I am Defined By What I Do

Over the past week-plus, I got popped by an individual that took some umbrage with my “style” of Druidry. In fact, I was told that being here in northern America, that I wasn’t really practicing Druidry. See, “real” Druidry only comes from the British Isles. Here in America, Druidry is really just a “mish-mash” of Native American beliefs, and “Americanized” Wicca. The implication here being that I should just drop the “Druid” aspect of what I am and be realistic about what I am doing. Essentially, I am a “mutt” believer of some New Age stew that I have created.

I started to fire back an angry retort but held off for the moment. After all, its an online forum where this came from. Asynchronous communication provides me with the opportunity to hold off and begin the process of removing a lot of my emotional attachment to what I was going to say. Instead of creating some online kerfuffle that solves absolutely nothing, while ratcheting up the drama level – I was going to take the time to turn this over and over in my mind before responding. Which I never did.

That’s right. I decided not to respond, except by this blog post. Which I doubt the individual will ever read. Nor do I care if they do. I’m not in the business of trying to change the minds of other people. My business is making sure that I am true to who I am. But that’s a different direction than where I wish to head with this, and I will not let my easily distracted mind sidetrack me here.

Yes, my Druidry is pieced together from a wide variety of sources. The primary framework comes from the framework of Druidry, as provided from the teachings of The Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids (OBOD). On that framework, I have attached teachings and concepts from other belief systems – First nations’ teachings here in North America, concepts from the far Eastern belief systems, some perspectives of Shamanic beliefs from the Scandinavian area of the world, as well as the Siberian peoples – at least those that I can find documented in texts. Yes, much of what I have is a mishmash of stuff that resonates with me. However, none of that invalidates what I use as a basis for my beliefs. No, its not just Druidry. It’s the connection I have with the Gods I work with.

I’m not sure if that makes any sense to anyone reading this, but it makes sense to me – and from where I sit, that’s what is most important. All of this recalls a particular point from the movie “Bloodsport” starring Jean-Claude Van Damme. Yeah, the guy makes some super cheesy action movies. Bloodsport, in particular, has some dubious aspects to its authenticity, since much of it is based on unverified claims made by martial artist Frank Dux, on whose life the movie is based. Setting that aside, there is a particular moment in the movie that struck a strong chord with me and resonates to what I am trying to get across here. The dialogue below is a moment in the film when the Asian martial arts master and Dux are conversing after the death of the Master’s son – Shingo. The Master is going to stop training Dux because of Shingo’s passing.

Frank Dux: Shingo and I were close friends. Brothers. And you and Mrs. Tanaka have treated me like a son. What will happen now?
Tanaka: No more training. Stop now.
Frank Dux: [shakes his head] But you have so much to teach.
Tanaka: You don’t understand. During the war, I lost my first family. My son, daughter, and wife. I left Japan because of the war. War was wrong. I came to America to start over, to have a new family, and a son. For 2,000 the teachings passed, father to son, father to son. When Shingo died, it stopped.
Frank Dux: Teach me. I can do it.
Tanaka: You are not Japanese! You are not a Tanaka!
Frank Dux: You told me to use any tactic that works, never to commit yourself to one style, to keep an open mind!
Tanaka: Why?
Frank Dux: To honor you, Shidoshi.

Not exactly riveting dialogue or scriptwriting, I know. However, Dux’s point in the film about not being tied to a single tradition is a point that I have lived throughout my life. Thirty-five years of working in Information Technology, I have done nearly everything that can be accomplished within the industry. I have never been a master of a single part of the trade. I can repair computers, I can rebuild them, I can write programs in various languages, I can build databases, I can curate data, I can provide data analysis on information, I can setup a network, I can troubleshoot all sorts of aspects within an Information technology setup. I can work in a Windows, Macintosh, UNIX, and Linux environment with equal dexterity. If I had kept myself to one particular discipline, my job opportunities over the years would have been limited.

In that same vein, my Spirituality comes from various areas. I have delved into First Nation’s Spirituality, but always under the perspective that I will never be of ‘The People.” Furthermore, I will never be a Master of any of the various belief systems that I pull from. I will also never be a “master” of the Druidic discipline as well. However, I use everything that I have accumulated to help on my Path of Druidry. Sometimes, a particular lesson in Druidry will make no sense to me. That’s when I reach out to other beliefs, to find something similar that I understand better. Once I find something similar, I use my knowledge there to understand the Druidry lesson better, so that I can learn that lesson in a more familiar tone.

Sure, I get it. Not learning the way that someone else perceives as the “right way” makes me “not like them.” However, I don’t really want to be like anyone else. The only thing I desire is to utilize what I learn in my Spirituality to become a better “me.” Druidry forms the primary basis of who and what I am. I’m not on this Path to gain titles, certificates of authenticity according to someone else’s perspective, or some degree that is conferred for learning. Yes, the OBOD coursework confers me with a grade title as I work through each one. But its not the title that I seek – it’s the knowledge. I call myself a Druid because that is the closest set of teachings to my own knowledge. However, if pulling knowledge from other areas nullifies that in the eyes of others – so be it. I’m still a Druid. Because that’s what I am. I’m not defined by others. I’m defined by what I do, as far as I am concerned.

#JustSayin’

–Tommy /|\

Picture by John Beckett, who takes amazing photos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Tommy /|\

Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Tommy /|\

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I Don’t Always Get My Choice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–T /|\

It’s the Same Story the Crow Told Me…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Tommy /|\

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

Thinking About: In the Beginning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–T /|\

Just One Hill. There Are Still Mountains to Come.

“Only a Sith deals in absolutes.”

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

Malleable, But Not

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

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

Instructions Are Instructions

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

Rebuilds Are Not Always Necessary

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

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

–Tommy

Howling Into the Wind: 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 /|\

Revisiting: Paganism: Forty to Fifty Years…Maybe

The future of Paganism. A heady topic, to say the least, and one that many bloggers in the so-called “Pagan Blogosphere” have grappled with from time to time. Back in 2016, the Pagan news aggregate site, The Wild Hunt, published an article tackling just that perspective. Where would Paganism be in one-hundred years’ time? I was intrigued enough with the perspective that I wrote a post on the topic and published it nearly to this day (1/27) in 2016. I happened to catch this in my Facebook Memories, and jumped over to the post to read what I had written. Or I should say, what I had not written.

My post is vague on what I believe things would be like in forty to fifty years. I understand why I wrote it the way that I did. I am not one for looking to the future with a definitive perspective. For me, what is to happen has so many cross-roads and forks in the road, that it is almost impossible to determine which way anything will go. This time around…well, I will try to be a bit more upfront. I am sorry to say, my outlook is not very rosy. The time frame I chose was forty to fifty years. That puts things around the time of 2056 to 2066. So, I will continue to stay with that choice.

As a momentary aside, I will point out that much of this post is written from a perspective of Paganism within the United States. After all, I live here, and am a citizen here. That is not meant to spit on Pagans elsewhere in the world, merely that my viewpoint is narrowed to where I live. I cannot speak to how things are or might be elsewhere in the world, and certainly those that live in those parts of the world would be far better (and far more informed) than myself at expressing an opinion concerning that.

My first stop was on the concept of public acceptance of Paganism. There have been a lot of steps taken towards the acceptance of Paganism within the public sphere. I was a part of some of those steps. The more open acceptance of Pagans within the United States military services. Circle Sanctuary was an extremely large part of that push, providing information to military chaplain services, and helping those of us trying to gain equal footing on a spiritual level with our fellow brothers and sisters in uniform that practiced the “big five” faiths. That took a lot of time and effort, and that ball has been moved a few yards down the field, but there is still a lot left to be done. Much of that effort was done in the late-1980s to the mid-1990s, and yet there is still a long way to go before anything close to equality can be achieved. That was a little over twenty-five years ago. Using that as a poor measuring stick, I think that public acceptance of Paganism by 2066 will continue to move forward, but at a very small, incremental pace.

The second point that was made was concerning temples, sacred spaces or other venues that would be akin to the common day Christian church. I live in central Texas, just south of the Dallas/Fort Worth metro-mess. Here in this small, rural large town, there are seven churches within three miles of the house I live in. Seven. In the rest of the town, there are four more. Hillsboro is far from being a teeming metropolis. Yet, the number of churches is quite large for such a smallish population. To my knowledge, I’m the only Pagan living here. Certainly, there are far more Pagans living to the north of me. But even in the DFW area, I am only area of a handful…well, less than five…public Pagan groups. Two of those reside within the arms of the Unitarian Universalist churches. Not truly Pagan, but it is a start. The point here is that there are not that many spaces that can be construed as “Pagan” and temples or sacred spaces. But these do exist. By 2066? Well, I would posit that there would be many, many more. Not in the numbers that current Christian churches exist. I think only Starbucks rivals that number. However, I do see this number beginning to grow, but also at the incremental number that I have mentioned previously.

Now I will add a little bit of politics into all of this. Sort of. During this past Presidential election cycle, the divide between Republicans and Democrats was showcased quite emphatically. Now, forget the two people running for the position. Instead, let’s focus for a moment on the overall demographics of the voters. Republicans, particularly those red-hated MAGA idiots, self-identified as Christian people. Again, let’s discard the semantics over what Jesus would be like if He were here. Look at the numbers of these self-professed Christians. It is large. Once you add the self-described Christian folk from the rest of the populace – voting or not – the wider Christian belief system would probably be about one out of every two people. Probably not quite that number, but close. The wider Pagan community – the “Big Tent” or the “Umbrella” or however you want to classify it – would make up far less. Will the Pagan population be bigger by 2066? Of course, it will. The growth numbers bear that out.

However, let me throw one more perspective out there concerning all of this. I have no scientific data to back this up, other than my opinion. I do believe that many of the Pagans in 2066 will be unaffiliated within any organization – be it a Druidry order, a Wiccan coven, a Pagan seminary, or a national Occult group. I see the many Pagans going the route of what I call the “Do It Yourself Paganism” thematic. With more and more Pagan books showcasing ways for Pagans to manage their own Paths, I can see many folks choosing to go the DYI highway with their Spirituality. Something that I do not believe is a terrible thing. Though, I do believe that there is still a lot to be said about traditions and being with those of a like-mind. However, I am looking towards 2066 – not right now.

