Straightening My Dented and Tarnished Halo

So, the month of October begins to near.  And the inevitable question begins to be asked over and over again.

What are you doing for Samhain?

For most of the Pagan community, Samhain and Beltane are the two times of the year that everyone focuses upon.  Sort of like Easter and Christmas for the Christian faith.  Its typically the two times out of the year that Pagans seem to revel in getting together.  Everyone plans huge gatherings – or plans to attend huge gatherings – during this time.  I am nearly the polar opposite of this.  I have discussed all this before here on the blog – here and here – this is just not my favorite time of the year.  Once we get about three weeks past Samhain, I begin to enjoy the seasonal change.  And trust me – I have heard all the statements about how weird I am for approaching – what is typically described as the quintessential Pagan holiday – as something of a much more minor moment on the Wheel.  Believe me, I have heard it all.  I am weird.  I am not a “true” Pagan.  I am anti-social.  Ok there’s a little merit to that one.  I have heard it all thrown at me.

But all of that makes me wonder.  Why adhere labels and descriptives like that onto a person that does not share your ideals over a particular observance on the Wheel of the Year?  We – the over-arching Pagan community – get our knickers into a twist when adherents of other faiths refer to us as ‘Satanists’ or ‘evil’…they should not be doing things like that or saying things that are not true.  Yet its ‘ok’ to level a label against someone that does not conform to our own conceptual value of an observance – even when we believe the same thing about what its meaning is?  Just over the difference of value.  ::flat stare::  Really?

…and before someone accuses me of bagging on my own Community – let me add this particular observance.  I see this type of attitude everywhere.  In the mall.  Out in the Park.  At the train station.  On Social Media sites.  Even in the hallways of the colleges that I teach at.  I am certainly not believing that this type of attitude is in abundance in one particular segment of the societal segments that I see.  Nor am I exempt from it.

Go back to my own podcast – From the Edge of the Circle – listen to the episodes from about mid 2008 to mid 2010.  You’ll find instances of me doing the exact same things I am describing here.  Labeling people/movements – and then adding descriptives of ridicule and scorn to bring color and depth to those labels.  Its not something I am proud of having done – but I am glad that I saw that in myself.  And I continually battle myself on that same thing…it certainly is a difficult habit to break completely out of.

The internet and social media have provided us all with a more encompassing aspect of communication.  We can reach far more people with our opinions than we could just thirty years ago.  Podcasts, blogs, VidCasts, Chat Messengers, and Email have allowed us to communicate with a wider range of people than previously.  Gone are the days of the BBSs, the Relay-Networks, the eZines, the poorly photocopied “newsletters”…our reach with what we say has increased tremendously.  So there’s a degree of responsibility that comes with putting out a blog that says anything.  Or, I should say there’s a certain degree of ownership involved.

Going back and listening to some of my older podcasts – I said quite a few provocative and negative things.  I neither deny that nor do I shy away from what I said.  However, looking back through the jaundiced eye of time, I could certainly have said some of those statements in a far more eloquent and civil manner.  Nor do I completely agree with everything I said.  Time changes everyone.  History and experience provided more details, uncover perspectives not thought of during that time frame…and the result can be a new way of framing an opinion.

So, I may be considered a little strange or weird for the way I see or practice my moments on the Wheel during the periods of Samhain and Beltane.  So be it.  I currently see no need to change the way I observe those moments on the Wheel on my Daily Path.  I also see no need to condemn or chastise people for the manner in which they choose to observe that same time frame.  Live and let live…its a philosophy I can handle.  I may have trouble practicing it from time to time, but rest assured, I will straighten my halo when I see that its slightly crooked.  The little dents in it, and the tarnish from the wear and tear — that stays.

 

Two Worlds, One Me

This morning, while waiting for the start of my Government class, one of my fellow students asked me a rather provocative and interesting question.  I do not hide the fact that I am a Pagan, and entertain questions from people at the school when asked.  But, before I get onto a tangent this early in the post, let me get back to the question.

How do you reconcile the fact that you practice a Nature-based religion with your career in Information Technology?

It really was an interesting moment for me.  I do teach a class in the business application of Information Systems, and have taught several classes on Server technologies, Information Security, and Desktop Support.  I hold three University degrees geared towards Information Systems.  I have worked in the Information Technology fields for over twenty-seven years now.  Is there nothing more iconic of a world out of touch with the “natural” world around us than a giant bank of computer machinery and whirling magnetic tape drives?

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Bighorn National Forest – Wyoming

We sat and talked quite a bit about the differences between these two very different worlds.  In the end, I was not able to provide an answer for my querent – other than to remark that I seek a balance between the two within my life.  Which is true.  I love my technology-based environment.  I enjoy having information at my fingertips.  I also love being out among the trees and listening to the wind whispering to me through the leaves.  I love the feel of sun-warmed grass under my bare feet.  Every few months, I take trips to places that I have read about or have already been to – so that I can experience and enjoy the Kami (or Spirits of the Land, if you do not prefer the Japanese descriptive).  This is my way of trying to balance out my everyday experience with technology.

I use my technology every day.  I am doing that right here and now by typing in this blog with you.  Utilizing my internet connection, the WordPress platform, my iMac computer – I am putting my thoughts into words.  I interact with my students through an online forum, when we do not meet face-to-face.  I encourage the use of that platform for faster communications – rather than waiting for the two time frames that we meet face-to-face.  As a student, both of my classes also have online classroom formats – both of which are utilized to a different degree by each instructor.  My Subaru Forester utilizes a computer system to inform of the estimated gas mileage that I am getting, as well as displaying warning lights when there is a possible issue for the mechanic to see.  When I meditate, I utilize the mp3 collection I have to provide me with a suitable selection of music or ambient sound to allow me to relax.  My iPhone allows me to connect with family and friends through text messages and voice.  And the examples can literally continue one and on.

I have heard it said for many different sources that technology has blunted mankind’s ability to embrace the Natural world around him (a generic qualifier here – I’m not excluding the ladies from this conversation).  I have also seen from these sources that the only way to embrace the natural is to eschew the technological innovations that have made our living too comfortable.  I live in Texas.  While certainly nowhere near as hot as…say Phoenix, Arizona…its hot enough to be very difficult to deal with when the air conditioning systems are removed from the house or car.  Not impossible, just very difficult.  I am not sure I am ready to completely give that particular luxury up, though I certainly do not want to drag it along on a camping trip.

So how can I reconcile the two different worlds with one another?  Again, I come back to the idea of balance.  I do not think one has to eschew the innovations of technology to be a member of an earth-centered (or Nature-centered if you prefer) belief system.  Yes, I agree that technology can be the cold, featureless, uninspiring aspect of Life that many SciFi/Fantasy writers and movies have portrayed it as – particularly if a balance is not sought by the individual.  The natural is not that far outside one’s doorway.  Yards, patio gardens, window-box planters…certainly not an ideal aspect of the Natural world, but it is certainly SOMETHING.  I am not advocating this as a replacement for getting out into the Natural world around you.  But its better than nothing.  We all crave the Natural world around us.  Look at places such as New York City, where many areas within a very large, very busy metro city are set aside for parks with dense tree cover.  Its certainly not Glacier National Park in Montana or the Bighorn National Forest in Wyoming – but its something that is there for people to grasp a small feeling of the Natural – to let them forget their concrete world around them.

As I sit here, trying to contemplate an answer to that original question – I am not sure I have one.  In fact, I do not see a real need to reconcile the two worlds.  I would actively seek to keep one from intruding on the other though.  There is no reason that I can see to plow under the forests that are just beyond the typically travelled roads.  And while I like the idea of removing some buildings in a metro city area to plant more trees…I am not sure I can see a hardcore need for it.  I do see areas where the world that encompasses technology needs to do a better job with the waste materials that are created from its various usages – I also see how the Natural world has adapted to combat some of those pollution issues on its own.

We humans are an adaptive lot.  So is Nature.  I see a lot of parallels between the Natural and the Technological worlds…there are certainly differences too.  I do not think there is an area of reconciliation between the two on my part – just an acknowledgement that both can live side-by-side – physical, and within my own life.  Two worlds, one me.

Opening One Door Again…

Growing up, I was the kid that took his toys apart – just to see why each toy did what it did.  Predictably, I didn’t do a very good job of getting them back together again.  But I was extremely good at sorting out the parts into category piles.  The large screws went in one pile.  Small screws in another.  Springs.  Batteries, sorted again by type.  Plastic molding, sorted by size and then by color.  Literally, I drove my parents up the wall with antics like this.  This carried over into my bookshelves, my backpack, and any boxes I packed during family moves.

