Be a Yuh-Jung Youn. Be a Lady Gaga

This past Sunday evening, I hit “record” on the receiver for the Academy Awards. It was the first time in a very, very long time that I’ve intentionally watched an awards show. The Movie “Dune” was up for several awards, and I was curious enough to watch, hoping it would win. In several categories, it did. But there two moments that stood out for me in the show, and no – neither one of them was Will Smith giving Chris Rock exactly what he deserved.

Granted, the slap and interchange between the two that was all video and no sound for America, has continued to receive the most press, this year’s Academy Awards should not be defined by that rather ugly moment. Make no mistake about it, it was the most talked about moment on Monday, and continues to suck the oxygen out of the room where the Academy Awards is concerned.

The two moments that had me in tears were the moment when Yuh-Jung Youn presented the Supporting Actor award to Troy Ktsur, and Lady Gaga with Liza Minelli presenting the Best Picture Award. Both moments define the ideas of kindness, selflessness, and caring – just beautiful and touching acts of the parts of Yuh-Jong and GaGa.

Yuh-Jung made notations about how she had been slightly annoyed at the previous awards when people mispronounced her name over and over. Yet here she was presenting an award to people whose names she could barely pronounce. She apologized before continuing for any mispronunciations she would incur from her poor English skills. After announcing the nominees, she opened the envelope, and stopped. She then signed Kotsur’s name, and then announced it verbally into the microphone. When Kotsur approached her on the stage to accept his award, she handed it to him, and then signed what I presume to be her congratulations. A little further on, she acknowledged that she had just learned how to sign that statement and Kotsur’s name earlier that day just in case he won the award. In Kotsur’s acceptance speech, which he signed and was translated by a member of his party, he told the heart-breaking story of how an accident had left him paralyzed and unable to sign.

Just when I thought I was past the point of hardcore emotions, Lady Gaga comes out with the incomparable legend Liza Minnelli to present the Picture of the Year award. Liza was in a wheelchair looking visibly frail, and somewhat confused on what she needed to do. I began to think we were about to watch an award show low. Then Lady Gaga gripped Liza’s hand and telling Liza that everyone just adored her. A huge smile came to Liza’s face, and she again tried to start again, laughing at her own missteps. Then Lady Gaga leaned down and quietly said “I got you” and liza responded with an even quieter “I know.” Instead of running over Liza through the segment, Lady Gaga showed deference to Liza, beaming with absolute joy at being able to stand next to the ‘Cabaret” Oscar winner. During the acceptance speech by the “Coda” entourage, Lady Gaga could be seen in the background at the curtain’s edge – still holding Liza’s hand, beaming as if this moment was all she really ever wanted.

Over the past few years, I have preached on and on about how kindness was paramount. In those two moments on Sunday night, I witnessed the epitome of what I have talked about. How spending just a quick amount of time to learn to sign someone’s name and a congratulations message JUST IN CASE the actor in question won his category, that’s an act of selflessness. Yuh-Jung wanted to ensure that the moment would be all Kotsur’s…that he wouldn’t have to wait for translator to state what she had spoken. Instead, she wanted Kotsur to get the message from her first. His moment spoken in his words. Lady Gaga showed patience, understanding, kindness, deference, and love to Liza Minnelli through her actions standing there with her.

On a night that seems Hells-bent to showcase a violent, ugly moment – these moments of beauty are being pushed under the waves, seemingly forgotten. For me, these were two of the greatest moments of the entire show. Moments, I’m not going to forget anytime soon. People always ask me what epitomizes a Pagan or a Druid, and some of my first notations usually fall along these lines. Most Pagans and Druids that I know are concerned with others before themselves. If there is one thing that my Pagan Path has taught me over thirty-five years – care and concern for others is paramount. Particularly when we have the power and capacity to do so. We’ve had plenty of moments over the last three years where people have needed us. Many have stepped into the breach to be there. Several people that I know have had life altering experiences. Some have lost loved ones. I can’t fathom what they are feeling, after all we all have different waves of emotions to life-altering experiences. Many of them are too far away for me to offer anything more than an ear to bend or a virtual hug. That does wear on me, as these are folks that are near and dear to my heart and soul. But I offer what is within my power and capacity to give and provide. It’s the very least I can do.

In world that has spent so much time dealing with a pandemic, a war, over-reaching and over-bearing politics…be a Yuh-Jung Youn. Be a Lady Gaga. Even when faced with your own adversity, your own tragedies. You never know who might be watching, who might gain some strength from your example. We grieve when we need to grieve, how we need to grieve. But we can use the examples of Lady Gaga and Yuh_jung Youn – among so many, many others – to guide our feet and our actions to being more kind, more compassionate, more giving….

–T /|\

Photo by Jasmine Carter on Pexels.com

Thinking About: I Wish Everything Would Just Go Back to the Way It Was

It broke. You can’t put it back together again. You can’t go back to the way it was before. You can only go forward.

Long, long ago, this was a piece of advice that my very first High Priestess gave to me. I cannot remember the specific “why” that prompted the statement, but I do remember pieces of the long talk we had. This has been a solace to every single fuckup I’ve done. Like many folks, I’ve got some major moments in my past, some not that far ago. But every single time, after I’ve grieved over the loss of what happened, after I’ve finished slamming myself for being an idiot – every single time I’ve come back to her words. It’s a reminder to get up, slap the dust off my clothing, and continue forward.

I’ve uttered those infamous words quite a few times before.

I wish everything would just go back to the way it was.

Except that it can’t. Once something is broken, it can be repaired or even replaced. The repaired item is still broken, its just been patched up to be ALMOST what it was. The replaced item may seem the same, but its still a replacement. Once something is broken, there is nothing that can take it back to what it once was. This is easily noted in looking at a vase. I knocked it off the table, and it broke. I glued it back together and repainted it. It looks just the same, but its integrity is not as strong as it was before. Its not completely whole either. There was a small chip that I couldn’t find in the pieces that I glued back together. Replacing the vase with another means that a different vase is there now. It looks the same, but its not. I cannot go back to the vase that it was yesterday.

Yesterday, I was watching Babylon 5 (my favorite SciFi tv show) and ran across a moment that really dove-tailed into my thoughts for this post.

Dr. Stephen Franklin: I realize that I always defined myself in terms of what I wasn’t. I wasn’t a good soldier like my father. I wasn’t the job. I wasn’t a good prospect for marriage or kids. Always what I wasn’t, never what I was. And when you do that, you miss the moments. And the moments are all we’ve got. When I thought I was going to die, even after everything that’s happened, I realized I didn’t want to let go. I was willing to do it all over again, and this time I could appreciate the moments. I can’t go back, but I can appreciate what I have right now. And I can define myself by what I am instead of what I’m not.
Captain John Sheridan: And what are you?
Dr. Stephen Franklin: Alive. Everything else is negotiable.

Babylon 5, Season 3, Episode 21, “Shadow Dancing”

In this moment, Dr. Franklin is noting that he had been defining his life in terms of what he wasn’t rather than what he is. But he makes a point that he “can’t go back” even as he had been “willing to do it all over again” just so he could “appreciate the moments.” For me, this is an important distinction. I’ve spent a good deal of my life putting in the penance for the moments that I’ve had a hand in fucking up. Blaming myself, defining who I am by the things that I did wrong. All of that makes for an unpleasant me. I’m always grumpy with myself. I’m always downgrading who and what I am. About a year ago, I had to change all of that.

Now, I look at who I am and see myself in a somewhat different light. I look at myself in terms of what I can do. I’m a technical troubleshooter. I might not have the answer. I might not know exactly how to solve the problem. However, I will do my damndest to resolve the issue to the best of my ability. Before, I would be afraid to let go of the issue and ask for help. But I understand the concepts, meanings, and needs of teamwork (thank you United States Air Force). I am not weak for asking for assistance. I have an opportunity to learn. When we succeed, I have someone(s) to celebrate the moment with.

Looking into the past, I have always viewed all the people that have come and gone in my life as the inevitable detritus of my hot mess of a life. But that’s not true either. Each one of those people were part of my life, part of the various moments of joy and beauty that I have had. In some cases, we didn’t part on good terms, but that doesn’t diminish those moments. As Dr. Franklin noted in that scene from Babylon 5, “the moments are all we have.”

We can’t go back to the past. We can’t make thing the way they were. That even goes for laws. We make laws. We change laws. We rescind laws. We bring laws back. But when we bring laws back, rarely are things the same way again. I’ve said it a lot – we are all unique. That even goes for the moments that we have, the moments that we encounter. Over time, we change, we evolve, we experience. All of that changes us incrementally. When we encounter one another again, things are different because we are now, not yesterday. We live now, not yesterday. We live now for the experiences of tomorrow.

–Tommy /|\

You Fail, You Learn, You Get Back Up Again

Not that far in the rear-view mirror, life approached me with a change. Turned out to be a dead-end on my travels, but I still felt the need to explore it. Even if it was just long enough to realize I needed to double-back to the previous crossroads. Life tosses all kinds of curveballs at us in our lifetimes. Sometimes, we just take the pitch – sometimes we swing for the fences – if you’ll pardon the baseball descriptive there. One of my favorite baseball players – Pete Rose – was once reported to have said, “you get exactly zero hits when you don’t swing the bat.” I’m not completely sure that Pete ever said any such thing, but its true. Unless you take a chance by swinging the bat, there will be no hits coming in your line score.

When I first joined the Air Force, I was naïve, unlearned, and completely ignorant of what I was capable of doing. My first “job” was working the base switchboard at night. I answered and connected phone calls in the over-night hours. Occasionally, I would have to call up the radio bridge for emergency issues on the runway. In this tole, I connected commanders together from their radios or their local digital telephone locations, as well as the command post. A function of that job was to keep track of these commanders during their day, and relay that information to the command post. Once, I dropped the Director of Operations off of an incoming bird-strike IFE (In-flight Emergency). I had to quickly reconnect him, as well as identify my operator number as well. He “visited” me in the small switchboard communications room afterwards. A two-star general knocked on my duty station’s door, strode past me, and sat down in my operator’s chair. I quietly closed the door, moved to stand in front of him, and stood at the position of attention.

“You messed up kid,” he quietly commented.

“Yes sir.”

“What happened?”

“My finger slipped when I was connecting the Base Commander to the communications bridge. The result was my disconnecting you. I apologize, sir. There is no excuse on my part, nothing but incompetence.”

“Sit down kid,” he motioned to the second controller’s chair, which was empty because it was the night hours. I sat down immediately, my eyes never leaving his. “You fucked up. That’s all. It happens. Try not to let it happen again. We all make mistakes; we all learn from them.” With that he got up, opened the door and closed it quietly behind him.

I would remember this moment when I had airmen who made mistakes on shift in the Sembach Command Post. Its not the mistake that is the issue. It’s a learning moment. Its when the mistake happens over and over again. That’s when there is a problem, and a training issue. I sure do wish people in today’s corporate environment would understand that. Firing people over a simple, first-time mistake rectifies nothing. There’s nothing served except your ego that you “fixed” the problem by terminating someone’s career.

All of that is nice, but how does this equate to Paganism and/or Druidry? Well, we make mistakes in our studies. We have errors of judgment in dealing with other people. We learn from those moments too. In one ritual that I was a part of – back in the Wiccan days, we were celebrating a full moon. We had a lot of candles that were lit. The five of us were in robes. The High Priestess decided to be a little playful and bent over the north candle. Flipping her robe up to reveal her bare rear-end, she exclaimed: “Check out this full moon!” We all chuckled at the levity of the moment, but when she pulled her robe upwards, part of her sleeve was directly over the candle, which set her robe on fire. After some shrieking and yelling, we put out her robe without her receiving any injuries. She had made a mistake…she had not practiced safety around an open flame, a practice that all of us had been taught from her on our first days within the coven. Luckily, it was only an embarrassing moment, and not an injurious one.

