Not a “Proper” Druid

Over the past few weeks, I have noticed a lot of questions surrounding information that some author put in their book.

“Do I have to follow everything that is in this ritual?”
“The author said that this was the way to do this type of magickal spell work, but I don’t see the need for this/that component/process.”
“Do all Druids/Witches/Pagans do things this way?”

I get these folks’ perspectives. Much of what I do as a Druid runs somewhat counter to what I have been taught. In discussions, I tend to catch a lot of flak over the changes that I make and the things that I exclude. I try my best to explain that I did things the way it was explained and taught to me. But I still catch the lower level of Nine Hells for making changes. And I catch even more of the lower levels of the Nine Hells when I tell people that what I have learned through OBOD is not the freaking gospel either. I have been told I am not a “proper” Druid because I don’t do things exactly the way I was taught. Well, my normal default answer is a lyric from a Garth Brooks song:

Well, I guess I was wrong
I just don’t belong
But then, I’ve been there before
Everything’s all right
I’ll just say goodnight
And I’ll show myself to the door

Garth Brooks, Friends in Low Places

Don’t take this as me leaving OBOD, that’s simply not the case at all. This is me not falling into line with what I perceive as an aspect of fundamentalism. See…I don’t see much of what is in Paganism to be a “set in stone” moment, particularly when it comes to ritual and spell work. There’s a basic framework that you work from, but even that framework can be altered. To me, the idea is to embrace what the ritual is about – not the framework. The idea is to manage your intent in spell work, not be overly worried about whether what you have developed adheres to some structural aspect. Now, for some folks that framework and structural component…it matters to their practice. it provides them a stable aspect to which they can relate to. Honestly? There’s not a single thing wrong with that, at all. For me, it doesn’t work. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t work for others.

For example, casting a circle for ritual. I don’t. I don’t want an implied barrier between myself and the Universe around me. I want my rituals to be open for any and all to come forth and witness…so long as They do so in peace and love. However, for spell work or ritual that has a spell component attached to it…I do want that circle barrier. So that I can work with the magick I raise and not worry that I unleash my intent beyond the narrow focus that I am working with. Most of that probably runs counter to what a lot of folks do. I not only understand that I also respect that. Because everyone will take their own unique approach, even those that follow a prescribed framework or structural perspective.

But here’s where I may rub a few people the wrong way. I would posit that what is written in books, journal articles, and even in blogs (particularly this one) are merely guidelines and suggestions. Or to quote Captain Barbossa….

“First, your return to shore was not part of our negotiations nor our agreement so I must do nothing. And secondly, you must be a pirate for the pirate’s code to apply and you’re not. And thirdly, the code is more what you’d call “guidelines” than actual rules. Welcome aboard the Black Pearl, Miss Turner!”

See, authors and writers will write what they know and how they do things. If it’s the very first time you are doing something that they have written about – by all means, I suggest that you follow everything exactly by the steps you have. However, if you’re more experienced and already know what does and does not work for you…altering what is stated, well… it’s probably already gone through your mind. Or you might be muttering to yourself “that’s the wrong way to do that.” I absolutely get it. What is in those pages flies in the face of what you know. That doesn’t mean it won’t work. It just means that it won’t work for you.

Thus, I get labeled as not being a “proper” Druid because I do things my own way. Fuck, I mean I’ve been on my Path for over thirty years. I’m already well versed in what does and does not work for me. But that doesn’t mean I’ve seen it all. I try to keep my mind open to the possibility that something will come along that I’ve never encountered before. I’d have to try it before I’d say that it doesn’t work. On top of that, I’m also not arrogant enough to believe that something I tried before and decided didn’t work for me – won’t work for me now. If you want some admission of that, read the blog post “Break Glass in Case of Emergency.” But to be honest, I stopped worrying about whether or not I am a “proper” whatever…I’m me. I have my own faults. I can be stubborn (ask Shadow), and sometimes I have to be gently walked over to a solution that I don’t want to consider. Every single day is a learning experience. You just have to open your mind to the possibilities. To illustrate that, I’ll toss out another quote – this time from Metallica.

