Wanderlust, Memories and Spirits of Place – Against a Backdrop of Times Before COVID-19

Back before COVID relegated most of us to our homes, I got the chance to do a lot of traveling through the Rockies from time to time. Every once in a while, someone will ask me what my favorite part of the world is – the quick and easy answer is the Rocky Mountains. I have never been more at home than I have there. If money and other factors were not issues, that is where I would certainly find myself – particularly the northern area.

Every few years, I put my mind into a thinking mode of where to travel to. Lately, my mind has gone back to those travels. Since I hate flying, I prefer the long drives from Texas to Wyoming, Montana, and all the nearby areas. For me, driving is a manner of therapy. I find that I am quite capable of driving twelve to sixteen hours on my own before I need a night’s rest. A few years back, an uncle of mine passed away, and the burial was up in Indiana. I drove from Dallas, Texas to the north side of Nashville, Tennessee in a single day, alone. All of my father’s brothers were truck drivers, so I guess there is some of that genetic makeup in my material.

There is a section of interstate in Colorado that runs from the southern part of the state to Colorado Springs. The interstate is on a flat portion of the prairie, as it rolls up to the edge of the Rockies. Those mountains are off to the left on the drive north, jutting majestically out of the land – reaching for the skies above. That single area is one of the images that I can easily recall in my mind when I am day-dreaming. So many others I have discussed this with call it “the most boring stretch of road” they have ever driven.

There is also a stretch of highway 287 in north Texas that I love to drive. From Wichita Falls to Amarillo, the drive takes you through a long stretch of smaller towns and not-so-large cities on the way into the Texas plains near Amarillo. Many of these towns have fallen on extremely hard-times, as evidenced by the run-down buildings and closed store-fronts of their tiny centers-of-town. Often, I have wondered what towns, such as Claude, Texas might have looked like during more prosperous times. Many times on the many drives through 287 to Amarillo, Texas, I have wondered what this part of Texas might have looked like back in the days when the Kiowa and Comanche tribes were numerous and powerful.

More than one person has commented to me that I belong to a different time-line than where I am. Most comment that I remind many of them of the times commonly referred to as “the old West” when people here in North America and the fledgling United States were moving westward to expand the country. In many cases, there was a desire for adventure, exploring the great unknown. For others, it was a chance at a new start. There were many, many other reasons, as well – but the romanticized history of the times tends to relate those two reasons as the greatest. I suspect that they are probably right. I have had lucid daydreams of just that perspective from time to time. Gods, I honestly would love to go back to my thirties and spend some of that time in my life reaching out to the less exploited and less inhabited parts of western Texas. The only thing that comes across as difficult to deal with for me is my personal distaste for guns. But that’s a thought for another time.

View From Medicine Wheel

One of my favorite places that I have traveled to is in Wyoming. Medicine Wheel in the Bighorn Mountains is in the ancestral lands of the Apsaalooke’ (Crow), Cheyenne, and Oceti Sako’win (Sioux). My visit there happened on the long trip to Montana, that I mentioned previously. According to the cultural history, Medicine Wheel dates back thousands of years into a time where no First Nations settlers had been seen. The moment you encounter the Wheel after the mile-plus walk from the parking lot, you can sense the sacredness of this place. The view across the valley looking westward and north towards the poorly named Custer Gallatin National Forest is simply amazing. This one place, I have felt at utter and complete peace. The area around the Wheel is populated with the nearby town of Lovell, Wyoming located down the steep, winding road into the valley. Of all the places that I have visited, none have called more deeply to my soul than Medicine Wheel.

I enjoy traveling. I guess I have a gene of wanderlust in my genetic makeup. Perhaps, that came about from my parents pulling me and my sister along to Volksmarches in the German countryside, when my dad was stationed there. Walks along small roadways between farmers’ fields, along the cobble-stone roads of small German villages, and my favorite (and most well-remembered) walks through the dense, dark, and venerable Black Forest are such deeply ingrained memories of my life. I remember getting permission to walk off the path, into the dense ranks of the trees, walking on the soft, brown pine needles that seemed to be the floor of the forest. Marveling at the shafts of light that would penetrate the dense canopy like multi-colored laser strikes from spacecraft high in orbit – or at least that was what it seemed to a SciFi addled school boy’s over-active imagination.

Thinking deeper into what I have noted above, I would surmise that a lot of the energy and calm that I felt came from Spirits of Place. I cannot prove this for a fact, but each of those experiences remain some of the strongest memories I have at a time in my life where I can scarcely remember what I had for dinner last night. Yes, memories do fade, particularly if you do not feed them. My memories of high school feel like old, yellowed photographs of faces I do not remember very well. My memories of a childhood spent growing up throughout Europe, courtesy of the United States Air Force, are even fewer in number, and far less sharp in contrast, with the sole exception of walking through the countryside for a simple Volksmarch medal (all of which I still have).

I still wonder if I really belong in this time-frame of the world or if my soul actually belongs elsewhere. That’s a question of reincarnation and rebirth, something I have no qualifications to speak coherently on. I do believe that there is some aspect of that which exists, but it is only my supposition. Still, I wonder about the pull of a time within the history of this continent I currently inhabit. I also wonder about the pull of specific locations that I have physically visited in this life. How can a place that I have never been prior to my first visit exhibit that kind of continued pull in my life? I do have desires to return to Medicine Wheel, this time with the proper offerings in hand. And should that occur, I will certain spend time detailing the entire aspects of such a trip. Could it be described as a pilgrimage? Perhaps. I am not sold on the concept of that perspective. I do know that the need to return and properly pay respects is strong. And what of the potential of Spirits of Place? I have always felt that Spirits of Place ignore humans for the most part. They have been here much longer than we have. Our significance is not that great, outside of the harm that we have caused. What of Them?? Certainly, for me, much of this is a continued process of “food for thought”….

However, I do miss traveling…thanks to COVID-19.

–T /|\

Note: This is the sixth re-write of this post. I hope it makes more sense than the first two did.

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

A Direct Line to the Gods?

You are so blessed to have a direct line to the Gods…

Whenever I talk with people about my connection with Crow, Coyote, and/or Abnoba, I tend to hear this comment floating in. I am not fond of hearing this, but I also don’t really clear up the air on it either. So, instead of floating back to an older post and trying to bring a new spin – I figured this might be a good place to start for today. Yes, I do communicate with all three from time to time, but it is not a direct line of communication. Nor is it like a Bat-signal that gets flashed in the sky for me to see, and I go running for a location where I can quickly and quietly meditate. Nor can I just flip a switch, focus on Them and They pick up the other end to hear what I am asking for help on. This relationship has NEVER worked like that. And if it did, I would be scared shitless.

I am not some physical manifestation of a super-hero for the Gods I work with. While I can, and do, work as a physical extension of Their Will, I am not puppet whose strings get pulled. From my end, I can ask for assistance in understanding a perspective that I don’t understand. About ninety percent of the time, I get no answer whatsoever. The other ten percent of the time, my answer winds up being a nearly thousand-piece puzzle set that I have to piece together to decipher my answer. Rarely, have I found the Gods that I work with to be blunt and straight-forward. And with two Trickster Gods, it is definitely what I would have expected.

In the beginning, though, not so much. Coyote was the first. When He started showing up in dreams and meditations, I got fairly freaked out. I was not used to my dreams or meditations talking back in a lucid, conversational tone. There was a lot of back and forth over what was needed and required of me in this relationship. A whole lot of trial and error in figuring out what was necessary, and what was just the extra sprinkles on top of the requirement. I still have trouble with Coyote over straight-forward requests. Crow was easier. However, both are Trickster Gods, and I was put through the ringer doing some really stupid things that I thought They wanted. It turned out, They wanted me to figure out that I could also say no.

Yeah. You can say no to a God. You can refuse to work with Them. But a word of warning, weigh that choice against Their desire to work with you. I have never been called by The Morrigan – and I hope I never, ever get called by Her. Aside from the fact that She literally scares the shit out of me (She is quite the fierce Goddess), I see no need or place for me within whatever army She is developing. At one point, I thought I was being approached by Her (The Morrigan is not a Valkyrie), but it turned out to be a handful of Valkyrie that were pushing me towards another perspective. As an aside, I have found that working with the Valkyrie is quite interesting as well, and far more suited to the training and career that the United States Air Force built me for, but that’s for another time….maybe. As I said, you can say no, just realize that there are consequences.

There are also consequences for saying yes, as well. if you are provided with an oath, go over it carefully before you say yes. Make sure you understand exactly what you are bargaining, because that is precisely what you are doing – setting a bargain. An oath or bargain taking lightly can place you somewhere that you might not want to be. When you are striking a bargain with the Gods, you are creating a contractual obligation between both of you. Make absolutely sure that you are comfortable with what you are providing. Also, make absolutely sure that you are comfortable with what you are being provided in agreement.

You do not have to become a Priest or Priestess to the Gods you work with. At one time, I misunderstood Crow’s perspective and believed that I was to become a Priest of His. That misunderstanding led me down an incorrect Path. A lot of back and forth happened with a lot of confusion on my part before I realized what was being told to me: the First Nations Path was not mine to be walked. I work with Coyote and Crow, but I am not of the People. Certainly there is some crossover in my path and that Path, but their ceremonies are not mine. Priesthood was not where I was being directed. Nor was the Path of being a Shaman. My footsteps go elsewhere, into Druidry – and a different type of Priesthood. As I said before, my experience has been that direct communication with the Gods is quite difficult at times.

It stands to reason that this is the case. They are not Humans. And Humans are not Them. As John Beckett would say, “Their ways are not our ways.” What are the Gods? I am not completely sure how to classify Them other than not Humans. To me, They are the Gods. They don’t control us, and They don’t want to. They work with us in a Spiritual give-and-take. Sometimes, the scales of that give-and-take are not equally balanced. Again, we have choices that we can make. Accept and do or reject. Each has its own set of consequences.

Unfortunately, I cannot hear the Gods. They seem to have rejected me.

The Gods call who They call. I would caution you a bit about running joyously into Their service. Serving the Gods can be a difficult Path over razor-sharp rock with only your bare hands and feet to traverse it. Working with the Gods is not a comfortable position. And stepping into Priesthood with the Gods can be even more difficult, time-consuming, and possibly even beyond your imagination. The Gods are definitely not the depictions we see in the movies. I cannot dissuade a single soul against that perspective; pop-culture can be that powerful. But from my own experience, the Gods are way beyond the magic of Industrial Light & Magic and other VFX and animation studios.

For me, the Gods are real, distinct Beings. I know They exist. I work with a few of Them. I have been working with a few of Them for quite a few years. I can relate that my experience has been that service to the Gods can (and will) be difficult at times. I can also relate that They do not always communicate with me directly or indirectly. There are times that I have wondered if They had let me go. I do not have a direct line to the Gods. There is no emergency telephone between here and wherever They are. Others might actually have that connection, but in my experience it does not exist. But They definitely do.

–T /|\

Thinking About: Stories

You need music, I don’t know why. It’s probably one of those Joe Campbell questions, why we need ritual. We need magic, and bliss, and power, myth, and celebration and religion in our lives, and music is a good way to encapsulate a lot of it.

Jerry Garcia

I was reminded of this quote from Jerry during the Days Between of Jerry’s’ birth and death. This appeared on Mickey Hart’s Instagram account. Hart was one of the drummers for the Grateful Dead and a very close friend of Jerry’s. The quote always reminds me of the necessary need for music towards the expression of our collective emotions, as well as a transport for strong stories that bring inspiration to our minds. If you need examples, I will point to songs such as “The Legend of Wooley Swamp” by the Charlie Daniels Band, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” by Gordon Lightfoot, “One” by Metallica, or even Iron Maiden’s “Still Life” as singular examples among so many others.

Music also brings other stories to mind. Several songs will easily invoke moments where I first heard these songs with friends. As an example, I remember walking with friends around a football field, listening to Midnight Star’s album “No Parking on the Dance Floor”. I’m not overly fond of dance music from the 1980s, but any song from this album will automatically evoke the memories of that late afternoon and evening. Of that group, only three of us are still alive to this day, and none of us speak to one another for various petty reasons. But despite that, my memories of us cutting up and pretending to lip-sync the synth-induced robotic voices will quickly bring a smile to my face. Music has that ability to bring up those stories that we may have long forgotten; however, it is the essence of those stories that provide strong emotions related to those stories.

Here in the blog, I have relayed quite a few of the stories that I have from my experiences throughout the thirty-plus years I have been a Pagan. Some have been humorous. Some, not so much. Each story; however, is a simple momentary glance into what has gone on in my life. My sharing of these stories is just to let you peek into my life or to provide an entertaining look at what a doofus I can be at times. What I hope to invoke with you is a moment where you can start to sort your life into similar small peeks – sort of like mini-chapters of a novel – into who you are. My point is not to have you do the same as what I am doing: sharing it openly with others. Rather, to get you to look at those mini-chapters and find the experiences that you need to work with or save to remember later. Certainly, if you feel called to do so, share those experiences with others. When you feel the need to teach or mentor others along their Pagan paths, you will need these experiences to showcase lessons for others. Drawing parallel conclusions between what you stumbled over, and what your student may encounter can not only be a rewarding teaching moment for them, but also a cathartic experience for yourself.

Stories drive our lives. We can envision ourselves in the roles of the characters we read about in Louis L’Amour novels. We can see ourselves as major or minor characters in the stories we read, or those that we watch on our televisions or movie screens. However, sometimes in our mundane lives, we forget that there is more to this story concept. These days, we all watch on the screen as the numbers of total corona-virus cases rises and the deaths continue to climb upwards in a parallel dance. But each of those numbers, is a singular human being. And their life is a story. How they contracted the virus is a story. The very sad way in which they died is a story. Those that survived and have gone home or a continuing story of success, as well as further struggle with how the virus has wrecked their bodies. It can be somewhat comforting to reduce their stories to numbers, since those can be sterilized to faceless counts. But, in my opinion, that reduces them from human beings to nothing. Those stories need to be told – by their friends, their relatives, their friends, their lovers, and their colleagues. Those who are remembered, truly never die. They live on in their stories that are told.

