Howling Into the Wind: The Pagan Marketplace, Pagan Newbies, and I’m Just Old

How do I get started on a Spiritual Path of Paganism? What books do I need to buy? What clothes do I need for rituals? Where can I get a staff like yours? How much does it cost to move up in your progressive levels of Druidry? If I spend more, can I go faster? When I’m done with all the training and the levels, how much power will I have? Will I be able to make the hot girl that works in Marketing fall in love with me? Will I be able to curse the Trump supporter that lives next to me? Wait. Where are you going? I thought you were going to answer all my questions….

It can be tough dealing with new Pagans. It can be especially tough when they see all the stuff that they can spend their money on, in the hopes that all the extra stuff will make them look more “witchy” like Stevie Nicks, or more sage and powerful like Gandalf the Grey or Obi Wan Kenobi. That commercialization aspect even digs into the reading of the books. Read this book once through, and ::poof:: you’re a bloody fscking Pagan genius. Like the magick and wisdom just mlet off the page and collect within your body and mind…. I really cannot count the number of times that I have quietly walked away from these scenarios. I practice patience and kindness, but at some point, I feel like I may take the tip of my staff and ram it through their right eye. After all, Odin lost an eye for wisdom, right? Maybe it would work…except that its assault and battery in our local laws. And I prefer not to spend my time in a jail cell waiting to explain to a judge why I did it. “He wanted wisdom, your Honor, so in keeping with Norse perspectives…I helped him out.” “Six months, and a psychiatric evaluation, Mr. Van Hook.” ::slams gavel:: “Next.”

These commercialized versions of Pagans are everywhere. I mean EVERYWHERE. For the most part, they are harmless. Many of them saw some idiotic marvel movie (I’m not a fan of the movies, so take that however you will) and decided that this was their Path. Now here, I have to stop for a moment. Is that wrong? Are they bouncing into Paganism in the wrong way? Do they need to be sent to the back of the line, and told to wait their turn? All because they came to this because of a stupid set of movies? Well, as I stated in Thursday’s post…no, they don’t have to. What they will find is a Pagan world that takes those Gods seriously, utilizes a set of practices that are a discipline to their Spirituality. And that those folks – and many others – will be loathe to bend on all of that. That even goes for those attracted to Wicca from “The Craft” or those attracted to Druidry from ::shudder:: either version of “The Burning Man.” People find their entrances into the wider world of Paganism where they do. So, how they got to this point isn’t really up for debate. What is up for debate – what should they do, now that they’re here?

Taking one’s first steps into the realm of Paganism is sometimes fairly narrow. They have bumped into a single Wiccan tradition in their local area, poked around for a bit, and have eventually been invited into the first steps into that tradition. This is what happened to me. In the beginnings, I thought all of Paganism looked and acted like the people in this Wiccan coven. In my third week, Joni, Mary, and John changed all that for me. It was a weekend that I had off (I was stationed at Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth), so I was able to stay the night instead of driving back immediately. They took me to a bookstore down by the State Fairgrounds near downtown Dallas. I think it had “Aquarian” in the name somewhere. But it was here that I found books on different types of Wicca, Witchcraft itself, Druidry, Norse beliefs, Greek beliefs, and even more stuff I had never considered. There were tarot cards (I guess they played “Go Fish” or “Five Card stud” with those?), beautiful chalices, and the most massive crystal ball I had ever seen. It was easily larger than a basketball. I think we all stood and marveled at it. Joni helped me pick out ‘Drawing Down the Moon” by Margot Adler for my reading materials, explaining to me that this would help me understand the wider world of Paganism. It certainly did. This remains the first book that I recommend to any new Pagan I come across.

Over the next seven months, I was part of the coven’s “Year-and-day” class. We met physically once a month, where we discussed the various assignments that had been given to us. However, my military schedule was always subject to momentary change (which it often did), and I was set aside as a solitary student, allowed to upload my written assignments to a Bulletin Board System that John and Mary ran. I would show up when I could, sometimes driving across Dallas/Fort Worth after working twelve hours the night before (and having just got off shift when I started driving). Eventually, the military schedule changed completely, and I was being whisked away to the operational theater of Desert Shield. Reluctantly, I had to stop my “year-and-a-day” training because I could not provide assignments on a regular basis. I carried my dog-eared copy of ‘Drawing Down the Moon” with me, so I could read and understand more.

Over the next four years, I would find myself coming back to Adler’s book, seeking clarification on a single point I had noticed before. I started to understand the wider world of Paganism. On my assignment to the Kaiserslautern Military Command Area, I encountered even more distinctly different Pagans. I started to see the wider world for what it was: all the choices that I could make. And it was supremely overwhelming.

I can understand the nervousness of the new Pagans I encounter. Their Spiritual eyes are barely open. They are stepping from a Christian world that demands immediate and unchangeable obedience into a diametrically opposed one. They are about to have more choices than they could ever dream were available. Right there in the wider Pagan marketplace. Groups and Spiritual Paths are going to be screaming for them to “look here!” “We’ve got what you’re seeking!” “We’ve got awesome, matching robes…with our names sewn on the back so we can find one another during dark rituals.” “You need this Path because we’ve got a cornerstone on the truth for the masculine Diving. Oh you’re female? Well, we’ve also got the answer for the Feminine Divine.” And many of them are not sure what exactly they are looking for. They only know that they don’t want what they had before.

Its easy to get caught up in all the glitzy merchandising of what you see. “This person wrote a book on that. Certainly, they know what it is that I am seeking.” “This person is offering classes for free. Plus, I think he thinks I’m hot.” Well, buyer beware… Even here in the Pagan Marketplace, we have predators – people who look for unsuspecting newbies to follow their Path…at the price of sexual favors or whatever notch of power they are offering. There’s also more than one cult of personality as well. So, even though you’ve arrived in this wonderful marketplace of ideas and spirituality….you still need to be on your guard.

Me? I have no group that I’ve formed. In my Spiritual practice, I’m a group of one. I belong to the order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids, where I have met so many lovely people that I am proud to refer to as “family”. But I’m just one guy. I have no students, other than myself. Occasionally, I help new seekers find potential destinations that they seek. But beyond that…I’m not trying to point a single soul in any direction. I’ll sit….I’ll listen to you talk…you’re going to fill the void with your voice. I’ll toss in some comments or question s to help figure it out the best that I can. When I think I understand, I’ll nudge you in the right direction…and if I know someone there, I’ll let them know you’re coming. But even the directions I nudge you are just suggestions. You are the only one that knows if “this” is a fit for you. I’m not a tailor. I’m not making you a suit. Your own travels on your Spiritual path will do that for you. Just as it has done the same for me…over the past… ::counting fingers:: ::counting toes:: …uhm…let me gat a calculator here….thirty-six plus years. Don’t look at me like that. All it means is that I’m old.

–T /|\

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Howling Into the Wind: Speaking of Tides…Not Storms

Earlier this morning, I was awakened by the sound of thunder rolling in from a distance, along with occasional flashes of light. The typical sounds of a storm rolling in from the so-called “hill country” just to the west of here. Except it never got here. Instead, it swept just to the north, missing the area I currently live in.

Thunderstorms are part of the cycle of the ecosystem here on this planet. It’s a natural methodology for getting water to areas that need the precipitation to survive and grow. But its not water in a watering can that can be poured out in precise amounts at regular intervals. Storms come and go with irregular intervals because the imbalances that create them do not happen on some magical cycle.

Many people see storms as something to fear. We can see it in popular culture. When things happen within our socio-political realm, we tend to label it as a “storm.” Except its not. Socio-politics is not a weather phenomenon. It doesn’t create floods and tornadoes, nor does it bring a gentle rain that has a calming feeling. Socio-politics is a man-made creation that hardly resembles a storm. The metaphorical descriptive of calling it a storm is…well…somewhat useless and misleading.

Perhaps, as we look at the history of socio-politic movements, we might want to consider it more to be a tide. Of sorts. Strong conservative and liberal movements happen all the time over history. Currently, here in the United States, there is a strong conservative movement rising. It’s not a storm. More like a tide. Some of its roots come from the so-called “Red scare” in the 1950s, when politicians were turning over every rock to try and find a communist sympathizer that could be brought before Senator McCarthy’s Senate committee for a bogus trial. Certainly, there were individuals who believed in the Communist philosophy of governmental process. There are those that believe that still. Its antithetical to the government process that the United States runs on. A complete shift to that would be impossible. So, the believers of Communist principles were ferreted out by McCarthy’s committee were done as a dog-and-pony show to keep McCarthy in his position of assumed power. At one point, McCarthy overreached from his power base in accusing the Army’s Signal Corps of having Communist sympathizer’s within its midst. During the McCarthy hearings, he was accused by the Army of trying to obtain preferential treatment within the Army for a colleague of his. The resulting trial revealed the bullying tactics that McCarthy employed in his “Red scare” hunt. The result was that the public turned against McCarthy, effectively ending his reign of terror against those he deemed to be “unpatriotic.”

The 1950s and the 1960s saw the tide of conservativism wane. The rise of the hippies and the philosophies associated with them came to rise. The drastically different lifestyles from the so-called “nuclear family” were a shock to the values of family-oriented people. As the flowing tide of socio-politics went back towards the conservative values, the rise of technology blunted some of the concepts that were held by the conservatives. The 1980s brought the so-called “decade of excess” where families spent liberally on the backs of credit that was offered to them by banking systems. This eventually lead conservatives to bring in the badly named concept of Reaganomics in response, which lead to “trickle down economics” where the wealth of the rich would trickle down to the poor. Attacks on non-family values went on the ride. Conservatives created their own straw men to provide the foes they needed to charge their rising tide. Satanism, the threat of nuclear annihilation from the “Godless Communist,” and many other modern-day boogiemen helped keep issues on the rise. The conservatives had finally found a new weapon – fear. In the 1990s, Satanism boogiemen preachers, such as Sean Sellers and Mike Warnke were discredited. The Soviet Union fell as it couldn’t outspend the United States in the Cold War – a tactic that put the United States in deep debt, much like many of its citizens who had madly overspent in the 1980s. Fears that had been stoked, died down – even despite the rise of the Tea Party and its twisted sense of values. Over time, the Tea Party has helped foment more fear, leading to a distinctive rise in conservatism again. Which brings us to today.

