Thinking About: Trees

Being a Druid and a Pagan always brings some of the zaniest notions from family, friends, co-workers – even neighbors. I have been asked if I roast small children over a fire pit in my backyard by a few hardcore right-wing nutjobs that claim to be Christians. I have been told that I am doing Satan’s bidding in the current world. Those statements typically get a smile and a shake of my head as a response. I have found that anything beyond that only encourages more vitriol from those folks. However, I do get questions from the above-mentioned group of folks that are fun to answer and provoke some interesting and nice conversations.

When I was teaching at the community college, I never hid the fact that I was a Druid and a Pagan. I didn’t advertise it, but students can be some truly resourceful information gatherers. One student approached me after class as I was walking in the parking lot to my truck. “Why all the emphasis on trees? Why is nature so important?” I beckoned him to follow me to the truck. I popped the tailgate, so we had a place to sit, and I started to relate my reasoning for that emphasis, as it occurred to me.

Thinking back to that moment, I realized it might be fun, informative, and a good exercise for me to backtrack to this conversation. However, it will just be a one-sided “conversation” here with the blog. Hopefully, you will allow me this indulgence.

To be able to articulate the perspective behind “Why Nature? Why trees?”, I have to start a lot further back. I didn’t grow up in the United States, for the most part. My father was active-duty Air Force, and we moved around a lot. A lot of my younger years come from living in Germany. My father enjoyed Germany and its culture, plus he married my mom – a German citizen. We were always close to family. We participated a lot in German culture, particularly in Volksmarching. I knew the term for this form of non-competitive fitness walking as Volkswanderung, and I really enjoyed participating it. Most 10km, 20km, and 30km trails went through the countryside near various towns. I remember walking along the trails in farming fields, along streets in towns, and through dense forested areas, which Germany has in quite an abundance of. Later, when I got stationed in Germany as an active-duty Air Force member, I recall marveling how the populace would avoid growth, to preserve the forested areas between towns. During my walks in the woods, both as a child and as an adult, I always felt a sense of calm and easiness when walking through the wooded areas. I always felt at home there. During my adult years there, I even found the time to reach out to the Spirits of Place within the forest. Those Spirits felt so old and ancient – and at a few times it felt like They were just ignoring me. Like people come and go at such a fast pace, that Their attention towards humans was just not warranted.

Prior to my Air Force time in Germany, I spent the mid-to-late 1980s at Carswell Air Force Base in Forth Worth, Texas. At that time, the Dallas/Fort Worth concrete jungle had not completely formed as it is today. There were wooded fields between Fort Worth and Arlington (to the east). Living in Fort Worth was like living in a small city that was out on its own. No huge worries. If I needed a dose of nature, it was not a big drive to get to it. In 1994, when I returned from Germany and was ending my career in the Air Force, the Dallas/Fort Worth had changed a bit. I have watched it grow into the concrete jungle that it is today. Every time I go through the main population area of the DFW metro-mess (my term for it), it does not take long for me to feel disconnected from the natural world around me. When I was living in Houston a few months back, I felt much the same way. While I understand why people live in large metropolitan areas, I have come to understand that its not for me. Where I live now, I’m in a rural area. For me, its very easy to reach out and connect with the natural aspects of the world around me.

Medicine Wheel in Wyoming…one of the most magickal and alive places I have ever been.

Still, why nature? Why the trees? As I noted, I feel more at home in such an environment. I have dreams – or goals, if you prefer – of returning to Germany and walking through stretches of the Black Forest that I had played in before. I had that same feeling when I visited Medicine Wheel in the Bighorn National Forest in Wyoming. Each moment felt so serene, so peaceful, so perfectly in tune with what I needed. For me, these natural spaces within our modern, plastic, steel, and concrete world are important. These spaces allow people to reach back to feelings of simpler times. When man lived with Nature and did not attempt to dominate Nature and bend it to the greed of a few. For me, time in places where man has not bent the environment to his will, those are moments where I can recharge my soul. Where I can ground and center myself. Where I can lean back into the grasses and watch the skies above change from light to dark. Where I can easily see the stars in the far-flung Universe above without having to fight the light-pollution generated by the concrete cities that never sleep.

I know. Many folks will point out the romantic and over-blown notions that I hold on to. After all, I live in a heated and air-conditioned home, even out here beyond the growing reach of the greater metro area. I have a grocery store where I can gather food stuffs that are already caught, cultivated, and processed for my consumption. I am not trying to become a survivalist or anything along those thoughts. I admit that I have that part of the “modern” human with me, and without that, I would be hard-pressed to adapt to a different way of living. However, getting out into Nature – away from the amenities of modern living – allows me to take a few moments to commune in a manner that I find to be deeper and more comforting. I don’t need that every day, but I do need it from time to time.

Perhaps the way I go about all of this might some hypocritical to some or unnecessary to others. However, I live my life as I need to. I’m not here trying to reach the accolades and praise of others, according to the manner that what I do matches their efforts. I applaud them for what they do, how they approach things from their own perspective. I have no desire or need to deride them if their efforts do not match mine. Everyone does things according to their own needs, abilities, and desires. How all that works for them is not for me to judge. Rather, I would prefer if a few of them would come around the campfire, so we can talk or maybe just listen to the sounds of the night or watch the stars above. I find that to be far more desirable than arguing over who is doing something right or wrong in communing with their environment. In fact, I prefer that over arguing over a whole slew of things. And if no one joins me? Well, the trees don’t argue or deride anyone over their choices. Plus, you must be quiet to hear the conversations through the rustling leaves and branches. Just thinking about that brings a huge smile to my face.

–Tommy

Promises in the Dark

I wanted to try my hand at a different writing tack. My typical writing time for a blog post is between 7am and 11am. When I was gainfully employed, my writing time was typically between 5am and 7am. So, I guess I can be considered a “daytime writer” with those habits. Tonight, I decided to try something different. Right now, its almost 21:45 (9:45pm for you non-military types). I have most of the lights in the dinning area (my office area since there is not enough room here for me to have my own hiding place with a door). Outside the window in the back door, all I can see is pitch black. However, there is so much that I can hear.

Thanks to a handful of days of rain, the frog population here has made itself known, especially at night. Right now, there’s a chorus of frogs punctuating the night. They will bring things to a close somewhere around midnight. Sometimes its earlier, sometimes later. Between their calls, I can hear crickets in the night as well. This is a nightly sound that I usually filter out of my thoughts, but not tonight. I don’t have headphones on, and the television is (thankfully) off. As I type, my mechanical keyboard beats a loud staccato while using the crickets and frogs for an underlying layer of sound.

Now its closer to 10pm, and I hear a north-bound train as it rolls through the eleven crossings in town. That shrill single blast from the horn as it approaches is crossing is so distinct. I know its northbound because the sound is not as loud as the trains headed southbound. The decibel level is not very loud at all. In fact, if the television were on, even at a low volume, I wouldn’t not even realize that the train was coming through. Two more northbound trains will make their way through town over the course of the early morning hours, as well as two southbound trains. In my periods of insomnia, I have spent quite a few hours listening to the train sounds and glancing over at the clock. Yes, Virginia, the trains run on a tightly wound schedule.

Most of my Druidry tends to take place during daylight hours, simply because that’s when I am usually out and about. But even then, I usually have headphones on listening to music, as I am this morning. At this moment, I have Jimi Hendrix Experience’s “I Don’t Live Today” coming through the headphones. However, with the headphones off, I can hear the sounds outside. Hammers banging, along with the sounds of electrical equipment, remind me that the house at this end of the street is still being finished. It also reminds me that several houses will be going up just beyond the backyard fence over this coming Summer and Fall. Occasionally, I can hear cars whooshing by on the road just past the fence, the road that will be the connecting point for the driveways of this coming homes. I can hear the 8am southbound train coming through the town, carrying whatever goods that it has for consumers at the distant end of that travel. I can smell the aroma of my just made coffee; the hazelnut flavoring is a strong and comforting aroma for me. Some mornings bring the sounds of a helicopter flying nearby. That sound always makes me sad. It’s the sound of a helicopter bringing a critical patient to the small, local hospital here. I always stop when I hear that sound and say a quiet prayer for whoever is being brought in.

I put the headphones back on, and my iTunes player greets my return with Manfred Mann’s Earth Band’s album “Watch”. Sensory information. A part of my Druidry that I have taken for granted. The sounds outside. The smells that I come across. The tactile feel of the keys of my mechanical keyboard as I type. The music that makes up the soundtrack of my day.

I have taken a lot of sensory aspects that I encounter every day for granted, particularly during the COVID pandemic. My decision to start this blog post at night made me realize that. I stopped focusing on small things inside – the television, my computer screen, and even my headphones – and found that connection with the world that I don’t explore often enough. Last night was an epiphany, of sorts. Reconnecting with the sensory aspect of my Druidry is a poignant reminder that the past year was about searching through my beliefs, scouring my Druidry – for what essentially has been nothing. Or maybe not nothing. However, I spent a lot of time spinning my wheels – stuck in the mud of my Druidry, hyper-focused in a direction that I did not necessarily need to. Now, a year later, I realize that being driven indoors by COVID removed me from something I loved and enjoyed – just being. A lack of personal contact with other Pagans was part of the stimulus that I was missing. There was the fire crackling late at night at the gatherings that I attended. There was the quiet, hushed talk around the fire with others, as we talked about life, while trying not to wake those who had gone to bed. All the zany antics that we would pull on one another in camp. The quiet walks through nearby paths in the wooded areas nearby. All of that is an essential aspect of my being alive.

Was the hiding indoors during COVID appropriate? Maybe. Maybe not. I did that out of an abundance of caution. With a compromised immune system, catching COVID was just not an option. I did what I felt that I had to do. Right or wrong doesn’t matter. I did what I needed to do. Now, its time to get things restarted. Time to be the Pagan and Druid I have always been. Sure, there will be people that disagree with the way I deal with things. There will always be people who do that. I just need to do what I do and stop worrying about doing things in a manner that pleases others. I just need to be the same weird, caring, odd individual that I have always been. Because that’s me.

And just think – all that started with me taking a few moments to just listen to the sounds of the night. What else can be accomplished by just taking the time to reset and restart? Here’s a hint: anything I set my mind towards accomplishing.

–Tommy

Howling Into the Wind: Individualism and One’s Approach to the Sacred

Since COVID struck, I have had lots of online conversations with various folks about what I believe. Lots of conversations. Much of that also backs up into how they can help define what they believe as well. That’s a hard zone to really be in. Not everyone thinks the same or experiences things the same – or even has the same emotions to experiences. Working through how others experience the world around them, react to the experiences that they encounter – I began to understand how one’s Spirituality is not a “one size fits all” perspective.

Now, I write quite a bit about how I react to things, how I experience the world around me. More often than I care for it to happen, what I write about gets compared to other Pagan bloggers. I get the rationalization though – if I felt one way, they should too. When my experiences and reactions are very different – I tend to hear about it. “You didn’t have the same experiences that John did.” “Your reactions is totally different than Cat’s.” Way back when, commentary like that stung – hard. I also questioned whether I approached that experience in the “correct” manner. After all, these Pagans, these Druids – they write about their experiences, and a multitude of people chime in that they felt that way too. Anyone experiencing it differently – they’ve got to be doing it wrong.

Slowly, I started confiding in others, usually around a campfire, late at night. I would discuss how my way of experiencing and reacting to moments that I encountered within my Pagan and Druidry studies were different. I would bring up various examples that had been flung in my face – and I would ask how I could approach things better. One night at an OBOD retreat, I confided in someone whose perspective I have always admired greatly. We talked about why I felt the way that I did. Why did I feel that I was doing something wrong because I didn’t have the same reactions as other people? Quietly and gently, I was reminded that I am an individual. I am not my friends. I am not other Pagans and Druids. I am me. Uniquely me. Comparing myself to others did nothing for who I am. All it would accomplish is an erosion in my own confidence. I’m not to be a clone of some other Druid out there. I am meant to be me.

Remembering this quiet conversation in a corner of the main building has helped me push further past my drawbacks concerning the word “Priest” and all that it conjures up in my mind. There is no Priest archetype that I need to fulfill or assume. I just need to move forward in my studies and forward in my life. My role will figure itself out. My direction will come quietly to me – through the whispers of my Gods, and through my daily walk through Life.

Perhaps, my current role is to document my thoughts where others can read. They can make up their own minds concerning my sanity (or lack thereof). However, there may be that one person that needs to hear that they can blaze their own Path in their Spirituality. That there is nothing wrong if you’re experiences are different – by just a few centimeters or by many miles.

So, I began to realize that I could more adequately answer the questions of “why Druidry?”, “What does Druidry afford me that other Paths cannot?” Furthermore, I can answer that in a single statement – Druidry is who I am, what I do, where I go, what I feel, what I am.

