes. Yes, I am scared. Scared of a future where healing doesn’t take place. Scared of a future that continues deeper down a dark trail humanity seems to already be on. Sure, admitting that I am scared of what a future may bring can seem like a cowardly perspective to some. To me, its a position of reality. It doesn’t change who I am. It doesn’t change what I am willing to be in service to my Gods and to my fellow humans. But I am scared…not just for me, my family, my friends…but for everyone. Take that however you want to.

Many folks that I talk with are citing the election as the point they are focused on. If America elects Donald Trump, the country goes to shit. If America votes him out, the country is immediately better. I stopped looking at that point some time ago. I’m now looking beyond and seeing a huge chasm between folks here in the United States. In fact, I’m seeing that chasm stretch beyond the United States and out into the world beyond. Here in America, we are deeply divided by our values. Our governmental system was founded on the idea of compromise and common ground. Now, common ground has been eroded away from the advanced widening and depth between two polar opposites. Compromise is seen as a sign of utter capitulation and weakness. When I look beyond the election, I seriously wonder how two sides with a “my way or the highway” mentality will ever reach a point of compromise, much less the necessary point of healing that desperately needs to take place. If the Republicans win, I only see the divide deepening. Should the Democrats win, I cannot fathom the Republicans stepping up to work with the Democrats. I have no idea how things change for the better.

As I started writing this, I was playing Joe Satriani on shuffle, and his song “I Believe” came on. if you would like to hear the song, just follow this YouTube link. The lyrics struck a deep, resonating chord in me, so let me juxtapose my thoughts against the song.

I’ve been out walking, for hours
I got something on my mind
How did we get here? Where are we going?
Why is life so hard

I admit, walking is one of the things I do when I really need to think. I might even be able to walk from here to Houston with all that is on my mind. (Note: that is a distance of some 208 miles, which Google maps thinks would take me about 68 hours to do. In reality, as slow as my aging carcass goes, it would probably be closer to 80 hours) But the song asks the pertinent questions,. How did we get here? Where are we going? For the first question, there are a lot of factors, issues and moments in History that got us to this point. For me; however, the more pressing question is the second. Just where are we going? To be honest, I don’t really know. I see a dark, dark time coming here in America on November 5th. There is a strong likelihood that we will not know who won the election, an even stronger likelihood that the election will be strongly contested in various states by both candidates, and with all of that, violent unrest among the followers of the candidates. That violent part is not speculation on my part; there has already been violence between anti-Trump folks and Trump supporters leading into this election.

I read the stories, see the photographs
World’s a crazy space
Got to hold on to my dreams
There’s just no other place
There’s just no other place

I have tried my very best not to get caught up in all the craziness of the election cycle and the various things that the President says or claims. He enjoys a chaotic atmosphere around him, as it lets him obfuscate actions that would not be tolerated by others. Think of the axiom: “Watch the right hand, so you don’t notice what the left hand is doing.” I try my very best to remain on that island of common ground, which is slowly eroding away like a shallow sandbar under the pressures of a hurricane coming ashore. To keep myself sane, I focus on my dreams…my dreams for the future. My dreams…my goals of what I want to accomplish (and I still have a lot to accomplish). My dreams….and all that I need to do to crawl, claw, and fight my way to what I feel is right. Sometimes even that is not enough and I have to stop what I am doing. Stop to try and catch my breath in the whirling dervish of Trump’s news cycle. Stop to ground myself against all of that chaos and remind myself of where I am trying to go. And hope that everyone else can do the same.

I’ve seen the shadows, of the living
I’ve seen them turn and walk away
And I keep searching, for the right words
To send these thoughts away

There’s a picture, I like to look at
A picture of a beautiful face
And I see something, in her eyes
Sends me to a better place
Sends me to a better place

I am frightened. Frightened of what the future holds. Not just for me, my family, my friends or the tribe that I hold dear. I’m frightened for everybody. Not just those who oppose President Trump but even for those who support him. Weird, huh? That I would fear for the very people that are opposed to my lifestyle and the lifestyles of the people that I love and care about. I should hate them, shouldn’t I? I should shun them, shouldn’t I? I should treat them as being beneath my contempt for them, right? Except that I can’t.

