Introducing Shadow

Well, it was inevitable that the blog would undergo changes of one sort or another. Shadow Byrd has stepped in to help with basic grammar, spelling, and capitalization errors (thank you Shadow!) In the not-so-distant past, I dropped the number of blog posts from three to two and immediately added back the third with a return to a poetry post for the week at a request of one long-time reader. That first post happened this past Thursday with “Changes. The Step to Take. Trust.” Now if you read that and thought it had something to do with me, you’re right. It does. In fact, its a story of me and Shadow.

Shadow and I met a touch over fourteen years on LiveJournal. LiveJournal, or LJ for short, was a blogging site where you could write posts with an associated level of privacy/security so as to limit certain material to a specified audience.  Anyways, you get the picture. Well, on LJ, there would be certain contests for writing, pictures, and the such that folks could vote on. One was a “contest” for an event called “Babes of LiveJournal”. I had come across Shadow’s posts a few weeks back and thought she was gorgeous from her LJ icon photo, so I nominated her.

Almost immediately, she posted to her LJ account asking for whoever nominated her to fess up to the deed. I did so, somewhat grudgingly. I thought I had offended her. Instead, we struck up a private conversation and even traded a few Emails until I asked if it was ok to meet. She lived in the central part of the Dallas/Fort Worth area and I was living north of her in Denton. We agreed on a day and time, and I drove down to meet her.

When I arrived, I pulled up directly in front of her house and stepped out of my truck. I made it to where the sidewalk to her front door met the common sidewalk by the curb and the front door burst open. Shadow ran directly down the sidewalk from the front door, right at me moving at what seemed like full speed, tackling me like an NFL linebacker. I had seen her coming and had braced myself to keep from being knocked down, just barely. She flung her arms around me and held on tightly for what felt like three or four minutes. It took all of six seconds to be overwhelmed by the super-strong connection between the two of us. I put my arms around her and just stayed in that embrace with her. Eventually, we made it inside.

We spent time talking with one another in the living room on the first floor. Just your typical small talk, mostly about things like “did you read so-and-so’s post on LJ yesterday?” All that time, the energy I had felt out in front of the house continued to build and rise. I asked her if she wanted to get something to eat. Once it was solved that we wanted food, we headed out the door to the truck. I opened the passenger door for her and then got in on my side. Driving the whole way there, we held hands as she directed me to the nearby Olive Garden, which was completely packed. I found a parking spot and we sat in the truck for a few moments, until I leaned over to kiss her. We did make it inside but never ordered food. We sat across from one another holding hands at that little table and we immediately decided to leave. This confused our waiter quite a bit, but we certainly were not staying. We spent the rest of the evening in one another’s arms.

You hear it a lot from people about just knowing that this person was “the one” over similar moments like this. I knew Shadow was “the one” the moment we touched in front of the house. That was an overwhelming feeling. I knew our souls were completely intertwined after that first kiss. I know that sounds completely cheesy, but it really is true.

So everything was happily ever after, right? No. Hardly. See, I have never encountered a connection with anyone like this before. Frankly, it scared me to death. When she fell on hardship and pleaded for me to come and be with her and try to work it all out together, I freaked out. I just didn’t know how to deal with everything that was happening and I pushed her away. Eventually, she found another and moved south to Houston to live her life there.

But we never let go of that connection. Even when Shadow shoved me completely out of her life and refused to speak with me, I would check in on her via online platforms to see how she was doing. I wouldn’t write her or leave a message because I wanted to respect her privacy since she had told me not to contact her. I didn’t know that she was doing the same thing with me. Neither of us wanted to let that connection break because we just couldn’t. We are a part of each other’s lives.

It took a few years for us to start talking again. And another few years before we would see each other face-to-face again. The connection was still there. Instead of being faint and old – it was still strong and much more powerful than before. There was also a potential complicating factor since she had married again, but a few conversations between the three of us and we agreed on a poly relationship.

A little over a year has passed since that moment, which brings us to today. I asked Shadow for a handfasting a few months back, and she said yes. We have been planning for our April 10th ceremony for a little bit of time now. Here in a few weeks, I am going to take an even larger step and move down to Houston with her. All of this is the culmination of what started fourteen years ago. An intricate knotwork that we have intertwined through our souls together. I have had some apprehension over this change in my life and did a three-card reading with Kristoffer Hughes’s Celtic Tarot deck which was outlined and explained in the poem. Needless to say, the spread read like someone kicking me in the ass and saying: “Get on with it, you fool. You should have done this long ago.”