When I initiated into my Bardic grade at Gulf Coast Gathering in Louisiana (directly across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans), I remember the faces of everyone that initiated with me, as well as those that participated in the initiation. Many of that initial group have slowly filtered to the wayside. Others have shone brightly in the camps that have come afterward. And some of disappeared altogether. Yet, I still feel the need to talk about these initiates with any new initiate I can corner for five minutes. I want my fellow class of initiates to continue in their own stories. I also want the new initiates to take a moment to see the others initiating with them. The stories that brought everyone to that first initiation of Bards at Gulf Coast Gathering are as wide and varied as the personalities among all of us. Their stories live on. As does the growing legend of the Screen Boar, though I am certain so many folks get tired of hearing it every year. 🙂

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

I have so many stories about the people that I worked with at the college. Some are fun. some not so much. After leaving there, I am not in contact with these people as much as I thought I would be. For a couple of thousand days, I spent time with all of these people. We worked together, we had fun, we certainly had fights and arguments. But the further that I get from August 28th, 2019; the more my memories of those folks begin to fade. This is an example where the moment of the stories ceases to hold its importance going into the future. The same holds true for my memories of high school. Certain events and moments, I distinctly remember, while others have faded so far from memory, I can scarcely remember them happening. And in a manner of speaking, it is sad that these memories have faded to near total darkness in my mind. At one time, these were very important to me and were vividly recalled at a single moment. Are these moments in time that really were not important? Perhaps they were at that time, but more recent experiences have slowly pushed those out, as my mind has set those off to the side as “not as important as I thought they were”. I cannot say for sure that this is what it is, but I am certain that those memories have faded…

Stories are everywhere around us. You can read the ongoing saga of how Donald Trump has destroyed America daily in the papers. Or, your perspective can be that he has saved America from debasing itself. Sometimes stories can be interpreted differently by many people. Much like experiences, everyone will pull something different from a story that they read, watch or live. We are, after all, unique individuals with unique perspectives. Rest assured though, stories can be found everywhere or be evoked by any of the senses or combination thereof. As someone who places a heavy value on the telling of stories, I would suggest that examining the world around you to find all the stories evolving around you….it is an endeavor that may open your world to a perception you may never have noticed. Such as the war between the two ant colonies on either side of the yard. Or, as Rush detailed in their amazing song “The Trees“, the battle for sunlight between the Oaks and the Maples, as well as the hinted at government that governs the forest. There are plenty of stories to read, watch, experience and discovery. The first step…is finding them.

–T /|\

The Future: One Perspective

Druidry. This has been a part of my daily life for quite some time now. Just a little over a decade, if my reckoning is correct. Although, the true timing of when I started down this path does not really matter to me. Being on this Path is what I spend my focus on. For those wanting to know how Druidry got to this point, that’s an easy thing. Ronald Hutton has two excellent books on the topic: “Druids: A History” (which seems to be out of print) and “Blood and Mistletoe: The History of the Druids in Britain“. There are many other authors who have written about the history of Druids, so the road here is very well paved from an historical sense. Plus, each of the Druid orders out there have their own histories from their perspectives as well. However, the one question that keeps cropping up from a lot of the people that read this blog and the folks I am associated with on Facebook is where the future lies for Druidry and to a much wider extent for modern-day Paganism.

The short answer is – I really don’t know. Looking at things from a growth perspective, I have seen studies that proclaim a deep growth for Druidry and Paganism – and other studies that show a much more shallow pattern of growth. I am not going to debate one perspective over the other. Rather, I will point out that whatever perspective you believe, there is a pattern of growth and that point alone is important. Growth means that there are more people becoming interested in what an alternative Spirituality has to offer over the common-place, main-stream forms of Spirituality that are readily available and known within society, as a whole.

Growth does imply that numbers potentially getting bigger. We do; however, also see people leaving Druidry and/or Paganism as well. Some are disenchanted with what they have perceived to be nothing different than the dynamic power structures built by more common main-stream Paths. Plus, our Elders are passing beyond the Veil as well, which can provide a negative balance to the overall growth equation as well. There is no census of Druids or Pagans out there that is available to substantiate any of this. I am merely speculating as to the normal patterns associated with human curiosity, disenchantment with previously held ideals, feelings of disenfranchisement, and the natural life-span of these human shells we wear. I would still hold that there is a progression of growth that is still there, even though I do not have any numbers to back my feeling. If that one point ruins everything else I am about to say, so be it. However, all of this is my opinion, and mine alone. As I am fond of hash-tagging: #JustSayin’

I have read and heard a lot of thoughts towards a future for Druidry and Paganism, both short-term and far-flung. From grand visions of temples and sacred shrines dotting the landscape of the world to Druidry (and other forms of alternative Spirituality) being openly considered as being on equal footing with the Big Five. No, I don’t mean Slayer, Anthrax, Metallica and Megadeth; besides those bands were known as the Big Four, unless you consider Exodus to be a part of that which would make them the Big Five. What I mean is Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism. To some, being placed on equal footing within societal understanding would be an ultimate step forward into the future for Druidry and Paganism. Fair enough. Both are interesting perspectives to see happen going forward, but I see those as much bigger steps than what the future may hold.

Now, I am no fortune-teller nor do I have special dispensation towards what happens in the future. I am a horrible prognosticator. Just check out how badly I have done in picking Fantasy Sports teams, and you will understand what I mean. I add this to continually point out that all of this is my own opinion. Others may share all or parts of what I envision, but the number of people that agree with me is not going to make any of this happen or not. Furthermore, some of this is going to dive slightly into politics, which I said in an earlier Facebook status post that I was not going to write about. Before you start lighting the torches, understand that the ripples from the political pebbles that got tossed into the pond will effect all kinds of things in seemingly unrelated areas. So without further quantification, here I go….

One Side of the Flipped Coin

While most of us in the world enjoy a greater degree of freedom where our beliefs are concerned, political events certainly have a degree of foreboding in the clouds. Like it or not, all aspects of our freedoms lay in the balance of what happens over the next few months. On the one hand, we can see some small growth in alternative lifestyles and spirituality perspectives. While I do not see alternative Spiritual perspectives gaining the equal footing on a social basis with the Big Five, I can see an opening for some positive growth. Growth that would allow people to be who they are openly, without fear of reprisal from their employer or government agencies pulling their kids away to foster-care. In-roads into these areas has been well documented, but there is still a lot of open ground to cover before we can see everyone safe with this. Not just in Spirituality, but also where one’s declared gender is concerned, as well as being able to openly declare who you love or how many you love.

The Other Side of the Coin

However, there is a distinct, different direction that things can go in the next few months. Society could lean towards a more fundamentalist perspective, where everything falls back to so-called “traditional” values. In that case, Druidry, Paganism, Gender Declaration, Polyamory could all fall towards a level far deeper than societal disdain. In this direction, there is a distinct darker cloud over our future…and the potential (not a guarantee that it will be completely so bleak) where who we are, how we are, what we are – is outlawed. Of course, that approaches the apocalyptic perspective which is a major extreme. However, I can see a future society that pushes Druidry, Paganism, Gender Declaration, and Polyamory (among a lot of other perspectives) into an underground status, where you are very quiet about who you are – almost living within a secret society and a double life. I remember thos days from the late 1980s and early 1990s. I am sure many of you out there reading this post are nodding and saying that things have not changed, even today.

Now I am not talking about anything beyond five to ten years with all of this. Why? That is really simple. I cannot envision a future any further than that. In fact, I refuse to do so. A future beyond the scope of ten years is beyond the scope of my ability to clearly see and predict.

If the Coin Lands on the Edge

However, let us take a perspective beyond ten years. Let us refer to this as my dream for the future of Druidry and Paganism, among other perspectives, lifestyles and beliefs. I still don’t envision Pagan temples and Sacred Spaces on neighborhood corners, as we see a huge variety of Christian spaces of worship today. In fact, I am not sure I would want to see that at all. What I do envision are Scared Spaces, usable by any faiths, dotting the countryside. Where Druids, Pagans, and any other faiths can hold their ceremonies, rites and gatherings openly. A future where visitors to any of these gatherings are welcome regardless of their faith or perspective. I envision a world where the color of my skin or eyes has no bearing on how anyone else treats me. Where differences of opinions are settled with discussion rather than angry words that are erroneously cloaked in the word “debate”. My hope is that we get there, one day. I fear I will have shed my human form in this current existence long before it happens. I can only hope that whatever existence I take on into the future will be capable of continuing forward the gentle push to make the necessary changes for all of us to get to what I hope for the future. However, in the meantime, I can hope and continue to plant the seeds of hope. All of this writing may seem futile to many, but if I reach just one person…that will be enough.

We have the right to our freedom
This is the life we choose
We never asked for you and all your rules

Black ‘n’ Blue, “Rules from the album “Nasty, Nasty”

–T /|\

ReVisting: “Finding My Way”…and Going Even Further

Well, we have made it to the weekend, actually the near end of the weekend with the 8:45pm point of writing this post. Maybe I need to alter my writing of these posts by a day or two prior to the publishing date, but I digress. This is one of the “ReVisiting” I have decided to work on. This time I went way back to 2012 – nearly the beginning of the blog, and pulled up the post “Finding My Way“. This post was a sort of internal phrasing of where I was at the moment. I was burned out on nearly everything I was doing, and I desperately needed a long break. A three-week long trip was planned to drive up to Glacier National Park, with stops in the Dakotas, Wyoming, and Colorado in both the going and returning aspects of the trip. The trip turned out to be exactly what I needed. An internal reset. I certainly could have used such a trip earlier this Summer, but COVID-19 had other plans, which have kept me in Hillsboro, Texas for quite some time. This has also allowed me to step back into the analytical approach as to how my personal Path has been going, where it has been, and where I hope it might go.

In the “Finding My Way” post, at the very end, I left a rather disjointed statement about getting back to my poetry, which I have, as a means of bringing things back together. Now, a little over eight years later (I wrote the original post on June 12th, 2012), I have started to understand far better that the Path is not always a straight line. And sometimes I have no control whatsoever where it will lead me to go. While the analytical part of what I wrote was a good look at where I had gone with my career, which is currently not at all where I ever envisioned it would be, another song besides Rush’s ‘Finding My Way” (the lyrical inspiration of the post) brought a much deeper piece of analytics to me – Queensryche’s “Someone Else” from their “Promised Land” album. There are two versions of the song on the album, and this one is referenced as the “full band” version on the 2003 reissue of the album. As follows are those lyrics:

When I fell from grace I never realized
How deep the flood was around me
A man whose life was toil was like a kettle left to boil
And the water left these scars on me

The chains I wore were mine, dragging me towards my fate
Planned for me long ago
I played by all their rules, went to their right schools
Who was I to question?

They used to say I was nowhere man
Heading down was my destiny
But yesterday I swear that was
Someone Else, not me

Here I stand at the crossroad’s edge
Afraid to reach out for eternity
One step when I look down
I see someone else, not me

I know now who I am, if only for awhile
I recognize the changes
I feel like I did, before the magic wore thin
And the baptism of stains began

Sacrifice, they always say… is a sign of nobility
But where does one draw the line in the face of injury?
I’m just trying to understand

Standing here at the crossroad’s edge
Looking down at what I used to be
A drowning man, trying to stay afloat
Heavy with the past, but somehow keeping hope
That there’s something more that is seen
But it’s somewhere out of reach

So I keep looking back
Looking back and I see someone else

All my life they said I was going down
But I’m still standing stronger proud

And today I know, there’s so much more I can be
I think I finally understand

From where I stand at the crossroad’s edge
There’s a path leading out to sea
And from somewhere deep in my mind
Sirens sing out loud, songs of doubt, as only they know how
But one glance back reminds and I see
Someone Else, not me.

I keep looking back at Someone Else… me?

I realize it is a lengthy quote, but the song has some real meaning to me throughout my life. All the way through sixth grade, I was a student that was ahead of everyone else. I read on a near collegiate level, while most my class lagged far behind me. My teachers had nothing but very elevated praise for me. When my father reached the end of his thirty-two year Air Force career, we rotated back to the United States, Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama to be precise. My parents enrolled me into Catholic parochial elementary school for my sixth grade (a repeat grade for me because I did not have all the credits required to move to high school due to the differences between US schools and DoDDS (Department of Defense Dependents Schools). This was also my first introduction to the concepts of main-stream, popular music. That was predictable measure for my grades to drop. I went from the top of my class to a continual and constant finish at the back of my class through to my high school graduation. As the song notes, no one had a lot of hope for my ability to make anything of myself. And I certainly listened to all of that and played predictable to it, with the exception of my extremely high ACT and SAT scores. But scores never mattered to me, and I kept to my constant routine of being more of a failure than any kind of success.

My long hair also did not endear my very well to my extremely strict and conservative father. The fact that I immediately went back to wearing my hair long past my collar after I left the US military brought a lot of the anger and disappointment of both of my parents aimed directly at me. Much later, my mother confided in me that my father was never more proud than when I was promoted to Sergeant. And never more disappointed than the moment that I was removed from the military with a General Discharge (Under Honorable Conditions). He was disappointed. I was ready to live life under my own terms.

Most likely, I am a typical Libra. I see all sides of an issue. I see the good and bad in people. I always seek balance. Except when I am traveling my own road. I am quite the free traveler in all of that. If a certain pathway looks more intriguing to me, I will take it – if I can. My entire world view has been one of experience – both good, bad, and disastrous. I remember points in my life where I lived in a one-room apartment. My meals were ramen (yummy and salty!) and popcorn. Yes, I bought those large bags of pre-popped popcorn, and I could live off of that for nearly a week. From that point, I have also owned my own home, had more than enough money to pay the bills and then some. I have seen both sides of that hill. I have driven cars that I am absolutely sure were never safe to be on the road. I’ve purchased brand-new cars. My life has always been about experiences. And it likely always will.

I have tried a few different aspects of Paganism. And my Spirituality continues to be about experiences. That is an integral aspect of my Spirituality. I cannot fathom any part of my lifetime without that.

Each of those experience are what I consider to be “crossroads” in my Life. Now, at fifty-four (almost fifty-five), one would think that these crossroads would begin to be less and less. Not so…crossroads will always occur throughout this Life, and continue on into whatever happens beyond the Veil. I would hope that I am less likely to jump in any direction than I was in my youth. I hope that I am far more considerate about what each direction might hold before setting a single footstep in that direction.

