Nothing More. Nothing Less.

Well, I finally did a restart on my Ovate grade studies. Back in late March or early April, I had essentially brought myself to a stop with my studies. Not because I really wanted to, though it could easily be surmised that it was in the back of my mind. Rather, it, and a lot of other things that I had been doing, were brought to a stop because of all the issues with COVID-19. From that point, all the way through December, I lamented the loss of some of the more social aspects of my Druidry. Sure, there were online gatherings, Zoom calls that could be made, and a lot of solo work that I could do; however, much of my Druidry is based on being social. Sort of a weird perspective for a solo Druid to have, huh? At the end of December, I made the decision to take a step back and restart.

Restarting my studies is nothing new for me. I think I did this at least five times during my Bardic grade studies. Some of that was beneficial for me, it allowed me to provide a better perspective on what I was doing. Some of it was detrimental to my studies, as I started to feel bored with rehashing the same material once again. So, when I started my Ovate studies, I had promised myself that I wouldn’t do a restart. If I got stuck, I might back up a Gwers or two, but I would not restart from the beginning. That was before I started pulling my approach to Druidry apart and refastening things again. This time; however, I decided to take a more methodical approach to my restart – a process I had never done with all the restarts in my Bardic grade.

In all my Bardic grade restarts, I would get stuck at various points in my studies. To try and remedy this, I would take a backward step of a few Gwers and go through where I had been in the hopes that it would restart my thinking process. Hopefully, this would allow me to move past my block. Sometimes that worked. Other times, it made my block even worse. When things would be worse, I would start all the way back at the beginning. When you do multiple restarts in that fashion, constantly going over the same ground you have already covered more than once….yeah, it gets monotonous very easily. Plus, that monotony can easily grow into frustration, and that frustration can be fed back on to yourself – starting a rather vicious cycle of self-doubt.

This time around, the restart comes as a result of me looking into my own approach to Druidry, removing things that were silly romantic notions, and then putting everything back together. One piece at a time. Now that I have a clearer focus of my approach to Druidry, a restart of the grade’s lessons seemed appropriate as well. I am not ditching the observations that I have made along the way. Rather, I am augmenting those observations with what I know now. Some of it will have changed. Some of it may not have. What has changed will be noted. What hasn’t will also be noted with how I found my original notation to continue to be true.

Now with that said, let me explain how difficult this can become. Starting over means coming back to the beginning and walking in the same footsteps that you did before. On the one hand, you take the exact same steps, finding nothing new, and continually berating yourself for kicking off such an exercise in futility. That can result in a bit of negativity towards yourself and short-circuiting a solid, fresh, positive approach to what you were trying to do in the first place. Or, you find that you don’t quite “get” what those first steps were, finding a completely different approach to what you had already done, which makes you begin to doubt everything that you have done – essentially eroding your self-confidence. This second point is the little down-the-drain cycle that I found myself in with all my restarts in the Bardic grade. In the end, I trashed all my previous notes, restarted my Bardic grade from scratch, and pushed my way through all the blocks. It wound up being the best approach that I had, and my persistence in making things go wound up being what I really needed. In my case, every restart – including the one that worked – could be recanted as me over-thinking things.

My restart with the Ovate grade has been one of necessity, especially since I had spent time rebuilding the basis of what my Druidry is to me. That rebuild has forced me to see things from a much different perspective, and that very different approach really mandated a restart. And that brings me to where I am now.

To be open and honest, I don’t believe that the process of working through the Gwers materials is really meant to follow the constant start and stop process that I have been going through. Yet, here I am. With my habitual over-thinking, every stop can be an invite to over-analyze the “why” of things. My challenge at this point is to bring that to an end. To not start analyzing why I came to a stop, and just find a way to get things going again. For me, that can sometimes be quite a formidable task. But I do the very best that I can. Sometimes I will manage to get things going again, sometimes I won’t. The key, for me, is not to beat myself up over the feeling of a “lack of progress,” while also trying not to compare my progress to others. My studies are my own, at my own pace. For me, these are the ghosts that I spend most of my time fighting while moving through the Gwers.

In the end, that’s the truest key. Moving at the pace that is most comfortable for you, while not comparing yourself to others. These studies are the same for every individual, but what you squeeze out of these studies is very much your own. I know it can be tough to see it from a position of individualization, but it certainly is. The kind of Druid that you become through these studies is completely up to you. For me, that’s the primary key to everything – you will become the kind of Druid that you need to become. Nothing more. Nothing less.

–T /|\

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What Do I Hope to Get From This?

Through the process of reworking aspects of my Druidry to fit me, and not the other way around, I have hit one particular point that has become more and more important to me through each passing day. Boundaries. Not just creating my boundaries, but enforcing them. Every day, I run into another moment where I did not realize that I was allowing my boundaries to be bent or violated to a point where I was actually uncomfortable. Some of that…not all of it though…came from romanticised notions that I had of what Druidry was to be for me. So, lately, much of what I have been doing is a two-fold process of rebuilding my notion of what modern Druidry looks like for me, and how that interacts and informs my boundaries that I set in place for myself.

Since I started talking about this process of reworking my way through my own Druidry, I have had a few inquiries into what that process looks like. Well, reworking my way through my druidry had to start with one primary point – what am I looking to get out of the studies I am undertaking in the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids (OBOD). After that, I needed to take a stronger look at what kind of Druid I was wanting to be. Lastly, I will need to take a look at what may or may not lie on the road beyond here. All of that will help me to enforce what boundaries I hope to enforce within my life. As much as I want to say that I can divorce my Druidry from who I am, that’s just not a true statement. However, I am the one that provides the definition of what Druidry  means to me, and how that defines and shapes who I am.

What Am I Getting From This?
What Do I Hope to Get from This?

I decided to add two titles to this particular section, because it is a two-fold question. What am I getting out of these Druidry studies? And what do I hope to get out of these Druidry studies? These two questions form the goals of where I am headed. And honestly, once I finish the Ovate grade – and if I get accepted into the Druidry grade – I will have to ask these questions again. Because goals change over time. Goals change as you change.

So, what does working through these Druidry lessons provide for me? Well, I am handed a different way of looking at things. A different perspective of the world around me through the same window I have been looking through. I am also provided with some tools in approaching that environment, as well as tools for approaching my own self. Many of the lessons provide challenges for me to work through/with, so as to open my eyes to a different way of seeing things. Honestly, I can’t go into too many more specifics, not without ruining the experience for others. That’s part of what a mystery school is about – keeping the specifics to yourself, so as not to spoil the entire experience for others. Because we don’t experience the same thing the same way. As for my hopes of what I get from all of this – well, my own personal expectations comes from wanting to find another way to see things. Because sometimes, we need a new approach to help us to see and understand what is in front of us. Thus far, my Druidry studies have constantly and consistently brought a different approach to me with which I work with.

I think its important to add here that all of this is my singular approach to my studies. Others will have different needs of their studies and will have different aspects provided to them through the materials. I can honestly say that no two people will get the exact same experiences from any set of studies that they undertake. Whether those be Pagan or mundane in nature.

What Kind of Druid Am I Looking to Be?

This particular question is part of why I stopped and started dismantling what I have already learned. My idea of Druidry and what I was seeking to be was a romanticised notion of what Druidry is. I wanted to be the Druid that stepped in to solve disputes, that Druid that had answers for others. Truth be told, that’s the romantic, druid, peace-maker, bullshit that really doesn’t do anything for me, except to place me in a spot where I should never be. In fact, that romanticised aspect of Druidry only helps feed into a mindset where my boundaries are constantly and continually violated in the name of the needs of others.

I’m not sure I have this little adage correct. But a long time back on my Pagan studies, I was told that one cannot be of adequate help to others when one is in need of the same help. Or something like that. For me, at this point, the best kind of Druid that I can be is one who points you to the help that you need. While I am picking up the scattered (and sometimes broken) lego pieces of who I am, it is really difficult to be in a position to help others with finding ways to put things together in their own lives. My desire is to be a mentor to those first starting in their Pagan Paths, helping them sidestep some of the major potholes that are out there, and getting them to the mentors/teachers that they need. I am not the final stop for any learner (no teacher really is), but I remember quite well how confused and alone I felt on my Path in the very beginnings. The kind of Druid that I hope to be is more of gentle guide/mentor, helping others to find their own Paths that work for them. That doesn’t mean that anyone who comes to me for that kind of assistance would automatically be pointed to Druidry. Just because this is the path for me does not mean that I think it is the path for everyone. Hardly.

Now that’s where I hope to go with my Druidry. At the moment; however, I have the cart that is my Spiritual Path at the side of the road. I need to repair a few things before I continue.🙂

What Do I Hope to Have Happen Beyond This?

This is probably the trickiest question that I could ask myself right now. As I noted before: goals change as you change. However, where I am right now is where I will focus from. I hope to finish my Ovate grade and be allowed to continue into my Druid grade. I hope to finish that grade as well. After that, I am not sure. Maybe studies with another order – most likely not ADF. ADF’s focus is far more along the lines of ritual than I wish to go. However, I hope to maintain good and friendly relations with ADF members going into the future. They are just very different Druids than I am – and I am well aware of how different their direction is from my own. I hope to become a functioning Priest of some sort through my studies with OBOD or even within another Druidry order. However, that part of my Path is so far into the distance that I can hardly make out the footsteps that I may have to traverse at that point. That is an approach that I just cannot foresee at this moment. Beyond all of that, I have stronger ties that I need to make with Crow and Abnoba going into the future. My approach to Druidry is not going to blunt my relationship with my Gods, even when They have become quiet at this point along my Path.

