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?

Questions, Questions, Questions – Some Books to Consider

Questions, questions, questions. One of the fun things that I have been doing for a running period of about three years is a series of questions from six folks on Facebook. About three years ago, I invited folks to offer me questions on any topic via Facebook Messenger. Initially, I had about fifteen people asking questions from time to time, but my Q3 Club (Questions, Questions, Questions Club) has shrunk to about six people. A lot of the questions are nonsensical stuff, mostly questions to have fun with – such as the “What is your fave color?” that was tossed to me yesterday. Of course, I answered with Sir Galahad’s answer at the Bridge of Death. However, from time to time, one of the folks will ask a good, serious question about Paganism or Druidry that makes me stop, think, and formulate a serious answer. Sometimes, those questions require far more lengthy answers, which brings me to here. With that bit of background out of the way, Stephen S. (Iowa) wrote what I consider to be a fairly offbeat question. However, answering this will take a bit more typing time than it does on Facebook.

What Pagan or ‘Pagan-y’ books do you consider to be excellent reads that are fairly under the radar?

Stephen S. (name used with permission)

This post took me a little time to work and formulate a response. Stephen originally asked for a twenty-five book response. I am going to cut that to somewhere between seven to ten. At the moment, I am not sure of the final number, except that I will stop at ten if I can go that far. First, I have to deal with the “under the radar” terminology. Looking at my bookshelf, I considered a few factors for this concept of “under the radar”. I have a handful of books that were not easy to obtain. I also have a few books that I rarely see a lot of folks talking about out in the Pagan internet cloud, for lack of a better description of the Pagan-y online communities. Not every single book that I will include on this is a Pagan topical book. Some of these are science fiction books that I consider to have a strong Pagan flavor to them. Now, with all that typed/said, let’s get down to stuff, shall we?

The first book I would like to set out for discussion is by one of the three female Druids in the UK that have greatly influenced my daily practice. Part of the Pagan Portals series of books, The Awen Alone: Walking the Path of the Solitary Druid by Joanna van der Hoeven has been an invaluable source for my daily practice. Back during my podcasting days, I got Joanna to join me for discussion on Upon a Pagan Path. I have long since closed the Upon a Pagan Path podcast; however, I hope to put the episodes up here on the Life With Trickster Gods blog site. Now, Joanna is one of the nicest conversations I have ever had online. Her books are a true joy to read and work through. I cannot recommend her work enough, even outside of this one book. I do believe that this particular work is not talked about enough and is particularly quite useful for the individual Practitioner that chooses to go it alone (which is definitely me).

The second book is also from my triad of influences, and I am more than thrilled to not only have her as a friend, but to consider her a mentor of sorts as I started walking down a Path of Priestly concepts and functions. Cat Treadwell‘s book, A Druid’s Tale, has provided so much inspiration to me along my Path. I have literally read through this book four or five times over the years that I have had it on my shelf and I continue to draw inspiration over my Path with each reading. Like many Druids that I have met online, she is quite friendly, forth-coming with her responses, and just one of those people that I want to rush over to the UK just to get a hug, sit and talk….and laugh. I’m definitely biased about Cat; however, I rarely see her two books – the other being Facing the Darkness – talked about openly. Plus, Facing the Darkness covers issues of crisis and depression from a Pagan angle with some east to work exercises. I truly consider this particular book an essential item to have on your shelf in these absolutely turbulent times we live in.

My next under-the-radar choice is a work of fiction. Morgan Llywelyn is one of the most prolific fiction authors I have ever read, aside from the Zane Grey. I have numerous books written by Morgan, but Druids is the one that I continually come back to for re-read after re-read. I have loaned this book out several times to friends, who probably forgot to return it to me. That’s ok though. Paperbacks don’t cost that much money, plus I was always happy to help this particular work find new, happy homes. The story follows a French tribe living in Gaul, particularly a young Druid named Ainvar. The story is captivating, charming, and written in a way that will make you fall in love with not only the characters, but also the lush environment created in the story. My understanding is that this book is getting harder and harder to find, so I hope the publisher decides to make a new print run.

