I have watched beyond the horizon Staring past the Sun’s last rays Hoping for a glimpse of the Future Of things I cannot seem to say
The future is there to be seen But the Sun slips beyond the edge Darkness steals my sight from me I dare not move further on my ledge
In the morning, the Sun climbs high The Past can so easily be seen The light of the day provides the lens For all that has already been
At day’s end, the Sun drops in the West Beyond the edge, waving a quiet good night Taking the Future beyond with it As darkness, again, steals my sight
When I first started trying to figure out how to read the Tarot, I kept trying to see it as a prognostication tool. Something that could provide foresight into what was to come. In some sense, I still believe that it can be utilized in that way, but I have also begun to realize that it can also be a tool to work on what one sees in their own mind. The symbology can be very personal. The interpretation can provide some meaning and perspective into what is currently on one’s mind. it can also be easily misread too. As I note in the poem, when the Sun sets and darkness takes hold – my natural perspective is to stop and not take another step forward. I have no perspective for how high the ledge is or how close I am to the edge or even how precarious my footing currently may be. When darkness robs your vision and perception, you move a little slower, a little more deliberate. And to be completely honest, Tarot is not a flashlight or a torch that can be used to light your way. From my perspective, its a tool to help understand and determine your state of mind. That perception can be like the dawning light of the early morning, where everything is lightly illuminated, and you can see a bit better…just not completely clear.
That’s not likely the way anyone else may see things with the Tarot. My perspective might not be pretty, but its where I am tonight. 🙂
Well, its Tuesday. Time for another blog post. Still pushing through writer’s block, I was coming to this with empty pockets. However, I came across a Facebook post by Cat Treadwell, which reads (in part): “I’m undertaking more rites of Passing lately, due to the state of the world, but wanted to say again that I’m absolutely fine for my details to be passed on as needed for any such work. We’re not able to gather for celebrations yet, but officiants are still needed.” All of that got my head to working its way around a few thoughts, which are turning into this post.
Currently, we are starting to come out of the nightmare of COVID we have been living through. This morning, I realized that it was right around this time last year that we all started to become aware of COVID. One year ago, this was the time of change for all our lives. Now, we are still moving towards that finish line – the battle with COVID is far from over, despite what idiots like Texas’ Governor Greg Abbott may think, but this is the right time to stop for a moment, and determine how we move forward from here.
The Pagan community is a vast, constantly growing, constantly changing macro-organism – so pretending like I know what will and won’t work for such a widely diverse community would be the height of arrogance on my part. I am just one Pagan. One Druid. One Polytheist. I have one voice. One opinion. One dream. The reality of all of that is that I can only speak on behalf of a single person – me. But I can, point out what I believe needs to be addressed, from where I stand. It might jive with the perspectives of other people. It might not. But here goes.
Cat is pointing out something that is a reality in the wake of the forward motion of COVID. We, the wider Pagan community, will be quite likely be in the process of mourning someone in our community, immediate family or even someone that we admired from afar. For those Pagans that identify on the Path of a Priest, those roles will be more important than ever before. Generally, we tend to think of the rites of Passing when catastrophic events occur within our lives. Well, COVID is here. We’ve all focused on trying to survive, hoping that we don’t have to face the awful event of someone in our immediate sphere of existence passing from this awful disease. But it does happen. Many of our folks that are in that path of Priesthood, generally, seem to be approached at times of happiness. That is typically the rite of Handfasting. We have many members of our communities that will need comfort and assistance…and that does not have to come solely from those in the Path of the Priest.
COVID has also cut off some folks from their chosen communities. For instance, I have not seen a single member of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids (OBOD) since I saw John Beckett at Austin WitchFest last year, sometime in April. In fact, that was the last public Pagan gathering I have attended to this day. I am sure that many others have similar stories. Being cut off in this manner can create issues of anxiety, depressive states, and feelings of extreme loneliness. As a community, we need to reach out to others…just to make sure they are ok. Reassure them that we are all still here. We are still connected, despite the distance of time. Reassure ourselves that things will come back together for everyone…even if it is a little slower than we want it to be.
Let’s face a few facts. We have not kicked COVID’s ass. Not yet. There is a distant light at the end of the tunnel, that’s for sure. We have vaccines available. I’ll be getting mine (the Moderna two-shot version) on Friday, with the second four weeks following that. Even after that occurs, I’ll still be wearing my mask in public. Just because I got the vaccine does not mean things are over and I can act like everything is back to the time before COVID showed up. Even despite what my state’s governor may say. That also means that Pagan public events should not be kicking off starting tomorrow. In fact, I believe it will be a while before even those get going again. And perhaps even longer before we start really trusting those public type of events again. That means that people who have a major social aspect to their pagan practice – and I am including myself here – will need to remain patient. We will need to remain content with the sterile virtual gatherings we have all come to understand and relate with in these times. It also means that we need to take the time to check in on everyone…making the reassurance that those connections are still there.
One day we will all be able to see one another face-to-face. We will be able to hold hands, hug one another, show each other the genuine affection we have for our people. In the meantime, we must stay vigilant, and keep ourselves safe. Not just for us, but for everyone. Yes, even that annoying Trump supporter that lives down the street. Because that dude is a human being too. A bit misguided, but still a human being.
For those on the Path of the Priest…those rites of passing are important. We need those. We need you being able to do those. Even if its just a virtual session. We need that connection. We need you to be in your role.
We all have roles within our community. Some are Priests. Some hold other roles. Some are just trying to find their own footing. Whatever the case may be, we have all been interrupted in our approaches from what has happened with COVID. We have all learned to survive on our own. We have all managed to handle our personal Spirituality on our own during these times. To whatever degree that may be, it doesn’t matter. We’ve made it here. To this point. We still have more of this lonely road to travel, but soon we will be walking it with others again. Hand-in-hand, side-by-side….together. Let’s manage these last steps with our minds on what is yet to come – and what we must do to get there.
Starting this off, I must admit that this is probably the most difficult writing topic I have ever approached on the blog. See, I have hit a tough period of writer’s block lately. I confided in a long-time friend and reader of this blog (all the way back to the old Blogger.com days) that I was in this dry spell. She suggested the previous topic and this one as potential jumping off points. The post on Imposter Syndrome took a few hours to write, and nearly two days to research and think about. This post, well…this has been a much tougher one to write, for a lot of reasons – some of which I will go through in the post. I just wanted to explain some of the aspects of approaching the topic – as well as noting that I am always willing to write on any topic you might want to provide. Or at least, willing to try since it will be my own approach.
So, the topic that was suggested was “What Does Success Look Like in Your Spiritual Approach?” In all actuality, this is where I moved the goal post somewhat. The original question was “What Does Success Look Like in Druidry?” However, I cannot and will not speak on Druidry in a way that expresses some dogmatic perspective that should apply to every Druid out there. I just cannot do that. I know my own approach. I know how Druidry functions within my daily Path. I just cannot claim to know what Druidry is to anyone else. So, the first step was to reframe the question in something a touch narrower – my own approach. But that was not the only stumbling point that I encountered.
Success. What the fuck does that even look like for me? Success conjures up imagery of winning, of competition, of goal setting. And if you don’t come out with the higher score, dominate your opponent, or reach your goal – you are a failure. Right? Well, yeah. Except that I do not believe in all of that. Dominating your opponent, having the higher score – that works well in things of competition, but I am not competing with anyone. I hope we all make it, as the oft-quoted meme says. As for goals, I set goals all the time. I fall short of those goals quite a bit. But none of that is a failure. Its an experience that I can learn from, an experience that I can adjust my expectations from. Honestly, Life is not about successes and failures for me. Not anymore. Life is about experiencing things. I think the only success I can truly point to is waking up in the morning. It means that I have not passed beyond the veil, and I get another chance at a new day that could be better than yesterday. Immediately, I find myself beyond the eight-ball, so to speak, trying to figure out what a “success” would look like in my Spiritual approach…my daily Path.
Trying to define something like success, as it applies to my own daily approach, is a lot tougher than I thought it might be. Again, success by its definition, is not something I aspire towards unless I am playing a video game or playing in a soccer game. Perhaps, I could apply it to a concept of positive and negative experiences. Like, for instance, a great moment might be when a ritual goes EXACTLY the way I had planned it. No odd moments. No things forgotten. No surprises. But then, I have had rituals that did not go the way I had planned that wound up being extremely important experiences. Such as using rubbing alcohol to hold a small fire in a metal pot (cauldron). You must light that shit quickly. Otherwise…well, let’s just say that my experience taught me to go other routes. 😊 So positive and negative perspectives really isn’t quite the way to go since negative experiences can provide just as much enlightenment as positive ones can. But there is that one point – enlightenment.
What exactly is enlightenment? The English Language Learners dictionary defines it as “the state of having knowledge or understanding.” This plays a bit easier in my mind as to what this so-called point of “success” might look like. I am not seeking a point of winning or losing. I am looking for experiences that can relay knowledge and understanding to a particular question or issue within my mind. Take for instance, my Odyssean journey through the grades of OBOD’s study courses. I spend a large amount of time on my lessons, not because I cannot grasp or comprehend what is being presented. Rather, I am trying to squeeze every fucking drop I can from the material. I keep looking for more and more experientially points that I can derive from what is presented. Until I have wrung that cloth completely dry, I seem to have the feeling that I have not really reached what I need to get.
What does success look like in my Spirituality? Within my daily Path? Well, I must resort to Henry David Thoreau for that response.
I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, to discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and to be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.
Henry David Thoreau
My Druidry is about experience. I’m not looking for a success or a failure. I am here to suck the marrow from the bones of daily Life. I am looking to taste, feel, hear, see, smell, talk with, and listen to whatever is there. If I come back home bruised, broken, and bleeding, I experienced just as much as if I came home with a notebook full of scribbled notes, and horrible sketches. I can go to a classical music concert with an elegant dinner afterwards, and have just as exhilarating an experience if I went down to a local club to see Halestorm, and then stuck around to pound whiskey shots with the band until I passed out. Daily Life is about experiences, about feeling the moment. Grab a hold of it, sink your teeth into its neck, and feel the rising passion. Or curled up on the couch with a book in one hand, your cat on your lap, and your lover holding your other hand. There is no such thing as success in how I live my life. There are experiences, there are sensations, there is living. Sometimes, Life is good. Sometimes, it’s bad. But most of the time, it’s somewhere in-between. So, what is success? I opened my eyes this morning. I took a deep breath. I get another day in this existence. I have succeeded.
Now, regarding the original question, I am not completely sure I have answered exactly what was asked. All I can really do is apologize, to a point. I really have tried my best to answer the question. I did have to change things around a bit, and work my around some of the definitions, as well as the philosophical aspects. Not sure if that is disappointing, infuriating, or satisfying to others. Or maybe some combination of those, maybe even some perspective I have not even thought of here. I will point out; this is how I approached the question. The real question for you, the reader, is how YOU would answer this. I will bet it is far different than I have. And I will bet it is not wrong, whatsoever – even if its diametrically opposed from my answer.