Final Thoughts

Much of what I have explored here are personal perspectives and goals. Much of this is still evolving in my thought processes. None of this is really “final” in my mind nor will it ever be so until I pass from this plain of existence. And maybe, not even then. For that part of my Path, I have no idea what will take place. Sometime in the near future, I will need to stop, and take some time to reevaluate all of this. As I said, goals change as people change. I can say that much of this is not the goals of where I was, say, ten years ago. I am not the same Pagan I was ten years ago. I am not the same Druid I was ten years ago. I am not the same person I was ten years ago. My perspective was different then. My connections to the world around me were different then. Some of all that is still the same, but not much of it. We grow. We change. We evolve. We understand things differently over time. So, in the future (not so far away), sitting down and seeing how things have changed, how my goals have altered, how I have grown – all of that and more will need to be reevaluated. But for now, this moment, this is where I am.

–T /|\

Rebuilding My Druidry

Towards the end of the 2020 year, I wrote several posts that discussed how my Druidry needed to change in order to work better with where I am, and where I intend to take my Spirituality. To put it into a more appropriate context, this is a lot like trying to add upgrades to a car. Much like that process, the first steps are to tear things down completely, see what you have to work with, and then rebuild from the base up. For me, I have essentially just disassembled everything within my Spirituality, and am now working through what I have available to me.

In a previous post, I discussed how my Druidry placed me in a position of danger. This came from a perspective of seeing Druids as “peacemakers” and that Druidry was about trying to soothe over ruffled feathers from any direction. While there are likely folks within Druidry that will see both of those as correct perspectives for their Druidry, it’s not for my own. The first steps for me in this entire process is building my new boundaries of where I will allow my Druidry to take me, and where those boundaries will limit who gets to cross through into what I do.

I have spent countless hours thinking about and slowly developing my personal boundaries. For those who think its an easy and seamless process – bully for you. For me, its not been an easy process, and is continually being shaped as I progress through what I am doing. My personal boundaries are in place for me, not for others. Coupled with my own identification of where my limits are at, it means that my Druidry will not allow me to be reckless or overly open with my own personal energies. This is a major change for me. I cannot just extend myself for any individual any longer. For me to be anything for anyone else – I have to be something for myself first. Think of it in terms of making sure that you have things covered for you before you try to cover the same things for others. A good example of this is when flight attendants will tell you to insure that your oxygen mask is on before trying to help others get theirs on.

There is more to all of this, though. When rebuilding a car, all of the body parts are taken to a particle blast to remove paint and expose the bare metal. By doing this, flaws in the body work can be uncovered and repaired. Bad repairs will also be exposed, so that those can be dealt with as well. This is a process I am still working through. For instance, as I pointed out, my ideals behind what Druidry is – in respect to what I do in my own Spirituality – have now been challenged. And found lacking in some respects. Now, I am going through the process of repairing some of this additional shit that no longer applies. Well, not really repairing. More like removing. By doing so, I am rebuilding the body of what my Spirituality is by finding the definitions that really speak to my Spirituality, uncovering the concepts that have primary meaning to who I am – and finding how these apply to who I am.

So, what kind of Druid am I? Well, I’m still me. I don’t really like the idea of pushing the definitive aspects of myself into a single descriptive hole. I’m just me. The kind of Druid that I am? Again, I’m me. Currently, I am studying under the system provided by the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids (OBOD). But when I am done – wherever the end of that road winds up being – I am still just me. What I learn through OBOD is good material. Will I use all of what I learn? Probably not. But I will adapt what I learn that is useful for me. Will I learn from other systems? Possibly. Will I learn from other Paths? I already have. Some of what I have already learned is what makes me who I am today. Some of it, is just knowledge that I have squirreled off to the side. It’s not a part of my Spirituality, but its a part of a toolkit that I can pull out when I need to, and alter as I feel I need to. I am not bound to any particular methodology.

Not that long ago, Shadow had referred to me as being like the Mandolorian on the Disney+ tv series. I do what I have to do to get things finished. Sometimes, it’s not the most polite way to achieve the ends to that means. However, it’s the toolkit I had in hand at that moment. I’m not on my Spiritual Path to make other people happy. But I have certainly walked my Path in that matter. I can’t do that any more. At least I can’t do that, and stay true to who I am, and where I am meant to walk. I have to change the ways that i have done things in the Past, so that I can continue forward. That goes for my Spirituality as well. I am finding that my Path is starting to dip to areas I had never considered before. A darker side of the forest, if you will. For me to walk here, I am going to have to be far more true to myself than I have been.

I still have a long way to go before I can start fine-tuning the motor, before I can paint the body, before I can work with the interior – but this is a start. Yes, I will continue talking about the steps that I take, here on the blog. Yes, I can guarantee you that there will be many people that will disagree with some of the things that I do and some of the changes I make. But I can promise you this – what I do will be true to what I need to do. Your mileage will definitely vary.

–T /|\

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A Chance to Be Me, Once Again

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood.” Thus begins my favorite Robert Frost poem, “The Road Not Taken”. The poem itself is a wonderful metaphor about the one thing we all have in our lives – choices. Do we do this? Do we do that? How do we decide? What logic should we apply? Shall we flip a coin? Or just go whichever way seems to be more appealing? We all face moments like these in our lives. Several times over. Sometimes in a single day. Or even in a single hour.

Whatever the time frame and whatever the methodology that we use to make those choices – we make them. And sometimes, after we make them – we wonder why we wanted to go down this extremely difficult road we are on. Why didn’t we choose the other direction? Or later on in life, we wonder what would have happened if we had made a different choice at that time. And I cannot tell you the number of times I have done this. In the last few days. Yes, the good old “what if” game. But here’s a hint, that game will do nothing but erode your confidence in the choices you made.

Given enough time, that erosion can eat away at who you are, and the way you approach everyday life. The constant second-guessing can pull you back from making future choices. It can leave you second-guessing the easiest and most mundane choices in life. What kind of smoothie should you get at Smoothie King? Add-ons? Do you want the sweetener or not? It can become bad enough that you don’t know what to do with so many choices.

In the Information technology world, this can sometimes be referred to as analysis paralysis. Where you turn over every choice in your mind so much that you spend all your time trying to figure out what to do – rather than making a choice. You find yourself not making a choice – or at least not making a choice on time. And that lack of making choices can erode your self-confidence too. Don’t scoff. This is part of what has happened to me.

In my past, I was known for quick assessments of situations and then making quick, decisive choices of how to repair the situation as best as possible. One Friday night in the bunker at the Air Force installation I was stationed at, our command post’s outside communication lines were not working. Somewhere between our bunker and the primary communications relay that was three-hundred-plus miles away, we had no communications sync. Our command post was the airborne early warning system and radar facility for the southern European portion of the NATO theater. Within five minutes, I determined that our lines were dead. I looked at the overhead outbound lines and saw the German civilian communications lines next to ours. A quick test showed that those lines were still working. Our traffic could easily be routed through those lines and remain as encrypted packages. So I had our lines in our duty section cut, right next to a cut in those lines. We spliced the good civilian lines to our lines and the command post was back online. Four hours later, when our lines were repaired, we returned the communications patch back to what it was meant to be and everything worked as it had been. The fix was unorthodox and not precisely legal. However, it was about results – which is what I was known for. I was confident that the fix would work. I was confident that the temporary patch would not be around past the end of our shift. And I was prepared to take the punishment if any was to be meted out. Decisive, minimal analysis of risk v. reward, confident in what needed to be done.

In the past six months to a year — current me would never have adhered to this fix. I would spend too much time trying to determine who might be mad, and then trying to find ways to appease everyone. I would be over-analyzing the situation and making too many assumptions over how any group of people may or may not have felt. Too many “what ifs” to try and formulate, rather than seeing a solution and making it work. Even if it was just a temporary fix until a more appropriate, permanent one would come along later. That’s just one example. And a fairly extreme one at that.

What if I had been caught using civilian lines to make military traffic flow at a time when a line investigation/repair was needing to be accomplished? I’d hate to even contemplate it. But coming back to the point – I made a decision, utilized it to keep operations going. The amount of analysis I put into figuring out what to do was not much. I looked for solutions and I used them. And if there is one thing I can look back at my career and know – it’s that I am a valuable troubleshooter. Provide me with a problem, I’ll find a solution.

What I need to do going into my future is reapply this thinking to everyday life. Look at things, find a solution, move forward. In the end, there will be mistakes that get made. There will be repercussions for some mistakes or actions taken. But, as long as I am ready to take the responsibility for what I do…these will already be a part of my thinking. Risk analysis is a definitive part of my career. It’s long past time that I returned to a perspective of providing results and stop worrying about how elegant the process was getting there or who might get angry over me doing so. As has been noted before, the “peacemaker Druid bullshit” is not going to fly very often, particularly where results are needed. Toes will get stepped on. Feelings may get hurt. But in the end, getting results is where my confidence has always been highest. And I know I can return to that perspective. Because I have to. Without that self-confidence, I am no good to anybody – especially myself.

Two roads did diverge in the woods…I took the one less traveled. And it has made all the difference in who I am. I learned how to navigate. I learned how to see the woods for what they are: an adventure that starts every morning when I open my eyes. A chance to be me, once again.

–T /|\

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Don’t Solve the Jigsaw Puzzle Alone

Life is always full of change. Those who know me well are aware of how difficult it is for me to deal with lots of change at once. Over the years, I have learned to solve problems and issues one step at a time – after all, it is the easiest way to figure things out or at least that’s how it seems to me. Even within a magickal aspect of life, it is easier to figure out the lay of the land and then go from there. Sometimes, it means starting over – even when you didn’t intend for that to happen.