The future, as much as we want to keep pushing it back, keeps coming forward. With that future, comes new Pagans. With those new Pagans comes a desire to try “new” things or to alter things as those stand now. In my mind’s eye, for Paganism, 2066 will find its standing on the public stage a little different, but still as a background player in the play. I can see more places being designated as “sacred spaces” but nothing approaching the stature and number of today’s common-place church. The animosity of the Christian right towards any belief that is not theirs will continue, until social change takes effect here in the United States, and that is if it happens at all. Until that occurs, smaller belief systems such as Paganism will continue to hold far less of the spotlight in the world of Spirituality. I do; however, see changes coming within Paganism itself. A tidal change towards a more self-driven aspect of Spirituality.

Of course, with any future predictive analysis…I could be way off base. In baseball, there are always predictions on how bad a team will be. But a season is one-hundred-and-sixty-two games. Anything can happen. One only need to look at the miracle season of the 1969 New York Mets, a team that was left for dead before the season began. They went on to win one-hundred regular season games – and the World Series. You must play all the games to find out what the future holds.

–T /|\

Photo by Tomas Ryant on Pexels.com

Thinking About: 2021 and Questions to Ask

I am writing this post as the 2020 Year starts to wind down. The coming year holds a lot of promise and hope, but the reality is that we will not find either until we find that in ourselves. The removal of Donald Trump as President may solve a few things and relieve some of the pressure in various areas. COVID vaccines will hopefully help bring the virus under control and allow us some degree of normalcy in our lives, which we haven’t seen since March. But let’s consider both aspects as symptoms that allowed various things to come to fruition in our lives just a little faster. COVID removed some of the immediacy that we had in some relationships while forming new ones that we never saw coming. COVID also brought some realities of our lives to the forefront that we had never considered. In the end, some of that happened for the good of things, and in others created utter devastation that we could never have imagined. After all, life is short. We need to live with no regrets.

2021 is not going to be better just because Joe Biden is President. The only way it gets better is when we start to take stock of who and what we are. Me? I’m a Pagan. I’m a Druid. I’m me. And I have my own problems that I have to figure out, for myself. My world is different now. In complete darkness, I am trying my best to pick up the shattered pieces and rebuild something that resembles a fucking life. So, for me, 2021 is not about hope. It’s not about the promise of things getting better. 2021 will be about finding myself again. 2021 will be about being able to look in the mirror in the mornings and see some kind of day that I can move forward in. And I sincerely believe that we will be doing much the same thing as a collective society.

Who are we? What are we? What are we going to believe? As a collective society, we are going to have to take a few moments, catch our breath, and consider quite a few things about the world around us. Racism is not dead. ‘Us v. Them’ is still alive in every corner of our lives. Discriminating against others because of differences – whatever those differences are – is far more pervasive than we thought. You can see it right out your front door if you look deep enough. But finding it, pointing it out, getting others to see it – that’s the easy part. Thanks to the last four years, we’ve all seen it. The bigger question is ‘what now?’

I am really the wrong person to be asking where things are going or even how do we get there. I’m an idealist. I prefer to see the good in people. I expect people to defer to doing the ‘correct’ thing, the necessary thing. And typically I’m disappointed every single fucking time. It’s gotten to the point that I no longer hope for people to do the right thing. I expect the worst. And with my state of mind, I can expect some really, really bad shit. Stuff that I really don’t care to entertain in my thoughts whatsoever. Because I have seen the worst that human beings can do to each other. And it’s not pretty.

So all I can really do is answer the questions from my own perspective. Who am I? Well, that’s easy. I’m a Pagan. I believe that the natural state of the world is best when mankind stops fucking with it. I’m a Druid. Because I believe the concepts laid out in Druidry are some of the better starting points in how we can deal with one another on a daily basis. And I’m me. Because I believe that individuality is important, particularly in a modern, plastic world that emphasizes that everyone should be the same in their daily approach to Life. Being you is more important than anything else. Your uniqueness brings more beauty, life, and sanity to this world than anything else possibly could. That without you, the world loses a little of its vibrancy. What am I going to believe? Well, I am going to believe in you. That your presence; however small you may believe it to be, brings everything together. And that without you, the world loses a bit of its beauty. Yes, this even goes for me…digging my own way through the deeper recesses of who I am. I believe our differences make us stronger, and that does not dilute the so-called “purity” of what we are as humans. Our diversity is our strength because we can see so many different perspectives. Some even diametrically opposed. Those differences allow us to find unique, stronger solutions. But only when we listen. Right now, we have closed our ears to that perspective…for whatever reason.

2021, not 2020, offers us a chance to move in a different direction. But like a large ship on the ocean, it takes a while to make a new directional change. We’re not going to shift ninety-degrees immediately. It will take time. It will take effort. It will take conscious thinking on everyone’s part. And it will take forgiveness. Not just of those who voted for Donald Trump. That’s small stuff. We are going to need to forgive our collective selves. Forgive ourselves for allowing things to happen, and then get started on doing things right. No pointing of fingers. No assigning the blame. We can deal with that much, much later. We are hurting now. We need to bandage the wounds and start the healing process. We can figure out who is to blame much later on.

Again, we need to decide who and what we are. Are we a mob demanding immediate justice? Or are we people who seek to first find healing and help for those in need? For me, it’s obvious…I prefer healing and help first. Those in need should always be first and foremost. The next question…is how? That’s where the rubber meets the road.

–T /|\

End of Year Thoughts

Well, we’ve reached the point where the blog goes dark for a short while. There won’t be anymore posts for 2020. I will; however, be writing during the time that I am not posting. Yes, I will be doing what I have said that I don’t do – creating a small army of posts that I can draw from. I just won’t be posting what I write. The idea here is to give my brain a little bit of a rest, and make posting to the blog feel a little less like a chore. Ya know…to stimulate the creative juices, so to speak.

Let’s take a look back at 2020. Don’t grumble. 2020 definitely was a bad year. But even in a bad year, there are lots of lessons to be learned from what has happened. Both personal and on a wider public scale. Some of it hurts to talk about. Some of it…well, we really do need to talk about it.

Why don’t we come to terms with the facts
There’s a method behind all this madness
We must be blind not to realize
We’re all victims of chance now
Talking ’bout what everybody’s talking ’bout
I wanna talk about, we gotta talk about it

Dweezil Zappa, “Let’s Talk About It” https://youtu.be/iiLG-pSgR2k

In Dweezil’s song, the lyrics state that we need to talk about it, so let’s talk about it.

Probably the largest issue that faced us all was COVID-19. No, not President Donald Trump’s antics and statements. I’ll come to that in a minute. However, COVID-19 was the most disruptive aspects of our lives from somewhere in March to today. In that time span, this virus has changed the way we deal with one another on a daily basis. Well, for most folks it has. There are those that continue to call the virus a hoax and refuse to follow the concepts of masking-up, washing your hands, and practicing social distancing. “Don’t want to be afraid of a virus.” Yeah, I can understand that, but only to a point. As I have stated over and over here on the blog – I have underlying health conditions that require me to be a bit more cautious. Contracting the virus could literally kill me. But from this particular issue of combating the virus and staying safe, comes two more points to consider for this post. First, the division that these safety procedures have created between those who follow the safety protocols, and those who deny that the virus is even real or as deadly as has been reported. Second, what happens if these deniers do not get the vaccine that is currently in the early deployment stage to the public?

I have been in three distinctly different areas of Texas over this time period of the virus’ existence. Denton (a small city located just north of the Dallas/Fort Worth metromess), Hillsboro (a small, rural town located just south of the Dallas/Fort Worth metromess), and the huge metromess of Houston. Thinking of the size of each population, I would have expected to find more people not following the COVID-19 safety protocols in Houston. However, the exact opposite has been the given here. With the sole exception of a single day that I happened to shop inside of a local WalMart. Everywhere else I have been, the large majority of people are masked and practicing social distancing. Its actually the smaller-sized community that was the opposite side of things. When I have been in Hillsboro, I have routinely seen people not wearing masks, gathered in small crowds, and not socially distancing at all. Denton, which is a fair-sized college-based town, seemed to have similar levels of not following the protocols that Hillsboro had. What conclusion can I infer from all of that? Well, its not scientific or based in numerical aspects. However, I would conclude that the more rural areas treated the virus far less seriously than the environments where more people happened to reside. The larger the community, the more serious the measures following COVID-19 safety protocols were taken. Not scientific or fact-based at all…merely my own observations.

The second largest issue, and the one that seemed to generate more opinion and perspective throughout social media was current President Donald Trump. Whatever the Donald did, it was scrutinized, criticised or praised from nearly every corner of the World Wide Web. His followers proclaimed him as a stealthy genius. His critics offered up a cartoonish image of an over-sized infant pitching a titanic tantrum. The reality of his four years as President are that he was ineffective on most subjects, and where he was not, he stumbled to get to the right footing. Here, at the end of a Presidential election cycle, the Donald is raging against the outcome, claiming he was cheated. Interestingly enough, this position of crying foul has been rather common in American politics for nearly two decades now. The difference is that no one has continued to cry foul over the recount processes. American politics used to be about accepting losses at the polls, vowing to win in the next election cycle, and moving on with life until then. However, our election cycle did uncover one extremely ugly truth. We are far more divided amongst ourselves as Americans than united. In my opinion, because we cannot accept the losses and move on as Americans, we have created the largest two-party rift ever in the history of this country. We can thank Donald Trump’s usurpation of the Republican party for that, as well as the Republicans for being led down that path by their collective noses. And to some degree, similar rifts have occurred in the political world around the United States as well. Folks, when political and ideological rifts like this occur…major wars are typically not far afield.

The next big issue, for me, has been the challenge of handling my own mental health issues. Yes, I have depression. That depression has fed into other aspects of my life, and has made things difficult – if not impossible for me. While I still scoffed at the idea that I had mental health issues, I have sought out help. I never felt like I was depressed….even though I had no personal experience with the feeling, and thus no perspective to work from. I have friends who have been diagnosed with depression. I have friends who battle their own demons daily. Many of them saw their own struggles occurring within me. They spoke up. They asked – even begged – for me to seek help. Again, not having anything to gauge my understanding of what depression was and how it felt – I still scoffed. But I knew all of these people were speaking out in concern, and love. It took convincing, but I have taken that first step – seeking help. If you have that “lost” feeling, but don’t consider yourself to be depressed because you don’t know what depression feels like – do what I did, and seek help. It might not be depression, but a different perspective can always help you find your way back.

