Howling Into the Wind: (The Return of) The Satanic Panic

The 1980s. My late-teens and early twenties are encompassed in the decade of decadence. The rise of New Wave music. The rise of what is termed today as “Hair Metal.” The wild parties. The generational excess of wildly spending money and extending individual credit to horrible levels. There is a lot of things that I remember about the 1980s. Senior parties in high school. The creative endeavors of so many of my friends. Discovering the wider world of Paganism and my first steps into a way of connecting and experiencing the world around me. I graduated from high school in 1984, enlisted in the United States Air Force in early 1986, and stumbled across Paganism later that year. At the end of that year, I found myself embroiled in the Satanic Panic that I had been so blissfully unaware of.

Texas was a particularly harsh environment to be in during the Satanic Panic. I had heard rumors of Social Services tearing children away from families over the flimsiest pretenses of “Satanism.” In late 1988, I had friends who experienced firsthand this action. Police departments were inundated with reports from neighbors reporting on families in their neighborhood. The military was no different. I had assumed that the military would be far more open and accepting of all beliefs. I was wrong.

I worked in the data processing facility on Carswell Air Force Base. I typically worked on the weekends and during the evenings on weekdays. My weekends were typically twelve-hour shifts, which left a lot of time to read. I was starting my initial steps of exploration into Paganism. I brought a lot of Pagan books on to the shift with me, which I would read. Some examples – “Drawing Down the Moon” by Margot Adler, “The Spiral Dance” by Starhawk, “Witchcraft From the Inside” by Raymond Buckland, and “Witchcraft Today” by Gerald Gardner – among others. My supervisor, at that time, was a staunch Catholic, did not approve and asked that I be reassigned to another shift. This resulted in my being called before my section chief, where I had to defend my own beliefs. My open defiance to a direct order to “be a Christian” resulted in me being sent to the Base Chaplain for counseling.

The Base Chaplain did his homework before I arrived. I was informed that my beliefs were in accordance to the “Religious Requirements and Practices of Certain Selected Groups: A Handbook for Chaplains“, and that my section chief would be informed to back off me. I was reassigned to another shift, where the other four members were all self-professed Evangelical preachers in their off-duty time. My time on the shift was not very easy. However, my off-duty time was about to change as well.

On an early Monday morning, I would guess it was around 4am, my dorm room door was unlocked and two Security Police officers, along with a Fort Worth police officer entered the room. I was asked to get dressed and to come with them. I did so and was led to a Fort Worth squad car at the front gate. I was asked to sit in the front passenger seat. I was then driven out to a pasture in the north part of the city limits, where a cow had been killed. Apparently its throat had been slit, and then its internal organs had been laid out neatly on a white sheet. After I had thrown up, I was asked about the significance of what I was seeing. I responded that I did not know, but I offered to do some research to help the officers determine what had happened. This started a relationship between myself and the police department that would continue until I was deployed overseas.

Most of what I dealt with was graffiti on or near churches and synagogues. Sometimes, I would be brought in to explain belief systems to lawyers investigating potential “Satanic ritual abuse.” I detested being called an “expert” (and still do). From 1988 to 1990, I got called on for a LOT of things. When I returned to the States from Europe, the entire Satanic Panic that had occurred in the 1980s had apparently died down. With Cornerstone magazine debunking the stories of Mike Warnke and Lauren Stratford – among many others – the hoppy waters I remember had seemingly been calmed.

This weekend, I was provided with a Vox article entitled “Why Satanic Panic Never Really Ended”, which details how much of the debunked theories of the Satanic Panic of the 1980s have lived on within the QAnon movement and elsewhere. Reading through the article, I was astonished to realize that I had read several of the features stories but had ignored them as a symptom from the days of the Satanic Panic. Most infamous among these is the horrifically described incidents of the so-called Pizzgate. Another story, which I had not heard, details a wide, vast Satanic pedophilia ring of Democrats, celebrities and world leaders that made its rounds within 4chan. This exact same theory was originally floated by Mike Warnke in his utterly false depictions of himself as a “major player” in Satanism, again completely debunked by the Christian magazine Cornerstone. By the way, if you are looking for the origins of QAnon, it comes from the Pizzagate story. The original poster that floated this retread rumor was only known as “Q”.

I don’t normally discuss politics openly within the blog. I believe what I believe. I understand how I want my government to work. I have no desire to change anyone’s opinion when it comes to how they believe. However, I know the slippery slope of “Satanic Panic”. I remember the beginnings. I remember the rumors that were floated about people in the community. I saw how these rumors could easily destroy families with the only the flimsiest of “evidence.” I know, firsthand, the terror one can feel that every single individual that they encounter may want to destroy their lives – simply because we believe differently from them. That is not a world I care to live in. That is a worldview that I will fight against to my dying breath.

Everyone has a right to their beliefs. Most definitely. I hold that to be a fundamental right to existing. However, when your beliefs deny that right to others, you are in the wrong. Yes, I am talking about the rights of Pagans to exist and believe as they should. However, I am also talking about the rights of Christians, Muslims, Atheists, Agnostics, and others as well. We can, and should, find a way to co-exist together. We don’t have to agree with one another. However, we should respect one another. Yes, that even goes for those on a Satanic Path. Because to be completely honest, they are nothing close to what the rumors of the Satanic Panic made them out to be.

My fear from all of this is simple. I lived through one very overt Satanic Panic. I have no desire to live through another. Nor do I want to see a Crusade made against those who disagree with me. I just want the freedom to believe as I wish, harming no others along my Path. I doubt that any of us lived through the times of the Inquisition. However, we do have history to show us the errors compounded on fervor and zeal that led to those moments. The same holds true for the so-called Crusades. The Crusades and the Inquisition were fueled by rumors, vilifying those that were supposedly against “us.” The opposition is constantly and continually portrayed as “evil”, “depraved”, “warped”, or “out of touch”. They are just as human as we are. They just believe differently.

Today, we see those who choose different ways of living being cast into the shadows of “them”. Members of LGBTQ+ communities fear for their very lives because of the zealotry of those that don’t agree with their way of living. Fuck, we did the same thing to the First Nations people here in America. We did the same thing to African Americans when they were brought here as slaves. We did the same thing to Asian Americans and individuals of Germanic heritage during World War II. Its not just the Satanic Panic that got us here. We have a history of rejecting those who are different than us. And in that rejection, we choose the most extreme measures to showcase our rejection and discomfort, without a second thought to the fact that we are doing these things to other human beings. Absolutely ridiculous, in my opinion. Quoting from Depeche Mode…

So, we’re different colours and we’re different creeds
And different people have different needs
It’s obvious you hate me though I’ve done nothing wrong
I’ve never even met you, so what could I have done?

I can’t understand
What makes a man
Hate another man
Help me understand

Depeche Mode, “People Are People”

So, yes. I am repulsed that the Satanic Panic and all its debunked theories is still alive and well, living in bliss with the QAnon crowd. But thinking on it, I cannot say that I am fully surprised either. We, humans, seem to have a major fetish for hating one another. We seem to be drawn to the idea that we must eradicate that which is different before it “infects” us. Yet, we cannot seem to understand that a wide diversity of views provides a broader, more in-depth, brighter perspective than a single, forced, monotone one would. Go figure that.

–T /|\

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Book of Shadows? Personal Journal? Does It Matter?

There are days, such as today, that I get stumped for what to write. In the past, I have taken two different routes towards solving this – I either just write off the top of my head or find an old post to rewrite in some fashion. Honestly, the first method just sucks. The post tends to come off as a rambly piece of work. The second doesn’t do much better, particularly when my perspective hasn’t changed much. So, I am about to spend part of the morning wrestling internally with what to do or what to approach. Welcome to my writing process. LOL

So, I went and peeked in the Email box, and found a question that I believe would be interesting (thanks A!). One’s Book of Shadows. Do I have one? No. Not by that name. Or even by that conceptual purpose. But first, let’s dig into what a Book of Shadows seems to be in a traditional sense.

Going off the Wikipedia page (I know – not a terribly great source of information, but a decent starting place for information, in my opinion):

A Book of Shadows is a book containing religious text and instructions for magical rituals found within the Neopagan religion of Wicca, and in many pagan practices.

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

Disregarding some of the grammatic descriptives, essentially, a Book of Shadows seems to be a repository of instruction, outlined ritual formats, and other useful information for the individual keeping such a tome. What gets kept in it? Well, from what I have come to understand, information that is important to the individual creating and keeping it. Ritual outlines, spells, notes on what does or doesn’t work in one’s Spiritual practice, copied quotations that have meaning to the individual…maybe even recipes. That’s from what I have come to understand.

When I was starting out in Wicca, I was encouraged to keep my own Book of Shadows by my teachers. I didn’t. Well I did at first. But it seemed an exercise in futility to me. Things that I added did not have the same meaning to me months later. Plus, any quotations I wrote down came from books that I already had on my shelf. When I left Fort Worth, Texas for Germany (thank you, United States Air Force), I completely abandoned the practice.

These days, I do keep something somewhat close to the concept of a Book of Shadows. However, I call it a Personal Journal. I don’t keep it in a paper format either. At one time I had it saved directly on my computer as an ever-growing Word document. However, I realized – via my Disaster Recovery education – that this was sheer folly. Magnetic hard drives do fail. So, I shopped around and settled on a cloud-based solution in EverNote. I have about four years’ worth of entries located here. I have only shared access into these files with one person, for a short period of time, and even then only with a certain section of what I wrote.