And if I close my mind in fear
Please pry it open

Metallica, The Outlaw Torn

Remember folks. These people that wrote books, these people that write blogs….they are just as human and fallible as you are. Want to make your own path in Paganism stronger? Focus on your intent. Find what works for you. Focus on the reason behind the celebration instead of the structural components. In my opinion, your Paganism is about what you intend for it. Your Paganism is about the experience and emotion that wells up inside of you. Whatever works to make that stuff rise up in you…that’s what all of this is about. How you get there…well, that can vary from individual to individual. I’m far more concerned in finding my experiences within my Paganism, finding the meaning for me behind each ritual aspect I encounter than I am worried about being a “proper” Druid. Whatever the fuck that is.

–T /|\

Shadow’s Thoughts:

My theory on pretty much everything is easily summed up in a quote from one of my favorite games.

The D&D game has no rules, only rule suggestions. No rule is inviolate, particularly if a new or altered rule will encourage creativity and imagination. The important thing is to enjoy the adventure.

Tom Moldvay, from the foreword of Dungeons & Dragons Fantasy Adventure Game Basic Rulebook

I pretty much apply this to everything in my life. Cooking, baking, knitting, sometimes speed limits … (kidding, … maybe). But I read the instructions and then generally follow them but make changes as needed. Clearly, some things can’t just be winged. If I’m baking a cake I’m more likely to follow the directions closer than if I’m throwing together chicken and herbs into a skillet. If I’m knitting straight mindless socks then I’ll fudge the numbers, even with some patterns. If I can make it look intentional then it’s fair game. If it’s intense lace, well, I’ve been known to perform surgery on it to undo several rows and make it exactly as directed.

And when it comes to my witchery? Yup, same thing. I’m :checks calendar: thirty-eight and I’ve been practicing magic since I was 5, untrained and by instinct. I do what feels right. Originally I kept my alter exactly as I found in a beginner’s book. One day I rearranged everything to something that felt more natural to me. I used to pull up a circle for every single thing that I did. Now? Only if it’s incredibly important and I feel that it’s worth “bothering” the elements or deities. Do I think I’m actually bothering them? No. But if I’m putting thankfulness, positivity, or stirring my coffee with the intent of having a good day then there’s no need to call upon everybody. They’ll hear me anyhow. When my husband was sick with Covid I pulled up a circle, called all of the quarters, and called upon both a god and a goddess for his renewed health. 

What it really comes down to is what fits best for you. Try this, try that, try it again, just in case. Keep what works, toss what doesn’t, and understand that my connection to the natural energies is not the same as yours. And that’s good because it takes all kinds to keep this world going. We all have our place in the great scheme of things.

-S

Trapped in Your Own Maze

Personal boundaries are always a necessary thing. At one point in my life, I had an extremely intricate set of personal boundaries. Certain people could have this part of my life, but not that part. Only certain people would I talk with about stuff like that. Everyone could get the very washed out “morning” versions of me on Facebook. It was a lot of compartmentalizing. And all of it was done for one reason – to protect myself from everyone else.

I guess to really illustrate this point, I need to provide a touch of background. When I was in my early twenties, I was a very open individual. You wanted to know something about me, all you had to do was ask. I had no problem telling you. But after a few years, certain people started exploiting that openness and would either use me for their own means or deliberately hurt me emotionally. This caused me to build my own walls, boundaries if you want and started placing people outside of certain pieces of who I was. I even started to compartmentalize my life. I would only talk about politics with these people. Only baseball with these people. Only work with these people. Only Pagan stuff with these people. And the number of people who had access to all of that information was infinitely small. Then there was the section where I held all the stuff about me. What I wanted out of life. What my dreams were. And no one had access to all of that except me; that was where I kept my heart and soul.