The death of Eddie Van Halen was an extremely difficult moment for me. When I first found out about rock and roll, one of my cousins had played the first album for me. Jokingly, we would refer to Eddie and Alex as “lost members” of the Van Hook family. Eddie was an original guitar hero of mine. The sounds he could elicit from a guitar were just incredible stuff. I had never heard sounds like that before. A few years later, I would “discover” Randy Rhoads’ playing with Ozzy Osbourne’s first solo album, and Eddie was replaced at the top of the guitar player pile. It is fairly well documented that Eddie was an asshole to many people, particularly Michael Anthony – the original bass player for the band. Nonetheless, his talent and creativity with a guitar have always been incredible. The music industry lost a talented player in 2020.

My last, “gotta talk about it” moment of 2020 was the May 25th death of George Floyd while in the custody of the Minneapolis police department. So many protests were sparked throughout the country from this single incident. And even with COVID-19 running rampant, people still came out to protest. People wanted the officers, particularly Officer Derek Chauvin, to be brought to justice for such a brazen, disgusting, public display of police brutality. Many of my friends chose to take to the streets of their local municipalities to show their anger and disgust over what these officers had done. I absolutely agree with many folks who are asking for police reform, banning brutal tactics such as kneeling on the necks of individuals who are considered to be resisting arrest. Furthermore, I am a firm believer that many of the incidents that occur could be handled better by the officers by using deescalation tactics. Particularly in stops where the officer is Caucasian and the individual being stopped is a Person of Color. Police Officers are emblematic of their communities, and should provide proper levels of decorum to the individuals within their communities. I can assure you, if officers treated everyone like a valued person, rather than as something akin to an animal, I believe far less of these various stops would be violent in nature. Notice I said far less, not all. I am also not in favor of defunding the police departments. Rather, I am in favor de-militarizing the police departments. Just north of Hillsboro is the slightly larger town of Cleburne. Here, their police department has a military-style assault vehicle decked out in the police department’s normal vehicle colors. While I do not think that the city would have need for such a vehicle…I would certainly be interested in what the declaration was that made the purchase of this vehicle necessary. As for defunding, no thank you. Certainly, police budgets need to be heavily scrutinized and funding cut for unnecessary needs, such as these urban assault systems. But let’s remember that the police department needs to be funded so that officer can be paid for the services they should be providing to the community. And that appropriate training for them also needs to be funded, so we can have police departments that are truly in a position to serve and protect their local communities.

Now, you are probably noticing that much of this is fairly political in nature. That’s correct and intentional. This is a Pagan blog. I am a Druid. I try to stay between those lines as much as I can. I am; also, a member of the wider aspect of society. I watch. I observe. I listen. I form my own opinions on things. The Gods know damn good and well that many people are not going to agree with me on a lot of this stuff. I am not worried about that one bit. Because everyone has to make up their own minds and find their own footing around topics such as those above and so many others. This year, 2020, I made a promise to myself not to delve too deeply into politics….knowing that a Presidential cycle was underway. I also tried to stay outside of the Black Lives Matters issues, even though I do fully support them. Why? Because all of you reading this are adults. You can read. You can watch and listen to the news. You need to make up your own minds, and my opinion should carry very little or no weight in your personal process. You are intelligent, caring, loving, and understanding people – for the most part. I have always believed it is important for you to derive your own perspective through your own research. Yes, I understand that reading my blog – essentially my own personal opinion – is a type of research. but as I pointed out above…I’m a Pagan. I’m a Druid. And I try my best to drive between those lines the best that I can. But as this post is meant to showcase, I do have opinions and perspectives on stuff. Sometimes….I say something.

See you sometime on January 2nd or 3rd.

–T /|\

Photo by Rakicevic Nenad on Pexels.com

Thinking About: Whatcha Doing For Samhain?

Usually, this is the time of year where I start to get questions about what I am doing for Samhain. This year, not so much. That’s been both a relief and a touch puzzling. But it is understandable, especially since nearly everyone I know is aware of the state of flux my life is in at this moment in time. But, I thought I’d try and discuss this just a little bit, just in case someone out there is looking for ideas of what to do.

This year is a super odd year. We have COVID-19 floating around. There’s all the angst over a potential second term of President Trump coupled with a contentious election cycle. Some folks are still being affected by the various state shutdowns, as jobs haven’t come back as robust as many had thought those might. And this year, the full moon is on Halloween. Take your pick from those or find one of your own, if you want – this year’s Samhain will definitely be a little odd.

For me the biggest driving factor throughout this year has been what I’ve been trying to avoid since March – COVID-19. For public events and such, this has been the largest consideration I have to take into account. Trust me, it’s not an easy thing to deal with. I’m moving two-hundred miles and it’s a major concern every time I put the truck in gear to drive the distance to and from. All I can do is take my normal precautions and just try to avoid people who aren’t doing the things that matter.

Currently, I have an invite to a gathering in Oklahoma for Samhain. However, I am not sure I will make it. First, I saw that the COVID-19 numbers in Oklahoma City are climbing. That brings major concern to me. Secondly, I have no tent to sleep in. The option I have to work with is to throw a sleeping bag in the back of my cab (I drive a Supercab F150) and sleep there. My third issue is the distance, which is greater than the distance between where I am now and Houston, where I am headed to live. So there’s a chance that this may be something I don’t make. Other options include attending any of a number of online events that will be occurring. Not quite the same thing as a live event, but better than nothing. Or I can do ritual on my own, inside the confines of the house I am currently living in. This is more than likely going to wind up being the option I work with. I’ll have to do a lot of improvisation, as most of my ritual materials are in Houston and I have no plans to drag them back to here.

But then there’s Trick or Treating. I have my cloak, I have my crow-skull mask, I have black clothing, and I can wear a mask under the skull to keep me safe. Yeah, I might handle the trick or treating stuff….I mean, I do like all the little kids that come to the door. It’s something that I usually find to be entertaining…but the trick or treaters tend to be smaller and smaller in number. So, I have the potential to be a bit disappointed over the turnout.

In the past, most of my Samhain stuff has basically been me staying indoors and spending time in meditation. But that’s not really been cutting it for me the past few years. So, some of this is about being a little more out in the open and having a little bit more fun. Yeah, for those who have known me for a while…. it’s definitely a different me. But Samhain should be a time of fun, spookiness, and mystery. You aren’t going to get much of that with the porch light off and you sitting in a darkened office room by yourself. or at least, I’m finding that to be the case.

My hope is that this is the last Samhain I spend alone. I have ideas of what to do if that winds up being the case. Just as I have ideas of what I can provide to the celebration in Oklahoma – should I find a way to get there safely and sleep…somewhere. LOL

I hope you have awesome plans for your Samhain!

–T /|\

No Pedestals, Please. I’m Scared of Heights!

A long while back, at a Gulf Coast Gathering, one of the individuals that I initiated into the Bardic Grade with sought me out at the very beginning of camp. I think I had been in camp less than ten minutes at that point. He wanted to let me know that he was initiating into the Ovate Grade at this camp, which thrilled me to no end. That was quickly tempered by part of his next statement: “I was motivated by you going into the Ovate Grade last year. You inspired me to do this.” Inspired….I have always been uncomfortable with the position of being a mentor or a leader. So this particular statement really made me hold back for a moment before giving him a big hug (pre-COVID days, you know?). To provide a bit more context concerning my frame of mind and reaction, I need to take you back in time a little ways, as well as provide a piece of lyrical perspective from a Tommy Shaw solo song.

The United States Air Force trained me how to be a leader and a mentor. I learned how to work with people of different personality traits and to show them how to do a task without taking over completely. Because there’s no experience like hands on. I went to two training schools to learn all of that, Non-Commissioned Officers’ Preparatory School and Airman Leadership School. But even when I was being trained to be able to do handle these leadership skills, I had a very difficult time adjusting my mind to the idea that I was “good enough” to be such a person. Yes, I struggle greatly with the perspective that I am not good enough to have success in my life. I have a fairly good idea where all that originates from, but its not so much something that will help me change that mind-set by confronting it.

Later in my eight-year career, I became a well-liked shift leader by my subordinates,. My leadership style; however, was far too unorthodox for my supervisors. I did not always follow the Air Force’s idea of military discipline. I treated my subordinates as equals in capability and knowledge. I felt that they deserved that much, since I was pouring my knowledge and understanding into them where the job was concerned. My ideal flight of individuals would be those who could do the job as well as I could. In knowledge and skills, they would be my equals. We just happened to be in the Air Force for different amounts of times. See, this was wrong because in the military there is a reason for rank – so a pecking order of who is in charge can be established. Me? I don’t give two shits about that. My focus was on getting the job done and making sure that the people in my flight were the most knowledgeable and capable that they could be. My job was to keep it all together and make sure everything got done. We worked as equals, not as supervisor/subordinate. See, I took the idea of “the mission’s success, at all costs” that I had been taught in my career and morphed it into my own philosophy. To this day, I’ve utilized that philosophy in my work, but to much less spectacular results. Life outside of the work place is much more important than what you do for a paycheck, a lesson I learned the very hard way.

I have always had an extreme fear about being a leader, especially a Spiritual one. I’ve watched scandal after scandal from Christian leaders and even Pagan ones, to not see the warning signs. Absolute power will corrupt absolutely. Tommy Shaw put out a song that succinctly explains my trepidation with all of this in a single lyrical moment. The song comes his first solo album, “Girls With Guns”. The song is called ‘Free to Love You”.

I don’t want to grow up
To be a preacher
I don’t want your soul in my hands

When I hear people call me an inspiration, these lyrics immediately spring to mind. When I hear those kinds of words, I feel myself being placed on a pedestal (and I really am scared of heights). I am truly no one special. Not to be put on that level. So I hear that kind of praise and I can imagine myself arguing with people and telling them to use the wood they are building the pedestal with for something else. Build a house, make a fire and cook food for everyone….anything but that.