For me, the first place to start in working through change is to get everything laid out before you. Not solving it but trying to figure out what needs to be taken care of first and what depends on something else to be done before it can be tackled. A lot of this process means bringing things to a complete stop and setting everything out in front of you. Kind of like a jigsaw puzzle. The way I tend to approach that is to find all the border pieces first, and then build that. After that, I try to sort the rest of the pieces into colors and details that I can figure out on the box until I have distinct piles for each area. Typically, I also have a pile of “unknown” pieces, which could fit anywhere in the puzzle. Then I pick a section and work on that from the border towards the inside until I get stuck. Then I move to a different area and keep working through things until I get it put together. I use a very similar approach to dealing with many changes all at once.

Here’s the bad part to all that process. In doing all of that, I have a great tendency to draw into myself. Trying to figure things out the best that I can, so I can move forward. I have been working this process for so long, I am used to relying on myself to get things figured out. Very rarely do I go to others for help. And that’s a problem. See, it winds up pushing people away when they want to help the most. Many people do not always understand when that happens, and they only see you withdrawing into yourself. What makes it even worse, is that it is also a self-defense mechanism of mine, so I am quite used to the idea of utilizing it when I feel I need to protect myself. It is a definite habit. And one that I was not really all that aware of until a few days ago.

There has been a lot of change in my life over the last few weeks. Enough that I don’t feel as protected and sure of the ground beneath my feet, as I should. That’s not saying that there is not a solid foundation beneath me or that I am not at all protected, because both of those are true. There is a solid foundation, there is protection….it is just not the same as what I have been used to. Trying to get myself accustomed to this different feeling is rough at times because it is not familiar to me, yet. Plus, there are quite a few other issues that are making me feel vulnerable and weak – which also make me feel that things are unstable and unsure.

So, it became time to set all the pieces out before me and look through them one by one. I needed to determine which pieces could be dealt with right away and which were dependent on others. After that, came the need to prioritize what needed to be done against what could be done, as well as figuring out where I needed to ask for help. Then there were the things that had dependencies laid upon them. After figuring that out, it was a matter of where and when to start…the answer was…today (Monday as I write this).

Now, there are parts of all this that look nothing like I wanted Life to be. In a manner of speaking, it felt like a hard, driving rain had fallen over me and I could see no further than a foot in front of my face. What this perspective really is, is my brain looking for the absolutely worst possible scenario to whatever I am trying to do. Just looking for the other shoe to drop. Except there never was a first shoe. Much of this type of thinking was reinforced during my days working in Risk Mitigation and Disaster Recovery. Always look for the worst possible thing to happen. When it doesn’t, everything is better than you thought. That works in the Risk Mitigation perspective, but it is a horrible way to go through Life. You wind up seeing the worst in everything and you miss the beauty of the moment. I know, I’ve been there very, very recently.

Remember the jigsaw puzzle? Well, realize this – once you finish putting all the pieces together, you’ll have a beautiful picture that you worked hard to assemble. There’s beauty in what you are seeing. There’s beauty and accomplishment in putting it together. Yes, it was in pieces in front of you before you started. But you got organized, got it together, worked hard on it, and put it back together. Look through that process and you will see where joy and beauty can be found throughout. That’s the secret to getting things done. Sure, some of it is unpleasant, difficult, and just not what you would like to do. But you managed to get through it and come out the other side with that feeling of accomplishment and joy.

One last thought. When you are trying to put all of this together….avoid the trap that I climb into all the time: thinking you have to do it all by yourself. Even if all the work must be done by you, there are those in your Life who want to be standing by your side throughout all of it. They want to be there to offer you advice, encouragement, and support. Don’t curl up inside of yourself and cut them off, just to spare them some concept of difficulty. Don’t assume that you know how they are going to react to anything. Let them in. Let them be a part of all of it, even if all they can do is cheer you on. Remember, these people love you. They wouldn’t be a part of your life otherwise.

–T /|\

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My Druidry Fits to Me – Not the Other Way Around

In writing Tuesday’s blog, I came across a realization that explains a lot of issues I have had over the past year with my own Druidry.

I slid into my ‘Druid peacemaker bullshit’ role and set about trying to be everything for everybody. And that shit just isn’t going to work. Fact of the matter, that shit is going to get me hurt or to be even more dramatic – killed. Instead of trying to live up to some romanticized aspect of what Druidry is, I need to start living up to how Druidry fits into Tommy. Druidry doesn’t get to dictate my concepts of boundaries, safety, and discretion – I do.

As I have been reading up on Druidry from so many different perspectives, I started to fall for the romanticized archetypes of what a Druid is. The images of Getafix from Asterix the Gaul, Merlin from any of the Arthurian tales, the idea that Druids are essentially the Priests of their communities….all of that served to create mental images of how I should be trying to shape my own Spiritual Path. And those mental images have served to set my feet slightly off the Path that I am trying to walk. I am no Getafix. I am hardly any kind of Merlin in whatever Arthurian dream that has or will come along. As a Druid, I am me – Tommy. For me to try and be anything else, is just disingenuous.

Part of what I am getting at with this is that your Druidry studies are about finding you. Not locating some “Merlin” inside you. Not discovering a hidden “Getafix” hidden back somewhere behind your spleen. Druidry is about making you into the best “you” that can be shaped through its framework. You don’t live inside Druidry. Druidry lives inside you. I would also hold that this goes for any system of mysteries and study that you can find. The idea is not to make you into something that you’re not, but to discover what is inside you already and highlighting that in a positive manner that works best for you.

As I noted, Druidry doesn’t get to dictate who and what I am – I do. Druidry informs me of things I may not have been aware of. In that manner, Druidry helps me to shape my perspective on some topics. Druidry also helps me to be aware of perspectives that I may not have considered. Druidry, for me, is about finding my connections to the world around me – not defining those connections. That is still up to me.

But here’s what Druidry is not to me. Druidry does not tell me how to be me. Druidry does not make me a Priest. It can be helpful in getting to that point, but it’s not going to turn me into something I really am not. Druidry does not dictate how I approach issues that I come across in the world around me. Druidry does not force me to abandon my own boundaries, my own perception of safety nor dictate what shape my discretion may take. All of that is maintained, managed and determined by me. Druidry does not get to turn me into something that I am not. Period. End of story.

In a manner of speaking this is me placing boundaries on what my Druidry does and does not do for me. Another area that I have had to reconsider my perspective on is magick use. I have discussed this before in the post (link to previous post here). So, in a manner of speaking, I have been doing a lot of rethinking about where my Druidry has me at this point. Much of that rethinking has me backtracking in my Ovate studies. Yes, that sounds like a bad thing, but it’s not. This is allowing me to go back over what I had previously gone through and see what changes in my mindset there may be. But I am also acutely aware that much of my thinking and thought processes may be antithetical to what others believe about their Druidry. However, that fits well with the way I see Druidry studies. When you study Druidry, you learn the ritual patterns, the chants, the words of wisdom – just the same as everyone else. But its application is individual. How it fits into your life is your business. You get to dictate how it fits and matters to your life. It’s as simple as that.

An individualistic approach. That is precisely how I see things working. Every individual studying Druidry will be their own type of Druid. As an example, some will strictly be Bards. Some will be singers. Some will be musicians. Some will be poets. Some will be storytellers. Some will be artists of so very many different stripes. But regardless of the type of Bard that they wind up being…they are still individuals. They are not the same. They let their Druidry be a part of them in a manner that befits them – not to fulfill some silly, romantic archetype. They are the type of Bard that they are, the type of Druid that they are because it fits them. They allow their Druidry to fit them, not letting themselves trying to fit some archetype.

So, if you are thinking of studying Druidry – or any other mystery school or any Spiritual tradition – remember that whatever it is, it needs to fit you. You should not have to shoehorn yourself into some Path’s archetypes. You should be finding ways for your Spirituality to fit inside of you. When you begin to lose who you are, the benefit of your Spiritual Path will wind up being shit and useless for you. In that vein, I will leave only one law that I have when it comes to one’s personal Spirituality – be who you are. Change for the right reasons. But never compromise who you are when doing so. You will be far happier in the end, in my opinion.

–T /|\

Tiptoeing into Leadership Concepts

Leader. There is no other word in the English language that scares the shit out of me. Especially when applied to me. Yet, there are people who claim to see this capability in me. Shit, even the United States Air Force claimed to see the ability in me. They TRAINED me to be a leader. It’s what they expected of those who were on the upward progression of the enlisted rank ladder. Every time I have had this applied to me by others – I completely freeze up. Because somewhere inside of me is this little voice which laughs out loud as it tries to spit out the phrase: “Who? You?”

In the past, I have written a few blog posts here and there noting that I am not a leader. I have utilized self-deprecating humor at nearly every turn to deflect the concept away from me. Over and over again, I have denigrated myself as not the kind of person that others would follow. All of that to convince myself that I am not capable of stepping in front of a group of people and leading them forward into….something.

A few folks would think I am a natural at this, given that I used to teach face-to-face in a Community College classroom. I’ll be honest, every single new semester, I spent the first three weeks being absolutely terrified in front of my students. The shorter Summer terms, I was an even greater wreck. Granted, they were a captive audience, but I still had to find ways to persuade them to complete assignments on time. While I loved being the professor in the classroom, there was always a tinge of terror behind my attempted calm demeanor.

One of the hardest things to be a leader on in the classroom environment was group assignments. Every student I know hated these. The reasoning was simple. No one likes having to rely on other’s for their class grade. But for me, it was (and is) perhaps the most important method for teaching folks about teamwork and leadership styles. I stressed to the students that the emphasis was not so much on the final product of the team assignment – though it would be graded for completeness and other aspects – but it was about the way that they worked together. many students would not wait for their weakest links to complete parts of the assignment, instead doing those parts for them. There was no perspective of helping the weaker student learn from what was being done – just an emphasis on getting it done. Whenever I caught wind of stuff like this, I quickly put a stop to it.