When I make mistakes, I tend to lay the blame at my own feet. All of it. Rarely do I share any of the blame. In my eyes, I should know better. I could have done better. The fault is all mine. I alone accept the blame. Except that isn’t always true. I have a bad habit of taking others’ blame and pulling it to myself, so as to protect them or shield them from the consequences. That’s great for martyrdom, but it doesn’t do a damn thing to rectify an issue going into the future. Everyone involved in an issue has to realize and accept their own measure of blame, if everyone is to learn. Otherwise, the issue happens over and over again. Soon, it becomes a visible pattern that others can see. Sometimes, the individual cannot see the forest for the trees. However, if there was someone who needed to share culpability in an issue…its not my responsibility to bring them to that understand. Mine is to deal with myself…learn what I can, make reparations where I can. I cannot and will not be responsible for the needs and necessary learning of others.

The good part in all of this? Well, everyone makes mistakes. Everyone learns from those mistakes. But everyone also succeeds. Our lives are not just mistakes and tragedies. We have successes and triumphs as well. There are lessons to learn there as well. Believe me, life is more than just living and breathing. Life is about existing, experiencing, learning, succeeding, and even failing. And failing does hurt. Its ok to sit in the path, rub your ass, and shed a few tears for failing. Its just as important to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and ignore any laughter at your missteps. Everyone fails…everyone gets back up too. The question of when and how…that’s left completely up to you.

–Tommy /|\

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Thinking About: Rituals, Gatherings, Druidry Alone, Paganism Together

Rituals, gatherings. Its a part of being a Pagan. Its also a part of being a Christian, a Muslim, a Hindu, a human being – its literally a part of life. Some rituals are simple. Chew your food twelve times before swallowing is a ritual that people make for their eating habits. Anyone around me at breakfast on the second day of camp can attest that I don’t always practice this ritual. Or it can be as simple as what a batter does between pitches in a baseball game. Sean Casey, a first baseman, was once described as a “human rain delay” since he always adjusted his batting gloves, stretched his lower back, and took two practice swings between every pitch. 😊 Rituals can be elaborate, such as a Catholic mass. Most likely rituals tend to fall somewhere between those two points. So does the symbolic nature or intent of a ritual, but the point is that we have these rituals in our lives.

Every Pagan/Druid camp I have been involved in has had three rituals (sometimes more) for their event. An opening ritual thanking the Gods and the participants for attending the event (most have been three days in length), a main ritual addressing the point on the Wheel of the Year, and a closing ritual thanking the participants and the Gods for being a part of the event. That’s a simplistic explanation, but you get the idea.

Everyone has a different approach to ritual – particularly group ritual. In the camps and events I have attended, its not uncommon to hear the phrase “robe up” before any ritual or initiation that was to take place. Essentially, it’s a clarion call to everyone to get ready for the ritual. Some take their participation extremely serious and have similar expectations of others. Tardiness, otherwise jokingly referred to as “Pagan Standard Time” is heavily frowned upon. Those attending wearing street clothing instead of some type of ritual garb are seen as “not being totally serious.” On the other side of the spectrum are those that miss the boat on these stringent non-vocal “rules.”

I’m in-between where the clothing/dress-up factor is concerned. I wear my cloak to rituals, but underneath, I tend to dress in my usual street clothes. Usually this is a Rush or Grateful Dead t-shirt combined with whatever jeans I happen to have on, and my tennis shoes or hiking boots (depending on how cold/wet it is outdoors). I’ll carry my staff with me. I’ll add a photo here for you to get the general idea. I wear the cloak because I like it. Its green because I like to blend into my surroundings in the forest – at least somewhat. Plus, wearing white isn’t exactly a great idea here in the deep south of America. Everything else that I wear is about comfort and utility…not looks, including the staff. My old, fat self sometimes needs something to help with standing for long periods of time. I’m a firm believer that people should dress in what is comfortable and suitable for themselves…even when it “clashes” with the “fashion” of the circle. In my thinking, the Gods could give two shits about how we dress, They accept us as we are. But that’s my two quid into the soup…

Anyone that has attended rituals with me and the shenanigators that I tend to be around with in camp…know about the little giggle sessions we tend to have much of the time. Its not disrespect for the ritual, its an affirmation that we are together, and living life. We are all quite capable of keeping ourselves composed at appropriate moments and during appropriate ritual points. We giggle and carry-on because we’re together, happy to be with one another again, and enjoying life. That is, after all, one of the unspoken functions of these gatherings, being together to enjoy life and one another.

Lastly is the dreaded Pagan Standard Time issue. I’ve watched the toe-tapping and frowning in my direction when I am late for some rituals and events. I’ve learned to flat out ignore it. I’ve also learned to flat out ignore the sullen commentary made when others are running on Pagan Standard Time. Nine times out of ten, its not their fault. Traffic in a large metro area can be difficult at any given moment or time, regardless of how “prepared” someone tried to be. I’ve always tried my best to set my life into a position of patience and understanding when “stuff happens.” Plus, I’m fairly certain that the Gods aren’t going to be upset if the ritual starts twenty minutes later or if Susie couldn’t make it on time to take her role in the ritual and had to be replaced at the last minute by Betty. Its taken a lot of my thirty-four years within Paganism to become more patient and understand…but I’ve managed it. Surely others could as well, but I can’t speak for them.

So, what’s a ritual for? What are these gatherings meant for us to do? Should we all be on our collective knees throughout the event so that we lie prostrate before our Gods? Humbling ourselves before the Beings that we give reverence to. Well, I work with two Trickster Gods who spent a lot of my earlier teachings getting me to understand the significance of having a spine and respect for myself – even when approaching Them or any other God. Certainly, the Gods deserve our respect, and even our awe. But my Gods didn’t want me crawling before Them. The same holds true for rituals and gatherings. There are times for somber, quiet, serene reflection. But we are together. We celebrate being here still – together. We will laugh, carry-on, hug, and act like incomparable children. We are celebrating Life, another turn of the Wheel. We will also spend time remembering those who couldn’t attend, and those who have passed beyond the veil since the last time we laid eyes on one another. We will also celebrate all the new people we will met, learning about them as they learn about us. Welcoming them into our family that exists physically for a few days, and much longer beyond.

I’ve never viewed Pagans as a dour people, constantly bending their knees to the Gods, never smiling, never cavorting in the celebration of daily existence. Honestly, if I wanted that – I would have stayed in the southern Baptist faith back when I was seventeen. Ritual is an observance of a point in time that has meaning in our lives. There are serious moments to be had, but I’ve always seen it as an extension of the gathering – not the source of it. How you dress – matters not one bit. What matters is what is in your heart and in your soul. If reverence and serene activity is what you equate to ritual – awesome. That works for you. That’s not where my mind takes me. Its not where my soul feels free to express itself. Every gathering I attend, every ritual I observe, every step of every day…I try my very best to find the joy in my life. That’s far easier among my Pagan family. I may practice my Druidry alone, but I don’t live my life in solitude.

–Tommy /|\

Morning Musings After Camp With a Cup of Coffee and Light Rain

This morning, I am sitting here listening to Boston’s 1976 self-titled album, an album that reminds me so much of being alive. A musical work of art that gets my blood flowing after a weekend of Druids. Sounds like a disease, doesn’t it? I’ve got a case of the Druids. Well, hopefully there’s some kind of over the counter, topical medication that help me with that, eh? Only bad thing about it…its catching. And I really don’t want to cure it. 😉

For me, being back in a Druid camp, particularly the OBOD Gulf Coast Gathering, is a time of glee. I get to have fun, giggle, snort, hug people I haven’t seen in a long while, and meet new people that are (sometimes) taking their first steps into this whacky world of Druids. I get to share their enthusiasm for life and share our genuine love for one another. I have been to every single Gulf Coast Gathering – something I didn’t know until it was loudly announced in camp. Every single one, as I think back, has been a strong anchor point within my life.

My very first GCG was my Bardic initiation. A moment I will never forget. I can still see the faces of the people that were standing in on that initiation. Many of them have become very large parts and influences within my life. I really couldn’t see my life being of any equal value without them in my life. My fourth GCG was my Ovate initiation. Many of those same people were in that initiation as well – only reaffirming who they are in my life. Standing in on the initiations of others over the span of these GCG events, I only hope that I make similar, appropriate marks in the lives of so many others who are taking their first steps in this Path.

One thing I’ve noticed about camp over the years is that the energy is the same with small, subtle differences. New faces add to the mystery and excitement. Feeling their energies of excitement at being in camp and “finding” so many others that are “just like them” are stark reminders of how I felt when I came to my first GCG. Watching these new faces forming those bonds that will be strengthened over the coming months apart, how they go from moments of apprehension to moments of joy and happiness are amazing to watch and even more incredible to re-experience from a position outside of those moments.

Now, I’m not one of the people that enjoy being around a boisterous night-time campfire. The bardic nature of those that were at the campfire made for wonderful music and sounds to fall asleep to. I’m not sure that those out by the fire understood how much their accompanying playfulness were such an assist for some serene sleep. By the way, this was the first year that I have ever stayed in camp. Gas prices made it prohibitive to pull the trailer down to the event, and the distance to a hotel was just too great. Honestly, the dormitory accommodations were not the greatest for my back and sleeping in a sleeping bag only reminds me how far into the past my military years are now. So, having a large group of Bards essentially singing me to sleep was helpful. 😊

Rituals are a huge part of camp. After all, we are all gathered for more than just shenanigans that carry over from sunlight to darkness. This year, there weren’t as many folks in camp as the years before. Lingering concerns over COVID, and the HUGE jump in gas prices right before camp probably were the primary contributing factors. This meant that it was easier to hold rituals in smaller areas, providing a much cozier feel. I found the opening and main ritual to have a stronger feel and energy that was quite amazing to feel.

This year’s camp was also held in a site that was smaller than the typical camp at Fountainbleau State Park. Tickfaw State Park’s accommodations may have been smaller in size than many of the long-time participants were used to, but the energy and enthusiasm of all that were there made for a camp that had a very similar feel to those previous events. Tickfaw, much like Fountainbealu, had hurricane damage. Unlike Fountainbleau (further to the east), Tickfaw had not sustained as much damage to buildings. However, there were tress that had been downed everywhere. During a walk that I took along the roadway, the forested areas at the side of the war reminded me of older, forested areas of Germany that are not heavily populated. The downed trees and the resulting scattered and broken limbs made traversing into the forested areas nearly impossible. Still, the entire park had the feel of pulling back to a new, coming future. Nature has such a wonderful capacity for bouncing back and returning from the most devastating moments.

I didn’t pull my phone out that often, mostly because I didn’t want to read the continual coverage of the war in the Ukraine. I know my mind really needed a break from the depravity of humans killing other humans on the whim of one man’s unhinged nature. Seeing the devastation in Tickfaw certainly brought back the images of burned out, bombed out buildings that were once thriving, modern towns, and cities (and in some cases, older cities with touches of a modern flair). Seeing the small, green sprigs of life appearing in various places among the detritus of such a strong storm were heartening reminders that new life does come forward, even after the worst of times.

So, I sit here with a warm cup of coffee, looking out the window as the rain begins to lightly fall here. Central Tejas has been in drought conditions for such a long time. Any rain, even with the threat of tornadoes mixed in, has a welcome ring to it. Having camp for the first time after cancelling the last two years over COVID, well, it’s a lot like seeing rain here. It was a welcome moment to be among the people who have become an important part of my life. The people who are family to me…even if I just met them for the first time in my life over the weekend.

I don’t agree with everyone’s perspective on a wide variety of things – even the people in camp. But despite our differences in opinion and perspective, I am reminded by a vow we all speak in ritual that those differences don’t define who we are as people.

We swear, by peace and love to stand, heart to heart and hand in hand. Mark, oh spirits and hear us now, confirming this, our sacred vow.

I’ve spoken that vow many, many times in rituals over the years. Its never meant as much to me as it does now. Two annual gatherings cancelled. Absence may make the heart grow fonder, but absence is also a reminder of how important people are in your lives. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without any of them. Those that were there, those that couldn’t make, and those who have passed beyond the veil since we last hugged at a Gulf Coast Gathering. And none of this even expresses how important other Druids have been in my life – Cat, Nimue, Kristoffer, and so many others. For me, I stand with these family members, hand in hand. Sometimes physically, sometimes just in spirit…some that I have known for years, some I have just met, others I’ve not encountered yet….but none less than the others. I may practice my Druidry alone, but there is no way I can practice my life without any of these people.