At the very end of “Finding My Way” I made the following observation about trying to move forward with the expressed intention of folding more creativity into the daily recipe of me:

In other words – just let the G-ds club me upside the head with Awen — and see what happens.  And through that — explore the “me” a little more.

In essence I was a little naive in my thinking. Creativity is all around me. Not just mine, but everyone else’s too. Someone’s creativity created the laptop and the Windows 10 environment I use. Someone’s creative created the WordPress platform I am typing all of this into. The creativity of the band members of Queensryche provided the music I am listening to. Creativity is everywhere. There are waves of it invisibly washing over us every moment of the day. Just gotta grab one of those waves and let it take you wherever, while opening yourself to what it is and whatever it brings to you. As a simple aside, this is exactly how I do the writing for this blog. I do not typically write the way other folks seem to – find a topic, plan out what to write, and then fit what you type into that. I just let the wave take me wherever it does.

A long time back, everyone in my life told me that I would never really be anything in life. And I listened. Until the military showed me I could do anything I put my mind to doing. When I came out of the military and into the world, I did not try to conform to anyone else’s standards of what I should do. I conformed to be what I wanted me to be. I took my lumps for it. There were some truly dark times associated with my choices. But those were my choices. I owned the consequences of those choices, and in my opinion – I grew up in ways I never thought I could do. My father always told me I would be irresponsible as an adult, simply because I didn’t follow his way of doing things. A few years before his death, we reconciled our differences and he admitted he was impressed with the way I handled my life. It was what I truly needed to hear…even if it came too late to really soften my heart towards his stance. But that’s another post of self examination….

–T /|\

Thinking About: This Year and What is to Come

Yesterday, I took the day to go to Denton County for medical appointments. When I lived in Lindsay, it was a little easier, as the drive one-way was forty-five minutes. Now, Hillsboro to Denton County is about an hour longer, which makes me pile my medical appointments one top of the other for those Wednesdays, and turns a trip to Denton County into an all-day affair. I could just move to new doctors down on this side of town, but once I am comfortable with a doctor, I hate to give them up. On the way home, with my eyes all blurry from being dilated and my right getting a steroid shot to help with my vision (that’s right, I get shots in my eyes about every seven weeks or so), I decided to stop for Chinese food on the way back home. No dine-in option, because the local Chinese place doesn’t deem it safe to have the dine-in area of the restaurant open due to COVID-19 concerns. All of which suits me just fine – given that I am still not comfortable being out in the public spaces for any length of time. So drive-thru window it was to be. I went home, ate about three-quarters of what I ordered and promptly went to sleep. Today, I have struggled to find my topic for today, until I opened my fortune cookie and saw the message hidden inside.

At that moment, I started wondering what in the Nine Hells this was trying to tell me. I’m not one to believe in fortune cookie sorcery, but I always take a moment to pause and consider how these generic messages inserted at random in some fortune cookie factory might fit into my life. I have always found this to be an excellent source for self reflection, and have come away with some really good journal entries concerning my feelings towards where that particular cookie brought me. But this one? This floored me in a way I was not really ready for.

See, I am just like anyone else. I see all the troubles that inhabit our current times. Police brutality issues that are centered in an unbalanced manner against people of color, our out of control President here in the United States, our Senate here in the States that enables his outrageous behavior, the cries for justice that are happening everywhere, our desire for the freedoms promised to all citizens of this country that are our current government seems to hold as dear and proper for only those that support the President, and the ever present fear of COVID-19. I look around and I see people who are behind on their rent and with the eviction restrictions that our governor placed on landlords about to expire over this coming weekend – I just cannot fathom what or how those evicted are going to be able to manage in an environment where they have been furloughed or outright laid off from their jobs. I look at all of that and feel the weight of despair, injustice and the growing anger that is seemingly all around me. I live in a VERY Trump-supporter heavy county. Nearly every vehicle that has a political statement in the form of a sticker has one supporting Trump. If you go into any public space within the county, you will encounter a multitude of red-hats being proudly displayed. If you drive between Cleburne and Hillsboro (the two nearest large cities), you will drive by house after house on the rural highway that is displaying either a Trump/Pence 2020 yard sign or flying a Trump flag (yes, a flag) in their yard. And these people are active in the Facebook groups for the county, and very vocal about their support for the President. And even more vocal about what they would do to protesters in the streets, if they came across them. That anger and hate is laid out as naked and arrogant as possible, with a hint of violent tendencies just beneath the surface for those that don’t agree. So, in terms of the so-called “long-game,” I am not overly optimistic.

But there is hope, which is what my fortune is seemingly reminding me of. Trump does not get elected solely off the vote here in Hill County or even solely off the vote from here in Texas. However, if he does manage to eek out four more years in the White House, there is still hope. Because we still have each other. I look to the love and caring I get in messages in Email or in Direct Messages or in Facebook status posts, or tweets on Twitter. Take away all the politics, all the ridiculous online debates, and even turn off the news….and the best is still there. Even despite COVID-19, we still celebrate life among one another. We celebrate birth dates, we rejoice in anniversaries of dates we became friends on Facebook. We find happiness in each other, no matter the distances. When we feel down, our friends take time out to console us, they write private messages to engage us, they comment on posts to help heal us – no matter how small that might feel like. All of that is triumphs that we have in our lives. Why does that happen? Because we are in this together. To steal a movie quote from Matrix: Reloaded:

Believe me when I say we have a difficult time ahead of us. But if we are to be prepared for it, we must first shed our fear of it. I stand here, before you now, truthfully unafraid. Why? Because I believe something you do not? No, I stand here without fear because I remember. I remember that I am here not because of the path that lies before me but because of the path that lies behind me.

Morpheus

What comes after this point? An election. A hopeful end to a devastating virus. A new world that will change every step in my life for the future. I know there will be an election, I know a vaccine that helps drive down the devastation of COVID-19 will be found, and I know that a new life is waiting for me, just around the corner. The what and when of all of that, I cannot predict, but I am not about to stop fighting or believing in any of what I just stated. Why? Because I believe harder than you? No…as pointed out by Morpheus in the quote above, because I remember and look back on what has gotten me to this point. All the hard work, all the struggle, wrapped up in all of the time and effort I put into going forward. I believe that I can continue to go forward and that I will see positive change, but only so long as everyone else remains willing to fight, work, and struggle. I have faith in your ability to work together and move forward for change. I have faith in all of you that are pushing for a world of equality for all. Certainly, we live in uncertain and unstable times, but our goals for change happen further on. This is not a time to despair over where we are, it is a time to remember where we are headed – and knowing that there is still much work to be done. I do believe that….all thanks to fortune cookie that I opened, just a few hours ago. Who says that the Gods don’t work in weird and strange ways? 🙂

–T /|\

Progression on One’s Path – A Personal Perspective

I have written a few posts that explain the why of my working within Druidry. What I haven’t done is explore some of the aspects of progression in one’s own Spiritual Path. For this, I need to work from another person’s perspective. My choice is a Druid who influences me greatly with what she does within her own practice. A few years back, I took the opportunity to take a year long study program with her to get an even deeper perspective on my own approach to Druidry. Yes, I am talking about Cat Treadwell, and specifically a passage from her book “A Druid’s Tale“. This is one of my go-to references, when I am needing inspiration on my own Spiritual path, so it is no coincidence that I pulled this off the bookshelf for today’s post.

Every single quote I am about to add to this post comes from pages 118 and 119. I add these passages to provide some emphasis for part of my own Path over thirty-plus years, and especially over the last thirteen to fourteen.

If you are serious about your spirituality, a point will come when your practice as a Pagan (of whatever Stripe) becomes your way of life. It will be so integrated into your world that the practice is almost entirely natural, not an activity separate from your work, your family or anything else. You are a Druid (or Witch, etc.). This is not special or different, it’s just part of who you are. Many novices aspire to this – and it’s a good goal to aim for.

My first twenty years or so as a Pagan, my personal Spirituality can best be described as a “caravan gypsy.” I did some rituals on my own, and even practiced with a group of Wiccans a couple of times, but at best, my concept of Paganism was more deeply rooted in an academic perspective. I spent a lot of time studying Paganism, but not nearly as much time doing it. Over time, slowly, my personal, individual practice of my beliefs through solo rituals increased my understanding from one of pure knowledge to one of understanding what that knowledge really meant: actually being a Pagan. This was the point where I started looking into Druidry as a more structured aspect of what I was trying to do. That still took a little bit of time to start changing who I was – finding a more serious direction for my practice.

I understand that the entire focal point of some modes of religious practice is to achieve enlightenment of some sort. That’s not Paganism, and certainly not Druidry. It’s a constant. You are, in a sense, continually being enlightened – as you practise, you learn. You are continually waking up each new day with new experiences and perspective, healing the past and moving forward with new potential into the future. That’s active and rewarding life, continuous inspiration that you use personally and share with those around by your expression of it.

When I finished my Bardic grade in the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids, this perspective nailed me like a brick flying across the courtyard. I even found Druidic inspiration in my daily, mundane work as a data specialist in my mundane job. As odd as it sounds, finding daily functionality in my Druidry helped me to recognize not only the relationships with the world around me, but also how to interpret relationships in my database work. Of course, I had not learned the art of subtlety at this point, and many of my brash observations on the college’s data were taken as criticism and arrogance. All of that possibly led to my eventually termination, though I was seen as someone who could readily interpret relationships and quickly help setup extremely complex data studies. I have never been known to sugar-coat the truth, which was likely the reason that upper management saw me as quite abrasive. Regardless of that fallout, seeking relationships between this thing and that thing has become a strong hallmark of my daily Path of Druidry. Cat’s notation over this making for an active and rewarding life is something I find to be very understated. Whatever your job, whatever is the truest aspect of your mundane life; I am quite positive that you will find that connection and inspiration. It may take some time, but if you have that curiosity to dig deeper, to open your mind to whatever possibility exists – you will find your Druidry open new ways of seeing the world around you.

But there is more, should you wish it. In other traditions, it may be a calling or vocation, but it’s that time when practising purely by yourself is not enough. You want to work with others. Or for others.

Initially, this may be for personal reasons. A group to learn with is wonderful, sharing the journey together, and validating your own experiences. A light is brighter when made up of many flames.

Or you would be called upon to truly be Pagan ‘for other people’ – to serve as a Priest. You may not have ‘completed’ your training (when have you ever?), but you want to be there for others, to help when called upon, whether they are actively seeking their own way or simply looking for information.

Here we go.These three little paragraphs are where I am right now. I struggle with the term “Priest.” However, I am learning that the term does not fit with the Christian baggage that I carry from my time in Catholic schools during my formal schooling period which my parents thrust me into. As Cat notes, one does not have to be complete in their “training”, which as an Ovate student – I am not. I struggle through my most of my Ovate studies, only because it has not been nearly compelling to me as my Bardic studies were. However, it is knowledge I need to understand going forward, so I work my best that I possibly manage. I do; however, feel the Calling to help others on their own Path. To be there to help them back to their feet and being able to stand up before moving forward on their Path. Far too often, I have pushed seekers of assistance or knowledge to others, without even trying to do more than get them to other people. That certainly is a form of assistance, but I need to stop, actively listen to them, and see if I might be able to provide the assistance that I have reserved for others. After all, those people sought me out, I owe them that much. Do I doubt my ability to do this? Somewhat. That may be inexperience talking or just my lack of self confidence to be what I perceive in these other folks that I know. While I might not have all the answers – no one else necessarily does either. Plus I will never know if I can help, if I keep foisting those needing help on to others. At some point I have to roll up my sleeves and get started. Now seems better than any other time.

Cat’s book, “A Druid’s Tale,” is a wonderful book, as is her book “Facing the Darkness” which is a definite go-to book for me when I hit those down-times in life. I am lucky enough to say that she is my friend, and even luckier to have had her as a teacher. While I know she is blushing furiously over this particular paragraph, I will also reiterate that she is a superb role model on how to get things done. As one of the ‘Tom’s” from among her litters…I am humbled by how much I have come to understand and experience within my own Spirituality, just from small comments and suggestions.

My Path in my Druidry will likely never be complete. I will work towards completing my Druidry grade with OBOD. Beyond that, I am not sure where my Path will set my feet, but there will always be more learning and experience to find. Of that I am sure. All that I have described here is what I would consider a progression in one’s own Spiritual studies. You start out with the basic, and then finding how these all configure into your daily life. And then, maybe, you will want to be in a deeper role, helping others on the myriad of Paths here within Paganism. That would be your individual choice. Wherever you decide to stop and find yourself completely at home in your Paganism is definitely your individual choice. The whys of it is nobody’s business but your own. There may be those that look down on you for not continuing from where you are…and that’s their loss. They are not seeing the beauty of you continuing to thrive right where you are. But your Path is not theirs to walk. Whatever your Path, whatever your choice…I, personally, think it’s the most beautiful thing that can happen. Your happiness, your curiosity are the most important parts of your daily Walk. To quote the Grateful Dead:

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

–T /|\

Thinking About: The Moon Was Full, and I Was Left Unsupervised

In my defense, the moon was full and I was left unsupervised.

This is, by far, one of my favorite memes on the internet. When I read it, I get a little chuckle out of the idea of being unsupervised and being able to blame my craziness on the moon. With two Trickster Gods riding shotgun, it would be such an appropriate perspective. Except that it really is not.

Let me take you back to sometime between April 1984 and February 1986. This was so long ago, that I cannot pinpoint with any degree of accuracy just when it happened. It did; however, happen sometime after I graduated high school and just before I entered the United States Air Force. Therefore, I can lay down that somewhat wide time-frame. At the time, I was exploring beyond the Catholic faith that I had been taught in high school. My protestant parents wanted the best possible education for me and decided that Catholic school was the direction to go. While I learned about the Catholic faith, it definitely was not calling to me. Once I graduated high school, I set out to find something that might suit me better. My first stop was Pentecostal Christianity. Don’t look so shocked. Shreveport, Louisiana is a fair hot-bed of this wing of Christianity. I stayed within this culture for a little under a year. The waving of the hands, speaking in tongues and so-called possession by the Holy Spirit seemed to be more staged and dramatic to me than anything else. Plus, I learned quickly not to question anything openly with the church members, as I got castigated fairly heavily. Still, I could not fathom how these concepts were not anything more than play-acting in the name of their God.

