Thinking About: Iceland, Travel, and How It All Fits in With My Spirituality

Travel has always been a large part of my life. Some of my earliest memories are being crammed into the rear hatch area of a Ford Pinto which was pulling a small trailer. That view through the rear window was my view of so many destinations throughout Europe with my family. We travelled to many places in mainland Europe. Valencia, Spain. Montpellier, France. Countless locations in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. All the trips I took throughout Europe when I was stationed in Germany as an adult. The myriad of locations throughout the United States that I have travelled to as an adult. Various locations throughout the Rocky Mountain chain. The Blue Ridge Parkway in the Carolinas. The long three-day driving trip from Texas to Glacier national Park, with a stop at The Medicine Wheel in the Big Horn mountains of Wyoming. The magical trip to Yellowstone. The two trips with the college to Ireland, Scotland, and the United Kingdom. However, none of those compares to where I was three years ago – Iceland.

The trip to Iceland meant doing something I truly loath. Flying. Kind of strange for a former United States Air Force to dislike flying, but I do. I know its an irrational fear, so I always spend time shoving it into the back of my mind – just so I can get on the plane and avoid running down the aisle, screaming my head off about getting out of this tube-shaped coffin. However, Iceland was worth every second of anxiety in all the flights that had been to be taken. Plus, I got to visit YYZ, otherwise known as Toronto Pearson International Airport, both coming from and going to. An absolutely gorgeous airport, which there was no time to explore with time between flights being under an hour in time.

The terrain of Iceland is absolutely stunning, and quite varied. Around the airport, everything looked like wide-open prairie from west Texas. Granted, the plants looked different, but it had that same feel to it. The bus ride from the airport to the first location we stayed at with our group was really not that notable. Near the hotel that we stayed at (which was like a series of bungalows) was a location where steam vents could be seen. According to the folks at the hotel, these had been opened a few years earlier from an earthquake. I took the opportunity to walk to the steam vents. At the beginning of the walk was a MASSIVE uphill walk on a worn-down gravel path. I remember thinking that I had to go back DOWN that hill on my way back. The walk to the vents was a long way down the path. One the walk there, I marveled at the terrain, as well as the shadows that the sunset was putting on the hillside behind me. Just gorgeous stuff. At one point, I stopped for a few minutes to open myself to the land around me. I could feel the VERY ancient Spirits of the Land, no where near as active as those that I had encountered back on the northern plains of Texas. Everything seemed to move slowly and deliberately. If I take a moment, I can still feel that moment now. How small I felt. How insignificant I seemed to be in comparison. How I was so readily ignored. Then there were the smaller beings that I could sense. What some on the trip referred to as the “fair folk”. I never really found anything like a name for them, but they always felt like pesky little creatures. Back at the hotel, the folks in the bungalow next to mine got locked INTO their room. Weird stuff like that happened throughout the trip.

Once we started heading north, the terrain changed and became extremely dramatic in perspective. Valleys that we drove through had steep mountains on either side. From where we were on the road, neither side seemed that far away. That is, until you saw a building of any sort further down in the valley. These buildings were large barns and large houses but looked even smaller than the houses that one saw on a toy train set. When you started to think about your own size in the bus in relation to the building that was seemingly in the middle of the valley, you started to get a real sense for how far away the mountain side on the other side of the valley really was.

The last part of the trip was spent around the northern city of Akureyri, which I can only find the nearest comparison of Koriko, the city where Kiki comes to live in the Anime film “Kiki’s Delivery Service.” I have never fallen in love with a city as quickly as I did with Akureyri. Having grown up for part of my life in Europe, I was well accustomed to the concept of walking and mass transit for inner city travel. Walking part the small mom-and-pop restaurants and bakeries was just amazingly enchanting. Here, in the city, it was easy to find the Spirits of the Land, as well as the Spirits of Place. All you had to do was open yourself to the experience. There were also older, and what felt like extremely watchful entities as well. Not quite like a Spirit of place, Land, or Ancestor. These felt more like “Protectors” or “Guardians.” There are legends within Iceland mythology about the Gods being present to protect Iceland from invaders. Not being too familiar with the legends and lore, I can only presume that these beings might be them.

While part of this is me reminiscing over a trip from three years ago, its also a reminder that there is more to my Spirituality than honoring my Gods, venerating my Ancestors, and celebrating the turning of the Wheel. Travel, exploration, and experiencing the wider realm of my environment is equally important. For the past two years, COVID-19 has put a lot of that on hold for me. Just around a few months ago, I took a trip back to southwest Colorado, a trip that was needed for my personal well-being. I needed to be out in places that have that sacred feel to me. The trip to Mesa Verde did just that for me. Not only did I get the chance to explore Mesa Verde a bit more, I also got the experience of being caught in a torrential downpour – complete with terrific and terrifying lightning strikes. A reminder of what I find so sacred about the world around me. The sacred beauty, coupled with the terrifying elements, has that feeling of being my own personal RESET button.

Iceland provided the same thing for me. The beauty was certainly there. The cold that I returned to Texas with set into my lungs – providing me with pneumonia. I still suffer from its effects to this day. A reminder that places like Iceland, while beautiful and rugged….can certainly kill you if you don’t take it seriously enough. Every single day, I have a reminder of that. My shortness of breath. The swelling of my feet. Just two ready symptoms that serve as reminders of how small I am upon this world. Now, I live in the central part of Texas, much further away from my beloved southern-central plains. The Spirits feel different here. They react differently here. Yet, the way I approach my own Spirituality remains – largely – the same. I take comfort in that sameness. Yet, I still yearn for the capability to travel safely to return. Soon.

–Tommy /|\

Thinking About: Solo v. Group Dynamics.

Why are you on your own? Why not join a group? You’ll be better off if you do.

I hear this a lot, particularly from my Pagan friends who have been working exclusively within a group throughout their Spiritual career. Honestly, its an understandable position from them. They have found something that works quite well for them and they wish to share that perspective with every Pagan they encounter. For me, it’s a reminder of why I left traditional Christianity behind when I was in my late teens.

Don’t go to that southern Baptist church. The one I attend is so much better.

That approach, for me, is like high pressure sales at Best Buy. You know, when you want to get your fingers on the various technologies and hardware platforms, so you can see the differences for yourself and determine which one meets your needs. Then the salesperson comes along and starts explaining why they think this platform sucks when compared to that one.

As I have noted before, I have been on my Pagan Path for thirty-plus years. Its never been smooth sailing. I’ve gotten a lot of bumps, bruises, and scares on this Path. There have been times that I have wondered just what the fuck I am doing. There are other times where everything just fits together so clean. There has been a lot of hard work that I never wanted to tackle at all. There has been work that I could barely contain my glee at getting straight into. And there’s been a lot of stuff that falls between the extremes I have noted here. In all my time on this Path, I have been with a local (to me) groups for about less than twenty percent of all that time. Most of that has been in the first few years of my time being on the Path. So, I am firmly entrenched in being a solo Pagan.

I know, I know. I can see your eyes starting to glaze over. This is Tommy getting started on the sales pitch as to why being a solo Pagan is so much better than working in a group. Except that its not. Having gone through my own bumps and bruises in my own personal experiences of bring in a group, as well as transitioning to being a solo Pagan – I know better than to declare one as being better than the other.

Some people take to the dynamics of groups far easier than others. When they discover that, sometimes they believe that going the route of the group is the answer for everyone. Their zeal at having found that missing puzzle piece to their practice can become a self-assigned mission to help others to “see the way.” Trust me, I know that feeling all too well.

When I first encountered Paganism, I wanted to share my new knowledge with everyone, particularly with my Christian Air Force co-workers. I pushed hard for them to understand and accept my beliefs as valid. I wanted them to realize how badly the earlier members of their faith had persecuted the earlier members of my own. What I wanted them to see was how alive I felt at finding a Spiritual Path that worked for me. Essentially, I let my zeal get too far ahead of my skis. So, I can really grok how that happens with those folks that want other Pagans to join their group. Just as I wanted my co-workers to revel in my moment of ecstasy of finding a Path where my footsteps were those of joy, I can see how these folks want that from their Pagan friends too. In fact, I marvel at their joy and would encourage them with heartfelt joy of my own for the beauty of those footsteps on their newfound Path. Seeing people taking those early steps is one of the most awe-inspiring things I know of.

Over the past few years, I have been asked to join a handful of local groups as an active participant and member. I have turned each one down, noting that I would be more than happy to attend as a visitor and participant for their public rituals, but that becoming a member just wouldn’t be in the cards for me. The reactions have been a mixed bag. Some have accepted that I prefer being a solo Pagan. Others have taken that rejection of becoming a permanent part of the group as a total rejection of their Path. I can understand that reaction, even if it is the furthest point from the truth. I do my utmost best not to be offended by that. Everyone has their own viewpoint of how something is.

I am a part of a group, even though my Spiritual path is taken from a solo perspective. I am a member of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids. (OBOD) My training in the three grades is done on my own, though I always have a mentor assigned for help. A few times a year – except while COVID-19 rages throughout our world – I will come to their gatherings, so that I can participate with other members, as a group. For me, this is a reminder that group work is essentially to my growth, but that I can approach that on terms that are a little more comfortable for myself. No judgment. No pressure. If I wanted to completely cut out the group aspect, I can. I continue with this smaller aspect of group because it works for me. I can expand or constrict it as I need to.

I know there are those that would believe that I hate working in a group. That my preference to work alone is due to the “fact” that I prefer to not have any accountability. But that’s not true. I am accountable to myself. Believe me, I am much harder on myself over failure than anyone else would be to me. Truth be told, I am far more comfortable approaching my Spirituality on my own than within a group. That’s no indictment of groups or the people that prefer that approach. They know what works for them. They know how that approach brings ecstasy to their Path. But works for them does not necessarily work for others. And I really enjoy that diverse approach. I prefer human beings be their own individual self in whatever they do. There is a myriad of approaches that work. That myriad of approaches shows the creative inspiration that drives our collective reality and makes us the unique personalities that we are. Viva la difference!

–Tommy /|\

Around the fire at OBOD’s East Coast Gathering

“Baby” Pagan/Witch/Druid. Settle Down Its Just a Term.

“Baby Pagan.” “Baby Witch.” “Baby Druid.” I have been watching the start of the outrage over these types of terms beginning here on various forums on the internet. The back and forth, at times, seems nearly comical. One side accuses the other of not being serious over the terminology. The other side makes accusations of “gate-keeping.” Both points only enrage the other side further. I’ve watched Pagans that I generally consider to be level-headed suddenly erupt into throwing insults like hand grenades at the other side. Me, and others, stand on the sidelines and take in what is occurring.

Stuff like this makes me wonder if the wider Pagan community can ever get things together enough to present a cohesive perspective to non-Pagans. Apparently not over things like this. Arguing over whether a term should be considered an offensive slur or not. Suddenly, we start to divide into sides, and arm ourselves for mortal combat. All over a simple point of terminology.

I sort of understand. There are racially insensitive terms that should never be uttered, which can cause a similar type of scrum. However, I must really question whether adding the term “baby” in front of Pagan, Druid, Witch, Heathen, or what have you, really rises to that level. Or does it?

On the one hand, the term “baby” seems to imply that those who have this label hung around their necks are simply newbies to the entire scene. They simply haven’t accumulated a lot of knowledge or experience about aspects of their newly chosen Path yet. Certainly, there are better reference points for these folks, such as neophyte. But honestly, not everyone uses such terminology in their everyday vernacular. Referring to someone as a “baby” whatever provides a quicker expression that displays a faster understanding of these newbies.

On the other hand, the implication is that these newbies need to have their information and knowledge spoon-fed to them. A further implication is that these “baby” whatevers will never learn to accumulate knowledge on their own, making them into what some might see as a useless whatever Path they are on. This seemingly references these folks as seekers on the Path that are not worth spending time on, simply because they don’t know any better.

I can see both sides of that coin quite easily. Being a completely unknowledge neophyte in my earlier days on my Path, I can easily relate to the position that those seekers are in. I completely understand how lost such a seeker can feel when faced with others who know so much more. Even deeper, I can relate to how embarrassing one can feel in front of those with that wide ranger of knowledge who treat you like a pariah just because you don’t know. Been there. Done that. I used to make the t-shirts down at the t-shirt shop for sales for the next coven bake-off. Not only is it a lonely place to be, it can turn people away from a Path that could be completely useful and helpful in their life. I would hate to be the person that is responsible for pushing someone away from their Path, just because I had a need to feel elitist to them. I mean, fuck, we’ve all started on the same points in our Paths. The knowledge and experience that I have now – well over thirty years of it, doesn’t mean I was born on third base. It took a lot of effort, time, and learning to get here from the batter’s box.