So, what do I write in there? Well, I work on blog entries there. I write synopsis of my day. I even have notes concerning my Bardic and Ovate grade work there. I keep notes concerning rituals that I participate in, and on unusual moments that occur in some of my daily devotions. In a way, you can say that my full life is in there.

Why a cloud-based solution? Well, I can access it from my computer, my laptop, my iPad, and even my phone. I can also access it from any computer I may have available to me. I just need to enter my userid and password – and then I am in and able to read or write. For me, this is very handy. However, I do realize that there are those folks who prefer the handwritten aspect over the computer. I have always believed that to be completely awesome. Everyone has different tastes as to what they prefer.

So, what information do I want to keep in my version of a Book of Shadows? How do I determine what is or is not important? What if the stuff that I want is vastly different from what others want? Who is doing things the right way?

Let’s start off with the who is doing it right and wrong argument. I absolutely loathe the “this or that” binary argument. What works right for one person may not necessarily work for someone else. What I consider to be “valuable” information might be considered as “trite” and “useless” information by someone else. Just as I dislike referring to my journal as a “Book of Shadows”, someone else may find that term to be useful and appropriate for themselves. Neither of us has a complete hold on the absolute truth. But we do know what works right for ourselves. Thus, let’s jettison this entire binary argument that things are either this or that. There is plenty of room in-between and beyond for a lot of other perspectives.

This holds true for what information goes into your Book of Shadows, Personal Journal or whatever you want to call it. No one can tell you what is important to you, other than yourself. What you record in those entries is completely up to you, no one else. Unless you want to give them the permission to dictate that to you. But that’s a piece of discourse for another time. The information in those entries, scribbled on pages or entered in a digital format, is what is important to you. Simple as that.

What do I consider as important information? Well, for me, that depends on the entry being made. Sometimes, its just a matter of documenting what had happened. Other times, I go into greater detail of how things happened, and my feelings during all of it. Many times, for me, its just a documentation of the day or the moment. However, I do have ritual frameworks outlined in some entries, a broad handful of poems that I have written, and a pair of super-shitty short stories I have tried my hand at. For me, this is what makes this more of a Personal Journal for me than a Book of Shadows. Even though, much of what I have in those entries does fall into the inane definition that I outlined from Wikipedia.

The truth of the matter is that your Book of Shadows will be whatever you want it to be. You are the one putting the information into the entries. You are determining what is important to add or not. You might wish to separate your notes about daily activities from your Book of Shadows. To be frank, I do exactly this inside of EverNote, as each type of entry has its own folder. I consider these to be more chapters than separate compendiums. Again, its what works for me. You need to do what works for you. Whatever that winds up being.

If you are on the fence about doing something like this…writing things down. Give it a try for a month. Then go back and read what you have written. Determine if it is something that works for you or not. Contrary to what some folks may believe, not every Pagan has a Book of Shadows or gets into journaling. For me, it is a worthwhile amount of time spent in my day. But I am not going to speak for everyone. That would be foolish of me.

In the end, a Book of Shadows? A Personal Journal? Some other descriptive? In my mind, it really doesn’t matter, so long as what you put in it has meaning and significance for you. That’s just my two quid.

–T /|\

Permission to Fail or Daring to Try?

Permission to fail. Quite a few years back, I was always amused by this phrase. Who needed to have permission to fail? Failure just happens. Thus, I would look at the phrase as an amusement rather than a particular way of rephrasing one’s everyday approach to life.

I am more than half Germanic. Germans are known for their precise approach to things, according to popular misconception. Not that I believe my DNA pushes me in that direction. But I do have that tendency. A need for a precise approach to things. And when things don’t work, my frustration will set in very quickly. What I am about to set forth here is a manner of how I learned to deal with my frustration over things not working the way I expected. None of this happened over a short period of time. More like years. Quite a few.

When I first encountered Wicca, I had no idea what I was reading about. I brought all my questions to my much older girlfriend of the time, a Wiccan High Priestess. We would sit and talk about what I read, and she would provide a warmer narrative from her own experiences. When I finally decided to ask to be accepted into my Rainbow year of learning, I had a concept of what I was about to expect. Lots of talking, an occasional ritual, and some formalized classes in the living room of whoever was handling the lesson. The talking and the lessons went exactly as I expected. The rituals, on the other hand, were confusing and jarring to my senses. Frankly, I was not really prepared to be naked in front of others. Later, it was relayed to me that I had not been told about the nudity because they were sure I would have issues with it. They were right. But not in the way that they thought. For me, it was a moment where everything that I had expected was wrong. My state of mind did not like the unexpected failure of what I had prepared myself for.

The first time I tried to work a spell, I followed a formulaic aspect that I found in one of Donald Michael Kraig’s books. I gave the spell nearly a month to work. When I didn’t get results of any kind, I sought out a ceremonial magician friend and asked why. She could not tell me exactly why but noted that the formulaic process could always be altered in ways that were more personal to me. This only made me even more frustrated. How was I supposed to learn the basic process when I needed to find ways to improvise to make things work properly?

These are only two examples of how processes within my Pagan practice had “failed” me. Many, many times over, I would find myself not doing things “correctly” and become increasingly frustrated with my approach to Paganism. There were times that I sat down and thought that the Christians had it so much easier. All they had to do was show up at church on Wednesdays and Sundays, sign some songs from a book that was provided, and just listen to the admonishes of some intercessory that stood at the front of the congregation.

At this point, I had found myself handling my own approach to my Spirituality. I was in Germany, stationed there by the United States Air Force. Most of the Pagans I knew there, which admittedly was an extremely small number, followed various aspects of Wicca, Heathenry, or something else that I didn’t follow. I would gather with them to talk and discuss Paganism from a generic perspective. At one point, I met with members of a small coven to perform a ritual on Kapaun Air Station, the first such religious accommodation made for a Pagan group by the United States military anywhere in the world. But I was a guest, not a member of the group (though their leader had counted me as a member to inflate his membership numbers to the Ramstein Chaplain that had sponsored his group). Much of my Spiritual practice was spent wandering the wooded areas around the Kaiserslautern area. During my wandering in those woods, I would think about my own Spirituality, and began forming my own personal approach to Paganism. I often wondered if I was doing any of this correctly.

Upon my separation from the United States military, and my subsequent return to the United States, I found myself more alone than I was in Germany. The Witch Wars in Dallas had occurred while I was gone. Dovetailing with that was the back half of the Satanic Panic that had gripped much of the United States from the fanatical Evangelical corner. Many Pagans had gone to ground. Finding ways to hide in plain sight. I had very few people that I could contact to find out if I was doing things right or wrong. So, I continued doing things my own way. Right or wrong, my focus was on doing things in a way that felt “correct” for me. During this time, much of how I handle my own Spirituality came to be.

I wish I could impress on you how many failures I ran into in this period. It was a lot. I would lay out an idea of how to approach an aspect of my Spirituality, only to be frustrated over how it did not work the way I had expected. Or to have it completely backfire in my face. The first few years was quite humbling. However, at some point I realized that each failure was an experience that I could build on. When I found something that did work, I was ecstatic. Slowly I built my own approach to Paganism. Granted, its not a pretty one. There are plenty of scars upon it. There are mismatched pieces within it. But it works for me. That’s what counts most.

Over time, I came across the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids (OBOD). I looked through their information, even looked deeper into their ritual framework. What I found was much closer to what I had been doing in my own Spirituality – trying to find connection, reveling in experience. The ritual framework is not necessarily to my liking (and still is not), but it was a perspective I could live with in groups and gatherings. I don’t use it in my own personal rituals.

At some point, I had decided to give myself permission to fail. I just didn’t see it in those words. I saw it as an aspect of trying. But in trying, I had to prepare myself for the possibility that things wouldn’t work. From that, I learned the value of improvising, finding non-traditional techniques to try and make things work. However, I cannot give my work in my Spirituality the credit for that. Rather, I learned the value of improvising in my work within the military.

In Germany, I was attached to a multi-national NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) unit. Funding for all areas of this unit were sparse. You learned to make do with what you had on hand, or the mission did not get accomplished. That was not an option. I learned not to worry about what something was designed to do and see it for what it could be made to do. Somewhere, that started to translate into my own Spirituality. Did the Gods really give a shit if I called a Guardian at the four quarters? Did I really need to create a circle boundary between my ritual space and the rest of the world? Granted, for some workings – these aspects were necessary for a variety of reasons. But did that mean it had to happen all the time? Through this, I learned my most valuable lesson – question it. That was the only way that you could break things down to the necessary components and remove everything that wasn’t necessary. Or everything that you thought wasn’t necessary. Trial and error. Try it. If it didn’t work or didn’t feel right – add back a component you removed and try again. If that didn’t work, keep adding back and retrying until you find the combination that does.

I know there will be many folks who will find this to be sacrilege. However, I would point to the “fun” little rituals that are out there, such as the Rite of Chocolate, and ask why that could be accepted but little changes to ritual formatting cannot? Believe me, I am not saying that all this works for every single individual or that every Pagan must utilize this concept of alteration as holy writ. That’s not the point. All I am trying to say is that we need to be accepting of the idea that we can fail. And that in failing, we learn. In failing, we can find humor in what occurred. In failing, we can step forward to try again.

Failing, in my opinion, is a part of living. It is a part of growing. It is a part of feeling. In my opinion, our approach to the Gods is not a strict, unbending Path of ritual. Our approach to the Gods, our approach to our own Spirituality is a growing, changing, living relationship. If we place ourselves in a place where we cannot fail, we will wind up frustrated when we do. And our frustration can drive us away from our Spirituality.