Anyone who has ever seen a location that I am living in, would swear that a tornado had just ripped through it.  But that was quite untrue.  Each location of debris was a pile of “something”.  It looked like a disaster zone, but the cold reality was that I knew what that pile represented.

When I got into the United States Air Force, I did the same thing.  I would go into the Plain Language Address files and arrange them alphabetically.  I would look for duplicates.  And I documented every change I made.  For those that are not aware, PLA codes are how military communications traffic is addressed.  Think of it as a seven character alpha-numeric IP address for each unit, base, and squadron.  My second year (of the three I was at Sembach), my commander complimented me on the organization of the file and my documentation.  As my reward, I was given control of the ACCMPS (where I worked) Tape Library.  I did the exact same thing.  I organized the tapes by age, determined the older tapes that needed to be removed from the system immediately, and eventually pulled off a swap with an Italian NATO squadron for new tapes (we gave them a pallet full of unused punch cards).  I created a logging system where tape errors would be noted.  Any tape that got a high number of errors, was removed from the system and replaced.

Me and my organization disease.  After I left the Air Force, I worked on a handful of Tape Library positions throughout the DFW area.  None were that satisfying.  Everything was already organized.  I moved over to Database and Systems Administration – and I found an entire world just waiting to be organized, cataloged, and filed.  And every job I took, I did just that.  It was appreciated in some sectors – not so much in others.

I still play with databases today.  I have a database of every MLB season dating back to 1877.  Every player’s hitting and pitching record.  Every all-star appearance.  All the stats for the post-season.  And I updated it regularly throughout the season.  Still working towards being organized and cataloged.

Being a professor, I don’t get that much time to catalog everything and organize materials.  I spend too much time barking at the back of students’ heads with instructions that they never listen to – and inevitably ask about two days prior to the assignment being due.  Occasionally, I get a student that is a model of efficiency, organization, and cataloged work materials.  I marvel at how well these students are put together.  I envy their free time to organize everything in a way that makes sense to them.

Lately, I have been thinking of pursuing a Masters degree in History, so that I could teach classes in History.  And I realized that I was actually making a mistake.  I like things to be organized.  I like things to be cataloged and placed into an appropriate slot.  I needed to chase down a Masters in Library Sciences.  This would be the second time I have moved towards an MLS.  The first time, I was disappointed with the push that was made to keep me in technology services.  Now, I’m pretty sure I made mistake in not obtaining that degree.  Don’t get me wrong, in moving away from the MLS degree, I was able to complete an MBA program instead.  That, coupled with my Masters in Information Systems Security and my Bachelors in Computer Sciences with an emphasis on Database Management…I can see where all this fits together now.  And I can actually see a career path that will set me into a challenging environment – where organization and cataloging items remains king — but is diverse enough to allow me to continue to foster my troubleshooting skills I have acquired in a long Information Technology career.

The strange part is that it came to me while reading through Cat Treadwell’s “A Druid’s Tale”.  In a section entitled “Open or Closed” – I had written a few notations in my own journal about what I was reading.  One of the remarks I had made was:

…are you really understanding the Path you are on Tommy?  Are you searching for that ‘something better’ and just haven’t realized that you already had your feet on that Path?

It took me a few times in meditation to realize…my comment was correct.  The career path of Librarian uniquely suits my skillset.  As odd as it sounds, my love for books and technology let me stand in between those two opposing points of view.  I am unique in my perspective there…and the time to step into that breach is now.  A request for information regarding the MLS programs at both UNT and TWU has been sent.  Its time to pick up my own gauntlet.

 

The Wind in My Hair

I remember my visit to Medicine Wheel in the Bighorn National Forest like it was just a few hours ago.  It was IMGP2786quiet, serene, and devoid of a lot of tourists.  Perhaps its daunting altitude (nearly 10,000 feet) was part of the reason.  Perhaps its the long hike to get there (almost two miles in one direction) that was the reason.  Or combination.  Or the fact that its not nearly as “sexy” a sight as many nearby locations – such as Glacier National Park, Yellowstone National Park or the various parks further south in Colorado.  Whatever the reason, it was certainly a wonderful change of pace to be somewhere where very few people were.

It was windy that morning.  Making my way to the summit of the hike, I recall how sharp and crisp the wind felt.  I had only had a single cup of coffee that morning, so the wind blasting into my face really woke me up.  Upon reaching the wheel, I was really impressed with how far one could see from that vantage point.  A vast, wide plain spread out beneath that spot – and the mountains in the far distance looked small.  I had come from that direction to the Medicine Wheel – so I had a very clear idea of just how tall those mountains really were.

Standing at the edge of the wheel, you can literally feel the Spirits that reside here.  Sometimes, I felt that I could hear the whisper of their voices on the wind.  When I approached the northern section of the Wheel, after traversing it clockwise, I found it was easy for me to ground and center.  In my meditation, I could still feel the wind.  Caressing my hair as it streamed past.  Touching my exposed skin.  I did not feel the cold during that time though.  The wind was a calming presence for me.  In my meditation, I offered up what I have come to know as the Druid Prayer for Peace:

May there be peace in the North

May there be peace in the South

May there be peace in the West

May there be peace in the East

May there be peace in the whole world

I remember the feeling of gratitude that washed over me, and seeing a small stone nearby that I placed into my pocket.  I thanked the Spirits of the Land, and thanked the Spirits of the Ancestors – and made my way back to my car to begin my long journey home to Denton, Texas.  I know that my offering was not the same as that of the First Nations peoples who had originally utilized this location (and still do) for their prayers and offerings.  But I realize that the Ancestors do not see us as distinct races.  We are all a single race here on this planet – we are human beings.  And whatever manner we offer gratitude and thanks is enough…so long as we offer it freely and in respect.

It only takes a simple breeze now to take me back to that moment in the Bighorn National Forest.  Just a simple caress from the Gods.  And I am grateful for that moment there.  Grateful for the wind in my hair.

Rocks in My Head

i am huge fan of the element of Earth.  I love the way that dirt and sand feel between my toes.  I take almost any chance to go barefoot that I can – provided that the Texas heat has not microwaved the pavement into something that can damage my feet.  An unfortunate side-effect to being a diabetic is the fact that I must always be careful of what I do to my bare feet.  Thus, I do not always get the chance to go barefoot as much as I would prefer.

Every vacation I have been on, I bring back rocks and stones.  Some of the larger ones help to form the stone circle I have in Image my backyard.  Smaller ones, such as the two pictured here underneath my iMac, become what I call focus stones.  These two are a little too large to spend time in my pocket while I am out and about – but I have plenty of smaller ones that do spend time occupying my pockets.

I have heard this practice called “The Gratitude Stone” – where the rock in the pocket is to remind the carrier to be grateful.  For me, its a little different.  I carry my rocks as a centering focus.  The rocks serve as a direct link back to the element of Earth, where I can sink in my roots during my center and grounding exercise.  When I need a reminder of where my focal center is located – I just have to put my hand into my pocket and let my fingers brush against its surface.  That simple physical reminder is typically enough for me to relocate my center and achieve the balance that my evil little Libra heart so desires.  (grin)

The pocket Focus Stone is not the most difficult thing in the world to obtain.  The one I currently carry in my pocket came from my Summer trip earlier this year.  On the trip to the Medicine Wheel in the Medicine Bow mountains, I stopped to meditate while at the circle.  Once I achieved my desired moment of balance and reverence, I looked down and found a single rock, barely the size of my palm.  I picked it up, and placed it in my pocket.  I have carried it with my every day since then.  I have other stones that I have placed my own energies into.  I meditate with my rocks around me.  Sometimes I hold them during meditations.  Sometimes, they sit in various locations in my office.  Some people decorate with gemstones…I like my rocks.

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Soul Retrieval – SQL for the Soul??

Very recently, a friend of mine stopped through the DFW area – and the two of us spent some time at a local coffee shop up on the main square here in Denton.  It was a chance to sit and talk – catch up on the past eight years (the last time we had seen one another), and bathe in the memories of Germany (we were both in the Air Force at Sembach, but in different squadrons).  When I was in Germany, I had decided to be completely open about my Pagan beliefs.  Anyone who knew me, knew about what I believed – including some of the folks in charge of security clearances.  I saw more of them than anyone else during my time at Sembach, but that’s another tangent.  So, my friend comments about my Pagan beliefs – and we start down the road to a protracted conversation.