On the other side, I’ve been around those Pagans that think this is a giant Harry Potter story that we live as Pagans, Druids, Witches, Heathens, and what not. Yes, being around those folks that believe that the Norse Gods are just like the Marvel movie characters can grate on my nerves like fingernails on a chalkboard. But I also remind myself that everyone’s Pagan Path is different. Its not up to me to determine what MUST work for everyone else. Rather, I need to be focused on how I walk my own Path. I must focus on the quality of my own connection to the world around me. What works for me doesn’t mean it’s the only way to get things to work for someone else. To bring that around to a strong part of what I believe in my own Path: everyone must determine what is “quality” for themselves. Individual Spirituality means that we might follow a similar Path, but it doesn’t mean that we walk the same way on that Path. I might stop to take in the magnificent beauty of a distant waterfall on a cliff at the opposite side of the valley. You may stop to watch the bids flit from branch to branch. Or you may kneel at the side of the forest path to take in the spectacular beauty of a group of flowers in their magnificent coloring. We are all doing the things in each of those scenarios that bring meaning and beauty to our individual Paths. Each are meaningful to the individuals practicing those observational differences. None of those observational moments is wrong for the individual utilizing it.

Back to the “baby” debate. We are arguing about terminology and what it means to each of us. Every single individual will approach the terminology in a different way. We will all come to our own conclusions about the “rightness” and “wrongness” of the terminology within our own observations, perspectives, and opinions. However, can we agree that not everyone is going to see it all the same way? Can we agree that no one MUST agree to our own individual compiling of that information into our own belief? Do we really have to divide up into battle groups and assail one another in public forums for having a difference of opinion?

Personally, what I see is another symptom of how our modern society has chosen to approach differences of opinions, based on our political approaches. Since the George W. Bush era, here in American politics, we have divvied ourselves into rival factions and waged societal war against one another. Over time, this has been bandied into where we stand today. We seek to establish sides and arguments into everything we do. Coke or Pepsi? Coffee or tea? McDonalds or Burger King or Wendy’s or what have you? So, why not separate into sides to decide the correctness or wrongness of such an inane term as “baby” whatever to describe new people coming to Paganism? Think back on when you started on your Pagan path. Would you have continued, if you saw or heard people arguing over the right and wrong of a term like this? How serious would you have been able to take your Path if this was one of the first things you encountered? I know I probably would have turned away and giving up completely on my own personal Spirituality. That would have made me feel rather empty inside, and possibly have hardened my heart to a Path that has done so much to enrich my life, and teach me so much about myself.

Besides, the term “baby” whatever – that’s just a convenient label for those to find footing in describing others. If that’s what they need, so be it. I think its ridiculous to ascribe a rightness or wrongness to the term, and then wage war with others over a difference of opinion. Besides, there are other terms that can be utilized, Neophyte, Beginner, and Seeker among so many others. Me? I tend to refer to these newbie Pagans as “People.” To describe where they are on their Path…all I can offer is what I tell these newbies that I encounter – you’re where I was when I started down this Path. I hope you’re excited about learning and experiencing. I was when I started too. And I look back on that time in my Path with great fondness. I made mistakes, just like you will. I had successes, just like you will. I envy you what you are going to experience. Even the difficult times. Just remember, there are experienced folks on your Path that can help point you in the right way. They won’t solve the problems for you. That would rob you of an experience that will be a part of you growing on this Path. But if you stumble and fall down…there are Pagans like me who will help you stand back up and be your cheerleader to continue moving forward when you feel ready. Until that moment, we can sit here on the Path and talk together. 😊

–Tommy /|\

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I Don’t Always Get My Choice

What’s your support for why you do that as a Druid?
Where is the information that supports your rationale for believing that?
The Bible say that Christianity is right in this particular passage. Where does it say that Druidry is right?
You have no factual information to support the correctness of what you do in your Spirituality.

::sigh:: Gods, I can feel the frustration that comes from having statements thrown in your face like this. Where people try to take a simple conversation about differences in belief and turn it into a courtroom drama. Believe me, I have been there more often than I care to admit. When I first started down my Path of Paganism, I was grilled by the Chaplain assigned to my squadron over what I believed. I felt like one of those arcade shooter duck targets. He would fire question after question at me, not even waiting for an answer. As I would sit there trying to formulate an answer to the previous question, I would have another question smashed right against me. In the end, he shook his head and told me that I was merely having a rebellious fantasy that I could project into an environment where rebellious attitudes were deplorable to “good military discipline.” I was completely crushed when the interrogation was completed. I promised my duty section sergeant that I would not bring up my beliefs in conversations about religion in the duty section. The four evangelical Christians on my shift were not admonished at all. They were free to discuss any matter they chose. In the end, I chose to not participate in any conversation with them that did not handle working matters. In a few short months, I knew the mainframe system’s workings far better than they ever did. A set of orders sending me to the US Army’s Central Command would provide a change of scenery for me – in more ways than one.

The point is not the degradation that I received at the hands of an uncaring Chaplaincy system at a Strategic Air Command base in Texas. Rather, its about this notion that others feel that they need to create discussions into rapid-fire debates, particularly where one’s beliefs are concerned – especially when those beliefs are contradictory to their own.

In my youngers days – I was twenty years old when the above occurred (I had to get a calculator out to figure that – honestly!) – I didn’t think so quickly on my feet. Had it occurred today, I would have gotten up and walked out of the room – the Chaplain’s Major rank be damned – and walked straight to the Base Legal Office to press my rights being violated in such a manner. Of course, I have thirty-five years of experience to bring me quickly to that conclusion (thank you calculator!). Twenty-year-old me didn’t know any better. Thirty-year-old me would have fired off some caustic remark that would have gotten me in a deeper world of trouble.

Back to the quick-fire questioning methodology. If you watch some of the Congressional committee meetings, where the members question an individual about some matter, you will find this methodology utilized by those not wanting to ask questions. Rather, they use this methodology to grandstand for the C-SPAN cameras, so that their constituents can see how tough they are on these matters. They’re not really being tough, nor are they doing their job – which is to assist the committee in ferreting out the facts. It’s just a show. The same holds true for those that do this in a “discussion.”

I’m fifty-five now, getting ready to turn another year in less than a month. I have little desire, energy, or stomach for fiery debate over my beliefs, yours, or anyone else’s. I know what I believe. I do my best to live those beliefs to the best of my ability each day. I screw up occasionally, like anyone else does. Simply put, I’m not perfect. I don’t really care about how anyone else believes either – so long as their words, rhetoric, and actions do not cause harm to others. Believe me, I know how hard a line that is to walk.

Why do we feel the need to argue, and (taking an old BBS term) flame one another over the differences in our beliefs? I couldn’t really tell you. I know back in the old BBS days I was known for rolling up my sleeves and jumping start into the religious debates. I would accuse Christians of being hypocrites based on what people did back in the medieval ages, all in the name of their beliefs. Certainly, many of those atrocities happened back during that time – but Christianity back then was a far different system of belief than it is today. Or so I would hope. I wasn’t alive back then (that I am aware of – but reincarnative belief is another bridge to cross at another time – but for short commentary, yes I do believe). Plus, those who have done vile actions in the name of their beliefs in our modern age…I just can’t say for certain what they do or do not believe.

So, on to a practical aspect within all of this. Don’t fall for the bait. When the rapid-fire questions start, don’t talk – just listen. Don’t try to answer. Let them talk. Give them the lectern. When they finally stop to wait for an answer, take the opportunity to get up and leave. If all of that makes no sense to you, ask yourself these simple questions: is anything that you are going to say likely to change their mind? Do you think that anything that you utilize as a retort will cause them to stop and contemplate the differences of what you say versus what they claim? Honestly, if the answer is no, consider just leaving things be, and going about your way. That choice is up to you. For me, I consider it a waste of my time, energy, and a depletion of what positivity I have. There’s plenty more for me to do where I can make a difference. But again, that choice is yours. Lay a hand on me when I try to leave? I might be a fifty-plus, slightly fat old man, but the military taught me well. I might not win that particular skirmish, but I’ll give as good as I get. My preferred choice, still, is to just walk away and let the discussion be done. I don’t always get my choice.

–T /|\

It’s the Same Story the Crow Told Me…

It’s the same story the Crow told me, it’s the only one He knows.

Grateful Dead, “Uncle John’s Band” from the album “Workingman’s Dead”

This is one of my favorite lyrics from the Grateful Dead. Written by the amazing Robert Hunter, the song is included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s “500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.” Aside from being an awesome song, it also is a reminder that my God is always nearby. My relationship with Crow has grown over the past two years. Throughout some of the most troubling moments that we have had, as well as difficult times within my own life, Crow has always been there to remind me that each day continues to be a gift – even when it doesn’t look that way.

Over the past decade or so, everything around me has seemingly fallen into a category of “winning versus losing.” Everything is cased in the perspective of being a competition or as it has turned over the last two years, into a battlefield. “Either we get our way, or there’s going to be war.” I’ve watched that permeate through the constant barrage over the Confederate and Civil War issue that covered the news for so long. I’ve listened, watched, read, and even participated in the long “discussions” over the presidency of Donald Trump. I watched in pain as supporters of President Trump challenged the election process of various states during the last election cycle, including a horrendous storming of the Nation’s Capital to stop the proper installation of a duly elected President Biden. Through all of that, Crow has been at my shoulder reminding me that those polarizing moments are fleeting. “The cycles of human-kind,” are what I am constantly told.

Those cycles happen constantly. All of it comes from a need and pull for power by others. Here in the United States, we collectively get wrapped up in what our political parties want. It drives our elections, our legislation, and our wider focus. Those parties claim to be wanting the best for all the citizens of this country, but all of it is really a ploy for power. Certainly, one could point to the turmoil in politics, the constant hatred and anger towards one another within politics, the surge in extreme weather conditions (I saw a story on the Weather Channel a few days ago that this summer’s heat edged out the hottest summer during the Dust Bowl era), and COVID that there is a “Storm” already here. Certain folks that are far more sensitive to magickal aspects than I ever dreamed of being, will confirm that. Crow continues to remind me that all of this is just a cycle of humankind.

One of the Pantheacons that I attended, there was a ritual that was aimed towards the Morrigan. I attended out of curiosity. I could feel the calling of the Morrigan towards those for this coming “Storm”. I also had Crow on my shoulder reminding me that this was just a cycle. “That’s not for you,” was my reminder, “Unless you choose that Path.” I didn’t. That moment was quite a few years ago. Since then, Crow, Coyote, and now Abnoba, have continued pushing me elsewhere. Towards teaching and mentorship. In the background of all of that has been another reminder: its not about winning or losing. It’s about living.

I have wrung my hands over this coming “Storm” for quite a long time. During one meditation, Crow asked me about how to deal with a storm here in this physical realm. I replied that it depended on the severity of the storm, but typically, one either stayed inside or got a raincoat and an umbrella. In the case of a stronger storm, one would either barricade themselves inside their home or evacuate. ::Exactly.:: was the response.

I know a lot of this won’t sit well with others. In some ways, I have felt that everyone seems to be spoiling for a fight. That’s not an indictment of anyone or their motives. Just an observation from my perspective. During much of President Trump’s campaign, he would talk about “winning” and “losing” – turning a political campaign for a government office into a battle rather than a philosophical conversation on how a government should be run. When he did turn to the philosophical perspective of govern, he utilized it as a hammer to drive a spike of division even deeper between two perspectives of governorship. His campaign forced voting citizens to see things in an either/or perspective – essentially into a war or battle. That continued into his re-election campaign. Looking back, many of our issues that have flashed through the news headlines have followed this same pattern, even long before President trump first placed himself into campaign mode for his only (so far) term. So, we’ve been choosing this either/or perspective for quite some time.

Crow continues to remind me that these are the cycles of humankind. Winning and losing is a construct that we have put together. Life is about adapting to the conditions and moving forward. How we live is more important. Finding kindness and assistance for those that need it is far better than cruising the highways in your vehicles looking for political opponents to harass and run their vehicles off the road. Happened right here in Texas during this last Presidential election cycle. Helping others with their mental health issues is of the utmost need. Accepting people for who they are regardless of their political philosophies, their gender, who they love, or even how many…finding the common footing that we are all human beings and designed to be unique from one another. We can disagree without being violent or hateful. In my mind and perspective, we can all live here together. All we need to do is have a little respect for others…just acknowledge that we all are trying to live our best life, if we are just afforded the opportunity to do so. So long as we break this current cycle of humankind, and accept a new cycle where we can disagree, but respect.

I do get it though. Its easier to be disrespectful to others. It’s easier to pick a group of people and treat them as opponents. Winning and losing is an easy paradigm to connect with. We’re taught the perspective of competition in our earliest moments of childhood. We learn competitive games such as football, baseball, and such. We play to “win” – not the joy of the game. We learn in school, but we are provided grades, which are accumulated to determine who has the highest-grade point average. That person is awarded a title and given a position of prominence when we finish our climb towards an award acknowledging our educational achievement. Winning and losing is a part of our lives. We use that competitive drive to achieve and excel. It only seems natural for us to place that competition into areas of our lives that go beyond those moments. Winning and losing drives us into those areas.

I am not trying to say that competitiveness is ruining our lives and making us hate each other. The problems that get us to that point are much deeper than that. I’m only pointing out what gets us to the point of placing every aspect of our lives into a competitive nature, where “Us versus Them” becomes “Us only need to survive.” Where “we are better than them,” starts us down a Path of violent reaction.