Why? Because I truly believe in supporting one another. One thing I’ve learned in nearly three and a half decades of working, teams are more than a collective of people to get a job done. Teams are places where folks can be free to be who they are (within “civilized” reason), as well as places where support mechanisms are built. Stuck on a coding problem? Come on down to Tommy’s cube and let’s discuss what the issue is. We can work together to come up with potential ideas, no matter how off-beat it may seem. Any option is a potential solution. Working together is something we all should be doing. That way, when times get tough, we have places to turn for various kinds of help. Got issues with your computer system? I can help. I’ll charge you a meal. Simple as that. Teamwork helps build concepts of community.

Now,  I get paralyzed by the concept of being a leader because I don’t like being first out of the gate. I’m always worried that no one will follow. I’m also worried about always being seen as the one with the responsibility to get things done. You know, where one person does all the work but everyone else shares in the results? I like it better when everyone shares in the work and responsibilities and then share in all the results. But these are not the only reasons I freeze up. I always worry when people see me as the measuring stick. That everyone has to do things the way that I do, so they will get similar results. My idea of leadership is a little different. I let other people do their thing. When they need help, they can come to me for assistance. I’m not going to do the work for you, but I will suggest alternate ways to get beyond whatever obstacle you encounter. Perhaps, my style of leadership can be better described as mentorship. Except that I am still not adverse to rolling up my sleeves and getting the work done. I’ve never been sure what kind of leadership that is, but it’s the way I get things done. But whatever it is….it’s more me than anything else.

Sure, the concept of being out front still scares the shit out of me. I’m always worried when people see me as the guy with all the answers – because that definitely ain’t me. I am; however, the guy who will go and do the research and try to find the answers you are asking for. The real truth is, no matter how scared I am of the idea of being the first…no matter how much I fear the idea of being seen as the guy with the answers….I can be viewed as a leader in some fashion. So, instead of running from that concept, I’ll have to embrace it.

Being the person that is viewed as a leader is a scary prospect. At least it is for me. I always worry about making mistakes and disappointing people with my choices. However, making mistakes and disappointing folks comes with the territory. A better way to deal with this, in my opinion, is to listen to the criticisms and not take it too personally. And to listen to the praise as well. Though I’m never great at taking praise as much as I am at taking criticism. But that’s a post for another time.

–T /|\

My old classroom

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

Break Glass in Case of Emergency

So, let me tick off a list of things that I said I hardly ever do in my own Druidry practices. Spell work, check. Well planned and thought out ritual (as opposed to impromptu or off-the-cuff ritual), check. Darker magicks, check. Tarot cards, check. You will find a lot of commentary based around all of that throughout the blog. Well, guess what? Never, say never. You’re reading that correctly. In the last two weeks, parts of my Druidry have crossed over into the areas that I, personally, would ascribe as being much closer to Witchcraft than Druidry. What in the Nine Hells happened, huh? Mostly circumstance and need, but this illustrates the particular point of never saying never. All of these particular techniques can basically be considered as arrows in the quiver. And while those arrows may never be used until a need arises, what happens when you start to stretch and flex these magickal muscles that haven’t been used? And does it mean that my Druidry is changing?

Knocking the Rust Off

I have always said that magick use for me is always the option of last resort. I’m a Druid. I like to talk my way out of things, if possible. I like to find ways for cooler heads to prevail. If that does not work, physical mundane means are usually the next position to take. Essentially, roll up your sleeves and get the work done. However, if that is not possible – the last option is to turn to magick. This is a little flawed logic. Yes, I am admitting to using flawed logic in my approach to various things. Because, sometimes magick should be the first option, particularly if you are trying to bend the Will of another to see reason. No, I am not saying start throwing the curses the moment shit doesn’t go your way. Not at all. Rather, utilize some subtle magicks to help the other side see reason in an issue. Then, the talky bit might work a little better. Consider it to be greasing the hinges so the door doesn’t squeak, if you prefer. For me, this was a pretty tough realization to come to. It changes a lot of the tactics I have utilized in various dealings. This also means that I have to knock the rust off of a lot of techniques I have not used in years.

Flexing Muscles That Haven’t Been Used in Years

One of the very first magickal techniques I ever learned was shielding. My shielding was built a few decades ago. That’s right. Decades. Due to the recent changes in my life, I have been battered in ways I never could imagine. It took about a week to realize that my own personal shielding just wasn’t holding up. The problem for me was that I had literally forgotten how my shielding had been built. So I needed advice on what to do. So I turned to the person that taught me about shielding. Folks, I have been on a Pagan path for well over thirty years and here I was approaching an old friend on how she had taught me to build shielding because I had actually forgotten how. There’s a short lesson here – do not be afraid to reach out for help, no matter how long you have been on your Path. Realize when you are in over your head and find that lifeline you need. A quick re-learn-it session over Facebook Messenger, and I was ready to rebuild and reinforce my shielding. Even with the warnings about drawing too much energy to yourself, I did it anyway. I wound up being wide awake for most of the night. See, I wasn’t USED to using those muscles anymore. As Shadow had reminded me, much like coding – when you don’t practice it, you lose it and have to do some relearning. These are muscles that have weakened from disuse because my philosophical perspective was not entirely appropriate.

Is My Druidry Changing?

Three days after that, I have done two more rituals with intent and purpose behind them. One of those was my usual impromptu style ritual, which – well just didn’t have a lot of the “zing” (for lack of a better  word) I expected it to have. The other, I spent some time crafting out the pieces of the ritual. I included a list of things that were needed for the ritual. I included a set of semi-readable instructions for setting up for the ritual prior to creating Sacred Space. I wrote a step-by-step ritual with spoken and non-spoken aspects. I included an aspect of disposing of the detritus left over from everything. When I did the ritual, I was not great at what I was doing. I did not flow well within the ritual with my spoken parts and my non-spoken parts. I stopped several times to figure out where I was and what needed to be done next. From a theatrical perspective, it was shit. However, what was in my heart, what I brought forward from my soul….that made up for the shit part. I have always said that heartfelt intent is better than theatrics any single day of the week. But after I got done, I started looking back at all I have done over the course of two weeks (about sixteen days). As I noted, many of these things I have done have a feel that is closer to Witchcraft than Druidry. So I began to wonder out loud if my Druidry was changing into something else??

I had hoped to have a quote from one of Philip Carr-Gomm’s books for right here, but most of my personal library is sitting in a box in what will be my bedroom soon enough. So, in the meantime, I’ll have to improvise through this a little. Druids follow a path of Druidry. Witches follow their Paths in Witchcraft. However, there are some overlaps between the two, particularly in the usage of magickal workings. So, as I wring my magickal fingers and stretch my ritual muscles and re-learn processes that so many consider to be everyday basic stuff – much of these techniques have overlap between the two areas. So is my usage of techniques such as spell work, tarot cards for divination and what have you – changing me into a Witch? No, not really. What is happening is that I am re-learning techniques and concepts that I have set to the side for some very wrong perspectives. If you prefer, I am growing again in my Druidry in a direction I had previously not considered for anything other than a “break glass in case of emergency” moment. The reality is that I never needed to approach it from that point of view.

So, here’s where I admit that I am wrong about my perspective on magicks, spell usage, structured rituals, and tarot cards. And I further admit that my gorgeous editor AND my lifelong, always long-distance friend LL were both right. Unfortunately for me, it took a “break glass in case of emergency” moment to realize this. I’m just thankful that the two of them are gracious enough not to sing “I told you so” to my face too many times. 🙂 Finally, I would add this – take a good look at your “whys” when it comes to not using this or that magickal technique or concept. just check on it every once in a while. Turn it over in your mind and see if it still applies. Because you do change and grow, so do your perspectives.

–T /|\

Looking at the Tarot – My Perspective

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

Which Deck?

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

Which Layouts?

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

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

Not Knowing Attributes by Memory

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

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

Not Placing Faith in the Process

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

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

Is It the Deck or You?

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

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

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

–T /|\

Remembering What is Important

I have  question for you to think about. Have you ever decided that something was to be a priority in your life, only to let something else be more important according to your actions? Put another way, do your actions not match your words? I have. And very recently. I had to take a long few moments and (a) figure out what I was doing wrong, (b) figure out what I needed to do to change that, and (c) apologize to Shadow for doing it. And (d) have a long heart-to-heart over the entire aspect. What have you done when you’ve realized this? Froze and did nothing? ::raising hand:: I have been there too. Totally given up because you can’t see a way to change things?  ::raising other hand:: Been there too. ::looking at hands:: Oh look, I’m surrendering.

Let me try and explain the process that I have gone through. Maybe you will get something out of the methodology, maybe you won’t. But maybe reading what I went through, you might get something out of it.

Taking Stock of What You Are Doing

I was in a position where my actions were not matching my words. In short, I kept balking at making a commitment. I sat down and took stock of what I had been doing and why I made something else my top priority over what I had said I would do. To be completely open and honest, I went through a similar struggle when Crow first introduced himself into my Life. Crow had agreed to take me under his wing, so to speak, but kept making demands of me that made me look comical. That is until I put my foot down and demanded to know why I was being treated as a fool. Part of that answer was that there was a need for me to have a backbone, even to a God. The other part of that answer came in a statement questioning my commitment to the relationship I had entered into. To try and figure out what I needed to do, I had to understand out just what I had been doing. Taking stock of everything in my life, documenting in my head the things I had committed to and what was most important was the start. After I had that squared away in my mind, the next step was to figure out what priorities I was actually putting first.