I cannot count the number of times I have fucked up, the number of times I have failed. Numerous times, I have sat down and just cried over my frustrations at those failures. I am glad that I picked myself up each time, wiped the tears from my eyes, and resolved to move forward. If I had not, I do not believe that I would be the Pagan I am today. In fact, I know I wouldn’t. Without those experiences, those failures…

–T /|\

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Goooooooals! Thinking About the Process…

Yesterday, I was reading a post on the ESPN Major League baseball site about what goals the writer thought each team should have going into this season. Goals. That prompted me to start thinking about my own goals, and how to apply those to what I work on daily. And I started segmenting my life into various areas. My Professional life. My Spiritual life. My Educational direction. My physical workout direction. As I did this, the goals all started to pile up, and I realized I didn’t have enough time in the day to reach everything I wanted to get to. That felt paralyzing. However, I didn’t want things to stop there. So, I took the evening to think a bit more on all of it.

Segmenting Life

Early in all the thinking, I realized that segmenting my life might not be the best thing in the world. I have heard it referred to as compartmentalizing, where one takes certain things and separates them from others. Lately, I have begun to realize that doing this is not workable for me. While I work in data and statistics, I cannot separate that from my Druidry. My Druidry provides me insight into my analysis and finding trends in the data I work on. How everything fits together and operates together is part of how I view the entire world around me. To divorce my Druidry from my Professional life would require me to not utilize my approach to everything around me. I just cannot do that. The same holds true for my approach to my own education or my approach to being more physically fit. All of which fits together to make a more complete picture. Separating each of these into individual component parts to be approached and worked on individually would, in essence, be ignoring everything I understand about myself.

Setting My Goals

I used to keep these elaborate lists of everything that needed to be accomplished. I would even graph out specified time frames in my calendar to bracket time for completing things. A few months back, I realized that this approach was just not really working for me. I do keep lists, particularly when I am packing for a trip, but I found that this process was not really working for handling my goals. So, I turned towards a different approach. I started to set smaller, more realistic goals that I could work towards without building these elaborate lists.

As an example, my Ovate grade work has many aspects to it. There is a lot of things that need to be accomplished, a lot of approaches to be thought through. I used to mark on a calendar a time frame that I would work on each Gwers. Each time I set up this goal-oriented structure, it failed. I would find myself off-track after a short period of time. So, I altered the approach to not be so list or task structured. I work with each Gwers as I can. Sometimes, one lesson is worked through and absorbed quickly. Sometimes its not. However, I have no worries or anxiety because I no longer place time limits on my time with each one. This stuff is not a race. Now, with work related things, it’s a little different. I am not the one setting the deadlines. But I do try to approach my work in a similar vein. I do my best not to hurry.

Working (and Rocking) My Goals

I do have long-term goals. I have a desire to finish my Ovate grade and move on to the Druid grade. Its not a given that it will happen, but it is my goal and desire to do so. I am seeing a need for more education in my Professional life. I am already looking into prospects for another master’s degree, which will assist me in improving my ability to do my work. There is always a chance to better yourself. I am headed in that direction. My physical self during this time of COVID has been diminished, thanks to being held inside (mostly). I am looking at ways to improve my physical strength, as well as my diminished health. No heavy goals here, except to get healthier. I am not looking to make a certain weight or be able to ride a stationary bike at a certain speed for a certain distance. Just a desire to get healthier.

One thing I have learned is that when you set unreachable goals for yourself, your failure to reach those unattainable heights can influence your mental health. Sometimes, its far better to walk away from those unattainable goals than to continue to reach for what is constantly just out of your grasp. Believe me, that is a hard lesson to learn. Plus, it is a real head-slam when you finally understand it. The difficult part is to not beat yourself up over it. Yes, you failed. But you can always alter your approach and try again. But there are also goals that will never be attainable. Those, you need to realize for yourself, and walk away without trying again. Those are the hardest moments that you can have.

Now, I will end this with stuff that I usually say. This is a process and a set of thinking that works for me. This is not going to work for everyone. Everyone is their own individual. Everyone will have their own way of motivating themselves towards their goals. Everyone will have their own way of analyzing things. I am not writing this as an ultimate manifesto of how to do things. I write this as a potential kick-starter for others to examine their own personal processes. I am not the ultimate authority of anything, except where it pertains to myself. I do suggest that if you find yourself getting paralyzed over trying to move forward with your own personal goals…start small. Those small successes will help. For me, it provided a way of seeing that I could accomplish things. That I was able to do it. Just a thought. Your mileage will vary.

–T /|\

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Dealing With Cultural Appropriation – My Personal Take

Currently, I am going through a “dry” period of coming up with what to write about. Thankfully, a few folks have offered up suggestions on what to write. This weekend’s blog post is courtesy of a question from Ashlynn G. in Washington state. Ashlynn had read my earlier post on cultural appropriation and wanted to know how I approach others on that perspective when I encounter it with them.

This is a bit of a tough area for me. I am not the kind of person that goes around looking for other peoples’ approaches to blow up. I have never found approaching others over their approaches to Spirituality to be a comfortable topic. Even as a friendly discussion. I have my own way of going about my Spirituality and have never felt a need to judge someone else’s approach. There are those that I find distasteful from my own perspective, but I am also not in their shoes. To judge another’s approach beyond how it would or would not apply to myself…well, that’s just not me nor is it something that I feel is a necessary thing for me to do.

Yes, I get the cultural appropriation charge leveled against me because I do have close relationships with two First Nations Gods. However, it has been made very apparent to me that I am not of “the People” (First Nations’ folk). That specific Path is not mine, as I was told. My Path and working with Crow and Coyote is different than that of “the People.” Pow-wows, sweat lodges, vision quests, and the such are not on my Path. I have never been invited to any such thing either. And to be honest, I am not sure I would accept if I were invited. The perspective of a Shaman would never apply to me. I work with Crow and Coyote because They called to me. I can’t control that. But I can ensure that I am not trampling into areas I should not tread.

The same holds true when being provided a description of someone else’s Path. What Gods that they work with is not for me to denigrate. Even the rituals, spell work, and the such is really none of my business. My place is not to be the judge of how others conduct themselves on their Path. I do not know what agreements, contracts, and what-not they have bargained with their Gods. Nor do I need to be privy to that either. My footfalls are the steps that I can control. Those are the steps that I need to concentrate on.

Occasionally, I will run across Pagan folks that feel it is their duty to battle Christians over perspectives, actions, and what-not. Way back when I was a far more zealous Pagan, I would wade into these “battles” on Bulletin Board Systems (BBSs – and yes I am dating my fifty-five-year-old self here) for prolonged ‘warfare”. Looking back, I must ask myself a few questions. What did it accomplish? What image did it portray to those not involved in the “discussion”? What did I really intend to have occur? The answers are simple, and not very pleasant to my ears. These accomplished nothing. Essentially, to others, I came off as a very angry, preachy Pagan. Unfortunately, my desire was to try and get folks on the other side to admit to the hypocrisy that I saw in their beliefs.

Much of where I am now on stuff like this comes down to boundaries. Boundaries that I have set myself – for myself. Words do not have to be answered with zealotry and misplaced passion. Words need only be answered with truth and answered only once. Prolonged and protracted arguments will do nothing to establish “right” or “wrong”. Plus, words are only words. When someone takes those words a further step with action – things change a bit. Answering the actions of zealotry requires action in return. Hurt those I love and care about, and that crosses another boundary I have set. I am not an individual of violent reaction. I prefer discussion over fists and weapons. I prefer common ground over battlefields. But my preference can sometimes not be the vanguard of the day.

Hypothetically, how would I approach someone whose personal practice is crossing into the territory of cultural appropriation, blatant or otherwise? Well, as I said before, discussion is my preference to any approach. I would prefer to be as courteous as I could, not come in with guns blazing. The reason is extremely simple. I have no idea why they are doing things the way that they are. I don’t know the bargains that they have made. My assumption may be false, and I am assuming. Even with people I have known forever. My preference is to tread lightly just in case I am wrong. If they don’t listen? Well, in that case, I have done what I can. Forcing people to see a potential error in their ways brings me back to those protracted “discussions” on the BBSs. Arguing for the sake of making noise, essentially. I am no longer that Pagan. Thirty-plus years has softened my approach to such things. Besides, I would prefer to let the Gods and karma do that work. Both are far better at it than I could ever imagine I could be.

So, Ashlynn, I hope this answers your question in a way that is helpful and informative. There are others that will disagree with my approach, and prefer the guns blazin’ approach. I understand how they get there. I was there once myself. This; however, is the way that I believe would be best…if I was to approach someone over such things. As I said, the Gods and karma are far better at responding to such things that I could ever be.

–T /|\

Thinking About: What It Takes to Get There

Well, its Tuesday. Time for another blog post. Still pushing through writer’s block, I was coming to this with empty pockets. However, I came across a Facebook post by Cat Treadwell, which reads (in part): “I’m undertaking more rites of Passing lately, due to the state of the world, but wanted to say again that I’m absolutely fine for my details to be passed on as needed for any such work. We’re not able to gather for celebrations yet, but officiants are still needed.” All of that got my head to working its way around a few thoughts, which are turning into this post.