In 2006, one person finally got into all of that. And truthfully, I didn’t even realize it until a few years later. At that point, I was being torn to shreds over my inability to do the right thing and it hurt more than anything else. Somehow, she had managed to get past all the boundaries without me realizing it. She had complete access to my heart and soul. However, despite all of that, I kept my boundaries. In fact, I built more. Now, fast forward to 2018. Those walls and boundaries made life very quiet, sheltered, and lonely. That one person entered back into my life, and her unfettered access across the boundaries was still there. Through a few discussions, I started to realize what I had been doing wrong. I had made too many boundaries in my life. I needed to open up a bit more. Her access to every aspect of my life is still there. There are no boundaries and barriers for her. I want it that way. But I don’t have so many barriers and boundaries in my life anymore.

I live my life out in the open now. I’m a Pagan. I’m a Druid. I’m a Polytheist. I am polyamorous. I am fifty-five. I am an Information Technology data systems specialist. I am currently unemployed. I am so much more than all of that. And it’s out there for people to see. Why? Because it can’t be used as a weapon against me. None of it is a secret that I am hiding from anyone. If you don’t like any aspect of it, you can move on or you can choose to accept that my life is different from yours, but you still enjoy and respect me as your friend. There’s a boundary. It’s a simple one. I won’t tolerate being disrespected or anyone disrespecting those of my chosen family. There’s another boundary. So, I haven’t gotten rid of every boundary that I have. But opening up my boundaries has opened up my eyes to possibilities I had never contemplated before.

Aspects of my Druidry have changed a bit. Parts of my personality are changing slightly. Instead of being closed off to chances and opportunities in magick that I would never have chosen to work with except in dire emergencies, I’m open to some of these as first options. My perspective about dealing with things such as politics has altered a bit. Because, in losing many of those boundaries and walls, I can now see a little more objectively than before. I am not saying that my boundaries blinded me, just that my boundaries limited me. Yes, I built the boundaries to protect my heart, to keep me from being hurt. But I have learned that hurts like that can be healed, especially if you have someone that is willing to help heal and care for your heart and soul. Someone whose heart and soul that you want to help heal and protect as well. Because together, nothing can stop either of you.

Photo by Linz Franciz on Pexels.com

Don’t misunderstand. My first statement still holds true. Personal boundaries are always a necessary thing. But be careful about how many boundaries you create. Because you never know when you might trap yourself in your own maze. I’ve been there. It’s not a great feeling. Compartmentalizing your life, something I consider to be another form of boundary making, is a technique that I have found sucks the joy and happiness out of life. You spend all your time trying to remember how to act with this group but not with that group. Life has gotten a lot easier for me since I stopped doing all of that. I’m just me. I have no need or desire to hide pieces of myself away from polite company. Either accept me as I am or you don’t. It’s really that simple. And if you feel that the way I live my life makes it difficult for you to be my friend, I completely understand. My feelings are not going to be hurt if we part and go our separate ways. I’ve found my love, my family, and my tribe. All of this not only works for me, it is me. And to be honest, I’m just tired of hiding behind the walls of the maze.

–T /|\

Shadow’s Thoughts:

I have often surprised people with my lack of walls. Surprised, shocked, even scared them. 

“How can you do that? How can you just tell everybody everything?” 

Well, first off, that’s not what that means. Secondly, I don’t necessarily tell everybody everything. I just don’t shy away from answering questions. I wear my pentagram bracelet every day. I have crystals and a wheel of the year on display in my office cube. I have nothing to hide. I chose to live my life so that should I ever have to look back on my choices and decisions, I won’t regret them.

So how does this work in the real world? Simple. I am the same with every single person I meet. I am open, friendly, and helpful. If they have questions I answer. If they chastise me for my life, I smile and say okay. It’s clear I don’t agree with them and I’m not going to change anything about how I live my life but that doesn’t mean I need to engage with them over it. I don’t need to convince them of anything; I’m not going to change their mind. Instead, I continue my life, I continue to spread love, happiness, and light … and to point out those that Kharma might want to take a closer look at. :bright smile:

Walls make it harder to keep your life straight. Walls make it easier for others to use things against you. Clearly, if you’re “scared” to share information with certain people, that’s something that can be held over you. And if you’re open with things, well, what can they threaten you with? So fewer walls mean fewer divisions of who has access to what, fewer things to remember, and better friends. Because people know who you ‘really’ are when you have fewer walls and you’re likely to have stronger bonds with those who know they’re safe to be themselves with you. Then it becomes an ever-expanding ripple of people just being honest and kind. No downside there.