About four months into all of this, some of the other teenagers from the church wanted to go to a tent revival that was near my house. We all piled into two cars and went. When we arrived, we were ushered away from the back of the tent, where the preacher was sitting and smoking cigarettes with a few other folks. Folks who were moving and acting like normal people do. Once the church services got underway, these same people had “afflictions” that they did not exhibit at that back area of the tent. The preacher would call them up one by one, slap his hand on their foreheads and declare them to be healed. My friends ate it up. It was the Will of God being shown to us. I saw even more dramatic play-acting. When the offering plate was passed around, I simply moved it from my left hand to my right to hand it to the usher standing at the end of my row. The look I got was one of complete contempt. I know right then….this was about money, not God.

Needless to say, as I knew my departure date for the Air Force was getting closer and closer, I started feeling no worries over repercussions over asking questions. When I was reprimanded over my doubts, I renewed my questioning of what I saw. I was told that I was not allowing God to speak to my heart. I was also told that everything that was to happen to me over this questioning was to be “God’s Will.” That, essentially, my life was not mine. God would aim and direct me in all the endeavors that occurred to me – even the bad stuff – so that I would learn and grow closer to God. Needless to say, I shook the dust off my feet when I left that situation.

I do; however, hear a lot of folks within the Pagan community stating that what happens is the ‘Will of the Gods”. To this, I disagree. Crow and Coyote certainly do speak with me. They do give me tasks to accomplish for Them. They do spend time to teach me perspectives I had never considered before. But never have They been the direct focus of my daily life. They do not interfere with what I do. If I err in judgment or action, that is for me to learn from. Intervening on my behalf would teach me nothing. Plus, it would turn the Gods into an Automated Teller Machine (ATM), as John Beckett has said before. If I wanted something, I would just ask the Gods to give it to me, instead of doing the hard work to get what I was wanting. Certainly, the Gods can pat my on the shoulder and tell me that I should continue working hard…but They are not going to do the hard work for me.

Thanks to COVID-19, I have put on about fifteen pounds over the past three to four months. The Gods did not do that to me. My inactivity did that to me. The Gods are not going to snap Their fingers and have the fifteen pounds melt away tomorrow (though I certainly do wish). Me getting into an exercise routine in the house, so I stay away from people outdoors, is how I will lose this weight. Me changing my eating habits is how I will lose this weight. The Gods can – and probably will – provide support for my efforts. They are not going to make things happen any different than it would normally. I walk this daily Path. Sometimes They will walk beside me. Never will They carry me.

So, when I hear people tell me that whatever happened to them is a result of “God’s Will” or the “Will of the Gods,” all I can do is hold my commentary. I am not the person that needs to alter or change their perspective. Only they can do that. If they asked me why the Gods would let this (whatever bad has happened) occur to their lives…my advice would be fairly frank. The Gods did not do this to you. Your choices are what did this to you. And sometimes, we make the wrong choices – even those choices seem rock solid. Because sometimes, life is tough. We can tighten up our belts, pull back our shoulders and move forward or we can collapse from the weight of things. And sometimes collapsing is the only choice you have. That’s where the rest of us come in. We should help those who have collapsed from the weight of their choices. Help them to stand up. Comfort them. Let them know that there are people who are there to help. Assist them in making better choices for their lives – all with the understanding that the point is to help them get back on their Path. Because they have to walk it. Not alone though. Because we can walk beside them too. Just as the Gods will, when you ask. They will not walk your Path for you, but They can be there to support you.

So, in the end of it all – we are not puppets on strings. We are not here for the entertainment of the Gods – though we can be entertaining. We are here to walk our individual Paths in Life. If there is any “Will of the Gods” that might come into play, its likely that They would want us to succeed at what we do our best to accomplish. That is, after all, the best goal we can ever have – to do what we set out to accomplish, within reason.

–T /|\

Revisiting “Morphing the Myth” – Building a Mystery or Personal Self-Examination?

All of what you are about to read started with a question posed to me in Facebook, which I turned into a status post. From there, what I perceived to be a touch of playfulness from Cat Treadwell turned into me turning that same point over and over in my mind. First let me setup what happened to get this entire aspect kicked into gear.

Q; Biggest Pagan confession?

Well…its not much of a confession, as a lot of people do know this about me. I’m not a fan of the Mabinogion. Never really was enthralled with it when I read it (all three times, different translation each time), and its generally not a part of anything that I practice within my Spirituality. I grok that it speaks to others….just not me. Now what’s my penance? ::eye-roll::

This was what started everything. A simple question, followed by my answer. Many of the members of OBOD – and many more Druids – are inspired by the Mabinogion. For me, its an odd series of tales, which provide no area of ready comprehension for me. That prompted the following….

Cat: So what story speaks to you instead?

Me: Mythological?? Theseus and the Minotaur.

Cat: I do wonder who set those Pagan Rules. Tolkien made his own mythology. I’d love to see yours.

Me: Mine would be really messy…I mean REALLY messy….

Cat: Do it!

…and all of that started my brain racing.

A few years back, I attended Pantheacon in San Jose, California. Actually, I attended it three years in a row. In one of those years, there was a panel that I attended called “Morphing the Myth” which I wrote a blog post on. There’s actually about six or seven blog posts that tie to this panel, but you should get the picture with the one. If you want to read further, just do a search on “Morphing the Myth” here at the blog site, and you should pull up the other posts.

Back to Pantheacon’s “Morphing the Myth” panel… Much of the discussion fell towards how Science Fiction and Fantasy open the doorway to Paganism for so many people. Cat’s point on Tolkien really struck home with this thematic for me and realized that I was suddenly thrust back into the panel’s wide-ranging discussion. Tolkien wrote a very impressive universe for his stories to live in. His vivid depictions of places such as Fangorn Forest, the formidable and dangerous land of Mordor, and the dwarven fortress of Erebor, provide the fertile ground upon which the seeds of his stories grow and take deep root. In much the same way, we find similar fertile ground in the myths and legends that we read, study, and explore. For some of us, certain legends resonate deeply with who we are and the manner in which we connect with the world around us. As I noted, the Mabinogian holds no such cherished treasure for me. Furthermore, while I identify greatly with Theseus in the story concerning the Minotaur, is is also not a story that calls deep to my heart either.

Oddly enough, I am drawn to the stories of the old West here in the United States. The stories of Wyatt Earp, Doc Holiday, Billy the Kid, and so many others ring deeply in my soul. However, it is not the lawman that resonate with me. I’ll use a very specific example – the movie Hidalgo, which depicts the legend of distance rider Frank Hopkins. The character is one that does things his own way, a trait that plays well in my way of dealing with the world. I am also drawn to the mythologies of the First Nations, some of which do not dove-tail neatly from tale to tale. As I noted my idea of a mythology would be extremely messy, and this rag-tag mythology of tales fits right into that particular point.

Building my own mythology. While it certainly sounds intriguing to my ears, its a direction I cannot tread – other than through a fictional narrative. I have often though about creating my own world for characters that wander through my mind. There is a certain appeal to doing just that, through short stories which I might be able to weave into a longer tale. As I noted, it would be messy. And while I am not completely seeing how I might be able to do this, as I said there is a certain draw to it.

You come out at night
That’s when the energy comes
And the dark side’s light
And the vampires roam
You strut your rasta wear
And your suicide poem
And a cross from a faith that died
Before Jesus came
You’re building a mystery

“Building a Mystery”, sung by Sarah McLachlan

The “Morphing the Myth” panel did have one extra feature to the discussion that I thought was an incredible point – we give life to the Myths and Legends that we hold close and dear. We don’t always get all the points absolutely correct in the retelling, and this literally brings these stories back to having a renewed life. Plus, there is some aspect of retelling these stories with updated parts to the stories – told against the background of a culture so alien to the original story. Take for example, the 102nd episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, titled “Darmok”. Much of the story parallels “The Epic of Gilgamesh” and is a very interesting showcase for how an old myth can be painted against a futuristic backdrop. I have often wondered at the inspiration of so many other films and whether or not that inspiration may have been drawn from a myth or legend that have long been put to the wayside.

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

Would I create my own mythology and legends, from which I could use as a backdrop for a series of characters? I do not know about the “would” part, but the “could” reaction is that yes I could. It would be messy. As if the entire aspect of the myths and legends was not completely preserved. This is a thought that I have constantly had concerning the myths and Gods and Goddesses that we all work with. Yes, this God was a god of this or that, and there are references to the God having certain characteristics and personality traits from the myths and legends. However, I have often wondered if we paint too much of a two-dimensional portrait of the Gods in this manner? Maybe the stories, legends and myths that have survived are not a complete understanding of that particular God or Goddess. Maybe Pan was more than just the epitome of a collegiate student headed to the Florida beaches for Spring Break. We just don’t know about an alternate, more serious and studious side of Pan because those stories did not survive being handed down during the ages.

And what if we have an incomplete understanding of the Gods? Does it negate what energy we have put into worshiping and working with Them? For me, that answer is easy: no. Over the years, I have developed my own relationship with both Coyote and Crow. Both are tricksters and enjoy having fun at my expense from time to time; however, both can also be quite serious about things that need to be accomplished too. For me, this is a case where the myths and legends only show you a two-dimensional aspect of who the Gods are. If you believe that the Gods are individual Beings who have Their own lives and make Their own choices…then of course, the myths and legends will only show a singular side of who They are. Do I believe that? Yes, I definitely do. Do I have a complete understanding of who Crow or Coyote are? No, not even close. My relationship shows me a side of each of Them that is chosen to be shown to me. I know enough of Them to do the workings that I need to do for Them.

…and all of this came from a single comment made on a Facebook post. That’s generally considered diving down a rabbit hole. Except that it is not. That one comment opened a doorway I have walked through many, many times. That comment lead me through the doorway to something that I have done my very best to consider, evaluate, understand and believe for a huge portion of my adult life, and will continue to take up my thoughts far into the future. Is my perspective empirical fact? Nope, not even close. It is; however, a part of my own UPG – Unverified Personal Gnosis. And as such, you might even be able to consider it a part of my own personal Mythology. For me, it is just the prelude to some chocolate eclairs for this morning – and a topic that I will continue to obverse, evaluate and explore well into my next lifetime.

…and I certainly have to thank Cat…for knocking the door off the hinges, so I would walk through. 🙂 Conversations can take us all to some supremely strange places.

“‘And what is the use of a book,’ thought Alice, ‘without pictures or conversation?'” Indeed Alice…what are legends, myths and stories without internal observation and personal examination. Indeed.

–T /|\

The Right Speed to Deal With These Times

How do I deal with everything going on in the world? This is one of those questions I hear from a lot of folks. Constant wall-to-wall coverage on COVID-19, the constant idiocy of the Trump Administration (or some other world leader), the stresses related with not having work or having to alter the way you deal with work, kids and spouse constantly at home, and on and on and on – everything crashing down like tidal wave after tidal wave pounding you into the sand on the shore, while a hurricane looms just offshore. I completely grok where folks are coming from. How do I deal with things? Well, to be honest, I either make everything line up and deal with things one at a time or I push them off into a corner and come back to deal with them later.

Of all the things, the news is the easiest to mess with. Turn off the tv, radio or whatever web browser you are getting your news from. Trust me, it will be there later. Then take the time to lean back into what you’ve learned in all your studies in your Pagan tradition or Path. Grounding and centering should be your first defense. There are lots of ways to go about grounding and centering, my favorite is an OBOD “Tree Meditation” that I stumbled across on YouTube a few years ago. I have continually used this as a manner of pre-work towards other meditations. For me, it is a perfect grounding and centering technique. By the way, for those of you that have trouble getting into the so-called “right frame of mind” for meditations, you might consider trying this technique before you attempt your meditation work. Just a suggestion.

As for everything else, its best to just shove that stuff into a small pile, go have a nice drink (alcoholic or not – your choice), flip on the tv and watch some show or film or documentary and then get some sleep. Trust me, that shit’s still going to be there in the morning. You might have a clearer perspective after a nice evening without dealing with those thoughts.

The other method that I use is to try and stay focused and level. Losing your cool means that you’ve relinquished control to someone or some other thing. That is giving power to that person or that thing to drive the narrative. Getting control back from a thing is relatively easy, but from another person? That is not always the easiest thing in the world to manage. I try and remember what my first High Priestess taught me about controlling myself. Yes, this means a little bit of a story-time moment.

I was relatively new to the idea of Paganism and Wicca. I had just started my “Rainbow” year with the coven. for those unfamiliar with the idea, it is a year and a day process, where one is taught the basic basics of Wicca, Paganism and the Tradition. So, this was….mid to late 1986. Maybe even early 1987. As a group, we had decided to go shopping at a Pagan-centered store down near the Dallas Fairgrounds. I don’t recall the name of the shop or its precise location, so that’s about as good as my fuzzed-up memory will get me. I was overly excited, as this was the first time I had ever seen such an establishment. I was literally vibrating with energy and excitement. By the time we had returned from the shop, it was difficult to be around me, I was bubbling so much with exuberance. I was pulled over to the side with the High Priest and High Priestess, who helped me get calm by working with me on grounding and centering. The next weekend, I arrived early for the rainbow class for that period (I drove nearly forty-five miles one way to attend the classes, so I was naturally always very early). My High priestess sat me down and asked me if I remembered about grounding and centering. I explained the process the best that I could, which led to a long discussion about being in control of myself (apparently, I was a dervish of wild emotions all the time). She noted that when I wasn’t in control of my emotions and my energies that it was easy for others to nudge me in directions that I might not necessarily want to go. The first step was to understand more about myself, so I was given the task of listing fifty positive things about myself, and fifty negative things about myself. This part of the exercise took me a lot longer than I thought it would – particularly the positive side of things. However, I eventually finished. When I brought the lists back to the next class, she looked over each list, smiled deeply at me and told me to write an essay comparing and contrasting the two lists. The essay was to be no longer than two pages, typed but not double-spaced like an English assignment. Once I completed this part of the assignment, we talked again. She noted that every single item on each list was a type of energy within me. She also noted that some of the items in the two lists crossed between the two, which meant that this type of energy could be manipulated in different directions. The trick was to control all these energies, so as not to emit them broadly to the world around me.