Currently, we are starting to come out of the nightmare of COVID we have been living through. This morning, I realized that it was right around this time last year that we all started to become aware of COVID. One year ago, this was the time of change for all our lives. Now, we are still moving towards that finish line – the battle with COVID is far from over, despite what idiots like Texas’ Governor Greg Abbott may think, but this is the right time to stop for a moment, and determine how we move forward from here.

The Pagan community is a vast, constantly growing, constantly changing macro-organism – so pretending like I know what will and won’t work for such a widely diverse community would be the height of arrogance on my part. I am just one Pagan. One Druid. One Polytheist. I have one voice. One opinion. One dream. The reality of all of that is that I can only speak on behalf of a single person – me. But I can, point out what I believe needs to be addressed, from where I stand. It might jive with the perspectives of other people. It might not. But here goes.

Cat is pointing out something that is a reality in the wake of the forward motion of COVID. We, the wider Pagan community, will be quite likely be in the process of mourning someone in our community, immediate family or even someone that we admired from afar. For those Pagans that identify on the Path of a Priest, those roles will be more important than ever before. Generally, we tend to think of the rites of Passing when catastrophic events occur within our lives. Well, COVID is here. We’ve all focused on trying to survive, hoping that we don’t have to face the awful event of someone in our immediate sphere of existence passing from this awful disease. But it does happen. Many of our folks that are in that path of Priesthood, generally, seem to be approached at times of happiness. That is typically the rite of Handfasting. We have many members of our communities that will need comfort and assistance…and that does not have to come solely from those in the Path of the Priest.

COVID has also cut off some folks from their chosen communities. For instance, I have not seen a single member of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids (OBOD) since I saw John Beckett at Austin WitchFest last year, sometime in April. In fact, that was the last public Pagan gathering I have attended to this day. I am sure that many others have similar stories. Being cut off in this manner can create issues of anxiety, depressive states, and feelings of extreme loneliness. As a community, we need to reach out to others…just to make sure they are ok. Reassure them that we are all still here. We are still connected, despite the distance of time. Reassure ourselves that things will come back together for everyone…even if it is a little slower than we want it to be.

Let’s face a few facts. We have not kicked COVID’s ass. Not yet. There is a distant light at the end of the tunnel, that’s for sure. We have vaccines available. I’ll be getting mine (the Moderna two-shot version) on Friday, with the second four weeks following that. Even after that occurs, I’ll still be wearing my mask in public. Just because I got the vaccine does not mean things are over and I can act like everything is back to the time before COVID showed up. Even despite what my state’s governor may say. That also means that Pagan public events should not be kicking off starting tomorrow. In fact, I believe it will be a while before even those get going again. And perhaps even longer before we start really trusting those public type of events again. That means that people who have a major social aspect to their pagan practice – and I am including myself here – will need to remain patient. We will need to remain content with the sterile virtual gatherings we have all come to understand and relate with in these times. It also means that we need to take the time to check in on everyone…making the reassurance that those connections are still there.

One day we will all be able to see one another face-to-face. We will be able to hold hands, hug one another, show each other the genuine affection we have for our people. In the meantime, we must stay vigilant, and keep ourselves safe. Not just for us, but for everyone. Yes, even that annoying Trump supporter that lives down the street. Because that dude is a human being too. A bit misguided, but still a human being.

For those on the Path of the Priest…those rites of passing are important. We need those. We need you being able to do those. Even if its just a virtual session. We need that connection. We need you to be in your role.

We all have roles within our community. Some are Priests. Some hold other roles. Some are just trying to find their own footing. Whatever the case may be, we have all been interrupted in our approaches from what has happened with COVID. We have all learned to survive on our own. We have all managed to handle our personal Spirituality on our own during these times. To whatever degree that may be, it doesn’t matter. We’ve made it here. To this point. We still have more of this lonely road to travel, but soon we will be walking it with others again. Hand-in-hand, side-by-side….together. Let’s manage these last steps with our minds on what is yet to come – and what we must do to get there.

–T /|\

What Does Success Look Like In Your Daily Approach – My Attempt

Starting this off, I must admit that this is probably the most difficult writing topic I have ever approached on the blog. See, I have hit a tough period of writer’s block lately. I confided in a long-time friend and reader of this blog (all the way back to the old Blogger.com days) that I was in this dry spell. She suggested the previous topic and this one as potential jumping off points. The post on Imposter Syndrome took a few hours to write, and nearly two days to research and think about. This post, well…this has been a much tougher one to write, for a lot of reasons – some of which I will go through in the post. I just wanted to explain some of the aspects of approaching the topic – as well as noting that I am always willing to write on any topic you might want to provide. Or at least, willing to try since it will be my own approach.

So, the topic that was suggested was “What Does Success Look Like in Your Spiritual Approach?” In all actuality, this is where I moved the goal post somewhat. The original question was “What Does Success Look Like in Druidry?” However, I cannot and will not speak on Druidry in a way that expresses some dogmatic perspective that should apply to every Druid out there. I just cannot do that. I know my own approach. I know how Druidry functions within my daily Path. I just cannot claim to know what Druidry is to anyone else. So, the first step was to reframe the question in something a touch narrower – my own approach. But that was not the only stumbling point that I encountered.

Success. What the fuck does that even look like for me? Success conjures up imagery of winning, of competition, of goal setting. And if you don’t come out with the higher score, dominate your opponent, or reach your goal – you are a failure. Right? Well, yeah. Except that I do not believe in all of that. Dominating your opponent, having the higher score – that works well in things of competition, but I am not competing with anyone. I hope we all make it, as the oft-quoted meme says. As for goals, I set goals all the time. I fall short of those goals quite a bit. But none of that is a failure. Its an experience that I can learn from, an experience that I can adjust my expectations from. Honestly, Life is not about successes and failures for me. Not anymore. Life is about experiencing things. I think the only success I can truly point to is waking up in the morning. It means that I have not passed beyond the veil, and I get another chance at a new day that could be better than yesterday. Immediately, I find myself beyond the eight-ball, so to speak, trying to figure out what a “success” would look like in my Spiritual approach…my daily Path.

Trying to define something like success, as it applies to my own daily approach, is a lot tougher than I thought it might be. Again, success by its definition, is not something I aspire towards unless I am playing a video game or playing in a soccer game. Perhaps, I could apply it to a concept of positive and negative experiences. Like, for instance, a great moment might be when a ritual goes EXACTLY the way I had planned it. No odd moments. No things forgotten. No surprises. But then, I have had rituals that did not go the way I had planned that wound up being extremely important experiences. Such as using rubbing alcohol to hold a small fire in a metal pot (cauldron). You must light that shit quickly. Otherwise…well, let’s just say that my experience taught me to go other routes. 😊 So positive and negative perspectives really isn’t quite the way to go since negative experiences can provide just as much enlightenment as positive ones can. But there is that one point – enlightenment.

What exactly is enlightenment? The English Language Learners dictionary defines it as “the state of having knowledge or understanding.” This plays a bit easier in my mind as to what this so-called point of “success” might look like. I am not seeking a point of winning or losing. I am looking for experiences that can relay knowledge and understanding to a particular question or issue within my mind. Take for instance, my Odyssean journey through the grades of OBOD’s study courses. I spend a large amount of time on my lessons, not because I cannot grasp or comprehend what is being presented. Rather, I am trying to squeeze every fucking drop I can from the material. I keep looking for more and more experientially points that I can derive from what is presented. Until I have wrung that cloth completely dry, I seem to have the feeling that I have not really reached what I need to get.

What does success look like in my Spirituality? Within my daily Path? Well, I must resort to Henry David Thoreau for that response.

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, to discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and to be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.

Henry David Thoreau

My Druidry is about experience. I’m not looking for a success or a failure. I am here to suck the marrow from the bones of daily Life. I am looking to taste, feel, hear, see, smell, talk with, and listen to whatever is there. If I come back home bruised, broken, and bleeding, I experienced just as much as if I came home with a notebook full of scribbled notes, and horrible sketches. I can go to a classical music concert with an elegant dinner afterwards, and have just as exhilarating an experience if I went down to a local club to see Halestorm, and then stuck around to pound whiskey shots with the band until I passed out. Daily Life is about experiences, about feeling the moment. Grab a hold of it, sink your teeth into its neck, and feel the rising passion. Or curled up on the couch with a book in one hand, your cat on your lap, and your lover holding your other hand. There is no such thing as success in how I live my life. There are experiences, there are sensations, there is living. Sometimes, Life is good. Sometimes, it’s bad. But most of the time, it’s somewhere in-between. So, what is success? I opened my eyes this morning. I took a deep breath. I get another day in this existence. I have succeeded.

Now, regarding the original question, I am not completely sure I have answered exactly what was asked. All I can really do is apologize, to a point. I really have tried my best to answer the question. I did have to change things around a bit, and work my around some of the definitions, as well as the philosophical aspects. Not sure if that is disappointing, infuriating, or satisfying to others. Or maybe some combination of those, maybe even some perspective I have not even thought of here. I will point out; this is how I approached the question. The real question for you, the reader, is how YOU would answer this. I will bet it is far different than I have. And I will bet it is not wrong, whatsoever – even if its diametrically opposed from my answer.

–T /|\

Making a Move: Pushing Through Imposter Syndrome

I still remember my first professional presentation. I gave a short presentation on basic Structured Query Language (SQL) for collegiate professionals using Microsoft Access. The presentation was straight-forward stuff. No heavy-duty table linking. No temporary tables. No query optimization theory. Just plain old SELECT statements with a handful of WHERE examples. I had fifty minutes time. I was nervous, and frankly scared to death. I was not used to being in front of people and trying to demonstrate things to them. Ok that’s not completely true. I had taught Introduction to Information Systems for three years prior to that moment. But this was the first time I had done this in front of a group of peers.