What makes this even more difficult is when people start characterizing me as a person with the “best moral and ethical character that I know.” Back when the tv series The Mandalorian came out, someone wanted to sit down and watch the series with me. “He reminds me of you.” Sure as shit, she was right. The Mandalorian is not a leader. He gets a mission he fulfills it, sometimes using questionable tactics. But essentially, he’s just trying to make his way through life, while trying to do the right thing. This really epitomizes my daily walk. I’m no Saint. I have a moral code to what I do. I have an ethical responsibility to others as well. Sometimes those don’t mesh well with the typical perspective of the rest of society. I have done quite a few questionable things in my career, in order to get the job done. Sometimes even sacrificing my happiness. And honestly, that’s not a good choice. So I wouldn’t classify myself as a paragon of good virtue.

But.

Despite all of that, I have to grapple with one realization. I AM a teacher. As much as I want to deny that, I know I’m good at it. One of my styles of teaching is to inspire people to look at the topic and turn it over and over until it calls to them. I have been doing that since 1988, when my duty section Supervisor put me in charge of learning the new Uninterrupted Power Subsystem for the mainframe we worked on. Then tasked me with teaching all the other shifts. I was excited about a new piece of technology being added to the system. That showed when I tried to teach others. Even the ones that didn’t want to learn. This was exactly the style of teaching that I did in the collegiate classrooms later on in my life. I don’t always reach everyone, but I always said that if I reached a single student in a year, I would be satisfied with that effort.

Now I can’t teach any Druidic students because of where I am on my current Path. However, if I did – and OBOD would want me to do so – I would prefer to be a tutor in their system. Currently, I am headed to Houston, somewhere that I am not aware of many OBOD folks. I may not be able to run study groups, but I can try and build a social perspective within the area. At least gather folks together that have like-minded perspectives and want to spend time together. More on that much later, when I have my feet a bit more firmly on the ground there.

I can be an inspiration to others, just by living my life. Out loud. Out in the open. No fences. No apologies. I am definitely not everyone’s cup of tea, so to speak, but I am not worried about that anymore. I have my own Spiritual practice to work with. I have Gods that I work with. I have an equal partner in my life. I am a perpetual student. Somewhere in all of that, someone is drawing some kind of inspiration to move forward in their life, to seek joy, happiness and positivity in all that they do through the day. And if that is just one person in an entire lifetime, then I have provided my own little spark to their part of the Universe. And in that, I can rejoice. I just have to make sure no one puts me sky-high on a tiny platform.😉

–T /|\

Looking at the Tarot – My Perspective

Much of my Pagan Life, I have avoided the usage of Tarot Cards and other aspects of Divination. There were a lot of reasons behind this decision that I made, all of which – until recently – continued to be the logic behind my perspective. I want to take a little time to discuss some of these and why these are no longer valid for me. Perhaps you have had some of the same thoughts or maybe others that I do not address here. Perhaps it might be time to take a look at where things sit and attempt to reconsider your position based on those thoughts. I know it made a difference for me.

Which Deck?

Trying to figure out which deck worked best for me was always a confusing process to try and undertake. I never knew which one may be best for me and which one would not be suitable. When I asked folks how they figured out which deck was best for them, I get a myriad of answers that only confused me more. Look at the artwork, see it speaks to you. Hold the cards in your hands. See how they feel. Meditate over them for a few moments and see if any deck calls to you. Look at the price and see which one fits into your budget at the time (seriously). For me, the answer came in a little different manner. I attended my last Pantheacon in 2018, where Kristoffer Hughes was selling his Celtic Tarot deck. I had listened to a lot of Kristoffer’s talks and quickly realized that he spoke straight-forward and honestly on various topics. I surmised that the same would hold true for a Tarot Deck that he helped develop. I bought a deck and it made it to my bookshelf. Where it sat, unopened. Now, nearly a year and a half later, I finally opened the deck, spread it all over the floor so that I could create reverse cards within any given reading, brought the deck back together and started the process of my first reading. That reading not only turned out to be accurate, but quite a swift kick in my ass as well. Three more readings brought more navigational points that also pointed in the same direction. I realized that without thinking about it, without going through all the meditation processes, gazing at the artwork endlessly or even considering the price…I had found a deck that worked with me. But was it the deck or me? More on that in a moment.

Which Layouts?

When I first started looking at tarot I was astounded and confused by the large number of layouts that one could do a reading through. if you go to a search engine and try to find a card spread that you can examine and try working with – there are hundreds. Some are more complicated than others, some are rather simplistic. For my purposes, I stuck with the three-card layout that is in the accompanying book with the Celtic Tarot. While keeping the question in my mind, I shuffled the deck nine times (three times three…I’m a druid, so threes are important). The first card explores the issue itself. The second card explores the unconscious factors, or things that you may not be aware of. The third card brings the two together in a conclusive manner to offer guidance. For me, this particular layout was short, concise and to the point. Precisely what a novice such as myself needed.

Now others will swear by more complicated layouts where more cards are revealed. I’m sure those work with folks that have been using the cards for large amounts of time. But right now, I am just a novice at doing this. So the simple three-card layout seems to be the best option at this point.

Not Knowing Attributes by Memory

One of the most intimidating things about tarot cards is trying to discuss readings with others. Many of these folks have the attributes of each card in the deck memorized. They also have many layouts memorized and can just look at a spread of tarot cards and provide answers to you immediately. Little ol’ novice me has to take the time to open the associated book, flip through the pages to find the section on that card and then read what it written there. After that, comes a few moments of trying to analyze what I just read and piecing that together around the question that I asked. Then, moving on to each successive card and then trying to piece all of that information into a cognitive perspective. It has always been intimidating when the far more experienced tarot readers rattle things off so quickly and then are seemingly offended when you can’t quite keep up.

This used to turn me off to even getting involved with the tarot at all. I can’t get to where those people are over the course of a few days. I wind up feeling like I am just “not good enough” to do this. Until one day when I was refusing to attempt tarot readings in a meditation with Abnoba. She pointed out to me that at one time, I was just as much of a novice in programming languages. it took me time to learn the constructs of various programming schematics before I got fairly decent at putting these into practice without much thought. “You need to practice. Spend time with the cards of your choosing. You will get better. You know this.” After considering that, I started to realize that when discussing programming techniques with novice code-writers, I was probably just as intimidating and maybe even came off as a bit dismissive. Perspective truly means everything, folks.

Not Placing Faith in the Process

One of the most difficult parts of the process of working with the tarot, at least for me, is placing my faith in the process. One Witch that I have known wanted to work some magick on me. I consented, thinking the person was only playing at what they were doing, not really knowing that they had the skill and the power to do just what they were suggesting. That particular bit of spell work continues to work to this day. I was proven wrong (happily though).

The same holds true with working with the tarot. Have faith that what you are doing by working with these decks will produce results. The results may not be exactly what you intended or bring up more questions than get answered, but that is a result. More of a starting point than an ending place. One thing I have found to be completely true in any case, is that the magick is inside of you. have faith in your ability to put your personal magick into the reading. But that leads me to a final question.

Is It the Deck or You?

Where does the real power for all of this lie, in you or the deck of cards? I am no expert, but I would posit that it all lies within you. The deck merely acts as an amplifier or a magnifying glass concerning all that could be, that surrounds you. And by “could be”, I suggest that there are many places in Life where choices have to be made. Sometimes, the tarot can bring to light some of the points that may bring those choices to life.

I see the tarot as tool that amplifies all that is around you and shows you the potential of what can be, should you work with what you had asked in your original question. Its not a Magic Eight-ball with its crudely set choice of  x number of answers. Rather, it is a system and methodology of being able to plug deeper into your own thoughts and reactions. Of course, I have no proof of that, aside from the readings that I have done. It still remains to be seen how well the cards will continue to respond to my self-readings, much less the extra complication of doing readings for others.

I went from a half-skeptical individual to believing in the tarot’s possible capabilities. That will teach me to close off my mind to the possibilities. And I have so much more to learn.

–T /|\

Thinking About: Individual Self-Image in Contrast With Fictional Characters (Part Two of Two)

Remembering Episode One

So far, in trying to answer a question that was snarkily (my impression) posed to me in wondering if I thought I was Aragorn from the Lord of the Rings, I have discussed some of the fictional and re-imagined historical figures that I identify with in movies, tv shows and novels. In re-reading what I have written to this point, I feel like I am completely psychoanalyzing myself to a large degree. In this follow-up second part, I wanted to take some of what I have written and swing it back around to my Spirituality. I mean, this blog is about me, but the primary focus is on my own Spirituality. All of that is done in the hopes that maybe one person gets something out of all of this and has their own personal revelation as to how these fictional stories helps provide the necessary cement to hold these concepts together. This particular post is no exception.

Somewhat Circling Back to Science Fiction as a Gateway to Paganism

Back in 2016, I attended one of the three Pantheacon conventions I ever made. At this particular convention, I attended a panel entitled “Morphing the Myth” which was about Paganism in popular fiction. I wrote a handful of posts inspired by this particular panel (“Morphing the Myth – a Personal Look“, “Morphing the Myth – Gateway to Paganism“, and “Morphing the Myth: What Does Myth Mean to You?“). However, I wanted to take this time to circle back to the idea of Science Fiction and Fantasy as a gateway into Paganism. or at least part of the role that these science fiction characters play within my own life. When I go back and look at the characters that I named, there is a strong note of independence between all of them. That concept of being able to do what was necessary, even without the help of anyone else or whatever the odds might be. To use another Star Wars character that I strongly identify with, look at Jyn Erso in the movie Stars Wars: Rogue One. One perspective that I didn’t mention earlier was what others have described as my ability to be an inspirational leader. Jyn is also fiercely independent. She inspires a group of others to walk away from the Rebel Alliance party line and follow her in what was definitely a suicide mission just to obtain the plans of the Death Star so the Alliance could find its weakness and destroy it. Now, I don’t think that the character of Jyn Erso would have drawn me towards Paganism, if I were younger and not thirty-plus years on my own Path. However, I can see where someone younger might be inspired by the independent nature of Erso to look into other alternative areas of Life. Perhaps, in that search, they might come across Paganism. Who knows? Who can say? But the possibility is there. However, I can pull up a few dozen Science Fiction and Fantasy novels and series that could directly point a person into searching through Paganism as an alternative to their desired Spirituality. As I have been often reminded me:  “Words have meaning.” And as I have to often remind myself: “That meaning is derived from the individual reading those words.”