I still remember my first professional presentation. I gave a short presentation on basic Structured Query Language (SQL) for collegiate professionals using Microsoft Access. The presentation was straight-forward stuff. No heavy-duty table linking. No temporary tables. No query optimization theory. Just plain old SELECT statements with a handful of WHERE examples. I had fifty minutes time. I was nervous, and frankly scared to death. I was not used to being in front of people and trying to demonstrate things to them. Ok that’s not completely true. I had taught Introduction to Information Systems for three years prior to that moment. But this was the first time I had done this in front of a group of peers.
Well, that’s not completely true either. In the United States Air Force, I had given two briefings on command-and-control message processing structures, one in the command post I worked in, and another in an off-building near the Pentagon for an Air Force command conference. Plus, I had helped teach a course in Chemical Warfare protective equipment (how to use the stuff) to other members of my base. So, yeah, I had experience in being in front of people and doing what I was attempting on that day in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Plus, I have done a handful of professional presentations since then – three more presentations at regional conferences, and a presentation at a national conference in San Diego. I’ll come back to these in a few minutes.
Before I ever stepped in front of those crowds of people to present – even in my own classroom – I have developed a sense of nervousness I have never been able to explain. After a few minutes at the front of these groups of people, my nervousness would melt back into the background, and I would be able to carry on with presenting. And apparently, I’m good at it because I have heard many praises of my presentations provided to me. Not that I would agree, but that’s a different post for discussion. I have never had a name for how I felt until the past couple of years. Imposter syndrome.
Wikipedia, which is not the greatest source in the world, notes imposter syndrome as being:
…is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their skills, talents or accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. Despite external evidence of their competence, those experiencing this phenomenon remain convinced that they are frauds, and do not deserve all they have achieved.
The Wikipedia article goes on to describe the terminology in greater detail from the research provided by Dr. Pauline R. Clance and Dr. Suzanne A. Imes, which provides even more details. I am sure there is even more in-depth research and materials that can be found (as evidenced by the detailed references section of the Wikipedia article), but what is presented in the article brings about a fairly strong example of the internal issues I have each time I step up to present any material to others.
My regional presentations, including the first one that I described here, usually had no more than ten to thirty people in attendance. The first one had fifteen people to start the presentation. By the time I brought the presentation to a close, I was told I had around thirty people there. I’m glad I had no idea of the numbers. I would literally have frozen in the middle of the presentation. When I was in the classroom, I usually had an enrollment of nearly thirty-five students at the start of the class semester. By the end, it would dwindle to around twenty students that I would see on a regular basis. Thus, my expectations were always for a consistently shrinking audience. My national presentation, I was told had over 145 people. Standing room only in a room that had a capacity listed by the hotel as 130. The only way I made it through that session was to focus on the first five rows of people and ignore everyone beyond them. I was literally shaking after I finished.
After every presentation I gave, during the rest of the time at those conferences, I would receive praise from people who attended. People would thank me in the hallways, remark on some of the humor I tried to infuse into the presentation, and I even was thanked on a bus trip to an aircraft carrier museum the next evening at the San Diego conference. I have never been good at taking praise. Every single one of these encounters was extremely awkward for me. After reading the work of Clance and Imes, I am starting to understand that much of that awkwardness comes from the effects of my own internalization resulting from Imposter Syndrome.
I have been provided all kinds of advice to dealing with this, including the “Fake It Until You make It” concept. Unfortunately, that tactic does not work for me. Faking things is a measure of dishonesty, both to myself and to others, that I just cannot deal with. If anything, this tactic only buries me deeper into the Imposter Syndrome effects and magnifies the resultant behavior within me. I withdraw from everything. I place even more pressure upon myself. That starts an even deeper and darker cycle of personal self-destruction (mental, not physical). In fact, I am currently pulling myself out of just such a cycle. Trust me, its not a pretty sight…even from deep inside, where I am. I know that this concept works for other people, but it just doesn’t for me.
So, where and how does this matter to my Druidry? Well, several times over, I have been asked to present at various Pagan conferences. Several times, I have turned down such offers. I have never viewed myself as any kind of expert on any part of Paganism – other than how I, a singular individual, approach it and apply it to my daily life. The reality is not that statement – though it is factually correct. The reality is that I would have felt like a complete fraud standing up in front of a large group of people talking about my Paganism, when I struggle with all of that within my own Daily Path.
I have made no secret over my seeking mental health assistance during my most recent bout with my own Darkness. As I have started to come out of those extremely difficult times, I have realized that no matter how scared I am of getting in front of people, I will need to do it. Not just to talk about Paganism. Not to talk about Druidry. But to talk about how that gets incorporated into one’s own fucked up life. The band Icon For Hire has a lyric in their song “Somebody Make a Move” that I feel is relevant here.
You and I, we share the same disease Cover up, compromise what we grieve I’ve let more than my share of revivals die This isn’t pretty but it’s who I am tonight
My life is hardly pretty. But perhaps my struggle can be someone’s inspiration. I have my own inspirations. They struggle as well. They create as well. They set themselves to one degree or another as an example of what can be done if we decide to make a move. Right now, our world has everything locked down for COVID, and rightly so. But in the future, we will see our Pagan gatherings and conferences come back. I look forward to that day because I don’t have to be isolated from people that I love and care about so deeply. And who knows? You might even catch me giving a presentation…. well, more like a talk. Because I don’t want to be the only with something to say. I’d prefer we inspired each other to make a move.
It is no secret that most of my daily Pagan and Druid path does not include magick or even divination tools such as the Tarot. I have always had a certain level of reluctance when things start to bend in those directions, but not because I lack the ability for such things. My reticence comes from a lack of experience. That, and my strong belief that I have no need to add my own push to whatever the Universe is going to bring about. I view magick, divination, and many other aspects of the Pagan Path to be tools. But tools that are a last resort after you roll up your sleeves and get on with the work that is stacked up directly in front of you.
This is also an area that I do not readily discuss with others. As such, I do not have a lot of information to gauge against my own to determine how common my approach may or may not be. I just know that it is my own way of seeing things in the overlay of the land as it is set before me.
Oddly enough, I have had a frame of mind that equates magickal usage as something common and everyday in the life of a Pagan. Sort of like the moment where Anakin Skywalker uses his force powers to cut up food for Padmé Amidala in one of the Star Wars movies. Where magick is one of the first tools that a Pagan might reach for. This is probably a silly thought, and my approach that magick is kept as a tool of last resort is probably more appropriate and practical within the Pagan community at large. However, I have no empirical data to back up that perspective from either direction.
Not that long ago, I took some initial steps into the Tarot, which resulted in a particular interpretation of a reading that I did for myself. Well, I found out how bad I am at doing readings using the Tarot. Going back to that reading, which was done in early October of last year, I can see where I misinterpreted certain aspects because I was certainly too close to the subject matter to come back with a concrete meaning. In other words, I was too close to the forest to see the trees. That has brought me around to the notation that I am excruciatingly bad at doing Tarot readings. I have heard that doing readings for one’s self should be far easier to manage than those for others. There is no way that I would ever unleash my horrible interpretations onto others, particularly when I have become to realize how bad I am at it with myself.
However, I also now that experience helps attune one’s self to a task at hand. Thus, I am not throwing the Tarot tool into the trash and labeling it as “useless.” Rather, I have labeled it as “unrefined” at this point and have started looking at ways to fine tune what I am trying to do. I know its not the deck, The Celtic Tarot has provided good readings – particularly at one-card draws, which I have been using to refine my knowledge of the cards themselves. Perhaps, I need to look to other layouts to see what might work better for me. Or perhaps, I need to loosen up the interpretations I have made a bit more, so as not to make my readings so uber-specific. Whatever the case may be, I am trying different approaches, methodologies…and going into the future, maybe even a different card set. However, at this point, I do have to remind myself that I am the ultimate day-on novice at all of this – and not be too hard on myself over the stumbles and failures. Learning takes time. Time means patience. I am not going to be a Tarot expert over-night, that is for sure. 😊
However, all of this does remind me… everyone has these moments. Moments where they fail at something that they thought would be easy to put into practice, easy to be excellent at immediately – only to be sitting in the dust, wondering how the Nine Hells you got there. Being humbled in a manner like this is a royal kick in the pants, so to speak. But it is also a lesson. One can be confident in their ability to learn, but not so over-confident as to over-extend one’s weight over one’s skis. Yep, learned that lesson in the sixth grade. Skiing. Broke my tibia and fibula in my left leg. Wore a hip-high cast for nearly two months. My over confidence of my ability to ski was the cause of my injury. I was the only kid to suffer an injury during that trip. The only kid whose parents had to drive down to where we had gone on our trip to bring me home. For a sixth grader… it was quite a blow to the ego. Even if my fellow classmates were all more than gracious about it. There are all sorts of places you can find these little lessons…and most of them aren’t even magickal or even Pagan in nature. 😉
I will continue my journey to learn about the Tarot and how to use this tool in my daily Path. I will learn as much as I can, but I know there will be so many others that learn more than I do. That’s awesome though. Because they learned as much as they could. We are all individual from one another. Our strengths are often different. The depth of our learning in a variety of subjects is as varied as the material presented. I will eventually discover my depth in the Tarot. Right now, I have only got one toe in the water. And I can’t even tell if the water is cold or hot. At least not yet.
Normally, this time of year would find me plotting and planning a trip to Louisiana for the annual OBOD Gulf Coast Gathering. For the second year in a row, that’s not happening – mostly due to COVID concerns (and rightly so). This year, Winter decided to howl down from the north, and push me even further indoors (mostly due to my horribly compromised immune system). All of that has allowed me to spend more time on my studies, as well as continue the re-build of everything I comprehend about my Spirituality.
Here in Tejas, the temperatures over the last few days have been intolerably cold. Then again, I have bivouacked in even more extreme temperatures in the wilds of Denmark, the highlands of Scotland, and even in the forests of Germany. I was also a bit more prepared and adjusted to those temperatures, thanks to the United States Air Force (USAF) and the command structure of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Each of those times were training exercises that were mean to test our capabilities of operating in extreme temperatures and what each organization referred to as “disparate environments.” In our training manuals, these exercises were referred to as “implementations of situational readiness.” That is something that the Tejas government was hardly prepared for. To be fair, weather and temperatures like this are once-in-a-generation happenstance. This is not what the state government expects to occur, and thus is something that they do not prepare for.