–Tommy /|\

Howling Into the Wind: Stories, Attitudes, Life

Stories are a part of our lives. These tales are an everyday aspect of what we do, who are, and why we do things. Did you go to the grocery store? You can mold that into a story. Had a wild day at work? You can let that take shape as well through creative thinking. You didn’t have issues with the copier machine and its fidgety toner cartridge. No. You had to tussle ith the controls of your space freighter, trying to maneuver into position before the Imperial Destroyer pulled you in and boarded your ship. You didn’t take reports from the printer and bring them back to your cubicle. You gathered up the secret data reports that had been entrusted to you and hid them in various places where you smuggle items through the Imperial blockade. Your reports will provide the Rebellion with the information needed to take down the HP LaserJet Death Star before it can ruin any other planetary civilizations with its foul stench.

Yeah, a lot of this can be categorized as having a “creative imagination.” But those stories are also a creative outlet for your daily life. Just as the myths and legends we read about provide daily life lessons, if we look just a touch deeper or if we can slightly bend the story in this manner to shape a bit more snuggly against our daily reality. We have stories in our lives…not just the myths, not just the legends, not just the fictional books and movies that we digest like a handful of Trick-or-Treat snack-sized Snickers bars.

This weekend I will be at the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids Gulf Coast Gathering. Stories are a part of camp. Tales around the campfire, myths and legends in some of the daily discussions….I even told a tale of a screen door banging in the breeze – mistaken as a boar. That happened during a previous Gulf Coast Gathering. Unfortunately (ha!) that particular tale has had legs since then…having been told again and again around the night-time campfire.

Sometimes, stories turn out to be half truths or even no-truths that are stated to harm someone in some manner. Sadly, it’s a fact of life. Sometimes, we have to grab for the veracity of a story when we hear it, to be sure of what we are hearing. Sometimes stories are just speculation that has sprouted legs or wings and suddenly has travel plans. So not all tales are to be believed. But sincerely, stories are a daily part of our existence.

I try my best to convey stories within the blog post, usually about my past, to convey a point. Well written, very descriptive perspectives can convey us to other realities. For instance, the Star Wars movies or the Matrix movies (don’t talk about the newest installment, I’ve not seen it yet). Embedded in these stories from galaxies and times far, far away are truths. Many of the truths of the Seeker can be found throughout both franchises. I have often found myself referencing Star Wars moments to be able to convey a thought more clearly.

A particular example comes to mind with the coming initiations that I will have the joy and honor of attending. In Star Wars IV, when Luke is using the light saber for the first time against the training drone, he remarks to Obi Wan that he felt that he could sense something there – what he believes is his first encounter with the force. Obi Wan replies with “That’s good. You have taken your first step into a larger world.” This is a story moment that resonates with anyone who has seen Star Wars IV. The scene is iconic, and well known. But what does it mean? Now we’re getting deeper into the area of story.

When we tell our stories, our legends, our myths – the imagery we use will look and feel different for everyone. No one will feel the same thing exactly. That’s because we all process information differently than everyone else. We are unique in this direction. That’s because our experiences are unique. We can feel similar things, but not always the same as someone else. For instance, try to define the feeling of love. How do you feel when you’re in love? How do you know that what you are feeling at that moment is a deep love and not a shallow one? What about anger? Or the easiest of emotions to reach for – hate? I think we will find similar explanations from person to person…but nothing EXACTLY the same. The same holds true for processing imagery from stories. I can even bet that a story told orally will be experienced far differently from one that is read. The storyteller has the inflections that they wish to make, the tonal nature of a passage where an emphasis is to be placed. When you read, those inflections are left up to you. And if you have experienced the storyteller’s oral version, I can almost bet you will hear their voice, their inflections when you read the story.

Considering the concept of processing the story, have you ever watched a movie that was made from a beloved book or book series? Have you ever been enraged over some of the characters been entwined into a single entity? Its done for the sake of the movie or tv series time and in the number of actors on the screen. However, it can be quite jarring to those who have read the story before they encounter an oral telling of it. Consider that a bit when you are doing the play-acting I described in the beginning. Your version of the story is born out in your attitude.

I watched an interview with the late Jerry Doyle at a national Babylon 5 conference. Doyle played the head of Security for the Babylon 5 station, Michael Girabaldi. Before the convention, there had been rumors running around that he had been in a coma for a few weeks, which he affirmed in the interview. But he noted that afterwards, he decided to make changes to his life, so as to accentuate the positive more. He explained a rite of life that he had done every day since he came out of the coma. He said that each morning he got up before the sunrise and watched it come up over the horizon. He then followed that with a quote that has stuck with me in my own life since then: “Every morning that you get up is the start to a new day. It can be a good day or a shitty day. That all depends on how things go. But at the start you have a choice. Life is short. So, why would you want to wake up in the morning and decide to have a shitty day?”

Your life is your story. You get to tell it. You can have ups and downs in your adventures. But its still your adventure to tell. Its your adventure to have. Remember, you wake up each day with a choice. Good day? Shitty day? Why would you ever want to choose the second??

Finally, a reminder. Since I am at OBOD Gulf Coast Gathering, I won’t be posting this weekend. Instead, I’ll drop the weekend post on Monday and then continue on again with the Tuesday/Thursday/Weekend format from there. 😊 Thanks for reading….

–Tommy /|\

Thinking About: Rituals, Initiations, and the Future

In just a few days, I will be ensconced among Druids for the first time in over two years. I’m excited, nervous, and calm about the entire concept – all at the same time. I haven’t seen Pagans since Austin WitchFest back in 2020, right before the specter of COVID had risen. Life was far different back then. Far different indeed. Since then, Life has calmed down a bit more. Less chaos means better focus, at least for me. The coming of Gulf Coast Gathering also means a return to some responsibilities that I promised myself to hold.

Gulf Coast Gathering is where I initiated into the Bardic and Ovate grades. Its also where I intent to initiate into the Druid grade (if possible). The folks that run this event have become extended family for me, as have several of the attendees. There are always opportunities to participate in the rituals and initiations. My typical attitude has always been to volunteer for this before camp is even brought of the cars and vehicles to be setup. I’ve always tried to be faster than Katniss Everdeen volunteering as tribute for her sister. To me, its not just a responsibility to be helping out…for me, it’s a requirement.

True, others might not see things in that manner. There are some that might see this as a chore – something that pulls them away from socializing. There’s no harm in any of that. Socializing is a huge (and important) part of camp. It draws people together and creates strong bonds that have the potential to last lifetimes. But for me, participating in the rituals and the initiations (the ones I am allowed to participate in) is something I owe to my collective Druidry. Its an offering of the Self to those who are crossing their thresholds into their grades. In the ritual, its an offering to the collective community that is gathered there, as well as to the Spirits of Ancestor and Place – and even to the Gods.

When I started down my road in Paganism, I was always reluctant to take any participative role in a ritual. I didn’t want to be the one that was fumbling through my lines. I didn’t want to be the one whose lighting method didn’t work for the candle at my assigned quarter. I didn’t want to be in the spotlight for anything that would go wrong. I was new to Paganism. I just KNEW I was going to find some way to fuck it up. Even after I had been “trained” in how to handle a role within ritual, I still didn’t want to have that spot. I just didn’t want to be THAT part of the ritual that gets remembered. My teachers, at that time, were quite stern with me over my reluctance. I was told that my apprehension might be a suggestion of this “not being the Path for me.” Frankly, looking back, this may have been a major catalyst for why I’ve been a solo individual in my Pagan and Druidry perspectives.

Within my Path of Druidry, my attitude towards ritual started to change. I started to see the errors as “adding flavor” to what I’m doing. The slip-ups, the goofball moments added a touch of laughter, and removed some of the tension that had been building. Stumbling over words from another language became a place to stop, draw a deep breath, and try again. There was nothing terrible over these stumbling moments. What changed my attitude? The interest of two Trickster Gods. Coyote and Crow have been instrumental in learning some humility over my stumbling and trip-ups. I have learned that even the most solemn moments will contain these “rips in the time=space continuum.” Its ok to make mistakes. Everyone does it. Granted some people are gifted with solemn grace to move on from those moments. Others, like me, have to take a moment to giggle for a second – and another to get their composure back.

Being a participant in a ritual, particularly at a gathering, is a momentary sacrifice of yourself for all the attendees. Sometimes, that comes with comedy. Sometimes, it doesn’t. But it’s the spirit of remembering “why” you are taking place in the ritual. You are honoring the Gods. You are honoring the seasons. You are setting yourself in the place of being the ritual for those who have gathered. You are giving yourself over for others. In a manner of speaking, you are giving back. Others stood in the roles within my initiation, to make that moment special and unique for me. They did so in love and respect. I owe the same to my brothers and sisters in Druidry when they cross those thresholds too. I’ve been there. They will be there soon enough. I owe it to the future of Druidry to be there too. What? A bit too dramatic? Maybe, but it’s the truth. I stand in rituals to provide depth and experience for those who attend. I stand in initiations to celebrate Druidry as it moves forward within those initiates.

I’m not part of any Druid grove. I’m a solo Druid. My approach is singular. That is my choice. It’s the way that my Druidry works for me. However, just because I am solo doesn’t mean that I do not understand the importance of players within rituals or the need to welcome initiates as they cross the threshold into newer, deeper, more profound experiences. Nor do I diminish the significance of my being there. I am there because those moments are important. I am there because I should be. I understand the role, the significance, and the responsibility associated with it. Giving is a part of what I am as a Druid. I give my time and my energy freely, as others have done for me.

To the future…

–Tommy /|\

Photo by Dhivakaran S on Pexels.com

Thinking About: Compassion, Prayers, Hope – I’m Not the Warrior I Once Was

I have to admit, its hard to write about things lately. Images of the destruction in Ukraine are haunting reminders that not all is “right” with the world. I’m upset by what I see. I’m upset by what NATO won’t do to bring an end to all that chaos. But I also have to remind myself that there’s not much that I can do either.

That feeling of helplessness, of inactivity, of inability to be able to make any measured progress towards a substantial change…Its hard to quantify, but its there. And its such a crippling feeling. I have no money to provide to the refugees coming out of the war zones. At my age, and my health conditions, I’d be an ineffective combatant in the military excursions. All I can do is provide my empathy and curb my outrage towards my country’s leaders at what is occurring. The thing is, I understand their inaction. Having served as a member of a NATO command and control unit (Aliied Tactical Operations Center 3 in Sembach, Germany), I’m well aware of Article V and the limitations it presses into play in regards to a non-NATO country. Still, while NATO is following its own rules, it still feels “wrong” within my own soul to have countries stand on the sidelines, watching the attack on Ukraine in the same manner that a neighbor might stand in their backyard and watch the house next-door burn.

Some of the driving aspects of Druidry are aimed towards compassion for others, justice for those that have been wronged…but what happens when you can put neither into effect? For me, this is when I lean on my Gods that much harder. I am reminded that there is only so much I can do. So much that I can shoulder from others. I have my own issues to manage. I have my own needs to feed. If I were to shirk those responsibilities, I would be weakened further and not be of any use to others when I can truly make a difference. It’s a tough position to be reminded of, but there’s truth in it that I cannot push against.

I’m ex-military. I see conflicts like this one, and I feel that clarion call to action. I’m older now. Much older. I’m not the young man I once was. I have my share of health issues that have sapped my ability to be what I used to be. Answering a clarion call towards military-style response is no longer in these bones. The old saying of becoming the horse that was put out to pasture to live a comfortable life is a real thing. But my mind remains sharp. My empathy doesn’t get automatically turned off either. I can’t pick up a rifle and head into combat, but I can approach my Gods (and others) to find relief for those that need it.