My Druidry teaches me that we are all here together. Our survival on this planet means that all of us need to be included in getting to a point of survival. Even those who don’t believe in the dangers of climate change. Even those who would bring us back to an oppressive Christian church, albeit that it would be an Evangelical Christian church position rather than that of the Catholic faith, previously. My Druidry teaches that Peace and Justice is for everyone and everything, not just a select few. And because of that, I look forward beyond Election Day here in the United States, and I do not see a future for Peace or Justice because I see no room for needed and necessary Healing. The Election is not going to change the fact that we are still struggling against a monolithic justice system that is systemically leaned against African Americans, Hispanics, First Nations peoples…essentially anyone that is not European, white descendant. We are still struggling against a government that rescinds treaties long ago agreed upon with the First Nations peoples because there are “necessary” resources on those lands that were ceded to them. Lands that should never have belonged to anyone because the land should be free. Make no mistake about it folks, the fights for freedom haven’t even really begun just yet. We are only wiping the sleep out of our eyes and climbing out of the bed at this moment.

I believe, we can change anything
I believe, we can rise above it
I believe, there’s a reason for everything
I believe, in my dream
I believe, we can change anything
I believe, in my dream

Yes, I am frightened of the future. I am frightened because I cannot see a good step going forward. Regardless of who gets elected, this nation has to figure out a way to heal this deep divide. A divide that goes way back into our collective histories. Not a few years, but a lot of years. A whole lot of years. An election is not going to heal this divide. An election is not going to change the way things stand in this nation, or even around the world.

There is a battle raging between fundamentalist perspective and the desire to change and grow. Seemingly, we have absolutely forgotten something – to borrow from Damh the Bard: “We are standing on the shoulders of Giants.” On both sides. They struggled for the changes they provided for us. For the foundations that we work from. There will be change coming. Make no mistake about that. Of that I am sure. I am just unsure of the shape it will take.

My Spirituality will get me through all of that which is to come. No matter how dark the road gets. No matter who wins the election. My Spirituality does not change. My faith in the Gods and Goddesses does not waver. My oaths to my Gods will not alter. My responsibility to others will not change. I am steadfast in all of that. But I am still frightened by what I see coming. Frightened for all of us.

By the way, the song mentioned that “I believe in my dream.” I do. With all my heart and soul. I believe in a world where all of our differences can be accepted as just that – differences. Not an item of contempt, but a point of celebration. That we are not all the same. That we are individuals with our own convictions, dreams and goals, living on this planet together as equals. How do we get there? By believing in that dream and acting on it, one at a time. Kristoffer Hughes once stated in a presentation of his that we all get our own Pagan Square mile. And that Pagan Square mile would be connected on all sides (think 3-d modeling here) by other people’s square miles. That we could find harmony living next to one other by respecting each other’s individuality. Its an idea I truly believe in. And as Kristoffer was also prone to say the idea can be passed on as a Druid Transmitted Infection, a DTI. Gods, I certainly hope and pray that it can be done, with a little love, care, understanding and patience. I certainly hope so.

My oaths, by the way, don’t change. My position is still meant to be there to help anyone on their own chosen Path – even if its not mine. That’s what my role apparently is to be. Through the blog, through whatever interactions we might have. You need help, ask. If I din’t have the answers or I don’t know exactly what to do, I know plenty of other people I can either bring you to or find answers from. Remember, as a wider Pagan community, I would hope we all desire to help others in need. Even when they are diametrically opposed to our values and lifestyle. Its about being human. #TwoQuid

–T /|\

My Oaths Place Me on Common Ground

I remember walking into the Military Entrance Processing Station in Shreveport, Louisiana on a cold February morning. Two weeks prior, I had finished a period of questions with my Air Force recruiter, signed my four-year contract and been given a photo-copied map of how to get here. I was the literal description of being the wide-eyed novice. I literally had no idea what I was doing or what was going to happen. My hearing was tested. My balance was tested. My eye-sight was tested. My teeth were checked. I was given a complete physical. Three weeks later, I was on a plane bound for San Antonio, Texas where I would enter the Air Force’s Basic Military Training, where my world was turned upside down. I had absolutely no idea what the future would hold. All I knew was that everything I remembered from high school was gone.