Well, that’s not completely true either. In the United States Air Force, I had given two briefings on command-and-control message processing structures, one in the command post I worked in, and another in an off-building near the Pentagon for an Air Force command conference. Plus, I had helped teach a course in Chemical Warfare protective equipment (how to use the stuff) to other members of my base. So, yeah, I had experience in being in front of people and doing what I was attempting on that day in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Plus, I have done a handful of professional presentations since then – three more presentations at regional conferences, and a presentation at a national conference in San Diego. I’ll come back to these in a few minutes.

Before I ever stepped in front of those crowds of people to present – even in my own classroom – I have developed a sense of nervousness I have never been able to explain. After a few minutes at the front of these groups of people, my nervousness would melt back into the background, and I would be able to carry on with presenting. And apparently, I’m good at it because I have heard many praises of my presentations provided to me. Not that I would agree, but that’s a different post for discussion. I have never had a name for how I felt until the past couple of years. Imposter syndrome.

Wikipedia, which is not the greatest source in the world, notes imposter syndrome as being:

…is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their skills, talents or accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. Despite external evidence of their competence, those experiencing this phenomenon remain convinced that they are frauds, and do not deserve all they have achieved.

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

The Wikipedia article goes on to describe the terminology in greater detail from the research provided by Dr. Pauline R. Clance and Dr. Suzanne A. Imes, which provides even more details. I am sure there is even more in-depth research and materials that can be found (as evidenced by the detailed references section of the Wikipedia article), but what is presented in the article brings about a fairly strong example of the internal issues I have each time I step up to present any material to others.

My regional presentations, including the first one that I described here, usually had no more than ten to thirty people in attendance. The first one had fifteen people to start the presentation. By the time I brought the presentation to a close, I was told I had around thirty people there. I’m glad I had no idea of the numbers. I would literally have frozen in the middle of the presentation. When I was in the classroom, I usually had an enrollment of nearly thirty-five students at the start of the class semester. By the end, it would dwindle to around twenty students that I would see on a regular basis. Thus, my expectations were always for a consistently shrinking audience. My national presentation, I was told had over 145 people. Standing room only in a room that had a capacity listed by the hotel as 130. The only way I made it through that session was to focus on the first five rows of people and ignore everyone beyond them. I was literally shaking after I finished.

After every presentation I gave, during the rest of the time at those conferences, I would receive praise from people who attended. People would thank me in the hallways, remark on some of the humor I tried to infuse into the presentation, and I even was thanked on a bus trip to an aircraft carrier museum the next evening at the San Diego conference. I have never been good at taking praise. Every single one of these encounters was extremely awkward for me. After reading the work of Clance and Imes, I am starting to understand that much of that awkwardness comes from the effects of my own internalization resulting from Imposter Syndrome.

I have been provided all kinds of advice to dealing with this, including the “Fake It Until You make It” concept. Unfortunately, that tactic does not work for me. Faking things is a measure of dishonesty, both to myself and to others, that I just cannot deal with. If anything, this tactic only buries me deeper into the Imposter Syndrome effects and magnifies the resultant behavior within me. I withdraw from everything. I place even more pressure upon myself. That starts an even deeper and darker cycle of personal self-destruction (mental, not physical). In fact, I am currently pulling myself out of just such a cycle. Trust me, its not a pretty sight…even from deep inside, where I am. I know that this concept works for other people, but it just doesn’t for me.

So, where and how does this matter to my Druidry? Well, several times over, I have been asked to present at various Pagan conferences. Several times, I have turned down such offers. I have never viewed myself as any kind of expert on any part of Paganism – other than how I, a singular individual, approach it and apply it to my daily life. The reality is not that statement – though it is factually correct. The reality is that I would have felt like a complete fraud standing up in front of a large group of people talking about my Paganism, when I struggle with all of that within my own Daily Path.

I have made no secret over my seeking mental health assistance during my most recent bout with my own Darkness. As I have started to come out of those extremely difficult times, I have realized that no matter how scared I am of getting in front of people, I will need to do it. Not just to talk about Paganism. Not to talk about Druidry. But to talk about how that gets incorporated into one’s own fucked up life. The band Icon For Hire has a lyric in their song “Somebody Make a Move” that I feel is relevant here.

You and I, we share the same disease
Cover up, compromise what we grieve
I’ve let more than my share of revivals die
This isn’t pretty but it’s who I am tonight

My life is hardly pretty. But perhaps my struggle can be someone’s inspiration. I have my own inspirations. They struggle as well. They create as well. They set themselves to one degree or another as an example of what can be done if we decide to make a move. Right now, our world has everything locked down for COVID, and rightly so. But in the future, we will see our Pagan gatherings and conferences come back. I look forward to that day because I don’t have to be isolated from people that I love and care about so deeply. And who knows? You might even catch me giving a presentation…. well, more like a talk. Because I don’t want to be the only with something to say. I’d prefer we inspired each other to make a move.

–T /|\

Gizmo hiding…sort of

Thinking About: I’m Still Lousy With the Tarot

It is no secret that most of my daily Pagan and Druid path does not include magick or even divination tools such as the Tarot. I have always had a certain level of reluctance when things start to bend in those directions, but not because I lack the ability for such things. My reticence comes from a lack of experience. That, and my strong belief that I have no need to add my own push to whatever the Universe is going to bring about. I view magick, divination, and many other aspects of the Pagan Path to be tools. But tools that are a last resort after you roll up your sleeves and get on with the work that is stacked up directly in front of you.

This is also an area that I do not readily discuss with others. As such, I do not have a lot of information to gauge against my own to determine how common my approach may or may not be. I just know that it is my own way of seeing things in the overlay of the land as it is set before me.

Oddly enough, I have had a frame of mind that equates magickal usage as something common and everyday in the life of a Pagan. Sort of like the moment where Anakin Skywalker uses his force powers to cut up food for Padmé Amidala in one of the Star Wars movies. Where magick is one of the first tools that a Pagan might reach for. This is probably a silly thought, and my approach that magick is kept as a tool of last resort is probably more appropriate and practical within the Pagan community at large. However, I have no empirical data to back up that perspective from either direction.

Not that long ago, I took some initial steps into the Tarot, which resulted in a particular interpretation of a reading that I did for myself. Well, I found out how bad I am at doing readings using the Tarot. Going back to that reading, which was done in early October of last year, I can see where I misinterpreted certain aspects because I was certainly too close to the subject matter to come back with a concrete meaning. In other words, I was too close to the forest to see the trees. That has brought me around to the notation that I am excruciatingly bad at doing Tarot readings. I have heard that doing readings for one’s self should be far easier to manage than those for others. There is no way that I would ever unleash my horrible interpretations onto others, particularly when I have become to realize how bad I am at it with myself.

However, I also now that experience helps attune one’s self to a task at hand. Thus, I am not throwing the Tarot tool into the trash and labeling it as “useless.” Rather, I have labeled it as “unrefined” at this point and have started looking at ways to fine tune what I am trying to do. I know its not the deck, The Celtic Tarot has provided good readings – particularly at one-card draws, which I have been using to refine my knowledge of the cards themselves. Perhaps, I need to look to other layouts to see what might work better for me. Or perhaps, I need to loosen up the interpretations I have made a bit more, so as not to make my readings so uber-specific. Whatever the case may be, I am trying different approaches, methodologies…and going into the future, maybe even a different card set. However, at this point, I do have to remind myself that I am the ultimate day-on novice at all of this – and not be too hard on myself over the stumbles and failures. Learning takes time. Time means patience. I am not going to be a Tarot expert over-night, that is for sure. 😊

However, all of this does remind me… everyone has these moments. Moments where they fail at something that they thought would be easy to put into practice, easy to be excellent at immediately – only to be sitting in the dust, wondering how the Nine Hells you got there. Being humbled in a manner like this is a royal kick in the pants, so to speak. But it is also a lesson. One can be confident in their ability to learn, but not so over-confident as to over-extend one’s weight over one’s skis. Yep, learned that lesson in the sixth grade. Skiing. Broke my tibia and fibula in my left leg. Wore a hip-high cast for nearly two months. My over confidence of my ability to ski was the cause of my injury. I was the only kid to suffer an injury during that trip. The only kid whose parents had to drive down to where we had gone on our trip to bring me home. For a sixth grader… it was quite a blow to the ego. Even if my fellow classmates were all more than gracious about it. There are all sorts of places you can find these little lessons…and most of them aren’t even magickal or even Pagan in nature.  😉

I will continue my journey to learn about the Tarot and how to use this tool in my daily Path. I will learn as much as I can, but I know there will be so many others that learn more than I do. That’s awesome though. Because they learned as much as they could. We are all individual from one another. Our strengths are often different. The depth of our learning in a variety of subjects is as varied as the material presented. I will eventually discover my depth in the Tarot. Right now, I have only got one toe in the water. And I can’t even tell if the water is cold or hot. At least not yet.

–T /|\

Photo by Lucas Pezeta on Pexels.com

Another Year….of Patience

Normally, this time of year would find me plotting and planning a trip to Louisiana for the annual OBOD Gulf Coast Gathering. For the second year in a row, that’s not happening – mostly due to COVID concerns (and rightly so). This year, Winter decided to howl down from the north, and push me even further indoors (mostly due to my horribly compromised immune system). All of that has allowed me to spend more time on my studies, as well as continue the re-build of everything I comprehend about my Spirituality.