Conservatism, as well as liberalism, has enjoyed a rising and ebbing of its tide within American society. Every rise has a common theme associated with it – fear. Right now, we are told to fear the public schools indoctrinating your children with ideas and concepts that are antithetical to the same 1950s values of conservatism from so long ago. Conservatives teach the concept of hatred – and in some cases violence – towards those that hold a different set of values from themselves. When they can’t win the battle of values within the political realm, they try to overthrow time-honored processes that elect representatives to our federal government. My current Senate representation comes in the form of two individuals I vehemently disagree with. However, you won’t see me contesting the results of their elections. Why? Because I respect the process as it is meant to be. Because even though I am not being represented by individuals that share my values, I respect the concept that I am in the minority in my area of residence. I don’t agree with the values of the individuals that outnumber me (considerably, by the way), I do respect the governmental process that elects them. But I digress…

We’re not living in a storm. We’re experiencing a socio-political tide. A tide that will ebb and wane as it has done many, many times over the years. Each time a rise of the conservative tide has happened, those conservatives have fomented anger, hatred, and even violence against those that disagree with them through the use of fear. Fear that the ideas diametrically opposed to them have no merit. That those ideas will “pervert” their children. That those perspectives will destroy America and turn it into a Communist state. Honestly, the only way that will happen is through extremely violent revolution. The American governmental form is meant to form and shape itself in response to the social mores of society. Its meant to be a social contract between all of us that determines how we can disagree with one another, and through its rules – still be a community together. We can disagree vehemently with one another, but together we are all Americans. Outlawing people based on their gender/identity is not something we should be doing as a country. The statue of Liberty is a symbol of our desire to take in people of all kinds of backgrounds, ethnicities, and beliefs. Our diversity is meant to be our strength, not a marker of what is or isn’t “American.”

People will disagree with me, and in the spirit of what it is that makes up America, that’s perfectly fine. None of us are going to agree with everyone else. We are built on the idea of being able to disagree with one another – even vehemently – and still have the common decency and respect to shake hands and walk away. No violence. No hatred. Our disagreements might be the storms that everyone talks about. But those storms dissipate over time. Just as the tides of socio-political will wane and wax over time.

For those of you who read this from overseas locations, I apologize for making this post so America-centric. I am not sure that any of this makes sense in terms of your country’s socio-political realm. Hopefully, there are comparisons that you can easily draw. I can only write on what I know and understand well enough to say something about. Again, my apologies for making this so America-centric.

–T /|\

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Howling Into the Wind: Backyard Egg Hunts, Childhood Adventures, and Personal Choices

Well, its Easter…not a bad family holiday. Hunting colored eggs that have been hidden everywhere in the yard or house. Kids enjoy the stuff a ton. I remember doing this when I was a lot smaller and younger. My parents would hide stuff everywhere in the yard or even in the house, and then send me and my younger sister to go find it all. Sometimes, I’d find stuff months later…ewww. LOL But it was a nice family tradition until we got older. There was no church-oriented stuff though. My parents didn’t really believe in pushing faith on their kids, mostly because they didn’t really have strong ties to church activities and stuff like that. At least that’s what I think is the reason. They both passed several years ago, so I’m not really able to ask that question of them so that I can be certain.

All of that does make me wonder how parents handle religious aspects with their own children, particularly Pagan parents. Is it a good thing to enforce religious practices with the kids until they reach an age where they can theoretically make decisions of their own – at least in regards to the legal aspect of things? Is eighteen the magickal thumbprint of making your own decisions? Or does the enforcement of the parents’ beliefs naturally push the individual away from the religious perspective being enforced?

The only footprint in understanding all of this is my own. At home, my Protestant parents did not push for religious perspectives, such as Wednesday and Sunday services. Nor did they play the “holiday-only” game either, where mandatory church service during Easter, Christmas, or New Year’s Eve was expected. We didn’t pray at the table before meals. So, my assumption was that the religious nature of Christianity (Or any -ianity or -ism for that matter) just wasn’t that important.

Yet, my parents sent both me and my sister to private Catholic schools where we were indoctrinated into the Catholic faith through mandatory classes, and monthly masses for the entire school. Both aspects of this were instrumental in my rejection of the Catholic faith. While I find elements of Catholicism to be beautiful, particularly in the ritualistic aspects, I’ve never trusted anything that forces you to believe a single way through indoctrination, and intimidation. Call me stubborn, but I’ve always preferred the opportunity to find my own way – which I did after graduating high school. First there was the struggle through various aspects of the Christian faith. Then was the introduction to Wicca, which in the way it was presented as hard dogma, never really sat right with me either. Over time, I eventually found my way into Druidry.

I have often wondered how many people will have issues being forced into doing something simply because “its what everyone else does”? I admit, my twenties and thirties are full of me bucking the trend constantly. After I left the Air Force, I grew my hair long. I dressed horribly – mostly in torn up jeans. Now I’m in my fifties. I will dress completely against the norms. I still wear my thinning hair a bit longer than many think I should. But I honestly don’t care. I dress and wear my hair comfortably for me. I’m not here to be someone else’s fashion plate. I’m here to be me. As comfortably as I can.

So, circling back to today’s holiday…it is Easter. Today, many children will hunt colored eggs and plastic eggs filled with candies. They will have fun doing so. They will sit in church and listen to long-winded sermons on how Jesus ben Joseph dies for their sins so that they can be accepted into the Kingdom of Heaven. Many others will rail against this tradition as being a horrible method of brain-washing these children. Others will rail about how the mythology of Jesus ben Joseph is a lie, told to comfort those who do not wish to confront the idea of what comes after this life – if anything. Much like Halloween is a contentious time of the year between the Pagans and the world – the same holds true for Easter in regard to the Christian faiths and the world.

For me, it all boils down to familial traditions. Parents (and I am a parent) will typically desire their children to follow in their footsteps. Follow your parents into the trades that they earn wages through. Follow your parents down the traditional religious Path that they have been on, and that their parents were on. No deviation from that norm. You are [this belief] because your mother and I are, and your grandparents were, and so on. You can make up your own mind of what you are when you no longer live in this house. Ahhh, the contentious memories that brings up for me.

However, the memories of being a child looking everywhere in the yard for those colored eggs and other items that had been hidden by my parents – those are special for me. A time of innocence. Where my cares were very few, except playing a pickup game of baseball in the neighborhood streets or going over to the neighbor kid’s house to swim in the giant above-ground pool in their backyard or riding my bike throughout the neighborhood. Or when we lived in Europe, our every weekend ten-kilometer walks in various locations throughout Germany. Life was different when I was ten years old. I smile remembering those memories for myself. I smile when I see children getting to have those activities in their lives too – hunting those colored treasures in the yard. Because its not about some aspect of Christian mythology for them – because its an adventure of the moment. The adults can tie whatever religious or philosophical ideals to it….for the kids, its an adventure of the moment. For me, it’s a remembrance of when I was that young, and the fun I had…as well as a reminder that I need to step out of the way and let them have their fun. My past is not theirs…their future is not mine. They have their adventures and searching to do…they have their own lives to puzzle through. All I can do is be here to provide advice…I can’t (and won’t) do it for them. That just robs them of their own experiences.

–Tommy /|\

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Howling Into the Wind: What Are WE Doing?

I write. I think. I listen. I question. I hope I inspire others to do so as well.
What are WE doing?
I’m trying to listen and find my path again after the world went mad. Because we’re all mad here, as someone once said. All human.

Cat Treadwell, “Wrong…?”, https://druidcat.wordpress.com/2022/04/05/wrong/

I am quoting the end of Cat’s post here to start yesterday’s blog because I think its an important reminder that we all slip from the Path from time to time. Please, if you haven’t, click the link and read what Cat has written. Sometimes, parts of the Path are obscured by a thick growth of the forest from either side of the forest, and we have to push through to eventually get to a point where we can search for its familiar feel for our footfalls. And that sometimes, the Path changes as well. Because our journey takes us across so many different lands. As a side note, the reason I am saying that this is yesterday’s blog post is because I am posting this on a Friday, having missed yesterday’s “normal” posting time. Getting ready to move takes a lot more time than I remember. Anyways…

The collective world around us has a familiar, yet unfamiliar feel to it. Familiar because we, as a larger society, have been here before. Unfamiliar, because we as individuals have not. We have Russian forces committing acts of violence against Ukrainian citizens, shades of what violent dictators have set their armies to do in the past in so many wars and conflicts. We have laws restricting people from being who they are with threats of arrest and prison time. We had a pandemic rage throughout the world with many different responses to how it was handled by all the governments. Here in the United States, we suffered through an attempt to overthrow an election through means of violence and intimidation. The world has certainly gone mad or at least feels like its spinning off its axis. As Cat asks, what are we doing?

Ok, so we’ve collectively walked off the Path and a little ways into the forest. We’ve gotten a little too deep into the trees and are starting to feel paralyzed by the numerous choices we have. We can go deeper into the trees, in a myriad of directions. Just pick one. We can retrace our steps back to the path, essentially refocusing ourselves on what we’re striving to do. We can sit down and learn to breathe again, so we can refocus and make a choice. Or to put it in a different light, we can read the stories of others. We can tell our own stories. We can refocus by retelling our previous stories to get us refocused on what we set out to do.

Our stories, the stories of all of us, are important. This week, I told some of the stories of Shadow cat, whom I just put to sleep, letting her cross the Rainbow Bridge into the afterlife where I hope to see her again. The news has showcased the stories – what little we know of their stories – of Ukrainian citizens who were tortured, killed…murdered at the hands of Russian soldiers, probably at the behest of President Putin. The news has been full of stories of how governmental control of LGBTQ+ individuals has been taken place under legislative mandates, which promise harsh punitive measures just for being who they are. I’ve read stories by baseball historical researchers who have been advancing the narratives and statistics for the Negro leagues, a part of baseball that has long been encased in shadows and darkness for a wide variety of disparate reasons. Our stories are us. We ignore them at our collective peril.

What can we actually do about what we read, what we hear, what we see? How can we help, especially when we are all being pounded to dust by rising inflation, increasingly punitive measures by right- and left-wing aspects that refuse to see any other narrative to daily life than their own or those narratives that suit their purposes? What are WE doing?

I completely grok the feeling of paralysis over the tidal wave of information, data, and perspectives. I grok the energy that feels like we’re all being bashed against the seawall as the tide rushes in. In my previous employment position, my job was to tell the narrative of the college that I worked for. How did enrollment go? What was the complexity and breadth/width of grades earned by the students? How many students achieved their academic goal of graduating with a degree or a certificate? What was the racial and gender breakdowns of those data points? What about the ages of each of those categories? What data issues do I see in the overall trends? What are the data points that are above the average? Which are below average? How does the college compare to all the other junior colleges in the state in those areas? On and on and on. Each question answered satisfies a point of curiosity but engenders three more questions that require looking into other areas that were not originally thought of in the initial set of questions. The rising tide of data slamming the issue against the sea wall. The only way to deal with this was to organize the necessary data points and pull each one-by-one. That takes time, something that is not available in our fast-moving, overly demanding world. The constant hunger for data can be relentless. The same can be said for the need for action deriving from the stories that we read, hear, and tell. As well as the overly complicated need for action.