Since that time, I have worked hard to be able to control my energies the best that I can. I don’t always succeed, but I do manage my best to not let things get out of control. Again, I don’t always succeed, but I certainly do try my very best.

So that’s nice, right? How does all this apply to everyday life in these weird-ass times we are currently living in? Well, if I ingest too much news, I find that it is easy for me to get extremely angry at the people on television and, to a different degree, the people that are being reported on in the news cycle. Or I can find myself starting to feel depressed over the lack of ability I have to make things better – not just for me, but for everyone. That is me letting those energies have completely control. The way to hold off that energy is to peruse the news just enough to know what’s going on, and then turn off the news. When I feel that constant pounding of the emotional tidal waves crashing down on me and driving me into the sand, I know it is time to back off and find something else to do. And the first place I tend to dive into? The Tree Meditation.

The reality is this is the development of coping mechanisms for when the world gets dark and cold. I completely understand that this works for me. It might not work at all for someone else, particularly those who suffer from severe depressive bouts. For those moments and folks, I recommend that the rest of us try to be understanding, calm, and very nearby. That way, we can be available for that supporting shoulder or the chest that someone might need to cry into while being held by receptive and loving arms.

Look, our current world is a scary, ugly, depressing place to be right now. There are those that will pick up the torches and run out to burn down the repressive aspects of government. Bully for them! I support that action every single time. But there are those who cannot do so. And these folks need the medicines that we have within ourselves, just as much as those on the violent front lines will need medics when the tear gas and batons come out. I am not one of those who can rush into the front lines. I can; however, be available to help those that need help, those that need a reassuring hand and soothing voice telling them that they are safe now. I can be the individual that stands between them and their oppressors, their demons….and says ENOUGH. Because everyone needs that protective aspect when they are hurting.

So how do I deal with these times? One day at a time. One hour at a time. One minute at a time. One issue at a time. This is a linear thought process, but when the assistance needs to be calm, reassuring and healing…one issue at a time is, in my experience, the right speed.

–T /|\

Revisiting- Killing Me Slowly With Over-Scheduling and Stress

New to the blog schedule are the re-visits to older blog posts. Except, this time, I decided to not go that far back. “Killing Me Slowly With Over-Scheduling and Stress” was published a little over two years ago…June 21, 2018. At the time, I was trying to find ways to free up an overly scheduled life. This was written about the time that I brought the podcast “Upon a Pagan Path” to a close. Podcasting is a lot of fun, as well as a lot of work, and I really needed to chop off a lot of what was happening in my life at the time. It was only natural that it was ended.

Not only was I writing blogs here, but I was also writing blogs for Moon Books on their platform, until major changes were made in how to get material published, and that slowly slid away as well. Add to that, I was writing haphazardly here on the blog with no committed time schedule for publishing posts, so some organization was desperately needed.

As I noted in the blog post at the time, I was using Google Calendar to try and keep things on track. It took a little longer for me to get away from scheduling at certain times for tasks such as writing blog posts. I try to get these done at some point on the day that the schedule states….sometimes it doesn’t always happen, but that’s not a big deal. A little slip in the schedule will happen for a variety of reasons. Instead of beating myself up over it, I have learned to make due, and continue moving forward. Now, the same cannot be said for other tasks that require timely aspects to them, but that’s another perspective altogether.

The last two paragraphs, as I reread things, really bring some of this into focus for me.

All of this over-scheduling was really killing me slowly. My stress levels climbed beyond belief. A trip to the cardiologist revealed a need to drop a lot of the stress from my life. Revamping my calendar and task list has helped. I have to continue being careful of how I schedule everything and taking down-time between tasks and events. After all, I want to be here a lot longer.

But I do wonder…are we over-scheduling our lives to try and complete more stuff in our lives? And in that process, are we missing the small, beautiful details of our lives as everything passes us in a speedy procession?? I certainly do wonder…

So, I sit, remembering stuff from two years ago. My job was extremely stressful during this time. Silly demands, constant alterations to the department, the personnel, my job responsibilities….all of that had me constantly trying to get settled into a routine that was constantly being tipped over. My upper-level management could not commit to structure changes for more than two months at a time, and trust me, constant upheaval in the workplace is a difficult thing for anyone to deal with.

Now, with all that almost a year behind me now, I find that I can breathe a little easier now. Except that Life has gone back to being just a dice-roll. COVID-19 has certainly altered the entire ballgame. Getting outside is not as easy as it once was. Being out in public, among people, has a hint of being quite dangerous. Hill county, where I currently live, has had less than fifty COVID-19 cases since the beginning until about two weeks ago. Each of the last two weeks, the numbers are spiking at nearly double the rate each week. There was only a single death due to the virus in the entire county until two weeks ago. Now we have six. Being out in public is a strict no-no for me, which has forced me to look over things such as grocery runs with a different perspective. I stock up on foods as much as possible. I freeze whatever meats I can get. Essentially, I treat my world as if I am barricading in from the zombies that I mentioned in the June 21, 2018 post I have referenced. I made a laughing reference to becoming a hermit, but that is starting to turn into reality here. The social aspect of my Paganism is essentially online these days.

When will things change and go back to what they used to be? Will things ever be what they used to be? How is all of this going to alter what I do as a Druid?

The reality is that things will not be the same when some sort of “normalcy” finally happens. Life is going to be altered to a large degree in some manner. What I remember as everyday life will be different. How? Well, that remains to be seen. Of the three questions, the one that I cannot answer at all, is the last one. I still practice my Druidry through meditation indoors, and my prayers and outside time in the backyard. Fairly soon, I will start seeking out places that are a few hours’ drive away, where I think very few people will be. But what defines “fairly soon?” At this point, I am not sure.

I keep to my calendar. Some sense of normalcy is important. I don’t have near as much stuff contained within it. But I still use it to provide some degree of routine for me to follow. Otherwise, I am not sure I would even bother getting out of bed most days. I completely understand everyone having similar feelings. All our daily lives got turned upside down and then churned into shark chum. Now, we pick through the flotsam and jetsam, trying to see what we might be able to salvage, and what we might be able to use for a new start. But remember, we’ve all had issues with over-scheduling our lives. Now, we have a chance to take those schedules back and reduce some of the stress in our lives. Just a thought, going forward.

–T /|\

Thinking About: Getting There

I typically reserve Thursday blog posts for a moment where I pick at a topic. For this Thursday, my plan is to go a touch deeper. I want to talk about all the protests that we see culminating in the streets. However, I don’t want to go into too much detail of what each movement is. Rather, I want to go a touch deeper into why I feel we should get involved. Yes, before everyone starts freaking out, Black Lives Do Matter. And before All Lives can Matter, we must resolve the issues keeping Black Lives from mattering. None of that is likely to appease either the BLM or ALM folks, but it is not meant to. We also have the continuing issue of “Water Is Life” – a movement that seeks to preserve the waterways of the world from contamination, the power of corporations to super-impose themselves upon any land (including sacred burial grounds, as what happened in the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation), and the right to access to clean water sources. And as I sit here and think about it, there are many, many more protests taking place to preserve the rights of all individuals, regardless of skin color, race, gender, sexual orientation – among many others. What do these have in common? A challenge to what is considered as “traditional values.”

In many places in the world, the concept of traditional values revolves around a white, hetero, Christian mind-set. In some other places, it is a bit different, but each of these traditional values pits their world vision into a Us v. Them paradigm. You either conform to what we believe, or we find ways to limit whatever freedoms you have. Because there can be no challenge to what values they hold.

For no matter what you do, if you do it against or without the approval, prescription, recommendation, or permission of a ruling party, it is a denial of that ruling party’s power, and thus a protest.

Brendan Myers, ‘Dangerous Religion”, p16

Currently, I am reading Brendan Myers’ book “Dangerous Religion” and I found the above quote to be extremely enlightening. Myers points out that the mere existence of Witches, Druids, and Pagans is a direct challenge to the values of a predominantly white, hetero, Christian society. By just declaring what you believe, challenges their power base. At least, in the eyes of the so-called “ruling class.” Because, honestly, I don’t see myself as challenging them in any fashion, by being the Pagan, Polytheist, Druid that I am. I just want to live my life, honoring my Gods, my Ancestors, and the Land. However, I choose to live what is deemed an “alternative lifestyle” and as that is outside of the bounds of what they determine as “normal” – I’m considered to be a threat. And so are you, if you do not follow what they considered to fall within their parameters of normalcy.

I take a stand for Black Lives Matter because I know that it is the first stepping stone towards making All Lives Matter. As blacks are being attacked and killed in far more disproportionate numbers, it is the first of many stepping stones that need to be negotiated. I take a stand for LGBTQ+ rights because I think people should be able to marry the people that they love. I believe that people should be able to self-identity as who they are. I stand with the Water Protectors everywhere because I believe that Water is Life, and that Life is a basic human right. I am a straight, white, hetero, male…the antithesis of much of what I am supporting. Why do I support that? Because its the right thing to do. In my eyes, its basic human decency.

So, what to do about this? If you’re healthy enough – join the protest lines. If you have medical skills, volunteer as a medic at those protests. There’s no guarantees for your safety. If you’re not healthy enough to be out in these COVID-19 times, such as myself, provide funds to pay for the bail of those arrested. Find food systems to put donations to, so protesters can be fed while on the line. As dumb as it sounds, write to your representatives at EVERY level of government. Let them know that you want to see change in areas such as police funding, the usage of force, the immediate cessation of military tactics against the protesters, for them to cease kowtowing to corporate entities over their citizenry. Remind them that they work for you. As Pagans, Witches, Druids, and other Magick workers…there are a few more steps that can be taken.

Oppressed people frequently resort to magic to assert themselves when other strategies have failed them: this is what the Ghost Dance was all about. Heterodox systems teach that the feeling that “things are not as they ought to be” is a trustworthy feeling. Instead of passive resignation to the world, or uncritical acceptance of the ruling party’s vision of the world, they advocate active participation in the world – often in the form of the supernatural intervention of magic and prayer, often connected to social activism and direct public confrontation.

Brendan Myers, “Dangerous Religion”, p17

I am not a super skilled magick worker. For me, it is the nuclear option – a means of last resort. As Myers puts it, a strategy to use when all others have failed. Others…don’t have this perspective and are willing to do magick work on behalf of the protesters. I say “go for it” if that’s your thing at this moment.

When you listen to a lot of other Pagan folk out there, they talk of “The Storm” or “Tower Time” as a manner of describing this time. I like Myers description of things being “not as they should.” I don’t work in Tarot, so “Tower Time” has little meaning to me, and while I appreciate the symbolism of a coming ‘Storm” – Storms have a far different meaning for me. But this would be arguing over descriptives…and to me, that’s unnecessary. We’ve reached a time where getting things done is what matters.

Now, I have essentially pointed at the Christian, white, hetero community and set them up as the opponent, except that they are not. Some of those folks that fall into that grouping are loving and accepting of all of us…no exceptions. Painting with too broad of a brush will set these folks into a realm of collateral damage, where they need not be. Let’s make sure that we are clear on who these folks are. They are the far-right wing of the Republican party. People who see those of us who live life different from them as being beneath them. They see us deserving of their contempt. They do not see us as their equals.

Do they need to be utterly wiped from the face of the earth? I don’t think so. As I noted before, I am just a Pagan, Polytheist, Druid who wants to live my life honoring my Gods, honoring my ancestors, and honoring the Land. Surely, I can be left in peace to do that on my own? I have no desire to make a single individual believe or practice as I do. I am not the one wanting to make laws prohibiting how others live. I only want the law to apply equally to every single human being. We don’t have to agree on a single thing – except that everyone has the same right to live their life free. Capable of loving who they want or how many they want without interference in the practice of that love. Able to live freely and without fear of police violence being visited on them for the color of their skin or how they dress.

Live and let live, as the saying goes. However, we must get there first. And challenging long-held values is not going to be an easy fight. But we will get there. And hopefully, we can not only find peace when we do get there, but also lasting healing as well.

–T /|\

The Gods – Dealing with First Contact (One Pagan’s Opinion)

One of the more frequent questions that I tend to field from folks just beginning on their Pagan Path is about hearing and experiencing the Gods. Usually, its a query of how to go about having an encounter with the Gods, getting Them to speak to you. Sometimes, it is about that first moment you realize that They are speaking to you, which is what I want to deal with a bit here.

The sounds of flying swiftly, which makes it hard to find
The pathway through the darkness, every time I fall behind

I think I hear a whisper, around nearly every turn
But what the voice is saying, I barely can discern

The echoes that are following, the contours of the ground
Ebb and flow and eddies in a tidal wave of sound

And through the mist, I think I see your face and try to learn
The meaning of expressions I barely can discern

And through the mist, I think I see your face and try to learn
The meaning of expressions I barely can discern

The echoes that are following the contours of the ground
Ebb and flow and eddies in a tidal wave of sound

And through the mist, I think I see your face and try to learn
The meaning the of expressions I barely can discern

— “Discern”, performed by Trey Anastasio

The above is a song written and performed by Trey Anastasio, a member of the band Phish. Its a song from his solo work. I think that the song is a beautiful summation of dealing with the Gods that encounter you, as well as Those that choose you.

Most Polytheists that work directly with their Gods, remember that first encounter. That feeling of bewilderment at a Voice or Presence that feels so incredibly unknown, different and powerful. I remember my first encounters with Coyote. There was nothing super special about it. Most of my work with my Gods comes through meditation and dreams, and Coyote came through meditation – at least the very first time. I do not go through a process of emptying my mind when I start to reach for a meditative state. Rather I aim towards a state of “rest” and “calm”. I try to still my mind, rather than empty it. When I reach that state of stillness, I work through emotions and thoughts, one at a time. Except during that moment of first contact. Coyote was at the forefront of my mind, a feeling of another Presence within my being. Not expecting such an encounter, it frankly scared the shit out of me, and scared me right out of my meditative state. I spent several days feeling “unbalanced”, which for a Libra is quite an unsettling moment. I did not try another meditative state for another two weeks after that.