I spent eight years in Command-and-Control environments in the United States Air Force. Situational preparedness was a common theme in daily life. The threats that could occur ranged from power outages to nuclear warfare. As a member of a unit, you trained for any scenario that could be thought of and learned to adapt what you had learned to whatever was presented to you. When I left the US military, I pivoted to corporate Disaster Recovery, where the focus was on rebuilding the business infrastructure to get the company back on its feet and quickly operating after some form of a disaster. In this job, my department spent a lot of time sand-tabling scenarios. That is, we spent a lot of time dreaming up ways to destroy the company and what techniques could be used to rebuild it quickly. Many times, we did that in the lunchroom of the company’s main building. We were quite loud. Like the time we cleared the lunchroom by discussing a gas tanker running out of control off the interstate and sliding through the main lobby of the building. We discussed what the mortality rates would be, how many people we thought would actually be able to escape down the fire exits (we were in an eleven story building), and how we would reconstitute the company’s operating capacity in a parking lot that would also have to be utilized for massive casualty emergency response. Yes, we were a blast to have in the lunchroom. 😊 And as I noted, we could easily clear the lunchroom with one of our animated sand-table sessions.
During the cold weather here in my area, I left the house a total of zero times. I have spent a lot of time reading, listening to my audio lessons, watching television, sleeping, and trying to stay as warm as I possible can. This weather did not take me by surprise. The weather forecasters have been talking non-stop about this extreme drop in temperatures for a few days before it occurred. I had plenty of time to stock up on food items and be a bit more prepared. But all of this did give me a few moments to pause and reflect on my past, as well as how prepared I am for moments of uncertainty in moments of Life.
The last six months have been some of the most tumultuous that I have had in my life. Yet, despite everything that has happened, I continue to survive through it all. Because, essentially, I am a survivor. Again, I can thank the US military for that. For eight years, I was taught how to handle situations where nothing goes as planned. While I am not the better for where I am, I will eventually be better off. Rebuilding takes time.
I think the hardest part of the last six months is not having my Druid family nearby. As I said earlier, it has been quite a while since I have seen the people that are my family. Online contact has been sporadic as well, as everyone is doing what they need to, in these times of COVID. However, I know they are there. From time to time, we cross Paths online, and do a mini “catch up” by whatever means. Just stuff that can suffice for a short period of time.
As I learned in the military, being prepared is not about having every single contingency answered with this procedure or that pieces of equipment. This is about being flexible, being able to utilize what you have at hand to make it through. This is about being patient, too. I am just as restless as anyone else being here at home. I want to be outside. I want to go hiking. I want to breathe in a world awakening from its Winter slumber. Right now, its dangerous for me to be outside. The cold weather could have catastrophic effects on my pulmonary system. Yes, the pneumonia I contracted after coming home from Iceland really did quite a number on my health. I am still recovering from all of that. I am better, but still must be somewhat cautious. Things will be better. I am sure of that. I must be patient.
Through all of what I have tugged out of the shadows here, being patient is the most important aspect. Yes, there is always a sense of urgency in getting things moving in the initial aspects of impending uncertainty. But once everything is stabilized, patience and calm is important in relation to moving forward. So, another year will pass without me seeing my OBOD family. In the coming year, we will all change even more than where we have managed to now. There will be a lot of differences between the last time we met, and the next time we will. Welcome to life. Ever changing, always growing. Whatever those changes may be…. we are all still family in my eyes.
For this blog post, I decided to cross some very familiar territory. Some of this will be a bit of a look back. Some of it is a bit of finality in drawing boundaries for me. Much of it is about adding some more framework to how I will define my Druidry going forward.
So, where are we headed to? Well, back to some labels and terms. Priest. Teacher. Mentor. Shaman. Elder. Druid. Generally, the terms that I have struggled with in the past and continue to struggle with here in the present. In the groups that I am a part of, these terms are used fluidly to describe what many believe is the quintessential aspect of any Pagan-ish training. Each is utilized as the very end of the trail we all traverse in our studies. These are the goals that many seem to hold in highest regard. For me, these are just labels. Nothing overly special. Not even the slightest bit of goal-oriented thinking. Not any type of an objective to attain. Just loose descriptors. After all, each term/label carries a connotation that can wobble slightly from one person to another, in terms of descriptive understanding.
Probably the most difficult of all these terms for me is that of Priest. Growing up in a non-religious household, the terminology never meant all that much to me, until my parents sent me to private Catholic schooling. The term “Priest” in my mind will always conjure the image of the Jesuit Priests that were at the forefront of my education. At least as the first iconic imagery that comes to my mind. Later in life, there were the pastors of the Baptist faith that I explored, prior to Paganism. For me, a Priest is an individual that leads the religious education of others, as well as being at the forefront of ritual for a group of people. Honestly, none of that is me. I have no desire to be considered the “authority” on anyone’s faith, other than my own.
Teacher is probably the easier term for me to deal with. I have been a teacher in my professional life. For three years, I taught collegiate students about Information Systems, and did my best to show them some of the real-world applications of these systems. Granted, I strayed far from the textbook in doing so, but from the first day I taught out of that text – I believed it to be a shitty manner of showcasing what information was in our current environment. However, my style of teaching is not an easy one for a student – I will readily admit that. I prefer to hand the information to the student, let them assimilate the information the best that they can, and be available to them for any questions. Within a Pagan context, I know that this can be difficult for others to handle. So, I know my own limits towards being a teacher. However, even with that warning, if a student persisted – I would likely be open to being a mentor. The difference between teacher and mentor? A mentor gently guides. A teacher is a lot more hands-on. 😊 There is a song lyric from Halestorm’s song “Break In” that goes “Put your lighter in the air and lead me back home.” This is about as far as I want to get to being at the forefront of anyone’s religious education or instruction. My ideal perspective is to help lead others to where they are trying to get to, not force them down my own Path.
Shaman. What a charged term this one is. Because of my ties to Crow and Coyote, I have heard people mutter the term “Shaman” in my direction before. I have also heard the murmurs of cultural appropriation as well. Well, to put it bluntly, when I started working with Crow, it was made very plain to me that I was not of “The People” and my dealings would have absolutely nothing to do with the religious or ritual aspects of the First Nations. I am not working in sweat lodges nor am I undertaking a vision quest. Those are not for me. I am not of The People. I am also not a Shaman. Any thought that I would head down the path of the First Nations is categorically incorrect. I work with two First Nations’ Gods because the Gods approach those that They approach. Simple as that. I have always been, and always will be, uncomfortable with the notion that I am trying to work some Shamanistic approach.
Elder. Gods, I hate the term but I have been on my Pagan Path since 1986. Whether I like it nor, the basic definitive application of the term certainly can be levied at me. As a point of levity, in the movie ‘We Are Soldiers”, Sergeant Major Plumley makes the statement “If any of you sons of bitches calls me grandpa, I’ll kill you.” In many ways, I feel the same way when people express astonishment about the length of time I have been on my Pagan Path, as if longevity makes me wise or sagacious. Really, its just a notation of time, not a marker of knowledge. I am uncomfortable being noted as a ‘Pagan Elder” but I also understand why such a charge is levied at me. I only wish that people would stop reacting to it as if it is a badge of honor. Because, frankly, it’s not.
Druid. Well, I am a Druid. Even if I am just within my Ovate grade in the order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids (OBOD). Regardless if I continue into my Druid grade or even finish that grade – I am still a Druid. In the past, I was always reticent about utilizing the term, especially when I had not finished all three of the grades within OBOD. However, it is not the grades that make me into a Druid. It is me. With or without OBOD’s training, I am a Druid. With or without the training of another Druid order, I am still a Druid. You may, honestly, have no idea how difficult it was for me to come to that understanding. Or how much that still has me dancing on my tiptoes in nervousness. Yes, it is an aspect of Imposter Syndrome. Going beyond that…. well, it will take time.
Happy Thoughts, Lying on Green Grass, Under Blue Skies
In the end, this whole aspect of labels and terms will matter more to some people, and far less to others. For me, I could give a shit what you call me. Just don’t call me late to dinner. I know what I am. I know what I believe. I know what I need to get done on my Spiritual Path. Just like anyone else, I have certain images and concepts mixed with the terms we all utilize so inter-changeably. Some of those will match up with what you understand. Some of it won’t. Where it matters the most is not to me or anyone else. What matters is how it matches up with what you believe, how you are a Pagan or whatever. If titles, labels, and descriptives hold that much meaning to you – that is awesome. None of that holds any major weight with me, though. And that should not matter one whit to you, me, or anyone else.
I promised you happy thoughts while lying on green grass, underneath blue skies. Well, for me there is happiness going forward. My path is my own. I walk under a framework provided to me by OBOD, but with the knowledge that structuring things beyond that is up to me, and me alone. Your connection to the world around you is up to you. You provide the depth and detail that works for you. You explore in the manner that provides the most meaning and representation to you. All of that will be different from the way that I do it – from the way anyone else does it. Because your connectivity to the world around you is yours – and yours alone. Revel in that. Soak it in like the sunshine in the daytime or the moonlight in the night. Your choice, your approach. You get to define that. You get to live that.
Long ago there was a dream, had to make a choice or two Leaving all I loved behind for what nobody knew Stepped out on the stage A life under lights and judging eyes Now the applause has died and I can dream again Is there anybody listening? Is there anyone that sees what’s going on? Read between the lines, criticize the words they’re selling Think for yourself and feel the walls Become sand beneath your feet –Queensryche, “Anybody Listening?”
This morning, it’s a cold Valentine’s Day here in the center of Tejas. As I look out in the backyard, I can see the patches of ice that have formed in the yard from the low temperatures. There is a promise of even colder weather, as well as a possibility of some significant amount of snow. Well, significant as it relates to here in Tejas. Currently my coffee is still warm, though I will need to refresh it sometime in the very near future. My speakers currently have Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush with their duet “Don’t Give Up” from Gabriel’s “So” album. Just the perfect stuff under the grayish skies above.
Weather like this reminds me that Winter will grab hold and try its best to cling on to our days for a little longer. However, Spring is nearly here, we just need to be patient for a little while longer. The Gabriel/Bush duet reminds me that there is always struggle in Life, even in one’s Spirituality.
I have walked through many valleys within my Spirituality, most recently during the last three months of this past calendar year. I tend to refer to these valleys as my “quiet times” in my life. Crow will whisper in my ear from time to time during my “normal” times. Abnoba tends to be more direct with confrontation in dreams that will linger long after I awake. Coyote…. well, communication there is far less frequent and tends to be a lot more subtle. However, the “quiet times” feel a lot more disconnected, and as I have learned recently, are tied tightly to my “down” moments with my depression.
I have never been sure why the “quiet times” come about, and aside from tying it loosely to my “down” bouts, these tend to happen without reasonable frequency. Sometimes, these last for a while. Sometimes, not so much. When I first started to experience these moments, I would panic. The world feels so out of touch, out of sync with me – nothing felt like I expected. I would feel like I did something wrong. However, I have learned through experience that these moments happen, and that I will be walking on my own for a while. It still feels scary when it occurs – plus my entire life feels very dis-jointed and disconnected when it occurs.