Our world is more complicated now than it was back when I was in my early twenties. There are global treaties that entangle nations together. All of this is hard to fathom, comprehend, and act upon – a far cry from what the world was back in 1984 when I graduated high school or 1986 when I joined the United States Air Force. International alliances were easy to understand, international threats were easy to comprehend. Then the threats went from nation-states to political groups, complicating things even more since these new actors were not limited to an understood territorial boundary. Now, our world is a series of complicated treaties – political, economic, and military. Further complicating things is the deep divisions we have created between ourselves as individuals. Conservative, Liberal, Republican, Democrat, Tory, Labourists…and a major ton of other manners to baloney-slice ourselves. We’ve created ways to see ourselves differently. Ways to dislike – and even hate – one another, simply because we believe, live, and even love differently. Anything to make us forget that those individuals on the other side are just as human as we are.

There are stories for each side. Some stories that we’ve not heard before. The stories that I have read about from players who lived during the times of the Negro Leagues are harrowing. Any bus trip to a city in the south could be fraught with danger as segregationist whites could attack a Negro Leagues team bus with impunity, just to kill an individual over the color of their skin. The integration stories of the major leagues provide some rather frightful stories. When Hank Aaron, a black man, broke the homerun record of Babe Ruth, a white man, the stories of how Aaron had to protected from death threats were amazing. That was 1974 folks. Don’t think that the sports figures of today don’t endure racism and sexism today? There are plenty of stories out there to read about it.

Part of Cat’s post talks about reading stories of people whose voices seem to rarely be heard or heeded. There are plenty of reasons why it happens – all of which are nothing more then weak excuses of why people avoid these stories. The points made in many of these stories make people “uncomfortable” with what they are reading. Perhaps that discomfort comes from recognition that we, as a collective society, still refuse to give credence to those people who are different. That their culture is alien to us. That we are only feeling compassionate to others so long as their paradigm and reality doesn’t threaten the comfort we have in our own. Perhaps, we are afraid of having those pre-drawn, chalked outlines of our differences getting us to acknowledge a stark truth we are afraid to embrace – we are all the same. Or to quote from Babylon 5:

Capt. John Sheridan : I wish I had your faith in the universe. I just don’t see it sometimes.
Delenn : Then I will tell you a great secret, Captain. Perhaps the greatest of all time. The molecules of your body are the same molecules that make up this station, and the nebula outside, that burn inside the stars themselves. We are starstuff. We are the universe made manifest, trying to figure itself out. And as we have both learned, sometimes the universe requires a change of perspective.

Its true. We are all starstuff. Yet because of slight differences and variations, we find reasons to hate one another. We expend huge amounts of energy, thought and creativity towards killing one another instead of finding ways to channel all of that into ways to better ourselves, better our manner of living, find ourselves as we howl into darkness of despair. Indeed, what are WE doing??

Our stories are important. Their stories are important. Even when we don’t agree with what is being said. Even when the narrative makes it uncomfortable for us to absorb and comprehend the narrative that is being provided. We are, as was pointed out by a fictional character in a fictional space opera, the Universe trying to comprehend itself. Or at least, that’s possibly the easiest narrative to provide that makes sense to so many.

We’ve wandered off the Path. We’re in the forest where the sunlight barely penetrates the tree canopy above. We’ve sat on some nettles. Our backside now itches with the resulting rash. We’re intrigued by the beckoning darkness of the forest. Are we making a new Path, taking a new direction, assuming a new personal quest? Or do we go back to the path as we know it, and continue the direction we were going? Let’s remember, no matter what direction we take…there’s no going back into the Past. That’s gone. Our footfalls take us forward, not backwards. Much like Cat, I’m taking my time here. For me, its a time to listen. A time to see what shapes up, and then make a decision of how to proceed.

Put your lighter in the air and lead me back home
When it’s all said and done, I’ll follow the echoes
I hear you night after night calling out my name, ooh
And I find myself running to meet you

“Break In”, Halestorm, from the album “The Strange Case…”

–T /|\

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Howling Into the Wind: Piety and Worship (My Perspective)

What does Pagan piety look like? How do you worship your Gods?

::heavy sigh:: The whole concept of piety and worship tends to come from a Westernized place. To me, questions like these are not that easy to answer because the person asking the question tends to have preconceived idea of what piety and worship are. So, to answer this, I’m going to resort to the online Merriam Webster dictionary to provide definitions as a starting point.

Piety.
1: the quality or state of being pious: such as
a: fidelity to natural obligations (as to parents)
b: dutifulness in religion
2: an act inspired by piety
3: a conventional belief or standard

There are two sets of definitions here. One is a definition as a verb. The other is a definition as a noun.

Worship.
transitive verb
1: to honor or show reverence for as a divine being or supernatural power
2: to regard with great or extravagant respect, honor, or devotion : a celebrity worshipped by her fans
intransitive verb
: to perform or take part in worship or an act of worship
Noun
1: reverence offered a divine being or supernatural power : an act of expressing such reverence
2: a form of religious practice with its creed and ritual
3: extravagant respect or admiration for or devotion to an object of esteem : worship of the dollar
4: chiefly British : a person of importance —used as a title for various officials (such as magistrates and some mayors)

So, which to go with? In terms of piety, I’ll stick with the definitions of 1b and 3. For worship, I’ll remain with the definitions as showcased by the verb. Silly, isn’t it? Having to define a pair of terms that would seem to have such simple definitive aspects, right? I am doing this to provide solid definitive agreement on the terms before continuing. You’ll see how muddy these two concepts can get.

In terms of worship, there is rarely complete agreement on what this actually looks like. The definition provides a starting point, but the actions that tend to be made into the act of worship rarely tend to agree. For some, placing yourself prostrate before your God(s) is what worship is. You set yourself forward as an instrument of His/Their use. In doing so, you are worshipping His/Their presence, and acknowledging His/Their divinity, wisdom, and knowledge. For others, you gather on a specific day of the week to sing His/Their praises as a group, that merely doing so rejoices in His/Their divinity. Many others gather together in ritual (as many of us Pagans do) for a variety of reasons, calling Him/Her/Tham to join us in remembrance of the time of the year that we have entered into. However, when you talk openly about the worship of your God(s), it’s the concept of being prostrate before Him/Her/Them that tends to come to mind. Typically, this is from the formation of that thought process through television and movies depicting such acts. My thought process is a little different.

Piety is a little more difficult to manage and understand. Many people have placed piety in the realm of being the “true believer.” By this, I mean the individual that is completely ate-up in their faith. They pray every second possible. They pray before every meal. They ask for protection from the God(s) before they start on a long journey. A pious individual is made out to be what some might term as a fanatic, particularly if the individual passing judgment is not extremely religious. Again, I turn away from some of the standard pushes in this area as well.

My perspective is quite different on these terms. Worship comes in the form that works for the individual. Worship is a way for the individual to connect with their choices in God(s). For some people it comes in forms of regular church attendance. For others, it comes in the form of home altars that they have created and dedicated to that purpose. For me, its neither of those. It comes in the form of walks in the woods, the open fields, even just down my neighborhood street. Worship, for me, is existing. I’m fortunate to wake up every morning, I praise my Gods by living out loud. What I mean by this is that I do my very best to be kind and compassionate to others…even when I completely disagree with them. It might not seem like worship to others, and that’s perfectly fine. I can’t control the ability of others to think or believe what they might. Nor do I want that power or ability. I prefer that people connect with their own concept of the Divine in their own way. Life has more meaning when that happens, in my opinion.

Piety is much the same way. I refuse to get into pissing matches over whether someone is pious in their beliefs. That’s why I have always felt that the “Are You Pagan Enough” movement was such a pile of bullshit. I don’t get the right or the power to tell anyone that they are or aren’t enough of anything to be a part of Paganism. I am not and refuse to be a gate-keeper of any kind. If you say you’re a Pagan, but you don’t practice as I do…who put me (or anyone else for that matter) in charge of determining who is or isn’t Pagan based on some criteria developed by myself or any other? Maybe you’re not my type of Pagan (which is quite possible), but I don’t get to determine if you are or aren’t. You’re the only one that gets to do that for yourself.

There definitely will be people who will disagree with me on these perspectives. That’s perfectly fine. I’m not here to change minds or perspectives. This post is about living my life openly and out loud where these terms are concerned. My perspective is not about winning any argument or disagreement. My perspective is not about making my beliefs into a dominant strain. My perspective is about living my life, free of the shadows to hide myself in. Being able to state what I believe, what I see, what I experience out loud, in the open. I’m not on a Path to convert a single individual to what I believe. But I am also not going to live in the shadows, forever hiding myself because of a fear that I will be rejected by others. I will be rejected by others; I am quite sure of that. That doesn’t mean that my perspective is nullified. All it means is what I already know: not everyone is going to agree with me. The next steps are to figure out which of those individuals will disagree but are willing to accept me for who I am despite our differences. Those are the allies I seek in my life.

How pious are you? What does your worship look like? Those questions should be asked in a spirit of curious nature, not in judgment. Most people might be afraid to directly answer those questions in fear that they will be judged as “wrong” or “incorrect.” The real answer is that there is no “right” or “correct” answer. There’s your approach. That’s what matters. Its YOUR approach. #TwoQuid

–Tommy /|\

Howling Into the Wind: Stories, Attitudes, Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Tommy /|\

Howling Into the Wind: Connectivity in Every Moment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Tommy /|\

Howling Into the Wind: I Hope Not…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sting, “Russians”

Indeed….

–T /|\

Howling Into the Wind: When They Need an Ear…

Well, the first very cold weather of the year has made it down here in central Tejas. With sleet that lasted for somewhere close to twenty hours, the landscape of the backyard and beyond is coated completely white. It looks like snow, but its not. Just a nice covering of icy precipitation. All the snow was much further north in the Dallas/Fort Worth metro-mess and northward. No power outages, though the cold seeps in through the weather stripping on the windows and doors a bit. I’ve spent a large part of the day either curled up in the blankets with cats surrounding me or wandering through the house with my socks on (a rarity for me).

Last blog post, I added some background from the lunch-time discussion that I attended on a back door entry-point for Bossier Parish Community College, which was right next to Airline High School. I mentioned some of the discussions we had on intentional communities, as well as some more lengthy discussions that Alia and I had afterwards. As I noted in the post, Alia attended the college at the same time that I did. She was a Psychology student; I was a Computer Sciences student. I ran a computer lab for the college when I was not in class, and Alia would come and study for her classes there, since I managed to keep the lab quiet. It was also my refuge for doing my elaborate Pascal programs that went far beyond what my professor required for class assignments.

During a different lunch-time discussion, the focus fell on my Pagan beliefs juxtaposed against the predominant Christian beliefs in the Bossier City area, which was a distinct Southern Baptist flavor. I was asked why I didn’t hold animosity and anger towards the Christian beliefs, particularly since I was actively attacked by the more zealous members on campus. Most of the attacks were insults of a distinctively personal nature, or in a few cases where I had food or drink thrown on me. “Why don’t you report any of this?” Well, it was simple, at least for me. I didn’t want to draw any more attention to myself. Besides none of it was physically damaging to me, aside from clothes that would need to be washed. I learned back in high school that the easiest way to deal with a bully was to not provide them with any energy aimed towards them. After all, they were wanting a response, so they could escalate things. I provided no traction for that nonsense.