Interestingly enough, our conversation did not follow the typical paths that other conversations I have had with friends who were not Pagan.  E (I am not going to use his full name here) asked a lot of questions on Shamanic aspects of belief and how each corresponded to my understanding of the Gods.  We talked about trances, smudging (a practice I do not delve into), dreams, visions, and a whole host of other areas.  Around the back end of the conversation, he tossed out one topic I had never heard of, but had just read about in Loren Cruden‘s excellent survey of Shamanic practitioner’s – “Coyote’s Council Fire“.  Soul Retrieval is a relatively new term for me.  It is mentioned numerous times in Cruden’s book, including a specific question set to the practitioners she queried for the book.

The Wikipedia entry for Soul Retrieval describes it as:  “…forms of shamanic practice that aim to reintegrate various interpretations of the soul that might have become disconnected, trapped or lost through trauma.”  To be completely honest, I am not sure I can reconcile this with my own understanding of reincarnation and past lives.  The definition related here seems to express a point that all aspects of a person’s past life should be readily available to them at any moment.  My own personal experience is quite the opposite.  My previous incarnations are connected to me – each is, after all, a part of who I am – but the memories and experiences of that are not available to me in my current incarnation.  If those experiences were available to me, I would not have a need to learn particular life lessons.  I would merely have to reach back into my past incarnations, and draw that experience to me.  In my opinion, access to those memories and experiences would have allowed me to be a fully formed, conscious adult with the memories of previous adult experience – at the moment of my birth.

For me, there is a reason for the disconnected aspect of my incarnation from my previous ones.  What is the reason?  I honestly have no idea.  I am sure there is one there – but I do not really believe that it is something I need to be overly concerned with.  John Beckett has an excellent blog post about individual purpose entitled “Purpose and Will“.  I agree that every person has a purpose for being here in this incarnation, just as there is a purpose why it is such a difficult process to access information and experience about previous incarnations.  Every individual will eventually face those questions in their life…and every person will approach their understanding of the answers from very different perspectives.  It would be way out of line for me to make any statement that every individual will/should feel “x”….on this I can only speak for myself.

I am extremely skeptical of the concept of Soul Retrieval – simply because I do not feel that there is any aspect of who we are that is trapped or lost…and that the disconnected aspect between this incarnation and previous ones is a necessary function for learning and experience in this lifetime.  I know there are people who will disagree with me on that point – and that is perfectly fine.  Each individual has the capability and capacity to determine information for themselves, according to their own experiences and understanding.  However, I see the process of Soul Retrieval as one filled with potential pitfalls, and unknown dangers.  It is simply not for me.

Living My Life at My Pace

One of my students wrote me a long Email over the weekend.  Most of it was related to extremely personal stuff, which I do not mind.  I try to be there for my students in whatever way they need of me.  If I find I am in over my head, I refer them to the appropriate department(s) within the college.

One statement got me chuckling a little bit.  Essentially, it was a question asking how I got the three college degrees I have.  My response was somewhat lengthy – but boiled down to some basic things.

  • Patience – The degree does not bestow itself upon you.  And all the knowledge of all your instructors is not going to be zapped into your head over the course of a single night.  Handle one class at a time.  Enjoy the topics that are being presented to you – even when the topic is not the most palatable option.  I know I had a hard time following that level of enjoyment during my statistics classes.
  • Goal-Oriented Drive – Before you even start your first class.  Chart a plan of action.  Know what degree plan you are going to work towards.  Have backup options available, just in case the class you are wanting to take is only offered one semester or is unexpectedly full when you manage to get registered.  Choose what degree you are going to obtain, see yourself holding the diploma in your hand in the future — and then strive towards that vision.
  • Seeing the Larger Picture– Sometimes, students get hyper-focused on a single topic in a single class.  “I am going to be a Database developer.  My degree is aiming towards a Bachelors in Computer Sciences with an emphasis on Database Management.  What the fuck do I need a class on American History for?”  The idea of the “well-rounded” student is a good one.  Hyper-focusing on a single subject tends to create students that are ready for a single field of endeavor, but not flexible enough to change when business changes.  The class might not seem important now, but there is a chance that it may in the future.
  • More Patience – I see students that want to rush through their programs at break-neck speeds.  In today’s modern society, its understandable.  We live in a world where the focus is go-go-go.  Sometimes, moving through classes at light speeds provides no chance for the student to handle the other important part of collegiate studies:  networking with one’s peers.

I freely admit…I had troubles with each one of these in my collegiate career.  And that career continues now – not just as an instructor, but also as I move forward for my final degree – a Masters of Arts in History.  Believe it or not, a lot of these informal lessons are also in play in our daily lives.  Our careers.  Our Spirituality.  Just because we are not in a collegiate career, does not mean that these pitfalls are not presented to us.  We experience the rush of people constantly trying to get ahead as fast as they can in life.  Rush hour traffic.  Impatience at the speed of service in the places we eat and shop.  Our desire to obtain our purchases as fast as possible.  Our avoidance of the outside world by staring through the windscreen as we travel.  The inability of being able to attend those aforementioned collegiate classes, which breeds anger, contempt and arrogance towards those that are afforded that opportunity.

I recall the saying – “Stop and smell the roses along the way”…and I honestly have a better appreciation of that statement now – at 48 – then I did back in my twenties.  I also have a much slower life than I used to.  When I run into people who attempt to rush me along – I tend to remind that there’s no need to hurry through anything – unless someone is going to die.  That’s brought calm to some people…and angered others.  Its never rattled my own sense of calm though.  Hurrying through life at the insistence of others is living life on their terms…not my own… 

To be fair, everything I have mentioned above are things that I struggle with in my own Daily Path.  Some of what I am mentioning is also a part of observance on my part.  There will be people who read the list and dismiss what I am saying for one reason or another.  That is perfectly fine.  A lot of what I write about is me working things out in my head via my fingers and a keyboard.  If someone gets something out of what I am saying – that is great.

Live your life at your pace.  If you prefer to speed your way through it…by all means go right ahead.  Ignore what I have stated above, and do things your way.  What I am presenting above are suggestions – not laws.  If those were laws, I’d be politician.  And if that were the case, I would have killed myself already.  LOL  You live your life your way…if you take any of my suggestions, remember that my suggestion became a part of your life when you adopted it.  Its no longer my suggestion, but an axiom you are using for yourself.  Adapt it as necessary to fit to what you are doing.  Me?  I am going to go to class this morning – and when I get back home, I am headed out for a nice walk before it gets too hot.  Its the simple stuff that tends to work for me…

Stopping For a Moment on My Path…

As i move along more in my life, I am continually surprised at how much I discover of my own life.  For instance, just in the past few months – I have noticed my own shift in the world of politics from a staunch supporter of the Libertarian party towards that of a non-affiliated voter.  Not all that surprising of a revelation, looking backwards through my own history of dealing with the so-called political process in the United States.  But more surprising – at least for me – was my realization that my own Spirituality has begun to evolve (again).

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It took me a long time to move from identifying as a Wiccan to that of just a Pagan.  When I first started along my Path, I was part of a wonderful coven of folks who accepted me for who I was, loved me for who I was, and allowed me to accept and love them in return.  We certainly had our ups and downs as a

group – and as individuals.  It was extremely difficult to move away from them, when the United States Air Force stationed me in Europe (Kaiserslautern, Germany to be precise).  The vast majority of Pagans that I came across there were also separated from their groups back home in the United States as well.  The few local groups that were open about who they were and where they were located, were indifferent to those of us that had come to find ourselves there.  As I was (somewhat forcefully) exposed to many other belief systems – naturally I began to compare my perspective to that of so many others.

My return to the United States was even more of a shock.  The folks I had left behind three-plus years prior — well, they had all moved on…and I had no idea how to get in touch with them.  I continued my stance as a solitary practitioner at this point — and picked up books I would never have considered in the past.  I recall Donald Michael Kraig‘s “Modern Magick” striking a minor chord in my mind.  I already knew Ceremonial Magick and all of its trappings was not a serious route for me, but Kraig’s approach intrigued me.  At the same time, I stepped back into Wicca with a local Tradition in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.  The results were predictably lacking.