This is all just a cycle of humankind. Cycles can be broken. Storms exist. But they exist until the imbalance that created them is returned to normal. In the meantime, we survive. We shelter from the “Storm.” We help others survive by helping them find shelter as well. For those who are afraid, we provide calm, strength, positivity…we help them. Because it is the right thing to do.

I know this entire thing is rambly. If that’s really a word. Hopefully, you can see my point. Crow, Coyote, and Abnoba keep pointing me towards what I need to do. However, I am not trying to teach anyone anything here. I am merely pointing out my own perspective on these turbulent times we live in. I’m also trying to express my hope in human beings to break this cycle we are in by finding compassion for others within themselves. I can’t make choices for anyone. Nor would I want to. That removes your capability and capacity to choose for yourself. That is freedom. To make your own decisions, based on your own observations. To force everyone to believe as I do makes for a boring world, full of clones of me. No thanks. I like unique individuals that I can interact with. People I can agree and respectfully disagree with. Because that means we are doing more than just thinking. We are thinking and feeling.

It’s not whether we win or lose. It’s how we live each moment we are given. Some of that probably sounds familiar…after all, it’s the same story the Crow told me. It’s the only one He knows.

–Tommy /|\

I don’t keep an altar in the house. This is as close as it gets.

Thinking About: Technology, Personal Spirituality, and Where They Cross/Connect

How do you reconcile your approach to a nature-based belief system with the advances of the digital age?

This was an interesting question that was asked via Email. The individual that sent the Email specifically asked not to be identified. Its taken me over a week to formulate my response because I had to sort through a variety of layers to get there.

To be able to understand where I am coming from, I need to explain how things were when I started down my path of Paganism so you can contrast that against what you know about personal communication at this point in your life. That’s right, you will have to create the contrast and comparison against what you know. For me to do that would be trying to force my perspective against what you know for yourself. Furthermore, my understanding of the digital age goes back even further than my Pagan Path does. To those who encountered the digital age just a few decades back, their understanding will begin in a far more sophisticated perspective, which will make their understanding quite a bit different. Yes, technology has changed that quickly over the years.

My initial start with Technology beings in the rise of the personal computer, as well as in the beginning of the digital age from the 1950s. I started on the path of the personal computer in 1981, at the height of hobbyist computers. Think the earliest versions of the Apple }{, as well as the predecessor of the Commodore 64 computer – the venerable Commodore Pet-Plus 4. These computers had RAM modules around 4 kilobytes. That’s less than today’s digital watches. Professionally, I started on a UniVac 1100 series 08 mainframe system. This was my second duty station in the United States Air Force. To compare with the personal computer, the mainframe took up approximately half of a building, and required several people working in various functions to operate it. For me, these two very different systems were my start down a professional and personal path within computer technology to where I am today.

When I first started down my Pagan path, I was working on that mainframe environment at Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth, Texas. At that time, I had purchased my own Commodore 64 with the 5 ¼ floppy disk drive (the 1541 model), along with a modem that would allow me to connect to local Bulletin Board Systems via a telephone call. That modem, which was the connective aspect that would allow me to connect with other Pagans in the Arlington and Fort Worth parts of the Dallas/Fort Worth metro areas. I would find friends that I still have today through the discussion boards on each BBS (Bulletin Board System). I would also find out about various public rituals that I got to attend, as well as various face-to-face gatherings in various local pubs. I do miss those days. However, I do acknowledge that all of that has led me to today’s internet, where I am able to discuss lots of things with Pagans around the world.

That’s really the biggest change from nearly forty years ago. The breadth and depth of people that I can communicate with. There was no Facebook, or anything close to it, back then. Much of what we know about the internet today wasn’t even dreamed of at that time. However, the internet has allowed us to communicate between one another in a much wider degree. A lot of communication has taken place within the Pagan community over the internet. We write blogs. We “chat” with one another via text and/or video. We have discussion forums on various platforms. We exchange ideas. We argue with one another. We insult and denigrate one another (Back in the BBS days, we called inane arguments and insult hurling: “flame wars”). We discuss whatever topics we desire. We make plans for get togethers, public rituals, private group meetings, and a lot of other things, all of which help connect new Pagans with groups that interest them. Today’s digital world is as much a part of our daily lives as eating, drinking, exercising, and sleeping. We make friendships and strong connections with other Pagans that are far away from us, even in other countries. Some of these people become closer to us than our physical families. I have a few of these long-distance relationships with people I might never see face-to-face. That fact, the distances – neither have mattered when it comes to the strong, close connected relationship I have with them. I’m quite certain that others have similar relationships.

So, all of that doesn’t reconcile well with the strong connection we Pagans have with Nature. The internet is a man-made concept. It has become rather pervasive within our daily lives. Some of us use it to connect with our jobs, particularly in this age of COVID-19. How does all this fit into the beliefs that we practice in nature-oriented beliefs? Well, for me, it’s rather simple – it’s a tool. A means for communication. An access point to research that I wouldn’t have otherwise. But its not a part of my beliefs. It is a part of my personal history.

In the late 1990s, I was working on a mainframe environment for a financial company in Dallas. On a shift, I was talking with one of the other employees working on the operations floor. We started discussing religious beliefs. Being rather open about what I believe, I talked about Pagansim. At that time, we were all temporary employees. This individual and I were up for the same full-time job. When he went in for his interview, he couched it that I was a Satanist and should not be employed at the company. In my interview, my soon-to-be supervisor asked me point-blank about it. I answered that I wasn’t a Satanist, that I was a Pagan. I gave what amounted to a quick minute-and-half explanation of the difference. After I was hired, my new supervisor mentioned what was stated in the interview. The Director of the department had bluntly stated back to this temporary employee that she “could care less if I worshipped the computer system, so long as I did the job that was asked of me.” First time I had ever been accused of worshipping the mainframe system. At another job, I maintained the computer labs for a for-profit college. I worked the nights. The students would bring food into the labs, which was a no-no. I told them it would be all right, so long as they didn’t make a mess and kept drinks on the floor with lids on. One night, I went through a computer lab to get ready for closing. On the floor in the back corner, I found a paper tray filled with the bones from hot wings that a student had brought in for their dinner. The bones were all neatly arranged on the paper tray. I surmised, in my own sarcastic humorous way, that the student was working on a difficult project and had brought in the hot wings as a sacrifice to the computer Gods for a better chance at a successful project that would earn him/her a better grade. These two instances are as close as any moment has gotten to a religious inference with a computer being specifical involved. Thanks for letting me sidetrack you for a moment. 😊

Much like an athame, ritual clothing, a crystal, a table designated specifically for ritual, a staff, a written set of instructions for ritual, and even a meditational state of mind to put a participant into a correct frame of mind – the digital world that we find ourselves in is a tool. Certainly, it is used for more than just furthering our personal practice. It serves other functions and provides for other mundane needs. For me, beyond the use of a communications and research tool, the computer and internet serve no huge part in my beliefs. As a tool, these aspects of the digital age do help to further part of my beliefs through the communication aspects and research capabilities. I have used these to connect with others for assistance. Last year, I connected with a long-time friend for assistance in remembering a function of rebuilding my own personal shielding – simply because I had forgotten the technique. That would never have been possible without the amazing connective technology that we have today.

Am I some kind of cyber-mage? Does my use of technology make my Druidry stronger? As I am chucking out loud right now as I write this – you should be able to realize that my answer to both questions is no. I do; however, consider the dreams that became challenges that moved others to create and refine these technologies that we use today to be real magic. I marvel at what they have created. So, I end this with some of the lyrics from Rush’s song “Mission” which pays tribute to the Awen/inspiration that they had, in taking their own ideas and dreams and bringing that to a reality that could be shared by everyone. If you are looking for something that would bind these technologies to my beliefs – it would be this. Where the Gods helped spur the idea of innovation and creation. Not what resulted from it, but the drive to make what seemed impossible become a reality.

In the grip of
A nameless possession
A slave to the drive of obsession
A spirit with a vision
Is a dream with a mission

I watch their images flicker
Bringing light to a lifeless screen
I walk through
Their beautiful buildings
And I wish I had their dreams

But dreams don’t need
To have motion
To keep their spark alive
Obsession has to have action
Pride turns on the drive

It’s cold comfort
To the ones without it
To know how they struggled
How they suffered about it

If their lives were
Exotic and strange
They would likely have
Gladly exchanged them
For something a little more plain
Maybe something a little more sane

We each pay a fabulous price
For our visions of paradise
But a spirit with a vision
Is a dream with a mission

Rush, “Mission” from the album “Hold Your Fire”
My old classroom

Thinking About: In the Beginning

Over the weekend, I was having a linear conversation on Discord with a new-ish Pagan over my personal start down my Pagan Path. All of it started over a personal lament over how difficult it seems to be to navigate the deep waters of what kind of Pagan one can be. I completely grok the perspective, as well as sympathize with the real struggle of finding one’s footing. Of course, there is a bit of difference between our stories. I started down my Pagan Path in 1986. A very pronounced difference compared to here in the late 2010s and early 2020s. Information is more widely available here in the digital age. People are far more open about their beliefs. There are also more Pagans today than there were back in the mid-1980s.

As I write this post, my music program (the rather vile Apple iTunes) has Dokken currently playing – a particular favorite of mine from the mid-1980s. The music does put me in the frame of mind to remember back to that time.

I graduated all-boys Catholic high school in 1984, a year later than I should have. Thanks to my family moving all over Europe, and then returning to Alabama for my father’s last few years in the Air Force, I was missing a few credits from the lower levels of my four years of high school – specifically Louisiana Civics, and a requisite two classes of language. While I walked through high school graduation with my class, my diploma was a blank piece of paper until I could attain the two classes I was missing: Louisiana Civics, and a Government class, both of which I achieved in Summer school sessions with students from the public school system. Here, I was exposed to the idea of alternative beliefs.

Being a “loner”, as well as being classified as “weird” by most of my classmates, I fell into the same daily routine that I had in high school: essentially being alone. However, my appearance: long hair, Hair band t-shirts, torn jeans, and a battered black-and-white checkered Vans, pointed me towards the goth folk that hung out in one corner of the second-floor atrium. Their interest in me increased when they realized that I was one of the Catholic school kids. Here, I was introduced to the aspects of Satanism, tantric approaches, Wicca, and other non-mainstream concepts. Once Summer school ended, my life went back to “normal”, until I joined the military. Here, I continued to research these non-mainstream perspectives until I ran across two books: The Spiral Dance by Starhawk, and the much more influential (for me) Drawing Down the Moon by Margot Adler. These two books, along with the myriad of local electronic Bulletin Board Systems (BBSs) that I would call into, cracked open my worldview a little further. Not only did I find a myriad of other resources to learn from, I found people to meet and talk with in person.

Back in the mid-1980s, which also harkened the Satanic Panic, there were very few resources available – mostly books, and magazines and newsletters such as the Green Egg. Any other information tended to be passed around by word of mouth. In today’s environment, there is a lot more material available, thanks to the advent of the internet. Being a solo Pagan is much easier today because of the depth and breadth of available information. Back in the mid-1980s, the dearth of such information usually meant that a new Pagan had to reach out to a local group, learning things in that Tradition’s perspective only. In my opinion, it was much more difficult to find your own footing than it is today. I grok that many folks would disagree with me and point out that new Pagans are more likely to be more confused and scattered in their Pagan practice because of the lack of a solid anchor to work from. Certainly, there is an argument to be had in both ways. However, which is “right” and “correct” really depends on how the practitioner feels about their own personal footing within Paganism as they are experiencing. Some will say that the solo methodology of today makes Pagans with a much shallower practice. I can grok that perspective, except its not for my to judge what is and is not “deep” practice for someone else compared to my own practice. Besides, personal Spirituality is not a competition for me. I hope we all will win, regardless of our own individual Paths.

One thing that I didn’t enjoy about those early days on my Path was that your ability to advance in knowledge all depended on how your “teachers” felt that you were progressing. Much of that didn’t rely on the knowledge that you attained and worked with. A lot of that went into how well you stroked the egos of your “teachers” and how well your personality mixed and meshed with theirs. However, being a solo Pagan today means that you get to pick and choose from topics and perspectives. You can avoid the topics you don’t want to be in, meaning that some of your training and learning can be unbalanced. Take, for instance, my reluctance to deal with spell work. Much of that comes from perceiving spell work as something similar to a nuclear weapon: , it is nice to have in the fold, but its usage as more of a deterrent. I continue to choose to set it to the side. Certainly, if I had stronger training in its usage, my perspective would be very, very different. Thus, I believe that there are strengths and weaknesses to both the trained and solo approaches to things.

Back in the beginning of our conversation on Discord, I had been asked which perspective I preferred. Well, if you go back through the blog, you will see that much of my approach to my Paganism is very unorthodox. I even acknowledge that in my approach. Is it the proper approach? For me, yes. But many others require a much more organized and orthodox approach. There is nothing wrong with that either. Really, this is a matter orthopraxy versus orthodoxy, or so I have been told. For me, its just picking a style that works best for you. I love Dokken. Not everyone does. It’s a matter of personal taste and style. If that’s the same as orthopraxy versus orthodoxy, cool. If its not…that’s cool too. I’m not a theologian of any sort. I’m just me. Some need the feel of theology and all the terms associated with it. Cool. That’s not me; however.