Now, some twenty-five years (or some) later, I see and hear a lot of animosity towards people of the Christian faith within Pagan groups. Mostly, it seems, this comes from people who recently moved from an aspect of the Christian faith to Paganism. The feel is that they have to find reasons to bad-mouth the Christians that they associate with, while lifting up the Pagans that they are now with as paragons of virtue. I know the entire routine. I’ve been there.

In the beginnings of my Pagan path, I was on such a “high” on finding a Spiritual Path that fit far better than the Abrahamic faiths I had searched through, there was nothing wrong with what I had found. It was paradise. Those other Paths? Those were poison, full of traitorous people who attack anything that they don’t understand and label those things as “evil” without looking beyond the differences. I had such a loathing for those types of people. And I was vocal about it. Vocal enough that the duty section I was part of in the Air Force forced me on to a shift with three independent, evangelical preachers – all of whom out-ranked me. I spent eight and twelve-hour shifts with these three individuals. They knew I was a Pagan, and I was treated as being nearly sub-human. No amount of complaining to higher ups was going to change things for me. So I learned to not engage with them except for work-related things.

All of that gave me a lot of time to reflect on how I had acted previously. On my days off, I sought out my High Priestess of the Wiccan coven where I was in my Rainbow year. Slowly, quietly, she started to show me that much of my anger wasn’t appropriate. That I needed to see the good in people before I went hunting for the bad. Could they see reason to leave belief alone and up to the individual? Could they practice the acts of kindness that the Jesus of the Bible did? Could they leave the condemnation of the sinner up to their God, and embrace the sinner as an individual to love and cherish, just as any other person? Could they emulate the kindness and sincerity of the Savior that they claimed to follow? If they couldn’t do any of those things, then it was best for me to back away as far as I could. In the case of the workplace, be professional with them, and keep subjects strictly confined to workplace related materials. Yes, that would suck, since everyone wishes to have cordial relationships with their co-workers, but sometimes that wouldn’t happen. I took those words to heart. I tried my best to live up to what she was telling me.

Later, I would be deployed to Germany. Here, I was featured, with other military Pagans in the European theater, in the Stars and Stripes article “Practicing Pagans.” One night, after I had finished a late-night shift, I went to check my mail at the Allied Post Office on the base. 2am in the morning. I was confronted by two individuals, one of whom threw me up against the wall of Post Office combination locks. If another individual had not entered the Allied Post Office to check their mail, I have no idea what else might have happened. I didn’t fight back. Not because I was outnumbered. Because I knew it was the wrong thing to do. If things had progressed, I have no idea what I might have done. I’m glad that I don’t know. I’m glad that I didn’t have to know.

There have been other incidents as well. But I don’t blame Christianity for what happened. I blame people who twist the words of their Savior to justify their violence. People are the problem, not the belief system. So, when I hear these newer Pagans firing off their anger at something they left behind – even when those reasons are violence, anger and abuse aimed at them – I think of when I was there, doing the same thing. I remember how I felt then. And I remember what it took for me to learn what I know and believe now. Telling others, just as I am doing here in this blog post, isn’t going to be enough to change people’s minds. They need time to heal, time to let the wounds scab over, for the bruises to yellow and fade. After that, perhaps, they will come to the same conclusion that I have. Its not the belief system that’s at fault. It’s the people twisting its teachings to excuse their inappropriate behaviors. Maybe, these Pagans will come to that conclusion. I simply don’t know if they will. Everyone reacts differently. All I can do is hope. And listen when they need an ear….

–Tommy /|\

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Howling Into the Wind: What is a Pagan in the Future?

Sitting here looking at where else to peek into the Pagan corner for something to peel back for the future…I keep coming back to the group versus solo perspective. Wrapped up in all of that is an aspect I am reticent to even approach, but it’s a part of how our collective Paganism grows into tomorrow, as well as today: the perspective of “authentic” Paganism. How can you tell “authentic” Paganism from the “fake” stuff? Is there some kind of 3-d sticker affixed to it like Major League Baseball uses for baseballs used in actual play? How do we deal with this going forward into a future that already feels so nebulous and shaky?

To be perfectly frank, I don’t really have an answer. After all, there is some aspect of my own personal Paganism and Druidry that others would not find to be “authentic”. I’m not coursing backwards into history to find where and how our Pagan and Druid ancestors did their rituals. I’m not trying to locate scholarly fields of work to slap an “authentic” sticker on what I do. Instead, I’m doing what feels “correct” for me. I’m not worried about finding a common thread back to the past. I have that with my Spirits of Ancestor. Nor am I worried over those that would believe my approach to be “inauthentic” to theirs. I know my Path works for me. I also know that my approach is unlikely to work for others, which is the sole reason I do not denigrate how others approach their Paganism. Whatever it is, it likely does not work for me, but that doesn’t mean I have to treat it as inferior. Because it’s not.

I catch more than my fair of shit for taking this hands-off approach to Spiritual Beliefs. I should denounce this, showcase the incorrect aspect of this, proclaim the wrongness of these others. Look, I’ll be honest here, unless you are engaging in human sacrifice, enlisting people (especially children) for sex in exchange for the “secrets” of the occult, or mutilating/killing animals…I’m likely to move on from saying much about your approach. The rest of that stuff that I mentioned? Well, I’m more likely to contact the local authorities and let them sort things out. But I will state my opposition to those actions. So, there is a line that I draw in the sand. But I’m not here to denounce things – rather, I am here to discuss how beliefs that are different from our own move forward into the future as well.

Or do they? I have often wondered if some of the Pagan community was going to come together and form something akin to the Council of Nicea. Where what is or isn’t Pagan would be decided. This is Pagan, but that is not. I remember the ludicrous “Are You Pagan Enough?” diatribe that went on quite a few years back. I always wondered who had died made folks into a Pagan Pope that could decree what could and couldn’t be included under the wide, and very diverse umbrella of Paganism? Now, looking into a near future of Paganism, I can see where the sweet, delicious aroma fed that hunger. Being able to decide what could or could not be included within a single vision of what makes a Pagan…well, Pagan.

Yet, we have these inclusion arguments all the time. At Pantheacon, the year before I attended for my first time, there was an aspect that kicked off the TERF argument/discussion that has been going on since. If an individual identifies as a female but was born as a male – should they be allowed into a ceremony or ritual for Women’s Mysteries? And vice versa for a ritual or ceremony for Men’s Mysteries? I don’t have an answer for this. My gut feeling is that if you identify as a female – you attend stuff for Women’s Mysteries. However, not my ceremony – not my call. That’s like me saying that a Wiccan Priestess should be allowed into a grade initiation for my Druid Order. While I am a member of the Order, that’s not my ceremony – its not my call. Of course, this is moving off the topic slightly, so let’s push this back on-track a bit more.

Going forward, into our near future, we are going to see changes. This is what happens when the “new” Pagans begin to grow and feel the length of their legs. They begin to walk with more confidence in what they are doing. They begin to reach for something new, different, inviting to their senses. Things begin to evolve as the older generations shuffle off this mortal coil and cease to be unspoken obstacles to those changes. That cycle will repat going into the future as well, as the generations grow, and new generations come to take their place.

As I have said before, I have been on my Pagan Path for thirty-plus years. I’ve seen my share of new Pagans. Some stay on their Path, some alter their Path slightly, and some leave it altogether, confidant that this was not the place for them. All of that is natural. This that stick around will eventually come to this same point – being an Elder in the Pagan community. I hate the perspective of being an Elder, because I see so much more growing on my own personal Path. I may have been here for so long, but I still have that “shiny, new” feeling about Paganism as a whole. Regardless, I know I am looked at with the lens that places the nameplate right underneath me in the vision of younger Pagans: “Elder.” Just because of the years. In a manner of speaking, it also places me in the sphere of feeling like a parent to some degree. Where I sit and wonder if the Pagans that are stepping into those roles of leadership that open – do they have what it takes to continue to grow this movement that we have?

This, I believe is the crux of the question of looking into the future. Will all this still be here? I daresay that for many of us older Pagans that have traversed this Path for so long, it’s a thought that’s crossed our minds before. If you read the previous blog posts, you know – maybe in a subtle way – that my answer is “yes”, and “no.” Paganism is not going to wither and die. Some of the Paths, that could be true. But Paganism is a wide open, extremely diverse grouping of belief systems. Some might call it a catch-all grouping. Everything that doesn’t fit the “Big Five” falls here. That could be true. I view Paganism as being a set of belief systems that revere Nature as divine and spiritual. Worthy of respect and worship. For me, that’s the binding agent. Nature. An awe for the mystery of all that is Nature, in its many guises, aspects, faces, and senses. That reverence will be here long after my bones have dried, become dust, and scattered elsewhere on this planet. That reverence of Nature will not the same as it is now. The Paganism of the future, rooted in that growing Nature, will utilize the Paganism of today as its root core. Rituals, myths, legends, and even deeper resonance with Nature will be built up from the foundation that will come from our Paganism today. As Damh the Bard sings:

The Ancients opened the door,
We’re the same as ever before,
We will hear you forevermore,
Evermore.
So by peace and love we stand,
Heart to heart and hand in hand,
On the shoulders of giants we stand.

Damh the Bard, “On the Shoulders of Giants”

…going into that future, we will be the shoulders that they stand upon. We will be the raising of the foundation, ever higher.

Is there a future for all elements of Paganism, I ask? “Of course there is, you git!” is the likely response I am to get. Its true, there is a future there. We don’t need a litmus test to allow entry into the future of Paganism. All the arguments on inclusion for this, that, those others – those will move forward into the future as well. Consider them as individual Rubik’s cubes. Currently unsolved, but one day – a few smart Pagans of the future will get together and find the way to resolve each one. I have faith that will happen. Because I have faith that all of us that identify as Pagans will always find a way to make things work. We’ve always managed to make do with our Rubik’s Cube solutions. Even if we just peel the stickers off and put them back on in the form of the solution. 😉

Photo by Marko Blazevic on Pexels.com

This post was written with Keith Jarrett‘s “The Köln Concert” album as my background music.