So did all of the characters I mentioned previously, as well as the ones I have not mentioned, turn me into a raging Pagan? No, not really. However, each of these characters, as they are written and portrayed, have provided thematic moments that have helped cement the character traits that I have. My sense of Honor. My buildup of Trust with others. My understanding of what is my own “tribe” of people. None of these characters fully describe me as a person. None of these characters are full amalgamations of what is my Druidry, what is my Paganism or the complex connections I have with the world around me. At best, they are good descriptors of a handful of all of that. These cinematic and novelized moments are; however, excellent visual descriptives to bring to those that are trying to understand aspects of who and what I am. These are absolutely not the greatest descriptives, but in each of these are handles that others can readily grasp and understand at the most minimal of levels. Deeper discussions can take place around a fire late at night, under the moon, with drinks of our desire of the moment in our hands.

Why I Believe Fictional Characters are So Important

These fictional characters are important in our lives. That’s right. I believe that these characters reinforce parts of who we are. When Billy refused to give up Chavez to the lynch mob outside, it shows that he values his friends in all matters – no matter the skin color of that friend.

Billy the Kid:  See, you get three or four good pals. Well, then you’ve got yourself a tribe. And there ain’t nothing stronger than that.

For me, this is an example of the meaning of the word “pals” as is stated at the end of the movie. These people that are part of your tribe are important. That moment in the movie only helped reinforce that idea. I am sure that there are many, many moments in movies and novels and tv series and nearly anything else you can comment on, which do the same for others. All of these pieces of entertainment that we watch are mirrors for parts of ourselves. Yes, even the evil, horrible, blood spraying horror movies that make an ‘R’ rating. All of this places a mirror in front of us, where we can see what we are made of. Now, I am not claiming that these things show us the psycho killer in all of us. Rather, these films show us ways that we stand up to such exciting villains in our own manners of thinking.

Curly Bill: You know what I’d do? I’d take that deal ‘n’ crawfish, then drill that ol’ Devil in the ass. What about you Johnny, what would you do?

Johnny Ringo: I already did it.

These two are speaking of a stage-play of Faust making a deal with the Devil. Haven’t you watched a scene where you had imagined what you might have done in that situation? How you would have responded? Have you ever diagnosed it a bit deeper and tried to figure out how your own personality traits would have made that scene different? Or how the character that is in the dilemma has responded exactly as you would have? Many of these stories allow us to place our own personalities into the mix for our imaginations to work through. In many instances in real life, we may find ourselves thinking back to how a favorite character might have responded to some of the situations we find ourselves in. And those quick summations in our minds may provide the inspiration for a better response than we had initially thought of. These fictional characters provide archetypes that we can form our own hypotheses around.

Should This Matter to You?

So, after writing all of these thoughts, there really is only one final question: should any of this really matter to you? Well, the only person that can really answer that is you. Much of drawing inspiration from popular media sources really lies within you. Not everyone is going to see themselves in characters of a movie, tv series, or novel. Some folks do watch and read all of this as an escape from reality. They are not trying to inject themselves into these characters – even if that injection is only a small part of who they are. They are wanting storylines that give them relief from a world around them, not solutions or inspirations for the very real pressures of Life. I completely grok that perspective and I respect it highly. Everyone has to make their own way through Life in the manner that works best for them. And honestly, there will be a lot of people that cannot agree with my perspective of self-identifying with characters and situations from a fictional world. But then, I am not suggesting that every single human needs to do things exactly as I do. I prefer people to think and do for themselves. I am only representing something that does help me and inspire me to find solutions of my own.

Bringing This Saga to an End/Final Thoughts

In my opinion, there is a lot to unpack for someone here. Furthermore, I know there will be folks who disagree with my assessment of some of the characters, as well as the self-assessment I have splattered all over these two posts. I am perfectly fine with those differences. Life is not always clean and easy. There is a lot of dirty to trying to live life as authentically as you can. When you start adding more and more factors into all of that – politics, dealing with other people, paying bills, working a job – the mud gets deeper and thicker. I do see a lot of these characters in myself. Not complete work-ups of me. Just smaller parts. And some of those parts are contradictory. And those contradictions are sometimes Gordian knots that you just cannot get untied easily. And some of them you don’t want to get untied because those contradictions make you who you are. In the end, we decide what fits our self-image and what doesn’t. Sometimes, we don’t know about all the aspects of our image. Others see us in a different way. And reconciling those different aspects can be even more tedious and difficult. This was just my way of trying to explain pieces of my own self-image drawn against the backdrop of particular fictional characters. Your mileage will definitely vary.

–T /|\

Thinking About: Individual Self-Image in Contrast With Fictional Characters (Part One of Two)

Much of what you are about to read came from a snarky question thrown in my face in a private Facebook message that I tried to turn into a single post answer.

So what gives with all the Ranger stuff? Do you believe you are Aragorn now?

Someone asked if I would take another picture of me wearing the mask correctly. So I obliged.

My initial reaction was to be a touch offended. Then I started laughing to myself, as I thought it was a touch funny to have myself compared to a character that I truly am not near in any psychological or emotional aspect. However, I started thinking about the characters that I do deeply associate myself with. Fictional characters (or in some cases interpretations of historical figures from the perspective of a writer, producer and actor) that I can see pieces of myself within. I quickly realized that I was not going to be able to answer the question without approaching this without taking a deeper dive than usual.

Looking at Characters from Various Mediums

So, yes, I do see aspects of myself in various characters from fictional works. I tend to look at these characters to be archetypes of smaller pieces of who I am. None of these characters, or the ones to come later in my life, are complete parts of me. Most characters from these stories are barely on the threshold of being three-dimensional, complex characters. Sometimes, the creator of these stories will provide some complexity to the characters, thus providing a touch deeper aspect of realism and reality to them and the stories that they are encompassed within, but even then, the full manner of approaching the complexity of a real human is still a much further reach. Certainly, there will be those that would disagree with me, which I am perfectly fine with. Essentially this little blog post (or essay if you will), is just my own personal perspective.

Billy the Kid
One of the characters that I completely identify with is that of Billy the Kid from the two Young Guns movies. I have often said that I likely was born in the wrong time frame of the world. I am drawn to that genre of the West very strongly. Now, given that, my pull is more towards the difficult times that encompassed that part of the world. A time when we were invaders into the First Nations. We had more difficulty in trying to work with the original inhabitants of that new environment because of our blindness for a new experience, a chance to live free from the rules of the Old World and the far more “civilized” eastern parts of the United States. The discovery of gold – and its terminal sickness of greed – paired with a lust of land ownership, only made things worse. Young Guns was not truly set in a world where that took place. Young Guns tends to lean more towards the romanticized thoughts of the old West. Billy the Kid is a leader of a loose band of friends that are caught up in the cattle wars and vendettas of the unincorporated New Mexico area during the Lincoln County War. Billy (real name Henry McCarty) spends much of the movie wise-cracking his way through various encounters with rival ranch hands, bounty hunters and eventually law enforcement. However, it is Billy’s unswerving loyalty to his ranch boss, even after he is killed by rival ranch hands, that rings true. This is also mirrored in a moment at a whorehouse, where Billy’s gang is surrounded by townspeople and the local law enforcement (Young Guns II). When the local Sherriff offers up the half-Mexican, half Native American Chavez y Chavez as an atonement to the crowd that is lusting for a lynching, Billy refuses, citing that the Sheriff doesn’t understand the meaning of the word ‘pals.” This is an example of Billy’s commitment to his companions. When he finds people he cares deeply about, he has a sense of loyalty to them, even when they turn sides on him as Pat Garret does in the second movie.

Doc Scurlock:  You son of a bitch! You’re starting to believe what they’re writing about you, aren’t you? Let me tell you what you really are! You rode a 15 year old boy straight to his grave, and the rest of us straight to hell… straight to hell! William H. Bonney! You are NOT a god! (Cocking his rifle and pointing it at Bill)

Billy the Kid:  Why don’t you pull the trigger and find out.

Billy’s loose grasp of leadership, treating all of his friends as equals, is a quality I have seen in myself. This came in very handy when I was a Sergeant in the Air Force. The Airmen that I was charged with supervising never felt that I had to lord my authority over them. I treated them as equals in the job, relying as much on their knowledge as I did on my own. Billy’s loyalty to his friends is a quality I have always prized within myself. Even when Doc turns on Billy, as noted in the above quote, Billy’s response is a quiet determination for Doc to go ahead and pull the trigger. Billy is loyal enough to not doubt Doc, even when staring the barrel of Doc’s rifle.

Obi-Wan Kenobi
Obi-Wan Kenobi’s character gets to be a little specific. I absolutely loved Alec Guinness’ portrayal of the character, but I never really identified much with the character in Episode IV. However, Ewan McGregor’s portrayal of Kenobi in Episodes II and III were far easier to find myself within. Kenobi at this point is trying his utmost best to be several things all at once. A mentor to Anakin, a sitting member of the Jedi Council and a friend to both Anakin and Padme during a time where he is seemingly aware of the extreme close relationship the two have developed with one another – contradicting a personal code of conduct that Jedi are implied to follow. It wasn’t until I started watching the animated Clone Wars that I realized that Kenobi had found himself in the exact same situation as Anakin. I stumbled across this bit of information about Kenobi and Duchess Satine from a YouTube video that took parts of Kenobi from all aspects of Star Wars to create a fanfic tribute to the character. This only cemented my identification with the character, as Kenobi was shown to make good decisions, but also suffer from mental blindness in others because of his emotions for others. To this end, I could see a lot of the character traits of Kenobi within myself. Kenobi also has an ability to zero in on the completion of his assigned mission over everything else, a definite trait that I can see in myself – and often times, a personal failing of my own. Kenobi’s sense of honor and duty are very easily mapped on to my own sensibilities. But there is another very important quote of Kenobi’s that I find resonates deeply within me.


Obi-Wan Kenobi:  If you define yourself by the power to take life, the desire to dominate, to possess…then you have nothing.

This particular quote defines a difference between myself and some of my supervisors that I have worked for. I have no desire to dominate. I have no reason to try and make myself look or seem greater than anyone else. I do not see a single way or path to accomplish what I am asked to do. Some ways or methods are longer in a time frame, but the results – in my way of thinking – might be better defined, explained and sourced. Honestly, this is a part of me that has started to come out more often than not. I do not seek to make myself right. I seek to follow where my footfalls may take me. I am not seeking a position of dominance or power. Neither of those fit into the goals of where I seek to go. To someone seeking drive, power, glory, name recognition and the such – I can readily see where our perspectives would clash.