Kristoffer Hughes is one of the zaniest Druids I have ever had the pleasure of meeting and those bear hugs where I get lifted off the ground (Kristoffer is MUCH taller than I am) are the stuff of legends. Kristoffer’s book Journey Into Spirit is absolutely amazing reading. The book details some of his journey into his everyday job in the morgue. There are also discussions of how to approach impending death of a loved one with dignity, love and grace. There is a lot of talk in Paganism about coming of age rituals, celebrations of the wheel of the year, and initiatory rites, but rarely is there discussions about rituals associated with the end of life. Kristoffer notes how society has essentially taken the concept of death and locked it behind the doors of the mortuary, away from the eyes of loved ones. This is a book that I think everyone should take the time to read, contemplate, and determine aspects of their own passage to the worlds beyond. And if you ever get the chance to catch him talking live….make sure you are there. Kristoffer is profound, humorous, profane, and one of the most loving individual you could ever encounter. Just an absolute joy to be around, and his book will provide you with so much material to contemplate, as well as tearing up at aspects of his own personal journey.

These next two books have been lifesavers for me in the area of ritual. I don’t see either of these talked about often enough. The weakest part of my Druidry is definitely ritual. Being solo, I have a group of one for my rituals, so things are fairly easy on me. Ritual with others can be quite strenuous for me. Group ritual requires a lot of work, a lot of meshing of everyone’s energies, and a lot of preparation. Emma Restall Orr’s Ritual: A Guide to Live, Love & Inspiration and Rachel Patterson’s The Art of Ritual have been quite helpful at dispelling some of my apprehensive nature towards this area of Druidry. and Paganism. Patterson’s book is written from the perspective of a Witch, but I still found a lot that was presented to be quite helpful. granted, I don’t agree with the concept of specific clothing for rituals…I feel the Gods are just as comfortable with me in a Rush concert t-shirt as They would be with me in specialized clothing for rituals. However, both authors bring up good points about all aspects of ritual in their books.

Published in 2005, Pagan Visions for a Sustainable Future is a group of essays written by a number of folks approaching the perspectives of feminism, magickal ecology, political activism, globalization, sacred communities and environmental spiritual displayed against a backdrop of where to go into the future. At fifteen years old, some of the perspectives appear a bit dated and somewhat nonsensical against the backdrop of today. However, I found this book to be full of great starting points for very difficult subjects. If you are looking for something that presents a challenging read, this would be my suggestion of starting place. Beyond that, there are hundreds of tangential directions that can be pursued. Those rabbit trails, in my opinion, can provide you with some topical perspectives that you may never have even considered.

Now I am not that “up” on the availability of some of these titles. As a point of consideration, Restall Orr’s book and the Pagan Visions book, I found in online used bookstores. The links I have provided for each of the books either goes to an Amazon link or directly to the author’s site. Honestly, I prefer the author’s site whenever possible, as it removes Amazon as the “middle man” and puts more money into the authors’ pockets. Just my personal preference. Plus, I love that Pagans seem to be some of the deepest read individuals in the various Spiritual communities. As a former professor, it does my heart good to see so many folks willing to read to expand their connection and experience.

–T /|\

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

Thinking About: When a Data Request Turned Into a Bizarre ‘My God is Bigger Than Your God’ Moment

A short while back, Facebook peppered me with a memory from back in my days working with the college. For those that don’t know, my job was to pull data from the Student Information System as requested by others. Typically, the data requests were fairly straight forward and never really required any in-depth SQL coding to get to it. However, sometimes the requests were a bit more complex and from time-to-time required pulling data from disparate systems and connecting the databases, as well as connecting the data with the appropriate student, took time, thought, and a certain aspect of creativity. This Facebook memory is an actual conversation between myself and a co-worker (denoted as CW). I was being sarcastic, but it was not taking that way. I wound up being brought to my supervisor for a behind-doors discussion.

CW: “Its a fairly complex data request, right?”
Me: “Yeah. Its a complicated, hot mess of a query. However, I think it can be done.”
CW: “So what do you need?”
Me: “About two hours, two dry erase markers, SQL Server Management Studio open on my computer, a live chicken, two shots of whiskey and a competent Witch.”
CW: “What?”
Me: “I need the two hours, the dry erase markers and SSMS to write the query. I need the live chicken as a sacrifice, and the two whiskey shots for devotional offerings.”
CW: “What about the Witch?”
Me: “I just need someone to talk to while I do all of that – and preferably someone that I can bounce ideas off of.”
—–
This is why people do not ask me how I get their data. My sense of humor, and my sarcasm combined with my inability to keep my inner monologue under control with a single cup of coffee….just never provides the answers other people are seeking.