Howling Into the Wind: Culture Wars Are Not About Culture…Its About Choice

My last blog post touched along the lines of the so-called “War on Christmas.” Well, all of that is really just a smaller symptom of a larger movement that is moronically known as the ‘Culture War.” Personally, I feel that the concept of “culture wars” is ridiculous and built on a desire to bring America back to a period of history (depending on the time of the culture war’s moment) where an aspect of personal and individual morals are perceived to be more connected to those who are in conflict with the popular culture of the time. First, a touch of history…

History

According to Wikipedia (not the greatest source, but handy and somewhat useful), the concept of the “culture war” goes back to the roaring twenties here in the United States – a type of backlash against popular culture. It was epitomized in the Presidential campaign of Al Smith in 1928. After that moment, it sporadically rises throughout the decades until the beginning of the 1990s. Far right-wing Republicans (we still here from these out of touch people to this day) latch on to Republican candidate Pat Buchanan during his battle with candidate George H.W. Bush. Buchanan railed against the rise of environmentalist, and the new rise of feminism as indicators that the destruction of traditional American morals and perspectives. Needing an enemy beyond the party’s nomination, Buchanan painted Democratic Presidential candidate Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary as examples of the individuals that would seek to permanently destroy America values. Buchanan also added controversies on the Confederate Battle Standard, tax-payer funded art, and even the backlash against his culture-war perspective to a growing list of perspectives that required Americans with a morality stand similar to his own to draw lines in the sand. Hardcore Republicans, seeking a rallying cry to unite Republicans everywhere gathered up these perspectives and utilized these in perverted manners to proclaim an “Us v. Them” standard within politics that remains to this day.

For me, I recall these being driven hard by the Republicans on such historical moments in time such as the “Tea Party” move to galvanize the Republican fear of being swamped and destroyed by anything that didn’t hold their narrow cultural perspective, and the rise of the culture-war’s hero – Fox News’ popular “commentator” Bill O’Reilly. Let me tell you, fear, anger, outrage – these emotions are easy to attain. The leaders of the “culture wars” perspective were well-versed in how to foment these emotions, while attaching all of it to their cause of the moment, thus creating that deep “Us v Them” divide. A divide that has gotten deeper and more agitated over the years, as we now stand on the Grand Canyon-esque precipice we find ourselves in within today’s society.

Back in the early and mid 2000s, I watched Bill O’Reilly’s tv show “The Bill O’Reilly Factor”. I listened to him and his selected guests rail in anger against Clinton, Obama, and even from time to time George H.W. Bush, and his son. From time to time, O’Reilly would have Democratic commentators such as the late-Alan Colmes and Juan Williams on the show to provide an opposite perspective. However, O’Reilly treated these “guests” as straw men for his other hosts to attack and destroy. The show turned into a weak version of the World Wrestling Federation, with these guests in the traditional role of being the heels. In late 2005, I decided to stop watching because the show had become a caricature of itself and could rarely be seen as anything serious, beyond being an hour-long propaganda show aimed towards shilling O’Reilly’s books, which were written to foment more fear and anger. Believe me folks, fear sells quite well, as evidenced by O’Reilly’s top-seller status on the New York Times book lists.

When O’Reilly eventually left Fox News, more sellers of fear have taken his place – Sean Hannity, and Tucker Carlson most prominent among them – both of whom are more cartoon characters than anything anyone should take seriously.

My Thoughts

Within today’s fear-driven politics, the real background that everything is played against is this so-called “culture war.” As I said, fear is a great motivator. But what exactly are these folks fighting against? Well, they want a Beaver Cleaver world. They are offended by people making life choices of their own that fly in the face of older societal codes of so-called “morality.” Digging deeply, you will find that their fear is about encountering people with different morals than they have. They fear that their children will make their own choices and choose an avenue that they – as parents – would never choose. They claim this is a battle for the minds and morality of the youth. Really, its just a strong reaction to the change that comes from a younger generation. The younger people are choosing their own Path. Many choose a different way than their parents. Out of rebellion or what not, its their choice to make. Just as it was my generation’s choice to live life to a degree of excess back in the 1980s. We colored our hair wildly and vividly. We wore clothing that defied the normal “sensibilities” of our parents. We made our choices of who we wanted to lead us politically. For some of us, this led us into Paganism, where we found the acceptance of who we are and what we believed. For others, they made decisions to live lives much closer to what their parents had done.

Choices. In my mind, this is what the so-called “culture wars” is really about. Its about the choices that people make for their own lives. Make the wrong choices, according to these loud, over-bearing right-wing fanatics – and you find yourself on the outside of society. Take away those choices that are considered to be “repugnant” and leave only the choices that are “acceptable” and society will become as they dream it to be.

Folks, I’m in my fifties now. I’m set in the way I live my life. I can make small, individual choices, but none of that is going to skew the way I live my life. The culture war isn’t about me. Its about those younger folks, who are malleable at this point in their lives. The culture war is about herding them into a direction of choices that would be acceptable to a small group of others. Personally, I could give a flying shit what choices the younger generation makes. Become a Republican. Drink the Kool-Aid of the right or left in this country. Just leave all of the choices on the table, so they can make up their minds as they wish to. Removing all of their choices is the same as removing their freedom. We may as well take aptitude tests and assign people to jobs and income brackets based solely on those tests. What does a society look like when its only given a small group of choices? Ask the former Soviet Union citizens from the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.

Closing This Out

This is only a small area of my thoughts on this particular subject. Yes, this is political in nature, because of the focus of what the so-called “Culture War” is. This is only my opinion. My perspective. Others can – and definitely will – disagree with me. I’m not saying that I am completely correct in what I am saying – merely that is what I have seen from my seat in history. Its not the Republicans that I find vile, so if you’re a Republican reading this and come to that conclusion, I understand why you did. But that’s not my position. Republicans and Democrats are about how the governmental aspects of this country get managed and run. My beef comes from those who dictate what choices the younger generations will have. Right or wrong, this younger generation has the right to make their choices. Those choices of right and wrong are the experiences that they will grow and learn from. To arbitrarily remove those choices, simply because you don’t feel others should choose this or that…in my estimation, you are robbing them of a full life. Essentially placing them at gun-point to make a smaller, defined set of choices – just so the youth can usher in a long-lost point of generational values that you cling so tightly to. I leave you with a final thought from pop artist Debbie Gibson. Yes, I am going to quote Debbie Gibson here. From her song “Electric Youth” from her 1987 album of the same name:

We do what comes naturally
You see now, wait for the possibility
Don’t you see a strong resemblance to yourself?
Don’t you think what we say is important?
Whatever it may be, the fun is gonna start with me

Just a thought. Especially when you are considering how to mold the youth of tomorrow using your outdated generational norms. Remember, this is about choice…and choice is all we should ever have. Unlimited. Unvarnished. Available.

JOPO (Just one person’s opinion)

–Tommy /|\

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Originally published 17Dec2021

Edited for grammatical and spelling mistakes (I’m not perfect and never will be) 18Dec2021

Howling Into the Wind: Stuck in the Middle With Me

Pushback. Blowback. Criticism. Disagreement. All part of what daily life has been for me. No matter the perspective that I espouse, there’s always some individual somewhere watching with a disapproving look on their face. When President Trump was an office, my stance of essentially ignoring him drew criticism from my friends who were quite liberal. How could I just ignore him and his antics? He’s destroying the world around us. He’s an affront to everything decent in the United States. You can’t ignore what he’s doing. When I did criticize some of his more inane stances within US politics, my more conservative friends called me a traitor to the Constitution that I defended for eight years in an active duty uniform. A stance of defense where I chose to be governed by the Uniform Code of Military Justice instead of the Constitution I swore to defend. In all honesty, it didn’t matter which stance I took – someone was going to vehemently disagree with me, tell me that I was wrong, and level charges towards me that I was violating my oath of fidelity to the Constitution.

I get the same degree of pushback within my approach to my Paganism, and my Druidry. My friends who follow a reconstructionist path will say that I am wrong in my approach to working on my own. I don’t have the correct “source” material. Like I need to quote my sources in appropriate and correct Modern Language Association (MLA) format in every ritual that I write, or every blog post I create. They don’t press the MLA quotation aspect, but there are days it feels that way. My more eclectic friends will tell me that I need to let go of the connections I have to affiliated groups and learn to govern myself without input from elsewhere.

Even within my professional life, I catch the lower levels of the Nine Hells over the way I manage what I do. Improvisation is not a skill to be used by Information Technology professionals. There are set processes that must be adhered to religiously. I shouldn’t learn coding principles for data reporting. Just push the button on the software and let it generate the report. Or conversely those that want to go the “home brew” route with everything. I shouldn’t trust the software tool that I am using. I should write one on my own, that way I know everything that its doing. No matter where I turn, I seem to be caught in the middle.

But the middle is not a bad place to be. Granted, I am altering AC/DC’s song “Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be” ever so slightly. But I’m really ok with being in the middle of things. For me, being in the middle provides me with the flexibility to alter my approaches appropriately to the situations I find myself in. And I prefer flexibility. It gives me options. I am provided with choices. I like choices.

I’m not a Republican, Democrat, or any other political party. I remain an unaffiliated voter because I get the opportunity to look over all the candidates and choose from the perspective that I can relate to the best. Sadly, these days that always feel like the impossible: choosing between two bad sides. Within my Paganism and Druidry, I am not trying to reinvent the Wheel. In fact, I’m just trying to find perspectives that match my own far better. Nor am I trying to match my Spiritual practices to what my ancestors did so long ago. I’m not living tens, hundreds, or even thousands of years ago. I’m living here and now. My Spiritual practices are here and now. Thus, I am not trying to reconstitute something from the Past. I’m working in the here and now. Professionally, I will do whatever it takes to get the job done or to get the system running again. I’m not worried about violating the “correctness” of how it gets done. I just want it running right now. I’ll come back later and set things into the appropriate aspect of operations long after I got it working.

For me, being in the middle provides me the flexibility to make choices to get results. Rightness, wrongness, correct processes, incorrect methodologies – none of that matters at the moment of getting things running.

I know where my mindset comes from. The United States Air Force taught me this process and concept. Make it run. If I use correct wiring or if I hold things together with chewing gum and bailing wire – it doesn’t matter. Just make it go for the time being. Putting it together the correct manner takes a back seat to getting it running. Believe me, I’ve gotten tons of pushback on this process throughout my life.

Some folks call me concept a “fly by the seat of your pants” concept. ::shrug:: I grok that perspective. I’ve been told that I do things the “wrong” way as well. Honestly, I’m alright with that too. I learned that its just easier to do what you need to do than to worry about how you get perceived by others. I’m not looking for the love and adoration of others over how I handle my Pagansim and Druidry. I’m not seeking anyone else’s approval than my own. Nor am I seeking to have others do things the same way that I do. Everyone walks the Path that suits them the best.

Will you get criticized for doing things this way or that? Sure, you will. There so many ways to deal with your Spirituality. How much it bothers you is up to you. I cannot and will not determine what is right and wrong for you. I can present you with a perspective or a choice. Whether you choose to accept that choice or set that perspective up as a precept of what you are going to do is ultimately your choice. And honestly, your reasoning for accepting, rejecting, or altering what is presented to you is all your business, not mine.