So, Shadow is my partner. No part of my life is off-limits with her. As such, she is the editor of this blog. I hope, in the future to entice her to become a co-writer on the blog…co-writing with me from time to time. If you are inclined, Shadow can be found on Facebook or on her own blog, Shadow’s Knit Knacks. Still, I would like for her to write some stuff here if she is game for it.

Without Shadow, I would be completely lost. I intend to spend the rest of my life walking our Path hand-in-hand, long past the end-point of time. Through fourteen years of tears and loss, we have still managed to endure. A connection that cuts through time and space, unbroken and slightly blemished.

–T /|\

Shadow and I at Austin WitchFest 2020…in the rain

That Path is for Your Steps Alone

“Why don’t you talk about ritual more often?”

“Why don’t you hold an online ritual or a talk, like everyone else is doing?”

“Could you please do an online ritual so others can see what you do?”

This pandemic has forced a lot of folks to create and work within online formats. I’m a little envious of those folks, because they have a better internet connection than I do. Currently, I am surviving by working from a Satellite Internet feed, which is slow as the Nine Hells. Streaming anything is just about impossible to achieve. This is the technological stumbling block I run into concerning either being in or even watching a Facebook Live event. Zoom video gatherings are also not in my capability to accomplish. Neither is creating videos and uploading them to Youtube. I just do not have the technology to do that right now.

The closest thing I have, is this blog. Well, that and my inane presence on Facebook. I’m sure I irritate more than one person with my silly antics on there. But then, I use Facebook (mostly) for fun and keeping in touch with some folks that I consider to be my family. Part of the way I approach my daily Paganism is to find something fun for the day. Its why I post a daily morning music video (for the most part daily), for the start of the day. For me, music is a great way to start any day. Currently, I am listening to Joey Taffola’s album “Infra Blue”. He’s a guitar shredder, and the album showcases his mastery of the guitar (Gods, I wish I had this kind of talent with the guitar). But music is always a part of my day. Thus, the reason I share musical selections in the morning with folks. I doubt that many people even click on the video link to listen to the song, but its just my morning offering to the world at large.

This blog is sort of the same thing. I share my thoughts on topics here, and hope that some kind of discussion (even if its just in your own head) gets started. I’m not here to tell people who they should approach and live their Paganism. That would be completely ridiculous of me, particularly since I believe everyone has their own unique approach to a topic. I have said it quite a few times – I’m not a leader. I am not here to elevate myself in any way, shape or form. I am not here to push a brand, or to have designs on being a Big-Name Pagan that gets invited to speak everywhere. I wouldn’t turn down an invite of any sort, but its not my goal on my Spiritual Path. My goal is simple. To just be me. Nothing more complicated than that.

Most of my ritual work is personal, individual stuff. In my thirty-plus years on this path, most of it has been spent doing stuff on my own. I do gather and celebrate with various groups when it comes to the turning of the Wheel. This year, celebrations that I normally attend were cancelled because of COVID-19 fears. I am thankful for that…not just for myself and my rotten immune system, but for all the people that would normally have come. Safety is always a paramount concept in my mind – thanks United States Air Force. As my ritual work is personal – and very off the cuff – I fear that it would never translate well, either in video or written form here on the blog. But I will say this…improvisation of ritual is a wonderful thing, but you need to master the basics of your chosen Path first. Those basics are the starting point for improvisation. Just like Joey Taffola learned the basics of playing the guitar, before he started improvising his own jams, which have turned into his really creative albums. Basics come first. That provides a cohesive starting point for your improvisation.

Picture by John Beckett, who takes amazing photos

Now, I have noted this before…I’m not a leader. But despite what I believe of myself, I cannot alter the way some people might look at me. Yes, I have thirty-plus years on the Pagan Path. Yes, I have wandered through Wicca, generic Paganism, and currently utilize Druidry and Polytheism as the primary backdrop to what I do and practice. However, none of that makes me some kind of amazing individual that other should follow in my footsteps. I can show you some of the land-mines I have encountered along the way. But a Spiritual Path is yours and yours alone. Walking directly in my foot-falls will show where I am, but it does nothing for you. Sooner or late, you will have to leave the Path, and blaze your own trail through the Spiritual wilderness. Because, in my personal opinion, Spirituality is an unplanned experience…its not a play with a script that you basically read from. Yes, we do utilize scripts in group rituals. You can just read the words of the page, or you can put some dramatic flair into what you are reading – become the role you are assigned. No one is asking you to be an actor…only for you to put emphasis and your experience and emotions into the role. Its the same on your Spiritual Path. Sure, you can follow me…sure you can do things EXACTLY as I did. But in the end, you are robbing yourself of putting your own stamp on what you are doing. You’re missing the chance to really be you, and to let that light shine brightly in the darkness.