I still hold to the perspective that today’s new Pagans have so much more information at their fingertips than the Pagans of my initial period of “newbie-ness” had. That depth of information provides them a open avenue towards being a solo Pagan. Most solo Pagans during my “new” period in the mid-1980s did so because they had far fewer Pagans near them. The wider base of knowledge, coupled with the way the internet has narrowed the communication gap with one other, provides greater capacity and capability for these solo Pagans (which I am one of, by choice). But really, none of that is wrong. How you come to your Pagan Path is your choice, and your choice alone. Your initial steps on your Path will be ringed with confusion. I remember how confusing my first three years on my Pagan Path was. So, I do grok that feeling – far better than many folks will realize. The difference for me were teachers and friends that I had to talk about things along with the way. Without them, my Path might not have been possible. I am eternally grateful that they were there – and are still there – when I have need. I only hope that my own counsel, perspective, and friendship has been as helpful to them.

–T /|\

Howling Into the Wind: Practicing Alone

Last week, I suffered a diabetic seizure and was taken to the emergency room. A bit of a scary moment, as well as having an entire sleepless night in the emergency room in a single bay. Later that night, a woman who had been sleeping in her car at one of the local gas stations was brought in to have her wounds from struggling with the police. Since they couldn’t get a statement of whether she was vaccinated or not, she was placed in the last bay. The two police officers that had struggled with her were also in there. One of them asked the nurse where they could go within the Emergency Room area. She replied that they could go anywhere except Bay Five, which was mine. Later, I asked why my bay had been excluded. “You have an immune system issue with your diabetes. They had been with the patient in Bay Eight for an extended period of time. Since we couldn’t determine her COVID status, we moved her to the furthest location from you, and treated the officers as if they also needed to be kept away from you.” COVID has changed the protocols within my local emergency room. As I sat on my bed in the room, I realized that a lot more has changed concerning those protocols – even my approach to my Paganism.

When COVID was raging last year, I spent much of the Summer in the house. I very rarely came out of the house for anything. I had a handful of homemade masks that I could wear, but nothing I could call dependable. Over a period of time, I purchased a handful of manufactured masks that I could put filters inside of for better protection. However, I continued to stay indoors out of simple precaution. I did my rituals inside, so I could limit my exposure to other people. Rituals that I would normally seek out a group to work with, I stayed in a solo mode. Other aspects where I would usually seek out the company of others, I found other methods to gather and make contact with them. Over that time, my approach to my Paganism has become much more inward, much more solo in nature. Where I was making parts of my Paganism solitaire, and other parts more group-oriented, these last two years have been completely solitaire in my daily approach. Coupled with some issues within my own personal life, I truly found out what it is like to be a solo Pagan.

I know others have had to make changes in their approach to their Spirituality during these times for much the same reason. I know these times of COVID can seem quite scary, even for those who have gotten the vaccines. With new strains showing up, where the vaccines are scant protection against break-through infections, it certainly feels like we are a long way from our lives getting back to some aspect of “normalcy.” I still have fears concerning face-to-face gatherings, festivals, and conferences. I am starting to worry for the survival of such gatherings. Where I live, I am about ten miles from the Texas Middlefaire location. These last two years, Middlefaire has not held an event at their location. A year ago, the Middlefaire owner/operator took the signs off the signpost at the highway just out of the faire grounds. That signage location continues to be bare to this day. There is some question about the capability for Middlefaire to even return if things got back to some aspect of “normal.” That begs the question of what will be “normal” for public gatherings, and rituals. To be honest, I don’t know what the future will bring for those aspects of our collective Pagan lives. I’m not a prognosticator. I don’t even play one on tv.

Currently, I see my own personal Pagan practice continuing on the lonely Path that it is. My lousy immune system will require me to be much more careful than others. Already, I’m seeking out video gatherings to keep connected to others. I just do not feel like having a Pagan practice where I don’t connect with others in some way…just for some meaningful discussions, as well as just plain ol’ chit-chat. In many ways, I’m tired of being alone on my Spiritual Path. That’s actually quite ironic for me. I’ve always been a solo Pagan, coming out to group practice only a handful of times in a year. It should stand to reason that being alone and not doing any group-oriented anything should be ok with me. But like any human being, I’m still a social animal. Being completely cut off from public gatherings has never sat well with me.

Has COVID changed how we connect with one another? Certainly, it has. Has it changed the way we approach the Gods within our own Spiritual Paths? For some it has. For others, its not been a significant point. For me, its been a significant change to my own approach. Still, another example, that we traverse our Spiritual Paths differently.

–Tommy /|\

Find Your Tribe

In the last blog post, I received a comment that is one of the most common questions that I hear from new Pagans. “How do I deal with how my non-Pagan family and friends will/might react to me being a Pagan?” Believe it or not, this question can be answered in a myriad of ways and is not as straight-forward as one might think.

The easiest answer I can give is my own approach. However, that’s because its what I live every single day: I don’t care. Or I should say that I don’t lend a lot of energy to the situation because I do care what my family and friends think about me. I just try my best to not get too caught up in trying to model myself in a way that I think others will accept me. I’m me. If people cannot handle that or disapprove of it…I shrug and move on. In the basic basics of things, I must live my life in a way that allows me to feel free and places me in a perspective of being free and true to myself. If I try to be what they want me to be…well, I wind up feeling like I am living a lie. However, I tend to tone down my Pagan beliefs and perspective when I am around my DNA family. I do my best to not kick up arguments with them. We don’t agree on a lot of things – beliefs, politics, etc. etc. – but that doesn’t mean that I don’t love them any less. They are, after all, family. However, I do tend to keep my face-to-face interactions with them at a minimum, to keep the strife down.

Another way of dealing with such things is to ostracize yourself from your family. I can understand the approach. I did the same thing when I first left home for the US Air Force. My mother was a very domineering individual. So, when I had the opportunity to leave, I removed myself from the dynamic. I didn’t contact my mother for close to two and a half years. So I can relate to this perspective to a degree. Eventually, I made amends to a point, but I was truly never very close with my parents after that point – a perspective that was amiable for both sides.

There is a myriad of other solutions, as I said before. However, whatever solution you come up with, just realize that the dynamic can change. After all, people do soften or harden their perspective on issues, depending on the individual and the dynamic in play. Everyone has a different perspective, need and dynamic – so there really is not a “single solution” that fits all.

I think that the hardest part is telling someone about your Paganism for the first time. You never know how they might react, so one tends to steel themselves to the worst possible interaction. Many folks develop what everyone seems to refer to as the “Two-minute Elevator speech.” Basically, its just a short little one-way dialogue explaining who you are and what you believe to someone that is encountering you for the first time. Personally, I find it to be a waste of time to develop something like this, but others have found it to be quite useful. Again, it’s a matter of what you feel works for you. Everyone is different.

Ratcheting up your courage to initiate the conversation/encounter might be the most nerve-racking part of all of it. It usually is for me. However, I remind myself that there is nothing to be afraid or embarrassed over. Paganism is a part of who I am. I am a Druid. There is nothing wrong with any of that. Its no more embarrassing or “odd” than Evangelical Christianity, Buddhism, the Muslim faith, Agnosticism, or any other belief system or perspective. I’m not embarrassed of who I am. I’m not embarrassed of being an Information Technology Generalist. I have no need to hide or deflect over the education that I have received over my three degrees. I’m not everyone’s cup of tea or shot of whiskey, but that doesn’t mean that every single individual will be repulsed by me. It’s just a measure of finding those who are my tribe. The individuals that accept me for who I am and revel with me in the uniqueness of our differences. Those that cannot do that, I acknowledge the differences and respectfully move on. No fuss, no explosion, no heavy energy. No need for dramatics. Simple as that.

Now, everything I have described here is my own way of dealing with things. As I have noted over and over, this works for me. You might try it and find it doesn’t work for you. Believe it or not, that’s perfectly fine. Everyone is built differently. Everyone reacts differently. Some folks are going through more shit right now than others. There are so many factors that play into face-to-face interactions. You just have to do a little detective work to figure out what methodology or approach works best for you.

So, if you are sitting back and wondering how to broach the “Pagan topic” with people in your life, remember that it’s your choice that matters most. I would add that approaching things from a perspective of respect is usually a good tact to utilize. You know, that saying of attracting more flies with honey than vinegar. Just remember if things go sideways – quietly walking away is an option too. That approach calmed a lot of tension between myself and my mother. We eventually found footing that allowed us to effectively communicate with one another. She never accepted my choices and decisions in where I went with my life, and that took a long while for me to realize that never was going to change. But despite her disapproval, I know that she loved me.

Coming out is a difficult decision that can only be made by you. Whether that is your religious belief, your sexuality or even the number of partners that you decide to have. Being part of what the world terms as an “alternative” lifestyle is not always an easy choice. But it’s a part of who you are. You won’t always be accepted over your choices by others, particularly in your family, if it’s a fairly conservative one. Don’t be ashamed of who you are. Just remember that you can temper your interactions with others. Find your tribe. Should you ever need to talk, my Email is always open. There are so many others that are willing to listen, willing to give you that hug to reassure you that you are cherished as you are. There are always options.

–Tommy /|\

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Thinking About: Pagans v. Christians, Why Can’t We Be Friends?

A few weeks ago, I took a walk in the local park. While walking, I came across a group of other people that were walking on the park’s trail as well and was invited to walk with them. Well, with new people, we all started talking and reaching out on various topics – just trying to get a feel for who we all were. Eventually, our conversations turned towards religious beliefs. I brought up that I was a Druid and a Pagan, and one of the ladies kept giving me this weird, panicked look. As I gently explained what a Druid and a Pagan were, as well as how I viewed both perspectives, I finally stopped and asked her if I was upsetting her.

“You are.”

“I’m sorry. That wasn’t my intention.”

“I know, but now we can’t be friends.”

Her fellow walkers started telling her that she was acting stupidly. I stepped in a little closer to continue the conversation on a lower tone.

“I don’t understand. Why can’t we be friends?”

“Because you’re a Satanist, and I’m a Christian.”

“Let’s have a seat for a few minutes,” I gestured to the nearby park bench. The three of them sat down on the bench. I sat down on the sidewalk. “I’m not a Satanist. I’m a Pagan. Pagans are not Christians. Satanists are anti-Christians and part of the Christian beliefs.” I saw her immediately take several steps backwards mentally. “That’s a more complicated discussion though. Let’s stick to why we can’t be friends.”

Over the course of the discussion, her point had been that Christians and Pagans are supposed to hate one another. I asked where that written rule was because no one supplied that to me when I was given all the rules of being a Pagan. I quickly assured her I was being sarcastic with this point. Our discussion continued with a lot of point, counterpoint but at the end of it, we hugged. We have done a few more park walks since then, and our conversations have continued. All of it has provided a lot of nice examination of both of our points of view.

All of that has led me to think a bit along the lines of why Christians, Pagans, and other religious viewpoints must find ways to dislike one another. Much of this takes me back to when I first started down the Path on my Pagan journey. I had the horrible habit of preaching to my Christian co-workers about the damages that their people did to mine (Pagans). Gods, I was insufferable. Enough so that it became necessary to move me to an entirely new shift, which was populated with charismatic Evangelical preachers, who preceded to make my life a living Hell. I learned from that to keep my mouth shut about my beliefs, but I still harbored against Christians for what had been done to Pagans so long ago.

Eventually, I was transferred overseas, where I kept my beliefs a little quieter among my co-workers until one Halloween weekend, the Stars and Stripes newspaper – read all over Europe – published a center-spread article called “Practicing Pagans”. I was featured in two photos. Even with my last name misspelled, it was easy to realize it was me. My first day back to shift after that weekend, and I was in front of my duty section supervisor, being questioned about what being in that article meant. Some of my fellow duty section co-workers were positive – others not so much.

All of that was a good twenty years ago or more. Over that time, I have come to realize that what was done to Pagans so long ago during the inquisition cannot be laid at the feet of Christians today. However, what has happened to Pagans and their families in more modern times, such as the Satanic Panic of the 1980s (which arguably persists to this day), can be laid at their feet. However, the Satanic Panic is not real. Most of it is pure fantasy from the minds of people who fear that which they don’t understand. If you look back to the time just after 9/11/2001, you will find much the same attitude by these same Christians towards individuals of the Muslim faith, as well as those who are of middle eastern lineage but not of the Muslim faith. Many of these Christians that act in such atrocious ways are consumed with the End-Times scenarios – looking for a way that this world can end, so that they can move on to the life afterwards that they believe is promised them. Looking for Satanic invasions, and ways that the world can end are meant to be “signs” that will hasten judgment on others and provide them with the magical after-life they imagine will be there for them. In the meantime, this world continues to spin, and those co-called “signs” continue to prove to be fantasies of unimagined proportions.

