Questions, Questions, Questions – Some Books to Consider

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

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

Stephen S. (name used with permission)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–T /|\

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

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

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

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

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

Where do you get your moral authority?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–T /|\

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

Division by Zero. Musings on the Upcoming Election Cycle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–T /|\

We All Learn At Our Own Pace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–T /|\

A Direct Line to the Gods?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–T /|\

The Future: One Perspective

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

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

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

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

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

One Side of the Flipped Coin

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

The Other Side of the Coin

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

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

If the Coin Lands on the Edge

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

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

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

–T /|\

Thinking About: This Year and What is to Come

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

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

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

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

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

Morpheus

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

–T /|\

Progression on One’s Path – A Personal Perspective

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–T /|\

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–T /|\

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

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

Q; Biggest Pagan confession?

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

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

Cat: So what story speaks to you instead?

Me: Mythological?? Theseus and the Minotaur.

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

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

Cat: Do it!

…and all of that started my brain racing.

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

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

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

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

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

“Building a Mystery”, sung by Sarah McLachlan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–T /|\

The Right Speed to Deal With These Times

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–T /|\

Revisiting- Killing Me Slowly With Over-Scheduling and Stress

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–T /|\

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— “Discern”, performed by Trey Anastasio

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

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

“Mother Nature”, Hot Springs, Arkansas

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

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

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

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

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

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

Revisiting – Thanks For Your Service

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

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

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

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

Me – USAF – July 1992

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

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

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

–T /|\

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

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

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

Capricorn – Max Ernst

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

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

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

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

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

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

–T /|\

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gizmo hiding…sort of

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

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

–T /|\

Revisiting – Musing on “Elder” Status

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–T /|\

Us versus Them – Just Thinking Aloud

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

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

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

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

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

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

–T /|\

Thinking About: Being Alone in Paganism

I am in quite a few groups on Facebook and while I do not always participate, I do read them. A few weeks back, in one of the groups (I do not remember exactly which one), an individual who was also studying the Path of Druidry dropped a question that instantly felt like a plea for help.

Does anyone else feel alone on this Path?

I saw that quite a few folks had already responded to the individual, so I left the conversation alone. The question; however, has lingered with me since. For the most part, my personal Spirituality has me on a Path where I am alone. I do not have a grove to study my Druidry with. Or to hold ritual with on a regular basis. Or to socialize face-to-face – though that is truly impossible with the increasing numbers of COVID-19 infections here in Texas. With my health conditions, I would turn done even the most innocent gathering of more than two people.

Most years, I get the chance to feed my social interactions with others at events such as ADF’s Imbolc Retreat held by Hearthstone Grove here in Texas, and OBOD’s Gulf Coast Gathering in Louisiana. Like Said….most years. This year….well, its definitely a little different. Both events were cancelled for this year, which put my social interaction with other Pagans and Druids at zero, in a face-to-face setting. While online gatherings are a nice way to somewhat reconnect, its not truly the same. Thus, the feeling of isolation creeps in a little deeper. Sort of like a body check by Scott Stevens. So, when I read the individual’s post on Facebook, my mind immediately answered back.

Nine Hells, yes. Especially this year.

Now, I am in the Ovate grade in OBOD. My studies are meant to be taken and completed alone, which in some ways exacerbates the entire feeling. I cannot speak to how other Druid orders do their training, as I have never done or participated in any of them. So I started wondering, how often might others feel this way?

I can only guess, but I would hypothesize that its a fairly sizable number. Adding to that, the pure isolation that social distancing from others in this new age of COVID-19 may give an extra edge to that feeling as well. I know quite a few Pagans who have issues with being out in the open community, for one reason or another. And that fear of being around other people – I would guess social anxiety might be the best descriptive for it – can be an extremely paralyzing moment. I’m a fairly social creature (I dare you to get me to shut up in a social setting, right Shadow?), so I can only attempt to understand how all of that feels. In a new social setting, I can be the ultimate wallflower, believe that or not. However, once I get the feel for the people there, I am more than happy to sit and talk. About anything. So social anxiety is not something that I, personally, suffer from. I do; however, know many folks that do. And I have bothered to quietly ask what that feeling is like. Suffocating. Paralyzing. The general feeling of panic and a need to flee for the safety of solitude. So, it leads me to wonder if this particular individual might have been feeling the same thing??

On the other hand, when walking your Path in your Spirituality, there is a series of moments that I refer to as “travelling the dark woods” that happens. Where you find your footsteps have taken into a part of your Spirituality that feels dark, foreboding, and downright scary. Where you feel like you are going to need to wash out your underwear when you manage to get beyond this…IF you get beyond this. Those moments can feel like the entire world abandoned you on the doorstep of the Nine Hells with only a teaspoon to defend yourself with. And that’s if they were being nice to you before leaving you there alone. That moment in your Spirituality can be an extremely lonely moment. I have had this happen to me several times in my thirty-plus years on this Pagan Path of mine. Each time has a slightly different feel to it, but the feeling of lonliness has always been there each time. No lie, that stuff can feel rough.