This entire moment wound up with me in front of my supervisor, as I have already noted. The sarcastic commentary was not the issue. The issue was the implication that I was not a Christian, which I wasn’t then, before or after. I was asked point blank if I was a Christian. Point blank, I answered in the negative.This prompted a series of questions, which turned into a long conversational perspective of why I was wrong – according to the Bible. Well, it was conversational in the context that I answered in short, concise replies and was countered with diatribes that rivaled politicians being set in front of a microphone and provided with open-ended questions. One question out of all of these had me trying to formulate an answer.

Where do you get your moral authority?

Moral Authority? I have never been asked a question from this perspective prior to this. In fact, its a question that falls more to the perspective of Theology – according to definition it is “the systematic study of the nature of the divine and, more broadly, of religious belief.” This led me down a path to understand what was being set forward as “moral authority” and where I would derive such from. For the definition, I will fall to that which is in Wikipedia. Academically, Wikipedia is never considered a solid choice, but for something such as a blog post masquerading as an essay, I believe it will manage to be useful.

Moral authority is authority premised on principles, or fundamental truths, which are independent of written, or positive, laws. As such, moral authority necessitates the existence of and adherence to truth.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_authority

For me, this entire perspective comes down to something that is derived from “Truth.” For a Christian, such as my supervisor was (and still is), his construct of moral authority is derived from the King James Bible. He can find supporting passages within that text to justify any aspect of “truth” as he wishes to define it. His choice of moral authority means absolutely nothing to me, however. I am not a Christian and have no desire to set my life on a defining touch-point created by a faith that I do not follow. However, my problem is finding a point of moral authority in how I practice my own faith. I have no “magic” tome to lean towards for my moral authority. I have no one that I can point to as a point of dispensation of such “truth,” since I hold no one in that high of a regard. As I read more, I began to realize that I had no way of answering my supervisor’s question in a manner that could provide a standing in an argument. Not that I would want to utilize my faith and belief in any kind of a battle with someone challenging the legitimacy of what I practice and follow on a daily basis. The only place I need legitimacy is in the connection I have with my Gods. Besides, I have no need to prove my beliefs nor do I have any reason to challenge the legitimacy of the faith and beliefs of others.

Now, a few years down the road from that moment in time, I have a slightly more reasoned answer. I am a strong believer in individualism. My moral authority comes from within myself, from my desire to treat others with the respect I expect to be treated with. However, on further contemplation, I realized that this would also be rejected in such an argument as I am referencing. However, I also came to another conclusion, why should I have to answer at all?

Now, some three years after the fact, I have come to realize that the conversation was more of a morality trap than anything else. A straight up comparison of one set of beliefs against another, utilizing the backdrop of moral authority upon which to lay out the commonalities and differences. In a manner of speaking, it was an autopsy of what I believed versus what he believed. The measuring stick was to be against the backdrop of his beliefs. As my beliefs are not built on a book or the cult-like leadership of a single individual – historical or not – I was provided with footing that was nowhere near that of a solid state. In all reality, I should have declined the perspective from the very beginning, and brought the conversation back my work-related duties. Instead, I stepped right where I was being beckoned to do so.

The overall conversation lasted about two hours. Two hours of wasted productivity, to be honest. However, they paid me to stand there and listen, hardly getting a word in edge-wise. I certainly could have used those two hours a lot more productively trying to figure out how to tie the three systems together in a single SQL query, which I eventually did. Instead I wound up being brow-beat over my beliefs. Back then, I was moving into my thirtieth year as a Pagan; this conversation had no chance at all of eroding my Pagan faith. Now, three years later, there is a far lesser chance that it would. I am a Pagan. I am comfortable with my faith and beliefs. I am challenged daily with what I believe to find connections in a world gone haywire all around me. And I still have no desire to define where I get my moral authority from. I am not a Theologian of any stripe. I am not interested in trying to figure out what makes other faiths tick. I am more interested in walking the Path, as I know it.

I do; however, have a competent Witch I can talk with whenever I need to. I don’t necessarily need the live chicken anymore, but I won’t turn down the whiskey.

–T /|\

My “business” card, which is in dire need of updating

Division by Zero. Musings on the Upcoming Election Cycle

Welcome to Tuesday or Day Two of the American Republican party’s multi-day infomercial. The previous week, the American Democrat Party held their multi-day infomercial. Yes, infomercials. I call the “conventions” this because none of them are designed to inform anyone towards the aspect of forming and changing opinions. In true essence, these are nothing more than sophmoric attempts at pep-rallies designed to pump up the faithful of each side. No changing minds of the undecided voters or trying to sway those that are barely leaning into one camp or the other to switch sides. Just a lot of rah-rah-sis-boom-bah. Hooray for our side!

