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

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

Robin Williams

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Tommy /|\

Howling Into the Wind: Four Political Quid in the Pot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Tommy /|\

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Tommy /|\

Photo by Darwis Alwan on Pexels.com

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

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

“How It Is”, Rush from “Vapor Trails”

Howling Into the Wind: Not Every Fight Is Worth the Energy

Today has been an odd day. I don’t normally engage people in religious or spiritual conversations unless I know them a bit better than most. However, today seems to have been the exception to that statement. I mean, its not a “rule” per say – more like an internal directive to myself. Even under that type of thinking, I usually do not discuss such matters with people that I know are heavily entrenched in their thinking and have no room or desire to comprehend other viewpoints. Again, today was somewhat of an exception – and it did not last very long either.

An individual, whom I know is a staunch agnostic, here in the neighborhood was engaged in a conversation with me that rolled from one point to another. In the process of moving topics, the tragedy of the condo-collapse came up. I noted that CNN had done a few discussions with those who are mourning the potential loss of their loved ones, while holding out hope of their survival. In the segments, a lot was made about their steadfast hope with a strong emphasis on what they believed would be the afterlife for their loved ones. The moment that came up, my conversation partner snapped into an angry perspective that these people were deluding themselves. That their so-called faith was essentially a “child’s understanding of the world around them.” I responded back that each individual has to make up their own mind as to what is right and wrong – each individual had to reach inside of who they are to determine what happens after one ceases to be in this world. The next remark was disdainful, in my opinion. “When they die, they no longer exist. There is no heaven for them to enjoy. They deteriorate until all that is left is their calcified skeletons.” “What about those of us that are believers in reincarnation?” “You’re even worse. You believe in a Marvel comics existence. All of you are fools.”

I ended the conversation shortly after all that. Skipping the derision and the anger, the conversation did have me thinking about the “rightness” and “wrongness” of believing the way that we do. However, as I turned that over and over in my mind – I kept coming back to how I have approached differences in Spiritual and religious belief: I know what I believe, but I am unwilling to make that into some kind of cut-and-paste belief. In other words, I disagree with quite a few ways of seeing the world around me. But disagreeing is one thing. Disregarding the personal nature of individual Spirituality and religious belief is another.

I am comfortable being around those of the Christian faith – yes, even those that would “rebuke” me to my face over how I believe. I have found that the easiest way to diffuse such situations was to not react defensively. In fact, I don’t even respond. When pressed, I will tell those people that I respect their beliefs and have no desire to change what or how they believe. But there is an exception to that. Should you try to harm me or anyone else because we don’t believe as you – you will have one insane fight on your hands. And I don’t fight “fair”.

Now back to where I was. What happens when we pass on? To be completely honest, I don’t know. I am a strong believer in reincarnation. I do believe I have been here many times before. I also believe that sharp details of those times are not available to me. What I can recall, which frankly is not much, are more like muddied markers. I doubt I will ever be able to sort much of that out. I do know that there are members of other faiths that believe differently. Unlike some of those Paths, mine does not provide the dictum that everyone else must believe as I do. My Path is mine alone. Sometimes people walk it with me. Most of the time, they don’t.

I am sure I am not alone in encountering people that are staunch and firm that their beliefs, their way of seeing the world around them, is the “only true road” that everyone else must travel. So, I am sure that there are those that are just as taken aback of their extremely aggressive pronouncements of how “stupid” or “idiotic” those who don’t see things their way are. Being honest, I usually avoid these people in most serious conversations after encountering them once.

Now, this is how I deal with stuff like this. None of that means that you must do as I do. You might crave the debate – the constant back and forth, the ways of utilizing logic in intellectual combat that they may have never considered. If that’s your cuppa, go for it. Just don’t be surprised if I back to the edges of the conversation and stop paying complete attention – if we are together. I know my own limits. Don’t be offended when you find that my limits stop far short of where yours are.

–Tommy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Tommy

Howling Into the Wind: Moving on From the Smoking Ruins

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

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

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

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

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

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

Styx, Blue Collar Man”

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

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

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

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

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

–Tommy

Photo by Lindeboom Jean-Bapt on Pexels.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Tommy

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

Howling Into the Wind: Whose Side Are You On?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Tommy

Howling Into the Wind: A Different Beltane Perspective

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Tommy

Howling Into the Wind: The Draw of Paganism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Tommy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Odysseus, Troy (2004)

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

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

–Tommy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Depeche Mode, “People Are People”

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

–T /|\

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Howling Into the Wind: Wiser and Older But Still Foolish

Life has certainly changed a lot for me – not just in the past few months, but also over the longer course of this river that is my life. I keep thinking back to the first few years of where I was in my Pagan Path comparing it against the Pagan and Druid I have become today. I see a lot of differences. A lot more than I had initially realized. I had honestly never thought I would be where I am at now. In fact, looking back, I am not even sure of where I thought things were going to go for me as a Pagan.