So why all the hate and anger aimed at those who are not Christians, and those who do not fall into their same-sex manifestations of what is right? Well, I tend to agree with those that say that it is far easier to hate than it is to love. Plus, that hate fuels their narrative. Why does it go the other way too? Why do some Pagans hate Christians of any stripe? Well, most likely its because a Christian did something to them or to a family member. That’s my best guess. Honestly, beyond that guess, I don’t know. I’ve refused to be a part of all of that.

My perspective changed when I realized that by feeding the cycle of anger and hate between a Christian and Pagan perspective did nothing that was worth my time and energy. It took a little while to get my walking friend to understand where I was coming from, but she soon understood what I was getting at. I also took the time to understand her perspective too. Without judgment. Without emotion. As a human being she deserved that much respect within the conversation. In the end, she asked if I was going to change her perspective on things. I told her that changing her opinion/perspective would have to start with her, not mine. Just as it took my constant observation, talking with others, and understanding how things came about for me to change my own.

All the anger marshalled up between Christians and Pagans is a complicated ball of energy and emotions. Does it ever dissipate? I don’t know. That’s a question beyond my understanding and comprehension. I do; however, hope so. Probably not in this lifetime or even the next, but I do hope so.

–Tommy /|\

Howling Into the Wind: It Took Me a Long Time to Clean My Boots…

I don’t normally write about topics from other blogs; however, a recent post by John Beckett provided a strange point of interest for me. John’s point came from a perspective of how to present Pagan beliefs to a generation of what John describes as “Spiritual Explorers.” Quoting from John:

Our many varieties of Paganism and polytheism are not a social club, a political party, or a marketing agency. We don’t proselytize. At the same time, we want to see our values grown in the mainstream culture. More importantly, we want to be welcoming to those who are looking for what we have – even if they don’t know it yet. The Gods call who They call, but many times those calls are faint and difficult to follow.

How do we welcome those who expect to ‘make their own guidelines?’ How do we balance the obligation to preserve our sacred traditions with the obligation to be hospitable to those who simply won’t tolerate being told what to believe or what to do?

John Beckett, “Presenting Paganism to a Generation of Spiritual Explorers?“, August 19 2021

Well, the concept/perspective can provide a bit of an issue for some. Like John, I am a member of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids. Within OBOD, there ritual formats that are expected to be learned. There are some philosophical aspects that you will need to not only, but completely understand. Unlike John, I am not a member of ADF, and will likely never be one. Their ritual format is not something that I can work with, and ADF has a super strong adherence to that framework. I have been in quite a few ADF rituals. I understand their ritual format, plus I also realize that while the ritual format is not something I wish to work – there is a point respectfulness towards their way of doing things. So, when I read about how we provide hospitable perspective towards others, I find it to be easy to do. Were I to design and run a public ritual, I would stick the public ritual aspect that OBOD adheres to. If I were invited to a public or private ritual, I would adhere to whatever ritual format that was presented. After all, I am a guest.

As for the perspective of working with a “Spiritual Explorer,” I think my moving through various Wiccan groups – all of which had a different ritual format than I did, my time within OBOD, and the three years of presenting myself as a generic neo-Pagan (as well as trying to determine the best direction for ritual perspective) could quite easily place me in the “Spiritual Explorer” camp. While I have been working with the OBOD framework, particularly during OBOD camps, I still utilize the OBOD framework as a way of framing the way my practice works for me. I know. I hear it all the time, even inside of OBOD: I need to stay faithful to the OBOD framework. I need to stop changing things up, like it’s a balloon-animal. Its bad for me to do that, even if the only time that I do things is when I do ritual on my own. However, I learned that its easier to ignore such statements and to continue doing my own ritual techniques in the fashion that work for me when I am alone.

As for passing the values on towards others or making my values into the mainstream…no thanks. I am not going to pass my values on to others. I would rather that others take the values that they deem to be correct for their Path and find ways to make that work for themselves. Surely, we will have values that cross-over from our perspectives. We can work on those values together. Where our values differ, there’s no need to declare mine or yours to be what every Pagan should be doing. To my ears, that sounds like dogma…and I have no need to impose my own dogmatic perspective on to any other person. Just saying.

So, to answer the question of how be welcoming, respectful, and honorable to those who see Paganism in a different way? Well, I just do the same thing I try to do for Christians that I encounter on my daily walk within Life. I realize that we may not see things the same way, but I try to respectful as much as I can without compromising my beliefs and understanding. Even when they respond to me with hatred and anger. Certainly, I won’t invite them back to sacred space or a ritual after the intention is known. But the only way that I physically remove them from the equation is if their responses and actions are detrimental to the sacred space, the ritual or those attending at that moment. Ideally, everyone would be respectful enough to be able to get through the rite or ritual. However, as much of an idealist that I am – I know that doesn’t happen all the time.

Personally, I don’t want people to be limited to whichever part of the forest that they are going to explore. However, as I have said several times before – before you start leaving the Path to explore, its best to learn the ins and outs of the basics. Some of those basics on ritual, magickal frame-working, and other things will provide a stronger basis, should you look for twisting the balloon into a balloon-doggy. Do I disagree with John? To a certain degree. I don’t find it productive to argue over the differences. Instead, its useful to provide a different perspective. I’m not sure what theological perspective, point of view or concept all that plays into. I’m not a theologian, and don’t really care about stuff like that. Instead, I am just trying to make it through each day and be available for anyone that needs a shoulder to lean on or an ear to bend. I’m not here to prove John wrong in any manner. John is a friend of mine – or at least I consider John to be a friend.

These “Spiritual Explorers,” I can understand their perspective very well. I was there not that long ago. I’m just glad that my teachers were patient enough to show me ways to place myself in their shoes. I’m also glad that my teachers had enough patience to let me ask my questions, no matter how silly they might thought I may have been. I might not have any students…and I may never have any students ever in this lifetime. All of that is “ok.” But I can sit and talk with these Seekers and provide my own perspective and explain that my perspective is one of many. I don’t create “the law.” However, I do know where I had stepped, so I don’t step in the dog shit and the cows shit that are in the field. Believe me it took a long time to clean my boots off. 😊

–Tommy /|\

Photo by Lum3n on Pexels.com

Sacred Space – My Process, My Take

Over the last few posts, I have been describing some of the working techniques that I use. Or, if you prefer, some of the tools that I have been using to provide me a better boost through the trying times I have found myself in. One of these tools, or methodologies, that I have referred to is that of “sacred space.” In my solo practice, sacred space is a defined area from which I can work directly with focus to achieve a calmness or stillness.

A sacred place is first of all a defined place, a space distinguished from other spaces. The rituals that a people either practice at a place or direct toward it mark its sacredness and differentiate it from other defined spaces. To understand the character of such places, Jonathan Z. Smith has suggested the helpful metaphor of sacred space as a “focusing lens.” A sacred place focuses attention on the forms, objects, and actions in it and reveals them as bearers of religious meaning. These symbols describe the fundamental constituents of reality as a religious community perceives them, defines a life in accordance with that view, and provides a means of access between the human world and divine realities.

Encyclopedia.com, “Sacred Space

For me, this definition is not ultimately satisfying for how I see the concept of sacred space, except for the last part noting that “sacred space is a means of access between the human world and divine realities.” Even then, its not a snug fit for my perspective. Sacred space is a means of such access, but the overall aspect of sacred space is a means of sliding between the realities of our mundane world and the worlds of divinity, for lack of a better term. In the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids (OBOD), you may hear some members of the Order refer to one’s “Inner Grove”. My sacred space is the same as that Inner Grove, except that I refer to it as sacred space.

I use my sacred space as method to put myself into a proper state of mind, specifically for ritual. However, I do not use it in bringing a setting to a public ritual or to a ritual where there will be more than just myself. I don’t expect others to be able to settle into my sacred space – nor would I expect to be able to place myself into their Inner Grove. That space is intensely personal. I do suppose that through shared meditation techniques, a group of people could create such a space before a ritual – placing the individuals that are performing the ritual into a proper frame of mind. Personally, I have never tried any such technique with a group of people before, but I certainly wouldn’t rule out the possibility, simply because I’ve never tried.

My Processing of Creating and Closing Sacred Space

My first steps are to create the proper mood to take the first steps towards sacred space. A ritual bath (or even a shower) is my usual starting place. Once finished, I dress in comfortable clothing. Usually, I’m barefoot. Ritual clothing? Well. Search through the blog, and you’ll find that I’m not big on playing dress-up for ritual. I’m far more geared toward comfort than presentation. Once I am ready to get started down the road to getting sacred space started, I light a candle – usually a white pillar candle, but that somehow disappeared after my move from Houston. However, any candle can do in a pinch. I just prefer pillar candles out of years of habit. Once the candle is lit, I take a few minutes to calm my nerves and my mind. Then, I focus my mind. I also include the large white stone that I refer to as my “focus stone” in the setup. Usually, it’s right next to me so I can physically feel it.

My usual start to entering my sacred space is to find myself walking through a thick forest of pine trees. I slowly push my way through the branches. Sometimes I suffer small cuts from the branches, other times I don’t. No rhyme or reason to things that I have been able to discern. After going forward for a bit, the growth starts to thin out, and the walking gets easier, until I come to an egg-shaped meadow. In the middle of the meadow are three trees: a very large Oak standing between a much smaller Birch tree and a slightly larger Apple tree. The trees are aligned east to west. Just a few steps to the south is a large boulder. The boulder usually serves as a place to sit when discussing things with my Gods. When my Gods are not there, I can see five to eight crows in various places on the boulder. Again, no rhyme or reason to things. A dozen yards to the east of the trees is a small, one-room building. In the past, it was still built up and maintained. These days, it is in extreme decay. Again, no idea why it is in this state, but I don’t spend a lot of time near the building.

Once I enter the meadow, I always check for the three trees, the boulder, and the ruin of the building. In surveying that, I can usually locate if anyone is in this sacred space. Ninety percent of the time, there’s no one there. Once I have my bearings, I start whatever ritual I was coming here to do. I can hear my voice in my mind, but I know that I am not speaking. Most of my individual rituals are silent, except in the voice I can hear within my mind. I go through the process of creating a ritual space by thanking whatever direction I stand facing. I don’t cast a circle, though that is what typically happens in rituals where I am with others. In my individual rites I start in the East then move to the South, then the West, and finishing in the North. Once finished, I pick whatever direction feels right to me and thank whoever has decided to come and attend to the rite. That’s about as complicated as my individual rite will get. I can understand the more complicated aspects of drawing a circle, calling on the Gods to witness the rite, and going through the needs for protecting oneself. I prefer the simplicity of my own approach.

To close out my rite in personal sacred space, I start by thanking whoever has witnessed the rite, and then thanking the directions in the reverse order. Once I have finished that, I take a few moments to feel the energy that was raised during my time in scared space. Then I walk towards the edge of the meadow, feeling the energy I have created dissipating as I grow closer to that boundary edge. As I start to walk into the forest and feel the growth of the trees getting thicker and having to expend more personal energy to move forward, I feel myself being pulled back to this reality. That pull is created by the focus stone, which is my anchor here. The focus stone serves a lot of other uses in my personal rites, but this is its primary purpose. Its usually just underneath the screen of my monitor.

Now, I am more than aware of how different all of this is compared to what OBOD teaches. I am also aware of all the people that are saying “You’re doing it wrong.” Yeah, I get it. My process is not the same as a lot of other people. But I am not trying to be them. I’m just trying to do what works for me. To be honest, if you are looking at all of this and going “that’s what I want to do.” Sure, go ahead. Just remember, if you are in a tradition of some sort, you need to learn their stuff too. In fact, I would say that you should work in their tradition’s process until you have it down good and well. THEN you can step into experimentation. That way, you have a strong base to work from. Just my opinion.

As for creating and entering your sacred space or Inner Grove, work through your process until you can do it in your sleep. In fact, when I am having trouble sleeping, I have utilized my sacred space to bring myself to a much calmer state so that I can get to sleep. What you create will most likely not look like mine. How you enter or exit it will likely be very, very different from my own. Remember, this is YOUR sacred space. Uniquely YOURS.

–Tommy /|\

My Grounding and Centering Techniques: Tools for Bad Moments and Times

Feel like the entire world is about to implode? Are you aggravated over everything? Even the slightest thing? Or as I described it in “One Pagan’s Perspective. One Druid’s Approach”, you feel like a hand grenade just waiting for your pin to be pulled? Believe it or not, I know the feeling all too well. Go back a pair of decades in my life, and you will find someone with an explosive temper. And it didn’t take long for me to get that temper wound up to a high tempo. Thankfully, I had good friends that not only saw all of that…they didn’t abandon me over it. They stuck tight to me and offered help. One friend, opened up to me enough to teach me two techniques to deal with those moments – grounding and centering. In today’s blog post, I m going to my best to describe the two techniques. I can’t say that these two practices of mine will completely resolve things for you, but hopefully, it can provide a basis from which you can move forward and find your own techniques to help you take a step back from the brink of personal nuclear warfare.