Crow, Coyote, Abnoba…any Others that might hear what I ask. Please find ways to help the civilians within Ukraine find safety during this invasion. Help the families who lose loved ones in this senseless violence. Let them understand the bravery of their lost loved ones to stand in the face of tyranny. Help the Russian military members to realize that violence against people who were once citizens of the same conglomerate not that long ago are still the brothers and sisters they should remember. I know that I cannot ask You to stop things of history that are already in motion. All I ask is that the pain be lessened to any degree for those that need it.

Yes, I am doing the dreaded “thoughts and prayers” here. I have nothing else that I can offer. I refuse to handle spell work or magick within all of this. Unless you want to consider my simple prayer to the Gods to be such. I’m skint monetarily. I’m physically unable to be the warrior I once was. The Priestly side of things is all I have left in my quiver. I offer all I have left, knowing it is not nearly enough…not even close.

I know I am writing about things that many people don’t want to read or hear. They get enough of this from the news. Images of orphanages being emptied ahead of the troops. Apartment buildings burned out, collapsed, and looking devoid of all life. The sounds and sights of a military invader attacking civilians indiscriminately. The stories of families separating, as people transit from their civilian life to becoming the rag-tag defenders of their lands, way of life, and beliefs. Would I do the same in their shoes were this visited here upon my country? Of course, I would. Even within this older, somewhat broken shell. I would fight an invader with the same spirit that the Ukrainians are displaying. I pledged my life in the protection of the Constitution of this country, and its lands. For me, that oath never ended, and never will. I completely grok the spirit of the Ukrainian people.

I have always looked at the phrase of “thoughts and prayers” that gets bandied about by many Christians in this country as a completely useless phrase. Today, I understand it to some degree a little better. I have nothing else I can offer to the Ukrainian people. But I still hate the phrase. Especially coming from people who have a lot more than I do. But I can’t make them feel for others, especially for others that don’t match their political and religious mores. I can’t force people to do a damn thing, and I never want that kind of power over others. I still believe in people making up their own minds and offering their own actions – even when I disagree with them. When they turn on their televisions and watch the news like it’s a daily soap opera – I can’t force them to feel compassion for others. I can only wish for the day when I am as solvent as they are, so that I can help a bit more.

So, how do I work through this helplessness within my Druidry? Well, I start by remembering a battlefield axiom that I was taught in my eight years in the military. When you see others bleeding from wounds, you have to fix your wounds first. If you don’t sop the bleeding on yourself, you won’t be able to help others with their wounds. I’m in no position to help others in a manner that I wish to. So, I do what I can, and hope that’s enough for now. I do the best that I can. All I have to offer at this moment are my prayers to the Gods. For the moment, all I can do is hope that is enough.

–T /|\

Photo by Susanne Jutzeler on Pexels.com

Grocery Shopping for the Gods??

Your Gods must keep you rather busy.

Not really. My Gods are not really shoving me out into some cosmic battle or utilizing me to carry infinite messages or do Their grocery shopping or providing task after task after task. There is a lot of communication though. Lots of nudging me towards directions They want me to take. Lots of shoving when I get obstinate about doing things I’m not really in-tune with. But not so much in the realm of having things to do. For the most part, my trio of Gods are a lot more subtle in Their approach to this realm. Utilizing me is a more direct approach than what They seem to want. Of course, that’s just my guess. I don’t pretend to know the minds and motives of any of the Gods. I’m not that arrogant. I know my place.

I read and hear a lot of folks talking about how the Gods that they are working with and tied to have them doing this and that in Their name. Tasks, quests, sacrifices, etc etc. I’m thankful that my Gods are not pushing me to such a constant pace. More than one person has mentioned that I would “do good” within the ranks of The Morrigan. ::shrug:: No thanks. Hers are the front-line folks, the people that are choosing to grab weaponry and hit the lines. I grok that they see a coming “Storm”, a coming battle…I have no thirst to seek out battles. I’ll manage when, and if, the fight comes. If there is a battle to be had, I trust it will seek me out in due time. In the meantime, I do the best that I can to survive each day.

You’re being too complacent. Look at all the evil that’s in the world. We have to fight for what is right.

Part of fighting for what is right, in my mind, is not changing yourself into something you’re not. Not living your life in a way that compromises who and what you are. I have compassion for people. No matter what their ideology or perspective is. I believe that compassion comes from example, not from words on a page. I planted my flag on that hill, and that’s where I am. I’m not worried if anyone else thinks I’m right or wrong in what I am doing. I only worry that in what I do each day, that my feet remain on the Path that is within my soul.

Would you die for what you believe in? For the way of life that you are doing each day?

Of course I would. Anything else would be caving in and living a lie. I have no one else to be true to. I have no need to do what others do, if it goes against what I feel and have in my heart. I remember reading the Gods-awful “Left Behind” series. Aside from the fact that the two authors couldn’t write worth a shit, there was a scene where Christians were being herded into a concentration camp setting, where they were set in a queue to be questioned. If they professed their Christianity, they were executed on the spot. If they disavowed their Christianity, they were allowed to live within the concentration camp where they were further abused. Oddly enough, this same type of dystopian future is what I envisioned would happen to Pagans in the future when I first started down this Path. The reality is that neither scenario would be true. Yet, both Christians and Pagans hold on to this sinister view of the other side to this day.

So, you believe in the good nature of people?

To a point. All you have to do is peruse the headlines to see that not everyone holds a “live and let live” philosophy on life. I HOPE for the good nature of people. I HOPE for the caring side of people. I’ve been around the block enough times to know that not everyone is going to pass me by on my bicycle. Some folks will aim their cars at me and run me down…for whatever reason. Still, I HOPE for the good nature in others…that they will honk their horn at me as they pass by, waving and smiling.

What about your Gods? Do you believe that They have your best interests at heart?

Well, two of my three are Tricksters. It took a long time to get used to the sense of humor, the twisted delight and irony of being made into a fool for Their pleasure from time to time. But a lot of that was to teach me to have a bit more of a spine when dealing with people in this realm. Sometimes, bowing up to an issue or challenge can be painful. Abnoba, on the other hand, is a forest Goddess. There is a gentleness and kindness towards the forest within Her, which is always a gentle reminder that while taking a hard stance on an issue can be painful and hurtful to all parties involved, each wound can be healed with kindness as well. Over the last two years, I’ve started to understand the balance between Coyote and Crow on the one side, and Abnoba on the other (so Libra of me to tind that distinction!). My best interests though? The Gods have Their own perspectives, and They have their own ideas of an individual as insignificant as I am. However, I utilize a quote from the movie Troy to place a different perspective on things as well.

The Gods envy us. They envy us because we’re mortal, because any moment might be our last. Everything is more beautiful because we’re doomed. You will never be lovelier than you are now. We will never be here again.

Achilles, “Troy”

Really, I’m just me. One fabulously fucked up individual just trying to make it to the next morning in as few pieces as possible. Well, preferably a single piece… 😊 My Gods don’t drive my life or my existence. They are a part of what I do as a Pagan, Druid, Priest, teacher, and human being. But I’m not some pet to play frowit and fetch. I have my own choices to make. I have my own fuck-ups to make. I have my own fabulous finishes to reach. Sure, a lot of what I have noted here flies in the face of how others approach the Gods they work with and are tied to. But we are all individuals with our own choices on how we do or do not do things. Welcome to Free Will. Remember, your Paganism is your choices in action. You can do things your own way. You can do things the way that others do. You can mix and match to what works for you. The only person you have to answer to…is you. #JustSayin’

–Tommy /|\

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Thinking About: Connective Druidry, and Being a ‘Role Model’

In about a week and a half, I will find myself once again in Louisiana for the OBOD Gulf Coast Gathering. The last two years, the event has not been held over COVID concerns (rightly so). This year, there was some question over the possibility due to weather-related damages at the camp that has been used the previous years. However, this year’s camp will be held at a new location, a short distance to the west of where it was held before. I’m glad that this is occurring, as many of the people that attend or what I consider to be family. But there’s more than just that. There’s also the time spent around the fire – the talking, the singing, the laughing, the sharing of our lives together. That connectedness…that shit matters to me. The only thing that could keep me away? The cost of fuel to get there.

In yesterday’s blog post, I joked about my “Connective Druidry” but I am starting to think there’s something more there than just a catchy phrase. As I noted, my Druidry is about connections – connections to other people, to the environment around me, well…literally, everything. But there are folks that will ask me about my spell work, the rituals that I work with, how I work with my Gods….the stuff that a lot of other Pagans seem to place in that realm of “advanced Paganism” which I considered to be a garbage phrase. Connectivity includes all of that stuff. In my approach to Druidry…there’s nothing that places things in an “advanced” phrasing. Life isn’t set up in phases of 101, 201, 301, etc collegiate coursework. Life is….well, life. Druidry is the approach to living. Looking to connections and how things fit together to be a part of living.

In other words, you want to do spell work? Do it!! You want to emphasize rituals in your approach? Do it!! If neither of those calls to your spirit, that’s perfectly fine. At least try the stuff to determine how things go before you push it away. What works for you is what CONNECTS with you. That’s important. That’s the stuff that rocks your soul. That’s the stuff that makes you excited to approach each day with the hope of new eyes.

For me, its finding, exploring, understanding, and cultivating connections with everything around me. That’s my Druidry. That’s the stuff that excites me. That’s what drives me. Being out in the woods with a walking stick, a pair of good hiking boots, and a pack with water and some food…I have everything I need. Well, except for a pen and a journal to write with. Rituals…not so much. These have particular uses. So does spell work, but I don’t have tight connectivity with spells. It’s a tool that I don’t rely on for much. I know that runs as anathema to many other Pagans, but I would also note that not every Pagan does Paganism the same as others and that’s really ok. The point isn’t whether anyone is doing the stuff that you do. The point is that you are doing the things that bring meaning to your everyday life without causing harm to others.

In yesterday’s post, I was pointing out the openly outward connectivity that we have with others. The way that we provide others with the drive and determination to do what they are seeking – just by being there for them. Helping to inspire them to keep moving forward, to keep seeking. What about the ones we don’t know about? What about the ones who silently watch what we do, how we do it, when we do it?

I loathe the idea of being a role model for any individual. I am one fucked up individual. I have made some beautifully disastrous mistakes in my life – quite a few on display for the whole world to fucking see. In many respects, I am no one to model your life after. However, some people have found inspiration from me. So you never know who might be watching and what they might take away from what you do. A type of connectivity that you never see…and sometimes never know. I initiated into Bardic and Ovate grades at Gulf Coast Gathering. One of the folks who initiated into the Bardic grade with me was inspired to finish and be initiated into the Ovate grade the next year. He surprised me with the news when I arrived at camp that year – being the second person to welcome me face-to-face. Somewhere, somehow…he got inspiration from my push to move from Bardic to Ovate grade…and never made a comment to me until that day. Connectivity and inspiration that I never knew about.

There will be those who will poo-poo some of what I’ve said here. Truthfully, I’m ok with that. My life, as fucked up as it has been, has never been about gaining the approval of others. When I have stooped to that mark – going overboard to gain the approval of another – I’ve found that it wasn’t worth any of the effort. The approval I needed was my own.

At the end of The Breakfast Club, one of my favorite movies, the students had been asked to individual write a paper explaining to the principal who they thought they were. The group opted for a single member to write a paper that would explain each of them. Their answer:

We accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong. What we did was wrong, but we think you’re crazy to make us to write an essay telling you who we think we are. What do you care? You see us as you want to see us: in the simplest terms, the most convenient definitions. You see us as a Brain, an Athlete, a Basketcase, Princess, and a Criminal. Correct? That’s the way we saw each other at 7 o’clock this morning. We were brainwashed.

My perspective of “Connective Druidry” is not what I would consider to be commonplace. The aspects that I place emphasis do not follow the simplest ideas or the most convenient definitions. Many will see this as me placing myself into a “special” category…something “different”. Not really. My Druidry, just as your Druidry will be for you, is unique because I am unique. That’s not something “special” or “extra-ordinary”…its just me. I’m no super-hero. I’m no supreme Arch-Druid. I’m not even a leader, unless someone places me in those spots. Even then, I’d be more likely to shrug off the cape, push aside the symbolism – and still proclaim myself to be just the simple human being that I am. My connections make me what I am. My connections provide me with my strength, my inner definition…and I prefer it that way.