Several years back, I wrote about compartmentalizing myself. My Druidry would go into one area, my work went into another, and so on. What I wound up with was a mess. Separated aspects of what I was trying to deal with did inform others. What I found was that my Druidry was a part of everything that I do. Understanding correlations and relationships that Druidry helped me uncover informed the statistical analysis work that I was doing at the time. My work helped me to understand relationship and connections I could never fathom in my everyday life. All of it worked together. All of it informed other areas of my life. Within that understanding, I started to understand the Christians that made statements that their faith was a part of everything that they did. They believed that because they insisted that every aspect of what they did was a part of their everyday faith. Well, my Druidry is an everyday part of who I am. Perhaps, in a similar way that the Christians believed theirs; however, I don’t believe that mine is the way everyone else should believe, because I believe in individualism. Everyone chooses their own Path to walk. Sometimes they walk it alone. Sometimes they walk it with a great many others. But the singular choice is still theirs to make. The form that their Spirituality takes is their own unique connection to the world around them.

What does Druidry do for me? Well, I am provided with so many different ways of seeing the world around me. I see the Gods, Spirits of Place, Spirits of the Land, Spirits of Ancestor, fairies, instances of magick, and the living Earth Herself all around me. Everything is living at different speeds around us. Everything is aware, just not at the speeds that we move. Druidry helps me to embrace that understanding and learn how to live in my existence as a better caretake – a better member of a wider society. The morning sunrise is always the kept promise that the sun will rise again – a promise made at sunset each night. Greeting that morning sunrise is my way of extolling that I believed in that promise last night, just as watching the sunrise is my way of saying that I believe the promise that was just made. All of that may seem silly to you, and that’s really ok. For me, I am the only one that needs to steadfastly believe in all of that – because it’s a part of who I am.

That’s what I see. That’s how I believe. My sunrise and sunset rituals may take moments, but they are important markers of time in my daily life. Not every Druid or Pagan will believe like I do. Maybe no Pagan or Druid believes like I do, but that’s ok. I don’t need the buy-in of others to my beliefs. The world around me is alive – this is how I connect to it. I don’t need to believe as you do to find the beauty, the joy, or the sacred in what you believe and do. I don’t have to believe it because I can see it written in your face. I can feel it written in your soul. That is what matters the most. Not that we match, but that we respect each other’s approach to the sacred – even if we find the other’s approach to be nonsensical compared to our own practices. We are individuals.

–Tommy

Howling Into the Wind: Moving on From the Smoking Ruins

I am sitting here with my headphones on, listening to the Styx live album “Caught in the Act”. This is interesting for me because this album is a direct link back to my post high school years. The album was released in April of 1984, somewhere close to my high school graduation. Shortly after the album’s release, my favorite member of the band – Tommy Shaw – made the announcement that he was leaving the band. Caught in the Act would be the last album that Styx released in the 1980s. Many of the tracks on the album hold some dear memories for me – hanging out with friends in their front- and backyards. We would listen to various music, cut-up, talk, and generally just be around one another. Around 1985, we all started going our separate ways. This was also a time frame where I had difficulty trying to figure out where I was going to go in life. My plans were slim or non-existent. My interest in personal computers was there, but there was no avenue aiming me to a career – until the Air Force.

There was a single song that echoed through the hallways of my mind through all this time. “Fooling Yourself (the Angry Young Man)” quickly turned into a personal anthem.

You’re fooling yourself if you don’t believe it
You’re kidding yourself if you don’t believe it
Get up, get back on your feet
You’re the one they can’t beat and you know it
Come on, let’s see what you’ve got
Just take your best shot and don’t blow it

Styx, “Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)”

These lyrics along with “Blue Collar Man” held me together through some truly difficult times.

Keeping my mind on a better life
Where happiness is only a heartbeat away
Paradise can it be all I heard it was
I close my eyes and maybe I’m already there

Styx, Blue Collar Man”

I bring this up because – well, life has been a true disaster since mid-January for me. My struggles have happened in nearly every aspect of my life. My everyday mundane life on through into my personal Spirituality. Much like those days immediately after high school, I have had a lot of trouble trying to see clearly and with focus. The future has been cloudy…and with super heavy meatballs.

This has been noticeable to almost everyone who remains in my life to this day. Keeping up with my own Spiritual practices has been difficult to say the least. Even staying focused on blogging regularly has been a bit of a struggle. This morning, I spent a short while in meditation, asking for help from Coyote, Crow and Abnoba – either individually or through some combination of the three. No answers were readily available, so I opened iTunes and hit shuffle on my massive music playlist. The first song to start was “Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)” – not a sure sign from the Gods, but most likely a coincidental, synchronous moment for me. All the memories of my nearly three-year struggle to find my footing in the early parts of my adult life came rushing forward.

What I needed to do was make a completely clean break from my not-so-distant past and move my focus to the here-and-now, as well as the short-term future. I made mistakes. I needed to spend time squaring that fact with myself, as well as realizing that was over and done. There would be no going back. Now, I find myself in the planning stages of where to go from here.

Yes, I have need of employment. That will come soon enough – now that Texans have decided to open up after the pandemic. I am not too sure how good of an idea that is, but I need to focus on finding employment and stop worrying over decisions made by others where I have little to no input. My Gwers work, as I survey what I have completed so far, is shoddy at best. I had promised myself not to re-boot things…and to that point, I have resisted doing so. However, a reboot is what I need to put things back on track. No deadlines for finishing – just a need for weekly progress, no matter how small. Focus on quality, not quantity. Re-entering my “local” Pagan community will be a bit more difficult. However, even though I follow my Spiritual path alone – I do need others. So, I am looking at making those steps real again. Getting the blog back on track is not as easy as it sounds. However, I just need to take that a step at a time – focusing first on consistent posting on the Tuesday/Thursday/Weekend format. The last was to rebuild my personal practices and my relationships with my three patron Gods. That will take time and some consistent effort.

That’s a lot of stuff, eh? It certainly is. A lot of that becomes a sacrifice of personal free time. As someone told me not that long ago – you focus on the things that most interest you. You make time for the things that are important to you. Well, everything that I just outlined above are important to me. And as the song says, “You’re the one they can’t beat, and you know it.” That means effort. That means action. Instead of sulking over the burning ruins of the past, I need to get focused again and get moving forward again.

–Tommy

Photo by Lindeboom Jean-Bapt on Pexels.com

Different Footfalls, As It Should Be

There is no secret of my struggles to figure out what type of Druid I am aiming towards being. Much of those struggles have come from my reluctance to handle and work with the term “Priest.” With my personal life undergoing some whiplash-style changes, trying to work through all of that, along with juggling this singular perspective of my own Spirituality resulted in nothing less than an epic train wreck. Now, having patched my own personal life back into the ragged blanket I have always come to expect it to be, I have had the time to turn back to the question of what kind of Druid will I be with a better degree of focus. Over the past few weeks, this process has brought about a few reminders that I had forgotten.

When I started down this Path with the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids (OBOD), now nearly two decades ago, I was quite unsure of where things were going to go. Even after I finished my Bardic grade and entered my Ovate studies, I still struggled over finding a role that I could carve out of all of this – a role that could provide a sense of belonging and purpose. A few overtly Christian friends who read the blog noted that all of this was a “sign” from God that I was on the wrong track – that I needed to re-enter the Christian faith that I left behind back in the mid-1980s. None of that could be further from the truth, though. I am a Polytheistic Pagan through-and-through. The Christian faith does not relate to me. I respect it as being a Path for others, but not for me and so many other people. However, I still struggled with finding a purpose for what I was to be.

Where were these Druidry studies taking me? What was I hoping to accomplish? What was I going to give back to my wider Pagan community through the things that I do? I have talked this over a few times with Pagans I deeply admire that I could reach at points of crisis in my thinking. A few suggested getting back to podcasting. In the beginnings of that, the goal was to provide something back to my community by show-casing the thoughts of others. The download numbers were never all that great to begin with, and in the end I realized that so many other podcast shows did a far better job than I could ever dream of. While it was fun, it never really felt like it worked out that well. So, at that point, I turned to blogging as that creative outlet. While the aggregate numbers have never really been that great, I came to realize that what I blogged would be available through WordPress for many folks to encounter later. Thus, I have kept on with what I have been doing. Granted, its not always timely…and much like this current post – I have tried – sometimes in vain – to keep a consistent schedule. But life does get in the way.

Despite all of that, I have yet to find my role from my own studies. I don’t take students, even though I have been a successful professor and facilitator in the collegiate classroom. I have found that while I may be successful in a role in the mundane world, that doesn’t usually translate into the same in the Pagan world. Several Pagan friends have noted that my written words have been helpful in getting certain points across. So, maybe there is some aspect of teaching that does translate there.

Seemingly, the sticking point has been – and continues to be – the term “Priest.” I am a Priest though – something that I have learned to acknowledge openly. I am a Priest of one – me. I handle my own need for ritual. I handle my own daily Spiritual practice. As a solo practitioner that works well for me. Public ritual? Not so much. Frankly, I suck greatly in this area. Facilitating a ritual experience for others is most likely not an appropriate Path for me. I am asked to participate in OBOD rituals that I attend, but I believe that is since I will willingly volunteer, so long as there is a script I can read. ::grin::

Still, I struggle with what my role is. Over the past few weeks, I have spent a lot of walking meditation time thinking this over. At one point, I started going over old journal notes from back in 2007.

In the Bardic lessons, I can sense a need for a personal role to be focused upon and developed. I wonder, sometimes, if my role is better served by aim[ing] at a solitary Path? I work through these Gwers studies alone. Perhaps, that’s the hint at the Path I should be headed towards? Definitely, a thought worth pondering.

–Tommy, 16Nov07

Looking through these older entries, I have realized that I have struggled greatly with the public aspect of Druidry and Paganism for a long time. My answer: however, was directly in front of me. I do not need to have a defined role to be the Druid I am. My walk is my own. Druidry is not a matter of definition. My role only needs to be what I need at that moment. The term of “Priest” is just that – a term. The definition of what it is or is not comes from the individual not from some arcane dictionary. If my function as a Priest does not match what someone else believes it should be – that is perfectly fine. My Path is mine. I do have the same studies as others within the OBOD grades. However, the way I approach those studies is solely my own.

What role do I have? Well, that’s simple as well. My role is to be myself. I don’t have to fit into someone else’s definition of what a Druid or Priest is. If my approach doesn’t fit into someone else’s paradigm, then they should find their own way or look to a group that fits better for them. No judgment. No worries. The Pagan Path is wide enough for all kinds of approaches, even those diametrically opposed to one another. I am not foolish enough to claim my own Spiritual Path as being the “only way”. Everyone must walk their own Path. Their footfalls are very likely to be different than my own. As it should be.

Going forward, I will very likely have the same feeling of avoidance that I have had in the past towards the concept of a “Priest.” That is personal programming that will take some time to move beyond. However, that deprogramming does not need to be front and center. There are so many other things that take a heavier precedence over that. Most of all – just living. After all, its just a term. A single, simple word. While words do have meaning, the depth of that meaning is ascribed to it by the individual. Just a thought.

–Tommy

Walk softly through the desert sand
Old dreams lead the way
Nothing new in the sands of time
Just changes every day


Hang on – It’s starting again
Hang on – There’s no shelter from the wind
Hang on – Like a fire from the sky
Winds of change are blowing by

Jefferson Starship, “Winds of Change” from the album “Modern Times”

Thinking About: the Shrinking Common Ground

Why don’t you protest things more often? Don’t you care about what happens??

I cannot count the number of times I have been asked about this. When the Black Lives Matter protests were in full swing, I was frequently questioned on why I did not participate in the protests that took place all over the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex. At times, it seemed that I was being accused of not being responsive enough (or at all) to the movement – thus providing the assumption that I didn’t care. There are other movements and protests that I have surreptitiously avoided providing support for, which creates the assumption that I don’t care. I have seen these “charges” laid against other individuals within the Pagan community as well.

Probably the first thing to step up to the plate is the notion that if someone doesn’t protest in your cause that they don’t care. This is an easy dichotomy to fall into. I call it the “Us versus Them” theory or perspective. You can find this divisive mindset all throughout the wider cultural spectrum. In the movie “Ben-Hur”, Ben-Hur’s childhood friend Messala presses for Ben-Hur to name the Jews that are speaking out against the Roman occupation. When he refuses to do so, Messala exclaims that “You’re either with me or against me.” In 2001, then President Bush made an appeal to the United Nations for all countries to supply something in the effort against the war on terrorism. He noted that some countries didn’t want to contribute troops, which was understandable. He noted that they could, instead, contribute intelligence-sharing. “Over time it’s going to be important for nations to know they will be held accountable for inactivity. You’re either with us or against us in the fight against terror.” Even the Bible makes mention of this divisive trope. “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters” (Matthew 12:30). For those looking to statements such as this for support in their desired “Us versus Them” paradigm will not find me among the fold.

I prefer to follow a different path in my thinking.

You should have disagreements with your leaders and your colleagues, but it becomes immediately a question of questioning people’s motives, and if immediately you decide that somebody who sees a whole new situation differently than you must be a bad person and somehow twisted inside, we are not going to get very far in forming a more perfect union.