Grounding

The Behavioral Health Partners blog from the University of Rochester Medical Center from April 2018 lists a 5 step process for reducing anxiety:

  • Acknowledge five things you see around you.
  • Acknowledge four things you can touch around you.
  • Acknowledge three things you can hear.
  • Acknowledge two things you can smell.
  • Acknowledge one thing you can taste.

I can understand the process quite easily. You utilize your senses to focus on your immediate surroundings. By doing so, you start to push back whatever has you on the edge to the back burner, and provides you a chance to look to smaller aspects of your environment that you might be taking for granted because of the issue. However, I use a different technique to ground myself.

I create sacred space around me. Once I have managed that, I work towards clearing my thoughts, and feeling that I am a tiny oak seed in the ground. Slowly, I grow, feeling new branches move from the start of my trunk. I feel leaves grow, brown, fall from my branches to the ground around me, and new buds begin to sprout with the Spring. I can feel myself growing taller, while my roots reach even deeper into the ground. Those roots keep me upright. Those roots are the essence of what I am becoming. After a few minutes, I check to see how I feel. Is my issue still prevalent in my thoughts? If so, I continue to grow my oak tree in my thoughts, with the roots reaching ever deeper. I can feel all my troubling thoughts being emptied into the ground around my roots – leaving my system, until I no longer feel those troubles. I spend a few more minutes in Sacred Space, still focusing on my tree and its overall health. Then I take three deep, cleansing breaths and close my Sacred Space.

I know that it sounds rather childish to some, but for me – this process can be done nearly anywhere. On the floor of my living room. Laying in my bed. Walking down the sidewalk in my neighborhood. And while I think I could do this while driving, I’ve not done so. I am not sure if I would be in in state with enough awareness to operate a motor vehicle properly.

Centering

The second technique is centering, which I consider to be a much more difficult thing to do. The wesbite Mindtools states that centering is:

Centering is an ancient visualization technique that is popular in Aikido – the Japanese defensive martial art of “spiritual harmony.” It teaches you to focus on the here and now, taking power away from outside concerns and negative thoughts, and helping you remain stable and grounded.

Centering: Maintaining Focus in Stressful Situations.”, Mindtools

I don’t practice Aikido, but I learned a lot of this technique from when I was in the Air Force, particularly in the Warfare Training Schools that I was sent to. For me, the technique is rather simple. When everything starts to feel like it is spinning out of control, I find a safe place to stop and take a few moments to inventory everything going on. I’ve adapted it to my daily Pagan practice, by starting with creating sacred space. I will go into my process of creating sacred space in Thursday’s blog.

Once I have sacred space created, I take a few moments to inventory everything that I am experiencing. From that inventory process, I determine what needs to be dealt with, and filter out everything that is superfluous to the moment. In essence, I am working towards trying to work with what is in the “here and now” and set the other things to the side – to be dealt with later if need be. Once I feel I have a strong enough of a mental grip on what I need to, I take three cleansing breaths (three…because I’m a Druid), and then bring down sacred space.

Making It All Work

Now, I know some folks are wondering how I make this all work to defuse my temper in certain situations. Well, sometimes, the situation warrants my temper. But that is far rarer then it was before. Grounding is meant to calm me down and temper my anger a bit. Centering allows me to determine if pursuing things really makes that much of a difference in the first place. Grounding tamps down the emotions, while Centering allows for personal analysis of the situation, if you will. For instance, I see memes throughout Facebook and Twitter that can get my blood boiling. However, taking a small amount of time to Ground and Center will lead me to a single question: is my input on the topic going to add to the topic or enhance some of the conversation by providing a different perspective or will it be nothing more than the angry back-and-forth noise we constantly see online? If it’s the first, I will pursue the topic from my perspective. If not, which is far more often the case, I move on without a comment. For me, this has made my interactions on Facebook and Twitter far lower in frequency. It has also allowed me to retain some of my own personal dignity by not stooping into the digital mud.

Like I said before, these are the techniques that I know of and use. There are other techniques and perspectives. The Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (OBOD) has a video on what they term as the “Deep Peace of the Tree Meditation” that I have found to be useful when I have trouble grounding and centering. You will likely need to find some methodology of grounding and centering that works specifically for you. I do not – and will never – claim my techniques to be the quintessential methods for others.

Hopefully, some of this makes sense to those of you reading the blog. Even if all you get out of this is to start your own search for something that helps you to ground and center – you have started fresh down your own trail. Remember to be true to yourself. If a technique doesn’t work for you…that’s ok. Experiment, continue to search, tweak the technique into visualizations that have meaning to you. You’re unique. Sometimes it takes a bit more work than you thought. And that’s ok.

–Tommy /|\

Photo by Inzmam Khan on Pexels.com

One Pagan’s Perspective. One Druid’s Approach.

I remember being very public about my beliefs when I was in the Air Force, particularly when I was stationed overseas in Germany. I also remember the numerous questions, accusations, and “Christian” vitriol that was thrown directly at me. Brining all of that back into my thinking, I also recall how angry all of that would make me.

When I was stationed at Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth, it was easy to step away from all the backlash I got as a new Pagan. Yes, I was quite open about my beliefs, mainly because within the United States military, I was afforded quite a bit of protection that I would never have seen in the civilian world. This was the mid-1980s, during the Satanic Panic that gripped much of the United States. In Texas, declaring that you were a Pagan openly was enough to have a visit from Child Protective Services to your home – if you had children. The likelihood of keeping your children was extremely low. Thanks to books from authors such as Mike Warnke, Lawrence Pazder, and Lauren Stratford (among others), along with “testimonies” provided by many others at church gatherings, television/radio appearances, and the emergence of what many had referred to as “counter-culture religions” (Paganism being included in this group), many Right-wing Conservative Christians seized on the narrative declaring that there was a “war on the American culture.” If that sounds familiar, you need only look to author and television nut-job Bill O’Reilly to find a new gathering to that clarion call.

I lived through all of that. However, as a military member, I had some insulation from the fallout that occurred to others. However, even within the military, I received some flak for my open beliefs. When I was in Germany, I was physically assaulted by two individuals in the lobby of the base’s Allied Post Office at 1:30am after leaving my shift to go home. That occurred because my picture had been posted in the Stars and Stripes newspaper, in an article titled “Practicing Pagans”. One of the duty section supervisors, for the Patch and Test section, would refer to me openly as “the NCO who can’t deal with reality.” So, while I was protected by the military’s policies concerning religious beliefs, that didn’t completely isolate me from the ire of others that felt I was some “kooky” guy. Plus, that’s a perspective I have heard all my life, so it was really nothing new.

The period of time I am referring to is from 1986 to 1994, the entirety of my Air Force career. During all of that, I was a fiery individual. I was very easy to piss off, and quick to take exception to anything derogatory that was said to me. Looking back, I’m fairly certain that I was not a nice person to be. To put it in terminology that I would have related to much easier back in those days – I was a hand grenade just waiting to have my pin pulled. It would take a few more years before I learned the grounding and centering techniques (thanks Tasia!) that help me get back to the center and balance that a Libra always seems to need.

So why the look back? Well, I see a lot more people in the Pagan community that seem to be reaching that same enraged breaking point, particularly online. I can’t – and won’t – control the way someone reacts or lives through their daily lives. Nor will I say that there are no situations where that anger and rage is justified. Every moment, every encounter, every person is different. However, there are certainly times where being the cooler head in that moment might keep things from escalating into something that whirls out of control and becomes something that no one wanted. For me, when I get involved in these situations – even in online dialogue – I do my best to take a step back and strip out the emotional verbiage and look at the situation again. Honestly, this methodology works better in online conversations since those can be as analog as we may need them to be. Face-to-face, that ability to step back and bring the conversation to a more analog pace is not always available, given the direct, dynamic pace that such a communications method creates.

Many people get frustrated when I take a step back from a conversation. I believe one person referred to it is “disengaging from the conversation.” That’s actually a good descriptive and a rather true statement. When I feel a conversation gets too contentious, or I feel it is already spiraling into some aspect of “my dick is bigger than yours” moment – I will back away. I simply have no desire to turn my own personal faith into a nasty back and forth. I have no desire to prove why my beliefs are better than someone else’s. What’s right for me is not necessarily right for someone else. Typically, when I get pressed into such a corner, I’ll back away and shut down the conversation. I do the same in political discussions as well. To me, there’s no reason to prove to anyone that “mine is better than yours.” I left that shit behind when I graduated high school. All I wish to do is to be myself and be provided the same freedom to make my own choices as anyone else.

I have met many people who disagree with the way I handle such things. They will make commentary that I needed to “crush” my opponent in such discussions. Again, this is a product of “winning” the point. You see it all the time in politics here in the United States. Who won the Presidential debate? From my point of view, who cares? I look more to who provided a more lucid perspective of what they are willing to get accomplished, and how are they going to find ways to cooperate with the other side of the aisle. As of the last few political cycles…the answers is, sadly enough, none of them. Because the focus on politics has moved away from how to govern to just winning the election – thank you President Trump for turning elections into nothing more than a contest of which party is more popular now. But I digress.

Lately, I have found myself withdrawing more and more from the constant bickering, arguing, and back-and-forth meme wars that take place on Facebook and Twitter. All of that is a huge turn-off moment for me. I continue to read the news, filtering out the bias that is provided by a news media that has felt the need to slant the news to the left or the right. That does make reading the news tedious and tiresome. Thus, I don’t read all of the news. I just read enough to get the idea and move along.

Like I noted before, not everyone is going to agree with me. Nor do I expect anyone to do so. That’s right. I don’t expect a single person to agree with me. I know my mind. I know my thoughts. I know my perspective on things. I don’t pretend to know what others feel. Nor do I try to tell people how they should live their beliefs, what their morals should be, or how they should handle their daily Spiritual practice. I have no desire to be the Pagan Spirituality Police. I feel that everyone has to experience Life for themselves. Experiencing their daily Spirituality under the way I see the world around me just biases their perspective. Certainly, some of my experiences can be used as some type of guide for others, but ultimately what I experienced will quite likely be different from their own. Perhaps even so different that their experiences will be the opposite of what I experienced. After all, I’m just one Pagan. I’m just one Druid. My tools to keep me moving forward in Life are simple: grounding and centering. Just one Pagan’s perspective. Just one Druid’s approach. Your mileage is your own.

–Tommy /|\

Howling into the Wind: Imposter Syndrome, Priestly Stuff and Ordination

What’s my credibility? Why are they looking to me for advice? Isn’t there someone more qualified?

Robin Williams

I ran across this quote on the internet last night while looking up some information on Robin Williams. Sadly, yesterday marked the seventh year since his tragic suicide. But this quote really hit me hard when I read it. Like many folks, I suffer from time to time with Imposter Syndrome, where I openly wonder why I get viewed as some kind of “credible” source of information on Paganism and Druidry. The true reality is that I am only a credible source on how I view those topics (and so many others). But that concept of credibility runs far deeper than the shallow stream I portray here.

I relayed this story yesterday on Facebook, but it has bearings on what I have noted so far. A neighbor in my local area sent me a private message asking what Paganism and Druidry were all about. I can only assume that she got my information from the private Facebook group for my neighborhood, of which I am a part of. After a short bit of explanation, she fired back with a question asking if I was an ordained Priest. Yeah. That damn loaded word. I asked what she meant by being an ordained Priest, and she brought up The Universal Life Church. I responded back that I was not any such thing. “Why not?”

I admit that moment was like running flush into a concrete wall. The dizziness I felt was solid and real. I really had no way to respond to that, aside from a hollow and meek retort of “I have no idea.” However, leaning back to the Robin Williams’ quote that I found on the internet much later in the evening – wouldn’t there be someone more qualified?

Yes, sometime back I accepted the point that referring to me as a Priest was not the same as the romanticized (and honestly, horrible) vision of the Catholic Priest or the Baptist Preacher that my mind associates the word with. Nor do I have to be a Priest to my local Pagan community, performing public rituals everywhere I can possibly find a gig. Nor do I have to officiate over weddings and funerals – unless there was no one else available. In baseball vernacular, I am available to pinch-hit from the bench, should the need arise.

Or am I? I don’t hold credentials of a Priest that would allow me to perform a wedding ceremony from a legal perspective. I believe the same holds true for a funeral service, though I don’t see how that’s necessary to dig a hole, chuck the body in, and say a few words before the dirt gets tossed back on. But then, I am coloring that rite with my own perspective on it. However, let me nudge this back on-track.

The credentialing process through The Universal Life Church is, from what I understand, not a huge issue. You fill out their paperwork, they send you a certificate. Or something like that. There’s not much hassle to it. So why have I not done something like this? Well, again, leaning back to Robin – isn’t there someone more qualified? The answer to that is “probably.” But what if I am all that is available? What if, by some strange thought process, they would want me (what is wrong with you people?) to perform the ceremony? Without the credentials, I could still perform the ceremony…but it wouldn’t be legal.

So, why should I care? I mean, truly, I am nobody special. However, that is me denigrating myself against the way others view me as their friend and their fellow Pagan. Furthermore, I am pushing myself away from the wider Pagan community. A Pagan community that I keep pointing out needs to stay together to survive through these tougher times and beyond. Gathering such credentials would be not only an effort to provide some stronger credibility behind my point, but it would also be a move to be much closer to what I talk of – and something that can be readily seen. Walking the talk if you prefer.