The sleep is still in my eyes
The dream is still in my head
I heave a sigh and sadly smile
And lie awhile in bed

Rush, “Soliloquy” “2112”

–Tommy /|\

Howling Into the Wind: Connectivity in Every Moment

Over the weekend, I drove about 1,250 miles (round-trip) to attend a funeral for a friend. The service was decidedly Christian, no surprise there. It was attended by somewhere close to seventy people. That was a touch of a surprise, given the relatively small size of the funeral services facility. Throughout the service, the pastor made references about how little he knew her, having just met her surviving family members just this past week. His sermon was sprinkled with references, including a piece of New Testament scripture, that referred to her as “salt seasoning” in the lives of those that had gathered. I found the reference to be a touch repulsive, but then I’m not a Christian. Plus, this is a touch of a sidetrack from what I am really wanting to write about.

I was surprised at the number of people that showed up for the funeral. There were people from many walks of her life. Of all the people there, I knew her the least amount of time (aside from the pastor). We had only met a few months prior. She seemed to be a nice person. Very into her children and her family. An insufferable Pokemon player like I am. But at the funeral, there were people from all the far corners of her life. All impacted by her very presence in their lives. There was talk of the practical jokes she played on her friends, her life-long infatuation with Matthew McConaughey, and her tireless efforts to be helpful both in life and at work.

All of it struck a touch of a nerve within my own life. How dod I connect with the other people in my life? What impact have I made in the lives of others? Or am I just an anomaly? An outlier in the datum of life? Quite a few years ago, I read a story about a homeless veteran who had passed away. The funeral director could find no relatives to contact for the burial process. He contacted law enforcement for a deeper assistance, finally giving up and deciding to provide a burial for the veteran at his own cost. An officer that had helped with the search for relatives decided to contact a reporter to run a story, hoping that this might bring out a relative that he had been unable to find. On the day of the funeral, he gathered his family together to attend the homeless veteran’s funeral. When they arrived, there were over two-hundred people who had also arrived for the funeral. None of them were related to the deceased. They had read the news story and arrived to pay their respects to the man because of his military service. I sometimes wonder if my funeral would wind up being the same thing – people showing up just because of my simple eight years in the Air Force.

The reality is that my life, much like this homeless man’s, was much more than just a few years of military service towards protecting the Constitutional guarantees of the citizens of this country. He had no one to sing his song. Not to sound egotistical, but I know of several people that would sing my song. There are several people that I know for whom I would gladly add my own verse to their song, including a few that I’ve never met.

My Druidry is highly focused on connections, the little ribbons of connectivity between myself and everything around me (jokingly, maybe I should call it “Connective Druidry”). How the wind in the trees affects my mood as I walk past them in the local park. The gorgeous view that I stopped for in the middle of the Flint Hills of Kansas as I drove through yesterday (see picture attached to this blog post). The smile from the young lady at the rest area when I said “You’re welcome ma’am” when I held the door open for her. Some of those connections last forever. Some last for mere moments. Yet, those connections exist.

In my Druidry, the importance is not in the connection itself, but acknowledging and understanding that those connections did exist. It’s a reason I do not deal strong emotions easily into the world around me. I hold those back for the moments that are more appropriate for those emotions. In the meantime, I am constantly dealing out simple emotive moments everywhere that I can. A smile, a nod, a handshake, a fist bump, holding hands, a hug….small moments to convey my acknowledgement of a moment. …and then there’s the moment of a funeral. A serious acknowledgement of the depth and breadth that a connection with another human in this lifetime.

As I noted before, my mother and father had no funeral for their deaths. I interred their ashes into the columbarium. I stood their silently when the funeral director asked me if I wanted to say a few words. Once that passed, I softly shook my head in a “no” fashion, and he closed the doors on each of their niches. That was the wishes of my parents. No funeral. No day full of remembrance. No tears shed over their passing. Their wishes.

Occasionally, I get asked what I want for my funeral. Flippantly, I’ll reply that I want to be cremated and my ashes put in a trach bag and set out by the curb for the weekly trash pickup. There are days that I am serious about this. Other days, not so much. But a funeral wouldn’t be for me. It would be for all those who are still here. Stuck in this life. A chance for them to remember me and the pain in the ass that I have been in their lives. And for other things as well.

I joke about being a pain in the ass, though I most certainly have been. I could pull up quite a few people that would have nothing nice or positive to say about me, simply because the last words ever spoken between us were those stated in anger, disappointment, and sorrow. My mother, who suffered from dementia the last thousand-or-so days in her life would be one of those. Our last coherent words between one another were extremely unkind. In her final three-and-a-half years of her life, there was never a coherent statement passed between us. Besides her, there are plenty of other people who have negative memories of our times together because of those angered moments. I can’t change any of what happened. Its done and in the past.

However, I do know that there are plenty of people that see me in a positive light as well. Some consider me to be an inspirational facet of their lives, simply because I cared enough to not only help them, but to also sit and just listen. I have several students from my days of teaching at the college who would be testaments to this. My perspective was to not only teach them about technology, but to also understand how technologies can be enhancements in their daily lives – should they wish it to be so. Along the way, I learned about them as students, and tried my best to encourage their progress along the way. The student who wanted to utilize technology to help him run a small hotel with his family. The extremely talented student who wanted to be a creative writer, who I challenged to add her creativity into my written assignments. And the student who was working his way through college to help enhance his career as an EMT, while trying to pivot his life away from a criminal charge. I didn’t just try to show them how technology could help them, I offered advice to push them in positive directions within their lives. The hotel manager has seen his family business flourish over the years. The creative writer continued into the university setting, focusing her efforts into the world of creative writing. The EMT took my advice and worked his way through his probationary period by dotting the I’s and crossing the t’s in everything that the Justice system required of him. I’m extremely proud of them, and their efforts. My part in all of that was small…just a little nudge, a word or two thousand of encouragement. They still did all the work.

There are others that I’ve played a role in their lives. Some, I will never know about it, but its happened. Those little connections are there. My role in living each day is to acknowledge those moments. Good, bad, indifferent, unknown…all of that exists. We touch the lives of so many people over the course of living through this lifetime. I think its worth taking a few moments out of your daily life…just to acknowledge that this is possible, and that it does happen. We certainly don’t need the fading light of our passing beyond the veil to acknowledge how much we touch the lives of others. Even those that say they “hate” us now because of something that occurred to push us irrevocably apart. After all, there was a time when we were a positive part of one another’s lives. Our connections…the moments where our lives intertwine…are part of what shapes us into the human beings that we are. You, the person reading this…you and I are intertwined to one degree or another. That makes me happy….its an eternal dance that we shared…even for just a single moment.

–Tommy /|\

Thinking About: Abstract Thoughts on Dying…

Today, I find myself getting ready for an unplanned, and lengthy drive north. The passing of a friend never sets one in a “great” frame of mind. But funeral rites are an important part of the process – a process for those that are still living here.

I remember when my parents passed within six months of one another. My mother, who passed first was cremated. Six months later, while I was at my first OBOD Gulf Coast Gathering, I was informed of my father’s passing. A few weeks later, I was contacted by the funeral director at the cemetery in the gated, retirement community my parents had built their home in. Apparently, my father had never picked up my mother’s ashes to have those interred. Now, I had the ashes of both of my parents to inter. I contacted my sister in Louisiana and asked her to come up for the interment. She declined. I stood in front of the columbarium’s two niches that my father had purchased for their final physical resting place. I watched as each urn, inscribed with my parents’ names was placed in their respective niches. No words were spoken. I watched silently as each little door was closed and secured, locking my parents’ physical remains into their place.

My parents never wished for a ceremony for their funerals. They wanted the family to live their lives rather than “wailing and crying over their passing” (my father’s exact words to me shortly after my mother had passed). As I have noted in the blog before, I was never close to my parents. My mother was a domineering individual who had my entire life planned for. I was to go to college, get degrees aiming me towards being a doctor, and marry a particular young lady that she knew back in Germany. I’m serious. She had it all planned out for me. I screwed all that up by joining the Air Force. But she still wanted that marriage to go through. I had other (hasty) plans. I married my first wife before I was deployed overseas. After that, I was considered the “disappointment” of the family. So, my relationship with my mother was always contentious. It didn’t change that she was my mother. I still loved her. In my own way. To my father, I wasn’t conservative enough to be “useful” in his eyes. Still, we tried our best to keep a cordial relationship between one another. Despite all of that, I still would have preferred some kind of ceremony to remember them when I placed them in the columbarium. Instead, I deferred to their wishes.

What happens when we pass? Well, I don’t claim to know a damn thing about that. I believe in reincarnation and past lives, though I have no way of proving or disproving the concept. I’m not sure that I would even care if there was a way to prove or disprove the concept. I believe in what I believe because it brings comfort to my life. Comfort in the idea that there is more than just this life. There are people that I have met that I have strong connections with that I cannot explain. Past life experience? Past lives that recognize one another? Possibly. That doesn’t mean that what was compatible or strong in the Past remains the same in the Present.

I’m getting older. Let’s face facts, we all are. Our time in this life is a finite one. I look back on where I’ve been. Part of looking back comes with the inevitable peek at the long line of friends and family that have passed beyond the veil to become specters of what has been. All the while, I hear Crow whispering in my ear “What’s necessary is forward, not backwards.” Still, I occasionally feel the road getting shorter and shorter. To quote Garth Brooks:

The competition’s getting younger
Tougher broncs, you know I can’t recall
The worn out tape of Chris LeDoux, lonely women and bad booze
Seem to be the only friends I’ve left at all

And the white line’s getting longer and the saddle’s getting cold
I’m much too young to feel this damn old
All my cards are on the table with no ace left in the hole
I’m much too young to feel this damn old

Garth Brooks, “Much Too Young to Feel This Damn Old”

From a dream….

Looking out over the wide-open countryside, I slide off the top rail of the metal fence that snakes from horizon to horizon. On the other side of the fence, is the land I know. Where I’ve lived. Where I’ve adventured. On the side of the fence that I now stand, I watch the setting sun drift below the horizon, shrouding the unknown into darkness. The distant mountains that call me, slowly fade into the dark fabric of night. The soft sounds of the night begin to arrive as I lean back against the fence. That adventure will happen soon enough, I remind myself. I still have a lot to accomplish on the other side of this fence. I place my left foot on the bottom rail and swing my right leg over. Shifting my weight, I move my body over the top rail to land on the other side of the fence. I mount the motorcycle and kick the engine to life. Time to go back. Back to my responsibilities. Back to where I need to be. Back to what I am meant to do. I glance over my shoulder at the mountains that have completely disappeared in the gloom of the night. Someday. Just not right now. There are things to do. People whose lives I still belong in.

–T /|\

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Incomplete Thoughts: Ramble On….

Why don’t you write about what your Gods tell you? Do They have nothing to say to anyone else?

There’s a lot of reasons why I don’t talk about what goes on between myself and my little Trio os mis-matched Gods. The biggest one happens to fall along the lines of what is a private conversation is a private conversation. Certainly, there is a lot of stuff going on in the world around us where the Gods may wish to involve Themselves or want to communicate something. But that’s not the conversations I’ve had. Much of those interactions are meant directly for me and are typically nudges to keep me on a Path that I’ve promised to keep.

To be honest, I’m skeptical when I hear people claiming to be a mouthpiece for the Gods. That even includes the Christian preachers that clamber for tv and radio time to proclaim their “message from God”. Most of that piles into power dynamics. The usage of such claims to hold power and sway over others. Probably the most distasteful thing I’ve encountered within religious perspectives in my lifetime.

I’m wary when people start saying that something is true because “[X] person received a revelation from the Gods.” As I’ve said before, this is probably one of the largest reasons that I stay within myself for my Pagan and Druid paths. I just refuse to let anyone have dominion over myself…with the sole exception of myself. Human beings tend to disappoint me when it comes to group leadership.

Don’t the Gods tell you to go back to the way things were? When Their worship was more pure, more raw?