Do I feel all alone on my Path? Depends on what day and hour you ask me. Right now, with all the COVID-19 issues out there keeping people from meeting – my answer would be yes. When all this clears up, and I can get out and meet with other Pagans? Probably not. In the meantime, I do the best I can to cope. Emails, texts, video playback of gatherings that happen online ( live streaming is a little difficult from where I am at) – this will have to suffice as I move forward. In the meantime, to avoid thinking about the solitary aspect of my walk as it currently stands in today’s environment, I go back into doing my Ovate grade studies. And sharpening my database and programming skills. And reading. And listening to the playback of Shadow playing Ark on Twitch (I love the farting dinosaurs). All of this comes down to one prevailing thought. In all of the dark times I have encountered in my daily walk, the only way out was to keep walking. To keep moving forward. No matter how lonely it felt, I knew it couldn’t last forever. Because I cling to hope like my old, beat-up Teddy Bear from my childhood. Were it not for that tattered Teddy Bear as the physical incarnation of hope, I am not sure what might happen.

–T /|\

I’m Not an “Advanced” Pagan – Just a Pagan

“Advanced Pagan”. Gods, I have come to really dislike terminology like this. The idea that Paganism is this level-by-level building block just remains a big turn-off to me. Sort of like a set of collegiate course work on learning programming, where there’s this “101”, “102”, “201”, “301” and so on progression. You make it through one to get to the other. Linear progression.

My experience has been quite different. Sure, there are some linear progressions in working through your own Spiritual path, but for the most part – you can grab the basic basics, and then move on from there to other topics. You can bypass the “201” levels and head straight to the “301” and “401” stuff. You can grasp those topics and concepts quite easily without the “201” stuff. Which makes me wonder how and why we get to this particular place…that its this progression that *HAS* to be done.

The closest approximation I can find is that many of us have progressed through a collegiate program somewhere in our lives. This would be where we buy into the idea of linear instruction. Nine Hells, I am currently going through this with the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids. First there’s the Bardic grade, then the Ovate grade, and finally the Druid grade. Each is a set of progressions to the next grade until the coursework is completed. However, the linear learning format only goes through the grade progression. Within the lessons, you work at your own pace. You can even set lessons off to the side and continue forward – eventually coming back to the lessons that you had issues with later. The hope is that you can learn a little more as you go forward, so that you can come back and get the necessary lesson later on. To be honest, this is also a way of learning a programming language too. When I was learning more complicated progressions in SQL, I came across concepts – such as Virtual Tables – that made little or no sense to me. I set those off to the side, and continued on with more traditional concepts such as If-Then and For Loops. Eventually, I came back to Virtual Tables and took a longer look at how it worked, using the understanding of Looping in SQL to realize how things were being done. Even in learning SQL, I was handed labeling such as “advanced SQL” – even by my peers at the college. The only difference between us was that I searched out the knowledge of these conceptual perspectives out of necessity. They only handled SQL to a level that they could comprehend in the handling of their daily work.

So, is there really an “advanced Pagan” or are there people who learn other components of Paganism out of need and necessity? I would submit it is the need and necessity that drives people to those areas. For instance, I understand and work with ritual on a daily basis. I moved into an impromptu manner of working ritual out of personal need and necessity. This doesn’t make me a wizard when it comes to ritual. It was a need and necessity that I had to fulfill for my daily Spiritual Path. Now, come towards the topic of magick work or spell work – and my knowledge is rudimentary at best. Why? Because its an area I have no need or necessity for. I consider magick and spell work to be a last resort. Granted, that’s my perspective – there are a major ton of people who would openly and vehemently disagree with me. Why? Because magick and spell work fulfills a need and/or necessity in their daily Spiritual Path. But if you made a comparison between myself and them, in terms of ability, you might apply a label of “advanced” on them or “beginner” on me. Neither label is correct. “More experienced” and “less experienced” might be a better way of describing such avenues of ability and thought.

I have railed often against labels…and this would be another such instance. For me, a Pagan is a Pagan is a Pagan. Some people are more experienced than others. Some have been on this path for what feels like an eternity. Sometimes it feels that way to me, after thirty-plus years. but my overall time on this Path doesn’t make me any better than anyone else. I’m not an expert on anything other than my own path. I’m no “advanced” Pagan because of my years….I’m a Pagan. I’m a Druid. No extra descriptives are needed. Unless you want to add some Anglo-Saxon terminology to all of it. I’ve heard it before. And will likely hear it over and over again. But strip away the adjectives, I’m still just a Pagan. I’m still just a Druid. Advanced? No. No thanks. I’ll just take the terms of Pagan and Druid…and be content with just that. I know others will disagree – and that’s ok. Their Path is for their footsteps alone…mine is for me. We can walk alongside one another, but we still have to walk it ourselves.