Here in Tejas, the temperatures over the last few days have been intolerably cold. Then again, I have bivouacked in even more extreme temperatures in the wilds of Denmark, the highlands of Scotland, and even in the forests of Germany. I was also a bit more prepared and adjusted to those temperatures, thanks to the United States Air Force (USAF) and the command structure of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Each of those times were training exercises that were mean to test our capabilities of operating in extreme temperatures and what each organization referred to as “disparate environments.” In our training manuals, these exercises were referred to as “implementations of situational readiness.” That is something that the Tejas government was hardly prepared for. To be fair, weather and temperatures like this are once-in-a-generation happenstance. This is not what the state government expects to occur, and thus is something that they do not prepare for.

I spent eight years in Command-and-Control environments in the United States Air Force. Situational preparedness was a common theme in daily life. The threats that could occur ranged from power outages to nuclear warfare. As a member of a unit, you trained for any scenario that could be thought of and learned to adapt what you had learned to whatever was presented to you. When I left the US military, I pivoted to corporate Disaster Recovery, where the focus was on rebuilding the business infrastructure to get the company back on its feet and quickly operating after some form of a disaster. In this job, my department spent a lot of time sand-tabling scenarios. That is, we spent a lot of time dreaming up ways to destroy the company and what techniques could be used to rebuild it quickly. Many times, we did that in the lunchroom of the company’s main building. We were quite loud. Like the time we cleared the lunchroom by discussing a gas tanker running out of control off the interstate and sliding through the main lobby of the building. We discussed what the mortality rates would be, how many people we thought would actually be able to escape down the fire exits (we were in an eleven story building), and how we would reconstitute the company’s operating capacity in a parking lot that would also have to be utilized for massive casualty emergency response. Yes, we were a blast to have in the lunchroom. 😊 And as I noted, we could easily clear the lunchroom with one of our animated sand-table sessions.

During the cold weather here in my area, I left the house a total of zero times. I have spent a lot of time reading, listening to my audio lessons, watching television, sleeping, and trying to stay as warm as I possible can. This weather did not take me by surprise. The weather forecasters have been talking non-stop about this extreme drop in temperatures for a few days before it occurred. I had plenty of time to stock up on food items and be a bit more prepared. But all of this did give me a few moments to pause and reflect on my past, as well as how prepared I am for moments of uncertainty in moments of Life.

The last six months have been some of the most tumultuous that I have had in my life. Yet, despite everything that has happened, I continue to survive through it all. Because, essentially, I am a survivor. Again, I can thank the US military for that. For eight years, I was taught how to handle situations where nothing goes as planned. While I am not the better for where I am, I will eventually be better off. Rebuilding takes time.

I think the hardest part of the last six months is not having my Druid family nearby. As I said earlier, it has been quite a while since I have seen the people that are my family. Online contact has been sporadic as well, as everyone is doing what they need to, in these times of COVID. However, I know they are there. From time to time, we cross Paths online, and do a mini “catch up” by whatever means. Just stuff that can suffice for a short period of time.

As I learned in the military, being prepared is not about having every single contingency answered with this procedure or that pieces of equipment. This is about being flexible, being able to utilize what you have at hand to make it through. This is about being patient, too. I am just as restless as anyone else being here at home. I want to be outside. I want to go hiking. I want to breathe in a world awakening from its Winter slumber. Right now, its dangerous for me to be outside. The cold weather could have catastrophic effects on my pulmonary system. Yes, the pneumonia I contracted after coming home from Iceland really did quite a number on my health. I am still recovering from all of that. I am better, but still must be somewhat cautious. Things will be better. I am sure of that. I must be patient.

Through all of what I have tugged out of the shadows here, being patient is the most important aspect. Yes, there is always a sense of urgency in getting things moving in the initial aspects of impending uncertainty. But once everything is stabilized, patience and calm is important in relation to moving forward. So, another year will pass without me seeing my OBOD family. In the coming year, we will all change even more than where we have managed to now. There will be a lot of differences between the last time we met, and the next time we will. Welcome to life. Ever changing, always growing. Whatever those changes may be…. we are all still family in my eyes.

–T /|\

Photo by Simon Berger on Pexels.com

You Get to Define That. You Get to Live That.

For this blog post, I decided to cross some very familiar territory. Some of this will be a bit of a look back. Some of it is a bit of finality in drawing boundaries for me. Much of it is about adding some more framework to how I will define my Druidry going forward.

So, where are we headed to? Well, back to some labels and terms. Priest. Teacher. Mentor. Shaman. Elder. Druid. Generally, the terms that I have struggled with in the past and continue to struggle with here in the present. In the groups that I am a part of, these terms are used fluidly to describe what many believe is the quintessential aspect of any Pagan-ish training. Each is utilized as the very end of the trail we all traverse in our studies. These are the goals that many seem to hold in highest regard. For me, these are just labels. Nothing overly special. Not even the slightest bit of goal-oriented thinking. Not any type of an objective to attain. Just loose descriptors. After all, each term/label carries a connotation that can wobble slightly from one person to another, in terms of descriptive understanding.

Terminology

Probably the most difficult of all these terms for me is that of Priest. Growing up in a non-religious household, the terminology never meant all that much to me, until my parents sent me to private Catholic schooling. The term “Priest” in my mind will always conjure the image of the Jesuit Priests that were at the forefront of my education. At least as the first iconic imagery that comes to my mind. Later in life, there were the pastors of the Baptist faith that I explored, prior to Paganism. For me, a Priest is an individual that leads the religious education of others, as well as being at the forefront of ritual for a group of people. Honestly, none of that is me. I have no desire to be considered the “authority” on anyone’s faith, other than my own.

Teacher is probably the easier term for me to deal with. I have been a teacher in my professional life. For three years, I taught collegiate students about Information Systems, and did my best to show them some of the real-world applications of these systems. Granted, I strayed far from the textbook in doing so, but from the first day I taught out of that text – I believed it to be a shitty manner of showcasing what information was in our current environment. However, my style of teaching is not an easy one for a student – I will readily admit that. I prefer to hand the information to the student, let them assimilate the information the best that they can, and be available to them for any questions. Within a Pagan context, I know that this can be difficult for others to handle. So, I know my own limits towards being a teacher. However, even with that warning, if a student persisted – I would likely be open to being a mentor. The difference between teacher and mentor? A mentor gently guides. A teacher is a lot more hands-on. 😊 There is a song lyric from Halestorm’s song “Break In” that goes “Put your lighter in the air and lead me back home.” This is about as far as I want to get to being at the forefront of anyone’s religious education or instruction. My ideal perspective is to help lead others to where they are trying to get to, not force them down my own Path.

Shaman. What a charged term this one is. Because of my ties to Crow and Coyote, I have heard people mutter the term “Shaman” in my direction before. I have also heard the murmurs of cultural appropriation as well. Well, to put it bluntly, when I started working with Crow, it was made very plain to me that I was not of “The People” and my dealings would have absolutely nothing to do with the religious or ritual aspects of the First Nations. I am not working in sweat lodges nor am I undertaking a vision quest. Those are not for me. I am not of The People. I am also not a Shaman. Any thought that I would head down the path of the First Nations is categorically incorrect. I work with two First Nations’ Gods because the Gods approach those that They approach. Simple as that. I have always been, and always will be, uncomfortable with the notion that I am trying to work some Shamanistic approach.

Elder. Gods, I hate the term but I have been on my Pagan Path since 1986. Whether I like it nor, the basic definitive application of the term certainly can be levied at me. As a point of levity, in the movie ‘We Are Soldiers”, Sergeant Major Plumley makes the statement “If any of you sons of bitches calls me grandpa, I’ll kill you.” In many ways, I feel the same way when people express astonishment about the length of time I have been on my Pagan Path, as if longevity makes me wise or sagacious. Really, its just a notation of time, not a marker of knowledge. I am uncomfortable being noted as a ‘Pagan Elder” but I also understand why such a charge is levied at me. I only wish that people would stop reacting to it as if it is a badge of honor. Because, frankly, it’s not.

Druid. Well, I am a Druid. Even if I am just within my Ovate grade in the order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids (OBOD). Regardless if I continue into my Druid grade or even finish that grade – I am still a Druid. In the past, I was always reticent about utilizing the term, especially when I had not finished all three of the grades within OBOD. However, it is not the grades that make me into a Druid. It is me. With or without OBOD’s training, I am a Druid. With or without the training of another Druid order, I am still a Druid. You may, honestly, have no idea how difficult it was for me to come to that understanding. Or how much that still has me dancing on my tiptoes in nervousness. Yes, it is an aspect of Imposter Syndrome. Going beyond that…. well, it will take time.

Happy Thoughts, Lying on Green Grass, Under Blue Skies

In the end, this whole aspect of labels and terms will matter more to some people, and far less to others. For me, I could give a shit what you call me. Just don’t call me late to dinner. I know what I am. I know what I believe. I know what I need to get done on my Spiritual Path. Just like anyone else, I have certain images and concepts mixed with the terms we all utilize so inter-changeably. Some of those will match up with what you understand. Some of it won’t. Where it matters the most is not to me or anyone else. What matters is how it matches up with what you believe, how you are a Pagan or whatever. If titles, labels, and descriptives hold that much meaning to you – that is awesome. None of that holds any major weight with me, though. And that should not matter one whit to you, me, or anyone else.