Checking Against Priorities

This particular step sounds easy, but it requires a lot of analyzing your actions against your words. It also requires crystal clear honesty with yourself. And that honesty can really cut deep. Remember, you’re trying to reconcile your stated priorities over the reality of what you are doing. You are questioning everything you are doing against everything you have said. With Shadow, my Honor and my Word are paramount things. When I say I am going to do something, that Honor requires me to do just that. My Word becomes sacrosanct at that moment. Not doing what I said I was going to do or dragging my feet over the issue is not providing any of that. With Crow, it was also a manner of doing what I had said and intended in a timely manner. When I didn’t follow through over a couple of months, it became a frank statement of whether I was going to be faithful to my stated oath.

Change and Owing Up to Your Mistakes

Altering a pattern of behavior can be difficult, especially if you are comfortable with that pattern. Finding the balls to make that change also means you have to admit that you were wrong. Not just to yourself but to those you have wronged. Trust me, that’s not an easy thing to do. Especially when you expect someone to tear you apart over the matter. In this, I’m lucky. Shadow is a kind person, willing to listen, and completely capable of forgiving. Yes, I fucked up. There is a ghost of our pasts that I will have to continually fight to make amends. I have a sword, a staff, and two knives. I am willing to fight that Ghost whenever it arises. And it will arise.

Crow was a matter of atonement over a period of time, followed by immediately doing what had been asked of me.  Patching that issue up took a lot of work and it continually means that I am looked at concerning living up to my bargains.

In both instances, its a matter of changing behavior. Proving you can live up to your word. Not just once, but continually. It’s all a matter of rebuilding and solidifying that trust factor. If you look at it and think that it’s not worth it – you will walk away. I believe it’s not only worth it, but its what must be done. I am not walking away. I have no intention of doing so.

Remembering to Stop and Recheck

One of the most difficult things to remember to do in going forward is to periodically stop and check with how you are doing. For Shadow and I that will mean occasionally coming back to this conversation and making sure I am still setting my priorities correctly. It also means that we will need to check on how she is doing as well, as well as how we are doing together. Relationships require work, honesty, very open communication, and effort. There will be smiles, happiness, joy, sorrow, tears, and even angry moments. But sitting down and re-checking things from time to time is a helpful side of checking the health of things and listening to how things can be made better.

With Crow, things like this are not that easy to work through. There is a lot of give and take when working with the Gods, as well as understanding how everything is moving along. Gods are not always as expressive about where your relationship is with them. So there’s a lot of unspoken cues you have to work with, especially in how you are being treated. You can ask a direct question along those lines – just don’t expect a direct answer.

Don’t Forget the Apology

Lastly, don’t forget the apology. Particularly, if you are considered to be in the wrong. Don’t argue the semantics of rightness or wrongness. Forget that nonsense. It’s not a battle of right and wrong. Its an issue of manners and respect. Treat your partner as an equal, not an inferior. Shadow is my equal. I never, ever forget that. And as my equal, I do my best to work through feelings and emotions in ways that I expect she would do for me.

I offered an apology to Crow for my inability to do things the right way. I never received an acknowledgment of that apology. But Gods work differently than humans do. What we may perceive as offense behavior might be simple, everyday behavior to Them, and vice versa. Still, I felt the need and desire to apologize, so I did.

Conclusion

Look folks, there’s a time to be stubborn about things when you are in a relationship. There is also a time to acknowledge when you make mistakes. The relationship Shadow and I have is a paramount priority in my life…for somewhere around fourteen years of our lives to this point. I will do anything to make sure things are right, especially when I do the wrong thing. Crow and I don’t have nearly as much time in our relationship. However, it’s still important to me. If it wasn’t, I would not feed time and energy into it, I would merely walk away. Check your priorities against your word. See if they match. If they do, awesome sauce! But if they don’t – and the relationship in question is supposed to be a high priority of importance…change what you’re doing to match what you’re saying. Trust me, every ounce of energy you put into the process is worth it. There will be tears. There may even be some anger. But you need to face all of that to start making the change you need to. I’m extremely happy that I made that effort.

NOTE: Much thanks to Shadow for her editing on all of this. Not just in the small, basic typos that I make, the capitalization mistakes that make my writing suffer, but for all the love and patience she provides me. I truly would be lost without her.

–T /|\

Samhain Approaches….That Time of Year

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

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

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

What do you do for Samhain?

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

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

Endings, Beginnings

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

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

Diving Deeper and Darker

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Grateful Dead, “Ripple”

Wichtelmännchen on One’s Spiritual Path and Everyday Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–T /|\

Circling Back to Gate Keeping….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–T /|\

Frightened of the Future But Still Hopeful

After I had written Thursday’s blog, My Oaths Place Me on Common Ground, I got challenged over it with a single question:

So you’re scared of the future?

The question stung enough to hurt, but it also let me offer up a glimpse into things that I see and rarely talk about. My response:

Yes. Yes, I am scared. Scared of a future where healing doesn’t take place. Scared of a future that continues deeper down a dark trail humanity seems to already be on. Sure, admitting that I am scared of what a future may bring can seem like a cowardly perspective to some. To me, its a position of reality. It doesn’t change who I am. It doesn’t change what I am willing to be in service to my Gods and to my fellow humans. But I am scared…not just for me, my family, my friends…but for everyone. Take that however you want to.

Many folks that I talk with are citing the election as the point they are focused on. If America elects Donald Trump, the country goes to shit. If America votes him out, the country is immediately better. I stopped looking at that point some time ago. I’m now looking beyond and seeing a huge chasm between folks here in the United States. In fact, I’m seeing that chasm stretch beyond the United States and out into the world beyond. Here in America, we are deeply divided by our values. Our governmental system was founded on the idea of compromise and common ground. Now, common ground has been eroded away from the advanced widening and depth between two polar opposites. Compromise is seen as a sign of utter capitulation and weakness. When I look beyond the election, I seriously wonder how two sides with a “my way or the highway” mentality will ever reach a point of compromise, much less the necessary point of healing that desperately needs to take place. If the Republicans win, I only see the divide deepening. Should the Democrats win, I cannot fathom the Republicans stepping up to work with the Democrats. I have no idea how things change for the better.

As I started writing this, I was playing Joe Satriani on shuffle, and his song “I Believe” came on. if you would like to hear the song, just follow this YouTube link. The lyrics struck a deep, resonating chord in me, so let me juxtapose my thoughts against the song.

I’ve been out walking, for hours
I got something on my mind
How did we get here? Where are we going?
Why is life so hard

I admit, walking is one of the things I do when I really need to think. I might even be able to walk from here to Houston with all that is on my mind. (Note: that is a distance of some 208 miles, which Google maps thinks would take me about 68 hours to do. In reality, as slow as my aging carcass goes, it would probably be closer to 80 hours) But the song asks the pertinent questions,. How did we get here? Where are we going? For the first question, there are a lot of factors, issues and moments in History that got us to this point. For me; however, the more pressing question is the second. Just where are we going? To be honest, I don’t really know. I see a dark, dark time coming here in America on November 5th. There is a strong likelihood that we will not know who won the election, an even stronger likelihood that the election will be strongly contested in various states by both candidates, and with all of that, violent unrest among the followers of the candidates. That violent part is not speculation on my part; there has already been violence between anti-Trump folks and Trump supporters leading into this election.

I read the stories, see the photographs
World’s a crazy space
Got to hold on to my dreams
There’s just no other place
There’s just no other place

I have tried my very best not to get caught up in all the craziness of the election cycle and the various things that the President says or claims. He enjoys a chaotic atmosphere around him, as it lets him obfuscate actions that would not be tolerated by others. Think of the axiom: “Watch the right hand, so you don’t notice what the left hand is doing.” I try my very best to remain on that island of common ground, which is slowly eroding away like a shallow sandbar under the pressures of a hurricane coming ashore. To keep myself sane, I focus on my dreams…my dreams for the future. My dreams…my goals of what I want to accomplish (and I still have a lot to accomplish). My dreams….and all that I need to do to crawl, claw, and fight my way to what I feel is right. Sometimes even that is not enough and I have to stop what I am doing. Stop to try and catch my breath in the whirling dervish of Trump’s news cycle. Stop to ground myself against all of that chaos and remind myself of where I am trying to go. And hope that everyone else can do the same.

I’ve seen the shadows, of the living
I’ve seen them turn and walk away
And I keep searching, for the right words
To send these thoughts away

There’s a picture, I like to look at
A picture of a beautiful face
And I see something, in her eyes
Sends me to a better place
Sends me to a better place

I am frightened. Frightened of what the future holds. Not just for me, my family, my friends or the tribe that I hold dear. I’m frightened for everybody. Not just those who oppose President Trump but even for those who support him. Weird, huh? That I would fear for the very people that are opposed to my lifestyle and the lifestyles of the people that I love and care about. I should hate them, shouldn’t I? I should shun them, shouldn’t I? I should treat them as being beneath my contempt for them, right? Except that I can’t.

My Druidry teaches me that we are all here together. Our survival on this planet means that all of us need to be included in getting to a point of survival. Even those who don’t believe in the dangers of climate change. Even those who would bring us back to an oppressive Christian church, albeit that it would be an Evangelical Christian church position rather than that of the Catholic faith, previously. My Druidry teaches that Peace and Justice is for everyone and everything, not just a select few. And because of that, I look forward beyond Election Day here in the United States, and I do not see a future for Peace or Justice because I see no room for needed and necessary Healing. The Election is not going to change the fact that we are still struggling against a monolithic justice system that is systemically leaned against African Americans, Hispanics, First Nations peoples…essentially anyone that is not European, white descendant. We are still struggling against a government that rescinds treaties long ago agreed upon with the First Nations peoples because there are “necessary” resources on those lands that were ceded to them. Lands that should never have belonged to anyone because the land should be free. Make no mistake about it folks, the fights for freedom haven’t even really begun just yet. We are only wiping the sleep out of our eyes and climbing out of the bed at this moment.