There are those that come to Paganism expecting to be put under the protective embrace of a God or Goddess, only to be disappointed when it does not happen. Folks, the Gods choose to work with those they choose to work with. Sometimes, They even find a working agreement with an individual and pick those folks as Priests and Priestesses. While I work with Crow, Coyote and Abnoba quite a bit, I am not a “chosen” individual with any of the three. I’m just someone that works with Them. Crow made it very clear that I have a role outside that of traditional First Nations’ aspects. I am not of the People. Their traditions are not mine to work with. My working with Crow is for a different purpose and reasoning. What exactly that is…is not really mine to question or easily discern.
Like I said, many folks come to Paganism expecting a direct relationship with chosen Gods or Goddesses. My relationship with Crow and Coyote is not a direct one. Occasionally, my Path will intersect with Theirs. Abnoba is a little different. I am sure there is something that She wants from me. As of this moment, I am not completely sure, though She is more likely to be directly in my face over things. There is no direct connection there, yet. There may never be. Some will say that I am lucky to have such a “direct” connection to the Gods. There are times I would scoff at the term “lucky”.
My connection with Crow, Coyote, and Abnoba is just – a connection. None of the three play a major part in my daily Spirituality, aside from offerings that I give to each. My daily Path is more about connection to the environment around me, and far less in devotion. The whole point of connection for me is why I feel so disoriented during my “quiet times.” When you have something as integral in your daily practice that suddenly gets “turned off” – well, as I have described my depression before, it becomes a very dark and lonely place.
For those coming to Paganism seeking a connection with a specific God or Goddess, let me impart a piece of advice to you. The Gods and Goddesses are not the Hollywood and Marvel depictions that you see in comics, books, and movies. Those two-dimensional depictions are meant to entertain you for the time you spend in those fictional environments. Loki is not Tom Hiddleston and is a far more complex Being than what those crappy movies depict Him as being. If/When you do encounter Loki, you will find that out.
If you don’t encounter a God or Goddess in your daily practice, continue with your devotions to Them. Its not hurting anything to do that, and who knows, your efforts may yet attract Them to you. If you are disappointed and finding that a lack of a God Or Goddess in your Life is making your daily practice of Paganism meaningless to you…perhaps, this Path is not for you. That does happen. If, like me, you find yourself in a moment of the “quiet times” – persevere in continuing through that dark valley. Trust me, the Light will eventually return, the connections will renew, and you will have made it through. Just don’t expect it to happen right away. The darkness of the long night does not fade so easily. Hang in there. You will make it.
And if you need it, reach out your hand. I’ll be happy to hold it and walk beside you in the darkness. Your darkness doesn’t scare me. I am not afraid of being sucked into your depression. I know what it is like to be left alone in your own darkness. And I know what it means to have someone care enough to reach out.
I was browsing through YouTube a few days ago, and stumbled across a video by Scarlet Ravenswood titled “7 Things I wish I Knew Before Becoming Pagan.” I found the video fun to watch, even though it is aimed directly at the Pagan newbie. Some of her points were pretty much spot on for me, and I’ll even duplicate a few of them in my own list. Yes, I thought this was enough fun to give it a try myself – except that I am not aiming too far down my own Pagan path. I just want to approach the aspects related to my own Druidry. So, here we go.
Druidry Is Not a Single Process
What I am getting at here is that Druidry is not meant to force you down a single tube towards a particular way of thinking. Material is presented to you, and you are given the freedom to explore in any direction you feel the need to go. Yes, there are some lessons embedded in the materials you are provided, but there is a lot of freedom to explore (and even expand) on what you envision in the world around you. When I first started down my own Path in Druidry, I tried to stay on what I perceived was the “straight and narrow” for Druidry. However, the further I walked along my Path, the more I noticed that a directed Path would be nearly non-existent, forcing me to look in other directions (or all around) to figure out which foot-falls I really needed to take – not for my Druidry, but for myself. In the end, I started to realize that personal Spirituality was not about walking along any singular Path, but about finding connectivity with the world all around you.
Learning Is Not Just the Order’s Lessons
I work within the structure of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids (OBOD). Currently, I am working through my Ovate grade materials, and have been for a while. When I first started on my Bardic grade, I had a typical newbie belief that once I made it through the three grades of the Order, all learning would end. When I started to (finally!) come to the end of my Bardic grade, I soon realized that I would always be learning lessons from the Bardic grade for the rest of my life. Plus, it would be the same for the Ovate and Druid grade lessons. However, that learning would be more than what was in the lessons provided by the Order. Learning would be a lifetime experience, as each lesson would build on previous lessons, opening a whole new perspective of the world around me. This will continue to the day that I pass beyond the veil…and likely even once I slip past the veil. What I am learning in my Druidry lessons is just a door opening into a wider understanding that I will experience.
Elder and Priest Are Just Labels
I have railed against the descriptive aspects of what a Priest and an Elder are for quite some time. I am fond of neither term. There are few more descriptive terms that I don’t really care for. However, in the end – these are just labels. I make the kind of Pagan or Druid that I am through my own actions. I don’t need a title or a label to make me into who I am. Yes, it has taken quite a lot of time, a lot of navel-gazing, and a lot of brow-furrowing for me to come to this point. I am the Pagan and Druid that I am from my actions – not from reaching some aspect of training in the Order or some length of time in identifying myself as a Pagan. To be honest, I have lost a lot of time and energy struggling and wrestling with all of that – only to find that it was not necessary. I’m just me. Nobody extra-ordinary. Nobody special. Just someone who has persisted in my studies and my own personal Spirituality for as long as I have.
All the Research and Reading Involved in This
One thing I will say about being a Pagan, it has taught me a lot about researching things that I am trying to understand. I look at my bookshelves and see all the book titles that I have read, which have helped me to better understand my own Path. Each one has provided a small part of my understanding but taken together – they are all a part of my daily, personal Spirituality. When I was in high school, I was not the most studious individual. My research and reading skills were non-existent, as evidenced by my 1.76 Grade Point Average (GPA) upon graduating. Becoming a pagan, I was shown the power of reading, understanding the material, and even extrapolating on what I had read to create my own spin on my daily, personal Spirituality. But I will admit…if I had known how much reading and research would have been involved in this Spiritual Path, I might have run screaming in the other direction. 😉
I started down my Pagan Path sometime in 1986. This year will be my thirty-fifth as a Pagan. To be blunt, it doesn’t feel that way. I have a few Pagan friends that were there at the beginning, and I am confident that they would say that I have changed quite a lot as a Pagan. It sure does not feel that way, at least to me. I still learn, every single day. I make mistakes all the time, even on the simplest of things. Each morning always feels like a new chance to try again, to explore somewhere I had never thought of going before, or to step back into an older part of the Path that I don’t recall as clearly as I thought I did. I wish I had known these things before I started because I feel I would have been a better Pagan, a better student for those who have mentored me on my Path. However, I do wonder how different a Pagan I would be today if I had known. It’s a nice exercise in “What-If”, but the answer to it I can never know. After all, my footfalls brought me here. I think it is very important that I acknowledge that over a dreamy thought of what might have been….if.
Not that long ago, I was asked why I do not have any students. I was flattered by the question, as someone thinks highly enough of me to believe I would be a good teacher or mentor to other Pagans. However, my response went along the lines of not really being qualified to teach anyone anything – except for myself. I really hate giving responses like that, but there is a seed of truth encased in there. I am not sure I would be what anyone would expect of a Pagan teacher. To put it in a different way, I would be the most unlikely teacher around. Sort of like Mr. Miyagi in the first Karate Kid movie. Just an awkward, ill-conceived set of approaches to topical matters.
Why would I say that about myself? Because I know what works for me. I am also aware of how it does not work for most others. The old saying goes along the lines of “when the student is ready, the teacher will come” – or conversely – “when the teacher is ready the student will come.” For me, any student that could conceivably work under the approaches that I use – well that one student may have to break one of my knees to get me to notice.
I am very flattered by the idea that I would be a good teacher. I am more amiable to the notion that one day I might make a good mentor. Not necessarily a teacher, but more of a guide for someone that is learning on their own. Someone that they could come to with questions when they get stuck on something. Naturally, I would be upfront about my own limitations. Magick is not, nor has it ever been my forte’. I can help in a crude measure of understanding, but someone looking for a smooth, sophisticated approach would do better searching elsewhere. Or, if they would like, I could point them in directions and towards people that I think would be helpful. Granted, some of those people may hold low opinions or even harbor anger towards me, but I don’t take people’s opinions of me into account when trying to help someone else find a better guide. Go to this or that individual – just don’t mention my name. 😊
To a point, I am confused why people would find me to be a good teacher. Its not like I am placing myself into a position that would advertise me as such. I have yet to offer a class of any sort – online or face-to-face – to the Pagan community at large. I have not taken a single student for one-on-one teaching. I have; however, taught in a collegiate classroom (for nearly three years), but I don’t see how that would ever bring me to the forefront of a conversation of who would be a good teacher. Plus, my approach to learning is to hand you the same resources that I used, tell you to go read, and when you felt like coming back – we could have an in-depth conversation. That’s it. No tests. No quizzes. No certificate of completion. No final assessment of whether you were a top student or just someone that barely made the grade, in my opinion. Just a discussion, held at your convenience. Preferably around a fire, late at night, out where we can see the stars as we hold our discourse. My kind of classroom.
I guess a lot of that comes from my perspective of learning about Paganism. Its not something you can get out of a book. A book should lead your mind to more questions, and a desire to explore for answers. A book should have you wanting to try to do things rather than learning my theory of how to do things. For me, learning about Paganism was about reading, questioning, doing, experiencing, being…. I didn’t need an individual who would sit and endlessly lecture to me about their way of doing things. They would talk about how they did it. If I had questions, I asked. Afterwards, I went out and did it…myself. I didn’t need their approval over any twists or changes or additions that I put to it. I took their framework and built my own on to it. In the end, it might look nothing like what they “taught” – and that didn’t matter to me, so long as it held meaning to what I was doing.
I will honestly and openly admit that many people will find the way I approach my Paganism to be distasteful and unappealing to them. Because I chose to discard traditional aspects for things that work for me. Because I set aside pre-printed rituals that arrive via the post office, in favor of embracing the moment. But I will also acknowledge that whatever works for them, works for them. I am more than thrilled that these methodologies work for them, because it provides an authentic feeling and connection to the world around them, a valid and strong connection with their Gods. There is no fucking way I would ever want to discount any of that for them, simply because they use a methodology that is not mine. That would be disingenuous to what Paganism is about to me, what true Paganism should be all about: the individual’s experience. Their connection with the authentic passion of their own practice – whatever it looks like.