“Mother Nature”, Hot Springs, Arkansas

First-time encounters can be rather jarring and unsettling. I have heard some people describe those initial moments as feeling of panic, where they latch on to the notion that they might be going crazy or having some form of a psychotic episode. ::shrug:: That may actually be the case, but I cannot judge anyone else’s encounters with their Gods as being similar to my own. We all are individuals with our own way of dealing Life. Who am I to say exactly how someone else’s moment of initial contact with a God would be like? Or even with a Spirit of Place? Or a Spirit of Ancestor? Each of these entities would be quite foreign to our mindset of the world around us when we initially encounter Them. Your reaction would be what is appropriate to how you are. No judgment here. Everyone will have different reactions.

In my discussions with other folks, there seems to be a tendency towards two different reactions. The first is a proper fight-or-flight response. Folks tend to challenge the unknown and to try to assess the risk of continuing to deal with Whatever has arrived. Or they seek self-preservation, disengage from whatever activity got them here, and get out. The second, is that moment of curiosity. What is This? They peek further. Try to find some definition that works in their mind of just What they have encountered. All of this, as well as other choices that I cannot think of, are valid. Trust me, when you encounter a God, a Spirit of Place or a Spirit of Ancestor…it can be a rather difficult moment.

I have been approached by a few folks that wanted to talk about their own encounters with the Gods. Without divulging who they are or intricate specifics, let me tell you – generally – about the conversations. One conversation took place around an early morning moment at a Pagan gathering, around the still smoking ashes of the previous night’s fire. We were the only people awake in the camp, just before dawn. We sat together by the pit of ashes and discussed the entire encounter. I tried my level best to encourage this person that they were not going crazy; that what they had encountered was really there. Another conversation took place around another early morning fire, around 3am. We shared a bottle of whiskey between the two of us and discussed the encounter in-depth. The clear night sky with the hundreds upon thousands of stars were a surreal backdrop to our hushed conversation. We discussed how to try and communicate with the Entity that was encountered, since there did not seem to be an English language spoken. This particular conversation matches up very well with Try Anastasio’s song “Discern” that I posted above. There was even talk of how to make the Entity go away, if the person did not want to work with Them.

One of the more popular posts that I have here revolves around my attempt to discern aspects of a series of sequenced dreams that I had. At the time, it was a period where it seemed that the Morrigan was reaching out to so many people to gather into what was perceived to be a battle group. The post I am referring to is “The Morrigan is Not a Valkyrie.” I have no desire to work with the Morrigan, which may come as a shock to many people. My perspective and my walk on this Path does not seem to readily find a cross-walk with Her. And I am not obliged to blaze a trail to find that Path either. My walk lies elsewhere. However, were I called directly, I would have a lot of thinking to do. I know I could not and would not answer readily. Her Path is not mine. Saying “no” to a God Or Goddess can be done, but there may be consequences to that choice. Thus the reason I would have to think about how I would respond. This was the same advice I gave to the individual seeking advice on how to tell a God to “go away.”

Now, with all that said – I am no expert in how you handle your approach to the Gods. In fact, I would say that what I have written here is advice – from my perspective. All, some or none of this will have direct or indirect or no influence on your own approach. The last thing I ever want in this world is to be considered an expert in ANYTHING with one exception: my own, individual perspective as it applies to me. So far as I have ever come to understand, I am the only expert in me. As such, I also believe that you are the only expert in you. How you deal (or not) with your Gods is for you to decide. Only you can walk your Path. Our Paths, and likely will, intersect at any given point, where we can lend one another support and comfort at that point. But you still have to put your feet on the Path for yourself.

Should you find yourself having encountered….SOMETHING and you need a shoulder to lean on or an ear to bend or an eye to read what you think, I am here. So are so many others. Don’t be afraid to talk, its sometimes helpful – even on issues not involving the Gods. And for those of who who find yourselves being approached for such talks, be prepared to listen. And remember, you’re not the expert…I know I’m not. I only have thirty-some odd years on this Path, and I am still finding myself seeing some aspects of all of this with the wide-eyed, doe-like eyes of a newbie. Even though that’s the case, I’m always just an Email or a text message away….as are so many others. We grow together on this Path, no matter how short or long we have been here.

Revisiting – Thanks For Your Service

Way back in 2013, I wrote a post about this particular statement – “Thank you for your service.” It’s a rather simple statement usually provided once people find out the extremely small detail that I served in the US military for eight years. And even now, some seven years after I wrote this article, it’s still a statement that makes me cringe. Not because people are thanking me for the eight years of my life that I freely gave up. No, not that at all. Because, for the most part, it’s an empty platitude usually meant to elicit a response from the public on the querent’s profound sense of patriotism. In other words, the person making the statement wants to be recognized as being patriotic in the eyes of others by thanking a veteran.

Now, I know that’s not always the case. Some people are genuinely expressing their thanks for me putting on a uniform, foregoing my rights to be judged under the very structure of the Constitution that I am swearing to defend, and potentially laying my life on the line in the defense of the freedoms of this county and its citizenry. But in my experience, those folks are so few and far between. I know that many others are saying thanks to show pride in what I did for eight years, hoping to provide a moment for me to feel good about my service. They are trying their best to erase an ugly moment in our history, where troops returning from Viet Nam were spat upon and decried as “baby-killers”. Certainly, there were instances of bad behavior by troops within that war zone, but the American public painted with a broad-brush, as it often does – splattering blame on military folks who had nothing to do with such atrocities. However, painting with a broad brush is no excuse for what did happen.

Rest assured, I saw a lot of bad behavior while I was in the military, both here in the United States and overseas. In Germany, military personnel accounted for a large majority of the rapes in the Kaiserslautern Military Community while I was there. Drunken driving, and the resultant accidents were also predominantly military issues. During the riots in Los Angeles after the trial of the assailants of Rodney King, there were military members that overturned vehicles on Sembach Air Base – sharing in the emotional outrage that had occurred. Military personnel are no saints, and they are prone to the exact same bad behaviors as their civilian citizenry is. Again, rest assured, I was no saint either.

That’s right. I accumulated some bad behavior while I was in the Air Force. Specifically, I played the role of “dog robber” for my unit, a NATO designated unit under control of NATO command at Brussels, Belgium. We did not receive our equipment or our unit funding from US military command authority. Ours came from NATO and as such, we were severely under-funded and under-equipped. A “dog robber” is the same thing as a scrounger. I took equipment that we had too much of, and utilized that to barter for equipment that we didn’t have and needed. This method of equipment transfer is illegal in any military and is referenced as “black marketeering.” Typically, military equipment gets sold to civilian counter parts for illicit monetary payments. My manner of operating was to trade equipment with other military units, so that we could comply with necessary TT&E (Training, Testing & Exercising) requirements. I never traded with civilians because I could not get what we needed from them. Plus, transferring equipment between units was a “look away” moment from command, whereas trading with civilians was considered to be criminal (as it should be). For my unit, I traded sixty ice cream makers (seriously) for three-hundred-and-seventy-five magnetic tape reels with a US Navy Frigate docked in Rota, Spain. In another transaction, I obtained a Connex shed (essentially a shipping container that you usually see being loaded on ships and trains) for my unit to store excess equipment in (such as our chemical warfare gear). None of this was done with implicit command authority knowledge, but my commander had made the comment that it would “sure be nice to have…” My job was to make it happen. And most of the time, I did.

Me – USAF – July 1992

I never finished my second hitch. My first enlistment was for four years. My second was for six. I only served for four. My mortal sin was missing a single early morning exercise. Not the kind with rifles and military combat training. Exercise, as in jumping jacks, push-ups, and aerobics with a step-board. It was held at the gym on Sembach. I worked a night shift until 1am and went back to Vogelweh to catch a quick nap. I was due at the exercise at the Sembach gym at 6am. I never showed. I was fast asleep on my couch with the tv still on. This earned me the wrath of my Command Sergeant, who never liked my way of dealing with things. I was always on the edge of the line. This was the opportunity to nail my ass to the wall. And he did. I left the Air Force on a General Discharge Under Honorable Conditions, thanks to my commander. My Command Sergeant was going to process me out on a Dishonorable Discharge. My commander intervened on the process type, but my separation from the military was going to happen regardless.

I would not consider my time in the military to be an overall happy one. However, it did teach me a skill set – utilizing mainframe systems. I parlayed that experience into the career I have today. But those words – “thank you for your service” – still ring hollow in my ears. Except when they come from another veteran, because I know they understand. I know they’ve experienced some of the same military idiocy that I did. Where commanders, upper-ranks sergeants all seemed to think that spit and polish equated to combat readiness. Where the worry was on how you looked, not on how you managed to think on your feet in the middle of a crisis moment.

No, I don’t need to be thanked for any part of my service. Much the same as the way I approach my work. I worry about the results…how I look or how I get there is immaterial. But I also realize that don’t need to be the salty veteran that feels the need to piss all over some well-meaning kid’s empathy – even if it is misplaced. So, I smile – in the days before COVID, I would offer my hand for a handshake – and I say, “No sir (or ma’am as the case might be), thank you for remembering.” Even when I don’t feel like their statement is merited. Because there’s a level of decency that goes along with being a real American citizen. And Gods, I sure as the Nine Hells don’t see a lot of that currently. Our deep division in politics, our inability to find reason on the issues of race and the such, the violent arguments over something as inane as wearing a mask….there’s no need for me to react angrily over a simple statement. There is a need for me to lead by example, and graciously accept the statement, even when it is an empty platitude.

–T /|\

Lead, Follow or Get out of the Way – Thinking About: Leadership

So, I am doing my usual Thursday routine. Sitting at my keyboard, music pouring through the headphones (today its Deep Purple, and currently its the album “The Battle Rages On…” which may be quite appropriate), and trying to come up with something to write about. I mean, this is a ‘Thinking About” post. It should be as easy as ever to come up with some kind of concept to babble on about. Except its really not. Writer’s cramps (or writer’s block, if you prefer) has been in a strong hold for the last week-plus. So I sit here wondering what to write on. I can tell you that moments like this are frustrating, but also a lot of fun. Quite the contradiction, don’t you think? I get to spend time turning topics over and over in my mind…hopefully I can latch on to one and get started on all of this.

For some reason, the concept of leadership continues to boil around the edges of everything that I am thinking about, so let’s go there. Most of my perspectives of what makes one an ideal leadership come from what I learned in the military. The United States Air Force thought enough of my potential to lead that they sent me to two leadership schools. But before we get too excited over this, both are mandatory training schools for those who sign up for a second hitch with the United States Air Force. I took my first class, the Non-Commissioned Officer Preparatory School in my fourth year of my first enlistment, shortly after I had signed on to my second enlistment. The premise of the school was to teach leadership skills and how to build effective communication skills – focusing on making me into an effective front-line supervisor. I did not exactly excel at this training, but I was not at the end of the group either. I learned about methodologies to create more effective communication with subordinates, as well as finding my footing as an individual that would be able to lead. In particular, the school taught me a lot about how to lead by example, something I have tried very hard to do in whatever job I have been installed into. Three years later, I was inserted into the NCO Leadership School, which was a continuation of what I had learned three years previous. Many lectures ensued. I was taught how to march subordinates as a unit (a skill I personally found to be utterly useless), as well as more training on weaponry and tactical skills that I might need to use in a combat situation. Through all of that, hardcore emphasis on leadership skills and abilities, as well as effective communication were heavily emphasized. Much of what I have learned in methodologies, I have carried forth in my life since then.

Capricorn – Max Ernst

What makes an effective leader? Well, for me, its obvious – an ability to effectively communicate with others coupled to an ability to lead people towards a common goal. In thirty-plus years in Paganism, I have encountered effective leaders, and those that would make you laugh and cry at their ineptitude. For some, the power of being a leader goes to their heads, and they become tyrants. If you need a visual, think Donald Trump on a much smaller scale. I have also seen quiet leaders, who roll up their sleeves and start getting the work done. They don’t push others to do the work, they might openly ask, but they hope that their example of getting the work done will inspire others to be involved. I like these types of leaders. Not only do they seem willing to do the work, but they typically are also willing to show others how to do the work – so as to build their skills too.

But that brings me to another thought. What about being a good follower? After all, not every single person can be in charge. Unfortunately, I see a lot of the “too many leaders and not enough followers” within the Pagan community. I get the perspective though. Everyone has a better idea of how to run things compared to whoever happened to step forward. I’m the same way. Whoa. Don’t look so shocked. I have ideas of how things should go. I have ideas of what the better steps of making things run should be. At least from my own perspective. It took a little bit of growing up and realizing that I do not have all the right answers to set me straight. Making something that is setup for the good of everyone means that you have to swallow your pride and sit on your ego, when the direction is not completely your own personal vision. To be a good follower, you may need to remember the direction that the cause is going. Plus, no project or vision went anywhere without people doing the hard work. That means taking direction. That means using your talents and your sweat to get things accomplished. That also means that you cannot always be the one at the top of the pile. Success happens when everyone works together.

My previous job was at a local Community College. To be honest, I have never seen a more dysfunctional work environment in my life. Upper Management declared that they would be transparent in all that they do with the entire staff and faculty base. Over time, it became obvious that they only shared what they felt everyone else needed to know, while continuing to cling to the perspective of being transparent. The work environment felt like the Pharaohs themselves had returned. Many employees were told to just do their work and not worry about the direction that everything was headed. People that wanted to be good followers were confused with the say one thing and do something completely different approach. Leadership was ineffective. Employees tried to offer ideas of how to fix things and were shot down without a second thought. That lead to anger and resentment, and these folks started to do just enough to get by with their jobs. That lead to anger and resentment from others who were working hard. And all of it was due to a single variable: ineffective communication by upper management. There’s a few other things that exacerbate the entire situation – leadership that constantly and continually changes its mind concerning short and long range plans. And while I no longer work there, I still feel sad for all those that do.