I believe, we can change anything
I believe, we can rise above it
I believe, there’s a reason for everything
I believe, in my dream
I believe, we can change anything
I believe, in my dream

Yes, I am frightened of the future. I am frightened because I cannot see a good step going forward. Regardless of who gets elected, this nation has to figure out a way to heal this deep divide. A divide that goes way back into our collective histories. Not a few years, but a lot of years. A whole lot of years. An election is not going to heal this divide. An election is not going to change the way things stand in this nation, or even around the world.

There is a battle raging between fundamentalist perspective and the desire to change and grow. Seemingly, we have absolutely forgotten something – to borrow from Damh the Bard: “We are standing on the shoulders of Giants.” On both sides. They struggled for the changes they provided for us. For the foundations that we work from. There will be change coming. Make no mistake about that. Of that I am sure. I am just unsure of the shape it will take.

My Spirituality will get me through all of that which is to come. No matter how dark the road gets. No matter who wins the election. My Spirituality does not change. My faith in the Gods and Goddesses does not waver. My oaths to my Gods will not alter. My responsibility to others will not change. I am steadfast in all of that. But I am still frightened by what I see coming. Frightened for all of us.

By the way, the song mentioned that “I believe in my dream.” I do. With all my heart and soul. I believe in a world where all of our differences can be accepted as just that – differences. Not an item of contempt, but a point of celebration. That we are not all the same. That we are individuals with our own convictions, dreams and goals, living on this planet together as equals. How do we get there? By believing in that dream and acting on it, one at a time. Kristoffer Hughes once stated in a presentation of his that we all get our own Pagan Square mile. And that Pagan Square mile would be connected on all sides (think 3-d modeling here) by other people’s square miles. That we could find harmony living next to one other by respecting each other’s individuality. Its an idea I truly believe in. And as Kristoffer was also prone to say the idea can be passed on as a Druid Transmitted Infection, a DTI. Gods, I certainly hope and pray that it can be done, with a little love, care, understanding and patience. I certainly hope so.

My oaths, by the way, don’t change. My position is still meant to be there to help anyone on their own chosen Path – even if its not mine. That’s what my role apparently is to be. Through the blog, through whatever interactions we might have. You need help, ask. If I din’t have the answers or I don’t know exactly what to do, I know plenty of other people I can either bring you to or find answers from. Remember, as a wider Pagan community, I would hope we all desire to help others in need. Even when they are diametrically opposed to our values and lifestyle. Its about being human. #TwoQuid

–T /|\

My Oaths Place Me on Common Ground

I remember walking into the Military Entrance Processing Station in Shreveport, Louisiana on a cold February morning. Two weeks prior, I had finished a period of questions with my Air Force recruiter, signed my four-year contract and been given a photo-copied map of how to get here. I was the literal description of being the wide-eyed novice. I literally had no idea what I was doing or what was going to happen. My hearing was tested. My balance was tested. My eye-sight was tested. My teeth were checked. I was given a complete physical. Three weeks later, I was on a plane bound for San Antonio, Texas where I would enter the Air Force’s Basic Military Training, where my world was turned upside down. I had absolutely no idea what the future would hold. All I knew was that everything I remembered from high school was gone.

Earlier this morning, I sat here in my little office and listened to the rain beating again the window. Yesterday at this time, the outside temperature was right around 80 degrees and forecast to climb into the lower 90s before a strong cold front would come through. The rain I was listening to would be the last bits of rain, as the temperature changed to where it is now: the high fifties. Winter is beginning its call and Fall is being trumpeted forward. How fast it moves…well that’s another question, but when it does, Summer will have gone. I will be looking into a future that is unsure and thinking of all that has happened for the Spring and Summer of 2020.

This morning, that feeling of uncertainty sinks its roots deeper and deeper into my thoughts. Back in 1986, when I walked into that MEPS location, I was promising four years of my life to the military. Promising to be governed under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) and not the United States Constitution. Ironically, a document that I would be swearing to protect. And oddly enough an oath I still hold to this day, nearly forty years later. Oaths. A definite certainty that cannot be erased as easily as a blink of an eye erases the moment in time that you just experienced. I’ll come back to that in a bit.

When I joined the United States Air Force, tensions between the United States and the, then, Soviet Union were extremely high. The so-called “Doomsday Clock” had the world center at two minutes to midnight. Should the clock reach midnight, the world would be at nuclear war. Nuclear holocaust was at the back of nearly everyone’s mind. For me, it was very much at the forefront of my thinking. At that time, nuclear warfare doctrine held that only the United States Air Force (bombers and ground-hardened missile silos) and the United States Navy (submarine-based missiles) held the keys to launch nuclear weapons. I have been out of the military long enough that I am not completely sure this is the case any longer. However, I was joining a branch of military service that had the capability to wage the deadliest form of war on the face of the earth. Nuclear annihilation. I was nervous. I was scared. Much of the popular music of the time had a nuclear war theme to it, but none had a greater effect on me than Gary Moore’s “Victims of the Future” and Sting’s “Do the Russians Love Their Children Too?” Music has always had a major influence in my life. I always wondered, if peace could be found to a point where nuclear weapons would not be used — could we ever be friends with the Soviet Union?

In the United States, we sit on the precipice of an upcoming election. Another Presidential election where the choices are not ideal in the least. But forget about the Presidential election and the two party system’s candidates for a moment. The country has been literally torn in two over these two candidates and the ideologies that each “supports” as the chosen candidate for their party. The issues are acrimonious to the point of ripping friendships and families asunder, done in the name of patriotism and fidelity to the Constitution and claimed in equal parts by both sides. The lines of definition run deep and wide between the two sides creating chasms of difference that a single election is not going to heal. There are times I wonder, how can this country ever be pulled together again? How are we going to heal these deep wounds that fester, much less the ones that are going to be caused by whichever candidate wins the election? Much like that moment that I wondered how the United States and the Soviet Union could ever get along peaceable, I wonder the same thing about Democrats and Republicans here in the United States.

I spent eight years on Active Duty service in the Air Force. I spent time in a combat zone. I know what it means to wage war. But I also know what the objective of the military is for – to keep the peace. Some may not think so, but most military members that I know – both current and prior-service – prefer peace to war. What keeps the peace, for the most part, are the armies and the weapons of terrible destruction that stand in the position of promise, should their use be necessary. This doesn’t account for the various proxy wars that the United States and the Soviet Union have fought over the decades. However, it is the promise of the use of these terrible weapons that stands in the background, like a darkly shadowed Grim Reaper.

I see that same shadowed Grim Reaper standing in the alleyways and darkened recesses of nearby towering buildings, as protesters and law enforcement clash on the streets. Protesters wanting the laws to be equal and enforced. Law enforcement continuing to apply the law through tear gas and batons to those who disagree with their application of those laws. And I return to my thoughts, could these two sides ever comes to a delicate balance of peace? Could these two sides ever come to a point where they could pass one another on the street in calmer times and peacefully greet one another?

I recall mid-1987, my first full summer on a Strategic Air Command base – Carswell Air Force Base in Forth Worth, Texas. Home to two squadrons of B-52 strategic bombers and a full nuclear arsenal to load on to those planes. A mission to strike deep in Soviet territory in the event of war. And the summer where I finally decided to follow my Path of Paganism. From those early days, I was always drawn towards the idea that middle ground could always be found, no matter the issue at hand. How Libra of me…considering that I was born smack in the middle of that sign. Even then, I kept trying to find the role of the peace-maker. It would take another two years for me to reconcile my Pagan beliefs with my role within the military.

Picture by John Beckett, who takes amazing photos

I joke that I was never born to the concept of being a soldier. To this day, I don’t own a gun. I have no desire to have one; though I am quite capable of handling one. I prefer my staff, though I do lean on it more for walking these days instead of a manner of self protection. I am still quite capable of defending myself or others, should the need arise. My Druidry has taught me the value of observing before wading in. Sometimes, events are not as they seem the moment one walks up on them. So, with the protests, I watch. I support the need for change to police tactics when dealing with individuals. I also support the need to remove much of the military entrenchment that has become common-place in the police department. I live in small-town Texas; yet the nearest small city – Cleburne – possesses a military assault vehicle. Quite a shocking thing to see, which is precisely what it is meant for – shock tactics. But throughout all of that, I do support the police. I just feel that there needs to be necessary adjustment and changes. That balance that I walk, sometimes feel like I am walking barefoot on the sharp edge of a razor blade.

So, what drives me in these times of wide division? Where sides seem to be split into one side or the other with the simple statement: “if you are not with us, you are against us.” What keeps me focused and sane? My oaths. Just prior to my twenty-first birthday, I swore an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against aggressors foreign and domestic. Now, approaching the age of fifty-five, some twenty-six years since departing that military organization – I still hold that oath sacred. In 2015, I initiated as a Bard in the order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (OBOD). My initiation then set me on a Path of seeking peace and justice wherever I could find it. I also have an oath with Crow to do the work set forth for me. These three oaths comprise how I approach the world and events around me.