On Facebook, it was pointed out to me that I missed an inspirational speech from Uncle Joe (Joe Biden) on the last night of the Democrat infomercial. My response was that I missed nothing that I needed to hear. I already know who will get my vote at the Presidential level of the ballot. I have no need to hear either the Democrat or Republican perspective on that anymore. My focus is now on the down ballot for my state, my district, my county and my city. With a little time and a lot of study of the candidates, as well as queries to candidates that do not seem to be clear on their position on a topic, I will eventually figure out where my vote needs to go there. When I do enter the voting booth in October (my plan is to early vote in person), I will already know where I my opinion will be. I can tell you right now, its not likely a straight-party vote either. I do not provide blind allegiance to any political party here in the United States.

Most people would call me a fool or an idiot for figuring out my vote in this manner. Just as I got called such for waiting for third party candidates to toe the starting line in the Presidential race. I was told that a vote for these candidates would be a vote for Trump. But that is not true. My vote for Jill Stein in the previous Presidential cycle was a vote for Jill Stein and no one else. Sure, folks can provide me with all the facts and figures to support their perspective that third party candidates give the election to the other main party candidate that they wish to see lose, but the true reality is that a vote for the candidate of your choice is a vote for the candidate of your choice. And you have every right to make that choice and not have the entire world crash down on you, saying that the election of one candidate or the other in the main two parties was your fault.

Notice, I am not going to beat you about the head and shoulders saying that you should vote for this candidate or another. That’s because your vote is your vote. My friendship with you has nothing to do with how you vote. Nor will your vote have any effect on our friendship. I detest the human being that is President Donald J. Trump. However, if you decide to vote for him as President, that vote will not change who you are in my eyes as my friend. Your politics can (and likely will) differ from my own. I do not base my friendship with you on how your politics align with my own. Just as I do not base my friendship on the type of beer you drink or if you drink beer at all. Personally, I prefer a good IPA that is not too heavy and not too light. However, our friendship is not going to revolve around the similarities between our taste buds.

The four years (well three and some change) of the Trump Administration has been marked by a desire to divide people. According to them, we have to not like each other because our politics are different. We have to not like each other because our skin color is different. We have to not like each other for all kinds of aspects of separation. Well, I will just disagree with them again. Our choices of political perspective does not divide us. Our choice of religious beliefs do not divide us. Our skin color does not divide us. We are all human beings living on this planet. What divides us is the inability to find decent, respectful compromise. What divides us is buying into the “Us v. Them” paradigm that is peddled by those who peddle fundamentalism as the only way to a “perfect” society. Be like us or become one of them. And if you are one of them, we will have to destroy every trace of who you are.

I watched this type of shit back during the Satanic Panic of the 1980s. I had a front seat to watching state governments, pressured by a “moral” society, rip children out of the arms of parents. Then insert those children into the awaiting arms of the State, while the parents were labeled as Satanists. All done in the name of Jesus Christ because tearing families apart was the loving thing to do. The only manner of stopping it was to plea with judges about what makes a loving family, particularly when it is not a Christian one. I have watched even more horrific things done to others, simply because they choose to love someone with a different skin color or the same gender as they are or even loving more than one person. All done in the name of a belief system that espouses love for the sinner. But apparently only the sinner that is part of their belief system. All part of the pattern of “Us v. Them”. Why?

The only explanation I really have is that the conflict aspect of “Us v. Them” is the easiest to understanding. While Love and Hate are two very close emotions that seemingly run parallel to one another, Hate is the easier emotion to reach for. Hate is the easier emotion to sustain. However, I’m no Psychologist or Psychiatrist. I couldn’t even play one on TV. This is just my best guess.