I stepped away from Wicca altogether at this point.  For the next decade-plus, I continually referred to myself as a Pagan.  I developed my own manner of working with the Gods.  I was not overly intrigued with the practice of Magick.  I knew it worked, it just was not a system or practice that I cared/care about.  I also knew that my stance on that aspect also pushed many of the precepts that Kraig brought forth in his materials away from me.  During that time, I found being outside felt much like a ritual to me.  Walking, sitting, cleaning around the yard…it didn’t matter, just being outside got me feeling alive.  I had no words or concepts to give that perspective life….until I ran across the term “druid” in my readings.

That single term lead me to a myriad of “Druid Orders” – all of which I looked into deeply.  In the end, I chose the path of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (OBOD).  To this day, I can’t say exactly why.  Something within the statements on the website seemed more inviting and appropriate to me, I guess.  I ordered their Bardic grade course – and have been working through the lessons ever since.  Its helpful that their course structure is self-paced.  I have found myself back-tracking on the lessons several times — realizing that there was another way to try an approach to a particular lesson.  Now, I’m nearing Samhain – and the end of my fourth year in the lessons…and the end of the lessons.

During that time, I have also incorporated into my learning the history and spiritual understanding of the First Nations people of North America.  I have found a lot of material that proclaims that only “First Nations peoples” can undertake the lessons of the “Red Road” – which was discouraging.  Until I realized something through my first lessons in an American History class:  if we go back far enough, the peoples of the First Nations had to come from somewhere.  That was the infamous “land bridge” that connected the Far East and Europe with the North American continent.  This is why there are so many similarities (in my opinion) between European shamanism and the shamanistic practices of the First Nations of North America.  Since that moment, my perception of my own Spirituality has begun to change.

I still refer to myself as a Pagan – that’s not going to change.  I see the Gods as individual entities.  I see the smaller spirits of the Land all around – what the Shinto belief system refers to as “Kami”.  But I no longer see people in terms of their race.  We’re all the same race.  Our appearance and relationship of our environment comes from our regional differences.  (Again, my own opinion here)  My Spirituality continues to evolve, but I know see myself as an Earth-centered shamanistic Pagan.  Druidry helps me understand the connected relationships between myself, my environment, and the people around me.

One day, I may be able to call myself by the title of “Druid” …perhaps not.  Only the future knows that answer.  But I am more aware now of what I am – Spiritually – than I have ever understood before.  And truth be told, its only a small thimble-full of what I will truly understand before I pass on to my next incarnation.  I am looking forward to what I will uncover, as well as the hard, difficult work it will take to get to that point.  There will be tears, there will be happiness.  There will be emotions that run the entire spectrum.  And in my view, it will all be worth it.  I have only walked my Path for a small time in this incarnation…time to keep walking.

Interconnectedness: Our Relationships Become Our Karma

I do not link to YouTube videos in this blog that much.  Typically I leave that for my Facebook account.  But for this particular blog post – I have to…so please indulge me and watch this 90 second clip from the movie Phenomenon….

Now, I’m not going to spoil the movie for you – except to say that the movie is about relationships…  And I think its this one area that may actually make us a better species.  Now, I am not going to claim to know all the answers.  Shit, that would be damn stupid of me.  I am not even sure I know even one of the QUESTIONS, much less a single answer.  However, I think we may be looking in the wrong places for the answers we need.

When we look for answers – we look at things, at concepts.  Sometimes, we catch a glimpse of what we think might be a better answer – just out of the corner of our eye – and switch focus to that area.  In a way, its like looking at a photograph.  When you see a photograph, or even a painting – your eye is drawn to the objects that are depicted.  A horse, a barn, a building, the mountains, the sun.  Our perception of the edges of the painting or picture is not nearly as clearly in focus, until we change our attention to that area.  When we do, the objects we were looking at lose focus.  To borrow some bad comparisons – the painting or photograph is our understanding of the world around us.  Our focus flits from object to object, until we notice the edges of our environment.  Then we focus there.  Then we notice the colors of the painting/photograph – we focus there, but only on the colors – not on the objects that draw their essence from those colors.  When we step back and try to take in the whole picture, the sharpness of our attention becomes blurred, as we try to take everything in – we focus on nothing – and the sharp, concise perception of our objects changes.

In between all of that are relationships.  In the video clip, Travolta’s character mentions a grove of Aspen trees that were found to be an interconnected singular entity.  We are all connected, as the character notes before all the people present demand answers to their own smaller perceptions of their environment.  All of those folks are focused on the smaller objects in the overall picture.  Travolta’s character is trying to show everyone that there is a relationship between the objects that helps us to understand connectivity that they have never considered before.  In my opinion, his character has achieved an area where the focus on the objects, and even the picture itself no longer matters.  He has managed to find the threads of connectivity that lie beneath the patterns we perceive.

In my opinion, this is not some “Circle of Life bullshit”…its a reality.  Just one that we do not perceive, because we are busy focusing on the smaller objects within the picture.  What we do to others in our environment – otherwise known as “Earth” – we do to ourselves.  We cut down acres and acres of rainforest – we decrease the capability of the planet to control the atmosphere we breathe.  We inject waste waters from gas-drilling into the earth, and we make the Earth’s crust where we live unstable and in many other cases uninhabitable.  We discuss the desire to “punish the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons” by lobbing rockets into their territory to tip the balance of a civil war towards a faction of individuals that we do not know or understand that well.  The political instability we help foster through such action could destabilize an already unstable world oil market , which will have extreme marked effects in large world economies such as the European Union and China – and that does not even add in the economic aspect that it would cause for the United States as well.

Over the past few weeks, I have had the chance to read quite a few books that have given me pause on my own Spiritual Path.  It occurred to me that my Path is very Pagan, very Shamanic, and very Solitaire in nature. There’s nothing wrong with any of that.  But it has provided me with a better perspective of where I am on my Path, in relation to everything else.  I have focused on the objects in the painting that is my own personal Spirituality.  Now my focus is on seeing and understanding the relationships that exist underneath all of that – and I will definitely take bets that my work on that continues from here to the day I pass beyond the veil.

Perhaps, even one day in my current lifetime, we as a people on this planet will come to understand we are all one.  We share the same biological aspects, the same chemical makeup.  Our differences come from regional living – nothing more complicated than that.  We step far enough back in our history, and we will find common lineage.  Perhaps then, we can find a way to settle the majority of our differences – let us face the fact that as human beings we never will agree on everything – and remove the violence we inflict upon one another over religious-, racial-, and even gender-related issues.  Perhaps we can come to the realization that we are all interconnected – and what we do to others, and even our environment – will reflect back upon us.  Or to put it in simpler terms – karma’s a bitch, ain’t it?

 

 

“No One Owns Beseechment”

If you want to pray to your higher power, then go to an isolated place.  Why go to where Native people are finding their areas becoming crowded?  The four directions are everywhere; the Great Mystery, the Creator, is everywhere.  The spirit world listens to all who are truthful regardless of where you are at.  You do not have to be on Bear Butte, on Mt. Sinai, in Mecca, or at the Wailing Wall.  To go up on a mountaintop or on a butte or into a lodge and beseech one’s higher power — this is not a specific rite that falls under a jurisdiction of any special race, organization, or tribe.  The Jews were doing this ceremony, vision quest, long before the Christians.  The Celts beseeched to a Creator in lodges long ago.  Across Europe and into Mongolia, spiritual saunas were held to beseech.  No one owns beseechment.  –Ed “Eagle Man” McGaa, “Coyote’s Council Fire”, p.47

Healthy Integration With Habitat

“To live in healthy integration with habitat is to have access to its spiritual resources. Psychological distances between various races and cultures would diminish if the spiritual distance between people and habitat were closed. This does not mean a romantic reversion to the past; humans have yet to develop ideal ways of living harmoniously with each other and this Earth. Rather, it is a challenge to creativity, awareness, and vision. The return that needs to be made is not to some imagined primitive utopia, but to a renewed priority of spiritual alignment. From that shift would emerge a collective yet diverse ceremonial expression, just as the many directions of the medicine wheel emanate from a shared center.” — Loren Cruden. “Coyote’s Council Fire”, p.16

Uniquely You…

The past few blog posts have been thoughts that have been brewing in my brain Image(What?  It is morning and I have coffee on my mind) for a little while.  This one, however, has not had the same brew-time.  A post or two back, I was talking about the concept of Synchronicity.  This particular mind-belch follows along the same lines – in that its something I have made several statements on over the past week-plus.  In fact, I alluded to it in that previous post – being Uniquely You.