Earlier this morning, I sat here in my little office and listened to the rain beating again the window. Yesterday at this time, the outside temperature was right around 80 degrees and forecast to climb into the lower 90s before a strong cold front would come through. The rain I was listening to would be the last bits of rain, as the temperature changed to where it is now: the high fifties. Winter is beginning its call and Fall is being trumpeted forward. How fast it moves…well that’s another question, but when it does, Summer will have gone. I will be looking into a future that is unsure and thinking of all that has happened for the Spring and Summer of 2020.

This morning, that feeling of uncertainty sinks its roots deeper and deeper into my thoughts. Back in 1986, when I walked into that MEPS location, I was promising four years of my life to the military. Promising to be governed under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) and not the United States Constitution. Ironically, a document that I would be swearing to protect. And oddly enough an oath I still hold to this day, nearly forty years later. Oaths. A definite certainty that cannot be erased as easily as a blink of an eye erases the moment in time that you just experienced. I’ll come back to that in a bit.

When I joined the United States Air Force, tensions between the United States and the, then, Soviet Union were extremely high. The so-called “Doomsday Clock” had the world center at two minutes to midnight. Should the clock reach midnight, the world would be at nuclear war. Nuclear holocaust was at the back of nearly everyone’s mind. For me, it was very much at the forefront of my thinking. At that time, nuclear warfare doctrine held that only the United States Air Force (bombers and ground-hardened missile silos) and the United States Navy (submarine-based missiles) held the keys to launch nuclear weapons. I have been out of the military long enough that I am not completely sure this is the case any longer. However, I was joining a branch of military service that had the capability to wage the deadliest form of war on the face of the earth. Nuclear annihilation. I was nervous. I was scared. Much of the popular music of the time had a nuclear war theme to it, but none had a greater effect on me than Gary Moore’s “Victims of the Future” and Sting’s “Do the Russians Love Their Children Too?” Music has always had a major influence in my life. I always wondered, if peace could be found to a point where nuclear weapons would not be used — could we ever be friends with the Soviet Union?

In the United States, we sit on the precipice of an upcoming election. Another Presidential election where the choices are not ideal in the least. But forget about the Presidential election and the two party system’s candidates for a moment. The country has been literally torn in two over these two candidates and the ideologies that each “supports” as the chosen candidate for their party. The issues are acrimonious to the point of ripping friendships and families asunder, done in the name of patriotism and fidelity to the Constitution and claimed in equal parts by both sides. The lines of definition run deep and wide between the two sides creating chasms of difference that a single election is not going to heal. There are times I wonder, how can this country ever be pulled together again? How are we going to heal these deep wounds that fester, much less the ones that are going to be caused by whichever candidate wins the election? Much like that moment that I wondered how the United States and the Soviet Union could ever get along peaceable, I wonder the same thing about Democrats and Republicans here in the United States.

I spent eight years on Active Duty service in the Air Force. I spent time in a combat zone. I know what it means to wage war. But I also know what the objective of the military is for – to keep the peace. Some may not think so, but most military members that I know – both current and prior-service – prefer peace to war. What keeps the peace, for the most part, are the armies and the weapons of terrible destruction that stand in the position of promise, should their use be necessary. This doesn’t account for the various proxy wars that the United States and the Soviet Union have fought over the decades. However, it is the promise of the use of these terrible weapons that stands in the background, like a darkly shadowed Grim Reaper.