In the Beginning

Most of my Spiritual background comes from an empty slate. My parents were Protestants but sent me to Catholic schools because the education there was supposedly better than the public schools. I learned a lot about the Catholic church’s history, its rituals, and its philosophy. The problem with that…I simply didn’t believe what I was being taught by the Priests, Nuns, and other faculty members. Perhaps, part of that is the rebellious streak that I have in me. I have never taken to having something shoved down my throat. Frankly, I learn better when the material is presented to me, and I am given the opportunity to make decisions on my own.

Once I graduated high school, I moved over to the Southern Baptist realm. Again, I rebelled against having a philosophical perspective shoved down my throat. The ladies were prettier though. 😊 I didn’t really learn much about this belief system while I was there. I came to realize quickly that I was no fan of the presentation method of loud yelling and threatening “unbelievers” with a painful eternal life in Hell. I never have dealt too well with threatening perspectives. Threats only make me feel like my back is against the wall.

Eventually, I came across a Wiccan Priestess that I was interested in romantically. She was up-front about her beliefs and offered me the late-Margot Adler’s “Drawing Down the Moon” to provide me some perspective. What I read was what I had believed – right there in words. At the end of the book, I noticed a Bibliography of other books, and was compelled to ask about those. Luckily, she had a few of those in her library and provided those to me. At this time, I was in the Air Force and stationed at Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth, Texas.

On-Fire for Paganism

I would read these books during the shifts that I worked in the Data Processing Center, where I worked the base’s mainframe operations. Late at night, when the work was done (or during the long weekend hours), I would not only read about how Pagans and Witches had been treated over the ages according to what the authors would write – I would openly try to discuss this with the Christians that I worked with. I was never very kind about what I read and what I thought of it. Eventually, this pushed me on to a shift where the other three members were all Evangelical Preachers for their congregations. Eight-hour shifts with these guys felt like an eternity. Twelve-hour shifts were absolutely Hell. Over time, I learned to just work and keep my mouth shut.

That was a good thirty-plus years ago. I was not very accommodating of Christian beliefs and was hot-headed enough to say so. These days, my perspective has changed a lot. I see the Christian path as valid for those who seek to follow it. Those who attempt to ram it down your throat – well, they are simply doing what they feel is right. So long as they do not try to force me to believe as they do – its easy for me to ignore them and move along. This choice has certainly made my Path a lot quieter than it was before. 😊

Stick to the Rules

Reading a lot of the books, I saw how rituals were outlined, and all the setup work that went into making things “right”. Certain types of incense for certain rites. Certain color candles for this and that. If I couldn’t find the exact stuff – I just wasn’t going to be able to do the ritual. To me, at that time, these books were holy writ. No changing anything. Over time and talking with other Pagans that I have encountered along my long, flowing river – well, I have come to realize that nothing must be a certain way. Anything can be done with what you have on-hand. Its your intent that matters more. Don’t have candles? Flashlights can suffice, if needed. Don’t have drinking water available? A bottle of Dr. pepper can stand in for that if needed. Don’t have ritual clothing? No worries. That Pet Shop Boys concert t-shirt, those worn-out jeans, and your beat-up tennis will be all right. Forgot the words? Well, if you don’t have a physical copy of the ritual…wing it, if you can. There’s nothing wrong with any of that. What matters more is where your heart is at that moment. Where your mind is. Where your being is focused. The rules, the outline of the ritual, the various tools, clothing items – shit, even the date you do the ritual – is just extra and not really needed. The only thing that can’t be replaced or over-looked…is you.

To be openly honest, most of my rituals that I do on my own are impromptu. I have a basic structure that looks somewhat like OBOD’s ritual framework, but only somewhat. Outside of that, everything is stuff from the top of my head. I know that none of what I do for myself will have much impact for others. But I am a solo Druid. The only impact I am worried about in a ritual-for-one is for me. When I gather with a group of Druids or Pagans for any ritual aspect, I follow their guidelines to the letter. Their show…their rules. For me, it really is as simple as that.

Where Does It All Go?

Back when I first started down my Pagan Path, I honestly do not recall myself having any kind of direction. Even when I was part of the Wiccan groups I started with. My goals were essentially whatever they told me those should be. I had no idea where I was going or what I was doing. By the time I came to Druidry, I had a better idea of what I was trying to do – what kind of Pagan I wanted to be – even what kind of Druid I wanted to focus on being. That was around eleven years ago. A lot has changed for me since then. My focus is a little different. I have a desire to be a mentor…but I have no idea where or how to get there. Or if that Path would even be open to me at this point. I know I have a lot more to learn. My Path is only now starting to come out of one of the darkest periods in my life. There are lessons from that which I still need to learn and process. And lessons that I learned during my time in the dark that I need to work on completely removing. All of that takes time. It takes work. It takes sweat and effort. I honestly can’t say I knew that starting down this river. I really did think this was all just reading books and drinking and chanting around a campfire. Damn I was young and foolish. I’m older now. I can still be foolish…as shown by the last year. However, as I have learned over time – experience is a damn gorgeous teacher. A bit stern sometimes, a bit harsh at others, but She is awesome, nonetheless.