I have friends from a wide variety of backgrounds, beliefs, and points of view.  I am lucky enough to know John Beckett and Troy Young face-to-face (sorry guys – gonna pick on you for a minute here).  Both follow a Path of Druidry.  And while I share similarities of my own travels on the Path of Druidry with them, each approaches their beliefs from perspectives that are not similar to my own.

Sometimes those differences can be maddening and frustrating.  Typically, I find that it devolves into an issue of word choice or the turn of a simple phrase.  On the other hand, getting the chance to converse with both of these folks (and they are not the only two – there are literally dozens of dozens that I could not even begin to point out) provides me with a refreshing perspective that I may not have considered.

Then there is a friend of mine that I have known for a little more than a decade.  This person’s focus is completely political in nature.  Tirades against President Obama are not uncommon to be heard.  I am far closer to the center of the spectrum, with considerable influence from the Libertarian perspective.  Where this person is extremely active in the political scene (local, state, national) – I have a very weak interest in the entire concept.  We disagree quite frequently, but our “discussions” always provide me with another way to see an issue.  Honestly, the discussions typically start out as differences of opinion, and will devolve into this individual trying to push me into a debate or an argument.  Since I do not do debate or argument – I typically make my point, spend my next two statements clarifying my position, and then drop out of the debate/argument altogether – our “conversations” can be frustrating for both of us.

That is just a few examples – these people, I consider to be my friends.  We agree on some things, and disagree on others.  What I cherish about them is that they are their own unique individuals.  There is no one else like them.  Others may have similarities, but these folks are who they are.  They will change their positions on issues over time.  They will change the type of clothing they were.  The type of car they drive.  Their hair-style.  In the end, they are who they are.  I have no desire to change them – opinions or otherwise.  If they change, they will change because they want to.  And when they do, they will continue to be their own unique individual.

I do not make friends with people because they have similar opinions or viewpoints to my own.  I make those RELATIONSHIPS because I enjoy being around them.  I enjoy their company.  I cherish who they are as individuals – even when it does not match my own.

Remember, I was talking about the synchronicity aspect?  Over the past week…two weeks…I have made comments to various people about my desire to see them just be who they are.  And that is really the one area I love to watch in my friends – seeing them grow into the individuals that they are.  And that is really the only piece of advice I have for anyone – just be yourself.  No one wants…scratch that….No one should want you to be anyone else…just you.  Anyone that wants you to be someone that you are not – is not respecting who you are as an individual, in my opinion.

Synchronicity and Self-Doubt – A Personal Perspective

Synchronicity:  The state or fact of being synchronous or simultaneous.  Or as I personally prefer – the Gods smacking you over the head with a sledgehammer when you are not paying attention to what you should.

Over the past two-plus weeks, I have had numerous conversations with students, fellow faculty, friends, strangers, and family (not the blood-related type – as I do not associate with them on anything resembling a regular pattern) – all of which have finished with my pointing out that they are unique and need only change if they want wish to do so.  All of it came from a variety of directions too.  And…at one point, I was having this same conversation with myself (yes, I do frequently have conversations with myself – get the butterfly nets and the sweaters that tie in the back).

At first, I did not really think much about all of these seemingly odd coincidences.  That is, until I read a blog post from Damh the Bard entitled “Thinking About:  What to Do If We Lose Our Connection With Our Path” and it all just suddenly clicked in my head.  All of this has been about THAT moment.

Which moment Tommy?  What the fsck are you talking about?  You really need to stop talking to yourself and get out more on a social basis.

Its the moment where we hit that crisis of faith.  And yes, I do know I need to get out more socially, thank you.  ::grins::  But we all hit that wall in our lives.  Spiritually, mentally, physically, career-related…there’s plenty of places to second-guess our plethora of decisions.

Am I on the right Spiritual Path?  Is Paganism the right place for me to be?  What if it really is Satanism?  Why did I not choose to do this or that – I could have been on a completely different career Path?? Why did I choose to stay with him/her – my life would be so different if I had dumped that person back in the day??

…and the questions roll on and on.  Its only natural to take a moment, and look back on the series of choices that led us to where we are – no matter what the subject.  That typically leads to what I call the “What If…” game.  Its not bad to do this, until you start regretting the choices you make.  Then, depending on how hard/difficult that realization is – we can start into a death-spiral of lament and regret that feeds back on itself and gains strength.

I cannot – and will not – attempt to speak on how to address an issue like this for anyone else but myself.  Let me be open and honest here.  I have been in that death spiral – just two days back (this past Monday).

For those that are not aware – I teach at a local junior college.  Most of my students are a mix of people.  Very young adults with no idea where they are wanting to go with their careers.  Current students at a local four-year university that are looking to pick up their lower credit hours at a much cheaper rate.  Older students that are looking to do something different with their lives or careers or have realized that college credit can help ramp up their skillset in the eyes of their employers.  Its exciting to get to know those folks and see the world through their perspective.  Some of them are in their own death-spirals of self-doubt, and I enjoy the chance of helping them open their eyes to a new perspective on life.  In a lot of ways, I feel like a lifeguard in the collegiate pool of students.  But who insures that the lifeguard does not drown?

My moment of self-doubt about my career path came on Monday.  With the start of this coming semester, I will have been an adjunct professor for my junior college for three years.  That is three years of pure shit pay, long hours (which I thoroughly enjoy), and constant changes to my teaching style as I try to find new ways to connect to my students.  In the past twenty years, this is the most personally fulfilling position I have ever had.  Its also the lowest paying.  Like anyone else, I have bills.  And sometimes, its a real challenge to meet those bills with the pay I make.  There is a lot of “down-time” between the semesters, which leaves me with a lot of time to think, reflect, and explore the avenues afforded through the “What If…” game.  It can be quite a depressing moment from time to time.  If I had stayed full-time in the Information Technology environment – I would likely have a much better wage in my pocket.  There’s also a higher potential that I would not have been happy with what I was doing.  Two different career Paths with completely polar opposite results.  Monday was my moment of wondering “why the fsck did I choose to do this?”  It took a few moments of a coincidental run-in with a former student to bring me out of that funk.  My student saw me in the hallway, approached me, and told me how much I had helped her approach to her classes.  She went from being a “B” and “C” student to being a straight “A” student – and all because she applied some of the basic techniques that I explain to students – outlining your class assignments on the first day, get 8-10 hours of sleep the night before an exam, study 1-2 hours each night on testable material, and always turn your assignments in early.  I made a difference.  THAT is why I am in the classroom…

Some of you might be reading this and thinking about your moments in the “What If…” game.  Perhaps, you are currently in a job that you are not happy with.  Perhaps, you are wondering why you even attempted to come down the Spiritual Path you are on.  I cannot explain to you why you are where you are – or why you are choosing to go the direction you are headed.  Only you have the keys to that ferrari.  But I will put this out there – I firmly believe that the Paths presented to us are doorways specifically opened by the Gods.  Each choice we make affects us further into the future and helps to shape our own perception of the world around us, as well as how we interact with it.  Sometimes the road gets littered with rocks, sometimes its littered with glass, other times its some kind of surface that’s easy to walk.  In the end, its a matter of choosing where to go and how to get there.  After that – its all about being patient, and working through your inner demons of self-doubt.  The immediate result is personal resolve…the long-term payout is being who you are destined to be…even though I do not like to invoke the word of “destiny”…  🙂

 

I Wanna Be a Paradox!!

I read a lot of books.  Or I should say, I read a lot more than I used to.  I read on a huge variety of topics – ranging from History of the First Nations to Computer Sciences to Druidry to biographies of people I find interesting.  Needless to say, its rare for me not to have a book somewhere on my person or somewhere near me.

One of the things that I have found, is that I typically eschew works that are mostly theology or what I refer to as the “theory of religion [x]”.  I prefer works that speak to the experiential side of things.  I would say an easier way to relay this is that I have zero interest in theological concepts.  Here’s the weird part:  I actually have a theory on the ‘why’ of it all.