I see that same shadowed Grim Reaper standing in the alleyways and darkened recesses of nearby towering buildings, as protesters and law enforcement clash on the streets. Protesters wanting the laws to be equal and enforced. Law enforcement continuing to apply the law through tear gas and batons to those who disagree with their application of those laws. And I return to my thoughts, could these two sides ever comes to a delicate balance of peace? Could these two sides ever come to a point where they could pass one another on the street in calmer times and peacefully greet one another?

I recall mid-1987, my first full summer on a Strategic Air Command base – Carswell Air Force Base in Forth Worth, Texas. Home to two squadrons of B-52 strategic bombers and a full nuclear arsenal to load on to those planes. A mission to strike deep in Soviet territory in the event of war. And the summer where I finally decided to follow my Path of Paganism. From those early days, I was always drawn towards the idea that middle ground could always be found, no matter the issue at hand. How Libra of me…considering that I was born smack in the middle of that sign. Even then, I kept trying to find the role of the peace-maker. It would take another two years for me to reconcile my Pagan beliefs with my role within the military.

Picture by John Beckett, who takes amazing photos

I joke that I was never born to the concept of being a soldier. To this day, I don’t own a gun. I have no desire to have one; though I am quite capable of handling one. I prefer my staff, though I do lean on it more for walking these days instead of a manner of self protection. I am still quite capable of defending myself or others, should the need arise. My Druidry has taught me the value of observing before wading in. Sometimes, events are not as they seem the moment one walks up on them. So, with the protests, I watch. I support the need for change to police tactics when dealing with individuals. I also support the need to remove much of the military entrenchment that has become common-place in the police department. I live in small-town Texas; yet the nearest small city – Cleburne – possesses a military assault vehicle. Quite a shocking thing to see, which is precisely what it is meant for – shock tactics. But throughout all of that, I do support the police. I just feel that there needs to be necessary adjustment and changes. That balance that I walk, sometimes feel like I am walking barefoot on the sharp edge of a razor blade.

So, what drives me in these times of wide division? Where sides seem to be split into one side or the other with the simple statement: “if you are not with us, you are against us.” What keeps me focused and sane? My oaths. Just prior to my twenty-first birthday, I swore an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against aggressors foreign and domestic. Now, approaching the age of fifty-five, some twenty-six years since departing that military organization – I still hold that oath sacred. In 2015, I initiated as a Bard in the order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (OBOD). My initiation then set me on a Path of seeking peace and justice wherever I could find it. I also have an oath with Crow to do the work set forth for me. These three oaths comprise how I approach the world and events around me.

Where I currently live, directly across the street from me is an individual who has a Trump/Pence sign in his yard. He and his family just moved in two weekends ago. When he was outside this past weekend, we greeted one another from across the street. We were cordial and friendly to one another. I am not voting for Trump in the coming election. I believe Trump to be the number one threat to the Constitution of the United States. Why would I treat this man that supports him in a cordial manner? Because my oaths remind me that when all of this election stuff is over, we are still fighting COVID-19. When all of this election stuff is over, we need to sit down and have a super serious discussion on how to reform the police departments around this nation and find a way to set things into a more proper function. When all of this election stuff is over, Black Lives still matter and there is much work to be started, much less done. When all of this election stuff is over, we are all still Americans, a chosen community of geography and ideology. In the movie Gladiator, after Maximus has died on the sands of the Colosseum floor, Lucilla makes the statement:

Is Rome worth one good man’s life? We believed it once, make us believe it again. He was a soldier of Rome. Honor him.

George Floyd. Breonna Taylor. Atatiana Jefferson. Aura Rosser. Stephon Clark. Botham Jean. Philando Castille. Alton Sterling. Those listed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall. Those for whom the World War II memorial was created for. Those who lost their lives in Europe and are interred at Oise-Aisne. The countless others who lost their lives, unjustly, at the hands of police officers. And the countless number of police officers who lost their lives trying to perform their jobs to the best of their abilities. The 190,000+ who have died due to the lackluster efforts of this current administration, and despite the courageous efforts of those health workers on the front line.