William J. Clinton’s Dole Lecture at University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas, archive.news.ku.edu. May 21, 2004

I know that President Clinton is not a popular figure in the overall spectrum of things. However, disregarding his sexual exploits, I admire his approach to conversation on difficult topics. Rather than completely avoiding the difficult conversations that allow us to determine a deeper consideration of an individual perspective, President Clinton urges that finding the middle ground is more important. Middle ground is a place where everyone can agree on the same point and explore differences from this perspective. In that manner, the common ground is the tie that binds everyone’s exploration together. For instance, the Left/Right divide here in the United States. Both sides have a love for what this country is about, and a respect for the laws that have been set up to govern the country. It’s the interpretation of that governance; coupled with very different views of what a future America would look like, that create the division that we currently labor through. We hyper-focus on the differences rather than anchoring ourselves back to the perspective that should unite us. That hyper-focus and uber-vigilance towards a future vision has driven the deepest wedge between two political perspectives.

So, bringing this all back around – why am I reluctant to head out into the streets to protest? Because I would prefer to find a way to achieve the middle ground between the two sides. However, over the last decade or so, it has become increasingly difficult to find members of either side that are willing to communicate and compromise. Its either this way or that way – or all-out war. This way or that way do nothing to ratchet down the tensions that are prevalent. Nor does going to one side or the other solely for a solution provide an answer. At this point, I hold my middle ground, and hunker-down in place – to survive.

Turning to the “you don’t care” commentary, I understand where that comes from. I don’t care enough about your pet cause to provide any appropriate feedback for you. I understand the easy stance of believing me to be against you and not caring about you. For me, its not that simple. I can disagree or even be ambivalent to your cause, and still care about you. Your pet cause is not you. I am more interested in you and your well-being. I can understand that this may rub people the wrong way, but I look at the person first, and their pet cause last. Not sure how else to put that, so I hope that makes sense to whoever winds up reading this.

Over the last decade-plus, I have watched politics invade every single corner of our daily lives. We take political sides over schoolbooks, brutal policing issues, and seemingly everything else. I have my ideas of how the government should be run here in the United States. However, I am just one voice of many. Others have different ideas than I do. The difference? I’m not willing to bloody someone’s nose, knock out their teeth or take their life because they don’t see my way as being correct. I can only hope that there are many others that would think this way as well. However, after January 6th – I just can’t be completely assured of that. To me, that is a scary prospective indeed.

#TwoQuid

–Tommy

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Thinking About: Obstacles for New Pagans

So, you have started working your way through Paganism. Your first steps were exciting. You met some wonderful people. You have had the most experiences at a few Pagan gatherings. Now you are trying to figure out what group to commit to. Or should you? You start reaching and pulling for rules. Anything that might be helpful in navigating the road you are on. However, your anxiety is building up and you are having this feeling that you do not have control of the wheel.

Sound familiar? This did to me. The above narrative is not typed word-for-word the way it was presented to me in Email. However, this is what was presented to me well over three months ago. The individual and I have traded quite a few Emails back and forth, but I will respectfully withhold the identity of the individual – despite being given permission that came across as being hesitant to me.

When I first got the Email, I felt the difficult feelings I had over the first year of my journey into Paganism. I offered the same starting point I was given – the late Margot Adler’s amazing tome – “Drawing Down the Moon”. I explained the difference between the original and expanded editions (urging that the expanded version should be chosen, but in the end it was still the individual’s choice, not mine). A week later, I was asked for more, and offered up Philip Carr-Gomm’s “What Do Druids Believe?” and noted all the books listed in the reference section of both Adler’s and Carr-Gomm’s works. “These are the springboards into finding out what works for you,” was my additional comment.

Our traditional – and very linear – conversation has led to many other roads and tracks. Music, art, ritual, clothing, how to deal with the mundane world… Re-reading through our discussions, it had never occurred to me all the various things that new Pagans must wander through. None of that even addresses the over-consumerism effect that starting down a new Path can have on an individual. Believe me, books, clothing, travel to rituals, training materials from your chosen tradition/group – even those must-have, gorgeous crystal balls that you could haul down to the local bowling alley…all of that costs a lot of money, even if you make the clothing yourself. All of that can really drive you straight to the workhouse. I mean, we all must be good little Pagans purchasing everything in sight, right? Right?

In a simple word – Yes. But only to a point. If you are trying to decide between that new book from an author you adore (I have several on my list but three that are always tops) and your rent – pay your fucking rent! I know quite a few Pagans that continue down the consumerism tract – and that works for them. But to be honest, you don’t have to buy that cool chalice for your rituals – a Red Solo cup works just as well. Save your money up and buy a chalice when your are financially capable of doing so. The same goes for any ritual tool you can think of. Remember, you must survive, even in this corporate-mad environment that we currently live in. Splurge when you have the capability to do so. In the meantime, just make it work with what you have. Trust me, the Gods don’t care about all the trappings…well, most of the time. Just handle things the best that you can without driving yourself into the arms of the workhouse.

Eventually, our conversations have turned towards choosing a particular Pagan Path, as well as what type of Tradition to look at. Admittedly, the choice being made was Wicca. Not a Path that I claim to know a ton about, but I provided some advice on choosing a Tradition – try things out with Tradition members when you feel comfortable. Look into more than one. Be open to the idea of striking out on your own. Trust your instincts. The last point I made is a self-deprecating one, which I know many people hate when I do that. Even the advice I give to you might be wrong. Because I am not empirical fact for anyone, except myself. And even that is debatable.

I have always viewed myself to be more of a modern-day Ferryman in the Pagan world. You climb in my boat, and I do the best I can to get you to a point where you can do for yourself. I did the same for this individual. I provided Email introductions to a few Wiccan High Priestess that I know (asking if they would be willing to help with the individual’s informal education beforehand) and have settled into a more background role in this person’s Path.

Very few us on our Pagan paths came here first. Very few of us chose this as our first Path. Naturally, we bring a lot of baggage from other Paths – mostly Christian and Southern Baptist in nature. I came from a very conservative Catholic perspective. Naturally, I have my own baggage that I carry as well. Take, as a singular example, my dislike for the term “Priest”. I have struggled with that the entire time I have been on this Path and will likely struggle with it until I pass on beyond the veil. For many of us, it will take some time to grapple with the changes between one Spiritual Path and another. In some cases, we may never completely shed our understanding of our new Spirituality because of things we were taught in our childhood Spirituality that was imprinted upon us by our parents. For many, including myself as I noted, it will likely be a life-long struggle. No need to beat myself up over that point. I will have my struggles. There will be good days. There will be bad days. There will be days in between. One step at a time.

Having been a classroom instructor, I have always marveled at the moment when the “aha!” lightbulb goes on for a student. That moment is easy to see. The student suddenly seems to have an intense moment of clarity and understanding. Well, working through things in Email, I had my own “aha!” moment. I believe I have a better understanding of the difficult, rocky path that new Pagans have. Their footing is never sturdy as they scramble up the somewhat steep side of the mountain before them. It will take them time to navigate their way to a more well-traveled Path. They will stumble and fall at various points on their Path. But with a little encouragement and patience from someone who has been there before, they will manage that difficult terrain. I can’t walk the terrain for them. That’s for them to manage. I can provide some tips on how to achieve better footing or what area of the terrain might be more useful for them. I can also applaud their efforts and encourage them to continue when they have fallen. I can’t take away the bloody knee or scraped skin, but I can let them know that someone gives a shit at how they are doing. And if they happen to decide to go a complete different Spiritual Path – even falling back to their old Path, I can be there to congratulate them on their effort and experience.

To be certain, Paganism isn’t for everyone. Just like Christianity, Judaism, the Muslim faith, Buddhism, and any other faith are not for everyone. The obstacles that new Pagans can be faced with may not seem to be amazing or difficult, but for some these choices can be paralyzing, especially when they are coming from a Path that encourages everyone to be alike, purchase the same things, eat at the same fast food chains….having choices can be a paralyzing moment too. Not every Pagan will have the patience to deal with newbies who are going through these issues. Me? I try my best. But I have never been perfect.

–Tommy

DFW Pagan Pride Day 2013
DFW Pagan Pride Day 2013

Howling Into the Wind: Playing in the “What If” Puddle

I took the opportunity this weekend to travel from central Tejas to Hot Springs, Arkansas to visit the graves of my parents. I am not sure that I would ever have thought that a boy that grow up in the hills of southern Kentucky and his wife – a German from the fairly large city of Wiesbaden – would ever have picked Arkansas as a place to retire. Coming back here, at what seems to be the height of Spring, I can see why. The trees are full of lush, green leaves. The air is filled with the smells of wildflowers. And then there is the state bird of Arkansas – the mosquito. These suckers are large enough to carry away small dogs. But despite the overly large bugs, everything is serene and peaceful.

I am fifty-five now. Later this year will mark another turn of the Wheel within my life. Sometimes, I wonder what the future will hold for me. Other times, I look back on the past few years, marveling at the turns and twists that my life has taken. I think the lyrics to a song states that life is a winding road – or something like that. Sometimes, it can have that feel to it.

Over the last few weeks, I often wonder why I write these blog posts. My traffic stats suck. Nine times out of ten, I get stuck on just what to write. When I do write, I always feel like I could have been more concise, that my writing is a touch more rambling than it should be. I write about my experiences in Paganism. I write about my experiences in Druidry. I write, and I realize that I don’t typically follow the same Path that most other Pagans do. When I look back through my life, I have begun to realize that most everything that I do is quite unorthodox. How did it go in the Johnny Depp pirate movie? Those aren’t rules – they’re more like guidelines.

Sometimes, I wonder what I would be like if I just did things the conventional way? Wat kind of computer technician would I have been? Would I have stuck to single specialty or would I have satisfied my curiosity of other areas in Information Technology and still branched out to become more of a generalist? Not that someone with generalized knowledge is considered valuable or necessary in today’s marketplace. Or at least that’s how it feels from where I sit.

What about me as a Pagan? If I had just learned to live with the parts of Wicca that I didn’t completely agree with, and stayed on my original arc of Wicca – would I be the Pagan that I am today? Perhaps, my disdain for spell work would be far less than it is today. Perhaps, I would be less inclined towards non-formal ritual structure in my life? What about my encounters with Crow, Coyote and Abnoba? Would any of that ever have happened? Would I have been interesting enough to have the interest of Coyote happen upon me? If it did, would I have delved into understanding the perspective of First Nations’ Spirituality enough to know that I was not “of the People” or would it have mattered to me at all?

There’s a lot of room to play in the “What If” world. While it can certainly be fun and amusing for a time; in my opinion, it’s a nice moment of play. None of that is going to take care of the things that I need to do to move forward from where I am now.

2020, the year of COVID, has certainly sucked. During it, I lost a lot of things for a large variety of reasons. Chances at a job since companies didn’t seem to want to hire anyone. Friends – over the choices that I made in my life – both good and bad. Muscle-mass, as I had a major tendency to stay indoors and avoid people outside – choosing to be sedentary instead of staying active. Not being able to be among friends and family around campfires at various points of the year – catching up with our lives, as well as making fun, zany, new memories. There is a lot that I must take stock of within my life, as well as building things back up to being the active person that I was in 2019.

The biggest part is decided where and how to start. Thinking back to when my parents had decided to move up here to Hot Springs and build a home, I remember how much work they put into everything. First was the purchase of the land that they built the house. After that, it was developing the plans for the small house that they had created for themselves. The kitchen was the way my mother wanted it. The garage had a workspace that my father laid out his wood-working tools on, as well as the little corner where he built golf clubs as a side business. Then there was the plan on moving from the house in Shreveport, Louisiana. Things had to be set into two groups – things to go to Arkansas, and things to be gotten rid of. It was a lot of work and effort, but they did what they had to, to make their retirement dreams come true. That hard effort, planning and sweat worked out for them, and they spent the last years of their life living in a heavily forested retirement community, able to enjoy those years in as comfortable a manner as they could.

Here I am. In a similar position. At fifty-five, I’m no young person full of vim and vigor. I’m not old either. But I am old enough that I am starting to see age discrimination in the hiring practices with employers. In the end, I am really looking for a way to continue working – and setting up for the latter part of my years. However, I have far more pressing needs in the short term. I need to get out and do some moderate exercise – not enough to turn myself into another version of Kirk Douglas in his later years. Just enough to keep my healthier than I am now. I have OBOD studies that I need to put a stronger focus into. I have a role of where I fit into a wider Pagan community to figure out as well. Through all of that, I need to continue to be alive.

Playing the “What If” game is a nice past-time to partake in when the rain is pattering softly on the roof. Hang around there long enough, you will wake up suddenly and find that Life has started to move on without you, while you remained in park. My parents and I were never close. I didn’t follow the Path in life that they wanted me to. That disappointed them, and they were not shy about expressing it to me. While I loved my parents, I kept them at arm’s length in my life because of that. I have no regrets in doing that – it was what was necessary for me to be able to survive. I found my support and love from my extended family. However, my parents did show me what drive and determination could do. They had a dream of living here in Arkansas. Why? I’m not sure, nor is it important. They had a desire to be here, and they found a way to do it. Now, its my time to approach that same idea…where am I going, what am I doing, and how do I make all of that happen? On the first two, I am not completely sure, but I have some idea what it is. I can utilize the third to make it real.

–Tommy

The house that my parents designed and built for their retirement years.