Of course, I have shuffled through this thinking before – just not with the option of being ordained in The Universal Life Church. Now the question remains – should I? Do I need to be that potential stopgap for the more rural aspects of the Pagan community here in central Texas? Or perhaps, more realistically, an option that some folks might want.

The answer is that I will most likely do so, just to be an option for those that would want it. But I still hit that moment of Imposter Syndrome – wondering if there was someone else that would be a more appropriate option. Then again, if a couple (or even a polyamorous triad) came to me asking me to perform a handfasting for them, I must remember – they chose me. Whatever misgivings I have with my Imposter Syndrome are immediately crushed by that point.

Besides, becoming ordained to legal performing such ceremonies doesn’t make me a Priest. Merely an Officiant. My function is to make a ceremonial rite that is memorable for those that asked it of me. In that regard, I truly need to get over my misgivings and pull myself together. The ceremony is for their sake, not mine.

So, I find myself circling around the question of “why not?” Honestly, I believe I have run out of excuses for not doing so. My answer: therefore, must be – “I don’t know, but that needs to be changed.” My Imposter Syndrome be damned. Time to pick up the bat and head to the on-deck circle. Gotta pinch-hit.

–Tommy /|\

Howling Into the Wind: Four Political Quid in the Pot

Ahhh…politics. The ultimate method to destroying a family get-together. The strongest option to setting ablaze a decades long friendship. In short, the ultimate division creation process that we have in the modern age. Shit, I’ve not only watched, but also participated in the loud, vicious arguments over whose concept of governing a country is best. Or at least I did until I took a Texas government class at the community college I used to work at. Through some brilliant assignments handed out by the instructor, I began to realize that all the arguments concerning politics weren’t being made about how to run some form of government. Most of the arguments were about the way people are trying to force their own moral code on to others. But wait, before you start labeling me as a Liberal trying to tear down Conservative values in America. See, I paint with that same brush on the Left side of the aisle as well.

Republicans, Democrats….for me, there is not much difference between the two parties. Both moralize about how their perspective is more “American” than the other. Truth be told, both are saying whatever it takes to get votes for their candidates and be provided the power of holding the reigns on this flaming garbage bin that we are calling our country. Their call for votes to their respective sides is not about fixing issues within this country, or whatever state, county, or city that they are running for office. This is about power, pure and simple. Being able to claim “victory” over the other side. Up until Trump’s election year – and his disastrous four years as President – no one has spoken about “winning” and “losing” out loud.

Yeah, I get that the idea of winning and losing is easy to understand. However, I don’t look at election as a “win/lose” dichotomy. While there is a philosophy behind each party’s perspective – there are still governmental rules that must be followed. Trump attempted to roll completely over stuff that he didn’t like, but whatever he did try was still contained by governmental regulation. Sometimes to good effect, sometimes not. Like many citizens I watch what goes on. I see those who try to bend the governmental rules to keep their stranglehold on power for their party. Unlike many folks – I do the best I can to make my vote be my voice, rather than trying to find some online forum, some smoky filled backroom in a bar, my time around a nice campfire at night, or whatever other place of gathering you can imagine – I’m not trying to find some person to engage in a debate or argument with. In my experience, most people have already made up their mind – for whatever reason. Debating or arguing is nothing more than a waste of time and energy. However, who am I to denigrate what others may find as stimulating and worthy of their own energy and time? I just bow out and move on.

All this stuff on politics has come about after a conversation with an individual that I went to college with. University of Phoenix-Online, to be exact. Back then, 2000 through 2003, we were part of a group of students that had these political discussions in a discussion forum that amounted to a slightly moderated Student Lounge. We were discussing the way that we all argued over the competency of the end of Bill Clinton’s tenure as President. We debated the ability of Vice President Gore’s ability to President. We debated the hanging chads of Gore v Bush. Thinking back this is where I can see the deeper split between these two ideological factions here in the United States. Except that the chasm is far deeper and wider than it was back then.

Folks, I’m a Libra. To make things even more clear, I’m an INFP-A or if you prefer the archetype – the Assertive Mediator. I look for balance. I try to locate common ground or compromise. Add to that, I’m what is referred to in the Information Technology field as a “Troubleshooter”. I look for what’s caused the problem, as well as a way to fix it for the short term, even if its an extremely unconventional methodology. Getting things working is what I am about. Lots of my life has been lived doing just this. However, I am also a realist. If I can’t fix it…I back away.

Usually, when I provide my perspective on politics, I get asked what is the best way to fix it. Well, I hate to break it to anyone out there – I don’t have a fucking clue. I know this system is not working well. In fact, its extremely minimal on results and pumping maximum output on rhetoric. When I make that statement, I get told I’m an idiot or that I’m dumb. I’m neither, but I do know when to back away and just observe. That’s where I am on politics. I don’t have answers – I’m just watching, seeing where things get broken even more. Because later, everyone’s going to want things to be put back together…and someone has to be willing to roll up their sleeves to do that.

I know that much of what I stated here is probably making the blood boil of my Republican and Democrat friends. Why can I not just join them in their respective parties? Why can I not just pick a side? But I have chosen a side. Political parties…just a bunch of nonsense and clamoring for power. I’d rather stay with the side I chose – to see people as intelligent human beings, regardless of their political affiliation (or lack thereof), and to focus on the things that I can help repair or mend. Because no matter what your political affiliation, we all live on this rock spinning in space. I believe it will be a fair better place to live if we set aside our differences and focus on our similarities. We’re all human. We all have the right to live here. And it would be far better for everyone if we can do that without drawing sides of Good v Evil or Us v Them. That’s my four quid in the pot. I’ll fold my hand now and go find something to eat.

–Tommy /|\

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Thinking About: What’s Best Left Unsaid

Catching up with old friends always brings out the most interesting conversations. Last night, I spent some time with an old friend that I had met on the local Bulletin Board Systems (BBSs) in Fort Worth and Arlington here in Texas. This part of the timeline of my adventure called “Life” takes place during my years at Carswell Air Force Base, sometime between 1986 and 1991. These were the earliest days of my walk on my Pagan Path and looking back – I’ve changed a lot since those days.

BBSs were a part of escaping from the regimented life that I had in the Air Force, as well to connect with Pagans I encountered in the various conversation forums. All of this is pre-internet days, and the computer systems were just transitioning from the 8-bit world to 16-bit. Well, at least at the beginning of this point in time. By the latter portion, the start of the transition from 16-bit to 32-bit was already underway. My workdays were engulfed with keeping a 1950s mainframe operating (UniSys 1100/60) for the United States Air Force units located at the base. When I was off-shift, I would spend many hours connecting to the various BBSs in the area, and participating in the long running, analog conversations that took place there. One system that I would hang out in was The Church Mouse BBS, a Christian-oriented system that encouraged discussion and debate of religious beliefs. I made some of the strongest friendships that I have to this day.

Being extremely new to my Pagan faith, I would spend countless hours in many strongly worded “debate” over Paganism, Christianity (in many different aspects), Judaism, and other faiths. I placed quotes around the word debate because many of the conversations went from friendly discussions to some of the angriest and hate-filled statements I have ever encountered. I fired my own personal attacks within the forums, so I am not claiming to be a Saint through all of this. In fact, its this activity of my own that I am trying to highlight here.

Looking backwards through my life, there’s not a whole lot that I would change. Some of my actions and statements on the BBSs; however, is certainly something that I would. If I could find a way to apologize to all the people I interacted with on such a horrible level, I would. I do have to keep reminding myself that I was a very, very different Pagan then. My girlfriend at the time, a Wiccan High Priestess, had provided me with a handful of books to read. Many of these books provided an author’s perspective of the infamous Witch Hunts in Europe, an act that still stirs some anger within me. As a new individual walking that Path, I transferred those feelings directly on to the overt Christians that I encountered. Also occurring during this time was the Satanic Panic of the 1980s, which my young, very impressionable mind turned into a modern-day Witch Hunt, minus the Malleus Maleficarum for guidance on how to dispose of Witches that the “faithful” encountered. Gods, I was so quick to leap to conclusions, and hyper-quick in painting with a broad-brush.

Now, don’t get me wrong here. There are Christians that would prefer to rid the world of non-Christians in violent means. Think Westboro Baptist Church here. However, if you look around the world you will find other faiths ready to destroy others – all in the name of their beliefs. There are wars that have been fought everywhere in this fashion. So, don’t think that I am choosing to paint with a broad-brush in the other direction here. However, there are better ways to deal with things in common discussion and debate without stooping to anger and insults to inflame things further.

Eventually, I learned that my behavior was not something that was well received by others. I spent a lot of time discussing much of this with another Wiccan High Priestess that I met when I was stationed in Germany. She was stationed in the Kaiserslautern area, in the United States Army. She was a little older than me, and a few ranks above me. On our mutual days off, we would take walks in the densely wooded areas around Kaiserslautern, where we encountered remnants of the old Roman garrison that had been stationed there many eons back. Ivy was always a helpful sounding board, particularly after my picture appeared in a center-spread article in the European edition of the Stars and Stripes. I got some good-natured ribbing from some of the people in my duty section, but the article had also drawn the ire of some of the Officers, who had made a few disparaging comments towards me about my beliefs. Had all this attention been turned to me just a few years earlier, my reaction would have been swift, vile, and extremely regrettable. Ivy explained that getting wound up and fighting back was exactly what was expected.

“The more proper approach is to say nothing. Don’t react. Don’t give them the satisfaction of knowing that they have scored a direct hit. Perhaps they will just go away when they can’t get the triumphant feeling of having angered you. Or perhaps they will go further and cross a line where command authority can no longer just look away.” We had that conversation sitting on a Roman wall in a warm rain. I’ve never forgotten those words. Every steady rainfall I encounter leads me back to that time.

So here I am now, a lot of years removed from that moment. The BBSs are gone. However, Facebook and other social platforms have taken the place of those slow, arduous, analog “debates.” The speed of communication is much faster now. The anger and the vitriol much thicker, far deeper. That’s easily seen in the huge chasm of division in today’s politics. That’s easier for me to see here in the United States, simply because I live here. But I can assure you that it takes place all over this spinning ball of rock and dirt. The sharp quickness of the speed of communication means that what we type in anger, gets sent out much faster…and, in many cases, has had very little effort at self-editing. We are quick to fire off what we feel at that very moment without a single thought at what damage our words can cause to others. Or perhaps, we do intent the damage that our words convey to others. Either way, we have learned the power of taking discussion into the realm of emotional and verbal attacks. We have learned the power that being an anonymous keyboard warrior can provide us. We know the cruel pleasure of belittling someone else. For the most part, we like it. We like the way it makes us feel powerful. Able to crush someone’s weak emotional state with just a few well-placed verbal jabs. I know how that feels. I’ve been on both ends of that spectrum.

I can’t really tell you how to handle such things. Everyone deals with this back-and-forth communications style in their own way. However, I can note this – before you click on send, read what you wrote. If its what you intended to send, no worries. If its not…edit it or don’t send it at all. As Ivy told me on that rainy summer afternoon, as we talked under our respective umbrellas, sometimes the best response is the one that you leave in your pocket. I certainly wish I had that advice a few years prior to that moment. I certainly wouldn’t feel that the me of then was such a fool.

–Tommy /|\

Carving at a Roman Spring
Carving at a Roman Spring near Kaiserslautern, Germany

Howling Into the Wind: The Future, Today, My Paganism, My Druidry

What does the future hold for Paganism? What about Druidry? Well, honestly, I don’t know. I’ve asked a few Pagan and Druid friends over the years, and they normally shrug their shoulders too. A few have discussed what they HOPE the future looks like. The typical standard is fifty or a hundred years into the future. Pagan churches and gathering locations will find their place next to Christian churches within the sprawling suburbia of the United States. Shrines will be in more populous locations such as train stations, city blocks, and elsewhere. Pagans will stand side=by-side in equality with Christians. People will not have to hide their beliefs. There will be seminaries throughout the world to train Pagan Priests to do things the “right” way. Because, as I climb my desk to stand taller, reaching my arms towards the skies above my ceiling, for Paganism to grow like Christianity – WE MUST COMPETE!

Ok, so the imagery of me standing on my desk with my arms akimbo really does have a silly outlook. Plus, even standing here I can feel myself getting a little dizzy from the height. Yeah. My fear of heights. Let me get off the desk, first.

To be openly honest, none of that appeals very much to me, aside from the point that Pagans can live openly with who they are – with no repercussions from a world and governmental systems built on the premise that Christian standards are the only ones that matter. So, what does my vision of Paganism look like for the future? Or as Cat Treadwell queried me on Facebook yesterday – what does my Druidry look like today, particularly here in my small, dusty corner of the world? Ok, I added a touch of descriptive to what Cat asked, but its essentially the same thing. 😊

I cannot and will not try to predict any kind of future. I can look through the information in front of me and try to see a pattern headed into that future, but my focus is firmly on the present. Will we have Pagan “churches” in the future? I don’t know, maybe. But then what defines a “church”? The building? The land on which the building rests? The people that make up that small, intentional community? My feeling is that such a thing doesn’t matter. My Paganism, my Druidry are not defined by a building, a parcel of land, or even a group of people. My Druidry, my Paganism – all of that exists from the daily experiences that I have, the choices that I make, and my perspective that helps drive those choices.