Where I currently live, directly across the street from me is an individual who has a Trump/Pence sign in his yard. He and his family just moved in two weekends ago. When he was outside this past weekend, we greeted one another from across the street. We were cordial and friendly to one another. I am not voting for Trump in the coming election. I believe Trump to be the number one threat to the Constitution of the United States. Why would I treat this man that supports him in a cordial manner? Because my oaths remind me that when all of this election stuff is over, we are still fighting COVID-19. When all of this election stuff is over, we need to sit down and have a super serious discussion on how to reform the police departments around this nation and find a way to set things into a more proper function. When all of this election stuff is over, Black Lives still matter and there is much work to be started, much less done. When all of this election stuff is over, we are all still Americans, a chosen community of geography and ideology. In the movie Gladiator, after Maximus has died on the sands of the Colosseum floor, Lucilla makes the statement:

Is Rome worth one good man’s life? We believed it once, make us believe it again. He was a soldier of Rome. Honor him.

George Floyd. Breonna Taylor. Atatiana Jefferson. Aura Rosser. Stephon Clark. Botham Jean. Philando Castille. Alton Sterling. Those listed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall. Those for whom the World War II memorial was created for. Those who lost their lives in Europe and are interred at Oise-Aisne. The countless others who lost their lives, unjustly, at the hands of police officers. And the countless number of police officers who lost their lives trying to perform their jobs to the best of their abilities. The 190,000+ who have died due to the lackluster efforts of this current administration, and despite the courageous efforts of those health workers on the front line.

Is America worth those lives and the countless others that I could not recall to add to the list? I think so. My oaths drive me towards that conviction. My oaths remind me, when everything is finished, when the dust settles….we are still bound to each other. Yes, here in America, but also throughout the world. We exist together. That’s why my feet and my staff are firmly planted on common ground. Because we have to start somewhere.

Thinking About: What Makes a Pagan, a Pagan?

Today’s blog post is in response to a statement posed by a friend on Facebook.

We pagans find it easier to agree on what we are NOT than what we are.

This one is going to be a tough one. Essentially, looking underneath the statement to find the underlying anchor stones, I get left with really wide-open questions. “What is Paganism?” “Why can Pagans not agree on a set of defining principles that bring a solid foundational aspect to what makes a Pagan?” All I can hope is that this post does more than muddy the waters. I do; however, love to play in the waters of the creek. 🙂

To a point, I am reminded of a moment in the tv show Babylon 5, where G’kar is trying to enlighten his fellow Narn as to the truths that he has found in his many moments of solitude. Moments that have changed him from the angry, raging warrior that he was in the earlier seasons to a seeker of self enlightenment that has curbed that anger and provided a much stronger, wiser, and far more peaceable character in the latter part of the show. I will link to the video of that segment below on YouTube. Try not to get thrown by the costuming too much and listen to what G’kar says. In the meantime, I’ll go make a cup of coffee.

I know it seems that I am making fun of the question, but really its not. This particular segment from the tv show has something that I believe is a quite often on display when trying to describe one’s beliefs to others – a lack of compatible wording or even a lack of compatible concepts. The theorem follows that if you ask ten Pagans to describe what Paganism is, you will get eleven different answers. That is just from those that are creating the message. More confuse will arise from those receiving the message. The term “Priest,” for example, means something vastly different to a Christian. Add more than one type of Christian, and the number of meanings gets even larger. The more people you add to the conversation, the more the meanings of words begin to change. The more meanings change, the more misunderstanding that arises from the conversation. So, how to describe a Pagan? How do we synthesize the many different beliefs and concepts of the very wide and vast collection of faiths and belief systems that are ascribed under the so-called “Big Tent of Paganism?” Perhaps, we don’t.

See, Christians have this easier (maybe). They have a holy writ, the Bible, from which their beliefs spring from. The idea of being a Christian is to follow the teaching of Jesus ben Joseph, otherwise known as Jesus Christ. The basic concept is that in following these teachings that, as a follower, you become more like Christ. Yet, even with the anchor stone of the Bible, Christians cannot agree who among that designation is or is not part of that group. Back when I worked in the college, one summer afternoon, I had lengthy discussion with someone I would describe as an evangelic Christian over the Christian nature of the Catholic faith. I pointed back to the anchor stone of the Bible as evidence of the Christian aspect of the Catholic faith. He pointed to the way the Catholic Church does not follow the teachings of Jesus ben Joseph as an example of how these followers were not Christians. All according to how he interpreted the Bible to be read. Yet both are part of the wider range of Christianity, depending on whose interpretation you follow.

So, in light of that difference within a faith, how do we define Paganism? Who gets to be in the “Big Tent” and who doesn’t? Because this is going to help determine the definitive lines that need to be drawn in the sand to identify what is a Pagan and what is not. Right? If you believe (x), you get to be in.

There was a Facebook page surrounding a post from Patheos which slowly devolved into what seemingly is an online pushing match on the playground of Paganism. The pushing match was a result of soft polytheists feeling that hard polytheists were creating the definitions of how the Gods can or cannot be approached or worked with. The Patheos post is here. Give it a read, if you like. Personally, I thought the article (opinion piece, if you prefer) was quite well written. Yes, it is written from a hard polytheism point of view. It also approaches matters from a theological stand point, which I have no desire to go into. I’m not a Theologian. I don’t even play one on tv. I certainly did not perceive the post as trying to create holy writ or even telling soft polytheists that they are completely wrong. However, in a Facebook thread (I do not have permission to link you there) it was taken that way by a lot of soft polytheists. Now, I bring up this thread to not only round out the entire pushing match, but to also provide an example of what I am not in favor of doing: creating lines in the sand of what is or is not Paganism.

So, 870+ words into all of this and I have danced and wiggled (don’t visualize) around the entire concept of defining Paganism. What defining construct do we have that makes us all Pagans? Off the top of my head, we all have an innate love of our Natural world. But then, this makes me believe that we might need to determine what is and what is not the “Natural World.” Technology is a part of our world. Just as the concrete and glass buildings we have created to reach into the clouds are also a part of our world. Perhaps an easier thought would be that we all try and to find a balance between the wild aspect of our environments and the parts that we have “tamed” to provide easier living conditions for us, the human beings of this planet. Some Pagans reach for magick within their everyday existence. Some, such as myself, don’t. That makes us different, but surely despite the difference – we can agree on the existence of magick in many ways and formats, some which we cannot explain readily to others because of a lack of corner stones from where to attach commonality for proper discourse. Perhaps, Paganism is merely the wide-ranging umbrella term that we believe it to be. A term that describes individuals that live a life not bound by a holy writ, such as the Bible or the Koran or whatever set of rules and documents created long ago. Perhaps Pagans are those people who live their lives not bound to such rules. Pagans reach out and connect with their environment openly and find the Paths that are most suitable to each individual.

We satisfy our endless needs and justify our bloody deeds
In the name of destiny and in the name of God

And you can see them there on Sunday morning
Stand up and sing about what it’s like up there
They called it paradise, I don’t know why
You call some place paradise, kiss it goodbye

The Eagles, “The Last Resort”

Perhaps, a more on-point perspective might be this. Christians live their lives here on Earth, looking for a better life beyond. Life here is disposable. Their desire is the life beyond this one. Pagans, on the other hand, live in there here and now. We find ways to be the caretakers of this planet because we want to be alive today and leave a livable environment for generations to come. We are not looking for a more glorious place in the After Life. But then again, this is coming back to describing what we are not, rather than what we are.

A better solution might be to jettison all the Christian comparisons and develop our anchor stones a little better. Pagans are those who live their lives connected to the world around them and in some cases to the worlds beyond. Pagans found comfort and wisdom in the environment and try their best to blend the wild aspects of the world with the environments that have been created to keep us more comfortable. As for the everlasting battle between the hard and soft polytheists – and including those that don’t fall into either camp – everyone experiences the Gods (or God and Goddess or the Unknown) differently. We are all individuals, not clones. Our experiences are different, even if we name the resulting part differently.

Now, if all this makes sense to you, come and explain it to me, ok? No, I’m kidding. What I will tell you is this – all of this is my opinion. Its not holy writ of any kind. I am one thousand percent confident that there will be folks that disagree with me. Yes, even Pagan ones. Because if every single Pagan in this world agreed with me, I would need to find another planet to live on. That would frighten me beyond belief.

So what is a Pagan? And can we make it a definition that draws lines to absolutely define what a Pagan is? Well, you’ve got one opinion here. If we work at it, we can find nine other Pagans to voice their opinion too. We might be able to break the record and get fifteen different opinions. 🙂 All I know is that if you define yourself as a Pagan, take it super serious and constantly continue on the life-long exploration to find what works for you and what doesn’t…you’re a Pagan in my book, for whatever that’s worth. I’m not entirely sure I have answered any question with all of this. However, I do hope all of this has provided some food for thought – even if the conversation is just between you and yourself.

–T /|\

Every night I stare up at the stars and am thankfully for the life I am living now. A life defined by my personal beliefs. Its a freedom I never take for granted.

I Prefer Individualism Over Gate Keeping

I am a Pagan. I am a Druid. I am a Polytheist. I believe the Gods are real. I believe They are all separate, unique entities that can be experienced in a variety of ways. I know there are other Pagans that believe similar to me. Just as I know there are other Pagans that do not believe as I do. There are those that find all of that discomforting. I don’t. I take great comfort in understanding that the Gods are experienced differently by everyone. Why would I take comfort in that thought? Because it means we are all individual, unique human beings. It means we have the Free Will to expand our understanding of Those Beyond our understanding in a manner that speaks to each of us. It means we are not cut from the same mold, that we are as unique as I believe that the Gods are. And the best part of all of that? Not a single soul has to agree with me at all.

I follow the Paths of Paganism, Druidry and Polytheism to create my own experiences and understandings of what is beyond. To experience, relate with, and create from my own perspective – without judgment. I am not here creating dogma that is to be applied to the whole world. I am here trying to understand what I feel, what I experience, what I know to be a part of my reality. I’m not here to tell a single soul what is their own reality, what is their perception or how to define their experiences.