I promised you happy thoughts while lying on green grass, underneath blue skies. Well, for me there is happiness going forward. My path is my own. I walk under a framework provided to me by OBOD, but with the knowledge that structuring things beyond that is up to me, and me alone. Your connection to the world around you is up to you. You provide the depth and detail that works for you. You explore in the manner that provides the most meaning and representation to you. All of that will be different from the way that I do it – from the way anyone else does it. Because your connectivity to the world around you is yours – and yours alone. Revel in that. Soak it in like the sunshine in the daytime or the moonlight in the night. Your choice, your approach. You get to define that. You get to live that.

–T /|\

Long ago there was a dream, had to make a choice or two
Leaving all I loved behind for what nobody knew
Stepped out on the stage
A life under lights and judging eyes
Now the applause has died and I can dream again
Is there anybody listening?
Is there anyone that sees what’s going on?
Read between the lines, criticize the words they’re selling
Think for yourself and feel the walls
Become sand beneath your feet
–Queensryche, “Anybody Listening?”

The Gods, the Darkness, and the Quiet Times

This morning, it’s a cold Valentine’s Day here in the center of Tejas. As I look out in the backyard, I can see the patches of ice that have formed in the yard from the low temperatures. There is a promise of even colder weather, as well as a possibility of some significant amount of snow. Well, significant as it relates to here in Tejas. Currently my coffee is still warm, though I will need to refresh it sometime in the very near future. My speakers currently have Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush with their duet “Don’t Give Up” from Gabriel’s “So” album. Just the perfect stuff under the grayish skies above.

Weather like this reminds me that Winter will grab hold and try its best to cling on to our days for a little longer. However, Spring is nearly here, we just need to be patient for a little while longer. The Gabriel/Bush duet reminds me that there is always struggle in Life, even in one’s Spirituality.

I have walked through many valleys within my Spirituality, most recently during the last three months of this past calendar year. I tend to refer to these valleys as my “quiet times” in my life. Crow will whisper in my ear from time to time during my “normal” times. Abnoba tends to be more direct with confrontation in dreams that will linger long after I awake. Coyote…. well, communication there is far less frequent and tends to be a lot more subtle. However, the “quiet times” feel a lot more disconnected, and as I have learned recently, are tied tightly to my “down” moments with my depression.

I have never been sure why the “quiet times” come about, and aside from tying it loosely to my “down” bouts, these tend to happen without reasonable frequency. Sometimes, these last for a while. Sometimes, not so much. When I first started to experience these moments, I would panic. The world feels so out of touch, out of sync with me – nothing felt like I expected. I would feel like I did something wrong. However, I have learned through experience that these moments happen, and that I will be walking on my own for a while. It still feels scary when it occurs – plus my entire life feels very dis-jointed and disconnected when it occurs.

There are those that come to Paganism expecting to be put under the protective embrace of a God or Goddess, only to be disappointed when it does not happen. Folks, the Gods choose to work with those they choose to work with. Sometimes, They even find a working agreement with an individual and pick those folks as Priests and Priestesses. While I work with Crow, Coyote and Abnoba quite a bit, I am not a “chosen” individual with any of the three. I’m just someone that works with Them. Crow made it very clear that I have a role outside that of traditional First Nations’ aspects. I am not of the People. Their traditions are not mine to work with. My working with Crow is for a different purpose and reasoning. What exactly that is…is not really mine to question or easily discern.

Like I said, many folks come to Paganism expecting a direct relationship with chosen Gods or Goddesses. My relationship with Crow and Coyote is not a direct one. Occasionally, my Path will intersect with Theirs. Abnoba is a little different. I am sure there is something that She wants from me. As of this moment, I am not completely sure, though She is more likely to be directly in my face over things. There is no direct connection there, yet. There may never be. Some will say that I am lucky to have such a “direct” connection to the Gods. There are times I would scoff at the term “lucky”.

My connection with Crow, Coyote, and Abnoba is just – a connection. None of the three play a major part in my daily Spirituality, aside from offerings that I give to each. My daily Path is more about connection to the environment around me, and far less in devotion. The whole point of connection for me is why I feel so disoriented during my “quiet times.” When you have something as integral in your daily practice that suddenly gets “turned off” – well, as I have described my depression before, it becomes a very dark and lonely place.

For those coming to Paganism seeking a connection with a specific God or Goddess, let me impart a piece of advice to you. The Gods and Goddesses are not the Hollywood and Marvel depictions that you see in comics, books, and movies. Those two-dimensional depictions are meant to entertain you for the time you spend in those fictional environments. Loki is not Tom Hiddleston and is a far more complex Being than what those crappy movies depict Him as being. If/When you do encounter Loki, you will find that out.

If you don’t encounter a God or Goddess in your daily practice, continue with your devotions to Them. Its not hurting anything to do that, and who knows, your efforts may yet attract Them to you. If you are disappointed and finding that a lack of a God Or Goddess in your Life is making your daily practice of Paganism meaningless to you…perhaps, this Path is not for you. That does happen. If, like me, you find yourself in a moment of the “quiet times” – persevere in continuing through that dark valley. Trust me, the Light will eventually return, the connections will renew, and you will have made it through. Just don’t expect it to happen right away. The darkness of the long night does not fade so easily. Hang in there. You will make it.

And if you need it, reach out your hand. I’ll be happy to hold it and walk beside you in the darkness. Your darkness doesn’t scare me. I am not afraid of being sucked into your depression. I know what it is like to be left alone in your own darkness. And I know what it means to have someone care enough to reach out.

–T /|\

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What Do You Wish You Had Known Before Choosing Druidry?

I was browsing through YouTube a few days ago, and stumbled across a video by Scarlet Ravenswood titled “7 Things I wish I Knew Before Becoming Pagan.” I found the video fun to watch, even though it is aimed directly at the Pagan newbie. Some of her points were pretty much spot on for me, and I’ll even duplicate a few of them in my own list. Yes, I thought this was enough fun to give it a try myself – except that I am not aiming too far down my own Pagan path. I just want to approach the aspects related to my own Druidry. So, here we go.

Druidry Is Not a Single Process

What I am getting at here is that Druidry is not meant to force you down a single tube towards a particular way of thinking. Material is presented to you, and you are given the freedom to explore in any direction you feel the need to go. Yes, there are some lessons embedded in the materials you are provided, but there is a lot of freedom to explore (and even expand) on what you envision in the world around you. When I first started down my own Path in Druidry, I tried to stay on what I perceived was the “straight and narrow” for Druidry. However, the further I walked along my Path, the more I noticed that a directed Path would be nearly non-existent, forcing me to look in other directions (or all around) to figure out which foot-falls I really needed to take – not for my Druidry, but for myself. In the end, I started to realize that personal Spirituality was not about walking along any singular Path, but about finding connectivity with the world all around you.

Learning Is Not Just the Order’s Lessons

I work within the structure of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids (OBOD). Currently, I am working through my Ovate grade materials, and have been for a while. When I first started on my Bardic grade, I had a typical newbie belief that once I made it through the three grades of the Order, all learning would end. When I started to (finally!) come to the end of my Bardic grade, I soon realized that I would always be learning lessons from the Bardic grade for the rest of my life. Plus, it would be the same for the Ovate and Druid grade lessons. However, that learning would be more than what was in the lessons provided by the Order. Learning would be a lifetime experience, as each lesson would build on previous lessons, opening a whole new perspective of the world around me. This will continue to the day that I pass beyond the veil…and likely even once I slip past the veil. What I am learning in my Druidry lessons is just a door opening into a wider understanding that I will experience.

Elder and Priest Are Just Labels

I have railed against the descriptive aspects of what a Priest and an Elder are for quite some time. I am fond of neither term. There are few more descriptive terms that I don’t really care for. However, in the end – these are just labels. I make the kind of Pagan or Druid that I am through my own actions. I don’t need a title or a label to make me into who I am. Yes, it has taken quite a lot of time, a lot of navel-gazing, and a lot of brow-furrowing for me to come to this point. I am the Pagan and Druid that I am from my actions – not from reaching some aspect of training in the Order or some length of time in identifying myself as a Pagan. To be honest, I have lost a lot of time and energy struggling and wrestling with all of that – only to find that it was not necessary. I’m just me. Nobody extra-ordinary. Nobody special. Just someone who has persisted in my studies and my own personal Spirituality for as long as I have.

All the Research and Reading Involved in This

One thing I will say about being a Pagan, it has taught me a lot about researching things that I am trying to understand. I look at my bookshelves and see all the book titles that I have read, which have helped me to better understand my own Path. Each one has provided a small part of my understanding but taken together – they are all a part of my daily, personal Spirituality. When I was in high school, I was not the most studious individual. My research and reading skills were non-existent, as evidenced by my 1.76 Grade Point Average (GPA) upon graduating. Becoming a pagan, I was shown the power of reading, understanding the material, and even extrapolating on what I had read to create my own spin on my daily, personal Spirituality. But I will admit…if I had known how much reading and research would have been involved in this Spiritual Path, I might have run screaming in the other direction.  😉

In Conclusion

I started down my Pagan Path sometime in 1986. This year will be my thirty-fifth as a Pagan. To be blunt, it doesn’t feel that way. I have a few Pagan friends that were there at the beginning, and I am confident that they would say that I have changed quite a lot as a Pagan. It sure does not feel that way, at least to me. I still learn, every single day. I make mistakes all the time, even on the simplest of things. Each morning always feels like a new chance to try again, to explore somewhere I had never thought of going before, or to step back into an older part of the Path that I don’t recall as clearly as I thought I did. I wish I had known these things before I started because I feel I would have been a better Pagan, a better student for those who have mentored me on my Path. However, I do wonder how different a Pagan I would be today if I had known. It’s a nice exercise in “What-If”, but the answer to it I can never know. After all, my footfalls brought me here. I think it is very important that I acknowledge that over a dreamy thought of what might have been….if.