You mean reconstructionism? Sorry, I don’t have a desire to live in the Past. Reconstructionist perspectives have never appealed to me. There here, the now, today – that’s where my footfalls are at. When the wind blows through the branches, its now. Tomorrow, its new wind, a new message, a new voice.

I’m not “special” because of Coyote, Crow or Abnoba. I’m special because I am here, I am unique. Same holds true for you…even if you do not hear any of the Gods whispering in your ears or can discern the voices upon the winds. You exist. The Gods exist. Your connections to the world around you exist. The only time I will doubt you is when you claim that you know the ONLY way to make it through life. You alone have the ear of the Gods. You alone understand the voives on the winds racing through the tree branches. There are at least twenty different routes between myself and my local grocer’s, just two miles away. And I haven’t even counted ways to float there by hot air balloon. No one individual holds the truth…except yourself. For yourself.

This is a shorter blog post than most. Because I don’t have a ton to say here. My Gods have quiet, private conversations with me that relate to where I am on my own life’s Path. They don’t have advice for how to keep Russia from slaughtering Ukrainians. They don’t have information to change the minds of radical right-wing nut-jobs. They don’t because They aren’t there to fix our issues here in this realm. The Gods are not prayer machines that bestow presents upon us for our prayers and devotion. I’m not sure I would be able to withstand a relationship with a God that went that route. I certainly couldn’t withstand a relationship with a person that would be in that manner. I’ve been there. I’ve done that. I’ve walked away. If I can’t sustain myself in such a situation in a mortal realm, how could I tolerate the same with a relationship with a God or Goddess?

I realize this is starting to ramble along…so I’ll bring this to a close here. Hopefully, this stuff makes sense to someone. ::shrug::

–T /|\

Be Kind. I Dare You.

How do you deal with all the craziness in the world? Is there something special that Pagans do during times like this?

Well, this is an interesting question. There are all kinds of directions to try and take – some serious, others fairly sarcastic…but this gets into concepts of how humans deal with uncertainty. So, some of this is Psychology, which I’m not the right person to respond to that. I’ve had – maybe – four Psychology courses in the breadth of my three college degrees. But I’ll try my best to answer this without carving into that dinner.

First, I realize that there is very little I will be able to do to steer the issues happening around the world. All I can do is thank the American public for electing President Biden into the position. But that’s politics and is not exactly a helpful perspective. Secondly, I can lean back into the prevailing philosophy of my life: be kind to others. That means anyone, including those Trump supporters and right-wing nut-jobs who have a strong dislike of me, simply because of who and how I choose to handle my life spiritually. I can’t change their minds, but I can certainly treat them with the kindness that I would prefer. Third, I can spend some time petition the Gods for guidance towards a need for peace and understanding.

In other words, I continue with my life the best that I can. Yes, the issue in Ukraine is horrible. Yes, there are divisions here in the United States – and elsewhere around the world – where people are being killed, persecuted, and slammed in unimaginable ways. Yes, the nuclear Sword of Damocles is again suspended over our planet. None of that should dissuade us from remaining calm and continuing to find ways to be of service to one another. Those in the path of peril need our help. They need us to stand our ground. To continue being the bastions of freedom, both for the present and for the future. I can’t stand in the way of a T-72 battle tank in the streets of Kyiv. I can’t be there when the Matthew Shepards of the world are beaten and broken over who they love. But I can be there for those that are near to me. I can be there to stand up to their oppressors. I can be there to hold them and let them cry on my shoulder. I can bring them to care-givers who can do far more for them than I can.

We should all do what we can to help others. Financially, I’m skint. But I’m more than the money I make (or in this case, that I don’t). But being there is more than just money. Its effort. Its being empathic. Its showing that we care about one another. Yes, that even goes for the delusional Trumpers out there. You’re not just measured against what you do for your own friends and the people that align with you politically. Being there to assist those who are different from you needs to be considered as well. So long as you don’t feel like you are endangering yourself. I grok how being around Trumpers or right-wing Christians can be triggering for some. In all of this, the point is to be kind.

What about ritual? Well, there are some Pagans that this is the first step for them. For me, its an additional step. Nice to be done, but if you can’t get to it – its not a killer. We certainly do have our Gods to call on. In the instance of Ukraine, we could call down the Gods of War on the Russians. We could call down the Trickster Gods to wreak havoc on the Russian military. Anything to hamper their war efforts. But I would also note that we need to call on mercy from the Gods on those who are killed, maimed, injured, displaced, and torn from their families in this conflict. I’m all for seeking retribution against the Russian leadership – both physically and spiritually – for what they have brought to fruition in all of this, but (you heard that coming at the front of the sentence, right?)… I’ve seen enough of war in my lifetime. What I would love to see is not just the Gods standing between Russia and Ukraine and saying “no more” but efforts to come in and help the people that are dealing with the death, destruction and displacement.

The Gods will make Themselves manifest in the ways that They choose. We, the people who worship Them, work with Them, pray to Them – I would hope that we are beseeching Them to intervene in ways that not only bring the conflict to an end, but also directs the necessary comfort and aid to those that need it.

How do I deal with all the craziness in the world? Well, I remember my place in all of this. I’m just a single individual who has not been elevated to a position of power and influence (and wouldn’t want it in the first place). In turn, I try my best to continue living my life the best that I can. I practice kindness and empathy for others – regardless of who they are. I do my best to put all of that into motion by being of service to others. In my neighborhood, I offer to work on computers and help people with their technology…at no cost to them. Small acts of kindness go a long way. Being of service is contagious. In fact, I dare you. Do something for others without expecting a single thing in return. Want to know how to make human beings better? Do that. Then dare others to do the same thing. Challenge yourself to find ways to be of service for others. Even if its just to provide a shoulder to cry on and hugs to shelter and comfort someone.

And what if you’re not in a position to do such things? That’s ok too. You do what you can, when you can, how you can. No judgment. Some other aspect of how you can be supportive will show up. Just be patient…and be there. Ninety percent of everything starts with showing up. Right?

#JustSayin’

–Tommy /|\

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Thinking About: The Past Two Days, the Future, Ukraine

Watching the news this morning, I was reminded of how much fear and trepidation I felt during the first Gulf War. All the uncertainty. All the attempts to think along with the strategy points that were being made. I can sympathize with the feeling of terror and sadness that the Ukrainian people are feeling at this moment. War, in whatever form, is not the easiest moment to deal with. Your life is turned upside-down. Most people may feel a disbelief that another country would want to wage such unthinkable actions on another country – and typically all in the name of power and territory.

Most people just cannot fathom the driving forces behind a decision to wage war. In the case of Vladimir Putin, he made it quite clear in his “history lecture” of a speech the day before. He sees Ukraine as an illegitmate country, created by the failings of Boris Yeltsin, when Ukraine was allowed to secede from the Soviet Union in 1991 under his watch. The next day, after Russian forces started their attacks, Putin made an additional speech, noting that the attacks were meant to defend Russians from “genocide” and to “de-nazify” Ukraine. A somewhat strange statement considered the Ukrainian president is a Jew. But all of this is the justification that Putin is using for his aggression. I, for one, hear the echoes of similar perspectives echoing through history from 1936 Germany.

Whatever the justification, everything has been placed into motion. The Ukrainian people are confused by the fog of war. The rest of the world…well, it feels like it is confused from where I sit. However, currently the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is sitting back at the borders of their most eastern Europe member states. I can only wonder if we ever learned any one thing from the inactivity of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain as a response to Adolph Hitler’s military buildup prior to his blitzkrieg against Poland in 1939. Or are we doomed to repeat a similarly failed strategy while Puton and Russian forces rampage through the Ukrainian countryside.

What can we, as Pagans, do in the face of all of this. As trite as it sounds – we can offer prayers to our Gods. Not asking Them to intercede – not on our own selfish wants and desire – but in the interest of keeping our world as calm as possible. Beyond that, I don’t see much that I feel “right and correct” about directing a larger Pagan community to do. I don’t control anyone else’s actions but my own. It would be unwise and selfish of me to direct everyone else to do things the way I feel it should be done. I’ve never felt comfortable telling anyone how they should or not approach any situation.

What will I do? For the moment, there’s not much I can do – except what I normally do. Go about my regular day. There’s nothing I can add or commit that will change what is happening or the plight of the Ukrainian people. I will; however, keep my eyes and ears open for any opportunity that presents itself, which I can provide my energy and strength to. Here at home, prices for groceries, gas, and other fungible resources are likely to sky-rocket in cost. Once the front here in central Tejas clears, I will set about trying to grow some vegetables for my home consumption. As hypocritical as it sounds, I will also start paying tighter attention to the news than I have been. Staying informed will be important. And Gods, I certainly hope that Democrats and Republicans can set aside their differences and pay a lot more attention to the news of those military members in the field, currently in potential harm’s way. Those that raised their hands and swore to defend the Constitution and this country from aggressors foreign and domestic certainly deserve more than a pair of parties bickering with one another, trying to score useless political points.

I know, very well, that this conflict – as well as the resulting sanctions and whatever actions are decided to be visited upon Russia – will have massive ripples throughout our world economy. At no other point in our collective histories, have we ever been so tied to one another than we are in the global marketplace. The repercussions will not be for the Russian people alone. We will all feel the energy of this conflict in various ways. We are all in this together, like it not. My initial concern is for the Ukrainian people, who will need the world’s help immediately to survive this ploy of Russia’s strong-man. May the Gods protect us all…even the aggressors in all of this. For we are all human, despite our differences, and deserve to all be treated with equal respect. Even when none is given by one representative side in the beginning. After all, someone needs to break the cycle of hatred at some point.

–T /|\

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My Reset Button

So, we’re back into Primary season here in Texas. Another mid-term election is around the corner. Most local channels, radio and television, are airing ad after ad for candidates who are running for political office. This person votes with the Democrats. That person doesn’t represent your conservative values. This candidate supports open borders. Blab, blah, blah. For me, most of this is just noise. I don’t vote in primaries, except to vote on law changes at the local, county, and state levels. I’m not a Republican, a Democrat or what have you. I’m an unaffiliated voter. I literally have no dog in the fight, so to speak. Predictably, I catch the Nine Hells from both my conservative and liberal friends. Here in the neighborhood, my house will be the only one that doesn’t have any political signs in the yard…and I live on a corner. ::shrug:: Politics just ain’t my thing. Wake me when the real elections get closer. Seriously. Hate me over that if you want to… I mean, everyone’s got a right to bitch. At least for now.

I look at the fervor around the primary season as the start of “labeling season.” Those people are “liberals” or “libtards” (such a childish term). Those other people are “conservatives,” “right-wing nutjobs,” or “racists.” Such labeling takes place on a daily basis, particularly on the internet, where anonymity rules the day. You can choose any alias of your choice; make whatever proclamation you wish. You can talk about how all of the Jews need to die (because they rule the world secretly) or state that liberal politicians in Washington DC come to the back-room of a DC pizza parlor to eat the corpses of small children to replenish their cells and stay young – so they can stay in power (seriously, this might make a good b-rated horror flick). You can wildly paint every conservative supporter of former Donald Trump as a racist.

The reality is that none of those statements are completely true. Except the DC pizza parlor one, which is categorically false on every level. But each statement has a touch of truth in it. Even the DC pizza parlor one. The pizza parlor mentioned in that one actually does exist, just no cannibalistic back room. However, throwing the statements around as being completely true for vast swaths of people…well, for me, its distasteful conjecture.

I’m a Druid. I like Justice, but I like it even better when its hand-in-hand with undisputable Truth. And undisputable Truth is something you don’t get in American politics…at least not anymore. Instead, politics has become the red-meat of the conservative and liberal mobs. Sadly, today’s cable news agencies no longer report the Truth…at least not without wild-eyed commentary attached to it. One almost must have a translator to wade through the hip-high wild-assed conjecture that passes for news reporting. CNN does it. Fox News does it. CNBC has been doing it far longer. Even National Public Radio does it.