So, how did I go from talking about politics and voting towards examining love and hate within society? Well, read through the comments on any political story. Once you get about five comments in, you should see it. Or if you prefer, listen to any Trump speech. It won’t take long until you find him driving a wedge between everyone. Try and talk with either a vehement Biden support or a vehement Trump support and that deep-seated vitriol will be easy to find. I gave up trying to be the online peacemaker in online debates and arguments well over a year ago. I stick to the sidelines for the most part and let everyone battle it out. However, I am stuck with one thought that continually makes its way through my mind these days. When an election is over, Americans are supposed to unite together under the new administration and find ways to work together. Except that has not been the case since the second term of the Clinton administration. And with each new Presidential administration, that deep division gets wider and wider. Soon, we should be at a point where the opposition of a newly elected President will not be able to be seen with the naked eye. And the opposition will become more and more violent against the administration. How can we have a country that operates in the name of the people when the people cannot even find ways to be humane and respectful to one another? And just to further that thought, in closing, how do we heal that rift? Who is willing to step up and break that constant cycle of division? For me, I’m one of those that desires to see that cycle shattered, sooner rather than later.

–T /|\

We All Learn At Our Own Pace

“I can’t learn this stuff, I’m taking too long.”

I heard this a lot when I was working on my Bardic lessons from the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. And I could truly understand the frustration, as well as the bitterness over the constant stopping and starting that was taking place while trying to learn. The slow pace was being compounded by everyday life getting in the way. Having to work late. Yard work. A constant need to bring work from the job back to the home, just to get caught up. I understood the frustrating nature quite well. That’s because the person experiencing those troubles was me.

When I got my lessons in the mail from OBOD, I always did my best to get through them before the next mailing would arrive. Life; however, had a different plan. When I started, I was an adjunct instructor for the college. Typically, I had anywhere from twenty to nearly a hundred students whose assignments I had to continually read, grade, correct, and comment on before I returned the assignments. Then, I accepted a position as an Institutional Researcher for the college, which removed me from the classroom. I lived less than two miles from the campus I taught on. My new job put me on the main campus, which was a forty-five minute drive – one-way. In the summer-time, the college went to four days a week of work. Each of these days was ten hours of work. My entire time was raised to nearly fourteen hours per day with the driving in rush hour traffic. That meant I essentially woke up, made breakfast, drove to work, did my job, drove back, made dinner, and went to sleep. The next three days – Friday, Saturday and Sunday – were typically reserved for housework, yard work, medical appointments and any other errands that needed to be taken care of. So to alleviate all of that, I moved to be closer to the job. Getting things together for the move, that all ate into the time that I had to complete my studies as well, until I had developed a routine of setting my studies to the side. See? Life got in the way.

When I made it to the first OBOD Gulf Coast Gathering camp, there was a meeting setup for all the Bardic students. Here, I found a few others had struggled with the balance of mundane life and studies while others seemingly had no problem. I learned a few techniques to getting things completed, but one notation stuck with me: everyone learns at their own pace. There is no time limit to the lessons because of this. You learn at your own pace. And that currently is a reminder to me as I work through my Ovate studies, which are decidedly not as much as the Bardic studies were. That presents a new set of challenges to my mind. Getting through lessons that have a much weaker call to me.

Don’t get that statement wrong. I am not about to stop on my Ovate studies. I am merely indicating that the challenge of making it through these studies comes from a different place than before. And as I did make it through my Bardic studies, I will make it through my Ovate studies. I am finding that I need to determine a different perspective to get there.

Most people, it seems, look at the course work and see a daunting set of lesson plans set before them. A booklet of material that is broken down into what feels like a set of lesson plans. And seemingly an internal self-realized clock that says – you can do it in a year. Maybe that needs to be changed to: you SHOULD do it in a year because I never found anything that suggested that I should complete my studies in any specified time frame. “Everyone learns at their own pace.” My firm belief is that this is where folks develop a mental road block, that they feel they must overcome. When they don’t – because Life gets in the way – they become paralyzed, not knowing what to do and their abaility to progress is just shot.

I can understand where this comes from. In all the schooling that we have had – there’s a time limit for everything. Lessons have deadlines to be submitted. Tests have a specified time frame in which they must be completed. You must move forward each year within grade progression: first grade, second grade, ninth grade, until you graduate with a high school diploma. Yearly progression matters for everything. In college, you get a number of courses you must complete before moving on to the next progression of courses, until you meet all the requirements for your degree. If you fail, you get held back, and your graduation date gets pushed back another semester, because you have to complete that course with a satisfactory grade. Deadlines. Submission dates. Course start dates. Course end dates. Expected graduation dates. All of that leads to dealing with deadlines in the work place. You begin to live your life under a set of self-imposed deadlines. Things have to be done by this date. And this becomes the default for how you handle your life and it creeps into your new-found learning: your Druidry studies.