-S

The Here and the Now

I just turned fifty-five years old eleven days ago. Fifty-five. I kept trying to wrap my head around that age and then I started thinking back to where I’ve been, what I’ve done, the things I hadn’t done, the things I can’t go back and correct now….and just stop. Anyone recognize the little trap I just stepped into? No? Didn’t even notice? I’m wearing it on my foot right here on my boot (pointing down at right foot). It’s me, living in the past. Did you notice how one thing led to another which lead to another and another and another….all focused on way back there (thumb pointed over shoulder)? Yeah. There’s a problem there. I keep focus on the past, I keep forgetting to see and appreciate what is right here in my face. Nor do I have an eye fixed to the horizon to see what may potentially arise in the near future.

Looking backwards to what you have done is a nice thing to do occasionally, after all, its a great way to have a quick look into experiences and see what you can draw from that. It is, after all, one of the ways that we learn:  looking back to what we’ve done before and applying that experience to something we are trying for the first time. But remember that those applications of technique are not necessarily the same as what you need to apply now. You may need to adjust things a little to make it work. Or just utilize the theory of “why” you did that back then and apply that to now, knowing that the actual application will look nothing like what you did before.

In Your Studies

One place where constantly looking backwards has a tendency to trip me up is in my own Ovate studies. I have spent a lot of time trying to compare the techniques that I utilized in my Bardic studies to what I should be doing in my Ovate studies. Well, Bardic studies are Bardic studies. Ovate studies are Ovate studies. Trying to lay a blueprint of one over the other is just silly. Taken in a different context, you are not going to study for your American History up until 1835 college class the same way you are going to prepare for a Realtor’s exam, right? It is nice; however, to look back on that Texas Government class that you took and nearly aced. It’s an achievement that you can really have pride in. But that nearly perfect class score (yes I did this. I managed to get every single point for my class, save four) is not going to allow you to pass a mathematics course you take the next semester. Focus on the here and now to accomplish what needs to be done.

In Your Mundane Life

The same concept holds true in other parts of your life too. Remember how you fixed that clogged drain in the bathtub? That was great. You did a few things you had read about elsewhere, then applied the clogged drain stuff and it worked. But that one achievement isn’t going to mean anything should you forget to take out the over-flowing trash can. That fixed drain might turn you into an overnight hero to your significant other, but that isn’t going to make up for the missed trash pickup. Yes, even in your job or career, you might make the big catch that saves the company millions. However, you slip a few deadlines and your reputation within the company is going to take a dive from that million-dollar hero status.

What Have You Done Lately?

Sure, I get it – this has the sounds of the ‘What have you done for me lately?” overtone. Except that it doesn’t have to. This is not really about throwing the Past into the garbage can and moving on to the next thing. I know it seems like it is, but its really not. This is about focusing on the results that need to be completed now. About making progress on your journey.

Every single one of us has taken those trips to the touristy locations. We have all seen the telescopes planted here and there that let you look into the distance for a quarter, or whatever denomination you can think of. Think about constantly looking into the Past in the same vein. You have stopped moving forward in whatever you are doing and you are taking that time to reminisce about what happened. Or maybe, you’re taking a moment to play out a “What-If” scenario in your mind. That stuff is ok from time to time. Nine Hells, its ok to stop, take a step back, and turn around to see where you have come from. But if you spend nearly forever doing that….you’re going nowhere. Your feet are firmly planted where you are. Take that momentary stop, but remember that you need to also keep going.