Howling Into the Wind: Whose Side Are You On?

“God was more on my side.” This morning on the news, I heard an individual who had been physically assaulted by another make that statement. I sat there and chuckled a bit. Here was an individual that believes that his idea of God was taking sides between himself and someone else. But as the weather guy droned on and on about his forecast of the weather – coupled with his constant apologizing and hedging over how forecast models are merely “trends” – I found myself thinking a bit more on the above statement.

So, I work with three different Gods. Coyote (sometimes), Crow (most often), and Abnoba (Who I have been working with more and more). Working with each of Them to handle what was asked of me was one thing. It never occurred to me to think of Them as taking my side in the world around me. Or do They? Should They? If They don’t, why won’t They?

I am never sure how others may feel about the Gods being involved in the lives of human beings within this existence. Some will view that as unwanted manipulation by the Gods. Others will see it as a loving action on the part of the Gods. Some will even see it as being “favored” by the Gods. Personally, I can not only see the validity of each perspective mentioned there, as well as the logic that can bring one to believe. For me, I have a different perspective. Yeah…go figure. I have a different view. 😊

I do believe that the Gods can and do intervene on the behalf of human beings that They work with. But not all the humans that work with Them. I don’t see the Gods as being perfect. I don’t see Them as being omnipotent either. They are however, beyond our comprehension. Just like I love all three of my cats, I do have my favorite. I intervene on her behalf when it becomes necessary to do so. But only when necessary. Yes, comparing the way I deal with my cats to the way the Gods deal with the humans that They work with is a horrible comparison. After all, I am not the God of my cats. I’m just the human that they own.

I cannot provide a single instance where Coyote, Crow or Abnoba have intervened on my behalf. Nor do I think that any of Them would do so. Most of my mistakes that I have made are utilized as lessons to be learned. Discernment and understanding are key elements of what each want from me. I won’t get that without making mistakes to provide a better perspective for me. I could even suppose that They set me up for failure at times just so I can learn and understand a perspective much better. Some of that has been and is painful, but I was never physically in danger or harmed. Lessons to be learned.

So, are They “on my side” when there are battles of any sort that I am involved in? I couldn’t really say with any level of certainty. I would love to say that it is true. That each of Them has my back and would intervene in my favor. That’s nice “Us v. Them” theory though. Unlike many Pagans and Christians that I encounter, I do not see a coming battle of Polytheism and Monotheism. Rather, I see human beings projecting their need for debate, discourse, and dislike for things that are different from their own perspectives onto the projector screen of their representative Deities. For me, I don’t see much difference between the perspectives, aside from Who – and how many – are being uplifted as “divine”. But are Coyote, Crow, and Abnoba on my side?

I suppose it’s a fair question of sorts. However, I do comprehend all of this in the same perspective of the relationship between myself and my three cats. Knowing that the Gods are not perfect, I would theorize that They also have their own favorite humans. However, I would further theorize that despite the concept of “favoritism” that could be applied, it does not diminish the individual relationship that They have with everyone that They interact with.

I am a firm believer that the relationship I have with the Gods – any God or Goddess – is unique to me and that Deity. Further, I believe that applies to the relationship that every individual has with their chosen Deity on their own Path as well. Knowing and believing that, I can openly say Coyote, Crow, and Abonba are on my side. They are on my side in a manner that works within the relationship we have together. I don’t expect my relationship with Them to be the same as the relationship that They have with other humans. I know that many Christians believe that the relationship that they have with their representative God is – and should be – the same between all of the Christians and God. Sorry, I’m not built that way.

Being open and honest, I cannot empirically prove anything that I am describing above. Nor do I care to do so. I know what I feel. I know what I believe. Considering the personal nature of Spirituality, I am not out to prove anything that I believe to anyone else. Nor am I a person to convert others to the way I connect to the world around me with my Spirituality. Forcing people to believe as I do is diametrically opposed to everything I believe in and hold as morally correct. If people believe differently than I do or worship differently than I do or connect with the Gods different than I do – believe it or not, I am thrilled for them. I know how special and wonderful that feeling can be – even if just from a general point-of-view.

Many folks will say that if the Gods do not intervene on my behalf, that those Gods are not with me. Or that my Gods are bowing before their all-powerful monotheistic God. Bully for them. I don’t subscribe to that thought. I would suppose that it depends on what you mean by the God(s) being “on your side.” I know my Gods are with me. Mine walk with me on my daily Path. Sometimes beside me. Sometimes on my shoulder, in the case of Crow. They are not with me to fight my battles for me, but to teach me ways to be a better human being. In return, I do Their works here in this world. It works for me. Apparently, it works for Them too.

Now with all that said…I need to go pick sides with Them for a game of Red Rover.

–Tommy

Thinking About: Are You Experienced?

I love talking to folks who are new to the Path of Paganism. Regardless of their age, I have always found it to be a wonderful experience to feel the excitement that they have for what they have (apparently) stumbled upon. Feeling all that energy that they churn up over their new first steps is some amazing stuff. I have always thought that it would be great to bottle that feeling up and sell it online. I would probably pass gates and Musk in valued monetary worth. LOL

I still remember my first steps in Paganism. How excited I felt about finding something that properly fit the way that I believed. Over time, I have realized that it does not always fit properly. Its not an air-tight fit, but then it never was meant to be one. In the beginning, there was a lot of confusion over what direction to pick. The lady that introduced me to Paganism handed me all kinds of books to read, but the first one she handed me is one I continue to run to over and over. The late-Margot Adler’s “Drawing Down the Moon” was my first steps into the wider world. The first time I read it, I realized that Paganism was a lot broader than I had realized.

Wiccans, Witches, Druids, Goddess worshippers… honestly, I was overwhelmed. My first time reading DDtM was like trying to drink from a fire hose that was attached to a high-pressure hydrant. There was a lot of information to take in, but I could only get small drops of it at a single time.

Now, I have written at some detailed length about my first steps on my own Pagan Path. My confusion, my exploration, my decisions…. all that is littered throughout the blog. However, I really have not written much about the next steps. My first five to six years on the Pagan Path were akin to trying to find your way through a forest during a dense fog. The real formation for the foundation of the pagan I have become came in the next four years.

Once I started to find my feelers through the world of Wicca, I started to realize that this was not the Path for me. No matter what Tradition I decided to study with, or whatever author I picked up – the emphasis on spell work was always a constant. For me, it did not take long for me to realize that spell work was not for me. At least not as a first-choice tactic towards solving problems or figuring out issues. For me, spells (and curses) are like nuclear weapons in the military. You keep it in your arsenal, but you try to find all kinds of solutions to keep from using it. Yes, I hear the groans and grumblings of those who disagree with that statement. Honestly? That is perfectly fine. That is the way those folks step towards such matters and issues. However, its not mine.

So, I set Wicca and Witchcraft into the rear-view mirror and started exploring elsewhere. Druidry, Ceremonial Magick, general Paganism… nothing seemed to fit. So, I struck out on my own. I decided to blaze my own trail through Paganism and develop my own way through Paganism. However, I kept studying other directions while I was doing this, and eventually stumbled across Druidry (again). This time, I had a different perspective. Seeing this with a new-ish set of eyes, I started to understand how I could work within the framework of Druidry, and still walk my own Path. Thus, here I am.

Now, that all worked for me. The chances are quite real that this won’t work for someone else. We’re all individuals on our personal Spiritual Paths. We all experience everything from a different perspective. There are similarities between everything, even Christianity and other Spiritual Paths. But each vantage point can only be occupied by a single individual at a single time. At least that’s my theory.

Confused yet? Yeah. That was (and still is) a constant feeling that I encountered along my own Path of Understanding. Typically, I step on the brakes, park my Spiritual beliefs at the side of the road, and get out a blanket and some food to sit and contemplate things. Most of the time, I will find a way to remove some of that confusion. Most of the time. Sometimes, I remain confused. Either way, I eventually pack things back up, get back in my Spirituality car and get back on the road.

Still confused? If so, that’s only a natural response. My imagery works for me, not necessarily for everyone else. However, much of where I am at now comes from a singular piece of advice that Gardnerian Wiccan in the US Army offered to me at a ritual I attended in a forested area near Kaiserslautern, Germany.

Your footsteps are yours alone. What you see is what is processed by your brain for you only. You can describe the feeling of the Path under your feet. You can describe what you see. Everyone will interpret what you say differently according to their own experiences and biases. Don’t be confused or angry when others don’t feel or experience the same way.

Ivy was kind enough to relate that perspective to me that night. What she told me resonated with me then and still does to this day. My only wish is that I knew that back in my first five to six years on my Pagan Path. But then, if I had known that, I would have had far different experiences on my own Spiritual Path – and who knows how different a Pagan I would be today.

When Pagans, particularly those fairly new to their own Pagan Path, hear that I have been on my Path for close to thirty-five years – well, its only natural to come and ask how I have walked my Path. Ivy’s statement is a good one to give, and I have done that on a few occasions. However, I have a larger tendency to just respond with “Be curious, be open-minded, and find Joy in your Path.” Sometimes, I get the feeling that wasn’t the answer that they might be looking for. Sometimes, I am even told just that. But I am not some Pagan guru that is sitting on top of a mountain waiting for students or seekers of information to find me. I’m a student and a seeker of information too. The only difference is that I happen to have been on this search/quest much longer. That doesn’t make me wiser, smarter, or better than anyone else.

The immortal Jimi Hendrix once wrote:

If you can just get your mind together
Then come on across to me
We’ll hold hands an’ then we’ll watch the sun rise from the bottom of the sea
But first
Are you experienced?
Have you ever been experienced?
Well, I have

“Are You Experienced?, Jimi Hendrix

The real question to ask basically boils down to what do you mean by “experienced”? Depending on how you explain that, well I have. That still doesn’t make me better than the person just taking their first steps on their own Pagan Path this morning.

–Tommy

Spirits of Ancestor – the Footfalls That Have Come Before

“There is a hole in your swing.”

Throughout the movie “Mr. Baseball” Tom Selleck’s character is constantly reminded of this. Jack Elliott, is a heralded power-hitter in Major League Baseball who finds himself at the back end of his career. He signs with a Japanese professional baseball club, where the flaw in his swing is shown to him by the manager of his team.

So, this is a blog about my approach to Paganism. I’m a known baseball fanatic. Am I now writing about baseball and adding it here in the blog? No. Not at all. If I was going to write on baseball, I would have started a blog for that. LOL But the above paragraph about the movie is a good starting point for what I am writing about today. Much like Jack Elliott, everyone has a hole in their Spiritual practice. A weak point that we all try not to address. I have two – divination and the work with my Spirits of Ancestors.

Working my way through divination is not the easiest thing for me to handle. Much of it, as it seems to me, comes from repetition. With my lack of desire to reach too far into the future or to try and find meaning in the world around me, that makes it even more difficult. However, I try my best. I work with a set of Tarot cards, and as my current place in time is showing me – I suck at interpreting things. Thus, I can only say that I dabble in it. Or if you prefer, stick my toe in every so often. Just to see what the temperature of the waters might be.

However, its my working with my Spirits of Ancestors that is even weaker. For me, its troublesome enough that I tend to back away from working with my DNA Ancestors very quickly. See, I am one of the few black sheep in my family. My DNA relations are all extremely conservative and tend to follow the more deeply entrenched aspects of the Republican party. This even goes for those members of my family that are no longer living. I am mostly treated as a “dumb” member of my family – mostly because I didn’t venerate President Reagan and his ideas or fall and prostrate myself before King Trump. With my ancestors who have passed, I do not mech well with their very hardcore Christian values. The few times I have tried to reach out to work with my Spirits of Ancestors has proven to be difficult and often more of a “spiritual spanking” for me because of the path I have chosen.

This is the “hole in my swing” when it comes to my Spirituality. I usually back away from issues like this, rather than trying to mend the fence, so to speak. There is not much mending that can take place without me going back to a religious perspective that does not mesh with who I am.

For a long time, I tried to ignore aspects of this in my Spirituality. I told myself that I didn’t need this part of what I was doing. After all, I could utilize whatever I needed within my daily practice. Except that I found that I was provided no Past to venerate within my practice. I had no shoulders that I stood upon to reach the heights where I am. I had no line of ancestors behind me that had helped propel me to where I am now – unless you counted the idea that my Ancestors and their beliefs had repelled me into the trajectory I was now in. But that is repudiation not veneration. Not a positive outlook.

One afternoon, I was listening to Damh the Bard’s music on my headphones. A song from his album “Sabbat” came on – “On the Shoulders of Giants”.

Romans came, a mighty army, to the shores of Ynys Mon,
I’ve heard it said, I’ve heard the story, the Druids have all gone.
But what stays in our hearts, remains in our memory, with story and with song,
And they have been here, all along.