Right now, it’s the start of August here in Texas. This is the time of year that signals the start of higher heat. Texas begins to feel like living in an Easy Bake oven that’s always on. Despite the temperatures, I have always tried to find time to be outside – just not in the ultimate heat of the day. Short morning walks are a nice method to being out among nature. When the air is more humid, and the petrichor is far more distinguishable, the animals seem to be more alive and awake than usual. The songs of the birds, coupled with the small yips of coyote pups or foxes make for a wonderful cacophony for the ears. Added to that is the rustle of leaves in the small breezes that are the starting signal to the approach of an unstable air mass. Rain is on its way. A cycle of water for all, for water is life.

On the days when the heat will be high, the humidity a touch lower, and the promise of rain is nowhere to be found, the early mornings will start the same. However, quickly things will quiet down, as animal life finds shelter from the blazing sun. Even the cows in the pastures will seek whatever shade they can find for the full day, content to huddle in a tight mass away from the sun’s heat until much closer to sunset. Me, a single human being, does the same. I head indoors, behind the walls, under the ceilings, and in the cool air conditioning that allow me to avoid the outdoor conditions.

Living in a rural part of central Texas, I watch the seasons change through the cow pastures, wheat fields, and corn fields around me. The year of the Wheel is in full force around me. I see small baby cows appear in the pastures that I drive past. They grow into more mature cows, as another cycle of newborns comes into the herd. Older cows are sold by the farms to provide the food we have on our plates that we buy from the local grocers’ shelves. I watch the corn grow in the fields until it turns into a light brown color – ready to be harvested and replanted as seed corn. Then, I watch the same field grow again and be harvested closer to winter, placed into the beds of large trucks, and sent off to processing to become more of the food we purchase at our local grocers. I see the same cycle in the trees in the neighborhood and at the local park, which sprout new leaves, that grow and green throughout the year, until the early arrival of Winter’s chill begins. Leaves turn brown, fall from the trees, and cover the ground in their dead husks that can provide Winter sustenance for plant life all around.

All of that is my Druidry, my Paganism. In all of that, I see the Gods and Goddesses in the far background. I see the Spirits of Place, and my own Spirits of Ancestors, their silhouettes scattered throughout. The far images of those who had come before to find a way of life and survival with far less capable technologies than we have today. I can also imagine a much further future, where those technologies will far outpace the technologies of today. An evolution of mankind’s survival if you will. That future; however, is murky and unknown to me. Perhaps it exists, perhaps it doesn’t.

So, again, I ask myself – could the previously mentioned future of Paganism and Druidry exist? Could all that come to pass? Perhaps it could. Certainly, I wouldn’t rule it out. However, much of that future works on the cognitive balance that the future of Paganism and Druidry is solely encased within the realm of groups alone. While I do enjoy my time within my extended tribes that I find myself a part of within Druidry, as well as Paganism, in general – I am still very much a solo Pagan. Thus, a future that claims that working within groups is the only way to survive and thrive runs in conflict with how Paganism and Druidry works for me. Plus, there’s the baggage to unpack around terms such as “church” and “Priest” that would certainly arrive from such a direction. Is there a way to remove the entirely Christian and Catholic perspective of a “Priest” or “pastor” being the sole intercessor between people and their Gods? But that, perhaps, is a discussion for another time…with the willingness of someone wanting to read the entrails of my opinion on the matter. Regardless of how I feel about the prognastications of the future, I do know this: the future of tomorrow will always look bright if you stand outside and wait for the promise of the rising sun to happen in front of your eyes.

–Tommy /|\

Photo by Darwis Alwan on Pexels.com

Here’s a little trap
That sometimes catches everyone
When today’s as far as we can see
Faith in bright tomorrows
Giving way to resignation
That’s how it is, how it’s going to be

It’s such a cloudy day
Seems we’ll never see the sun
Feel the day has possibilities
Frozen in the moment
The lack of imagination
Between how it is and how it ought to be
Between how it is and how it ought to be

“How It Is”, Rush from “Vapor Trails”

Thinking About: A Path of Assumptions Leads Nowhere

Music is something that is normally present in my life. When I am driving long distances, I prefer to have music playing – instead of conversation, if someone is riding with me. When I write, I always have music playing to help put me in the mood to write. As an aside, I currently have The Eagles’ “The Last Resort” from their “Hell Freezes Over” album playing at this moment. When people find out that I am a Pagan, they think that I will have Wendy Rule (awesome), Damh the Bard, Spiral Dance, or some other Pagan musician playing over my speakers constantly. Truth be told, I have material from those artists and quite a few others – but usually my speakers have something a touch more mainstream on. That usually disappoints some folks, as it seems that some folks think that being a Spiritually-oriented person – be it Pagan, Christian, or otherwise – means that you are just that every waking moment of your life (and you are – just not the way they mean it).

I’m sure that there are people out there that are like that…except that I am not one of them. My Pagan beliefs are a part of who I am. I can’t shake that whenever I want. Twenty-four hours per day, seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year….that’s what I am. A Pagan. However, being a Pagan doesn’t mean that I chew on my Druidry every moment of my day. I don’t have Damh the Bard on solid rotation on my music play-list every single day. My Paganism, and my Druidry, casts a wider net than that.

When I started down my own path in the Christian faith, I saw a lot of this in the southern Baptist perspective. See, I grew up in a non-religious household, attending Catholic schools. Mass was an extended performance of rote symbolic gestures made once per month with my class. At one point, my teacher commented to my entire eighth grade class that I knew the proper time to kneel, the proper method of genuflection (making the sign of the cross – I think that’s the right term – its been a long while and then some) – and I wasn’t even a Catholic. For me, it was an example of the emptiness I saw in the Catholic faith, coupled with the constant pounding of the faith’s perspective in mandatory “Religious Education” classes. When I had the chance – after I graduated high school – I took steps into other areas of faith. My first stop – and last – within the Christian faith was the southern Baptist environment. Here, I found the same empty gestures made every Sunday – once in the morning and once in the evening, as well as Wednesday nights. Sing when prompted. Stand at certain points. Sit quietly and observantly at others. Much like the Priest in the Catholic mass, the Pastor was my intercessor between myself and God. Without them, I could not “properly” understand God.

Much like what I described before about some of the assumptions made about Pagans, I saw a lot of the same within the southern Baptist environment. During this time, I was very much a hard rock and heavy metal listener. Iron Maiden, Bon Jovi, Ozzy Osbourne, Def Leppard, Tygers of Pan Tang, Krokus, and others were main music staples for me. I was delighted to find a Christian heavy metal band in Stryper. However, I was told by the Pastor the church that I was attending that the members of Stryper were “of the devil” because they chose to dress like KISS, Motley Crue, and others. However, I listened to the lyrics of the band as well. They sang lyrics that praised Jesus as Savior, just as “accepted” Christian artists like Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, Sandi Patti, and others did. Furthermore, I was being tempted by Satan because I continued to listen to secular music. However, nothing was said about the music director’s second job, playing country and western piano at a local bar on Fridays and Saturdays. Nothing bad about that. For me, it wasn’t the music director’s job I had issues with – it was the hypocrisy of accepting what he was doing, which certainly didn’t seem to play well against the concept of “good Christian behavior.”

Eventually, I left for the Air Force, and stumbled on to Paganism. However, when I hear people question why I don’t have Pagan music on twenty-four hours a day, or comment that I should be at my Pagan studies every free waking moment that I have – I am reminded of the same cloud cast upon what Christians should be doing. None of that really works for every single individual. Where others may prefer Pagan music on their speakers, mine are usually crowded with Van Morrison, the Grateful Dead, Phish, Iron Maiden, the Tygers of Pan Tang, the Bangles, Halestorm, Eloy, Coyote Oldman, Pantera, and others. But it isn’t the music that makes me a Pagan. The music is just the backbeat of my normal day. How I choose to interact with my environment on a daily basis helps inform my own Path of Pagansim and Druidry. Paganism and Druidry are what are in every breath that I take, every step I take throughout the day, what I eat, what I drink….essentially how I live. The music is a part of all that experience, but it is not the definition of how I experience.

The really great thing about what I am loosely describing here? Its not the same for anyone. How we choose to experience is up to each one of us. What we experience, while coming from the same sources, can vary so wildly that the directions one can go with it are amazing. And honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

–Tommy /|\

PS: As I finish writing this, my iTunes player has shuffled me on to the Grateful Dead’s version of “Me and Bobby McGee” from their March 18, 1971 concert at the Fabulous Fox Theatre in St. Louis, Missouri. Damn good stuff, especially here on what would have been the late Jerry Garcia’s 79th birthday.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Thinking About: Those Darn Younger Pagans

Over the past few weeks, I have listened to DNA family (all my age or slightly younger/older) lament how this country is going to “Hell in a handbasket” because of the younger generation. Most of it comes from the seemingly mind-scratching adulation that the younger generations have for Senator Bernie Sanders, but I have heard a few other folks lamenting the younger generation in the same manner in some of the local coffee stops in the area. I find that perspective to be both interesting and humorous. When I was younger, and my father and his brothers were around my age – I heard much the same sentiment aimed towards those of my generation. I would even go out on a limb and say that lament has been uttered time and time again throughout the ages. So, while many of the folks my age think that they have uncovered some amazing revelation – it seems to be a cyclic perspective that occurs throughout the human growth process.

It makes sense though. The younger you are, the more you are looking for new experiences, and trying to find your own footing in the world around you. Unless you are so ingrained with your parents’ philosophies and perspectives, there is always a need to reach into other areas. Once you get older, you become a bit more conservative in the way that you see the world. If you are one of those people that must have everything done your way – you will see the younger generations’ manner of finding their own footing as “reckless”, ‘dangerous”, and “destructive” to the values that you have built up.

As an example (albeit a sports-related one), I grew up watching baseball without the designated hitter. I hate the designated hitter. I prefer pitchers bat for themselves. I prefer to see pinch-hitters in the latter stages of the game, which can lead to all kinds of strategies. Today’s modern game of baseball is geared towards a younger generation that adores the home run over a 2-1 well pitched and defended game.

All of this has had me thinking about our younger generation of Pagans within our wider community. Many of these younger Pagans have, potentially, come from families where the parents were Pagans. In contrast, most Pagans in my age group that I know came to Paganism from other religious perspectives. Given that we had so much baggage to unload during our formative Pagan years, our experiences are far different than many of these younger folks.

I have often wondered if our perspective of these younger Pagans might be different because their exploratory options may have a different depth and richness to them than our own did? Do we look at them and think that they are “doing it wrong” when they make changes to rituals that have been “done this way since anyone can remember?” Perhaps, they have experienced the “rote” way of doing things, and seek new, different experiences through improvisational methods. Lately I have wondered if there are any quiet grumblings that these younger Pagans are too “reckless” in their potentially cavalier methods. That these new Pagans with a different way of seeing the experiential world around them are “destroying” our Pagan experience?

My perspective? Well, I tend to look at some of these newer perspectives and think to myself: “Well, I wouldn’t have done it that way. But then again, I’m not them.” To most traditional Pagans, I am usually considered to either be a “joke” or somebody to not take seriously. So, to a point, I can understand the derision heaped upon these newer Pagan perspectives. I’ve had it laid at my feet often enough. Any advice I would give to these younger Pagans is to (a) remember the basics, and (b) follow where your heart takes you.

The basics are important. Once you understand the basic aspects of ritual, or even spell work, you have something that already works – just not as deep as you might want. Now you can improvise, add, subtract elements as you need. You can work in experimentation, but you always have those basics to come back to.

As for following your heart, to me that’s everything about being who you are. You know what works for you – what feels right – what resonates with you. However, there is a point of caution to all of this. Following your heart can lead you to dead ends that you thought would be nirvana. Those disappointments are hard to get beyond. Those moments hurt really hard. If you are not ready to risk that, you may want to be careful utilizing improvisation and exploration as the basis of moving your Spiritual beliefs forward. Just as exploration and so-called advancement is fun – sometimes spending time with where you are right now is good too.

I have heard a lot of grumbling about the younger generation being “bad” for today’s society….from all corners. I heard it aimed at me when I was younger by my parents and their generation. I stepped away from their influence and have lived a life based on my own choices, desires, and needs. Some of it has been the best moments of my life. Other moments have blown up gloriously in my face and caused me to take steps backward. Society certainly doesn’t seem the worse for wear – aside from some deep divisions over political crap. I have heard it aimed at this current younger generation. I know they are going to step on their landmines in life. I don’t think that society is going to be any worse for wear over their life choices and explorative ambitions. I know many of their choices won’t be things that I would have done presented with the same moments – but then again, I’m fifty-five. They’re not here….yet.

–Tommy /|\