–T /|\

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If That Makes Me a Teacher….

Not that long ago, I was asked why I do not have any students. I was flattered by the question, as someone thinks highly enough of me to believe I would be a good teacher or mentor to other Pagans. However, my response went along the lines of not really being qualified to teach anyone anything – except for myself. I really hate giving responses like that, but there is a seed of truth encased in there. I am not sure I would be what anyone would expect of a Pagan teacher. To put it in a different way, I would be the most unlikely teacher around. Sort of like Mr. Miyagi in the first Karate Kid movie. Just an awkward, ill-conceived set of approaches to topical matters.

Why would I say that about myself? Because I know what works for me. I am also aware of how it does not work for most others. The old saying goes along the lines of “when the student is ready, the teacher will come” – or conversely – “when the teacher is ready the student will come.” For me, any student that could conceivably work under the approaches that I use – well that one student may have to break one of my knees to get me to notice.

I am very flattered by the idea that I would be a good teacher. I am more amiable to the notion that one day I might make a good mentor. Not necessarily a teacher, but more of a guide for someone that is learning on their own. Someone that they could come to with questions when they get stuck on something. Naturally, I would be upfront about my own limitations. Magick is not, nor has it ever been my forte’. I can help in a crude measure of understanding, but someone looking for a smooth, sophisticated approach would do better searching elsewhere. Or, if they would like, I could point them in directions and towards people that I think would be helpful. Granted, some of those people may hold low opinions or even harbor anger towards me, but I don’t take people’s opinions of me into account when trying to help someone else find a better guide. Go to this or that individual – just don’t mention my name. 😊

To a point, I am confused why people would find me to be a good teacher. Its not like I am placing myself into a position that would advertise me as such. I have yet to offer a class of any sort – online or face-to-face – to the Pagan community at large. I have not taken a single student for one-on-one teaching. I have; however, taught in a collegiate classroom (for nearly three years), but I don’t see how that would ever bring me to the forefront of a conversation of who would be a good teacher. Plus, my approach to learning is to hand you the same resources that I used, tell you to go read, and when you felt like coming back – we could have an in-depth conversation. That’s it. No tests. No quizzes. No certificate of completion. No final assessment of whether you were a top student or just someone that barely made the grade, in my opinion. Just a discussion, held at your convenience. Preferably around a fire, late at night, out where we can see the stars as we hold our discourse. My kind of classroom.

I guess a lot of that comes from my perspective of learning about Paganism. Its not something you can get out of a book. A book should lead your mind to more questions, and a desire to explore for answers. A book should have you wanting to try to do things rather than learning my theory of how to do things. For me, learning about Paganism was about reading, questioning, doing, experiencing, being…. I didn’t need an individual who would sit and endlessly lecture to me about their way of doing things. They would talk about how they did it. If I had questions, I asked. Afterwards, I went out and did it…myself. I didn’t need their approval over any twists or changes or additions that I put to it. I took their framework and built my own on to it. In the end, it might look nothing like what they “taught” – and that didn’t matter to me, so long as it held meaning to what I was doing.

I will honestly and openly admit that many people will find the way I approach my Paganism to be distasteful and unappealing to them. Because I chose to discard traditional aspects for things that work for me. Because I set aside pre-printed rituals that arrive via the post office, in favor of embracing the moment. But I will also acknowledge that whatever works for them, works for them. I am more than thrilled that these methodologies work for them, because it provides an authentic feeling and connection to the world around them, a valid and strong connection with their Gods. There is no fucking way I would ever want to discount any of that for them, simply because they use a methodology that is not mine. That would be disingenuous to what Paganism is about to me, what true Paganism should be all about: the individual’s experience. Their connection with the authentic passion of their own practice – whatever it looks like.

My personal approach to my own Paganism, my own Druidry is uniquely mine. Parts of what I do overlap with the practices of others. While I feel the draw of being a mentor to others, I am not entirely sure what that would look like, considering the deep personal aspect that my approach holds for me. Perhaps, I will eventually find that one student that can meaningfully learn from my approach, and together we can explore what it means to teach that to others. In the meantime, the only way that I know to do this, is just to be myself. If that makes me a teacher…I am just as surprised as anyone else.

–T /|\

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Howling Into the Wind: Labels

Basic. Intermediate. Expert. Beginner. Level One. Baby Pagans. I have heard and read all these terms applied to magick and to practitioners of various Paths. I dislike every single one of them. Seriously.

I do understand their use though. Particularly in structured teaching environments. After all, at one point in my life, I was a collegiate professor. The concept is quite simple. It’s a concept of progression, pure and simple. Within the collegiate setting, the learning structure is setup to provide concepts that are mastered at each class level, and then built upon in the next. To use some of the vernacular that I am trying to discuss, think of it this way. You take a Wicca 101 class to understand the basics of what Wicca is, the simplest aspects of the ritual aspects, some divination techniques (maybe) and perhaps even some spell work. Once you finish with that, proving that you absorbed the information provided, you take the next steps towards more “advanced” techniques and concepts.

The same aspect holds true in…say, computer programming. You learn the basic syntactical rules of whatever language you are learning, along with how simple concepts such as loops, logical flow, and input/output. The next class builds on those concepts, while introducing more complex structures such as modular program flow or object programming. At the end of the progression of courses, if you pass, you will have gathered enough information that you can extrapolate on what you have learned to create your own techniques within the programming language. At least in theory.

Not a difficult concept to understand, eh? So why do I have a beef with all of that? I come from a collegiate background, certainly I can understand why such a systematic approach works well. Well, I do understand the approach. I will even admit that it works for me, to some degree. But I take slight umbrage at the terminology.

Underneath the veneer of these terms, an undercurrent of arrogance can occur. I am better than you because I am taking this ‘Intermediate” class within this Occult School of thought. Or to even utilize some of my own Order’s own perspective – I am better than these people in the Bardic grade because I have progressed to my Druid grade. The idea that one is better than others, simply because one has managed to progress to a certain level – well, that stuff tends to grate on my personal nerves.

Right now, I am in my Ovate grade within OBOD’s system. I have managed to get through my Bardic grade. That does not make me better than any single member of the Bardic grade. All it means, in my eyes, is that I have managed to accumulate the knowledge that I needed to within the Bardic grade. I am no better or less than any member at any level within the Order. To think otherwise, would be creating a classist state for the Order. In other words, I would be expecting to be treated as being better than those in the Bardic grade, simply because I was an Ovate. I certainly would expect to be treated differently as an Ovate than a Bard, simply because I am part of the Ovate grade. There are different expectations of members of each of the grades within OBOD, but no group is any better than the others.

So, I have a personal distaste of the perspective of classism when it comes to what one is or is not capable of within magick and Paganism, based solely on what they have learned or experienced. Sure, the concept of progression in what can be done makes sense. However, labeling it as “Basic”, “Intermediate”, and “Expert” can and does lend itself to an aspect of classism, which then lends itself to simple arrogance.

So, what do I propose that would be better? Or different? Honestly, I am not proposing that anything would be better. That is not a paradigm that I want to operate within. I am not trying to say that one technique is better than any other. What works for one individual does not work for another. For those that follow Major League Baseball, you will understand this example. Batting is a simple technique of getting your hands positioned correctly to be able to connect with a pitched ball. Every hitter develops a timing technique and a batting stance that allows them to (a) see the ball coming out of the pitcher’s hand, and (b) shrinks the strike zone to make it harder for the pitcher to throw a strike to them. Not every hitter adopts a stance that has them hunched over the plate, like Pete Rose did. However, whatever stance they adopt, is the one that they are comfortable with.

I see much of this in the same light. For some folks, this classist concept of learning magick works for them. They understand the progression. They are used to the procession of material from their mundane lives (typically within the Education system). It works for them, and that is a good thing. My preference is different. I work with material as I need to. I learn what I need to work with. Sometimes, it can be clumsy, but that awkward approach also helps me to learn.

If I am being completely open and honest, it is not the methodology and the approach that turns me off. Solely, it is the vernacular that creates my disdain. For me, the terminology is what creates a classist perspective, particularly when it has the denotation of one being better or more superior to another, simply because of what knowledge has been accumulated. But to be even more frank, I am not sure what verbiage could be utilized and applied that would not leave similar classist stains behind.

Yeah, perhaps I am howling into the wind, hoping for an echo from the canyon that is up-wind. This is not something I can find a solution for – even within my own personal thinking. Aside from remaining on guard for a potential under-current of classism or arrogance carrying me along, all I can do is hope that others do not succumb to those waters. After all, I can only control what I do, what I think, and what I feel. To do otherwise, in my eyes, would be unethical, as well as inappropriate.

–T /|\

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Nothing More. Nothing Less.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–T /|\

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What Do I Hope to Get From This?

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Kind of Druid Am I Looking to Be?

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

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

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

What Do I Hope to Have Happen Beyond This?

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

Final Thoughts

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

–T /|\

Rebuilding My Druidry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–T /|\

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A Chance to Be Me, Once Again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–T /|\

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Don’t Solve the Jigsaw Puzzle Alone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–T /|\

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