The Mandalorian
The Mandalorian is a bit more of a difficult character to work through for me. The perspective is a little easier to understand though. The Mandalorian is only trying to make his way through Life, trying to provide for his clan in a manner befitting the honor he is trying to keep. As a bounty hunter, he wants to make sure that Justice is served towards those who broke their oaths and agreements to others. He is trying to do the “right thing”. When his bounty is to bring The Child to an individual that seemingly does not have its best interests at heart, the Mandalorian steps back into action saving The Child’s life. Not only is the Mandalorian driven by a sense of Justice, but he is also driven by a sense of Honor. Both aspects are larger parts of what drives me on in life, so there is a strong correlation there. A few friends have admitted that the sense and style of the Mandalorian character are very similar to who I am, at least in their eyes. For me, I am not completely sure that the similarities are as tight as others may perceive, but I also have to remember that I am looking into a mirror, where as they are looking directly at me. However, much like Kenobi’s direction towards accomplishing the mission, the Mandalorian does have a single-minded move towards accomplishing what the bounty requests. However, he does not sacrifice his friends to accomplish those ends, a trait in common with the Billy the Kid character from the Young Guns movies.


Hawkeye
This is not the character from the tv series M*A*S*H though I do I adore the zaniness of that character. This is actually the lead character in the book and movie, The Last of the Mohicans. This is perhaps the easiest character for me to self identify with. Hawkeye has a strong individualistic trait that is combined with a super-strong sense of tribalism with those he cares deeply about. For me, both of these are core traits as to who I am and what I believe.

Maj. Duncan Heyward: I thought all our colonial scouts were in the militia. The militia is fighting the French in the north.

Hawkeye: I ain’t your scout. And we sure ain’t no damn militia.

That perspective of being what is not expected of you is a big part of my past, as well as my present.  I suspect it will be the same going into my future as well. This actually figures into a lot of what I am. When I was in the military, I sought out repair methods that were not traditional – not to be different – but to get the job done. The military’s stance, at least at that time, was not to improvise. Follow the repair instructions to the letter. I never consulted the instructions unless I ran into a dead-end and needed some inspiration on a different direction to try. My Druidry is much the same. I see the direction I am pointed, I walk it for a while and then try to find some parallel Path that allows me to explore in my own manner. I guess, it could be said that I am strictly unconventional. Not sure how that would sit with those that prefer a more conventional approach to Life, but then that’s their approach. I would never say their approach was bad for them. I would say, its likely not to work out as neatly for me.

The Ranger class of Dungeons and Dragons
Ok. Don’t laugh. In fact, try and have a little bit of an open mind. I have played dozens upon dozens of games of Dungeons and Dragons. Nearly every single character that I have played is the Ranger. When taking those inane Question/Answer personality quizzes that you see floating around Facebook, every single one of the Dungeons and Dragons themed quizzes have brought me the result of the Ranger.

Though a ranger might make a living as a hunter, a guide, or a tracker, a ranger’s true calling is to defend the outskirts of civilization from the ravages of monsters and humanoid hordes that press in from the wild.

This fierce independence makes them well suited to adventuring, since they are accustomed to life far from the comforts of a dry bed and warm water. Some rangers find the responsibility of protecting the rest of an adventuring party to be burdensome, but most quickly find that other adventurers who can carry their own weight in a fight against civilization’s foes are worth any extra burden. City-bred adventurers might not know how to feed themselves or find fresh water in the wild, but they make up for it in other ways. A ranger’s talents and abilities are honed with deadly focus on the grim task of protecting the borderlands.

Warriors of the wilderness, rangers specialize in hunting the monsters that threaten the edges of civilization—humanoid raiders, rampaging beasts and monstrosities, terrible giants, and even dragons. They learn to track their prey as a predator does, moving stealthily through the wilds and hiding themselves in brush and rubble. Rangers focus their combat training on techniques that are particularly useful against their specific favored foes. Thanks to their intimate familiarity with the wilds, rangers also acquire the ability to cast spells that harness nature’s power, much as a druid does. Their spells, like their combat abilities, focus on speed, stealth, and the hunt.”  

“Classes –Ranger”, Dungeons & Dragons website, located at https://dnd.wizards.com/dungeons-and-dragons/what-is-dnd/classes/ranger

The point that stands right out for me is the concept of fierce independence, followed quickly by a desire to defend others against forces aligned against them. I have always felt a desire to protect and defend others. My military service was filled with the perspective that part of my duty as a military member was to defend the Constitution of the United States against all aggressors – foreign and domestic.” And while I don’t serve in the military any longer, I still hold that oath as being in place with who I am. Admittedly, its not the easiest of perspectives to maintain in this day and age, with the swirling political waters we found ourselves in. I have lost a few friends refuting their perspectives of what is appropriate for a President to do with Constitutional proof that its the exact opposite. Politically, I hold no party affiliation nor do I have a desire to affiliate or find any form of allegiance to one. I have taken that particular stand since I was eighteen. I’m nearly fifty-five now (in just a few days, in fact). For some indelible reason that I cannot firmly place my fingers on, I feel a kindred spirit with this particular class in a table-top role-playing game.

Cinematic Cliff Hanger for Part One

These are just some of the characters that I find myself associating with. Certainly there are others, but these were the first ones that came to mind when I was writing this. Just as I am sure there will be others going into the future as well. With this particular section now approaching 2500 words, I’ll bring this to a stop here. In the next post, the second half of this, I want to take a look at how stories with these archetypal characters influence us on levels that we might not even be aware of. I will also take a step back to looking at Science Fiction and Fantasy as potential gateways for folks into Paganism, something I have done before. Lastly, I want to explore one more aspect – if all of this should matter to you at all – a rhetorical question I will probably dance around the edges of, but one that I think might be useful for some folks to explore.

Thanks for reading part One. I hope you stick around to read Part Two which I’ll post tomorrow.

–T /|\

Samhain Approaches….That Time of Year

Morning, well at least that is what it is here, as I type this blog post out. Somewhere along the line here in Tejas, the weather has decided to take a turn for Fall. Though the leaves have not seemed to have gotten the note just yet. Still green in color and still clinging tightly to the branches. Still the weather is nice and conducive to some longer walks through the neighborhood, if the rains from the tropical depression down south would just hold off for a while.

The onset of Fall is still a reminder that Samhain is right around the corner. This is not a time of year that I get terribly excited about. Trick or treating is a wonderful tradition for younger kids and in the past I have enjoyed giving candy out to the kids. However, in the time of COVID, I am a touch more concerned about doing so. Even the idea of leaving little “gift packs” of candy at the front door has me a bit worried about the spread of COVID to kids – and to some degree, me. So I am beginning to think that this tradition is probably off-the-table, at least for this year. As would attending most Samhain functions. With the pre-existing conditions that I have, I always have to make super cautious decisions based on being out in public.

All of this leads into a recent question I got in Facebook Messenger.

What do you do for Samhain?

As one whose Spiritual Path is done mostly solo, the snide answer is “not much.” But this is mostly a self-defense type of answer designed to stop the questioning. I am not sure I want to completely come off as Mr. Wilson. Mr. Wilson is Dennis the Menace’s curmudgeonly neighbor, if you are trying to grasp the reference. Some of you younger folks might still not get it…google it, if you need to. ::smile:: Anyways, tossing a snide retort is not really answering the question, so let’s unpack a bit more. After all, I get tired of all these Spiritual travel bags….

For me, Samhain occupies two particular points on the Wheel of the Year. I know, I know – there’s more to Samhain than just two points, but this is where it falls in my own Spiritual Path. My approach would probably be considered a statistical outlier, if we were mapping this on a graph of relevancy. However, this is where I am. Samhain is the point where the Wheel of the Year ends and begins. The Old Year falls away and the New Year begins anew. The second point is that this is the time frame on the Wheel of the Year where the veil between this world and those beyond is at its thinnest. For me, this means a time where I can work with the darker, deeper aspects of my Spiritual Path without a heavy effort.

Endings, Beginnings

The simpler of these two points is the ending of one year and the beginning of a new one. Think along the lines of December 31st/January 1st on the Gregorian calendar. At that point in time this year, we will say goodbye to a horrible 2020 year and hello to a hopefully better 2021 year. For me, the end of the old year and the beginning of a new cycle on the revolution of the Wheel is much the same. Except that I don’t toast the end of one and the beginning of the other with alcoholic drinks and a massive party. For me, its a much quieter moment. On the first night of the full moon, I stay up through midnight and spend my time in study and meditation. For me, this is the way that I wish to end my old year. Around midnight, I change over to doing journal work. I write about the previous year that has just ended. I try to recall everything of major significance that I can and record my thoughts at that time. I also pull out my previous year’s list of goals and desires so that I can see where I managed to stay on expectations and where I came up a little short (or a lot depending on what happened). My desire is to step into my new year with my mind recalling the old year in detail. Once finished, I go to sleep. When I wake, I spend my day plotting out goals. Short-term goals, long-term goals – I try to get a focus on where I hope to be by the end of the next turning of the Wheel.

And that’s it. See? I told you that I am likely the outlier where all this is considered. Wha? Oh. Yeah. There is a bit more. I’d kind of hoped you might have forgotten. However I did type it back up there, didn’t I?

Diving Deeper and Darker

Starting around the mid-point of October and carrying over into the mid-point of November, I start doing some deeper – and sometimes darker – Spiritual work. I do my best to work with the Spirits of my Ancestors. This is not easy work for me. In my family, I am considered to be the ultimate outsider. Most, if not all of my family (Ancestors included) do not share in my beliefs. Working with Ancestors who glaringly disapprove of your Spiritual Path is not the easiest Path to walk. I try my best. I honor those who have crossed the Veil before me in the best manner that I can. However, aside from working with my Ancestors (arguably, the weakest link within my Druidry), I also take a walk down much darker Paths. On these Paths, I work with some of the emotions that I tend to push back – sorrow, anger, rage, jealousy and even hate.