Is America worth those lives and the countless others that I could not recall to add to the list? I think so. My oaths drive me towards that conviction. My oaths remind me, when everything is finished, when the dust settles….we are still bound to each other. Yes, here in America, but also throughout the world. We exist together. That’s why my feet and my staff are firmly planted on common ground. Because we have to start somewhere.

Thinking About: What Makes a Pagan, a Pagan?

Today’s blog post is in response to a statement posed by a friend on Facebook.

We pagans find it easier to agree on what we are NOT than what we are.

This one is going to be a tough one. Essentially, looking underneath the statement to find the underlying anchor stones, I get left with really wide-open questions. “What is Paganism?” “Why can Pagans not agree on a set of defining principles that bring a solid foundational aspect to what makes a Pagan?” All I can hope is that this post does more than muddy the waters. I do; however, love to play in the waters of the creek. 🙂

To a point, I am reminded of a moment in the tv show Babylon 5, where G’kar is trying to enlighten his fellow Narn as to the truths that he has found in his many moments of solitude. Moments that have changed him from the angry, raging warrior that he was in the earlier seasons to a seeker of self enlightenment that has curbed that anger and provided a much stronger, wiser, and far more peaceable character in the latter part of the show. I will link to the video of that segment below on YouTube. Try not to get thrown by the costuming too much and listen to what G’kar says. In the meantime, I’ll go make a cup of coffee.

I know it seems that I am making fun of the question, but really its not. This particular segment from the tv show has something that I believe is a quite often on display when trying to describe one’s beliefs to others – a lack of compatible wording or even a lack of compatible concepts. The theorem follows that if you ask ten Pagans to describe what Paganism is, you will get eleven different answers. That is just from those that are creating the message. More confuse will arise from those receiving the message. The term “Priest,” for example, means something vastly different to a Christian. Add more than one type of Christian, and the number of meanings gets even larger. The more people you add to the conversation, the more the meanings of words begin to change. The more meanings change, the more misunderstanding that arises from the conversation. So, how to describe a Pagan? How do we synthesize the many different beliefs and concepts of the very wide and vast collection of faiths and belief systems that are ascribed under the so-called “Big Tent of Paganism?” Perhaps, we don’t.

See, Christians have this easier (maybe). They have a holy writ, the Bible, from which their beliefs spring from. The idea of being a Christian is to follow the teaching of Jesus ben Joseph, otherwise known as Jesus Christ. The basic concept is that in following these teachings that, as a follower, you become more like Christ. Yet, even with the anchor stone of the Bible, Christians cannot agree who among that designation is or is not part of that group. Back when I worked in the college, one summer afternoon, I had lengthy discussion with someone I would describe as an evangelic Christian over the Christian nature of the Catholic faith. I pointed back to the anchor stone of the Bible as evidence of the Christian aspect of the Catholic faith. He pointed to the way the Catholic Church does not follow the teachings of Jesus ben Joseph as an example of how these followers were not Christians. All according to how he interpreted the Bible to be read. Yet both are part of the wider range of Christianity, depending on whose interpretation you follow.

So, in light of that difference within a faith, how do we define Paganism? Who gets to be in the “Big Tent” and who doesn’t? Because this is going to help determine the definitive lines that need to be drawn in the sand to identify what is a Pagan and what is not. Right? If you believe (x), you get to be in.