Yeah.  The guy taking a big shat on the concept of what is essentially religious theory – has a theory on why he does not like theories.  I love being a paradox.  🙂

Essentially, I believe what I believe in.  I believe in the Gods and Goddesses.  I believe in the Spirits of the Land.  And I have experienced both over the past few years.  I know, I know.  Some folks out there are going ‘yeah right’ – and that is perfectly a-ok with me.  I am not asking anyone to believe as I do.  But my theory (trying to keep myself on track here) is that I want to keep my beliefs in a state of mystery – so to speak.

There is an old Information Technology support joke that runs along these lines:  an individual says their computer is not running.  You walk them through the process to see if the electricity is connected to the machine, until it becomes obvious that there’s something really wrong with the computer’s ability to complete its necessary circuit for life.

Customer:  So what do you think is wrong?

Technician:  Did you open the case?

Customer:  Yes.

Technician:  You let the magic smoke out of the box!  It will never work again!

When it comes to my own perspective on my beliefs, I just do not care to spend my time trying to figure out the philosophy, anthropology, sociology or any other -ology of my beliefs.  In a way, I feel that this is similar to letting the “magic smoke” out of the container.  I have people call me “woefully ignorant” because of my stance.  But that’s all right for me — I truly believe that, at least in my case, ignorance really is bliss.

Exercise Thy Self!

Good morning (or afternoon, evening or late night – depending on when you’re reading this…its morning for me right now).  My usual morning routine has been put into play – and now I’m sitting here with a hot cup of coffee and listening to the Grateful Dead (“American Beauty” album for those wanting to know).  In about 90 minutes, I will be headed off to a medical specialist to have my left shoulder looked at.  About two-plus weeks ago, I jammed my shoulder while mowing my vast yard (I have the largest backyard in my neighborhood – and yes, I bought this house specifically for the backyard).  I didn’t think things were bad, but the swelling did not go down after three days.  A visit to my family doctor, and the prescription of a pain killer (which I take as sparingly as I can) and an anti-inflammatory hasn’t produced the desired results.  Thus my coming visit to a specialist this morning.

However, all of this got me to thinking over the last few days about how often I see Imagefolks neglecting their health concerns…particularly in the Pagan community.  We talk an awful lot about healing up our beloved Mother Earth (and I’m in no way being sarcastic here), but we tend to not pay attention to our own health or wave off injuries or sickness as something that’s not “significant” – until it becomes worse and someone else pronounces it to be significant.

I’m not going to sit here and get all that preachy on ya’ll.  Nor am I going to tout myself as the paragon of virtue on this.  Because I’m not.  I stand about five feet, six inches tall.  I weigh about 175-180 pounds – my weight fluctuates somewhere between those numbers.  I’m also a Type-II diabetic, whose BGL (Blood Glucose Level) is not controlled.  I’m extremely guilty of overeating – particularly in meals where I go out with friends.  I have a hardcore sweet-tooth (originally wrote that as a sweet-toth – but changed it because I don’t follow an Egyptian God or Goddess…::cheesy joke::).  I don’t exercise nearly as much as I should.  So, don’t think I’m sitting here trying to say I’m doing so much better than anyone else, because I’m really not.

I make excuses, just as anyone else might.  Its too hot outside to exercise.  Its too cold outside to exercise.  I’m too tired.  Its too late in the day.  But the truth be told, these are just excuses that I tell myself (and sometimes others who might inquire as to why I don’t do this or that).  My last visit to the doctor, my blood pressure readings were off the scale – enough that my doctor was concerned…REALLY concerned.

Why am I revealing all this information??  Well, its simple.  I’m realizing (a bit late in my life at 48) that I need to be more active.  I need to lose some weight.  How am I going to walk my Path when I’m not being true to my own health?  And I realize that I am not the only other person in this particular rut in the dirt-road of Life.

The Plan – Exercise

I can’t really speak to what anyone else might be willing to do.  But I can speak to my own plans.  I’m a book and music addict.  So, I decided that a reward system for myself would be helpful in trying to ease myself into some exercise.  I already walk about twice a week (3+ miles each time).  But I need to walk more…a lot more.  I also need to incorporate some other exercises into my life as well.  So I choose some basic stuff – arm-curls with weight, and situps.  Nothing major.  I might add other exercises, such as swimming, later on – but I’ve read that the idea is to incorporate this slowly…and get it to stick.  Plus, there need to be off-days in there as well, to allow the body time to heal up from some of the exercises.

    • Walking – 3 days on, 1 day off.  Day 1 and 3 – I will walk my normal 3 mile route.  Day 2 – I will walk a 4.5 mile route that I used to walk a few years back when I was unemployed.  Then a single day will be taken off to allow my legs and feet a day to rest.  Every 100 miles that I accumulate, I will reward myself with a book purchase (incentive here folks.)
    • Arm-curls with weight – Again, starting out slow.  I have some 3-pound weights, so I will start there.  3 sets with 20 reps each.  Two days on, one day off.  Every 100th set will earn me two song purchase on iTunes.  After I reach 500 sets, I will move up in weight to five-pound weights.  
    • Situps – Again, starting out slow here.  25 situps per day.  Every 1000 situps will earn me an iTunes album or an eBook, my choice.  Once I reach 3000 situps, I will increase the frequency by 5 more situps.  This will follow the same days as running – so the two exercises will be on the same day.

Of course, all of this will coincide with a change in my diet as well.  Or I should say, in the amount of food that I eat.  I’ve already managed to cut processed sugars out of my diet for the most part.  It took a lot of understanding on my part that I wasn’t going to be able to manage that completely.  Next up is salt…and the hardest part of all – fast food, particularly fried foods.  I have a Taco Bell habit that will be difficult to kick…and I do enjoy the occasional burger at Fuddruckers – but if I keep that to a minimal amount, it should suffice.  If not, I can cut those completely at another time.  The idea is not to go drastic…otherwise, I know this won’t stick with me as a life change.

Now, I’ve shared some of the life changes I am headed towards – hopefully, this inspires you to look at how you’re taking care of yourself as well.  After all, we cannot be good stewards of our planet, caretakers of our Green environment – unless we are taking care of ourselves first.

Thinking Aloud on Personal Spiritual Practice…

“Don’t you have to be into the Celts to be into Druidry?”

I hear this question a lot – particularly after I note that I utilize OBOD‘s framework along with First Nations pantheons for my own personal practice.  I don’t find it necessary to utilize a Celtic framework for my own personal work.  Within the OBOD lessons themselves – yes, there’s a definite need to understand the Celtic aspect, but the framework that you learn can easily be adapted into usage with other systems with a minimal amount of tinkering.

I have always been of the mind that spiritual belief, practice and ritual is something that needs to “call” to the adherent.  Most of my rituals are free-form in nature – and to some folks, don’t even look like rituals.  But they work for me and call to my heart.  In the end, that’s more important than anything else, in my opinion.  Each morning, when I walk out to the bird-bath, clean it out, and replace the water – that is my ritual to greet the morning.  Yeah, it looks mundane, doesn’t it?  But its really not.  Each moment is one made with purpose.  And truly, I believe my entire day is made of moments of ritual and purpose.

I don’t need some set of colorful robes to wear during a ritual.  Jeans, a t-shirt, and a pair of shoes or boots work just great for me.  Sometimes, I’ll burn some incense in the house – but that’s typically to prepare my frame of mind for a specific type of meditation.  I normally don’t need to burn anything or make the area into any type of scent.  I just need to ground, center, and begin a meditative state.  I can do that standing, walking, driving in a car (though I choose not to do that very often for obvious reasons), sitting on the couch in the living room, laying on the bed, taking a shower, swimming, cooking…literally any activity.

It looks simple.  And it is.  I have no desire to wave about and chant.  I might sing (and you WILL clap your hands over your ears and tell me to stop torturing you).  To be honest, life is hard enough to get through.  There’s plenty of other rituals that I have to pay attention to for my job.  The keystrokes I have to make to logon to the system to enter my classroom.  The passwords I have to remember – and there’s plenty of those.  Which campus I need to be on and when.  The names of students that I will only see during the sixteen weeks they are in my class (well, for the most part).  Calling roll.  What lesson we will undertake.  The information that needs to be imparted.  With all of that (and more), I don’t need to have complicated rituals, chanting and the such in an activity where I am focusing on the beauty of the world around me, and my own very small place within it.  Thus the reason that most of my personal rituals are done off-the-cuff.

I’ve heard it many times before – and will likely hear it many more times into the future.  That’s not what “Paganism” is about.  You need to know the referential materials that are correspondent to each God/Goddess.  You need to know which movement in the Circle provides which frame of reference for this or that.  My response?  “If that works for you, who am I to say its wrong for you?”