–Tommy /|\

Howling Into the Wind: I’m Not A “Holy” Man

I am a Priest. Whether I care one whit about the term, I AM a Priest. I have spoken on and off about my on again/off again perspective of being just this. I tried to push away the concept from myself. I have grudgingly accepted the point. I have struggled with terminology, perspective, and the entire concept of being thus – all thanks to my schooling in Catholic schools. Yes, my schooling. Since the 7th grade, I have exclusively gone to Catholic schools, courtesy of my parents. As a short sidebar, my parents were wanting to provide me with a more structured and disciplined education than public schools in Alabama and Louisiana had to offer. They wanted the best advantages they could provide for their children. I understand all of that. I did not thrive in my parochial education. While my test scores for college acceptance (my SAT and ACT test scores) were very good, my high school grades were not. I was not a fan of being spoon fed doctrine for a religious belief system that my parents were not members of. All of that feeds into my personal dislike of the term “Priest.”

So, with that early background, along with a handful of posts here on the blog, and you have a fair assessment over how I’ve struggled with the term being applied to me. Slowly, I’ve come to grips with the term, but not with the concept behind the terminology. All of that, I’ve had very few issues with. Me performing a handfasting? I’ve never done it, but I know I’m capable of doing it. Plus, I can always run screaming and crying to Cat for tips and a better understanding. She’s the tops in my book, so that’s where I would head for help, advice, and comforting over my feelings of inadequacy. But if someone truly wanted that, I could do it. Being on hand to help with the funeral of someone? I could do that too. I’d likely contact Kristoffer Hughes for help and advice. Plus, I have his book “The Journey Into Spirit” for even more source material and assistance. I already have provided advice and assistance to new Pagans seeking direction in their own Spiritual Paths and will continue along that pathway. Honestly, I’m not the most skilled Priest in the world, but that’s due to a lack of experience – not a lack of knowledge or drive.

So yesterday, I rolled across a descriptive of a Priest that kicked up a lot of the red flags that brought my consternation over the term.

You are a Priest. You speak for the Gods. You are a holy man. You teach people how to build relationships with the Gods. Your work IS holy.

Teaching people to build relationships with the Gods. Ok, I can grok this point. It’s akin to helping people find their way to the Spiritual Path that they wish to explore. I’m not a Wiccan, but I know enough Wiccans to either find an appropriate avenue for a Seeker to travel or initiate contact between the Seeker and the Wiccan. So I can understand that part of what I can do is help those who are trying to make that connection to the Gods, but always with the caveat that the Gods call who They call. Having any of the Gods leaning over your shoulder and whispering in your ear doesn’t happen for everyone. But I understand how this is the duty of a Priest. It’s the rest of the statement that I take umbrage with.

As I’ve said, I am a Priest. I am a Druid. I work with Crow, Coyote, and Abnoba. None of that means that I speak FOR the Gods. I work WITH my two Gods and my singular Goddess. I’m not an Oracular aspect for any of Them. As far as I can remember, which doesn’t mean that its canon or some holy writ, Oracles are not Priests – and vice versa. But I wouldn’t rule it out completely. As I have commented so many times before – I’m only an expert on me. I don’t create holy writ or canon for anyone. But I can, without the shadow of a doubt, proclaim that as a Priest, I speak for NONE of the Gods.

Nor am I a “holy man.” Describing a Priest in this fashion falls far too close to Catholic perspective for me. The work I do is not “holy work” and never would be. The work I do WITH my Gods is not some holy manifestation of Them on this earth. I know that THEY are capable of handling that without my assistance or compliance. Laying a descriptive of “holy” at my feet simply because I accept the descriptive term of “Priest” being applied towards me is just not what I see. HOWEVER…..

Working as a Priest to handfast a couple is a moment that might be described as “holy.” Being there to witness a couple (or a poly triad or what have you) pledge their undying love and compassion to the Universe…that’s a “holy” privilege. The same can hold true for funeral rites, rites of passage, and even leading a ritual celebrating the turning of the Wheel of the Year. So I could say that some work that a Priest does can be considered “holy” in its nature. But I do submit that performing in these roles (and others that would equally apply) do not make me a “holy man.”

Others will disagree with me on that, but it’s the one area that I am firmly taking my stand. I am not a holy man. I am a Pagan. I am a Druid. I am capable of performing the functions of a Priest. I am a Teacher. I am just me. A simple, humble Pagan – trying to live my life one day at a time. Sometimes just one hour at a time. Sometimes even smaller time increments than that.

–Tommy /|\

Howling Into the Wind: Mistakes

What if, what if you find you made a mistake
What if, what if it’s worth the chance
That you’re taking

I would never want to see you standing
In the line of fire
You’re the one who has to come to grips
With your own desires

Tommy Shaw, “Remo’sTheme (What If?)

That’s a portion of the lyrics of “Remo’s Theme (What If” by Tommy Shaw from the soundtrack of the Gods-awful 1985 film “Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins.” Great song. Gods awful, horrible film. Tommy also features the song on his album “What If”. But this post is not about that awful film or even the song. This little snippet of the lyrics from the song provides a question that we all encounter within our lives: what if we make a mistake?

Seriously, if I had a dollar for every time I made a mistake, I would be rich beyond my wildest dreams. I would. Most definitely. If I made each of those mistakes weigh a single pound, and then had those mistakes piled on top of me – I would be crushed to death by the sheer weight. You get the picture though: I’ve made quite a few mistakes in my life.

My Spiritual life starts down the road of the Methodist belief system – the beliefs of my parents. But my parents were never serious about their religious beliefs. The Methodist past probably seemed to be the quiet and “safe” path for them. I can’t say for sure. Both of my parents passed beyond the veil a few years back, and throughout my entire life up to the point of their passing, we never discussed Spiritual faith. However, my parents seemed to be enamored with the education style of the Catholic faith and enrolled me and my sister into Catholic schools when we came back to the States from Germany. In Catholic schools, religious education is a requirement for all students. Thus, I was educated in the concepts and beliefs of the Catholic faith. I listened in class. I assimilated the concepts, terminology, procedures, and the such. Fuck, I wanted a good grade. Not that I was a stellar student. I graduated next to last in my high school class. With some of the highest ACT and SAT scores in the class. To tell the honest truth, high school was boring. When I graduated, I looked for a new Spiritual path.

My first stop was the Southern Baptists. Definitely not a good fit from the word “go”. I was viewed as “dangerous” by most of the parents, simply because I asked questions. Starting at this location was a mistake. A mistake that I had to alter when I joined the Air Force. In Basic Training, at our first Chapel service, I filtered myself into a group of trainees that were atheists and agnostics. During chapel service, we were always asked to sit quietly at the back of the chapel and left alone. This choice was another mistake. I had beliefs that there were things out there that were far more powerful than human beings could ever imagine. I just had no words to describe or define what I believed. When I was sent to my first duty station – Carswell Air Force base in Fort Worth, Texas – I stumbled into a Wiccan Priestess, who helped me to understand what Paganism was. I finally had words for what I believed. My first footsteps on my Pagan path began. I would make a few steps along the way with that as well.

When I made mistakes in finding my own Spiritual Path, I backed up, reset my thinking, and chose a different Path. I have often wondered how different I would be if I had just stopped and given up instead. All the people I likely would not have encountered over my thirty-plus years on this Spiritual Path. All the life-long extended family that I have in my life that wouldn’t be there because I had just given up. On top of that, I look back at all the mistakes I have made in my professional life. All the miscalculated results, all the incorrect equipment adjustments. Then there are the mistakes I have made in my own personal life. Trusting the wrong people to have the best intentions towards me. How different would I be if I had not made those mistakes? What if I had just given up and not bothered to try again and again?

Our choices define who we are. Our choices aim us to new experiences that are further down the road. Our mistakes provide experiences that we can learn directly from, just as our successes can do the same. Certainly, I am not proud of all my mistakes. But I made them. I’ve gotten mad at myself for some of my mistakes. Eventually, I got over that anger, picked myself up, dusted myself off, and moved on. Because I believe life is worth living. I believe that the experiences coming are worth continuing for. Good or bad. Life, for me, is about experiences. My Druidry is experiential.

I could have done so many things, baby
If I could only stop my mind
From wonderin’ what I left behind
And from worrying ’bout this wasted time

Eagles, “Wasted Time”

Sitting here looking back, the lyrics to the Eagles song “Wasted Time” come to mind. I can’t change the Past. Playing the “what if” game can be a fruitless pastime. But is it really? My observation of looking back to the choices that we have made is that it is a lot like a project post-mortem. In the Information Technology world, these autopsies look for what practices worked well, and which resulted in bottlenecks that stifled appropriate progress. There’s nothing that you can do for what has already happened. However, you can alter what you do in the future to avoid making the same mistakes. At least that’s the theory, right?

The real point in all of this? Allow yourself to make mistakes. Even the catastrophic ones. So long as no one dies, everything will be alright. Those big mistakes will hurt. They will hurt deeper than you realize. But the experiences is necessary. You won’t get anything from it at first…except for pain, and your self-esteem becoming a hardcore casualty of the process. The pain will lessen over time. Your self-esteem will be built back over time. And those tears? They are a part of the process too. Need a hug? Need someone to comfort you? I can do that for you. I can dry the tears and bring you a wet washcloth to clean your face. I can wrap my arms arounds you and hold you close. Because I’ve been there too. And far more recently than you may realize. I make mistakes too. I’ve been lucky enough to have people who have been there to comfort me, hold me, wipe away my tears, and assure me that everything will be ok…in time. And looking back…its not wasted time. But it’s a moment that needs to stay in the past. Remember, there are numerous new experiences coming. You want those. Good and bad. Because life moves forward. Come on. I’ll walk beside you along the way. I’ll hold your hand if you want me to. We can do it together.

Remember, its not about the mistakes we make. Its about how we bounce back from those mistakes that matters more. Mistkaes are learning experiences, not mortal wounds.

–Tommy /|\

Photo by Jasmine Carter on Pexels.com

Howling Into the Wind: Non-Mathematical Division

Here in central Tejas, the weather is about to bring another promise of the coming Winter. Right now, the trees are holding on to their leaves. The leaves are clinging to their colors. Two cold fronts will push through the area over the next two days. These aren’t very strong, so the temps won’t get too cold. But the cold fronts will be coming through. I do wish Winter would hurry up and trot on through.

I miss traveling. I still remember the trip to Glacier National Park in Montana. I hate flying. Interest perspective from a former Air Force member, eh? The trip to Glacier was a three-day trek by vehicle. Up across the front edge of the Rocky Mountains, where the majesty of that marvelous mountain range is just right in your face. Then into Wyoming, and then westward into Montana. Glacier National Park was an amazing place to be. But the trip also provided the opportunities to talk with complete strangers from time to time.

Thinking back, never once was there a conversation about politics. Most of the discourse worked along the subjects of where one was from, what did you think about the beautiful scenery, and where have you eaten that you would recommend. You know, simple stuff. So, I fast-forward to my recent trip to Mesa Verde National Park in the south-western corner of Colorado. Everywhere I went, the conversations that I walked past or walked past me were about one topic (or at least it seemed to be at the forefront): American politics. Complaints about Republicans. Complaints about Democrats. Insults aimed at former President Trump. Insults aimed at President Biden. Really hateful stuff. And conversations I never wanted to enter or intrude on. The difference in time? About six years. Maybe a little more.