My personal approach to my own Paganism, my own Druidry is uniquely mine. Parts of what I do overlap with the practices of others. While I feel the draw of being a mentor to others, I am not entirely sure what that would look like, considering the deep personal aspect that my approach holds for me. Perhaps, I will eventually find that one student that can meaningfully learn from my approach, and together we can explore what it means to teach that to others. In the meantime, the only way that I know to do this, is just to be myself. If that makes me a teacher…I am just as surprised as anyone else.
There are a lot of topics that occupy my thoughts, but the two that keep coming back more often than others are the most difficult ones to manage. Specifically, these two questions are “What kind of Druid do you want to be?” and “What kind of Priest are you?” I have struggled with both, for a lot of reasons. With my change in my approach towards Druidry within my life, I realized that it would be a good time to revisit these two questions again.
I have made very little secret that I have sought out professional help in working through my depression. Much has been accomplished in those sessions. There is much more to complete. In a recent session, a particular touchstone was uncovered, which has helped me towards answering the two questions at hand. If there is a single word to describe who or what I am, it is “non-conformist.” Going back into my sophomore and junior years of high school, I have always been determined to do things my own way. Even in a rigid frame of structure as the United States Air Force, I have always managed to carve my own Path towards whatever needed to be accomplished. I found ways of staying within the framework of what was asked, while putting my own personal stamp on how it got accomplished. Even to this day, I constantly find myself seeking my own way through an issue, rather than taking the footsteps of those before me.
Even within Druidry, I choose to do things differently. I have mentioned this before – I hate white robes. Here in the American South, white robes bring up a certain imagery that equates with a racial past that is entangled with the Ku Klux Klan. Plus, I think white is a horrible color on me. 😊 My preference is jeans and a t-shirt, along with my green cloak and tennis shoes. I have never been very partial to the idea of “dress-up” when it comes to my approach to my Spirituality. From what I have seen of various OBOD (Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids) and ADF (Ár nDraíocht Féin) gatherings – I’m very much in the minority on that perspective. I am however, quite “ok” with that. I have never been into the idea of finding out whether I am “Pagan enough” for others.
So, what kind of Druid do I want to be? Well, that’s an easy answer. I want to be the kind of Druid that I am right now. Handling my own Spirituality on my own terms, and always there to help others the best that I can. I would guess that the best term for this is that of the role of a mentor, but that is also not completely me. As the line from the Tommy Shaw song goes: “I don’t want to grow up to be a preacher. I don’t want your soul in my hands.” I have nearly zero ambition or desire to create/run my own Grove. A study group? Sure. So long as I am not the one in complete control.
What kind of Priest do I want to be? Well, I’ll defer this back to the “Druid” question. I have always been reluctant to completely embrace the “Priest” concept. Too much of a Catholic upbringing in all of that I guess. However, if we can somewhat equate Druid with that of a Priest, we begin to step into the ground I am more comfortable with.
Why that of a mentor? People will investigate my military background and assume that a role more akin to that of a warrior would be more appropriate. I’m more comfortable with being a teacher. I enjoy showing others some of the mysteries that are right in front of their eyes, and then watching as they move further along to investigate areas and concepts that catch their own interests. I get more joy out of watching others grow in their knowledge and understanding than I do in lecturing to them. Or trying to have them memorize material. I love to facilitate the directions that others can find for themselves. I didn’t teach anything to them – I merely opened the window and let the outside in.
In the past, I have always harbored this idea that Druids are Peacemakers. That the duty of every Druid is to step into conflict and help resolve issues towards peace. There are certainly Druids that do exactly that. I’m not one of those. I am not here to be an arbiter. I have no ultimate authority over any group of people, save for myself. I have enough trouble trying to decide what I want to have for lunch. No settling disagreements is not the place for me, unless I am invited in. And even then, I am reluctant to do just that.
Druidry means a great many different things to a great many people. Each of those people have their own individual way of seeing things – even they are looking directly at the same thing, from the same physical vantage point. We see things, we experience things, and we process that input (and so many more). Our minds sift through all that sensory information, and we utilize our experiences and our knowledge to come to a conclusion. Each of those conclusions are shaped by so many different perspectives, experiences, and understanding that nearly all will be different in one degree or another. We are unique beings with unique perspectives. You might read through all of this and come to a far different conclusion about what Druidry is or is not. That’s wonderful! Because you will see things differently as I have. Those differing perspectives will be everything going forward. These will provide a basis of better understanding one another. Those differing perspectives will also show us how the world around us is perceived differently by others. That will open a whole new perspective to us, a whole new way of looking at things. That, my friends, is the essence of Druidry (in my opinion). Being able to open one’s eyes to other perspectives.
What kind of Druid am I? I still fall back to what I have said before. I’m me. Nobody special, but somebody unique.
You made all those plans. You had each step planned. The first few steps went well. The next few steps went sideways. At the end, what you planned has been turned completely upside down, and does not resemble anything that you thought it would. As you sit in the middle of the smoking ruins, inconsolable over what has happened, your thoughts will eventually come to that inevitable thought: what do I do now?
I completely understand. Really, I do. I have been in this position more often than I care to remember. I can not only relate, but also am aware of the devastated feelings that come with it. I know how paralyzing it can feel, and how lost you can feel while your immediate world burns around you.
Realize this, this dream, this goal, this immediate world of yours may be destroyed, but all is not lost. Life will continue. Moving forward will be hard. However, it can be done. What I have found that works, are a series of steps – each building on the next.
Grieving and Anger
Be sad over what has happened, whatever it may be. You worked on everything, set plans into motion, and it all caught fire. You put a lot of your heart, soul, and energy into what you have done. Naturally, you will feel loss over what has happened. Don’t shove that aside. Feel that emotion. You need to grieve over this loss. Eventually, you will move forward from that point. You might even feel anger over everything. Don’t set that to the side either. Be angry. Its only natural to be pissed off that things didn’t happen the way that you wanted it to work out.
Today, we are constantly told to curtail our grief, and to let go of our anger. In my opinion, that can lead to repression of emotion, which can make things a bit worse. Let your emotions run their course. Be sad. Be angry. But make sure that neither of these emotions consume you completely. Feel your emotions, but don’t let your emotions become the absolute ruler of who you are. Remember, you are in control.
Re-Building and Re-Planning
Once you have let your emotions have their sway, the next step typically becomes either re-building or re-planning. You take the steps to rebuild your Life or approach to eventually move forward. Or you still want the goal or objective you were working for, and you set up a new course of action to achieve that – re-planning. In other words, you are not giving up. You are just re-visioning what needs to occur. This time, you will be more cautious, more attuned to what you were trying to do; to avoid the previous mistakes.
This phase, I have found, can take a lot more time than one might think. Preparation, setting down steps of action, getting things ready to go – all that takes a lot of time, effort, and forethought. So, what happens during all of this? Well, life, of course. You still must move on with the daily parts of life. Eating, sleeping, breathing, and whatever else you might need to do. However, I have found that there is one more thing to add – be positive.
Believe it or not, a positive attitude is helpful. Yes, I know it can be difficult to be positive when you are sitting in the middle of the smoking ruins of everything that you had planned. However, once you set things in motion to go forward, that positive attitude will be everything. Yeah, shit exploded in your face. However, once you get wiped off, and have a look around; you will find a new direction to go. Be positive about the changes, even when they don’t feel that great. That positive attitude will help you out more than you know. Don’t think it is all going to be awesome. There will be bad days. There will be stumbles. You will fall from time to time. It happens. That skinned knee is going to hurt. But it will heal.
Sacrifices and Endings
This is one of the toughest things to realize, and probably one of the most painful. To move forward, you may have to give up on something that means more to you than anyone can understand. No one is going to really be able to relate to the emotional pain of such a hard choice. There may come a time that you must let go of that precious aspect of you, to move forward. No shit folks, it WILL hurt. You may even have to backtrack along your Path to get back to where the last crossroads had occurred. There is nothing more painful than to walk back across territory that you had once seen as the perfect point in your life, just so you can get back to a choice that you had already been through. It’s painful and humbling.
Now, you are likely wondering how all of this applies to Paganism or even my Druidry? Well, I live my Paganism. My Druidry is a part of who I am. I go through this process in nearly everything that I do. It is not a perfect process – not by any means. However, it is an approach that has worked for me through most of my adult life. I have been through the agonizing aspects of this quite a bit. I have also been on the brighter, more positive sides of this as well. All of that is a part of life, a part of living. Perhaps, after reading this, you have decided that this would never work for you. That is completely understandable. Every individual person will find their own unique way of working through such moments in life. As individuals, we all experience differently. We all react differently. And that is a beautiful thing.
One of my favorite times of the day is when the sun starts making its entrance back into our daily lives. When that bright disc in the sky nears its rise over the edge of the earth’s curve. That period we refer to as “twilight”. As the sky goes from completely dark to the beginnings of the sky starting to lighten. The colors are amazing, as your eyes adjust with the slow procession of the sun towards the edge. Until the sun finally peeks over that curve of the earth, bathing everything in that bright light that will illuminate our environment for a time, and warm us to one degree or another. This is a beautiful time of the day for me. This is also a dangerous time of the day for me as well.
I am suffering from diabetic retinopathy in my eyes. Essentially, I have some hemorrhaging of the blood vessels in my eyes, due to periods of high blood sugars. To try and stabilize the condition, I have injections into my eyes at regular intervals. And I hate needles. With a passion. But that’s another direction in all of this. My eyes are their weakest during the morning and evening twilight hours. Walking around, no problem. Behind the wheel of a car? That is a different story. The world becomes a very scary, two-dimensional world. The location of oncoming traffic is a little difficult to discern. Thus, a scary and potentially dangerous situation for me. If I am out driving during the twilight hours, I will find somewhere to pull over until the world is much lighter or much darker.
As I write this, I am looking out the window to the west. The sun is setting, and the sky is a pretty salmon color. In a short while, everything will be set back into darkness. Over the weekend, I was an observer in Cat Treadwell’s Imbolc observance. You can find that on YouTube here. She had mentioned about living in the in-between spaces during this time. This resonated a chord with me, especially concerning my issues with depression.
My depression tends to take the form of a very dark environment, where you can see absolutely nothing. There is danger from objects you cannot see or even comprehend. However, like all my dark, depressive times, I know that eventually the environment will lighten – much like the time of twilight in the morning. So, I do take comfort in the knowledge that my depressive moods have a cycle of some type. Though the periods of darkness can be much longer in some cases in comparison to others. But I am also cautious during this time because I cannot completely trust my vision.
Imbolc is a time of new beginnings. I would also offer that it is a time to be cautious as well. Yes, Spring is coming. Yes, the world is getting lighter. However, weather patterns can sometimes fall back to the cold, dark aspects of Winter without a warning. Those moments can play havoc with one’s mind and mood. However, we can rest assured that Spring and the warmth of light will eventually come. Just as I can always count on twilight being over after a period – making driving not as dangerous for me.