Through it all, I must echo what Mickey Hart said at the end of the Grateful Dead’s last show. Be kind. Not just to others, but to yourself too. You will make mistakes. You will get hurt. But if your heart is in the right place, you will heal – and continue. Just be kind about it all.

By the way, I am not the Pagan I was when I first started down this river. Thank the Gods for that. Looking back, I was not a very pleasant individual to be around. Some would say that I am still not a pleasant individual to be around now. 😉 But I would like to believe that I am a much more mellow individual than I was. Much more forgiving. Much more understanding. And yes, kinder.

–T /|\

Howling Into the Wind: Labels

Basic. Intermediate. Expert. Beginner. Level One. Baby Pagans. I have heard and read all these terms applied to magick and to practitioners of various Paths. I dislike every single one of them. Seriously.

I do understand their use though. Particularly in structured teaching environments. After all, at one point in my life, I was a collegiate professor. The concept is quite simple. It’s a concept of progression, pure and simple. Within the collegiate setting, the learning structure is setup to provide concepts that are mastered at each class level, and then built upon in the next. To use some of the vernacular that I am trying to discuss, think of it this way. You take a Wicca 101 class to understand the basics of what Wicca is, the simplest aspects of the ritual aspects, some divination techniques (maybe) and perhaps even some spell work. Once you finish with that, proving that you absorbed the information provided, you take the next steps towards more “advanced” techniques and concepts.

The same aspect holds true in…say, computer programming. You learn the basic syntactical rules of whatever language you are learning, along with how simple concepts such as loops, logical flow, and input/output. The next class builds on those concepts, while introducing more complex structures such as modular program flow or object programming. At the end of the progression of courses, if you pass, you will have gathered enough information that you can extrapolate on what you have learned to create your own techniques within the programming language. At least in theory.

Not a difficult concept to understand, eh? So why do I have a beef with all of that? I come from a collegiate background, certainly I can understand why such a systematic approach works well. Well, I do understand the approach. I will even admit that it works for me, to some degree. But I take slight umbrage at the terminology.

Underneath the veneer of these terms, an undercurrent of arrogance can occur. I am better than you because I am taking this ‘Intermediate” class within this Occult School of thought. Or to even utilize some of my own Order’s own perspective – I am better than these people in the Bardic grade because I have progressed to my Druid grade. The idea that one is better than others, simply because one has managed to progress to a certain level – well, that stuff tends to grate on my personal nerves.

Right now, I am in my Ovate grade within OBOD’s system. I have managed to get through my Bardic grade. That does not make me better than any single member of the Bardic grade. All it means, in my eyes, is that I have managed to accumulate the knowledge that I needed to within the Bardic grade. I am no better or less than any member at any level within the Order. To think otherwise, would be creating a classist state for the Order. In other words, I would be expecting to be treated as being better than those in the Bardic grade, simply because I was an Ovate. I certainly would expect to be treated differently as an Ovate than a Bard, simply because I am part of the Ovate grade. There are different expectations of members of each of the grades within OBOD, but no group is any better than the others.

So, I have a personal distaste of the perspective of classism when it comes to what one is or is not capable of within magick and Paganism, based solely on what they have learned or experienced. Sure, the concept of progression in what can be done makes sense. However, labeling it as “Basic”, “Intermediate”, and “Expert” can and does lend itself to an aspect of classism, which then lends itself to simple arrogance.

So, what do I propose that would be better? Or different? Honestly, I am not proposing that anything would be better. That is not a paradigm that I want to operate within. I am not trying to say that one technique is better than any other. What works for one individual does not work for another. For those that follow Major League Baseball, you will understand this example. Batting is a simple technique of getting your hands positioned correctly to be able to connect with a pitched ball. Every hitter develops a timing technique and a batting stance that allows them to (a) see the ball coming out of the pitcher’s hand, and (b) shrinks the strike zone to make it harder for the pitcher to throw a strike to them. Not every hitter adopts a stance that has them hunched over the plate, like Pete Rose did. However, whatever stance they adopt, is the one that they are comfortable with.

I see much of this in the same light. For some folks, this classist concept of learning magick works for them. They understand the progression. They are used to the procession of material from their mundane lives (typically within the Education system). It works for them, and that is a good thing. My preference is different. I work with material as I need to. I learn what I need to work with. Sometimes, it can be clumsy, but that awkward approach also helps me to learn.

If I am being completely open and honest, it is not the methodology and the approach that turns me off. Solely, it is the vernacular that creates my disdain. For me, the terminology is what creates a classist perspective, particularly when it has the denotation of one being better or more superior to another, simply because of what knowledge has been accumulated. But to be even more frank, I am not sure what verbiage could be utilized and applied that would not leave similar classist stains behind.

Yeah, perhaps I am howling into the wind, hoping for an echo from the canyon that is up-wind. This is not something I can find a solution for – even within my own personal thinking. Aside from remaining on guard for a potential under-current of classism or arrogance carrying me along, all I can do is hope that others do not succumb to those waters. After all, I can only control what I do, what I think, and what I feel. To do otherwise, in my eyes, would be unethical, as well as inappropriate.

–T /|\

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