Damh the Bard, “On the Shoulders of Giants”

This little snippet of lyrics served as a strong reminder that my Spirits of Ancestor do not have to be of a genetic origin. The Spirits of my Ancestors are those who have trod this path before me. The Ross Nichols of the world. All my teachers and High Priests and High Priestesses who have helped create the Path I currently utilize in my walk through the darkened woods of my own Spirituality. Yes, I constantly and continually walk off the Path to explore for myself. However, the Path I always come back to as a baseline was walked by others before me. They blazed the trail that has allowed me to reach this location, where I can jump off and explore. Going into the future, someone else will come to this location and find my footfalls that have carved my Path into the woods. They will follow that, until they reach the point where I went no further. Then they will strike out on their own and use my Path as their waypoint back. And others will find their trails, and so on. In the future, I will be among those counted as a “Spirit of Ancestor”. Just not yet, if I have anything to say about it. 😉

Now, my Spiritual daily practice still has a slight “hole in my swing.” My veneration of the Spirits of Ancestors does not include my DNA Ancestors. I acknowledge that they are there. I acknowledge that without them I would not exist. However, I do not need their sneers and disapproval of where I have gone. Rather, I look to the Druids and Pagans that have come before me. I look to them because this path would not be as well-marked as it is without them. I venerate them in my daily offerings and prayers because their travels in this Spiritual Path have provided me with the markers to go further off the trail. Without their footfalls, I would not be here. For that, I am forever grateful. I could never be the Pagan that I am today without them. I only hope I can return the favor to the generations that come after.

–Tommy

Photo by Anton Atanasov on Pexels.com

Just One Hill. There Are Still Mountains to Come.

“Only a Sith deals in absolutes.”

This is my favorite quote from any of the Star Wars movies. This singular quote also encompasses a large part of what and who I am. I am not one for holding to a good deal of absolutes to anything in my life or Spiritual Path. Over the past half-year, I have had a lot of time to contemplate aspects of my own Druidry that I held to as absolutes. Over that time, I altered a few approaches that I had, and discarded a few others that no longer really served what I needed on my Path. Now, I have made it to where I am. Standing on top of the hill, having climbed to this point. Ahead of me, I see the even taller, steeper mountain that remains on my Path. My Spiritual Path requires more work, more effort, and the rest of the time I have in my Life in this incarnation – and probably beyond that.

Malleable, But Not

Over the many years on my Spiritual Path, I have come to realize that my Spirituality is a malleable form. I can alter and shape it to my current needs. However, while I note that there are few absolutes in my understanding of the world around me; there are a few things that are solid and unchangeable. My belief in many Gods is one of those. I don’t have empirical proof of the Gods, aside from my own beliefs and experiences. In my early-to-mid-twenties, I carried a perspective where I had to defend what I knew against all comers. In my late twenties to my early forties, I realized that continually arguing over the reality of belief accomplished nothing except wasting time and energy. Now, in my mid-fifties, I have a better understanding of how my beliefs have evolved as I grew and changed – and will continue to do so going into my own future.

My concept of ritual is one example of the malleability of my connection to the world around me. When I first started down my Pagan path, I would read about various rituals that were in books by Scott Cunningham and Donald Michael Kraig. I would read about all the materials necessary, the preparation, and the mindset that would be required. Everything just HAD to be EXACTLY as a described. Later, I would realize that certain materials could be swapped with others. I would realize that one’s hand could be just as powerful (or even more so) than a wand of any sort. The color of the candle did not matter. Even further on, I would come to realize that intent mattered far more than the date/time that the ritual took place. The materials utilized were there to enhance the experience, not drive it. Only a few years ago, it dawned on me that there was no absolute in ritual – aside from personal intent.

Instructions Are Instructions

Yes, instructions are necessary for anything that one tries to do – unless you are creating something from scratch. In a manner of speaking, personal ritual is a lot like playing jazz music or making alterations to a recipe. However, before you even take a single step along the lines of riffing on your Paganism, you need to understand the basics far better than you may realize. To turn a ritual to your liking, you need to understand the format of what you are altering. I learned this lesson the hard way. I wanted to make changes to a particular ritual format that I had experienced a few times in a group setting. So, I made changes to parts of the ritual that I didn’t care that much about. What I wound up with was a complete mess that really did nothing for me. I had to strip away the changes and start again. I made the changes one after another. One change at a time wound up being helpful. I could sample various things and determine what worked and what didn’t. When I had finished, I had a personal ritual format that worked well for me. I had removed certain elements completely, altered/enhanced others to my liking, and added a few things that I had wanted. However, the full set of changes took a lot of work, a lot of sampling, and a lot of self-analysis. Not to mention tons of trial and error, and a metric ton of unsatisfying results. However, I wanted it – I worked at it – I developed it. In the end, the instructions of how to set up and conduct the ritual provided a basic framework to develop things from.

Rebuilds Are Not Always Necessary

Yes, I did strive to rebuild my Druidry into something that worked for me. In the beginning, the idea was to create something a bit more edgy and dark, which is not me whatsoever. What I wound up doing was stripping away overly romantic elements of what I have been taught within Druidry, while developing my own understanding of the connections I knew already existed. What I have left is a Druidry that is much easier for me to move forward with. A Druidry that resembles what I had before but removes a lot of the absolutes that I had inferred from the perspective of other Druids. I didn’t need Druidry to be from their viewpoint, I needed to develop it from my own viewpoint, my own understanding. What was important to them might not hold any importance to me whatsoever. I needed to shape things in my understanding and comprehension. A rebuild was not necessary though. What I wound up removing from my own Druidry was so miniscule that I could have – should have – just removed it without too much thought or pretense. However, in the end, I do believe that the process was cathartic for me. So, perhaps, in one perspective, it was necessary.

Crossing the finish line of that rebuilding process did bring me to the realization that my Druidry has never been about absolutes. I have very few lines that cannot be crossed in one fashion or another. There are always exceptions to the rules. Some call that being “wishy-washy” or will remark that this is “so Libra” of me. That I am unable to make a single decision. That I spend too much time keeping all my options open. Well, maybe. I am a quintessential Libra, or so I have been told. If that methodology or perspective is offensive to others or what have you… Well, so be it. I know what works for me. I have had enough time to live those experiences to understand that for myself. Plus, I would never say that this works for every single individual out there. Whoops, there is me seeing things from a malleable point of view. 😊

–Tommy

Howling Into the Wind: A Different Beltane Perspective

Yesterday, I was starting to come out of my self-imposed “burrow” mode from Beltane. I do this nearly every year, where I step away from social media and most of the people around me. For me, Beltane is an intensely private moment. I usually take this time to reflect on where I am concerning goals I laid out in October of the previous year. Seeing that most of what I had envisioned exploded in my face like a badly timed and poorly mixed chemistry experiment, This time of the tear has been about resetting all of that into something far more on course for the rest of this turn in the wheel.

Coming back into the miasma that has been the wider expanse of the internet, I ran across a re-posting of a blog post by Jason Mankey from the Patheos Pagan platform. The post was written back in 2019; however, many of its salient points are still relevant in today’s Pagan community. The basic point came down to how Beltane is represented by male and female coupling – ONLY. Personally, I would disagree with the “ONLY” part – unlike the Sith (May the Fourth be with you), I try very hard not to deal in absolutes. But the point of many examples of the overtly sexualized aspects of Beltane being strongly depicted as hetero aspects is a particularly strong one.

That leads me into a twin-forked perspective. First, for me, is the aspect that Beltane should only be represented by straight aspects of Paganism. The second, grates against one of the reasons that I prize Paganism over other aspects of Spiritual practice: that the only person that can tell you what is right and wrong within your own Spiritual practice is you. I have slammed the world constantly on the second perspective, so I will let that one set – for the time being. But I will dip my toe into this entire concept of sexual gender identity within ritual aspects of Paganism.

To preface things a bit – I am a straight, white male. I am a Pagan. I am a Druid. I am a Polytheist. I am a Libra – and have been told I am nearly the quintessential aspect of a Libra. All those labels and a tenner will get you a cup of coffee at the local Big-Box Coffee shop. In other words, none of those labels really mean much more, except to create some aspect of meta-tagging for those that need to categorize humans. The truest meta-tag I have for myself: I’m just me.

Within the Pagan community, we tend to pride ourselves on being accepting of others. Your gender identification, your hair color, how many eyes you have, how many fingers you have, your sexual preference, your education level, the kind of vehicle your drive, your socio-economic status, whatever other descriptive you can figure out – none of that matters within Paganism. Or does it?

Back when Pantheacon was running, I heard whispered conversations in the hallways about various rites that were “specified gender only”. Ok. Women’s Mysteries and Men’s Mysteries are certainly an aspect of Spirituality to one degree or another. But there were issues over how the trans-gender folks were to be identified. Should someone who was born male but now identifies as a female be denied entry to an event on Women’s Spirituality? My personal take has been if that is the gender you identify with – that’s where you should be. But what about those with fluid genders? Or those who do not identify with a gender at all? Going forward, I am not sure how to resolve such an issue, but considering that I would balk at a Men Only gathering – despite the fact that as a straight male, such an event would be right down my alley, so to speak – I am not entirely certain I would be speaking out of turn with my thoughts.

But then, as Mankey wrote in 2019, how do we approach a celebratory seasonal rite that is long ensconced in imagery of straight male/female coupling? Again, as a straight male, I am not sure I have any true answers – except to completely remove the imagery. That would be my original thought. But it does suggest the idea of creative solutions.

When I first started down my Pagan Path, Paganism was decidedly female in its outlook. The first ten years of being in various groups, I found that the ratio of women to men was not a one-to-one paradigm. It was closer to seven to one. In many respects this is still somewhat the case; although I would note that the eye-balled ratio that I noted at Pantheacon was closer to one-to-one. From a factual, statistical overlay, I would essentially be accused of spit-balling my ratios – and that would be correct. However, I do recall many rites where the female-to-male ratio was so lopsided that someone would be asked to portray a role that was not their chosen gender. For one rite, I was asked to portray the role of the Maiden, as an example. At first I was flustered and embarrassed over the fact that I was portraying the role of a female within the rite. Later, it was gently explained to me that the gender of the individual portraying the role was not completely important. What was important was the heart and passion one placed into the role during the rite. The role is about the energy portrayed, not about the gender portraying it.

Utilizing that aspect, I wonder about the need for specific roles within any given rite. Yes, I can hear the shouts of anger over a male portraying the role of a High Priestess. The Gods would certainly be angry with us over this, right? I would submit that the Gods would surely not give that much of a shit about such a gender change in the role. I would further submit that any emotion – even what I just ascribed in the previous sentence – is our projection of our own emotions on to the Gods.

So, let’s say that a yearly Beltane celebration has utilized a male/female aspect in its advertising. If they were to show two females kissing, or alternatively two males, as part of their advertising for next years, would you be offended? If the emphasis of their ritual was a same sex coupling to portray the love and passion between two lovers for Beltane, would you be offended? If their portrayal was of a love between more than two individuals together, would you be offended? Me? I certainly would not. Any of those scenarios are depictions of love between two consenting adults.

That brings up one final point. Children. A heavily sexualized aspect of Beltane should never be presented before under-age children. I remember, far too vividly, the accusations of child abuse and sexual molestation that were leveled against Pagan parents during the Satanic Panic. In this, it is far more prudent to follow social mores where minors are concerned. It is also the reason that we need to do better in the care of alcohol at gatherings as well. Better to be more conservative where minors are concerned than to provide unnecessary ammunition for those that would prefer the destruction of Spiritual Paths not the same as their own.

Yeah, this turned into the Beltane rant I was not going to write this year. But this has taken a far different turn than I really envisioned. I may be a straight male. However, I have many friends who are not the same as me. I don’t love the way that they do. But I love them. I also acknowledge that they have just as much right to live as freely as I do. Furthermore, while they do not live free, neither do I or anyone else. Altering the aspects of Beltane’s male/female coupling may sound like a small thing or even a petty aspect but trust me it’s not. Symbology is important. We all talk about the importance of allowing people to love who they love. Changing some of the symbology concerning Beltane sounds like a good, strong step in that direction. At least it does to me. I’m just one, single voice in the wider Pagan wilderness – howling into the wind.

–Tommy

Not Another Beltane Rant…No Not Really

Its Beltane time again. I’ve written so often about how the very public aspect of this point on the Wheel of the Year is one of my least favorite times of the year. Plus, I have explored my move away from basing my entire Spiritual Path on the Wheel of the Year, so it might be a better step to look at where things are these days. Maybe. 😊

As I get older, the timing of the Wheel of the Year means less and less to me, with the sole exception of Samhain. I use this point in the Wheel as a marker of time, so it’s a useful part of my Spiritual practice. But the rest of the Wheel, just does not carry the significance for me that it used to. Instead, my focus tends to be on the weather around me. I mark the seasons as the weather changes.

Yes, that is correct. I moved away from date-based applications to my Spirituality to event-based application. The shape of the moon carries some aspect to my daily practice, but not much. I am more of a Sun person than a Moon one. Thus, I look at what is taking place within my local environment to work certain aspects of my Spirituality.

For this time of year, I look to the budding of trees and flowers. For me, that signifies the beginnings of Spring. Since I grow no crops, I don’t aim anything towards that aspect. When the weather stays warm, and the trees and flowers are well into their new growth, I spend a few minutes in a self-created ritual in thanks for the new season. My idea of Beltane falls far away from the overly sexualized aspect that it has seemingly become within the wider Pagan community. Spring marks the advent of new beginnings for me.