There was a Facebook page surrounding a post from Patheos which slowly devolved into what seemingly is an online pushing match on the playground of Paganism. The pushing match was a result of soft polytheists feeling that hard polytheists were creating the definitions of how the Gods can or cannot be approached or worked with. The Patheos post is here. Give it a read, if you like. Personally, I thought the article (opinion piece, if you prefer) was quite well written. Yes, it is written from a hard polytheism point of view. It also approaches matters from a theological stand point, which I have no desire to go into. I’m not a Theologian. I don’t even play one on tv. I certainly did not perceive the post as trying to create holy writ or even telling soft polytheists that they are completely wrong. However, in a Facebook thread (I do not have permission to link you there) it was taken that way by a lot of soft polytheists. Now, I bring up this thread to not only round out the entire pushing match, but to also provide an example of what I am not in favor of doing: creating lines in the sand of what is or is not Paganism.

So, 870+ words into all of this and I have danced and wiggled (don’t visualize) around the entire concept of defining Paganism. What defining construct do we have that makes us all Pagans? Off the top of my head, we all have an innate love of our Natural world. But then, this makes me believe that we might need to determine what is and what is not the “Natural World.” Technology is a part of our world. Just as the concrete and glass buildings we have created to reach into the clouds are also a part of our world. Perhaps an easier thought would be that we all try and to find a balance between the wild aspect of our environments and the parts that we have “tamed” to provide easier living conditions for us, the human beings of this planet. Some Pagans reach for magick within their everyday existence. Some, such as myself, don’t. That makes us different, but surely despite the difference – we can agree on the existence of magick in many ways and formats, some which we cannot explain readily to others because of a lack of corner stones from where to attach commonality for proper discourse. Perhaps, Paganism is merely the wide-ranging umbrella term that we believe it to be. A term that describes individuals that live a life not bound by a holy writ, such as the Bible or the Koran or whatever set of rules and documents created long ago. Perhaps Pagans are those people who live their lives not bound to such rules. Pagans reach out and connect with their environment openly and find the Paths that are most suitable to each individual.

We satisfy our endless needs and justify our bloody deeds
In the name of destiny and in the name of God

And you can see them there on Sunday morning
Stand up and sing about what it’s like up there
They called it paradise, I don’t know why
You call some place paradise, kiss it goodbye

The Eagles, “The Last Resort”

Perhaps, a more on-point perspective might be this. Christians live their lives here on Earth, looking for a better life beyond. Life here is disposable. Their desire is the life beyond this one. Pagans, on the other hand, live in there here and now. We find ways to be the caretakers of this planet because we want to be alive today and leave a livable environment for generations to come. We are not looking for a more glorious place in the After Life. But then again, this is coming back to describing what we are not, rather than what we are.

A better solution might be to jettison all the Christian comparisons and develop our anchor stones a little better. Pagans are those who live their lives connected to the world around them and in some cases to the worlds beyond. Pagans found comfort and wisdom in the environment and try their best to blend the wild aspects of the world with the environments that have been created to keep us more comfortable. As for the everlasting battle between the hard and soft polytheists – and including those that don’t fall into either camp – everyone experiences the Gods (or God and Goddess or the Unknown) differently. We are all individuals, not clones. Our experiences are different, even if we name the resulting part differently.

Now, if all this makes sense to you, come and explain it to me, ok? No, I’m kidding. What I will tell you is this – all of this is my opinion. Its not holy writ of any kind. I am one thousand percent confident that there will be folks that disagree with me. Yes, even Pagan ones. Because if every single Pagan in this world agreed with me, I would need to find another planet to live on. That would frighten me beyond belief.

So what is a Pagan? And can we make it a definition that draws lines to absolutely define what a Pagan is? Well, you’ve got one opinion here. If we work at it, we can find nine other Pagans to voice their opinion too. We might be able to break the record and get fifteen different opinions. 🙂 All I know is that if you define yourself as a Pagan, take it super serious and constantly continue on the life-long exploration to find what works for you and what doesn’t…you’re a Pagan in my book, for whatever that’s worth. I’m not entirely sure I have answered any question with all of this. However, I do hope all of this has provided some food for thought – even if the conversation is just between you and yourself.

–T /|\

Every night I stare up at the stars and am thankfully for the life I am living now. A life defined by my personal beliefs. Its a freedom I never take for granted.