So, what to do about all of it? Well, do the best you can to read between the lines. Me? Well, that’s what I try to do. But I’ve also learned to limit the dosage of news coverage that I am exposed to. I limit my news watching to thirty minutes in the morning, and thirty minutes in the evening. After that, I find other things to do. I’m enrolled in college courses for another degree. So I have that. I have studies in my Ovate Gwers. So I have that, too. I watch tv shows. Currently, I’m watching re-runs of JAG and Babylon 5. I catch up on movies that I didn’t see at the theater. I throw the tennis ball down the hall so the cats have something to chase. I listen to music. I work on my baseball database. I go for walks. I search for employment. I do housework, wash dishes, vacuum the floors. I take naps. I can find plenty of things to keep myself busy without sitting to fret and fume about the news.

Recently, I got asked who I think people should vote for in the Texas primaries for this year. Honestly? Whoever you want to. I count on people being able to do what they think is right and correct for themselves. Yeah, I know – that kind of thinking is what got President Trump elected. But that’s not really true. The typical apathy of the American citizen is what got President Trump elected. People not going to their local polling location to vote. That’s what gets people like President Trump elected by large vote margins. Even here, in deep-red Republican/Conservative Texas. I’m quite sure that President Trump’s electoral votes in Texas would never have been in jeopardy, even if every single non-conservative in Texas voted against him. But that’s not the point. If all of those people stepped up to a voting booth and voted, the fact that they did would show conservative Texas that future elections would not be foregone conclusions.

So, this is a Pagan blog. What does all this have to do with Paganism? Well, not much. But it’s a reminder that we cannot ignore the mundane world in favor of working with the Gods. Staying informed means something different to each individual. Like I’ve noted, I don’t spend hour after hour ingesting the news. For others, this is the way that they stay informed. Who’s right? Well, both perspectives are so. So are so many others I haven’t even mentioned. Each person gets to determine what is and what isn’t enough for their own individual consumption. You know when its too much for you. When you reach that point, step away. Get outside. Find a nice park or some woods to take a leisurely stroll through. Stop, listen to the wind as it whispers its sultry secrets through the branches and what leaves are still clinging to the branches. Take a night-time stroll through your neighborhood (should it be safe to do so). No headphones. Just listen. Hear the silent shimmer of the vehicles on the nearby highway. Listen to the sound of the nocturnal animals talking to one another. Look up at the moon, if the cloud cover is not too thick. See Her in all Her majesty. Let all of the media stuff fall to the side, for the moment. You can pick that stuff up again before you go back inside. Just feel. Let that be your reset button. Trust me, the news will still be there when you get back. All that political nonsense that makes you grind your teeth until your headache rises…its all going to still be there too. But remember this…all of this wonderous aspects of Nature that help you reset – its all still there too. Just waiting for you….

–T /|\

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Thinking About: Limits, Teaching, Day-By-Day – Its a Real Life, Its Here Every Day

I get accused of all kinds of political positions by people I know. My right-wing family thinks I’m a hard-core Leftist. My Leftist friends this I’m a Right-winger. My Independent friends, who are stuck here in the middle with me, understand me better than most. But all of that is just labels that get thrown around in a quest to dominate conversations and perspectives. In my mid-fifties, I’m used to all of this now. Most of the time, when I get a label adhered to me, I just smile, end the conversation, and move on with my day. Trying to argue points over what I see and feel is a waste of time for me. And honestly, I have so much more to do with my day that is far more productive with my energy and time.

However, all of that does draw a point in the area of power dynamics, which plays out more and more in our everyday lives. Thanks to former President Trump, we were thrust into this dynamic of “winning v. losing.” From that, we’ve come to a perspective that my former boss liked to refer to as “domination.” For me, it’s a perspective I don’t ascribe to whatsoever. I’m not out to dominate a single individual, lord my knowledge as a means to control them, or whatever other descriptive you want to add. That’s probably why I’ve never accepted a student to teach in Paganism, and I have had people request that from me.

I am a teacher. I’ve been in a collegiate classroom before (and hope one day to be again). When I was teaching Information Technology, I was very careful not to promote one technology over another. I always ducked the inevitable browser-war and operating system debates by pointing out that each had its own merits, and the choice was up to the individual user. The same holds true in politics, from my perspective. That even gets down to debates on food, religion, and what have you. Life, itself, is a series of choices that we continually make. Gods, I would hate to draw the flowchart on my own life to this point. All the choices, all the dead-ends that would form loops in the flowchart – what a mess it would be. But then Life is messy.

So, why no Pagan students? Wouldn’t I want to teach others my brand of Paganism? No, not really. Pushing people towards my way of thinking and believing would, in my opinion, rob them of the experience of exploring for themselves. Everything that I would teach someone about Paganism could fit into a thimble and be easily disseminated through a late-night conversation around a fire drinking liquids of our individual choosing.

What about those who lord their opinions of what it means to be a Pagan over me? Well, we’ve seen that with the inane fundamentalist movement nearly a decade back with “Are you Pagan enough?” The answer to that question for ANYONE in Paganism is “yes.” Even if you’re just dipping your pinkie-toe in the water. No one gets to dictate the depth or breadth of another individual’s Paganism. In a way, this is why I don’t want to set myself up as some classroom-like teacher of Paganism. I don’t want to “grade” someone’s ability to be a Pagan based on some subjective set of lessons that I created. You tell me that you’re a Pagan – as far as I’m concerned, you are. And I am no authority on you or what you are.

I’m staunchly a solo Pagan. Solitaire. Solitary. Whatever descriptive you want to apply to it. That’s your label, use it as you like. But I am not bashing and smashing on groups. Groups work for other people. Groups provide the needed support for some. Groups provide the structure that others find useful and helpful. Groups, for me, provide comradery and friendship. Nothing wrong with any of that.

With all that out of the way (sort of), let me circle back to why I don’t take on students, and dive a touch deeper. When I get people asking me to teach them about Paganism, I tend to point them elsewhere, to people who already do this (and far better than I could) such as John Beckett. If people are looking for me to teach them about Druidry, I point them to OBOD, ADF or BDO. Those organizations already have structures that lend towards teaching that is better than anything I could devise off-handedly. If they are looking for teaching on Wicca…well, I point them to Wiccans that I know. Hard for me to teach anyone about Wicca. I’m not a Wiccan, and what I do know of Wicca comes from what little training I had over three decades ago. Better to point them to far more knowledgeable resources.

I know some folks will look at all of that as a cop-out on my part. I know my limits. I’m aware of the pitfalls. While I do what I consider to be a good job at teaching Information Technology in a classroom environment, that doesn’t qualify me as a good teacher/mentor in a Pagan setting. Like I pointed out, I know people are better equipped to do that in such a setting. I’d rather a potential student got better training elsewhere than get shoddy, shitty training from me. As I noted, I know my limits.

The same holds true for joining a group or creating a group out of thin air and becoming its leader. I already struggle with concepts such as “Priest” and “Elder” – I don’t need the extra struggle of being a leader as well. I know my limits.

Sure, being a single individual in Paganism affords me a great deal of freedom, which I prize highly. It also affords a lot of loneliness as well. A lot of figuring it out on my own. A lot of self-reliance. A lot of failed attempts at things which has only one direction for blame – right here in this seat at my desk. Through trial and error – a LOT of trial and error – I navigate through the waters of Paganism and Druidry. Its not a journey for the faint of heart. In the thirty-plus years of being on this path, its NEVER been easy. Going it alone is rough and difficult on its best days. Some folks have no choice though. They live in areas where they are isolated from other Pagans because of distance. To those people, my hat is off to you. You travel a Path of broken glass because there is no other Path. I grok your frustrations. I sympathize with your trial, and error solutions.

I have no desire to “win” at any part of Life. I have no desire to “dominate” at any single thing. For me, living Life is about experiencing the good, the bad, the ugly, the unforgiveable, the mistakes that you never thought would be mistakes. Being alive doesn’t have a scope of winning, losing or any such nonsense. Unless…you want to count waking up each morning. Maybe that’s a way of seeing “winning.” Maybe. Sometimes, I’ll post on Facebook that I made it to another weekend, and that I was unsure of how I managed to get there. Well, the real point is that I managed to get there. Exactly how I managed it is not really necessary. We all claw, scratch, bite, punch, and wrestle with our days…just not ever day. Sometimes the days are nicer to us. Whether we win, dominate, lose, draw, what have you….we still experience. We learn from those experiences. We grow from our struggles, our happiness, even our “blah” days. In the 1980s movie “Red Dawn”, when US Air Force Colonel is about to head across the battlefield to try and get back to his units, the young adults who are with him marvel at the tanks fighting there, he remarks: “ Its a real war, kid. Its here every day.” Well, its a real Life folks, its here every day.

–T /|\

Howling Into the Wind: I Hope Not…

A few weeks back, I got word that a pair of guys that I supervised in the Air Force had been deployed as communication support for a US Army unit which had been sent to Poland. Both are now senior section members in their respective squadrons, having risen through the ranks. While I’m proud of them, I do worry for them with the tensions in Ukraine. However, I’m also very aware of how well they have been trained to deal with their roles in combat, and both follow the mantra that I exposed them to – to lead not only by example, but to ensure that rank does not impede the mission.

Back here in the States, a close friend’s child asked me if we were going to go to war. My response was a simple one: “I hope not.” At six years of age, she is only starting to comprehend the concept of the vile methods of killing one another that we have developed over the years. I’m sad to see that innocence fading away from her, but its hard to shelter her from the news that gets blared into our faces on a nearly hourly basis (or an even closer interval). At fifty-plus, and an ex-military member, I’m all too aware of the destructive capabilities that we have as a species, as well as the casual disregard that occurs through warfare between countries.

In the mid-1970s, as a society, we were taught to fear the inhuman Soviet Union, as well as their casual desire to obliterate anyone not choosing to be under the control of their socialist philosophies. I read about the destructive capabilities of nuclear weaponry, as well as the process of splitting the atom. Most of the concepts were over my ability to comprehend, but that didn’t stop me from making a display for my entry in a 7th grade science fair. I wanted to show the process of fission, which I did using a set of dominos. The point was to show that the splitting of a single atom would lead to the splitting of other atoms, which was the causal product of advancing the explosion that is associated with an atomic weapon. All of that is extremely elementary in explanation. There’s a lot more associated with it, including the physical building of the atomic weapon, along with some associated mathematics for the necessary explosive material that starts the process of splitting the first atom in the reaction. My fascination with atomic weaponry didn’t stop there though.

In the early 1980s, I started to realize the horrible destructive capabilities that such a weapon wrought. I started reading more about the efforts to ban nuclear technologies. I had read about what had happened at Three Mile Island in New York State in 1979. My father, who was career military, disliked the idea that his son was reading and gathering information on anti-nuclear movements. I was harshly scolded for thinking that a world would be safer if the United States gave up its nuclear materials. I understood what he was talking about – the concept of mutual assured destruction or MAD. In this scenario, either the United States or the Soviet Union would launch their missiles first. The other country would detect the launch and launch their own missiles in a retaliatory strike. Both countries would suffer the destruction of nuclear strikes. This process, by the way, is well depicted in the Movies “WarGames” and “Crimson Tide.” The entire scenario was absolutely frightening to me. Ironically, when I joined the United States Air Force, I became a part of the very scenario that I had been afraid of.

My primary positions was in Command and Control Communications. I wasn’t very high in the Command structure. My position was that of support, particularly preparing, sending, receiving and disseminating message traffic for the Command and Control function I was assigned to. This included preparing and sending the messages that would instruct Missile Command units to program their warheads for targets and launch. I was in the very heart of the beast that had frightened me as a young child. I participated in many drills for readiness, where launches were simulated. Along with those simulations, we prepared for attacks on our physical command structure, including nuclear strikes. Every unit is provided with a “survivability ranking,” which is nothing more than a timecode. The ranking explains the expectation of the unit in a scenario of first strike by the enemy. My unit was provided an SR ranking of four minutes. Other units, such as those in the Fulda Gap, where the Soviet army was expected to roll through with a large military force, were given rankings in seconds. Essentially, the units there would be a speed bump for the Soviet forces. Then came the unthinkable – the collapse of the Soviet Union. Everything that I had trained for was now unlikely. We trained for other elements, such as rogue elements that had either bought Soviet nuclear weapons on the black market or had outright stolen these. The scenarios were more difficult to train for, but the outcomes were similar. Destruction, death, attack, response, change of military posture…war is war.