I understand that much of what I am putting forth here flies in the face of what is taught in today’s contemporary Paganism. The Wheel of the year provides a map towards ritual aspects for many practitioners. I also grok that this works for so many folks out there. What I am not saying is that what I am doing is something that should be followed by ANY SINGLE Pagan out there – save for myself. Laying down “rules” and “laws” within a Spiritual structure that provides such open and fertile ground for exploration…well, that would be completely fucking stupid of me. I know what works in my own Spiritual practice. Telling others what to do would be completely inane for me to do.

Why would I do this? Stepping away from what can be claimed as “established” Pagan practice would mean that I am no longer Pagan, right? Well, if that’s what you think: awesome. For me, part of being a Pagan is finding out what works for you Spiritually and doing that, rather than staying within a strict, confined set of rules that do not let you grow Spiritually as an individual.

Usually, the next question is what would I do at a public event that follows the Wheel of the Year for its ritual? Well, that’s simple. I would follow what is being done. Attending that event, I would already have been aware of what was being done. If I was asked to handle a role in the ritual – and I have done this in the past – I would do exactly that. I would handle the role to the very best of my ability, putting every aspect of myself into that collective set of moments. When working in a public ritual setting, I am working the requested role for others – not just myself. I am adding to the collective experience. Pissing on that fire…in my opinion, is bad form. Plus, being honest here, if I attended a gathering of folks – I am there for the folks. Like anyone else, I do enjoy the company of like-minded people.

So, that handles the Beltane and Wheel of the Year stuff, but it adds in the complications of doing ritual with others when my personal and daily practices are different from theirs. Yes, I am a member of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids. Yes, I have – and continue – to learn the materials from the Order. Yes, I strive to make it through the three grades. However, I do not utilize everything that I learn. Does that make me a bad Druid? Does it disqualify me as a Druid? Should I have my Druid license revoked? My answer to all three of those questions is “no.” I do have a question about what a Druid license is, and what public government facility I need to visit to obtain one. 😊 However, if my utilizing some aspects of what I learn from the Order’s material and not all of it would disqualify me from what would be considered a “Druid” – I would completely understand, and quietly walk away. I’d still consider myself a Druid though and find other ways and sources to learn from. Much like drinking water can be found at one well-spring, should I be forced away from that source, I can certainly find other places to quench my thirst.

After nearly thirty-five years on my Pagan path, one valuable lesson I have learned is that you get to decide what does and does not work for you. You decide what “rules” and what “laws” can apply to your own Spirituality. You get to make sense of the world around you. Or, to quote Pink Floyd:

While you were hanging yourself on someone else’s words
Dying to believe in what you heard
I was staring straight into the shining sun

Pink Floyd, “Coming Back to Life”

Certainly, there will be those that disagree with me. Some will be vehement in their perspective. Others will say that I am not a true “this” or “that”. Me? All I can do is shrug and answer that I must stay true to myself.

–Tommy

Moon photo, Hillsboro, Texas (4/26/2021)

Howling Into the Wind: The Draw of Paganism

Sitting around a campfire with other folks is a memory that I cherish every single time it occurs. The little jumping flames of the fire are always a relaxing aspect, as is the ability to look up into a star filled night. However, the real draw for me is the conversations. No topic every seems to be off-limits. From politics to sexuality to sports to spirituality to history, philosophy, and beyond; my experience has been that the late-night/early-morning camp-fire talks are the highlights of any outdoor gathering I have attended. One topic always seems to rise to the top, even at non-Pagan events that I have attended: How did you become a Pagan?

My story of stepping into Paganism has been told before, here on the blog, as well as at camp-fire discussions. I am always interested to hear the “how” of a person coming to Paganism, but the “why” sometimes never makes the discussion. That single aspect of those discussions always leads me to the question of “what was the draw to Paganism for you?”

I stepped on to my Pagan path a long-time back. However, during the first five years of that time, if you asked me what drew me to Paganism – I honestly would struggle for an answer. I stumbled across Paganism through discussions on the local Bulletin Board Systems in the Dallas/Fort Worth area while I was stationed at Carswell Air Force Base. I had just finished a short flirtation with the southern Baptists element of Christianity, which I found to be a distasteful moment in my search for something that had meaning for me. However, to be even more forthright, I was also searching for who I really was and what I was to be in my life, as well. I don’t have ties with very many folks from back in those days any longer, but those that I do remain in-touch with may describe me as a “lost puppy dog.”

A few years after my start on my path of Paganism, I was stationed overseas in Germany with the US Air Force. Here, I found myself completely alone as a Pagan. There were a few Pagan folk that I met, but I meshed with none of them. Seemingly, they all had aims towards being a “Big Name Pagan” within the military. I just wanted solid footing on my Path. I spent a lot of time taking long walks in the nearby forests – and Germany has a lot of gorgeous forests to walk through. I spent a lot of time thinking about what I read in various Pagan books that I would purchase through Circle Sanctuary’s mail-in store. My mind turned a lot of thoughts over in my mind. This was where I concluded that Wicca might not be appropriate for me. Nearly six years later, after another flirtation with Wicca, I knew it for a fact.

When I came back to the United States, ending my eight years in the United States Air Force, I understood a lot better why I was drawn towards the wider umbrella of Paganism. I could take elements of things that I had learned, put those into everyday practice for myself, and walk my Spiritual Path on my own. I had been taught in elementary and high school (Catholic parochial schools) that I need a Priest – an intercessory – to commune with God. Within Paganism, I needed no such middleman in my Spirituality. I alone was responsible for where I took my Spiritual path and what I did to further my growth.

However, that was not the only draw to Paganism for me. No, it wasn’t dancing around the fire with naked women. No, it wasn’t all the free booze that seemed to be shared in generous quantities. Don’t get me wrong, all that sounds nice. I have yet to experience the first one. The second? Well, I’m picky about what I drink, plus being a diabetic means that large quantities of alcohol are a no-no. So, I can’t say I have experienced the second to any grand aspect. No, another draw to Paganism is the people.

I am sure that there are creative folks in other belief systems out there, but Pagan folk are real outside-of-the-box thinkers. At least, in my experience. I have seen some real genius solutions to complicated issues, done with exquisite detail and amazing flair. In rituals, I have encountered some of the most gorgeous singing voices I have heard outside of Taylor Swift’s work (as an example), and some of the most amazing musicianship and storytelling. The creative nature of Pagans is just an amazing thing to behold. However, the personalities, the individual stories, the comradery, the fellowship, the way Pagans will reach out to help those in need – those big hearts are amazing to encounter.

Through all of that, I am also a realist. As I posted before, Paganism has its own in-house issues – just like any other Spiritual belief system or community of people does. While I have posted the rosier aspects of Paganism, at least according to me, there are just as many people that can refute what I have said with their own bad experiences. Just like a rose, when you pick a Path to walk, you will eventually find the thorns. So be prepared for that.

Most Pagans that I have encountered could care less about what Path you walk or the way you walk it. For every individual that takes slow, sensible steps on their Spiritual Path, there will be another running, skipping, and doing cartwheels in a minefield. Everyone has their own approach to things. Again, this is a massive appeal to paganism for me. Christianity, it seemed, had a Spiritual Path that was xeroxed and the copies handed out to every new adherent. Follow these rules. Walk at this speed, and this speed only. Don’t reach out and touch the trees. And most importantly, don’t question anything. This shit is holy writ. You just need to follow it. Sorry, I just cannot live that way.

Perhaps, I just have a rebellious attitude. Maybe, I just want to be “different.” Yeah. Maybe. For me, I just want to be myself. No limits. No forced changes. As Twisted Sister once intoned: “I am, I’m Me.” When I first came onto my Pagan Path, I couldn’t really articulate the reasoning behind its attractive nature to me. Now? I see the beauty of it everywhere. I understand the appeal. I’m allowed to be myself. To be who I am, not what someone else says I should be. I get to make my own choices in my Spirituality. I will make mistakes. I might even make the same mistakes more than once. However, I don’t need a Father Confessor to apology to my Gods on my behalf. I’m capable of doing that myself. My mistakes, my responsibility to own up to.

So, for fun, take a few moments and think back to when you first discovered and/or started down your own Spiritual Path? What drew you to this? Did you realize it right away? Keep it in the back of your mind. You might find yourself around a late-night campfire with others when the topic comes up. 😊

–Tommy

Howling Into the Wind: Philosophers, Mystics and Herds of Cats

How will the future view today? The Trump-era? The most pronounced period of political divide? Maybe, it might be the time frame when humanity lost its way. Maybe. I’m not sure. Maybe its because I am so deep in the trees that I cannot see the forest, to spin a phrase. Whatever it is, I can see both sides of the argument for this being equated as a new “Dark Ages”. However, let’s let the historians of the future make that determination.

During these times of COVID-19, I have learned a lot about myself. For the most part, I have lived through this period on my own. I have learned a lot about my ability to handle things on my own. I have also learned about what I can and cannot tolerate within my life (thank you Trump supporters – one of the very few things I can thank you for). I have also learned about when it is worth fighting and when it is more judicious to just walk away – at least for me.

Most of my life has been spent making sure that I deal with things in a way that I can handle. I don’t worry that much about the opinions or perspectives of others – save for a very small, select group of people that I consider to be family, none of which are related to me via DNA. Over fifty-five years in this incarnation, I have learned a lot about living life in a manner that I am happy with. More than once, I have been slapped with the label of “survivor” by many others, including my own Mental Health Provider.

Labels are not my thing, but being a survivor is an apt descriptive for me – even I freely admit that. I have been through enough disasters and hard times in my life. I have learned to make do with the barest of essentials. I can remember times where two of my three daily meals were Ramen. Back then, a pack of Ramen cost ten cents. I could make ten dollars stretch two weeks on that type of stipend. Any meal outside of that was a luxury. I survived that way on a job that paid slightly more than the minimum wage. Looking back, I would describe that as the “lean times”. Back then, I would describe that as “daily Life”.

Paganism is a fast-growing segment of the wider religious communities. However, its rapid growth des not place it anywhere near the stage of the “Big Five” (Christianity, Muslim, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism – according to many). Paganism remains a small minority. A loud, somewhat raucous minority, but still numerically small. However, numbers are not the true measure here. Looking into the Pagan community, we see more and more Pagans that are finding the touch of the Gods in their lives. We see more and more Pagans who are receiving the whispers of the Gods in their ears. Like many of those, I have claims laid upon me by two of the Gods I work with, as well as a third who continues to whisper in my ear. Here, close to thirty-five years on my Path within Paganism, I begin to wonder how future history will look at the Pagans of now?

A long while back, I wrote a post concerning what I had hoped Paganism would look like going into the future. Throwing all of that out the window, I wonder how history will look upon the Pagans of today in twenty years? Fifty years? Certainly, with the advent of blogging, podcasts, the growth of books on Pagan topics, future generations will have more information concerning Paganism at their fingertips than I did back in 1986. However, considering the wide diversity of information coupled with a lot of divergent and diametrically opposed perspectives, will future generations of Pagans see all of us as a wide range of exploring philosophers? Or will they view us like a giant, milling herd of cats – distracted by shiny objects at every glance? Or, perhaps, we may be viewed as wild-eyed mystics driven mad by our collective dabbling with the Gods and the worlds beyond tangible existence?

I find it quite interesting and mildly amusing that I am writing over the opinions of people that may not have been born yet. That I am potentially wringing my heads and wrinkling my forehead over the way that I will be portrayed by others I will likely never meet. Me. The person who worries very little about the opinions of others, save for four people who hold the distinction of “family” in my life. Me, the person who does not worry about whatever “legacy” others want to place around my neck for whatever reason. I sit here, wondering how history will judge not only the wider aspect of my own belief system, but also how it will judge this generational point in time.

I would suppose that it really doesn’t matter. Much like I shrug my shoulders over whatever “legacy” others place on me, I would suppose that many of us that are living through all of this will shrug our collective shoulders over whatever descriptive gets applied to this period of time, Pagans or otherwise. After all, those who lived through the period that provided us with the “Hippie” movement of the 1960s, will politely ignore the joking perspectives applied to their generation. My assumption would be that whatever terminology and perspective that gets applied in the future to this time frame of History will mean nothing to those of us that lived during this time.

In the excellent movie “Troy”, the following is uttered by Odysseus at the end:

” If they ever tell my story let them say that I walked with giants. Men rise and fall like the winter wheat, but these names will never die. Let them say I lived in the time of Hector, tamer of horses. Let them say I lived in the time of Achilles.

Odysseus, Troy (2004)

Who would be those legends that I could say I lived with during these times? Honestly, I have no idea. Nor do I care. If any words that I write winds up living on into the future, I can only hope that I would be characterized as one of many, many Pagans who started the revival of Paganism. That I lived in a time of Spiritual awakening where people stopped placing their faith in intercessors that would communicate to the Gods for them. That people living in a time of such deep political divide eventually found a way to locate common ground and live in relative harmony together – highlighting their commonalities, as well as respecting their differences.

That would be an ideal future for me. In the meantime, I live each day as it is presented to me. Some are good days. Some aren’t. Whatever I find, I do my best to survive, live, and thrive.