I’m not a Republican or a Democrat. I’m not even a member of any of the smaller third parties that exist here in the United States. I’m what is termed as a “non-affiliated voter.” But you’ve heard this before, I’m none of that. I’m just me. I’m not overly chuffed with politics or political parties. You’re a registered Republican, a registered Democrat, or whatever other party you can dream of? Bully for you. I’m not impressed or disappointed in any of that. You handle what you need to do. Demand that I be part of your political movement or you will consider me to be a constant and consistent drag on society? Well, you’ll likely see a lot less of me in a social sense. I’ll find other circles to spend my time, probably to your great relief (though that’s an assumption – you still have to do you in that regard).

I have a theory (I have lots of theories) of what is manifesting this massive political perspective of “Us v. Them”. For a long time, our society has lived in a concept of division. We separate people according to their height, weight, skin color, eye color, handedness, social status, income level, intelligence, and a wide myriad of other factors. In achieving that aspect of division, we separate ourselves even deeper through concepts of how to govern our societal aspects, such as states, counties, cities, countries, municipalities, neighborhoods, and such. Once we figure out these divisions, we do our utmost best to protect what we have.

The year after I graduated high school, I attended a Sociology class in my first year of college. The professor who taught the class (whose name escapes me) divided the class into three groups. These groups were labeled as “Upper Class”, “Middle Class” and “Lower Class”. We then played a quiz game, where individuals who answered questions correctly (and first) were awarded points. Then, after the points were awarded, each group were given the chance to gather, and re-allocate all the points in the group. After this period, these points were checked to see if any individual had enough points to be moved from one group to another. After a time of playing, the groups were disbanded, and the students were asked for observations on what occurred. The students in the Upper Class group found that they always allocated the points to keep the lowest members in their group from being sent to the Middle Class. The members in the Lower Class reallocated their points to try and elevate their members with the highest point total into the Middle Class. The Middle Class; however, never re-allocated their points among their group, as each member attempted to move themselves into the Upper Class, while simultaneously attempting to keep themselves from being banished into the Lower Class. This particular exercise always stayed with me as an example of the competition that we seem to be with one another. Always trying to be better than someone else. I’ve never seen that to be more prevalent than it has been in today’s world of politics.

“If you vote for the third party, you’re voting for Trump!” was the cry I heard throughout the last Presidential cycle. I understand the entire statistical aspect that was being crowed in that political battle cry. But a political vote is more than just some statistical bean counting exercise. A political vote is letting your voice be heard, even when you know that voice is completely in the minority and has no statistical ability of coming out on top. Your vote isn’t a “protest” vote, as some claim. It’s a vote that expresses a perspective. But our political process here in America isn’t about expressing a view – its about winning and losing, as the campaign for President Trump so eloquently put it in his first Presidential run. Over the past few decades, our politics has devolved from a sometimes tense and terse national conversation on how to govern to angry, thinly veiled insults hurled at one side or the other. Its not about governance. Its strictly about winning and losing. And, has been the case decade after decade, our political perspective has spilled over into our everyday social lives. Are you a Trump supporter? Get off my Facebook feed. Better yet, I’ll block you. Us and them. The division goes deeper than neighborhoods where people of certain income brackets live. It goes deeper than an individual’s skin color. Or one’s religious beliefs. Yes, really. Religious beliefs. Check out the Sundays, when people of one faith go to the little (sometimes not so little) building to pray together. And then race the people of the other faiths to the local restaurants to eat with their families. Yep, the Southern Baptists are making a run for the local sit-down restaurant to fill the tables before the Catholics get there. ::smacking forehead:: What the fuck people?

As the meme goes: I’m not competing with anyone. I hope we all make it. When an emergency happens and someone needs assistance, I’m not going to start out by asking what political party they are part of. I’m not going to ask them for their COVID-19 vaccination card. I’m not going to ask what God they pray to. I’m not going to determine how much help I am going to give them based on their skin color or what clothing they are wearing. I’m going to help them to the best of my ability. Because I want all of us to make it. I want all of us to survive. My Druidry DEMANDS this of me.

Grant, O Gods, Thy Protection;
And in protection, strength;
And in strength, understanding;
And in understanding, knowledge;
And in knowledge, the knowledge of justice;
And in the knowledge of justice, the love of it;
And in that love, the love of all existences;
And in the love of all existences, the love of the Gods, and all goodness.

https://druidry.org/druid-way/teaching-and-practice/druid-prayer-devotion

EXCEPT, if the individual is a Trump supporter. Right? EXCEPT, if the individual is a Right-wing Christian who wants to eradicate all others of belief that is not their own, right? EXCEPT, if the individual is the wrong skin color, right? EXCEPT, if the individual is left-handed, right? EXCEPT, if the individual is a ginger (red-head for those of you outside of Europe), right? We don’t help those people, right? We want everyone else to make it. But these folks…they can just right out lose. Because its ALL about winning and losing, right? Sorry, not in my way of thinking. And yes, I do realize that applying all of this in the way that I am doing is going to place me outside the realm “rightness” in the eyes of others. But my personal values place me here. Again, I’m not here to compete with anyone. I want us all to make it. Even those that may “hate” me.

Some may think I’m being “silly” or “unrealistic” about the way I approach this. Awesome. I have no mandate in my life or the way I approach my daily life that says that everyone MUST think or believe the way that I do. I do have a mandate in my life that says that this is the way that I believe. And I have to be true to myself. I’m tired of all the divisions that we, as a collective society, have created to separate ourselves from one another. Other can play that game. Me? I’ll be on the other side of this playground we call Life, sitting under the tree reading.

–Tommy /|\

Yes, I spend a lot of time reading – even when I go to the beach

Howling Into the Wind: Group v. Solo

Over the past few months, I have read several bloggers talking about where our modern-day Spirituality is headed: individual practice. Seemingly, there are more Pagans that are striding into their Spirituality alone. Without groups. Alone. Exploring and developing their Spiritual practices (I still dislike this phrasing) on their own. There is a lot of dislike and skepticism being placed on this individual process by Pagans that have long championed the group concept. Now before everyone gets completely ramped up into the whole argument of Solitary v. Group perspective, let’s take a step back.

I have been in both camps. I started out in the Group perspective. I learned the basic concepts, processes, and ritual elements while I was there. I have a lot of thanks and gratitude towards the people who helped me learn material and concepts that were foreign to me at the time. However, after eight years, I found myself needed to strike out on my own. Now, I am a part of a larger group (Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids), but my daily practice (::cringing:: There’s got to be a better term) is completely my own. Thankfully, OBOD understands that both aspects can be part of an individual’s Spiritual needs, and not be in conflict. So, there’s now hardcore friction between the points – at least not that I have encountered. However, I do have to acknowledge that my experiences may be the outlier.

Is it bad to be on your own with your own Spirituality? There are those that are in groups that will point out that self-propelled Spirituality can assist in building Pagans through “bad decisions” or “poor understanding of the basics.” There seems to be an even deeper concurrence that self-propelled Spirituality develops what is demeaningly referred to as “fluffy-bunny” Pagans. Essentially, these types of Pagans don’t add up to what others feel Pagans should be. These fluffy-bunny Pagans just don’t seem to be up to the required hardcore element that these others feel the lowest bar of Paganism should reach. Thus, these fluffy-bunny Pagans are met with an attitude of “children just playing at being Pagan.”

For many solo Pagans (::cringe:: an even more klutzy phrasing), striking out on your own removes you from what they feel is a “cloning process” that occurs within groups. Everyone does the same thing. Everyone dresses the same. Any step away from the ruling concept of processes, dress, etiquette, etc. etc. is met with disdain and risks perceived banishment. Be like everyone else or be removed. Thus, the solo Pagans strike out on their own, to feel more at ease with what they do. They are the “masters/mistresses” of their own Spiritual perspective. No one tells them what to do. Their battle cry is “freedom!” versus the constant chants of “conform!” from the other side.

Now, both of those descriptions are extreme perspectives. There is a lot of middle ground to be had, as well as a metric ton of overlap. But the two extremes are better at defining the major differences. As I’ve noted before, I have feet in both camps. So do a lot of other Pagan folk out there. So, trying to relay these differences gets very muddy unless you deal in extremes.

So, which is better? Where should the new Pagan stand for their starting point on their neophyte Path? Is this new Path of individualism within Pagan Spirituality going to fundamentally change Paganism as we know it? Are we standing on the precipice of a cliff that will potentially destroy the seriousness of Paganism?

Don’t shake your head and state that these questions seem silly. I’ve heard, and read, these very questions being set out for discussion. Which is better? Where should you start? Well, I can’t tell you that. I would encourage the neophyte Pagan to look into both camps and see which appeals to them. Neither is bad. All of it hinges on what works for the individual in question. So, I can’t really say I would have a definitive answer for you, the individual reading this. I know the answer for myself, but that’s not going to be helpful for anyone else. Your choice, your decision.

Now, I come to the more difficult aspect. Is this new rush towards solitary (ugh…another unhelpful descriptive) Spirituality going to water-down the Paganism we all know? Will this move destroy Paganism as we know it – essentially becoming a cocoon to a new Paganism that will evolve soon, and put all of our groups into a place of being unnecessary? Well, I would have to say no. This seemingly “new” move towards Solitary Spirituality isn’t new at all. I remember the 1980s, when I started into Paganism. Many of the people I encountered within Paganism were solo Pagans. Not of desire, but out of necessity. Groups of Pagans would tend to live closer together, thus making gathering easier. With not much available communication beyond one’s local area, the further you were from others, the more likely your Pagan practice was as a party of one. So I would posit that this “new” movement towards solo practice is more likely a cycle within Paganism itself. In the future, I would assume that there will be a push back towards being a part of a group rather than being on your own. Of course, I’m not a Sociologist, nor am I an expert on the Sociological aspects of the wider Pagan community. I’m merely making my own guess known publicly.

So, is our collective, modern-day Paganism going to change? Well, I can tell you that today’s Paganism is far different than the Paganism I started with in the 1980s. So, my answer would be “yes” – things will change. And it will change enough that I will likely not be able to recognize it if I could jump into a time machine and move forward a few decades. Our collective society changes. Our Paganism will change with it. For better or worse, it will happen. Knowing that, I find the “debate” of Solo Paganism v. Group Paganism to not have much relevance. Arguments can be made about which style is better, which style is “more appropriate.” In the end, it all falls to an individual choice. For me, I prefer my feet in both camps. My personal daily Paganism is Solo because it fits my approach to my Gods. My wider Paganism includes the Group element because I am still a part of my wider Pagan community. I am not always in synchronous agreement with my fellow Druids or Pagans. But that doesn’t exclude me from either respective grouping. It merely means that there is a difference of opinion and/or perspective.