The entire world is coming out of a long COVID nightmare. Vaccines are becoming available to the public in greater quantity. Yes, I am just as impatient as anyone else to get the two shots. However, we are in the twilight hours of this period of our collective nightmare. Much like my need to be patient for twilight to pass, so my eyes are better adjusted, I also must be patient for the vaccine. That means continuing my hyper-vigilance concerning protecting myself from others. I can only hope that others do the same.
I have electricity to keep my home lighted and heated during the Winter months. Granted, this time of the year is nowhere near as harsh as other parts of the world can get. After all, this is Texas. We’re not in the more northern climate zones. Winters here are generally mild. Summers…. well, that’s a time for a different post. However, I am reminded that prior to the wonders of modern electricity, lighting was achieved by candlelight. Imaging that for a moment, I can see where the light of the candle or even the light of the hearth was integral towards the promise of Spring. Light would be more abundant. Warmth would be far more plentiful. And that light was the measure of beating back the darkness.
My depressive state is already starting to have the first glimpses of light against my darkness. I am still cautious in my approach towards things being better than before. After all, there is always a chance of slipping back into the dark. My twilight seems to be on the near horizon. I cautiously hope. I realized that this also follows the cautious hope of the glimmer of Spring that Imbolc provides. So I am thankful that I have a compass, of sorts, to work with through Imbolc. For me, its something solid that I can grab a hold of. And that’s a good thing.
Today is a rainy day here in Hillsboro, Texas. As I sit here and write this blog post, I am reminded of the time of year. We are in the time of Imbolc on the Wheel of the Year. A time of new beginnings. For me, today is no different in that regard. In my life, I stand on the edge of new beginnings. I also stand at the edge of endings as well. After all, many beginnings in our lives are the start of new adventures. Much like Bilbo Baggins sprints down his Path to catch up with the dwarves on their quest to the Lonely Mountain, I find myself taking steps along a new portion of my own Path. Just as Bilbo left behind his contented life for new adventures, I leave behind pieces of my Past, and move towards a Future that holds some exciting promise towards the short-term. While a lot of other Pagan-y folks find Samhain to be the time of taking stock of how things have gone over a period of the year – essentially making Samhain akin to the secular concept of New Year’s Day – I find that this time lends itself better to my perspective of thinking.
I can understand that a lot of folks will read into this idea of new beginnings and think that I am changing and vacating my Druidry. Hardly. In fact, if anything were closest to the truth it would be that I am doubling down on who and what I am. I am a Druid. I am a Polytheist. I am a Pagan. None of that is part of any aspect of change. My approach to each; however, is subject to change. Parts of that are also in the mix of new beginnings. Much of what I am about to relay may come off like a batch of New Year’s resolutions, and that is exactly the point. Right now, my life is sitting off the railway tracks. Part of this is a process to right the train that is me, and get things rolling forward in a positive manner.
Exercise. Let’s face it. I am a chubby, out-of-shape, fifty-five-year-old man. I have underlying health conditions that are not in my favor where life is concerned. That means that I need to do better at keeping myself as healthy as I can. That means taking my medications at regular intervals, as prescribed by my doctor, eating better, and getting my fat ass out of my computer chair on a regular basis. I have already plotted a four-and-a-half-mile walk through the neighborhood, which is what I used to walk every other day when I lived up in the Corinth, Texas area. Add to that I’ll be adding some weight training, along with some stationary bike work. I know that I will probably not be able to hit every single day that I have planned for working out, and that is really “ok”. Just so long as I manage to do most of the times that I have laid out. I am not going to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger or Dwayne Johnson, but I will be a lot healthier than I am now.
Gwers Studies. My goal here is to be finished with my Ovate studies by the end of the calendar year at the latest. I have created a schedule for this as well, making sure that I do not push myself too hard. Recently, I have restarted my Ovate work, and am taking things very slowly and methodically. I have learned that it is far easier to move at a pace that I am comfortable with rather than push myself too hard. Pushing hard achieves burn-out status for me far too easily.
Online gatherings. This past year of COVID has taught me a lot about myself. I am a far more social creature than I had realized. Time away from Pagans that I truly love and admire has cratered my own feelings of loneliness and despair. I have eschewed online gatherings for quite some time, always sermonizing to myself that it does not replace the feelings that I have in face-to-face gatherings. The reality is that this statement is true. However, when online gatherings is all that is available during a time frame where a pandemic is raging throughout the country (much less the entire world), you work with what you have. Sure, I can grumble about it, but what is available is what is available. Today and tomorrow, I take steps in that direction with two online Imbolc gatherings.
I have spent an inordinate amount of time indoors in 2020. During that time, I managed to read three books. Three. Long past time for me to get back into that habit. Plus, I will be doing reviews on what I read from time to time. I also watched very little television and very few movies. I already have a list of tv shows to check out, as well as a grouping of movies. I seriously doubt I will be reviewing any of these, but I do need some leisure time in all of this. Plus, I purchased a Play Station 4 and am already scouting for games to play. However, I don’t want to get sucked down that rabbit hole too far. Games are nice for leisure, but I certainly don’t want these to dominate my free time.
Just as there are new beginnings for this time of year, there are also endings to be considered. Some endings are not worth the time to dwell upon, beyond acknowledging that things had happened. Others contain some important life lessons to put into perspective and think more deeply upon. Certainly, I have had some endings to things within my life. Most are quite personal, which I will not share here. Some are extremely painful to dwell on, others not so much. All have provided lessons that will help me find a better perspective towards walking my Daily Path. Some have involved people no longer being in my life, an aspect that has me mourning the loss of these folks within my life. However, life continues, and dwelling on these losses for too long of a time will stall the forward momentum I am trying to achieve. But as I stated, they will be mourned and remembered in a happier light by me.
Imbolc is a time of new beginnings. This is approximately the halfway point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. The crops are growing again. Slowly, in this colder period, but the promise of lush, green growth is there. The beginnings of Spring are upon us. The beginnings of new endeavors are here as well. This is the reason that I see this time as a position where new resolutions for your daily Path can be made. The above is merely my perspective on this time of the year – my personal outlook on how I am approaching this new year. This is also a time of the year to be hopeful of what is to come…an outlook that I find encouraging with a COVID vaccine becoming more widely available. Change is certainly in the air. How you approach that is up to you.
The future of Paganism. A heady topic, to say the least, and one that many bloggers in the so-called “Pagan Blogosphere” have grappled with from time to time. Back in 2016, the Pagan news aggregate site, The Wild Hunt, published an article tackling just that perspective. Where would Paganism be in one-hundred years’ time? I was intrigued enough with the perspective that I wrote a post on the topic and published it nearly to this day (1/27) in 2016. I happened to catch this in my Facebook Memories, and jumped over to the post to read what I had written. Or I should say, what I had not written.
My post is vague on what I believe things would be like in forty to fifty years. I understand why I wrote it the way that I did. I am not one for looking to the future with a definitive perspective. For me, what is to happen has so many cross-roads and forks in the road, that it is almost impossible to determine which way anything will go. This time around…well, I will try to be a bit more upfront. I am sorry to say, my outlook is not very rosy. The time frame I chose was forty to fifty years. That puts things around the time of 2056 to 2066. So, I will continue to stay with that choice.
As a momentary aside, I will point out that much of this post is written from a perspective of Paganism within the United States. After all, I live here, and am a citizen here. That is not meant to spit on Pagans elsewhere in the world, merely that my viewpoint is narrowed to where I live. I cannot speak to how things are or might be elsewhere in the world, and certainly those that live in those parts of the world would be far better (and far more informed) than myself at expressing an opinion concerning that.
My first stop was on the concept of public acceptance of Paganism. There have been a lot of steps taken towards the acceptance of Paganism within the public sphere. I was a part of some of those steps. The more open acceptance of Pagans within the United States military services. Circle Sanctuary was an extremely large part of that push, providing information to military chaplain services, and helping those of us trying to gain equal footing on a spiritual level with our fellow brothers and sisters in uniform that practiced the “big five” faiths. That took a lot of time and effort, and that ball has been moved a few yards down the field, but there is still a lot left to be done. Much of that effort was done in the late-1980s to the mid-1990s, and yet there is still a long way to go before anything close to equality can be achieved. That was a little over twenty-five years ago. Using that as a poor measuring stick, I think that public acceptance of Paganism by 2066 will continue to move forward, but at a very small, incremental pace.
The second point that was made was concerning temples, sacred spaces or other venues that would be akin to the common day Christian church. I live in central Texas, just south of the Dallas/Fort Worth metro-mess. Here in this small, rural large town, there are seven churches within three miles of the house I live in. Seven. In the rest of the town, there are four more. Hillsboro is far from being a teeming metropolis. Yet, the number of churches is quite large for such a smallish population. To my knowledge, I’m the only Pagan living here. Certainly, there are far more Pagans living to the north of me. But even in the DFW area, I am only area of a handful…well, less than five…public Pagan groups. Two of those reside within the arms of the Unitarian Universalist churches. Not truly Pagan, but it is a start. The point here is that there are not that many spaces that can be construed as “Pagan” and temples or sacred spaces. But these do exist. By 2066? Well, I would posit that there would be many, many more. Not in the numbers that current Christian churches exist. I think only Starbucks rivals that number. However, I do see this number beginning to grow, but also at the incremental number that I have mentioned previously.
Now I will add a little bit of politics into all of this. Sort of. During this past Presidential election cycle, the divide between Republicans and Democrats was showcased quite emphatically. Now, forget the two people running for the position. Instead, let’s focus for a moment on the overall demographics of the voters. Republicans, particularly those red-hated MAGA idiots, self-identified as Christian people. Again, let’s discard the semantics over what Jesus would be like if He were here. Look at the numbers of these self-professed Christians. It is large. Once you add the self-described Christian folk from the rest of the populace – voting or not – the wider Christian belief system would probably be about one out of every two people. Probably not quite that number, but close. The wider Pagan community – the “Big Tent” or the “Umbrella” or however you want to classify it – would make up far less. Will the Pagan population be bigger by 2066? Of course, it will. The growth numbers bear that out.
However, let me throw one more perspective out there concerning all of this. I have no scientific data to back this up, other than my opinion. I do believe that many of the Pagans in 2066 will be unaffiliated within any organization – be it a Druidry order, a Wiccan coven, a Pagan seminary, or a national Occult group. I see the many Pagans going the route of what I call the “Do It Yourself Paganism” thematic. With more and more Pagan books showcasing ways for Pagans to manage their own Paths, I can see many folks choosing to go the DYI highway with their Spirituality. Something that I do not believe is a terrible thing. Though, I do believe that there is still a lot to be said about traditions and being with those of a like-mind. However, I am looking towards 2066 – not right now.