Looking Forward But Not Moving

Now, there is also the chance of looking forward and seeing everything that needs to be done and getting stuck in what analysts call “paralysis-by-analysis” mode. Where you spend moment after moment looking forward and trying to plot out all the directions and possibilities so that you know where to go, how to do it, and what to do when this or that might happen. Welcome to my world.

I am an extremely calculating individual. My analytical world is a pure flow-chart in my brain. Or, if you live in a programming world like I tend to do in my usual work-flow, its purely a Visio diagram. If this -> then this -> if not then this. That shit is cute outside of work, but it also keeps you from doing what you need to do. Sometimes, you have to throw caution to the wind, leave the calculated odds behind, and just move forward. Otherwise, you can find yourself not moving forward at all and losing out on chances of a lifetime. Other times, you have to ignore the calculated odds and take the damn jump – no matter how scary it may seem.

One Size Does Not Fit All

Now, let me return to something I usually state in nearly every blog post I write. This is my perspective, my understanding of living my life. Essentially, through this blog, I am living “out loud” – providing you aspects of what I have done, what I thought, what I am thinking as I type this….that doesn’t mean that I am saying this is the ONLY way to think. I am a strong believer in the individualistic aspect of each person. We all have our own choices to make. What works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for others. But the only absolute I will provide for you is this – follow your heart. Your Passion is important in life, in my opinion.

So, looking backwards to the Past is a good thing. Until you are doing it so much that you are going nowhere. Looking forwards to the future is not a bad thing either. Until you over-analysis everything, trying to remove some of the surprises that you may encounter. Those surprises might be the life experiences that you absolutely need to experience to move forward in another aspect of your life. The overall point is to be in the here and now. To not make everything in life into a calculated risk or into some flow-charted diagram in your head as is my tendency. Sure, removing the calculated risks may remove some of the bumps and bruises that you will encounter, but you will also miss out on some spectacular moments as well. Forget about what you HAVE or MAY HAVE missed. Take that step into the unknown and experience what you want.

Finally, one of my favorite movies is “The Dead Poet’s Society” with the late Robin Williams. The movie is about taking chances, finding your passion, and going forward with life. Not waiting for something to happen. Not conforming for the sake of conformity, but really living life. Without the flowcharts, without the calculated risks, and without the super-long glances at the Past. The here and the now…..if you have not seen the movie, give it a watch. Every couple of years, I’ll sit down and watch it…just to remember that Life is about taking risks.

–T /|\

Shadow’s Thoughts

I do not often look back. I find it fairly pointless, for most things. I experience a thing, decide whether I liked it or not, and toss out everything I deem unimportant. See, most of my past is trauma-related. From abandonment to all forms of abuse, I’ve lived a few lives in this single life. So when it comes to things from my past, I’m pretty ruthless about tossing things. I may end up with a fairly barebones, ramshackle frame of experience to carry forward but my theory is that I’m lighter. 

I have a tendency of jumping from cliffs, often with no parachute. If I carry all that baggage I plummet, but if I’m light then I have a greater chance to coast on thermals until I can safely land.

That isn’t to say that the past is pointless. I do carry some things on, mostly in how I mentally process things. I’m far more willing to give grace to others when I don’t know their story, their trauma that is influencing their current actions. I’m more willing to slow down and stretch out a hand while I coast, to help them find their own wind current to raise them up. But show me hateful living and you’ll find yourself relegated to my past. Things wither and die in my past because I don’t gaze upon them, study them, or give them anything to thrive on. I will nurture the lessons I learned, but nothing more. 

Some will say this is foolhardy. And that’s okay. Their opinion is valid for them. I found that carrying too much baggage, looking too often into my past, caused my depression to spiral out of control. So instead, I carry only the bare minimum with me and have no problem cutting people out of my life if they relegate themselves to my past. You don’t want to grow with me? Cool, but do it over there where you’re not pulling me down in your stagnation. Unless you’re part of my soul. Then I drag you kicking and screaming into the sun, walk you to the cliff, and teach you to jump.

-S

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