During all of this, we were taught to see the military members of the Soviet Union as mindless drones – brain-washed to do only what their high command wanted. No conscience. No ability to think for themselves. In 1993, I participated in showcase of our aircraft at a Belarusian airfield. I got ot meet the former Soviet Union soldiers that I was faced off against. They were no different than we were, except that they didn’t have a lot of the luxuries that we had. I traded a cassette walk-man with a Belarusian enlisted soldier for a small bottle of vodka. In stilted conversations, we all realized that they had the same fears that we did. That nuclear would bring devastation to their families, their children, their towns. They believed that we wanted them destroyed so that we could annex their lands into the United States, and then expand our society into their countryside. To subject them to the same genocides that we had visited upon the peoples of the First Nations here in the United States.

War is about power. Its not that different from corporate struggles. Who has the most control wins the most power. Who has the most power gets all the privileges of being the conquered. Back in the 1980s, I feared the atom for what it could do. But the atom, in all of this, is merely a tool. A means to an end. The same can be said for any weapon. The real fear is in the person who utilizes the weapon in the name of power and control.

If I no longer fear the atom, what do I fear? The fundamentalist. Whether that individual takes the form of a Christian who warps the teachings of Jesus ben Joseph to justify the destruction of those that are different than him/her or the Pagan that seeks revenge on a faith over the deaths of people that died back in the 1500s or the fanatic Muslim who seeks a world cleansed of all infidels or a governmental system that seeks to bring the entire world under its yoke. Fundamentalists who want things “back the way they were” present, in my mind, the gravest danger to society and the peoples of this world – not to mention animal, plant and other life that we don’t understand yet.

So, when I hear a six-year-old girl ask me if we are going to war, I can only respond with a quiet “I hope not.” All I can do is hope that cooler minds prevail, and everyone takes a big step back from where we find ourselves right now. In 1985, Sting’s song “Russians” was released on his album “The Dream of the Blue Turtles”. Today, those lyrics ring truer than they ever have before….

Believe me when I say to you
I hope the Russians love their children too
We share the same biology, regardless of ideology
But what might save us, me and you
Is if the Russians love their children too

Sting, “Russians”

Indeed….

–T /|\

A Few Beers, the Designated Hitter, and Druidry Organizations…Where Do We Start?

I have another post that I had originally intended for today, but a question (more of a statement) prompted me down a different direction, which has resulted in this post.

I’m a Druid, a Pagan, and a Polytheist. Underlying much of that is the fact that my studies in Druidry come through my association with the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids (OBOD). OBOD was not the first Druid organization I looked at when seeking a proper Path for myself, but it was the one I ultimately chose. My reasoning was fairly simple – OBOD fit my approach to my own Paganism far better than any of the others did. I didn’t make my choice based on some kind of perspective of orthopraxy, orthodoxy or whatever other kind of religious -axy/-oxy definition you can drag up. I’m not a theological scholar of any sort, and I would be hard-pressed to lay out proper definitions for any of that lexiconical nonsense. My choices were made on how well their approach mirrored my own.

Admittedly, OBOD is not a perfect fit. I doubt that any approach would be a perfect fit unless I spent the time to create and market my own Pagan approach to the wider public. That’s just something I have no desire to do. I’m far too lazy to partake in such an undertaking. If people wish to emulate my approach, adapt it to their own needs….go right ahead. The key will be adapting it to your own needs, which then makes it your own.

The statement that was made was simply put:

I think you would do grate in ADF.

Tossing aside the horrible spelling (let’s face it, I’m not the greatest at spelling or grammar either), an implication is made that I would do my best within the Druidry organization Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship or more commonly referred to as ADF. Well, maybe I would. Its just as possible that I wouldn’t. it was not a choice that I made, so the answer would only be answered if I decided to go that route – either during my time in my OBOD grades or afterwards. Well, the answer to all of that would remain “no.” ADF is just not where my Path would be in the future.

This is nothing against ADF. Nor is it anything saying that ADF is a horrible organization. They’re not. They have had their issues in the past, none of which I am going to go into here. But they have managed to move beyond that _ from what I can see – and put their membership back on the track that the leadership was expecting and wanting, along with some modifications that were needed. All of that aside, I have gotten to know quite a few of the members here in Texas. These are some of the most respectful, loving, organized, and helpful Pagans I have ever encountered. I’m ecstatic to count quite a few of these folks as extended family – even though we don’t communicate that often. I have no bad blood, that I am aware of, with the organization or its members. All that is the issue is that their path is not mine. Nothing outrageous. Nothing disrespectful. I hold no hesitation pointing new Pagans in the direction of ADF as a potential Path.

The reason I am writing this is fairly straight-forward. An implication is made that I have issues with ADF and/or its membership. Nothing could be further from the truth, at least on my side of that equation. The same holds true for other Druid organizations that I did not choose. Those Paths were not appropriate for my steps. There is nothing wrong with those Paths for the footsteps of others.

Much of this stems, in my opinion, from leftover baggage that people bring from their time within the Christian paradigm. This way is the only way that is right and correct. Everyone should be headed down this funnel, as it is the only way to reach the ultimate aspect of Truth and Love meant for mankind. All other Paths will lead you to the depths of despair known as Hell, where eternal damnation is. Choose carefully. Remember, this choice is the ONLY WAY.

The reality, from my perspective, is different. Each Path has validation for the adherent. Christian, Pagan, Atheist, Agnostic, Buddhist, Muslim, what have you. All of these Paths have validity to their adherents. The only moment that keeps it from being valid is when the claim of being the ONLY WAY to the TRUTH begins to grow roots. The Path is valid to the adherent but may not be valid for others. Thus, the reason that I don’t dig into the -axy/-oxy bullshit. I’m not looking to make Druidry, Paganism, Polytheism, OBOD, my belief that the designated hitter ruins baseball, or anything else into THE standing rule for everyone. Well, except maybe the designated hitter stuff, but that’s a discussion to be had over a few beers around the campfire.

So, with that….how about those beers???

–T /|\

Photo by Tembela Bohle on Pexels.com

Cerberus Ate My HomeWork! Working With the Gods…

A long time back, I wrote a post awkwardly titled as “Working with the Gods Does Not Always Have to be Epic in Scale and Scope.” Reading back over it, I realized it’s a reminder that working with Gods is different for everyone. Some folks get called out for huge, epic things – where they are working on a much larger calling. Many other folks, including myself, get called for much smaller tasks, all of which seem smaller in scope, but have large impacts as well. Sometimes, the Gods are there to gently guide you through the rough patches. For a lot of other folks, there’s only silence. What happens when you’re in this last group?

The Gods are rejecting you as a Pagan, right? After all, the Gods speak to all these other Pagans, but not to you. You’re doing something wrong. You’re on the wrong Path. You shouldn’t be a Pagan. Well, the answer to all of that is “no, that’s not true.” But I grok the self-doubt associated with it all. Other folks seem to have such an easy time communicating with the Gods. Its almost as if the Gods start whispering in their ears the moment that their heads leave the pillow from Morpheus’ sweet slumber shrouded within his purple cloak. Right? Well, maybe.

Talking with the Gods is one thing. Talking FOR the Gods is another altogether. For me, this is akin to the Evangelical Christian phenomenon of “speaking in tongues.” I’ve been around enough Christians in my life to have been exposed to this. In fact, one of my roommates (and a co-worker in my duty section as well) claimed to have spoken in tongues. This was back in the mid-1980s when TV preacher Robert Tilton used to broadcast from Farmer’s Branch here in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Tilton would have a pile of cloth with attached letters supposedly written by tv viwers which he would pray over. Tilton also beseeched those watching the television broadcast to place their hands on the tv screen to “feel the healing power of Jesus.” He frequently spoke in tongues. Well, only a single phrase: “Koomala Shamala-ba.” My co-worker, who was much younger than I, had recently converted to Christianity. When he found out I was a Pagan, he constantly “showed” me that he had been given the gift of speaking in tongues. Now, without denigrating his belief too much, I personally found it to be crap. Seemingly, he was seeking attention and wanted to seem important. I never told him that to his face. After all, I would only be practicing the same thing that he did whenever he wanted to ‘save” me from the clutches of Satan.

I bring this example up, not to whip it out and piss on his faith, but to provide a point that many Pagans have encountered: the Christian that claims to speak for God and/or Jesus. Jesus wants you to convert to His faith. He has big plans for your future. You will be important in His ministry. Jesus told me that He wants you to be saved for Him. When I asked why Jesus didn’t tell me this Himself, I get told that I am hard-headed or blinded by the servants of the Dark One. ::blink:: ::blink:: No thanks. I don’t need an interpreter to speak with the Gods or intercede on my behalf. Plus, with my dislike of authority, I’m fairly certain that no part of the Christian pantheon, dark or light, would prefer having me around. Just sayin’.

I’ve had things tossed at me from my own side of the fence as well. When I was in Germany, I lived in military housing in Kaiserslautern. Its called Vogelweh Housing and sits on the west side of the city. Just down the small roadway (highway 6) that runs along its southern side is a town called Kindsbach. Just to the north of the town is the edge of the forest that rolls all the way back to the housing units of Vogelweh. These forested trails were my escape from the world. Quiet places to walk, where the only songs and voices I heard were the winds within the tall pine trees. After a period of time, I started taking trash bags with me on my walks just to pick up the trash along the walking trails. My desire was to take care of the forests the best that I could. No one suggested that I do this. I took it upon myself to do it.

I had joined up with various Pagans who were looking for “support” and “fellowship” with one another, since we were all disconnected from our groups back home in the United States. One particular group of folks located near the old east/west Germany border came to one of the monthly meetings that we held. They had created their group on their own. Later that afternoon, I took them out to see some Roman ruins out near Kindsbach, and then brought them back to my housing unit for dinner and to talk. The leader of their little group started talking in a voice that was distinctly different from his own. Everyone got very quiet. He started giving proclamations to various people in the room, claiming to be the voice of Odin. He looked directly at me and told me that I was to be the “caretaker of the nearby forest.” I did my best to not smirk or laugh. I had seen this before, back at Carswell Air Force Base from my Evangelical roommate.

See, there was no mandate from Odin. Just a young man that wanted to seem important to others. Utilizing an aspect of speaking FOR the Gods to provide him with the perspective of being the “chosen” one of Odin. In my experience, the Gods don’t require a go-between. Priests in Paganism are not the intercessors of the Gods, not like the Priests and preachers in Christianity claim to be. At least not in my experience. The Gods will find a way to speak to you, when They have the need to do so.

The idea of the Gods providing epic quests…well, that’s the stuff of Swords and Sorcery fiction, at least where I sit. I won’t rule out the idea that it happens from time to time. I don’t pretend to know the minds and motives of the Gods. Nine Hells, I can barely make out the jumbled aspects of my own damn bird-brain at times. Could these two examples I have provided here be real and actual? Maybe. But neither seemed or felt real to me. I’ve been in a handful of rituals where the Gods were invoked, and I’m used to feeling that presence of Their arrival. Sometimes They don’t reveal Themselves to me either. Its not an affront to who I am as a Pagan. The Gods reveal Themselves when and if They choose, in a manner of Their choosing. I’m not special in any sort of manner. I just happen to have the attention – from time to time – of two First Nations’ Tricksters and a Germanic Forest Goddess. And rarely all at the same time – that would be scary, indeed.

You don’t have the attention of any of the Gods? You want it? You crave it? Careful what you ask for. It could happen. When it happens – if it happens – you’ll know it. It won’t likely show up in some public manner, like speaking in tongues or becoming a mouthpiece for the Gods. It will most likely be a very private, intense feeling in the moment. Still, be careful what you crave….it might not be everything you thought it might. For me, there are times its like getting extra homework from your teacher, which requires eighteen or nineteen hours of additional research…and its due tomorrow morning. And you can’t claim that your dog ate your homework. Unless you’re working with Cerberus. 😉

–Tommy /|\