Except that you don’t have to approach it that way. Learning Druidry, Wicca, whatever Spiritual path you are on is not about the grade or title you attain. Yeah, I’ve made it past my Bardic grade. I’m on my Ovate grade. I have a desire to finish the Ovate grade and progress to the Druid grade. I have a desire to finish that….for what? Yes, I get to say that I am a Druid that completed the OBOD coursework for the three grades. But is that what I am trying to attain? Some sort of bragging rights?

Certainly, working through the three grades is an important part of my Spiritual Path. And yes, I will have a manner of fulfillment at finishing the three grades. But it won’t make me any more important than I am now. It may place me in a position where I can get a chance to work with other OBOD folk going through the courses, to help guide them towards fulfilling their own goals and desires over what the coursework is for. As a former instructor, I always loved the moments where I saw students’ have that little light of understanding get “turned on.” Always a great feeling, especially when I got them to understand that I didn’t turn their light on – they did. I only helped them to understand where they might find that switch within themselves. But that’s only a side desire of doing my work in the grades. My first desire is to become a better “me” through the work. To learn and experience what I can through the course work. This is about altering aspects of myself into something that I want to become.

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

I have a desire to be a Druid and I am one. This is my Path. No title is going to make me into a Druid. I already am a Druid. The course work is going to help me become a more effective, more knowledgeable Druid. And my progression towards effectively working on myself through the lessons, through the camaraderie that I have with other Druids I encounter at OBOD camps, Pagan Pride Days, and other gatherings…that will happen on schedule. At my pace. I still have other requirements in my everyday life that I need to continually address. My work, my everyday life at home, my position as a friend in the lives of others, being there for those that need that shoulder to lean on or that ear to bend….all of that is me. But I continue to learn about my Druidry, how it relates to me, how it relates to the world around me…and even after I finish my Druid grade with OBOD, my learning will continue through the rest of my life, and beyond the veil when I pass (which I hope is a long, long time from now).

This Path is about constantly experiencing, learning and evolving. Deadlines be damned. I build myself at my pace. Sometimes, I need to stop and take a break. Short or long, that break will be something that I needed, so that I could refresh my perspective. So that I could see the world with fresh eyes. The pace I set on this Path is mine. Some people want to sprint down the Path. Good for them. They are doing what they feel they need to. For me, I prefer to walk down the path at what others may lament is a leisurely pace. I like to stop from time to time, lean on my staff, and take in the view around me. No matter the landscape, I can find beauty in it. And beauty needs to be experienced and admired. Those moments are certainly necessary. We walk (or sprint as the case may be) our Paths at our own paces. So, the next time you are having trouble with learning a guitar passage for a song you want to add to your musical quiver….set the guitar down. Take a break. Come back to it in a bit with fresh eyes and fresh fingers. Having trouble with a bit of programming. Save the code where you are at. Document where you are, so you can recall what you were trying to do when you come back. Put on a movie and lose yourself in the story’s experience. Or get some much needed sleep. Do something to give your mind a break. However long that break may be.

Stop trying to live your entire existence on a set of self-imposed deadlines. There will always be deadlines in parts of our mundane life. That doesn’t mean we have to impose those deadlines elsewhere. I’ve been there. I have done that. Trust me, its an empty existence. You rush through everything trying to reach those deadlines and zoom right past the real knowledge in those lessons – OBOD, Life or otherwise – and you miss something that you needed. It took my seven years to get through my Bardic Grade. The first four years, I struggled with the lessons, going back and forth in the lessons so that I could understand. “We all learn at our own pace.” I spent the last three years taking my time and learning at my own pace. At first it felt frustrating moving so slow, but soon I fell into the rhythm that worked for me. Eventually, I finished, and found myself looking into the Path of Ovate, where I find myself learning more deliberately. While the lessons are not what stirs my soul, it is knowledge that I need to work with, accumulate and accustom myself to. I work and experience at a pace appropriate for me. Deliberate steps on an appropriate Path. Taking the time to stop and marvel at the beauty all around me. “We all learn at our own pace.”

–T /|\

A Direct Line to the Gods?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–T /|\

The Future: One Perspective

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

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

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

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

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

One Side of the Flipped Coin

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

The Other Side of the Coin

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

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

If the Coin Lands on the Edge

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

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

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

–T /|\

Thinking About: This Year and What is to Come

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

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

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

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

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

Morpheus

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

–T /|\

Progression on One’s Path – A Personal Perspective

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–T /|\