Others will have a difference of opinion over all of this. Their difference is not wrong. Nor is mine. We merely see the world from a different vantage point around the fire. To place that concept into proper perspective, I offer this. Have four people sit directly opposite from one another on the line of a circle. Give them pen and paper. Then set a coke can directly in the middle. Ask them each to provide a description of what they see. They can only describe what they see. You will find that those diametrically across from one another will provide wildly different descriptions. Those next to one another will have many similarities in what they see. However, none of the descriptions will be the same. Yet they see the same coke can. Differences in perspective come from one’s vantage point. This is why I see validity in groups and in solo Spirituality. I’m not sure that this helps to explain where I am in this entire Group V. Solo argument, debate, difference…whatever you want to call it.

I cannot and will not tell people which option is better for them. You are your own individual. What appeals to you is what appeals to you. “Just be yourself” is about the best advice that I can give. Be true to you. For some, that can be frustrating to hear. I completely understand. But I am no Oracle. The only person that I truly have answers for is myself. I can offer advice, if asked. The weight of that advice…is up to you. But I would caution you against seeing me as some kind of “expert” with the “absolute” truth. I’m just me.

–Tommy /|\

Howling Into the Wind: Change, Communication, Respect

Yesterday, I found a question that was asked of individuals that I believe might be beneficial to ask in a wider public forum.

Name something about the Occult Community you would like to see change…

As you can imagine, a wide-open question like this invites a lot of different angles and perspectives. My response:

Well, it sounds rather basic – but just be yourself. I don’t play any kind of gate-keeping role in what Pagans of any stripe should or should not be doing, that includes what one needs to be doing within the wider community. I think it’s more important to individual Spirituality to find one’s own self and utilize that as an anchor to avoid becoming some kind of “Pagan clone”. If we stay authentic to ourselves and to our wider Community, we avoid a lot of the “artificial” perspectives that arrive when we start looking at others doing their own thing and saying that their approach is “wrong” or ‘New Agey”. Everyone has their own path to walk, and we should avoid trying to play up the idea that any other walk than our own is incorrect, incomplete, or inaccurate. Diversity in Paths, Approaches, and Perspectives are a strength, in my opinion.

Tommy /|\

Not precisely earth-shattering stuff, right? Nothing that I haven’t written about before on the blog. Nothing radically different from stuff that I have talked about face-to-face with others. Nothing that others have not disagreed with me on before either. But its not my answer I want to write about here. It’s the writing prompt.

As I’ve noted often, at the risk of being ad nauseam about it, I have been on my Pagan Path for three and a half decades. In that time, I have watched the ebb and flow of the Pagan community. When I started, digital communications, such as the internet did not exist. Much of long-distance communications were done through personal letters or via dial-in Bulletin Board Systems (BBSs). You can imagine (and some of you don’t have to imagine – you lived it, just as I did) the Community was largely dependent on the cohesiveness of various local individuals. Over time, digital communications expanded into what we know and utilize today. That expansive communications ability has been helpful to so many on their own individual Paths, and has not only widened our knowledge base, but allowed for a lot more cohesive research on those perspectives by so many. Our wider Pagan community has not only grown by leaps and bounds, but we have found more ways to help one another along our respective Paths.

However, from time to time, there is always a need to step back and take stock of what has been done, what is being done, and where things are going. Questions such as the one noted above, are typically the start of such endeavors. Like I noted, I have been around a long time. My direct participation in the Pagan community has also ebbed and flowed during that time. I would never hold myself up as a paragon of virtue in being a part of the community. I am aware of most of my faults and missteps. However, despite all of that, I am a part of the wider community, even if I wanted to deny that point. Whether I like it or not, I am a part of the Pagan community. So, what I answered above is not a judgment of the community or a damnation of what is lacking within the community. What I answered was merely an observation, nothing more. My prescription for it – also within my answer – is only my perception of what needs to be done. I am not the Pagan with all the answers. Furthermore, I can only correct my faults and missteps. I cannot and will not be responsible for changing the behaviors and attitudes of others.

Should the Pagan community be taking stock of where things are, and be looking for what change can be done? Well, my answer would be “yes.” But I am a single individual. I am not the Pagan Pope. And if you dig hard enough, you may find a few claiming to be such, somewhere on the internet. But I am all for self-examination. Within my own professional career, this type of perspective is an ideal thing. Within any Information Technology project, there is a period after the project has been completed, and the results set into motion, where self-examination happens. Within the realm of Project Management, this is called a “post-mortem” process. In Latin, the term means “after death,” essentially an autopsy. What you are essentially doing is checking how things went. You look for places where things went wrong, and how things were resolved on the fly. You are looking for ways to do it better the next time. Honestly, I do this after I make changes to my own personal ritual processes. Because I am always looking for where the kinks were, what worked, and what didn’t. That way I can change things and try my best to make my ritual process work better and have a better impact on what I was trying to do. It’s a process I use when writing code within my professional career. It’s a manner of getting better at what I do – learning new code, learning new syntax – just getting better. After all, there’s always room for improvement. Always.

The hard part about doing this in wider community setting, is that this only works on areas of commonality. Believe me, all of that is hard to locate – we are a wide, diverse community that is full of contradictory perspectives. However, there is one aspect that we can all agree upon (hopefully). That is respect of other spiritual perspectives. Even those that are in diametrical opposition to our own. I believe that this is the point that we need to take time to check and re-check ourselves on.

I was wondering aloud about what direction the wider community could take without this re-check process. Well, I hate to bring this into the point, but without checking and re-checking our aspect of respect for other perspectives, particularly those in opposition to our own – our future as a wider community might potentially look a lot like those in American politics, at this moment. Where the Right/Conservative, and Left/Liberal perspectives become so divided, that commonality cannot be achieved. Simply because we dig into our perspective perspectives, and demand that ours is the only, true way. That the other perspective is just wrong. When our entrenched attitudes will develop feelings or hatred, betrayal, and bring about enforcement of our belief over all others. The middle ground recedes to nothing. Compromise can never be achieved in such an environment. Entrenchment gets deeper and deeper. The result will be a civil war of proportions that are unimaginable. All because we lose respect for the other side. Where matters go after that civil war is an unknown that I do not want to even approach.

You might not agree with my assessment. I can grok that. (For those of who have not read Robert Heinlein’s works – “grok” simply means to empathize or communicate sympathetically – or if you prefer “I get you”) Right now, I would surmise that my logical progression to this point, is a wild guess-timation. I certainly hope that I am completely wrong.

Circling back to the original question, what would I – me, Tommy – like to see change within the wider Pagan community? Aside from what I have already written in response? Well, we have the tools to do so. I would like to see us talk with each other. Not talk AT each other. But that’s a conversation for another time, and probably for a better setting than a blog. I really wish we could all gather round a fire on a nice, clear night. Everyone with a nice beverage of choice. We will probably never solve all of the world’s problems, but there certainly is something to be said for the civility o face-to-face communication over that of hiding behind an IP address. #JustSayin’

–Tommy /|\

Howling Into the Wind: If I Stop, I’ll Never Know

I’ve been writing this blog for…what…seven years? Eight? Something like that. The WordPress history says that I started sometime in 2012, but the stats only show heavier readership in the next year. But really the amount of time is not that important – just a placeholder to put an emphasis on time. See, every few years, I wind up with someone asking me if I ever thought about publishing my own book. In the life of the blog, its happened more than a handful of times. And success-averse me always responds in the same manner – “who would want to read it?” Only this year has the answer not been – “right.” Instead, I wound up with a different perspective: “You’ll never know until you write it.”

These days, I have found myself challenging a lot of the perspectives I have built up over the years. 2020 proved to be the year that my perceptions were massively annihilated right before my very eyes. The very foundations of everything that I had been holding close vanished, and I found myself in a deeper sea than I had ever envisioned. It took a while to regain solid footing underneath me again. Once I managed that, I had to re-evaluate everything in my life. And I mean EVERYTHING.

The first was my perception relating to what I did for a living. My tendency has always been to make my job an integral part of how I define myself. What I found out was that I am not my job. My job is what I do for someone else. Work has been sparse. Without that anchor, I had to locate a stronger way to redefine who and what I am. For me, that meant an even deeper turn to my Druidry. I sought a better approach to rebuilding myself – not just in terms of defining myself, but in living what I believed. I had already done a rather foolish breakdown and re-evaluation of my Druidry, which proved – in the end – to be a complete waste of time. This time I didn’t need to rebuild. I needed to reinforce my Druidry. I needed to make sure that my Druidry was an integral and important part of me. I stepped back to doing ritual at appropriate times of the year, not just doing things “whenever.” I kept some of the impromptu aspects of what I do, but I added back more structured elements of ritual. I took the time to re-institute specific times for my meditational work. I pulled journal writing back into my daily practice. In the course of doing so, I find myself enamored with my Druidry again, and not resenting its pull away from other things, such as playing on the PlayStation. Now that the Easy Bake Oven summer of Texas has been lessened, I am getting back to walking again. Yeah, the distances are not anywhere near where I used to be, but it takes time and routine effort to get back to that point.

As I have been re-doing all of these things, and reconnecting with what makes Druidry beautiful, useful, and part of me, I have been wondering how many other people are coming out of that same rut. Let’s face it, COVID has sent us all scrambling indoors to try and avoid becoming ill. COVID has disrupted much of our daily lives and routines. For some who were just starting to enter the wider Pagan community and beginning their own personal steps on their Pagan Path, they may have felt all alone – like the community abandoned them, which it didn’t. We all did what was natural: we went into survival mode.

Yes, I write about stuff like that here on the blog. I write about a lot of other things that have taken place along my own Path. Once again, I feel that calling to write about my own journey, so that I can detail some of the darker aspects of what I went through, so that others can see that their journey may also follow into the shadows, but eventually, you will find the sunlight again.

I sat and discussed this a long time ago with a publisher, who quickly nixed the entire idea. “Books about personal journeys don’t sell,” is what I was told. I can understand that. I was aimed towards self-publishing, as an alternative. That sounds great, except that requires funds, which I don’t have. So, all of this still sits by the wayside. It might never see the light of day. Still, I write.

Am I an author? No. Am I important enough to be read? ::shrug:: I have no idea. But I still say the same thing when asked questions like this – I’m just me. Just an average, every day, Pagan Druid. Just trying to make my way through daily life. With Abnoba to one side of me, Coyote to the other side, and Crow on my shoulder. Constantly telling me all kinds of stuff. 😊

As for the blog, I have a few constant readers. I attract some traffic to the site. I only hope that folks who read what I write get something out of it. Because that’s the real reason I write. To help that one person get that one spark that fuels their inner passions and drives them on to be who they are meant to be. Just that one person. That would be more than enough for me. Maybe there’s a book in all of that. If I stop writing, I’ll never know.

–Tommy /|\

Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com

Howling Into the Wind: Practicing Alone

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

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

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

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

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

–Tommy /|\

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Tommy /|\

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