The future, as much as we want to keep pushing it back, keeps coming forward. With that future, comes new Pagans. With those new Pagans comes a desire to try “new” things or to alter things as those stand now. In my mind’s eye, for Paganism, 2066 will find its standing on the public stage a little different, but still as a background player in the play. I can see more places being designated as “sacred spaces” but nothing approaching the stature and number of today’s common-place church. The animosity of the Christian right towards any belief that is not theirs will continue, until social change takes effect here in the United States, and that is if it happens at all. Until that occurs, smaller belief systems such as Paganism will continue to hold far less of the spotlight in the world of Spirituality. I do; however, see changes coming within Paganism itself. A tidal change towards a more self-driven aspect of Spirituality.
Of course, with any future predictive analysis…I could be way off base. In baseball, there are always predictions on how bad a team will be. But a season is one-hundred-and-sixty-two games. Anything can happen. One only need to look at the miracle season of the 1969 New York Mets, a team that was left for dead before the season began. They went on to win one-hundred regular season games – and the World Series. You must play all the games to find out what the future holds.
Basic. Intermediate. Expert. Beginner. Level One. Baby Pagans. I have heard and read all these terms applied to magick and to practitioners of various Paths. I dislike every single one of them. Seriously.
I do understand their use though. Particularly in structured teaching environments. After all, at one point in my life, I was a collegiate professor. The concept is quite simple. It’s a concept of progression, pure and simple. Within the collegiate setting, the learning structure is setup to provide concepts that are mastered at each class level, and then built upon in the next. To use some of the vernacular that I am trying to discuss, think of it this way. You take a Wicca 101 class to understand the basics of what Wicca is, the simplest aspects of the ritual aspects, some divination techniques (maybe) and perhaps even some spell work. Once you finish with that, proving that you absorbed the information provided, you take the next steps towards more “advanced” techniques and concepts.
The same aspect holds true in…say, computer programming. You learn the basic syntactical rules of whatever language you are learning, along with how simple concepts such as loops, logical flow, and input/output. The next class builds on those concepts, while introducing more complex structures such as modular program flow or object programming. At the end of the progression of courses, if you pass, you will have gathered enough information that you can extrapolate on what you have learned to create your own techniques within the programming language. At least in theory.
Not a difficult concept to understand, eh? So why do I have a beef with all of that? I come from a collegiate background, certainly I can understand why such a systematic approach works well. Well, I do understand the approach. I will even admit that it works for me, to some degree. But I take slight umbrage at the terminology.
Underneath the veneer of these terms, an undercurrent of arrogance can occur. I am better than you because I am taking this ‘Intermediate” class within this Occult School of thought. Or to even utilize some of my own Order’s own perspective – I am better than these people in the Bardic grade because I have progressed to my Druid grade. The idea that one is better than others, simply because one has managed to progress to a certain level – well, that stuff tends to grate on my personal nerves.
Right now, I am in my Ovate grade within OBOD’s system. I have managed to get through my Bardic grade. That does not make me better than any single member of the Bardic grade. All it means, in my eyes, is that I have managed to accumulate the knowledge that I needed to within the Bardic grade. I am no better or less than any member at any level within the Order. To think otherwise, would be creating a classist state for the Order. In other words, I would be expecting to be treated as being better than those in the Bardic grade, simply because I was an Ovate. I certainly would expect to be treated differently as an Ovate than a Bard, simply because I am part of the Ovate grade. There are different expectations of members of each of the grades within OBOD, but no group is any better than the others.
So, I have a personal distaste of the perspective of classism when it comes to what one is or is not capable of within magick and Paganism, based solely on what they have learned or experienced. Sure, the concept of progression in what can be done makes sense. However, labeling it as “Basic”, “Intermediate”, and “Expert” can and does lend itself to an aspect of classism, which then lends itself to simple arrogance.
So, what do I propose that would be better? Or different? Honestly, I am not proposing that anything would be better. That is not a paradigm that I want to operate within. I am not trying to say that one technique is better than any other. What works for one individual does not work for another. For those that follow Major League Baseball, you will understand this example. Batting is a simple technique of getting your hands positioned correctly to be able to connect with a pitched ball. Every hitter develops a timing technique and a batting stance that allows them to (a) see the ball coming out of the pitcher’s hand, and (b) shrinks the strike zone to make it harder for the pitcher to throw a strike to them. Not every hitter adopts a stance that has them hunched over the plate, like Pete Rose did. However, whatever stance they adopt, is the one that they are comfortable with.
I see much of this in the same light. For some folks, this classist concept of learning magick works for them. They understand the progression. They are used to the procession of material from their mundane lives (typically within the Education system). It works for them, and that is a good thing. My preference is different. I work with material as I need to. I learn what I need to work with. Sometimes, it can be clumsy, but that awkward approach also helps me to learn.
If I am being completely open and honest, it is not the methodology and the approach that turns me off. Solely, it is the vernacular that creates my disdain. For me, the terminology is what creates a classist perspective, particularly when it has the denotation of one being better or more superior to another, simply because of what knowledge has been accumulated. But to be even more frank, I am not sure what verbiage could be utilized and applied that would not leave similar classist stains behind.
Yeah, perhaps I am howling into the wind, hoping for an echo from the canyon that is up-wind. This is not something I can find a solution for – even within my own personal thinking. Aside from remaining on guard for a potential under-current of classism or arrogance carrying me along, all I can do is hope that others do not succumb to those waters. After all, I can only control what I do, what I think, and what I feel. To do otherwise, in my eyes, would be unethical, as well as inappropriate.
Every day brings change. Each time the sun rises over the horizon, I am reminded that the day that is coming into focus will be different than any of those that came before. Sometimes, those changes will send Life in a different direction. Sometimes, those new directions will have you looking around at those still with you on the journey and seeing new faces. Sometimes, many of the faces you thought would be there forever are no longer there. You adjust and move on.
A short while back, I wrote about how my Druidry was not providing me with the focus that I needed. Not because it wasn’t working for what I needed. Rather, my Druidry was based on some silly notions of what Druidry was from an overly romantic and idealized perspective. Many folks read this and thought that I was abandoning Druidry. That was not the case. I’m taking the time to inventory what I need from Druidry and discarding the pieces that I don’t really need. In short, I am stripping my Druidry down to its nuts and bolts, so that I can build it back in a manner that works for me.
A few friends, particularly my more overtly Christian ones, felt that this was a moment to step in and hawk their brand of belief.
“Your Druidry and Paganism has failed you.” “Your misplaced faith has put you into the position of mental depression you are encountering.” “If you had a more rooted faith, you wouldn’t have the relationship problems that you have.”
Yes, I have had a lot of this hurled at me, particularly in the last few days. The reality is that my Druidry and my Paganism have not failed me. Neither are a cause of the mental depression that I am working through. Neither have a hand in the relationship issues that I have. To make another point, suggesting any of those three only suggests that attempt at bringing me to their faith has the trappings of a used car salesman than that of an individual trying to show how their faith works for them in their time of need.
I do; however, grok their perspective and, to a certain degree, understand their intentions. We don’t agree on religion, theology, spirituality, sports, politics, or how to hold a fork when eating. However, they are friends and only want to see me happy and smiling. So, I try my best to not be overly harsh when I emphatically put my foot down and say “no”.
Yes, I am currently going through rough times in my life. As I have said many, many times before – I have good days, I have bad days. Most of my days fall somewhere between those aspects of the spectrum. I do not really pay much attention to how I may seem to others, but I probably don’t laugh or smile nearly as much as I usually do. I probably seem to be more serious than I usually have been. I am likely a thousand times quieter than my Puckish self is usually. That is how it seems I am internally. That probably shows quite a bit externally too. Since that is not my normal mood as described by others, I am sure it shows more often now than before. Everything will eventually be fine. Just not right now.
My Druidry, my Paganism, my beliefs did not bring me to this spot. None of that caused the way that I feel. In the end, these will be some of the anchors that will bring me back to where I used to be. There is no failure in any of that which brought me to where I am now. My emotional scars that I tend to come from elsewhere. Those scars will heal in time. Right now, they are fresh and extremely painful. My Druidry, my Paganism, my Spirituality will help me to heal over time. But first, I must feel my pain. My pain will allow me to learn. And to be honest, no one can learn this for me.
I still have the same hopes. I still have the same goals and desires for where I want my Druidry and my Paganism to take me. However, the overall scenery has changed a bit. I have talked about how my depression feels like an all-encompassing darkness, where I cannot make out the features of anything around me. This morning, as I write this, I am watching a fog crawl into the area of central Tejas that I am in. I am reminded that the darkness I find myself in is much the same as the fog. It slowly crawled into my life. It will slowly clear as well. And in time, it may be back. Maybe less dense. Maybe more. I can’t really say.
So, for me, Life continues. I am not sure of the form it will take. But I know my Druidry will be with me through all of it. I know that my Paganism will continue to be with me. Not because I am a part of those elements – for I am. But because I am adding those elements to who I am. No offense to my Christian friends, but I have no need or use for your beliefs in these dark times in my life. I appreciate your desire to see me happy, but your beliefs are not going to do that. That is solely my job. My Druidry, my Paganism, my Spirituality – these all provide me with the connections that I understand and can use as I move forward. Without these, I would be completely rudderless in my own sea of despair. And I have no desire to float aimlessly through my Life. I have my purpose in my mind. I have my own goals that I have set.
Everything will eventually be fine. Right now, I have my own emotions to work through. I have my own mechanisms to explore, expand and repair. But everything will eventually be fine.
Too many hands on my time Too many feelings Too many things on my mind When I leave, I don’t know What I’m hoping to find When I leave, I don’t know What I’m leaving behind
Neil Elwood Peart / Gary Lee Weinrib / Alex Zivojinovich
Every day brings a new challenge. Every day brings a new perspective to see the world from. All of that can be marked down as being true. Except it is hard to see when all you encounter is darkness. Not that night-time darkness that your eyes eventually adjust to. Rather, that jet black darkness where you cannot even make out your hand when it is two inches away from your face. You have nothing to reach out towards that you can see. Any obstacle is completely unseen, and presents not only a tripping hazard, but has the capability to severely injure you if it has any pointed aspects or extremely sharp edges to cut you with. Welcome to my form of depression, in words.
Most of my understanding of the world around me comes from observing the perspective of other objects in relation to me. Door handles. The edges of tables. The hands of friends that I can reach out for to steady my balance. The steering wheel in my truck. My staff, if I am carrying it with me. All of these are things that I can reach out for to steady myself, to provide balance, to allow me a moment to regain balance. In that inky, black darkness, I have none of those things. This throws me off balance, and kicks in my fear that I may hurt myself in just trying to move. Thus, beginning my own internal paralysis.
There is a lot more to this scenario that describes my depression, much of which I won’t go into detail here. However, I do know the shape that my darkness takes in my everyday Life. Chaos. I am an ordered person. As an Information technology troubleshooter, my professional career is defined by an ordered flow of “if this, then this” which helps me identify where issues are located at, as well as determining how things get fixed. My personal life follows a similar Path.