Every so often, a manner of discourse crops up with various folks in the Pagan Internet-Sphere (or Cloud or whatever you want to call the boundless and ever changing internet community we are all part of here). The argument tends to fall around the concept of gate keeping or perceived gate keeping. “You can’t be a follower of this God or Goddess because you don’t experience [x] or have studied [y] or done [z] research.” “You can’t be a Witch because of [a].” I grok the exclusive nature of such statements. Everyone wants to have a defined view of what [q] belief is really about. if you can’t reach those check boxes, than you can’t be [i]. The reality is that there are no check boxes to your personal Spirituality. To quote my favorite classic rock band: “That Path is for your steps alone.” You walk where you can, how you can. (That’s the Grateful Dead and the quoted lyric comes from their song “Ripple”)

If you are learning from someone else or from some tradition, the lessons that you are taught or typically is what is considered to the basics. You do the best to walk in the manner that they wish to – until you finish the way they want to you or you just can’t finish. Learning their framework means you are learning their way. It still doesn’t nullify how you walk the Path of your own Spirituality…unless you want it to. That is the truest measure of what you are doing…walk your way, you set the final steps in what you do. Walk the Path defined by others, you choose to follow that direction. There is nothing wrong with either…until you start demanding that others do the exact same thing.

Those of the Christian faith do this. They demand that everyone do the same things that they do. If you don’t, you are considered to be outside of who they are. You are treated differently because you choose to be different. Reality shows that you are just as much a human being as anyone else. Some Polytheists do this too. They see their way of viewing the world and connecting with the Gods as the only way possible. If you aren’t doing it their way, you are treated as “knowing less”.

Like I said, I am a Polytheist. I don’t want everyone to be just like me in their Spiritual practice. To me, that removes some of the beauty of diversity and individualism. Plus, who am I to say what is right and wrong for you? I believe that Paganism and Polytheism is stronger for the diverse array of Spiritual Paths. We are made stronger with the approach of individualism for each Practitioner. They know where their footsteps are best placed. They understand how the Gods look and react to their own belief of worship (or not). They know which manner of connectivity works for them. And if they are still searching for a potential perspective that works, their questioning approach should be understood from the perspective of the Seeker, not the Accuser or the Heretic. We all seek betterment, knowledge, solace, divinity, and ourselves on our Spiritual Paths. Questioning those for not taking the same footfalls as you is not a useful aspect of our own individual Path. Helping others to find their own Paths is not about steering them towards our own. We should be helping to find the part of the Path that aligns better to what they are seeking. I am not an evangelist for Druidry, Paganism, Polytheism or even the order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (OBOD, which is the Druid order I am currently studying within). But I am here to listen, without prejudice or bias (as much as I can attain that, knowing that I am biased in some degree to all things); desiring to help someone find their way.

Is Polytheism good? Is it bad? Is it some form of neutral perspective? I believe the answer to all those questions is that all are valid – depending on the individual. The same holds true for Druidry and Paganism. The only way of understanding how that answer formulates for you is to explore each on your own. Or if you prefer, as the Oracle tells Neo in The Matrix Reloaded movie: “Bad news is there’s no way you can really know if I’m here to help you or not, so it’s really up to you. Just have to make up your own damn mind to either accept what I’m going to tell you, or reject it.” The same holds true with your own Spiritual path. You know your steps. You know where you need to walk. You’ll make up your own damn mind about it. And if others don’t agree with you? That’s all right. They have their own Path to walk, secure in the knowledge that what they believe is where they need to be.

Maybe, one day, we can get beyond the concepts of gate-keeping or trying to tell others how they should be on their Spiritual Paths. Maybe. I still hold out hope that we, as human beings, can take a step beyond. When we get there we can marvel at the similarities we missed while arguing about our differences. Plus, we can be astounded at the beauty of Paths that went where we couldn’t find appropriateness for our own steps. Viva individualism! We are resilient in our ability to find our ways to goals we wish to achieve. Our ability to experience and formulate solutions is astounding. Even when those Paths and solutions are as divergent in greater and greater ways.

–T /|\

Gizmo hiding…sort of

Troubleshooting Change on a Personal Spiritual Path

Like many people, I am a creature of habit. What I have found is that simple routines keep me focused, while a world of chaotic everything gets me unhinged and away from my purpose. I have a tough time staying on-task when my daily routines get altered. Most people who read me here on the blog and over on Facebook, have been somewhat aware of my routines. In fact, if you read me over on Facebook, you can see one of my daily routines. Typically, every morning, I’ll post what amounts to a “good morning” status. I’m almost certain that the post irritates the shit out of a lot of people, since it doesn’t get a lot of likes or comments. So I post it to irritate people? No, not at all. Essentially its a small greeting to whoever wants to read, along with my thoughts about what I am doing across the course of the day. For me, its just a way saying hello to the day and whoever wants to listen. After all, Facebook is a community and part of that means developing relationships with others.

However, I don’t always get the chance to do this simple thing. Usually its because I have to start my day with my feet hitting the floor running. Sometimes its because I don’t feel well enough to roll out of bed. Sometimes its something else.

There is a lot to my morning routine. Get up. Test my blood sugars. Take my medications, including two shots. Make my breakfast. Make a cup of coffee. Post the Facebook post. Go outside – weather permitting – and greet the Sun on its upward trajectory towards turning Texas into an industrial-strength Easy-Bake oven. If I can handle all of that to start a morning, its been a good start to the day.

Another part of my daily routine has been getting exercise, typically in the form of morning walk. However since moving from north of the Dallas area to south of the Dallas area – I have to find a walking course through the neighborhood that is to my liking. Paving of the roads here is even worse than it was in Mississippi a few years back. Roads with pot-holes are not only dangerous to drivers, but also to walkers who are forced to walk in the roads because of no sidewalks. On such uneven and broken pavement, I am always in fear of turning my ankle with one small misstep. Add to all of that the issue of COVID-19, and I spend much of my time indoors to avoid contact with others. I have a Peleton bike that I can ride; however, riding an indoor, stationary bike in lieu of walking has proven to be a bit more difficult to maintain a daily regimen of.

So, what happens when daily routines like these get interrupted or do not even happen? Well, it doesn’t seem like much but it does have effects on me throughout the course of the day. Missing parts of my morning routine can throw me off the feelings of being balanced. For an individual who seemingly is the epitome of a Libra (or so I have been told), it can bring out some of the worst traits of a Libra. I can run into issues of feeling confused, having issues with making decisions, feeling completely over-run by even the smallest of tasks. A fairly structured morning start is the key towards allowing me to reach unstructured tasks and plans. If I am not feeling that balance, the more unstructured parts of my life will look like I am trying to wipe spilled milk off the floor with a completely soaked sponge. As another example, those of you who read the blog have noticed that more than a few times with blog posts. My writing tends to get unfocused and jumbled. In relation to the heavy alterations to my workouts, a new area and COVID-19 have contributed to me finding nearly any excuse to not do anything. The result? A fifteen pound weight gain over three and a half months. The fact that I find calm, peace and structure in making food does not help either. I make the food because it provides the routine my mind is seeking. I make the food, I eat the food.

Bruce Dickinson’s “Tears of the Dragon” is a song about how all of this can contribute to being (quoting Bruce): “Shit scared of change.”

I heard one of you thinking the comment: How does someone whose Spiritual practice hinges on extemporaneous ritual have issues with working in unstructured environments? This is an excellent question. One of the things that I really stress about improvisation within ritual is that you learn the basics completely before you start changing things around or altering the process or elements of a ritual framework to suit your own needs. In the post, Improvising in Ritual? Learn the Basics First…Trust Me, I talk about the need for learning the basics first. Much like a guitar player, before you can learn to solo, you have to learn chord structure that allows you to feel the rhythm of a song. The same holds true in ritual. Learn the basic elements, learn the whys of this or that within the ritual and then you can branch out and try to give the ritual more meaning to you or provide a stronger connection between you and the God you are working with. When working something new, realize that your effort will have you failing more often than succeeding at first. That can be discouraging. Don’t be completely discouraged. Realize that you also succeeding in knowing something that does not work. That information is just as helpful. In the meantime, back to the point at hand.

How can I be so easy to embrace improvisation and yet have difficulty altering something far simpler, such as a daily routine? Well, the best point that I can surmise is that my daily routine is a foundational part of who I am. Ritual is not. That’s right. Ritual is not a foundational part of who I am. Ritual helps me to provide a more in-depth aspect to who I am. My daily routine is the primary foundational piece of who I am. Everything about who I am is built upon that. When that foundation shifts, it affects everything that is built on top of it. Not sure it makes much sense to anyone else, but it is where I am at.

The US military taught me the idea of being as flexible as possible when things go wrong. After the move down here, I have done my best to be as flexible as I can with many of the small changes that get thrown my way. But learning to be flexible and being flexible are sometimes far different experiences. The key, I have found, is not being overly harsh on myself. Yes, there are experiences to be had from every success and failure, but taking the time to seek knowledge from those experiences is of primary importance to being able to alter my own perceptions of the environment that I live in. As one of my Sergeants told me when I was learning about how the UniSys 1100/60 mainframe operated: “Fixing this beast means taking things one step at a time. First find the problem. Then see where it is not operating properly. The rest is about experimentation until you find a solution. And you move far slower than a step at a time there. Understand the system and its peripheral devices and how they work together. Once you get that down, you will be able to start using unconventional techniques to making things work. First the basics, then the experiments. That is the art of Troubleshooting.” I figure that I have learned quite well from that theorem of thought. I have been utilizing it over a thirty-four year career inside Information Technology and Systems. Plus, its worked for me over thirty-two years of a Spiritual path withing Paganism. Its definitely worked for me. It might not work for you, but what does it hurt to try first?