–Tommy

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Getting Uncomfortable: Words Backed With Actions

I am still wandering down the path of comfortability, in regard to my Paganism. As I look through all the various areas that I have avoided in blog “conversations” in the past, the one that has really come forward in my thoughts is that of accountability. Perhaps, much of my consternation with this area comes from the wide array that I find this to cover. Thus, a little exploration of the concept is probably necessary the beginning of things.

When I think of accountability, one phrasing immediately comes to mind: calling people out on their shit. Making them accountable for the things that they say, the things that they do. Using an extreme example, the entire Pagan community went bonkers over the sexual misconduct of musician Kenny Klein, particularly that he would seek out under-aged, impressionable ladies for his sexual proclivities. According to several people, many in the wider Pagan community were aware of Klein’s activities, but chose not to call him out over such things – thus leaving many young ladies to be his unwitting prey. Klein was eventually found out by the authorities, arrested, sentenced, and died while serving his punishment. However, there was a lot of fall-out from the incident that fell on others who, as previously noted, aware of Klein’s predatory nature. In essence, they were being held accountability for their inaction over the knowledge they had. For me, this is what accountability has always been about.

However, as I have dug deeper into the concept, I have come to realize that accountability has other angles to it as well. These other ales have made me wonder even more about the aspect of accountability within our wider ranging Pagan community.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary accountability is “the quality or state of being accountable.” This led me down the rabbit-hole to the definition of accountable. From here I found two more perspectives: “subject to giving an account” and “capable of being explained.” Some synonyms provided included, amenable, answerable, liable, and responsible. This provided enough of an answer to my question of just what might be meant towards accountability within our wider community.

All of this left me with a few perspectives to work from. From one perspective, accountability is being held responsible for one’s actions. From another, there is the implication of retribution for unfulfilled trust and/or violated obligation. So, utilizing these two perspectives, I have moved forward with my thoughts.

Being held accountable for our words and actions is important. This holds true to one’s actions, one’s words, and even one’s implied actions. Using one of the most common examples, we state that we are going to make it to an event early to help setup and stay late to help with breakdown and cleanup. Yet, we do neither. We are responsible for our words. Granted, real-life issues can happen to get in the way of such obligations, but these should be few. Depending on the seriousness of this slip-up, one can lose the integrity of what they say. Many statements of can be followed by an eye-roll and side-commentary of “suuuuure” being evidenced from others. One’s personal integrity becomes an issue.

Many of us have made oaths before our groups during our initiatory rites. Many have also made oaths to their respective Gods that they work with. A violation of those oaths can sometimes have serious consequences attached to it. And the Gods are far less forgiving if the dog ate your homework.

However, there is a side of accountability that I want to add and explore just a touch deeper. Accountability partner. These are individuals or things who agree to apply peer pressure to you to help keep you on track with a task or something that you are not really wanting to do. For instance, I have an accountability partner strapped to my wrist. My Fitbit Versa. Not only does the FitBit keep track of my heartbeat, it also tracks my activity. When I do not move around for long periods of time, it will vibrate to get my attention, and remind me to get up and move around for a bit. This helps keep my issues with edema in my legs from being serious issues at the end of the day. The little nag of “did you do this?” is constantly there. Certainly, it’s a pain in the ass, but it serves a useful purpose.

This idea of an accountability partner, coupled with the horrible winter weather that paralyzed the entire state of Texas (where I live) had me wondering how many Pagan folk were checking in on the Pagans that they knew? What about disasters in other areas? Familial tragedies? Particularly during this time of COVID, where it feels like we are all so completely separated from one another. How about your neighbors, be they Christian, Atheist or otherwise? Are we checking in with one another enough?

While thinking this over, I came to the realization of what we would be doing in this case. We would be creating an intentional inter-dependent group. Inter-dependency is not a bad thing to have. We can be independent in many facets of our lives, but still be inter-dependent or accountable to one another through indirect communication means, such as voice mails, text messages, and even Emails. We are not flirting with unhealthy co-dependence but are creating healthy lines of communication. Those healthy lines of communication may be all we have when the weather outside makes travel completely improbable as it did here in Texas earlier this year or as COVID has done to all of us over the past year-plus.

So, how is the Pagan community accountable within its own paradigm? In my opinion, we could all do a lot better. Not just in personal communications, but also in speaking out about things such as racism and pedophilia within our community. We are no different than any other grouping of people. We have problems which we don’t always speak out about. Believe me, as a wider, world-wide community we have done a far better job at connecting with one another and developing inter-dependent capabilities than we had in the 1980s. But we still have a lot of work to do on the area of predators and racists within our wider community.

For me, accountability has always been something to approach quietly, and only when necessary. In looking through my own misconceptions over the entire idea, I realize that the Pagan community does have to draw a few lines in the sand. Sexual predation and racism need to be found and challenged within the community, particularly if we are going to provide “safe for all” environments. Those lines must be drawn and firmly held without fail. We also need to reach out to our fellow Pagans and make connections that we continually work on, develop, and grow, where healthy for all involved. So, yes, accountability is calling people on their shit. But as I have come to realize through all of this – it’s a lot more than that. But it does all start with backing up your words with actions.

–Tommy

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Thinking About: “Get a Little Uncomfortable”. This is My Start

I am not much of a news watcher, especially after the way the news agencies have devolved from news platforms into opinion launching platforms. I always had bright light shining out of that darkness. That would be Brooke Baldwin. When Brooke took the anchor chair for the mid-to-late afternoon broadcast section on CNN, I was hooked. A pretty smile coupled with a “facts only” manner of presenting the news, she became my go-to option for the news. During these times of COVID, where I have basically lived within the house and rarely head outside, I always found comfort in watching her broadcast times. As CNN has devolved into the center-left version of MSNBC and Fox News, Brooke always held to her “just the facts” broadcast style. Brooke’s broadcasts wound up being my comfort food for the news. After nearly eleven years in her position, last week marked Brooke’s last on CNN. She wasn’t fired or let go. She resigned, leaving on her own terms. With her last three minutes on the air, she said goodbye, which you can watch here.

In that goodbye, Brooke makes the final comment that we need to get uncomfortable. Her challenge was aimed towards women rising to the challenge of being equals in the workplace – finding their collective voices, and not being afraid to speak up. I sat and thought through what Brooke had said and realized that her challenge was something I could incorporate into my own Spirituality going forward. Not just from a perspective of raising the voices of women throughout Paganism, but also raising our own voices on difficult topics. That it was beyond time to start having the uncomfortable discussions here on the blog – and elsewhere. So, with that in mind, a cup of coffee to one side of the laptop, a bag of mixed nuts on the other, and Pat Metheny playing on the Bluetooth speaker; I set out on that journey.

Within Paganism we have a lot of issues that we simply gloss over. There are a few people who have stepped out into the open to initiate the discussions. Some have been more successful than others. Me? I have stayed in the shadows. My movement towards such subjects has been tepid at best. My approach to Paganism has been that what I do within Paganism is my business. How others approach Paganism is theirs. That still applies. However, I do have some hard lines I just cannot cross. Some of what I will see through this exploration will come off as a bit judgmental. That’s not the point. Rather, in doing these types of explorations, I am trying to find where my own boundaries get drawn. In setting much of this out here on the blog, the idea is to stimulate conversation and thought. And not necessarily even conversation between me and someone else. But conversation. Some of what I will write over the long point of exploration will not be hard and fast boundaries for me either. I change and grow like anyone else does. My perspective can be altered on some topics.

So, I’m about five-hundred words in at this point. Where do I start? There are so many different directions to go. Well, let’s start off a little simple, at first. Acceptance of other beliefs.

Over thirty-plus years, I have watched many, many Pagans rail against Christianity. Some of it is rightful anger. Some of it comes across as a knee-jerk reaction to becoming a Pagan. You know. Paganism is right because I practice it. Christianity is wrong because they want to destroy all other faiths. This is a convenient “Us verses Them” dichotomy that plays out nearly everywhere in our lives. When the United States is in a war with another country, people of that country are evil. Those people are hell-bent on destroying the American way of life. That kind of rhetoric makes whipping up the winds of war very easy. Particularly when linked with Patriotism towards the country. I saw a lot of it when I was in Desert Shield/Storm. I see a lot of it in today’s Left/Right political dichotomy.

The paradigm of “Us versus Them” is an easy one to embrace. We have had paraded throughout our lives. Sports rivalries. Race issues. Politics. Nationalistic pride. There is nothing wrong with this perspective, so long as it is balanced against the perspective that the folks on the other side are human beings and deserve the same dignity and respect that we ask for. After all, if you are looking for dignity and respect, you must provide it just as much as you ask for it. Demand dignity and respect, but not provide it from those you demand it from…well, we have watched wars erupt over such differences.

We Pagans are no different from the Christians. We all breathe air the same way. We live our lives very similarly. We love others in much the same manner. We just disagree on our approach to Spirituality and the Divine. Christians cling to a particular passage in their Bible that states that Christians must convert others to the Christian faith. Their doctrine teaches that those that are not Christian will be sent to their idealized perspective of a “bad place” when their God calls them back to Heaven. To that degree it is hard to deal directly with the idea that Christians want to destroy all the other faiths. I can grok where others would see that. But not every Christian is that way. Certainly, the loud and aggressive ones are, but not all Christians are like that.

Over my time as a Pagan, I cannot count the number of times I have dealt with aggressive and loud Christians. You know, the kind that want to take their beliefs and shove those straight up your ass. As if forcing a stubborn, independent-minded individual such as myself will have positive results. However, I have seen the other side of all this as well. The rabid, foaming-at-the-mount, fundamentalist Pagan. The one that wants to shove the Burning Times down the throat of every Christian that they meet or hang it around their necks like a scarlet letter. If you go back to my very earliest days of being a Pagan, I was one of those. I demanded respect from those of other beliefs. My beliefs were just as valid as theirs. However, practitioners of my belief had to stay hidden because the Christians out there would set the police and the justice system on to us, like a pack of rapid dogs at the hunt. I still cringe inwardly when remembering that part of me.

Shouting my beliefs does not make those beliefs any more valid than if I quietly had my say, and then walked away. In fact, shouting my beliefs would likely be a major turn-off to anyone that I was trying to convey my message to. I know that I stop listening to those Christians who have a need to shout their beliefs at me or make physical threats to me. Or even threatening me with eternal damnation. All I wanted to do was find some common ground from which we could have a discussion, not a debate.

I have many friends within the Pagan community who have come out of abusive situations from within the Christian church. I am not going to out any one of these individuals by telling their stories. Besides, those are not my stories to tell. But they are my friends, and I will stand right next to them whenever they need me to be there. My support does not need to be loud and angry. My support needs to be gentle, kind, and take whatever form they need at that moment. They have a right to their anger towards their former faith. I do cringe when they start into their venting at what had been done to them. I feel their pain. I feel their anger. I feel their sorrow. I feel their sense of betrayal. Likewise, I have friends who have left Paganism because of the same issues. Rest assured, Paganism has much the same issues of abuse of authority as the Christians do. Much like the Christians, we have a lot of internal cleanup to do.

So, what do we do? How should we do it? When should we do it? Well, a lot of those answers are going to depend on you, and what you are willing/capable of doing. For me, the start of everything comes from an open, honest, and sometimes brutal discussion. How do we deal with the abuse of power within our communities? How do we handle those of other faiths that proselytize against us? How do we handle such issues as sexual abuse, pedophilia, and even illicit drug use within our communities? All sub-trails leading off from where I stand at this moment. All items that are likely to be dealt with in different ways by different people. Believe me, there are many more things to look at. This is only the springboard for me.

Now, am I trying to build some sort of rigid dogma for Paganism? Hardly. I only have control over what I do, think, and believe. I cannot, and categorically, will not do any of that for anyone else. I am, however, willing to talk, listen, and discuss issues. As I have said before, my preference for those discussions is around a fire, under a glorious starry night. In my experience, such a setting makes for ideal conversation periods over meaty topics such as these. Plus, the darkness allows us to hide our uncomfortable nature, circling back to Brooke’s original point.

I do offer one more piece of caution. Don’t get your feelings hurt when you find others who completely disagree with your perspective. Instead, tuck your feelings back a bit, and listen to their perspective. They may provide a piece of knowledge you might not have encountered, or a perspective you may have dismissed out of hand. That’s learning.

I understand the outrage over supposed Christian perspectives that can turn many Pagans from knowledge-seeking, fun-loving folks into rabid, angry individuals. However, I have come to realize that much of what is believed about Christian beliefs by many Pagans are broad-brushed strokes that are derived from much smaller groups within Christianity. Just like many Pagans are painted over with the broad-brushed strokes derived from Wicca. Perhaps, we might be better served to take a step back, and attempt to understand the perspective and motives of the Christians before we begin to condemn them outright. We might also try to remember that they are human beings too. They just happen to see things from a different perspective around the great bonfire that we call Spirituality.