When I was in the military, I learned a phrase that I still use. In fact, at my previous job, I stated this to my supervisor behind a closed door one afternoon: “lead, follow or get out of the way.” Accomplishing things is important, particularly when a group of other people are relying on those results. Ever wondered what goes into planning a Pagan conference like Pantheacon? A lot more than I really wanted to know. There are lots of moving parts. Everyone has a role to fulfill. Some are time intensive. Some require everything to be right at a particular moment in time. Power struggles are unforgivable lapses in accomplishing one’s role. In an environment like that, there’s a lot of “get out of the way” involved. In the military, one of my functions was to insure that crypto-communications were cycled to appropriate command-level personnel in a very timely fashion. Morning intelligence briefings had to be cycled down to the USAF Intel group, the US Army S2 group, and the NATO Intelligence group before 6am. Being late because a printer broke down was an inexcusable fault. My unit’s job was to make sure things ran correctly so things like that would happen. We accepted our role in the process, and agreed to perform to the very best of our abilities. We agreed to be good followers. We were not about to go down to each of those groups and tell them that the large Intel briefing should be held after 8am, so that we could have our breakfast and coffee without being rushed through that momentary morning pleasure.

Now, Pagan communities are not military units. But there are roles and functions to fulfill. Not everyone can be at the top trying to pull everything together. But those who are, they better damn well understand the need for effective communication. They better understand the concept of rolling up their sleeves and working side by side with those that they lead. And those who have roles, functions and responsibilities need to understand that they have agreed to do what they are being asked to do. And if they cannot or will not do what they are agreeing to…they need to get out of the way.

I still hold by the basic principle that I am not a leader. Because I am not. I understand how leadership works in theory. In practice, I’m not the greatest at it. And I know it. I know how and where my personality clashes with others. I know where my weaknesses are. I know my strengths. I know precisely where my intolerances are located, and how far I can be pushed before things go beyond a controllable point. Am I a good follower? I try my best, but not always. But I do recognize leaders that I would follow. I see what they are capable of and where they can be pushed a little further. I know who I would follow and who I wouldn’t. And for me that counts for something. What that means to you, for you, or about you is something you will need to determine for yourself. What leadership looks like….that all comes back to your own personal understanding.

–T /|\

Dark Spirituality, Light Spirituality – Two Sides of the same D20

The past few posts, I have dug a little deeper into my own personal story, but as one reader (who wished to not be named) mentioned that I do not tend to delve much into the darker side of my own Spirituality. This is an interesting point. Most aspects of my Spirituality can be described as some degree of neutral between light and darkness. Rather than using the extremely common dichotomous perspective of light and dark being either side of a coin, I tend to see this lightness and darkness aspect as something similar to twenty-sided die, with one being one end of the spectrum, and twenty being the other side. Numbers two through nineteen shade closer to whichever perspective that each is closer to. If you work out the differences, you will find that there is no true neutral position, as ten and eleven provide the exact middle – one to each side.

Yeah, its not a perfect example, I do not think there could ever be something that would be – at least not in my eyes. Nor do I assign positive to light or negative to darkness. Positive and Negative are not so easily denoted in my view. After all, in the darkness, there can be found help, knowledge and even love. Its the intent of how each is used that provides the positive and the negative perspectives.

Most of my Spiritual work is held somewhere between the two points. With two Trickster Gods, sometimes delving into the darkness provides a better solution to my questions than seeking out the light. Plus, Coyote, and sometimes even Wolf, will set me down that path into the darkened woods.

So why do I tend to work between the two extremes, rather than just diving full depth into one or the other? Well, I’m your typical Libra. I always strive to find the balance of the fulcrum. This is one of the reasons that I cannot rail so deeply against Christian belief. Do not mistake what I am saying. I am not a Christian. Their belief system does not work for me at all. I tried Christianity, and found it to be a complete anathema for me. That does not mean I do not see the beauty in what is practiced, nor can I condemn the strong piety of its followers – provided that their fervent belief does not take them down the same road as John the Baptist – convert or die. In my experience, forced conversion is a tactic of those that must have their faith validated by any means, but that’s a discussion for another time, as this leads us down a trail I was not intending to go. Most Christians that I have encountered are more than willing to share their Gospel with you, but very few do so and rain anger upon you when you politely decline. As I have always said, adult discourse is far better than yelling, shouting and pushing.

Now my personal perspective on the Christian faith is an example of trying to find that balance between dark and light. Within many Pagan traditions is also the practice of cursing individuals. Not exactly my favorite tactic, but it can have its uses. For me, if an individual harasses you, utilizing a curse on them is akin to dropping a nuclear bomb to swat a fly. Your use of it is certainly up to you…I tend to keep my usage of this to an absolute minimum within my life. In fact, I can say with all certainty that I have not utilized a curse against a single individual. I opt for more direct approaches to solving such issues, such as confronting an individual directly. Should that not work, magickally there is always the use of binding magicks, essentially placing a boundary against the individual from being in your world space with their negativity. Have I used it before? Yes. But very sparingly. Again, I prefer the face-to-face, direct approach wherever I can manage it.

Where I utilize such measures as cursing and binding sparingly, I also eschew from using magick to help provide assistance or help to things that I want around me as well. I don’t see magick as a toy that I play with nor do I see magick as a first alternative in anything within my life, thus the “dark” or “light” application of it has always been as a last resort for me. And to be completely certain, binding, cursing, using magick to obtain results, protective barriers, and what else you can come up with are not automatically dark or light parts of Spirituality for me. Its the individual intent behind each of these magickal tools (how I actually see these to methodologies to really be) that provides the dark or light aspect.

Going from a psychological perspective, everyone has a so-called “dark” side to their existence. Really, I’m no different. Hurt or threaten the people that I love….well, let’s just say that Coyote and Crow help reinforce my “happier” side, but Wolf certainly can embody that darker aspect. While I love Wolf dearly, I do my best not to let Him have control too much. Life is certainly more interesting with Coyote or Crow at the helm. Or at least, I tend to think so.

Gizmo hiding…sort of

There other aspects of the “darker” Spirituality that manifest themselves in my studies. Sometimes, what I learn about feels like an old forest, where the canopy of the tall trees muffles the sunlight and the wind barely rises within the underside of the canopy. Such an environment can be a scary and daunting place to travel, especially when you know not what might lurk in that dark, stifling environment. However, sometimes your studies can take you to such places, and you have to ratchet up your resolve to enter, and open yourself to what you experience. What I have encountered within, both in real life and within the Spiritual realm, has been uncanny and frightening, but some of those lessons have been the deepest that I have experienced. As Robert Cray says in his hit song “Don’t be afraid of the Dark.”

Honestly, it took me a long time to realize that my Spirituality encompassed a darker side that I need to embrace. Working with that darker side has taken even longer, and I am still slightly uncomfortable when I utilize it. However, its there when I need it. I just hope to never have a need to utilize it. Sort of like my staff and my sword. I have a staff that I use for walking. I hope that is all I ever need it for. And should the staff prove not to be enough, I have my sword, and my knives. I’m not a gun owner. Not because I am anti-gun for everyone…just that I don’t want one. And that is also a conversation for another time.

–T /|\

Revisiting – Musing on “Elder” Status

Back in October of 2018, I wrote a blog post titled “So You’re an Elder…What Now?” where I started the overall discussion by noting that I am an Elder within the Pagan community. At thirty-plus years on my Pagan Path – I started down this path in mid-to-late 1986 – I am certainly an Elder. This is also a role that I continue to have my own personal issues with. At nearly fifty-five years of age, I do not feel “old” in any sense. However, I cannot run like I used to. My poor knees cannot take that kind of punishment. So no matter how I might “feel”, my body reminds me nearly daily that I am not the young man used to be. Never mind that when I let my full beard grow out, I have extremely white whiskers on my cheeks. No matter how hard I fight the idea, I definitely am an Elder.

Following those slight musings, among a few other points, I wrote the following two paragraphs:

Traveling through this part of my feelings, and my struggle towards accepting my own role as an Elder has brought me to this point. What in the Nine Hells am I expecting of myself in a role as an Elder? My struggle with this has nothing to do with the people that stop me along their own Path and ask questions. No, my struggle comes back to a feeling of being responsible for someone else’s Spiritual Path. Which, to be blunt, I’m not.

I’m not trained as a Priest. I do not, will not and cannot perform those functions. There are members of the Pagan community who are more than capable of doing these functions. They have pledged their lives to be Priests for their communities. Part of their function is in assisting and training others who are also on their Path. It would be wrong, unethical, and very unwieldy for me to perform such functions. I am not a clergy member. It is not my function nor my role.

All of this took another six months for me to start changing my perspective. I still struggle with the idea of a wider role within the Pagan community. The only role I have in the community that I have moved into is to just be me. To my knowledge, there are no Pagans nearby, making me into a local community of one. What am I expecting of myself in this twilight of my life in this existence? Well, probably the best way to explain that is to drop into the second paragraph from the article. I may not be trained conventionally as a Priest, but I am capable of fulfilling the role when needed. It will be a little wobbly, quite unconventional in nature, but I can definitely fulfill the role. Could I train someone on this Path? Not likely, but I can provide direction to those that can. For instance, someone wanting to get into Druidry, I can point them to the closest ADF folks to where they are or I can provide them with the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids. As someone on an Ovate path, I cannot teach much, but I can be available to listen to any difficulties they might have, and provide some assistance – though a better source for that would be their assigned mentor.

So, as I struggle with my own myopic view of what an Elder is, how can find my own role within the context of this label? Or do I really need to? I work in my Spirituality under the precept that I need to handle my own approach as my own. If it doesn’t conform to what someone else is doing, that is perfectly fine, so long as it works for me. As I learn more and more about my own Path, my own perspective, my own Path – I have started to realize that my divergence from what is essentially the mainstream of today’s modern Pagan Paths is not because of a desire to be different, but a need to follow what is a concern within my own personal Spirituality.

So, I continue to see myself in the role of a mentor, of sorts. I am not going to be the Pagan that teaches you about magick or spell work – those are not arrows in my quiver. But I can help you make the connections to your immediate environment, so that you can experience your immediate place in the world around you.

And the resulting conversations with some of the newer Pagans on their own Paths is not about converting them to my way of thinking, but just pulling the curtain back on where I have walked and how I have managed to get here. I can show them the hows and whys of getting here…they still have to walk the walk. They still have to want to do the hard work that gets them to a point similar to this. I am not their Priest. I am not their Guru. I’m just me.

I still worry about people placing me on a pedestal. As I note here, I am a Priest of one – me. I am no Guru. I just happen to have been walking this Path since 1986. None of that makes me special. However, it does make me who I am. All of that experience informs my daily walk. All of that experience has helped me to develop stronger connections to the world around me. All of that experience will help me as I continue to move forward on this path, and in this existence. The way I think, the way I work through issues – even in my everyday, mundane life – is informed from my experience, and my experience alone. To get here, I did the hard work. To get further, I have more hard work to get through. I don’t do it for a title or to be an initiate to some grade in some Druid Order. I do it because its my Path to walk. It took me around two decades to find myself here. This is the Path I was searching for. This works for me. I’ll be more than happy to pick up and support those who stumble along the way. I’m also happy to help those who are lost on this Path to find the Path that works better for them. Why? Because it strokes my ego? No. Because its the right thing to do.

My role as an Elder is truly a simple one: be me, and be available. Talk. Discuss. Point others in the directions where you have been. Talk with them about your approaches. Provide advice when asked for. Try not to be judgmental about other approaches. Simply just be there. And you do not even have to embrace the title of “Elder”…you can simply just be you. Just another Pagan, living each day in service to your Gods, experiencing what life has to offer…and being there for others. In the end, this should be service enough to others because a safe place to discuss any topic is where and who I should be. And through all of that, none of it marks me as “special” – merely that like anyone else, I am unique.

I loathe mission statements. To me, those are corporate leftovers which make a statement to the world, but are rarely followed internally. However, if I was looking for a mission statement, this quote may surely be it. I am no holder of some secret, ancient knowledge. I hold my experiences in everyday life, as well as life within more closed and intimate environments, such as Druid Camps, initiation circles, and the intimate, delicate conversations around a fire at two or three in the morning. Some of those experiences are closed events, not to be shared with others. Not just because of the private matter, but so that the moment (such as in initiations) can be experienced with fresh eyes and emotions by the initiate. Life is all about experiences. Sometimes those experiences can be confusing and even downright scary. I have been there. I’m more than willing to sit and listen. You need someone to hold you at the campfire, just so you have someone close….I’m your Druid. An Ovate, but still a Druid.

We are all unique. We all react differently to events that unfold around us. Sometimes, we need a shoulder to lean. Or a hand to hold for a while during a short distance on the Path. Or someone who will wrap us in their cloak and be that warm, soothing companion against the chill of the night or the tremors that stepped up at an unguarded moment. Part of being on this path for so long means that I am here to be that person, should you need it. I am an Elder. I am a Priest, maybe not in the conventional sense of the word, but still a Priest. I am a Druid. I am approachable. I am a safe place for anyone that needs it.

–T /|\

Thinking About: Doing It My Way

So, Tuesday’s blog post was late by a single day. Thursday’s blog post is now late by two days. I really have a tough time when the winds on the seas of thought go completely calm. Plus, I don’t like to row. 😉

As I stated before, I am currently reading “Anthem: Rush in the ’70s” by Martin Popoff. Interestingly enough, my inspiration for this post comes from the “2112” chapter. The Mercury recording company executives were unhappy with “Caress of Steel” and there was apparently pressure on the band to produce an album with a hit single that could be promoted. Well, as a band, Rush decided to record an album that they wanted – one with an extended, Science-Fiction-ish story-line, and if it meant that the band would go bust – so be it. The result was 2112, an album that almost becomes a rite of rebellious teenage angst to have listened to. The album sold way beyond the first three albums, and continues to sell over 800 units per week, according to the band’s management.

The back story is a piece of nice background and perspective. However, Neil Peart was asked about the criticism of the band, the album, and their concerts. He replies dismissively that the reviews were negative and then explains why he doesn’t read the reviews. He had written a letter to author Tom Robbins stating that he had read Tom’s books and a scathing review in the New York Times. He mentioned that none of those reviewers really knew what they were talking about. In return, Robbins wrote Peart back and told him: “I don’t read the reviews. Because if I believed the good ones, I would have to believe the bad ones too.” That small statement was taken by Peart to be a strong piece of advice. He carried that through his time with Rush, seeing each album to be the very best record that the band could produce, and not worrying about what others might say.