I’m a strong believer in the idea/concept that each of the Gods are unique.  Some share similar traits…but they are unique, separate from one another.  I’m also a firm believer that the Gods and Goddesses aren’t worried about whether we went around the edge of the ritual space a certain number of times to the left or right – or if we burned this type of incense while we chanted Kumbaya at precisely midnight on the first Thursday following a new moon.  I believe that the Gods and Goddesses are pleased when we remember them in our rituals or when we do certain deeds as a tribute to them.

“Doesn’t that make the entire concept of spirituality rather chaotic?”  Perhaps.  I can’t really say how all of that speaks to anyone else.  Each person has to figure that out for themselves.  I know how things work for me.  I can speak to that.  Do I think everyone should do as I do?  Bullshit.  Do what works for you…be who you are.  I believe that’s what the Gods and Goddesses truly want…for us to be ourselves, even when we’re different…

 

The “Natural” Side of My Daily Life in the Suburbs

Every morning, I brew my coffee, and step outside to put seed out for the birds and my neighbor squirrel.  He lives in the tree in my backyard.  He’s nice enough.  He tends to haul it back up the tree when I come outside.  This morning was a little different story. Image

Over the past week-plus, we have had temperatures of near or above 100F in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroMess.  That’s really put a bummer on Mr. Squirrel’s life.  When its hot – I hardly ever see him.  I can understand why, I would seek shade and not want to move much during temperatures like that.  Thankfully, I have an air-conditioned home that I can crawl back into.  The last two days, we have had some cloud cover and even a large bout of rain (yesterday and last night).  So this morning, heading out to dump the bird bath and put clean water in it (a practice I have undertaken as my part in combating the spread of West Nile virus), there he was.  Sitting right at the edge of the tree.  I have a set of railroad ties around the tree, keeping dirt a little higher up over the roots – and it was the railroad ties he was sitting on.  When I saw him, I froze.  He was breaking apart a sunflower seed when he saw me, and he froze too.

There we were.  Him, frozen with a sunflower seed in his little front paws.  Me, standing at the patio door, a pitcher of cold water in my left hand, and my right hand on the handle of the closed sliding glass door.  Slowly, I decided to make my move.  The sooner I cleaned up the bird bath, the sooner he could climb back down from the tree he normally escaped up, and resume his breakfast.  I took three steps towards him.  His tail twitched length-wise up his body.  Sort of like watching him pet his own head.  Another three steps, more tail-twitching – much faster and a little more anxious.  Just eight more steps to the bird-bath.

I took two more steps, and he bolted.  But not up the tree.  Instead he bolted straight to the bird-bath, my destination.  Now I was stuck.  Do I continue to move forward?  Do I retreat?  I decided to take another two steps forward.  His nose twitched a little…and he moved back to a point halfway between the bird-bath and his original location on the railroad tie.  I slowly moved the rest of the distance to the bird-bath and dumped the old water.  As I poured in the new water, he stood on his back legs, tail twitching madly…and just watched.

When I was done, I slowly retraced my steps to the patio door, opened it, stepped inside and closed it again.  When I looked back out, the squirrel was on the lip of the water fountain – sunflower seed in his paws.  He dunked the sunflower seed in the water a few times, ate it, and hopped down for another.

How do I know about my squirrel’s comings and goings??  Because he’s a featured part of my personal journal.  I write about him all the time.  My desk backs up onto the window looking on the bird-bath.  When I’m particularly brain-dead for the moment, I’ll turn around and just watch the bird-bath.  Sometimes, the squirrel is there.  Other times, I have blue jays, cardinals, sparrows, grackles, crows, and the occasional robin.  I don’t have to go into “discovery” mode to locate the “natural” side of Life…I offer it a feeding and watering hole in my part of this urban sprawl.  Granted, its not Glacier National Park or the Rockies…

Sharing the Dream….

In my mundane life (what a strange term that is), I teach classes in Information Technology and Business Applications.  In order to keep up with the changes in technology, I keep a sharp eye on the Technology and Business news.  But I also spend a lot of time reading about the past as well.  One area I find particularly exciting is that of the world of hardware.  People tend to remember Steve Wozniak and the beginnings of the home computer revolution.  The reality is that this particular era was the second generation of the modern computing revolution.  Doug Englebart, J.C.R. Licklider, and a host of others led the original charge.  The revolution of mobile technologies has hastened in another new era of the modern computing field, as well.  Each successive generation has yielded inventive and innovative new ways to approach the basic technology of computing devices.

Paganism is going through an understanding of the same process.  Well, modern Paganism, I should say.  I’m not going to debate the where and when or even the makeup of a “generation” – but I will lay out what I personally see.  The first generation of the modern Pagan – in my estimation – starts in the late 1950s or early 1960s.  The primary concern seemed to be on finding the Path and laying the foundations for the next generation.  Exploration, if you would like to consider that terminology.  The next generation starts somewhere around the mid-to-late 1970s.  This particular generation moves forward with exploring a bit further, laying the foundations in those directions, and expanding on the conceptual aspect of “magick” and the processes that it encompassed.  The next generational step comes in the early 1990s, and brings a deeper concern into the background research for what is formulated as Paganism.  This also leads into an exploration of ritual – both from a format perspective and a manner of free-form expression.  There are also areas of concentration in the aforementioned aspects – but not nearly as free-reaching as before.

Now, if you’re hung up on the precise aspects of what I am describing above – then you are not quite getting where I am headed.  I’m not here to debate any of the above observations – in fact, none of those observations is primary to my point, merely expressions of it.  This is about building upwards and expanding upon information and knowledge.

Each generational cycle – my personal observations noted above – takes the materials, lessons, information, processes, procedures, etc etc., and continues moving the ideal known as “Paganism” forward.  Forget all that bullshit about Wiccans, Hellenists, Asatru, and what not…I’m talking about the wider concept of Paganism – the “big tent” that many folks refer to.  Everything we do – every ritual we participate in (alone or in a group), every blog post we write, every podcast we make, every point we debate, and things I can’t even think about at the moment – every single bit of that is a part of the recorded memory of us all.

Its not about us as single individuals.  Speaking only for myself, I don’t blog, podcast, or participate in my various Pagan communities (physical/online) to further my name or make myself into some BNP (Big Name Pagan) or into some better known “Priest”.  Anyone who knows me well enough, is well aware of my dislike of titles, or being treated as a “celebrity” of any sort.  I’m extremely uncomfortable in both situations.

What I do blog, podcast, participate, and communicate for is to further the overall perspective of the Pagan mind-thought.  Its not about me.  Its about the future generations that come down the line.  I’m nobody special.  I’m just a single voice.  I am a teacher – whether I like that or not.  And I do have a vision of what I hope for where Paganism is concerned.  It might not happen in my current lifetime…but I know my singular voice can be added to the hundreds of thousands out there right now, which can be added to the millions yet to come — and we can and will be heard.

I look to the future of technology, and I’m excited.  I see all kinds of possibilities.  I look to the future of Paganism, and I’m ecstatic.  I see possibilities for the immediate future, and the far-ranging future.  I see where Paganism can heal a rift between our modern, technological society and the beautiful, fragile natural world that we are a part…where harmony can be achieved…in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. — I have a dream, a dream of where Paganism can go, and where it can take us.  And I want to share that dream….

Big Things Have Small Beginnings…

Yesterday, I attended another meeting of the DFW Pagan Pride Day coordinating committee.  There were lots of comments, ideas, and suggestions tossed around the room — but walking away from all that and coming back to the house….it struck me that we all treated one another with respect and admiration.  At the end of the meeting, we all stuck around and did a short interview with St. Cloud Pagan Radio which was a lot of fun.  During the meeting, we laughed, we had serious discussions, we laughed a lot more, one of the folks there even sang a little bit (what an awesome voice)…we acted like a community.  A small slice of it.  But it was a definite thing.