These strong – and arguably – negative emotions are my truest Achilles heal. Back when I was a much younger man, I was ruled completely by my emotions. Those who knew me when I was younger know quite well how easy it was for me to reach for and grab a handful of the mane of Anger. Having learned that burning the lands you stand on will leave you in a very barren place where it takes even more time to nurture and regrow friendships, I have learned to push the strongest of emotions deep down inside of me. This does not mean that I do not get angry. I do. I just try and do my best to contain that anger the best that I can. An individual cannot contain all of that within themselves. I tend to refer to this as working the darker Path of myself because I am grasping very tightly a set of emotions that I tend to suppress within myself. In a sense of description, I am embracing my darker Self – the one that is wrought completely with the emotions that I desire not to work with immediately.

One thing that I have learned over the many years I have been a Pagan, is that the Earth is more than capable of taking these negative energies that I have and turning them to Her own need. From mid-October to mid-November, I spend a lot of time working on my earth-grounding exercises. Except that these are not exercises, its a necessary moment in time for me. And I choose this time of the year for a specific reason. By removing these energies from myself, allowing myself to completely feel all of these emotions before I bury them into the ground, I am completely a rite of dying and re-birth for myself. I lose the energies that have been building up inside me, I work through the issues that created all of this and I arise at the other side of the turning of the Wheel with a new personal perspective.

Yes, I am wearing the mask upside down. This was meant to be a sight gag…but no one seemed to notice in the first hour…. 😦

Yeah, I see the doubt on your face. But I will be honest with you, I’m ok with anyone that doubts this entire process. Everyone approaches the world around them in a different manner. We all find our own ways of making it through the everyday shit that Life tends to bring in front of us. All I am doing here is sharing what it is that I do. There is no mandate that YOU HAVE TO do this as well. Even if you were my student, I wouldn’t lay this down as something you need to do. You’re an individual, just as I am. We might walk the exact same Path, but we still walk as individuals. Condemning you for not doing as I do means that I have no respect for what you believe or practice (or not). I share, not in the hopes that others will do exactly as I do, but that others will find ways, rituals, Paths and what-not that work for them. I only present what I do as a potential starting point for others. If all of this sparks a desire or an intent in you to find a Spiritual Path for yourself (if you don’t have one), or a new method of how to approach your Spiritual path (if you do have one), that’s all I have ever intended.

There is a road, no simple highway
Between the dawn and the dark of night
And if you go no one may follow
That path is for your steps alone

The Grateful Dead, “Ripple”

Thinking About: How Endings Can Really Be Beginnings

Usually, I save the ‘Thinking About” posts for Thursdays, but that has not really worked out the last few times. So, I sit here in a darkened office, with music playing in the background on a borderline Saturday night/Sunday morning with my mind trying to take in what is essentially some stolen time. Time to take in the last few days and juxtapose that against some of the other times I recall in my life.

At this point, it has been a little more than twenty four hours since the news of Justice Ginsberg’s passing reached my ears and eyes. Her death has not really been a shock to me. At eighty-seven years of age with failing health issues, the length of her time on this side of the veil was quite apparent to be short. Her passing means that another Supreme Court seat is now to be filled. Ironically, it comes with even shorter time than it did for the end of President Obama’s second term, a Senate hearing for the position that was held up by Senate Republicans claiming that it should be filled by the people’s choice for the Presidency. Now, the seat on the Supreme Court needs to be filled immediately, according to those same Senate Republicans. Hypocrisy at its finest. Capitol Hill politics as usual (remember, we were supposed to have the swamp drained from such political antics by the Blowhard-in-Chief when he took office four years ago?). For me, someone who has watched the Capitol Hill scene since the early years of the Reagan Administration, all of this is nothing new to me. For many of the younger folks out there, its a moment of sheer outrage. How can these politicians not do what they were elected for? For a lot of others, Justice Ginsberg’s death feels like a death knell in their lives. Without Ginsberg to provide the moral compass for the Supreme Court, all is certainly lost.

Mid-March of 1994. I had arrived at the airport in Shreveport, Louisiana the night before. My flight schedule had been an early afternoon non-stop flight from Frankfurt, Germany to a late-night arrival at Dallas-Fort Worth International airport. All I was carrying with me was a backpack and a jacket. My suitcase was in the belly of the plane. Both that suitcase and myself had to run a race of time across two terminals to reach the flight from Dallas to Shreveport. Otherwise, I would be waiting another eight-plus hours for the 6am flight the next day. Honestly, if I had missed the flight – it would have been faster to rent a car and drive the distance. I would have arrived two hours before that flight left Dallas. But apparently we both made it to the flight – moments before they closed the doors.

The morning after the marathon flight, I borrowed my father’s F100 1975 Pickup truck and drive along Interstate-20. I crossed over the Red River and arrived at the back gate to Barksdale Air Force Base. My instructions were to go through the front gate to the base, but if I had done that I would have needed to register the vehicle at the gate for what was a 150-yard walk from the back gate. I parked in the parking lot just outside the gate and gathered myself for the walk. I was wearing my Class-A Blue Uniform, with a dark-blue tie, and all my ribbons displayed. My correct rank of Airman First Class, which I had been stripped down to just two weeks ago, was correctly sewn on my uniform. I had a copy of my duty transfer paperwork, which released me from my squadron at Sembach Air Base to the Consolidated Base Personnel Office (CBPO) here at Barksdale. This was the last transfer of duty station in my eight years with the Air Force.

I was being released from my six-year commitment that I had made four years ago at Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth. A base that had been erased from history just seven months prior by the 1991 Base Realignment and Closure Commission appointed by President George W. Bush. The base’s problem was it was expensive to maintain. My problem was that I missed a mandatory formation. I overslept. That was enough to remove me from my position in the military. It was enough to reduce me in rank from an E-4 Sergeant to an E-3 Airman First-Class. The Air Force made the decision to separate me from their ranks. After eight years of not completely fitting into what they wanted as a model Non-Commissioned Officer and member of the Air Force, I completely agreed. Our compatibility just wasn’t there and we both knew it.

The entire ordeal took approximately thirty-five minutes to complete from the time I walked into the building to the time I was back on the sidewalk with my discharge paperwork in hand. Despite the fact that I was technically a civilian, I still provided a hand salute to the Captain I passed on the sidewalk, as well as a “Good morning, ma’am,” along with a smile. I made it to my father’s truck and drove back to his house on the west side of Shreveport. That evening, he started the conversation that I did not know how to finish: “So what are you going to do now?”

I had not really thought about this. The Air Force had sent me to a class on how to write my military experience into a resume. Most of my skill sets did not translate well into Corporate America. Most military positions don’t. Not every Corporation out there has need for a Command-and-Control Communications Systems Specialist. Most of the equipment that I knew and was essentially an expert on were well over a decade or more in the world of obsolescence. Plus no one in the Computer Communications needed a systems operator or technician that was trained in the usage of small arms, rifles and combat techniques. What in the world was I going to do?

One thing the military did teach me well was how to adapt to situations. I needed about another three weeks to sit down and assess where the technology world was and contrast that with where I was in terms of skills. I needed education. I knew how to deal with processes, how to learn new technologies on the fly, but I lacked the modern language to discuss those aspects of myself. With the help of my parents, I enrolled at Bossier Parish Community College and started to learn. I listened to how the professors talked. I talked with other students who were already employed in the computer fields. I learned the vernacular. I learned the technology. Two years later, I found myself employed at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas and my career in Information Technology started its step-by-step process to where I am today.

Justice Ginsberg is gone. Her legacy remains. All the work she has done in her life to bring equality for women is well detailed. I certainly understand that it feels like the paved road just ended and you may feel like you are back on the dirt road. However, her passing is not the end of the struggle to gain equality for all. Her legacy is the foundation from which we build FURTHER. The end of my military career had that same distinct feeling of the end. I had envisioned a twenty to twenty-five year career with the military. That road wound up only being eight years long. I was twenty years old when I enlisted. I was twenty-seven when I was ejected from that world. I used the experience that I got from that short time to build into a new career. And with the loss of each successive job after that, with the transition from one part of the Information technology world to the next, I built the experience and career that I have now. All of that wasn’t pretty. Some of it was downright scary. Very little of it was precisely what I had intended for it to be. However, I found ways of making it work. This movement that we currently have going – the desire for equality throughout human-kind regardless of color, race, creed, gender (or non-gender), hair color, eye color, height, weight – whatever else we can dream up as a difference between all of us….it continues on without Justice Ginsberg among the ranks. But we continue to build, we continue to grow…using her work, her energy, her drive as the continued foundation. And we use the same from so many other people as well, some not even known to any large contingent of folks, we continue to build on that foundation to make a world equal for all.

One thing I have learned throughout my life, there is always another way to continue. If there wasn’t another way to continue, I don’t think I would have survived as long as I have. Adaptability is the name of the game. I cannot tell you how many times I have broken rules and laws to keep computer systems working in the short-term so that I can develop a long-term repair to replace the illegal or improper repair that I created to keep things going. Whenever my commanders or supervisors asked me how I fixed something so quickly, I always replied with “Sir, Ma’am – with all due respect, its better that you don’t know.”

So, cry over Justice Ginsberg’s passing. But remember what she stood for – Change, Equality, Justice and the Law. And remember, when you feel you have mourned enough, there is still work to be done. Work that is done for the change for others, seeking equality, demanding justice and following the law. But in all of that, done in the name of love. Love for us all. Justice Ginsberg, I believe, would never have wanted anything less.

To be able to change, we must be able to adapt. To be able to adapt, we have to want to live. If we want to live, we have to want to love. to be able to love, we have to open our hearts to everybody. Those seeds do not perish for a lack of watering or planting. Those seeds die for a lack of empathy for all.

–T /|\

Wichtelmännchen on One’s Spiritual Path and Everyday Life

Most of my early youth was spent living in (what was then) West Germany during the 1970s. I saw large portions of the German countryside, thanks to my parents’ desire for the family to participate in what was termed as a “non-competitive fitness walking” – otherwise known as “Volksmarching.” Loosely translated, the word means “People’s walk” and were 5km, 10km and 20km walks throughout a local area. The trails were pre-determined by the local Volksmarch Association that put on the event. For me, as a child, the incentive was the “medal” that was given at the end of the walk. I have around eighty of these medals….somewhere. I cannot recall what each medal was for or what the walk for it looked like, but I do have some strong memories of a few walks through the Black Forest area of Germany.