When I take trips, I make lists of what is needed to be packed, the order that things go into the truck, and what I need to do to get myself into the truck and on the road. I know, it sounds boring and rote – and it is – but it is necessary for me, so that I don’t leave something behind. Yet, I always manage to do so. 😊
Over the last four months, my life has been turned inside-out, upside-down, and shaken hard to make all the loose change fall out of my pockets. When that was done, Life tossed me to the side, where I tumbled end over end. When I finally came to a stop, I was disoriented. I had no idea which way was up. I had no markers available to me to help re-orient my posture. The entire world also seemed to be spinning and tumbling out of control as well, which made things even more difficult. To put it into a single thought – I was lost.
During these four months, my Gods stepped back from me. That added another void where I had expected some aspect of stability and an ability to re-orient myself. I had none. That made things even deeper and darker for me. I began to realize what someone who had lost all their senses would feel like. What a scary world without sensation could feel like.
Due to a lot of personal issues, I was driving constantly through the backroads of Texas. Rarely did I stop between destinations because of COVID, and even then it was just to stand at a gas pump and fill my truck’s tank. A few weeks ago, I was driving back after a snowfall, which is rare for central Texas. Looking through the windshield, I could see the white-covered landscape.
There were very few vehicles on the road with me, so I stopped when I saw a little picnic area at the side of the road. I turned off my truck and got out to walk around. Just like the snowfalls that I remembered from winter walks near Vogelweh Housing near Kaiserslautern, Germany, the air was quiet. Like the whole world had drawn in its collective breath, and was quietly breathing slow, small breaths – not wanting to disturb the peace. I brushed off the seating at a wooden picnic table and just sat, taking in the scene.
That moment of serenity was a salve that I needed. My world got quiet. The wild whirlwind of chaos stopped within me, and that darkness parted enough for me to see strands of light. Once again, I heard Crow in my mind. “You need to be your own rock of solitude. You need to find your own peace. Through all of that, We are here. To reach out, you need to go back to your basics. Reconnect with yourself.”
For me, approximately 120 days ago, my life had radically changed. Everything felt like a whirlwind. Now the whirlwind has ended. What’s left of me is scraped completely bare, like a tornado had come through. Now, I can feel the quiet and calm after the storm has passed. Much like my Druidry is being rebuilt, I am now left to rebuild me as well. Slowly. Quietly. Without the chaos.
The darkness is still there though. It will always be there. It is not something I can remove completely. That’s because it is a part of me. That darkness is me. As I rebuild, I also must find a balance that works with it. That will take time, discussion, and patience.
I am not without tools or help. I am seeing a counselor, who has been of immeasurable assistance in understanding certain aspects that I have encountered. I also have Cat Treadwell‘s excellent book Facing the Darkness on my iPad as well. Where my counselor has trouble equating some of my Pagan perspectives to what I go through, Cat’s book bridges the gap in a most excellent and proficient manner. I am sure that I will find other tools to add to my rebuilding efforts. However, none of those can do what my friends do for me – provide balance, support, and unconditional love. Without that…without them, I would truly be lost forever.
Well, we have all seen the pictures and the images of the so-called QAnon Shaman. The entire outfit looks outrageous on the news. Many non-Pagans have likely been chuckling through it all. “Look at the weird guy in the weird outfit.” “What a typical, goofy Trump follower.” However, a lot of Pagan folk have been fairly upset by the image, and most particularly by the stylized descriptive of a “shaman”. I have read in quite a few places where folks are saying that this guy is a good example why gate-keeping in Paganism should be necessary. That this guy is an example of someone who needs to be told that he isn’t doing “Pagan” incorrectly.
I’m still of a different mindset. I believe that Paganism needs no gate-keeping. Certain traditions and mystery schools certainly do – and should. To be a part of that, you promise to adhere to the aspects of what that Tradition or mystery school is about. But general, everyday Paganism? No. At least in my mind. Others will disagree.
For me, I don’t have enough time to walk around policing Pagans over what I think they should or should not be doing. I have my own Spirituality to tackle. I have my own relationships with my Gods to work on. Add to that, I have other aspects of my life that are turned around, upside-down and inside-out. I have plenty enough on my hands to deal with. I certainly do not need to be in the middle of how others approach their Spirituality, no matter how superficial I may find it to be.
As you can tell, I am not a fan of gate-keeping within the general Pagan community. My personal perspective is that if I am busy trying to right myself after my own stumbles, I certainly do not have the room to critique others on the way they walk on their own Paths. To be honest, when I do encounter gate-keeping, I tend not to have a fond look upon it either.
Ok, so this so-called QAnon Shaman was wearing an outfit that didn’t just border on cultural appropriation – it scratched out the line and traveled right across it. Sure, call that type of shit out for what it is. But let’s also remember, people can – and do – cross the line into cultural appropriation without even realizing that they are doing so. Slamming them like an NFL linebacker eats a running back for lunch might not only be a little harsh, but it can also drive someone away from a Path that they are just exploring at this moment.
Now, I am not excusing this QAnon Shaman for his outfit or even for his actions. Nor am I slamming the folks calling for gate-keeping for their views. I’m only trying to point out that when encountering such an individual for the first time, it might be best to approach them lightly. To point out that…hey, that outfit disrespects several First Nations peoples, their traditions, and their Spiritual Paths. Or…hey, this might not be the best approach towards Paganism, if that’s where you are trying to go with this. Can we talk?
So, is this QAnon Shaman guy a Pagan? I don’t know. I certainly don’t care. Am I disgusted by his outfit and his actions? Certainly. I don’t really have any super-nice things to say. But to be honest, beyond that…I can’t really say much. I already have my hands full. As the saying says – choose your battles. I already have enough battles in my life. I know when I need to put some more of them back. As for others, who feel they need to be gate-keepers for Paganism…well, I don’t agree. But my hands are still full. This is also a battle I have to put back as well.
I do not write this blog to tell you how you should be doing your Paganism, or your Druidry. I write this blog to talk about how I do it. Not so you will do the same things that I do. Rather, in the hopes that you find inspiration from what I do to find your own way of doing things. For you to discover new aspects of connectivity to the world around you. I am certainly not here to make the rules for anyone to approach their own Paganism or their own Druidry. In my mind, that would be dishonest with my own approach.
It is Friday, and yes I am aware that I am a day late getting this out. No, I am not changing the blog schedule. Posts will still happen on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and once on the weekend…or as close as I can stay to that schedule. Life will still, sometimes, get in the way.
So, this morning, I am drinking my cup of coffee, and trying to figure out what to write. I am still working my way through my Gwers lessons. I am still putting my Druidry back together into something that fits better to me. At this moment, nothing is different from what I have explained to this point. So, there’s nothing new to add or share here. With Druidry being a mystery school, there are some things that I just cannot, should not, and would not share. Sharing certain aspects would remove the individual experiences for others…and I would not want to rob anyone of that.
For me, that leaves a handful of smaller topics that I just cannot write full essays on, and many of which are not truly Pagan in nature. So, I guess I can write some of these into some form of a blog stew – so to speak.
These last days of President Trump’s four years in the White House have become some of the zaniest stuff I have ever seen. I don’t talk much about politics for a single, simple reason: my opinion is my own, and should hold sway over no one but myself. But the last ten-plus days have just been incredible stuff. I never, not even in my most incredible nightmares, believed I would see a mob swarm the Capitol building in Washington D.C. Nor would I have ever believed that those people would be trying to stop the electoral process, or even attempt to hold members of Congress hostage (this has been alleged in the news through several sources). Yet, here we are – a little more than a week since that moment. There is nothing that I can say that will change the minds of people who cheered on what happened. For me, it was a repugnant moment in our collective American history. Those who defaced, destroyed, and defiled property should be held accountable to the highest extent of the law. Many of them were heard on video telling Capitol Police Officers that the Capitol building was “their property”. I agree with them. But it is also my property as well. Like them, I pay taxes. My taxes help to manage the upkeep of the property, pay the salaries of those that are there, and serves as a symbol of my government. None of that gives me, or anyone else, the right to destroy windows, doors, and artwork there. None of that gives me, or anyone else, the right to assault Police Officers or to make violent threats against the politicians that are there to conduct business on behalf of every citizen of this country. I don’t agree with a lot of the decisions that get made there, but becoming a violent hooligan is just flat out wrong. So enough on that from me…
I don’t watch much American football. The fact is that I find the sport to be boring. However, my family’s roots are from the Ohio/Indiana/Kentucky corner of the United States. My love of my ragged Major League Baseball team, the Cincinnati Reds, comes directly from that. So, when I saw that the Cleveland Browns had made the playoffs and would be playing the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first round…well, I had to watch. In the three some odd hours of the game, I kept looking up from the crossword puzzles I was working on. It was nice to see the Browns win. This coming weekend, they play the Kansas City Chiefs, a team that tends to be stated as “the best” football team in this current season. So, apparently the Browns don’t stand a chance. That was also said about the Browns/Steelers game – that the Browns had no chance. There’s always a chance. Right?
I have written about my struggles with my own mental health issues. Primarily, the focus has been on my decision-making processes. However, another area that I have been working with my therapist on is my self-image. This is rather hard to type. I have a lot of problems seeing myself as someone worthy of anything. I run from success. If you read enough of the blog, you will find areas where I self-denigrate and utilize self-deprecating humor. But in all of that, I did not realize that I had an unbalanced sense of myself between my work-self and my personal-self. Much of my sense of worth comes from the work that I have done for a living. This unbalanced aspect of me is not the easiest thing to realize, much less try to re-balance within myself. I write about stuff like this, in the hopes that someone else reads this and realizes that my issues are like theirs. So that they know that what they are feeling is not something unique to them, and that it can be worked on. People talk about the aspect of self-love, which is important. However, one of the first steps – in my opinion – is to determine where and how self-loathing is appearing in your life. Identification, again my opinion, is necessary to figure out what to do. That’s where I am. Yes, I will blog a bit more about it going into the future.
Last, let me finish this up with some fun stuff. Reading. I have been asked what I plan to read going into this year. My answer? I have no idea. In the past, I have set down a list of books that I was going to try and read through the year. All that really did was ramp up my anxiety, and made reading feel more like a chore, rather than a fun and informative experience. This year…I have no idea what I am going to read, much less how many books I plan to read. However, I will write mini reviews over on GoodReads on what I work my way through. I am not the world’s fastest reader either. So, don’t expect a ton of stuff to start pouring out of me there. The way I look at this now, if I read one book this year – I accomplished something.🙂 Reading should be fun, not some chore I need to tackle.
So that’s it. Nothing much more than that. I could talk about the Major League Baseball off-season, but that could be three or four posts in length, and this is not s sports blog. Posts like this…few and far between.🙂
One last thought….this came via my Facebook Memories from 2012 on this day (15Jan). ” The faery-dust of magick comes from your own belief that the impossible is possible.” In my mind, it certainly is.