People have asked me before what I am seeking from a Pagan community event like Pagan Pride Day.  If I could bottle all that happened yesterday and let you drink the result to see what it tasted like – I certainly would.  Because that was IT.  People talking, sharing, laughing, problem-solving, discussing, telling stories…and not worried one bit if they were sitting among a group of Druids, Wiccans, hedge-Witches, Ceremonial Magicians, Christians, Hindus, Muslims, or what have you.  Community – at least for me – is about connecting with people.  And really connecting – not just nodding, tossing out proposals for business related concepts…that’s not what I see community as being all about.  Community is for sharing, story-telling, getting past our differences and celebrating not only those differences, but also our similarities.  But its about so much more than this as well…

Harmony — People will disagree on many points and topics.  Some folks wear that disagree as if it were a personal insult.  “Good thinking people will think EXACTLY as I do.  Anyone that disagrees is personally insulting me.”  I’ve been on both sides of that coin, folks.  When someone disagrees with you – they disagree.  It doesn’t mean they HATE you and are out to ruin your reputation.  Granted, there really are people like that in the world.  But those folks are so few and far between, that your chances of meeting them are slim to none.  Discussion is about talking and sharing ideas.  It can also bring elements of story-telling into the mix as well.  And there are PLENTY of stories I can tell about the various Information Technology goof-ups that I have done over the years.  As I tell my students in the classroom – if there’s a way to do it wrong, I’ve likely done it.  But just because discussion and story-telling don’t need to focus on issues and problems – that doesn’t mean that stuff like that needs to be left out of a community’s thinking.

Problem-Solving — Discussion will lead to differences of opinion, as well as the lamentation over an individual’s (or even a group’s) problems.  This is where problem-solving comes in.  Ok, I’m a Libra – and damn biased on this.  I’m definitely one of those “peace-maker” types.  I also have years of experience tinkering with things and trying to figure out how to fix them.  The stuff is in my blood.  But I also believe that a Community can have some of that same DNA.  For instance, someone needs to move from one apartment to another – but their “friends” bail on them.  They could appeal their need to the community at large.  Not every person will have the time or energy available to help out, but those that can and have the ambition should.  And those that do help out, should not be looked at as “go-to” people – they just happened to be free during that time.  A community helps one another out of a sense of being helpful…not out of a sense of “what can you do for me afterwards?”  And yes, I’ve seen that happen far too often.  I offer myself as free technical support to people I know.  My skills aren’t what they used to be – I can’t troubleshoot Windows 8 issues to save my life – but I will certainly try when asked.  And I don’t expect anything beyond a “thank you” when I’m finished.  If someone feels moved to provide me with a lunch/dinner somewhere…that’s their choice.  I wasn’t expecting.  Why do I do that?  Because I am part of my community.  And if we all jump up and down and say “Yah” when things have been solved/resolved… 

Celebration — …then we celebrate!  We celebrate aspects of the Wheel of the Year.  No matter what faith you are, even Christians, we all celebrate some aspect of the year as we move along.  We have holidays built into the year to celebrate other parts of our lives – Fourth of July (here in the States), Thanksgiving (predominantly here in the States), New Year’s Eve/Day (for the turning of the Julian calendar)…we get together to celebrate making it to another point in the turn of that Wheel.  We celebrate the people who have passed beyond the veil.  Well, Pagan Pride Day is about celebrating “us” as a “community”.  We celebrate what makes us the Pagans that we are and the commonalities that we have.  We celebrate the fact that there are differences amongst us – that we all come to the fire from different positions around it, and yet still enjoy its warmth and those that have gathered around it with us.

For the Future — Holding a Pagan Pride Day in the community isn’t just about showing that you are proud to be a Pagan. Its not just about building up our community for today. Its also about making the community better and stronger going forward for the future generation of Pagans that come after us.  Most of us that are my age (30ish, 40-ish), we are the second generation of Pagans coming through (and I know that’s a perspective that can be argued until we all go blue in the face and become smurfs) in what I describe as the “modern age”.  Forget the terminology that I am using – those are just descriptives to get to this point:  there are younger Pagans coming onto the Path.  If we want a sense of “Community” to be a part of what we teach to them – and I certainly do – then we need to build its foundations here and now.  They will be the ones that add the walls, the doorways, the ceilings, the electrical wiring (to borrow some house-building terminology).  After them, the generation behind them will add the furniture, make the improvements on the structure so that it works for them…and so on.  Personally, I want to see Paganism – the wider arching concept of Paganism, not any singular aspect of it – take its rightfully place as one of the dominant belief systems in our Humanity.  I not only see a lot of need for it in the world, but I also believe that Paganism will continue to grow and expand as it learns from these other cultural/societal belief systems.  As “white-lighter” as it sounds – I can see Paganism providing the bridge for these other belief systems to learn to coexist with one another.  Its not going to happen in my current lifetime…and it may not happen for a long, long time.

But I do believe it can…and all because of five Pagans – sitting in a living room discussing what needed to be done for an upcoming Pagan Pride Day event.  To quote from the movie Prometheus:  “Big things have small beginnings.”

 

Past, Present, Future – Defining One’s Self…

I’m a huge sucker for TV shows with awesome character development.  When I watch those shows, I’m not there for the plot development – rather I am there to fall in love with each of the characters.  I’m there to watch them grow through real-world struggles against the backdrop of their fantasy worlds.  Game of Thrones has me completely drawn in – both on the TV side and in the books.  Babylon 5 was another show, where I watched and empathized with the characters through their story-lines – even the bad-guys.  But the show I will set everything down to watch every single is the Highlander series with Adrian Paul playing the role of Duncan MacLeod.

Immortals, struggling against one another in a singular struggle to be the last one standing, living their lives against the backdrop of humankind’s struggles to create modern civilization…this was the stuff of legends for me.  Recently, I watched an episode titled “Through a Glass Darkly” which details a storyline into 1700s Scotland.  However, in the beginning of the episode, Duncan is helping fellow immortal Methos get beyond the death of a mortal woman he (Methos) had fallen in love with.  Duncan attempts to comfort Methos with the statement:  “The Navajo have a saying that the spirit lives on as long as there is someone living who remembers you.”  At the end of the episode, Duncan is lamenting the fact that his friend Warren (the immortal who Duncan flashes back to 1700s Scotland on) may have been better off not remembering the Past as it was (the Warren character was dealing with a mental block similar to amnesia in order to not remember the pains of that time).  Methos comments that its perfectly human to mis-remember the Past – to recreate it in our minds as we wish it to be.  As an example, he points out Russia, and then quickly adds “..and the United States and Britain as well.”  Duncan asks Methos if there was anything in his own Past (and Methos has an EXTREMELY checkered past) that he would like to change.  Methos response was “No.  If I changed the Past, there would be no one to remember Amanda” (the mortal Woman he was lamenting in the beginning of the show).

Methos also made a remark that “we all have things in our Past that we regret.”  An ironic statement for immortals, since they live so long through mortal history.  But that got me to thinking about my own personal past…and its a true statement, at least for me.  I have lamentable moments in my past (say it ain’t so!).  But there are also some awesome moments in my past; as there are many moments of mediocrity.  There are moments of sadness, moments of great joy, and many moments in-between.  Our lives are scattered with these moments.  The longer we live, the more we experience, the more moments we leave in the wake of our lives.

We can always take a moment to stop, turn around, and view the Path we’ve walked.  Another of my favorite characters, Dr. Stephen Franklin notes in the episode Shadow Dancing:

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

Sheridan:  And what are you?

Franklin:  Alive.  Everything else is negotiable.

I read a lot of History books.  A lot.  And in reading the History, I tend to get really wrapped up in what has already taken place.  I typically find myself angry about the injustices that the American government did in terms of honoring treaties with the First Nations peoples.  And slowly, I’ll begin to realize that the purpose of learning the History isn’t to get angry about what has already happened.  The true purpose is to inform myself of how we – as human beings – have arrived here at this moment in time.  As the fictitious Dr. Stephen Franklin points out, History teaches us the moments that happened, so that we can appreciate the manner in which we’ve arrived at this moment.  Going forward, History is not written – its yet to be lived, and we can only take it a moment at a time.  But if we look back, realize the manner in which we’ve arrived, perhaps we can change our approach slightly and move forward in time in a more judicious, appreciative, and understanding manner.

As I stated, I’ve made very lamentable mistakes in my Life.  I can’t take back those moments.  I can’t relive them over and over either.  I can look back, understand why I chose to undertake the actions or inaction that I did – and change my behavior (hopefully) going forward.  I don’t want to forget my Past.  I just don’t to repeat those lamentable moments, if I can.  There’s no sense in beating myself up, or defining my future actions by all that has gone before.  I can choose to be the person I want to be.  But what’s already happened is part of the base that I will work from – even if some of those past moments are not my best…