The dark canopies were sometimes a bit frightening, particularly at times near dusk. I knew about the typical forest denizens to watch for – the hardly ever seen wolves and the more formidable (and far more territorial) wild Boar. However, I also looked into the tightly packed forest and wondered what might be deeper off the well-marked and well-worn Path that we were on. Perhaps, there was an evil Witch living just beyond the sight of normal humans, waiting for the wayward child to wander from the Path? Or maybe a wild pack of Goblins. A wild pack of “das Wichtelmännchen” (literally “Goblins”) making their way through the woods in parallel to those of us on the trail. Just waiting for the group to split into smaller numbers so as to make their attack all the more easy. Ah the wonders of a child’s over-active imagination. And yet….

The reality of living in 1970s Germany was a bit more frightening than some may have thought. My parents rarely spoke of the terrorists there, but there were active anti-American terrorist cells operating in Germany. The operations of the Red Army Faction, also known as the Baader-Meinhof Gang took place during the time I lived in Germany. I do not recall any of this and was only made aware of this type of danger upon my arrival in Germany in the 1990s for my own active-duty military tour.

There is danger everywhere. Even danger that you are not fully aware of, if ever. I lived in a country during a time where service members and their families were considered “legitimate” targets by those opposed to the American forces on stationed on German soil (a conversation for another time). I can recall the numerous times that my friends and I would wander into the fields directly across the street from base housing and wander throughout the wooded area. In one area, there was a cave that had been constructed into the rock of a hill side, where all the dependent children would go to smoke and do things that kids do as a form of rebellion from their parents. We were off of base housing, off of military housing and there were certainly a lot of “shady” Germans that wandered through the area as well. There were no guard shacks barring entry to the base housing area. Certainly, military police patrolled the area frequently, but safeguards here were not the same as those on the actual military installations. Civilian traffic frequently utilized part of base housing as a “shortcut” from one area to another. Thinking it through my head today, we were such easy, exploitable targets for an organization with no ethical core, such as the Baader-Meinhof Gang.

Thinking back, I always wondered at my complete innocence over something so real, while I had that great chill down my spine over the potential existence of das Wichtelmännchen. The real difference was in how I assimilated information and formulated the concept of danger. I am quite sure I saw news stories about the Baader-Meinhof Gang’s exploits on Armed Forces Network (AFN) television. But that was television. At age eight, it was difficult to understand and formulate the concept of danger.

I wonder if, in some ways, much of this type of adjustment to danger can be applied to Pagans that are new on their Path? They meet all these new Pagan folks that are nice to them, welcoming and so loving and helpful. They open their arms in trust and walk right into the arms of the Predators that are prevalent in the community. Yes, there are predators within the Pagan community. Individuals seeking sex, power and even wealth from unsuspecting newbies. We have all heard about these situations before. Either directly from such victims (typically after the fact) or third-hand from others. They step on the Path and come to the large public gatherings. They meet so many other people, including those that promise to divulge the deep, dark secrets of Great, the Amazing Witch of the South. All you need to do is become my students and follow the instructions that I provide to you. Yeah. Thirty-plus years as a Pagan, I’m highly unlike to fall for crap like that. Someone that is thirty-plus days on their own Path, likely sees that Path to get-Witch-quick, a chance to be as powerful, knowledge and wise as those that are thirty years on their Pagan Paths and those newbies leap for it. Right into the jaws of their predators.

Honestly, they didn’t know any better. They are moving along their path and they see Power for what it is – Power. And they think they don’t have it. And they need it. They want it. They want the short-cut, so they don’t have to do the work. Because they still feel the pull of the overly commercialized and power-driven world we live in. They hear the call of the pack of das Wichtelmännchen just beyond the trees. Instead of being frightened by it, instead of being on guard because of it…they are curious and drawn towards it. What they will need is someone that is on the Path that can intervene and tell them that it is best to stay on the well-worn Path for the time being. To learn from others that teach them not for a sexual favor, but for a love of the knowledge and a desire to pass it on to others. Those who teach have an obligation to do so ethically, but to also nurture their students into a love of the knowledge as well. Those that do not teach, should have a desire to protect wherever possible. Between these two points is where I find myself.

What do you think? Not just as an individual to whatever Path, tradition or organization that you find yourself, do you find yourself in a position to teach these new Pagans on how to find and walk their own path? Do you find a desire to help them avoid some of the pitfalls that others can find themselves on? I’m a Druid. I’ll help any individual that needs to find an ethical group or individual to learn from, regardless if its my Path as a Druid or not. I owe it to them to be the helping hand that I needed so badly back on the beginnings of my Path. I owe it to that new Pagan that had such difficult understanding where his own footing was, right in the middle of the Witch Wars of Dallas and then at the initial footsteps of the Satanic Panic of the 1980s. I know we all laugh about the newbies and the Rainbow Pagans and the White-Lighters that we all encounter. But those fluffy bunnies are typically new to their respective Paths and in some cases are not sure of where to step without creating offense to others. I’m not really feeling a need to let them run into das Wichtelmännchen on chance…..

–T /|\

Circling Back to Gate Keeping….

About ten days back, I wrote a blog post, I Prefer Individualism Over Gate Keeping, within which I worked through some of the issues I have with the concept of Gate Keeping and why it clashes with my personal default setting of Individualism. Statistically, its the most popular blog post I’ve written this year. However, in discussing this with a few people, I have come to realize that part of it seems to be misunderstood. So I thought it might be a good point to come back and clarify a few points and be a little more clear about what I was intending.

If you are learning from someone else or from some tradition, the lessons that you are taught or typically is what is considered to the basics. You do the best to walk in the manner that they wish to – until you finish the way they want to you or you just can’t finish.

Seemingly, this has been taken to mean that you only learn what you want from some Order or Group or Individual and then you move on when you feel like you’re fulfilled enough to travel in your own direction. Sure, if you want to do things in that manner, that really becomes your business. However, as I have said previously elsewhere, I take my oaths seriously. When I started down my Path within OBOD (Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids), my initiatory perspective was to finish what I was starting. I was, and still am determined to work my way through the three grades. I finished my Bardic grade and am currently working in my Ovate grade. I am determined (and hopefully) that when I finish my Ovate grade, I will be accepted into the Druid grade for the lessons contained therein. Am I after some title? Hardly, my desire is to learn whatever is being offered to me and add all of that to what I do now and into the future. However, there is a moment of Gate Keeping here.

See, there was always the chance that I could have been stopped from going forward from the Bardic to the Ovate grade. There is an aspect of Gate Keeping here. Its not my opinion that matters at this point, its the perspective of others. In fact, if we look at other aspects of Pagan belief systems, we can find all kinds of issues of Gate Keeping that takes place. And like it or not, in those instances, its a necessary thing.

Let’s work from a very specific example – initiatory rites. According to various locations on the internet (various Dictionaries and Wikipedia), an initiation is the action of admitting someone into a secret organization or group, sometimes through the act of a ritual. Most all of us have gone through a form of initiatory rites to be a part of an organization or group that we desired to be a part of. In those initiatory rites, we all faced challenges of some kind. Those challenges were a part of Gate Keeping. You either answered the right way or the wrong way. The right way led you in to become a member of the group or organization. The wrong way led you back to the outside where you were before.

Let’s face some facts here, shall we? Paganism in whatever flavor you can dream up is just not for everyone. And it shouldn’t be. Just as Christianity is not for everyone, as it wasn’t for me. Some aspects of Gate Keeping are necessary to help put some folks on their proper Paths. Or, if you prefer, to help them off the Paths that are not really conducive to their learning. This type of Gate Keeping develops boundaries that are necessary. This is not meant to be the creation of an “exclusive” group of people that are “better” than others. These boundaries are helpful in defining what path individuals are on. For example, the concept of Priesthood. Becoming a Priest is not something everyone will need. Truthfully, Pagans can be defined as their own “Priests” and “Priestesses” as the charge of handling your Spirituality is in your hands. However, Priests, Priestesses and many other roles are also people with specific duties and that is where the boundaries are helpful. Knowing who is who.

To bring another example into all of this, me. I do feel the pull for a formalized role of Priest. However, knowing the roles of a Priest….and being aware of my own limitations at this time…its not something I can fulfill at this time. I have a lot more to learn. I also have a lot of things to “unlearn” as well. In a manner of speaking, I am Gate Keeping myself, if you will allow. I know where my boundaries lay and how these boundaries do not intersect with a defined role as a Priest. I am a Priest unto myself. However, I currently do not intersect with the boundaries laid out for being a formal Priest. One day, I might be ready for that role. In the meantime, I accept where I am and continue to move through Life.

Now, I am referring to some extremely precise points, in terms of Gate Keeping. You just can’t walk up into a group, organization or a tradition and just proclaim you’re part of them. You have to be accepted in, learn their ways and knowledge, and work your way through the organization to become a trusted and respected member. All of that takes time, effort, patience and humility, all preceded by acceptance.

Being a Pagan is a little different. You decide that you are a Pagan, as far as I am concerned – you are just that. Its your self-identity. You want to be a Polytheist, you believe in multiple Gods or in many faces of an Archetypal God and Goddess figure. You are a Polytheist. Your views on Polytheism might be different than my own, but I am hardly the person to tell you that you are or are not one. Your heart is yours. You know it better than I do. I can only go by your words and actions.

I will admit, I detest Gate Keeping, particularly when someone tells me that I am not something that I believe that I am. Just like anyone else, I don’t take too kindly to rudely being told I am wrong. I am; however, open-minded enough to listen. I think that some of the knee jerk reactions to Gate Keeping are likely from the manner in which it is brought up to someone else. However, I am not a Gate Keeper of anything other than what is in my heart and part of my personal existence. And thus, the reason that I prefer Individualism over Gate Keeping. I enjoy getting to know people and placing barriers between us is not likely to allow that to happen. In the end, we will likely discover that we are both different Pagans with opinions that might be in diametrical opposition to one another. However, in my mind, you’re still a Pagan. You’re still a Polytheist (or not if you said you weren’t). Most importantly to me, you’re still you. And Gate Keeping is still a necessary function to help place some defining boundaries in the world around us. But I am still not going to tell you how to walk your own individual Path or how you should approach the Gods (or if you even should). Gate Keeping or not, we all have to walk our Paths individually. “That Path is for your steps alone…”

Hopefully, all of that helps clear up some of the misty version I seemed to have written earlier.

–T /|\