Much of what I have written here comes from my heart. It also comes from thirty-plus years of scars provided to me by being a public, open Pagan. I don’t hide who I am or what I am. I am always open for a discussion about any aspect of those things. To be brutally honest, I am not engaged on topics of my Spirituality by others very often. Thus, my ability to discuss these openly with others is not always the best. Furthermore, I don’t study theology, so I am thoroughly confused by some of the terminology that grows from that area of academic study. I am not a theologian of any sort. I might be considered a Priest of some kind, or even an Elder because of the number of years I have been on this Spiritual Path. I’m just me. No different than anyone else. I have the same unanswered questions as many. I desire to explore the world around me and experience as much as I can before I shuffle off this mortal coil and on into whatever lies beyond. But above all, I prefer to find a way to co-exist on this planet with everyone. Even the hardcore Trump supporters. Because we are all people. And to understand one another, we really do need to find a way to discuss our differences, not debate the right or wrong about them. As Brooke said, we need to get uncomfortable.

–Tommy

Rebuild Completed. Moving On.

If you read through the blog over the last half-year or so, you will find various posts littering the topics with a starting title of ‘Rebuilding My Druidry.” Over that period, I have been taking my Druidry apart – bit by bit – and re-examining what was necessary and what was not. To be frank, it has not been an overly pleasant process, and at times it has not been especially helpful. All of this was done through the prompting of a need to make my Spirituality into something that conforms much closer to who I am. In essence, I was forcing my Spirituality to conform to me rather than the other way around. What I wound up with, initially, was a complete mess. Putting that all back together into something that was a touch more coherent took more time and effort than I had initially wanted to do. The experience: on the other hand, was quite a cathartic one. Some of the more important aspects that I found through the entire process were aspects of ritual, what being a Druid meant to me, how my Pagan and Polytheistic perspectives intersected with all of this.

Rebuilding Ritual

Ritual. One of my bigger sticking points with Druidry was the way rituals were presented as being set in stone. No deviation was expected. Impromptu workings were frowned upon. Moving away from aspects of the Wheel of the Year were looked as “not normal.” All of that rubbed me the wrong way. Every time I heard or read something akin to that perspective, my mind would hear this lyric:

Mama always told me not to look into the eyes of the sun
But mama, that’s where the fun is

Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, “Blinded by the Light”

About mid-way through my entire so-called “Rebuild”, I realized that ritual with others was different than rituals on my own. I am not part of a Grove. So, the only times I get into ritual with others are where groups of folks gather to do exactly that, such as OBOD’s Gulf Coast Gathering. Within a large group of people, my style of impromptu ritual would little significance (if any) with others. Thus, there was a need for cohesive ritual elements in such a setting. However, what I did on my own was truly my own business. Sort of like being a guitarist in a band versus noodling around on the guitar on your own. One needs a more formalized set of rules to make it work for everyone…the other is for your own reasons.

Intersection of Paganism and Polytheism

There will be folks who are not going to see or feel a need to explore the idea of their personal Spirituality intersecting Paganism or Polytheism. For them, there is a natural synthesis of these for their own needs. For me, on the other hand, I needed to find the congruence of the three, and explore it a bit more. For me, my Spirituality is more deeply rooted in how I work through my daily Path. The way the ground feels beneath my feet. The warmth of the sun on my face on a morning like this one. Or the dampness of the rain falling from the sky, as the meteorologists are promising for later in this week.

My Paganism and Polytheism are reaching out beyond those perspectives. The Gods, as I have come to believe Them to be, are separate entities that can be experienced and communicated with. Certainly, it takes a little effort to do so, and sometimes the Gods you are trying to work with won’t talk back, but They are there regardless. I have three that I work with, but rarely do I hear from Them all the time.

Add to this, I have no desire to change anyone’s mind if they believe to the contrary. I am not on my Path to convince one single fucking individual that what I believe is correct. I have no desire to debate things like theology and religion with a single soul. Mine is not the path of a Shepherd or a Gatherer of Souls. My Path is to be there to discuss with others. Need someone to talk with about stuff? I’m your guy. Let’s sit out by a fire late at night and discuss whatever it is – under the stars.

Being a Druid

One of the most important things that came from the process was wrangling through the idea of what being a Druid means to me. Being a Druid, to me, means being open to the idea of discussions that travel from one subject to another. Our discussion isn’t going to solve the world. Our discussion isn’t going to make major changes in the way any of us relates to the world around us. Only we, as individuals, can do that for ourselves. However, our discussions can lead us to a momentary point of enlightenment. Maybe not for all of us. Maybe for only one of us. Perhaps, we can solve the Gordian Knot that is present in the moment. Not a debate, but a discussion. In a debate, there is an implied winner and loser. In a discussion, an exchange of viewpoints is made. No winners. No losers. Perspectives get exchanged. Some can be accepted. Some can be rejected.

For me, being a Druid is more like being an available counselor. Being available when someone needs to bend my ear (or eye in the case of electronic text messages). I might not be able to solve your problem. I might not be the appropriate starting point for your needs. But I can get you somewhere that might be.

Forget the terms such as “Priest” or “Elder”. I have been on my Pagan Path for thirty-plus years. Big whoop. I have experience, thanks to a lot of years on my Path. That does not make me any better than an individual that is six days on theirs. The only difference is that I have walked this Path long enough to have to stop from time to time to wipe the dog shit off my shoes. Thirty-plus years on my Path doesn’t make me amazing. All it means is that I am stubborn enough to be persistent.

Rebuild Complete

So, my rebuild of my Druidry is finished. In the past, I compared this to rebuilding an engine. The reality is that this was more like buying a new set of tires for your car. While I worked on getting a new set of tires on to my Druidry, I also took the time to remove all the accumulated trash from inside the vehicle. All of that, plus the new air freshener hanging from my rear-view mirror, provides me with new steps towards where I am going. Yes, I managed to remove some pieces that really didn’t fit in, such as my overly romantic view of being a Druid meant that I needed to solve other people’s problems. Other people need to solve their problems on their own. I can listen, provide opinions, supply my own perspective – but in the end, they must do the work themselves. Speaking of work, its long past time that I got back on to my Ovate grade materials.

Just one perspective.

–T /|\

Howling Into the Wind: (The Return of) The Satanic Panic

The 1980s. My late-teens and early twenties are encompassed in the decade of decadence. The rise of New Wave music. The rise of what is termed today as “Hair Metal.” The wild parties. The generational excess of wildly spending money and extending individual credit to horrible levels. There is a lot of things that I remember about the 1980s. Senior parties in high school. The creative endeavors of so many of my friends. Discovering the wider world of Paganism and my first steps into a way of connecting and experiencing the world around me. I graduated from high school in 1984, enlisted in the United States Air Force in early 1986, and stumbled across Paganism later that year. At the end of that year, I found myself embroiled in the Satanic Panic that I had been so blissfully unaware of.

Texas was a particularly harsh environment to be in during the Satanic Panic. I had heard rumors of Social Services tearing children away from families over the flimsiest pretenses of “Satanism.” In late 1988, I had friends who experienced firsthand this action. Police departments were inundated with reports from neighbors reporting on families in their neighborhood. The military was no different. I had assumed that the military would be far more open and accepting of all beliefs. I was wrong.

I worked in the data processing facility on Carswell Air Force Base. I typically worked on the weekends and during the evenings on weekdays. My weekends were typically twelve-hour shifts, which left a lot of time to read. I was starting my initial steps of exploration into Paganism. I brought a lot of Pagan books on to the shift with me, which I would read. Some examples – “Drawing Down the Moon” by Margot Adler, “The Spiral Dance” by Starhawk, “Witchcraft From the Inside” by Raymond Buckland, and “Witchcraft Today” by Gerald Gardner – among others. My supervisor, at that time, was a staunch Catholic, did not approve and asked that I be reassigned to another shift. This resulted in my being called before my section chief, where I had to defend my own beliefs. My open defiance to a direct order to “be a Christian” resulted in me being sent to the Base Chaplain for counseling.

The Base Chaplain did his homework before I arrived. I was informed that my beliefs were in accordance to the “Religious Requirements and Practices of Certain Selected Groups: A Handbook for Chaplains“, and that my section chief would be informed to back off me. I was reassigned to another shift, where the other four members were all self-professed Evangelical preachers in their off-duty time. My time on the shift was not very easy. However, my off-duty time was about to change as well.

On an early Monday morning, I would guess it was around 4am, my dorm room door was unlocked and two Security Police officers, along with a Fort Worth police officer entered the room. I was asked to get dressed and to come with them. I did so and was led to a Fort Worth squad car at the front gate. I was asked to sit in the front passenger seat. I was then driven out to a pasture in the north part of the city limits, where a cow had been killed. Apparently its throat had been slit, and then its internal organs had been laid out neatly on a white sheet. After I had thrown up, I was asked about the significance of what I was seeing. I responded that I did not know, but I offered to do some research to help the officers determine what had happened. This started a relationship between myself and the police department that would continue until I was deployed overseas.

Most of what I dealt with was graffiti on or near churches and synagogues. Sometimes, I would be brought in to explain belief systems to lawyers investigating potential “Satanic ritual abuse.” I detested being called an “expert” (and still do). From 1988 to 1990, I got called on for a LOT of things. When I returned to the States from Europe, the entire Satanic Panic that had occurred in the 1980s had apparently died down. With Cornerstone magazine debunking the stories of Mike Warnke and Lauren Stratford – among many others – the hoppy waters I remember had seemingly been calmed.

This weekend, I was provided with a Vox article entitled “Why Satanic Panic Never Really Ended”, which details how much of the debunked theories of the Satanic Panic of the 1980s have lived on within the QAnon movement and elsewhere. Reading through the article, I was astonished to realize that I had read several of the features stories but had ignored them as a symptom from the days of the Satanic Panic. Most infamous among these is the horrifically described incidents of the so-called Pizzgate. Another story, which I had not heard, details a wide, vast Satanic pedophilia ring of Democrats, celebrities and world leaders that made its rounds within 4chan. This exact same theory was originally floated by Mike Warnke in his utterly false depictions of himself as a “major player” in Satanism, again completely debunked by the Christian magazine Cornerstone. By the way, if you are looking for the origins of QAnon, it comes from the Pizzagate story. The original poster that floated this retread rumor was only known as “Q”.

I don’t normally discuss politics openly within the blog. I believe what I believe. I understand how I want my government to work. I have no desire to change anyone’s opinion when it comes to how they believe. However, I know the slippery slope of “Satanic Panic”. I remember the beginnings. I remember the rumors that were floated about people in the community. I saw how these rumors could easily destroy families with the only the flimsiest of “evidence.” I know, firsthand, the terror one can feel that every single individual that they encounter may want to destroy their lives – simply because we believe differently from them. That is not a world I care to live in. That is a worldview that I will fight against to my dying breath.

Everyone has a right to their beliefs. Most definitely. I hold that to be a fundamental right to existing. However, when your beliefs deny that right to others, you are in the wrong. Yes, I am talking about the rights of Pagans to exist and believe as they should. However, I am also talking about the rights of Christians, Muslims, Atheists, Agnostics, and others as well. We can, and should, find a way to co-exist together. We don’t have to agree with one another. However, we should respect one another. Yes, that even goes for those on a Satanic Path. Because to be completely honest, they are nothing close to what the rumors of the Satanic Panic made them out to be.

My fear from all of this is simple. I lived through one very overt Satanic Panic. I have no desire to live through another. Nor do I want to see a Crusade made against those who disagree with me. I just want the freedom to believe as I wish, harming no others along my Path. I doubt that any of us lived through the times of the Inquisition. However, we do have history to show us the errors compounded on fervor and zeal that led to those moments. The same holds true for the so-called Crusades. The Crusades and the Inquisition were fueled by rumors, vilifying those that were supposedly against “us.” The opposition is constantly and continually portrayed as “evil”, “depraved”, “warped”, or “out of touch”. They are just as human as we are. They just believe differently.

Today, we see those who choose different ways of living being cast into the shadows of “them”. Members of LGBTQ+ communities fear for their very lives because of the zealotry of those that don’t agree with their way of living. Fuck, we did the same thing to the First Nations people here in America. We did the same thing to African Americans when they were brought here as slaves. We did the same thing to Asian Americans and individuals of Germanic heritage during World War II. Its not just the Satanic Panic that got us here. We have a history of rejecting those who are different than us. And in that rejection, we choose the most extreme measures to showcase our rejection and discomfort, without a second thought to the fact that we are doing these things to other human beings. Absolutely ridiculous, in my opinion. Quoting from Depeche Mode…

So, we’re different colours and we’re different creeds
And different people have different needs
It’s obvious you hate me though I’ve done nothing wrong
I’ve never even met you, so what could I have done?

I can’t understand
What makes a man
Hate another man
Help me understand

Depeche Mode, “People Are People”

So, yes. I am repulsed that the Satanic Panic and all its debunked theories is still alive and well, living in bliss with the QAnon crowd. But thinking on it, I cannot say that I am fully surprised either. We, humans, seem to have a major fetish for hating one another. We seem to be drawn to the idea that we must eradicate that which is different before it “infects” us. Yet, we cannot seem to understand that a wide diversity of views provides a broader, more in-depth, brighter perspective than a single, forced, monotone one would. Go figure that.

–T /|\

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