When I made the very difficult decision to leave podcasting behind, and take up blogging instead – I caught a lot of flak. However, I knew it was the right thing to do. My podcasts were not very creative, and continuing to put them out was more of a chore than anything else for me at that time. I did enjoy my time putting them together, but in the end things were a measure of tedium I no longer wanted. I turned to blogging as a creative outlet, knowing that I enjoyed sitting at a keyboard and typing my thoughts. I have thousands upon thousands of lines in an electronic journal, as an example of that. I write in that every single day. Do I miss podcasting? Yes, every single day. At the same time, I still stick to my guns – I will not do another podcast without a co-host.

When I first started the blog, I had a lot of commentary provided to me, particularly in private. If you go through the earlier posts of this blog, you will find that some of the comments are quite well warranted. “Your writing seems disjointed.” That is quite a fair criticism. Many of those older posts have the feelings of being barely finished statements. I may spend some of the future weekend posts trying to bring those thoughts back to life. At the moment, I am thinking of calling some of those “Revisiting” posts, just as this post is part of the “Thinking About” series that I kicked up a while back.

Another comment that I typically got was “why don’t you write more like John Beckett?” John is my friend. I know him in a face-to-face setting; though my move to just south of the Texas/Oklahoma border made seeing him difficult. My latest move to my current location at the edge of the Texas hill country, just south of the Dallas/Fort Worth Metro-Mess makes it even harder. I read John’s blog, Under the Ancient Oaks, frequently; though, like I do with most blogs, I do not comment as frequently as I did in the past. Writing like John, would mean that I would be compromising the way I write to be more like him, which – no offense meant John – I have no desire to do. We are both members of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids. We both believe that the Gods are distinct, individual Beings. After that, we are essentially very different Pagans. As it should be. If I tried to be more like John in my writing, I would be emulating John, and not being me. The same goes for other bloggers that I read frequently: Nimue Brown, Cat Treadwell, and whole host of others that would make this blog even longer than it is. I read blogs for information, and sometimes I get a spark of creativity from what I read there. But each have their own individual style of writing, their own individual takes on topics, and their own individual approaches to their own Spirituality. For me, emulating their style and approach, while flattering, would not be true to who I am.

In a manner of thinking (not speaking), writing a blog is my way of pulling the curtain aside a little, and letting you see a small part of my life. Certainly, the blog is not like stepping into my world and learning more about me as an individual. A better place for that to happen would be in a setting around a campfire, having a casual setting, something I seriously miss during these times of COVID-19. As Peart came to a realization that missing out on the reviews allowed him the ability to judge and criticize his own personal approach to drumming and lyric writing, I also realized that doing things my own way is important. Important, not only to my writing, but also to the growth of how I approach my writing, and the manner in which I work through my topics. I don’t claim to know everything, or how everything works. In fact, sometimes I have no idea how to approach a concept or how to answer a question. However, I do my very best to gather my approach in a manner that is consistent with my own values, my own ideas, and my own creativity. Sometimes, its not pretty, but the aesthetic is not the goal – its the effort made in getting there.

What about you? Have you ever stopped for a moment and taken stock of the way you approach your Spirituality? Or how you troubleshoot and research something new that you cannot readily identify? Every individual human being has some degree of innate curiosity…take the time and explore it a bit. I know letting my own individual approach inform how I did things was helpful in establishing who and what I am today. Let the individual loose….explore….

–T /|\

Examining My Own “Roadcraft”

So, this blog post was due, in the informal schedule, yesterday. I try my very best to make a Tuesday-Thursday-Weekend posting schedule for the week. Sometimes it doesn’t happen because I’m on the road or sometimes because I get horrible writer’s block (like yesterday). I have a little army of writing prompts that I tend to use as topics to mull on, but I do not have an army of blog posts waiting to be unleashed on the world. I do not prefer to write ahead of time, as it removes the wonderful feeling of organic writing that I get from sitting at a keyboard and writing my topic from the top of my head. This is a style that I am very used to. I utilized this same style of writing through a Bachelors degree and two Masters degrees. Apparently it worked well enough for me to pass my classes. 🙂

So, yesterday, I spent a lot of the day reading – trying to find something that worked from beyond my writing prompts (none of which were really sparking anything). Currently, I am reading ‘Anthem: Rush in the 70s” by Martin Popoff, which has turned out to be a very interesting view of Rush from behind, and off, the stage. In a passage at the end of the chapter on the album “Caress of Steel,” Neil Peart makes a point on Life being like a long, never-ending road – a rather poignant comment from someone who has done such extensive touring throughout the world. And I realized that this commentary was so fitting to my life. Let me share with you part of Neil’s comments.

“And then the broader education of being on the roads every day on my bicycle,” continues Neil, touching down again upon the hobby he famously wrote about, followed by similar books about motorcycling. “I was out there among people. The thing that I still preserve today on the motorcycle and riding through their towns, I go down roads every day that nobody goes down unless they live there, all these back little parts of the United States and Canada that I’ve come to know and still hunger to explore every day. I go by people that work, and I keep a perspective on my life with that. And yes, I might have sore hands and the show might be a tremendous physical ordeal, but every day I’m walking past people who are working in the fields, working on the roads, all the things that normal people do. So it keeps my perspective so much more rooted in that.”

Popoff, Martin. “Anthem: Rush in the ’70s”. ECW Press, Toronto, Canada. p. 224

There is no secret that I identify greatly with the late Neil Peart, particularly through his status as the primary writer of lyrics for the band. I have a few of his books as well, and his writings touch me very deeply in the core of who I am. His attention to the details around him, the way he connects on a visceral level to what he observes in the environment inspires me to do similar deep dives of my own into how my Spirituality continues to inform the way I see and connect to the worlds around me. his observation here is part of a greater point, where he is noting that as an opening act (Remember “Caress of Steel” was released September 24, 1975 – Rush had not struck it big as a musical act at this point), the band would play twenty to twenty-five minutes per day. That left approximately twenty-three and a half hours of what Neil described as “nothing to do.” Its this twenty-three and a half hours of being on the road between gig dates that Neil calls “roadcraft.” He utilized that time to broaden his personal education. He read. At the cities that they came to, he went to the art museums. Between the cities, he would have the tour bus drop him off about one-hundred miles from the next city, and he would bike the rest of the way in – on the back roads.

In reading this particular section about “roadcraft”, I realized that there is a lot of empty time in my life that I can make use of. My work with OBOD’s gwers-work inside each grade is an example of some of the “roadcraft” that I do. Same with all the documentaries that I watch, all the books that I read, and even all the music that I listen to. Every time I ride my Peloton bike, I am utilizing an aspect of “roadcraft” in exercising my body in the same way I have been exercising my mind. I am good at database work, and various sundry aspects of Information Technology. Like Rush playing their music on the stage, this is what I do. But I don’t do this twenty-four hours a day. What happens outside of that is essentially the “roadcraft” that I put into my daily life. What I spend my time with matters.

Lately, well over the past four months, I have found myself being drawn into argument after argument within Facebook. About a week back, I started to realize that even jumping into these arguments to display just my singular perspective a single time (I follow a perspective of making my point once, and then repeating it one more time for clarity) was essentially a waste of time. With the safety of physical distance (and in some cases anonymity) playing into others’ perspectives, many people make derisive and divisive commentary to merely cause chaos or to get a “rise” out of other people. That’s not my personal paradigm. I prefer calm, rational discussion over argument and debate. I am not trying to solve the world’s problems or trying to change anyone’s mind. I prefer to provide an alternative point of thought. Whether it gets dismissed out of hand or not, matters not one bit to me. However, just as 2015-2016 was filled with frenetic “debate” and over-heated argument – 2020 is shaping up much the same way. My personal “roadcraft” is going to lead me away from a lot of this. I am not in the habit of telling people how they should vote nor am I about to start. I will; however, encourage people to get registered to vote and make their own minds up on how they should cast their opinion.

In a sense, its about time for me to re-evaluate pieces of my “roadcraft” and insure that I am headed down a Path that I prefer and not being swept along with the current of a mindless mob. What about you? Have you ever taken the time to evaluate where your “roadcraft” is taking you along your Path? I’m not saying that you should or that you need to do this – that’s your choice to make. I’m just offering up the potential idea of looking into that. 🙂

–T /|\

Us versus Them – Just Thinking Aloud

Today has been the same old conundrum: what do I write about? Most folks who read this blog already know that I do my posts as unplanned topics. For me, its a more organic style of writing. The only problem is that it can sometimes be a complete blank for a good part of the day. Well today was one of those days. So I just let my mind wander a bit and….well, politics started the entire thought process off. Don’t groan. It started the process, but its only the manner in which to get the topic started. So, shall we?

On July 3rd, the massive Orange Peel of a President here in the United States gave a rather passionate speech. I know most folks didn’t watch it. I know I didn’t. But I read a lot of the summary material. Donnie railed against the Left, as well as the BLM protesters – lumping them into the same pot, and declaring them as “the enemy.” this entire manner of thinking should sound familiar. He declared the media to be the enemy back in 2016. He declared the “deep state” of career government employees as the enemy. He declared the Democrats as the enemy. From those three declarations he created a straw man to attack, declaring he was going to drain the swamp. Every chance he got to speak, he beat the drum about this compiled straw man that he had created. And the people on the far right heard the dog whistles that they needed to hear. They had a common enemy to deploy their votes against. Donnie was declaring a change in Washington DC. He was going to drain the swamp. Except that he didn’t. In fact, he never intended to do so. He cleared the way for his “yes” people to put in charge of various aspects of the political structure, and fired those who obstructed the way. Now, in 2020 – an election year where his poll numbers are lagging behind former Vice President Joe Biden – he latched on to the two pieces that he needed to create a new straw man – the vehicle he hopes to get elected by. He has made several derogatory statements aimed at Black Lives Matter, pointing to the destruction of statues and various instances of destruction of property to label them as “dangerous” and “the enemy”. To help with his election process, he has attached the Democrats to this straw man as well, hoping to equate the destruction that has occurred with Blake Lives Matter. And to make it more personal, he has added a charge that this straw man of BLM and Democrats is out to erase History, change the very fabric of what we know of America. Strong, heady, and quite shrewd campaigning tactics. Add to that his politicizing the wearing of masks during a time of a pandemic – one that he wants to ignore as much as he can, since it happened on his watch – and you start seeing the way he wants to spin the playing field. He is creating a paradigm of “Us versus Them” – Them being portrayed by his caricature straw man.

The “Us versus Them” paradigm is a very heady potion to create and get people to quaff. However, its rather easy territory to cover, if you think about it. We see it in our films, our cartoons, in the novels we read, in the tales we tell one another – the fight of our side versus those “bad guys”. The UvT, as I like to refer to Us versus Them as – is a story formula we have been weened on. Our literature, movies, even our History is carved in this type of portrayal. So its not a difficult thing for someone like Trump or even Biden to latch on to. For Trump, he is trying to appeal to those who do not want to see the world around them change. They are complacent and happy with where things are for them. The world is easily placed into two piles – the stuff that is right, and the stuff that is not. The other side of the equation are those who are demanding change. They see the world is balanced unfairly, and they want things to be brought to a level of equality. If you flip the script, you will notice that it still balances into a UvT, just in a different direction.

The insidious part of UvT theory, is that neither side are hunting from common ground. Its either this or that – nothing else. When you have two sides in disagreement and unable to find compromise, you wind up with war at some point. One side or the other is going to feel frustrated, and step way over the line of somewhat civil discourse. Once that happens, bringing either side to a point of resolution will be difficult. And this is precisely what Donnie and the Republicans want. At the moment those folks are in absolute control. Once they goad the other side into taking things beyond a certain point – they will have the excuse they need to do far more destructive things to the other side. Through laws, through brutal enforcement of current laws, even through simple Presidential decrees to round up and imprison dissidents. Sound familiar? Do you hear the clinking of the chains of the fascism that everyone wants to fight against? Donnie has already made statements that the folks represented by his new straw man are the “true fascists” in all of this, again in his July 3rd and July 4th speeches. All in the name of the UvT theory.

Now, I am ex-active duty military. Back in March of 1986, I raised my hand and swore to protect the Constitution of these United States from aggressors foreign and domestic. I left the military in April of 1994, and not under the greatest of circumstances. But how I left, and when I left never cancelled that oath. When I took that oath of enlistment, the terms of what I must do never waned. My allegiance is not to a political party. My allegiance is to the Constitution of these United States, the document that outlines how we, as a nation are to be governed. I watch politics careful – not because I want to, but because I have to be vigilant against aggressors domestic. I absolutely loathe politics. I am an unaffiliated voter because I wish not to make allegiance to any party. Politics is that slimy to me. Do I feel that Donnie is a good President? Not one bit. Do I feel that he fulfills his own oath to the Constitution and to the citizenry of this country that he took back in January of 2017? Not at all. I see a self-centered, self-absorbed individual who only makes law that benefits him in his corporate world. I see an individual that I would have a very difficult time serving in the military under him as Commander-in-Chief, were I still in the active duty or reserve component of the Air Force. he is a shrewd user of the UvT theory….sow division among the citizenry, and get them to choose sides, stoking the fires of one side over the other….creating his version of “Us” – and by definition, if you are not in the “Us” grouping, well….. So long as there is argument and chaos, no one is watching the under-handed things he is going to benefit himself, and his equally criminal family.

Now, I’m quite certain this post is going to piss some folks off….I completely grok that. I have quite a few friends that are quite happy about the Cheeto-in-Chief being in charge. I get how they would be upset with much of my assessment. I also understand that there are those that will think my assessment doesn’t go far enough in damning this current Administration. However, I will remind you – this is my personal assessment of where things are, and what is going on. I have no political affiliation with any party – and I don’t want one. I am affiliated with the Constitution of the United States. My approach will be different than yours….because neither of us is the other. We are all individuals, who can think for ourselves and make up our own minds. My biggest hope is that this post will stir the idea that some form of communication needs to be kept alive. Without that line, all of this slips further and further towards the anarchy and fascist approach that none of us should want. Republicans, Democrats, Green Party, Libertarians, and whatever political affiliation I am leaving out – we all have an identity that should be held up above any political party – we are all human beings, and deserve the same respect.

–T /|\