I get asked a lot about the OBOD Bardic and Ovate initiations. I have been through both. I could easily provide all of that to someone who is asking. I could detail aspects of the ceremonies. And I would be robbing that initiate of the experience of those ceremonies. An experience that I found exhilarating and exciting. Something that continues to have super strong meaning to me to this very day. And I know that my experience was unique because it brought meaning to what I knew. Why in the world would I want to rob someone of all of that? As a moment of remembrance, I’ll leave with some Grateful Dead lyrics that have always had great meaning for me on my Spiritual Path, from the song “Ripple”:

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

Ripple in still water
When there is no pebble tossed
Nor wind to blow

As I said before, music is a huge part of who I am. And lyrics are ways that I have used to help process aspects of my life in a manner that I can better understand. I am not a leader, and yet I am. I cannot control how others might see me and the manner in which they set me. But I can resist the temptations that such affiliations can offer. Because in the end, I’m just me. Another traveler on the road with you. This Path is for my steps alone. But the song says nothing about those that walk beside you on the Path. Let’s walk together until you need to blaze your own trails. Besides, I like the companionship…

Thinking About – You’ve Lost That Pagan Feeling

Thursday! Its morning, and I still have no idea what I am going to be writing about. LOL Yeah, this blog is a little off-the-cuff, but then Life is a spontaneous thing with me. Yes, I do plan things, but I try not to plan down to minor minutiae. Besides, Life is sometimes fun when the unexpected happens… Four hours later, I’m still sort of struggling with what to write…LOL

This is something that tends to happen with me when I attempt to force my writing. Essentially, I just blank out and lock-up. Its definitely one of the things that I have learned to deal with over a great deal of years. Mostly, I just let things go, and write about whatever tends to come to my mind. if nothing comes, I tend not to write.

Which leads me to wonder…could this happen when dealing with your Paganism? Well, why not? In fact…let’s make Thursday a permanent “Thinking About…” topic time, eh?

Ever had that feeling with your Spiritual Path? Everything was so strong, vibrant, and just right there – and then all of a sudden, it wasn’t? Where you feel like you should be walking in the forests of northern California, and instead its like you’re walking through the scrub prairie of western Texas? ::Raising hand:: I’ve been there. More than once. That spiritual dry spell, where it feels like you’re never going to have the same connectivity ever again. Definitely a tough place to be. Worse, it seems like anywhere you go for advice, its like whoever you talk to just doesn’t quite “get” what’s going on with you. I’ve gone through those before. I’ll tell you about the worst one though.

I was in Germany. I had been stationed at Sembach Air Base for two years, and had the luxury of living in the middle part of the Palatinate Forest Nature Park. This is an area in southwestern to mid-western Germany which has deeply wooded areas that are protected by law. There are a handful of cities within the forested area as well as a fairly good number of towns, but these municipalities are strictly maintained so as not to encroach on the forested regions. At least not without environmental impact studies and a LOT of discussion from city and town councils beforehand. This forested area is OLD. The walking trails throughout are extremely numerous, well-walked, and extremely well-maintained by the local Forest Service. It is beautiful countryside, and the magick is deeply rooted here. It takes very little effort to reach out and find the Spirits of the Land, the Spirits of Place, and all the Otherworld denizens living here.

My first two years being stationed at this particular area of Germany were an absolute wonder to me. I had shaken off the label of Wicca, as well as large aspects of that practice because it just did not suit who I was. Instead, I adopted the perspective of being just a good ol’ Pagan. Nothing more than that. I figured if some system was right for me, it would have to hit me in the face. That would happen nearly decade later, but that’s a different perspective altogether.

The change over from all of that feeling, emotion, and magick being right at my fingertips disappeared overnight on one weekend. Suddenly, I felt nothing. No matter how hard I tried to reach out, no matter how hard I tried to find that feeling again – it was all gone. I literally felt like a man who had been blinded and left to wander a featureless void. I spent nearly every moment trying to figure out why things had happened. Why I couldn’t feel. I even considered that I might be ill or even depressed, and went to the local military hospital to be checked out. Even though I had suffered a tough time after Desert Shield/Desert Storm, the answers were no to medical issues – and a “maybe” to Psychological stress. I used to drink heavily to get beyond tough moments in life. But for this? I didn’t even want to touch alcohol, it just wasn’t something I felt an urge for.

Me – USAF – July 1992

In time, I would screw up, and this got me discharged from the Air Force – two years prior to the end of enlistment commitment. I was sent back to the States and essentially dumped at the duty station nearest my place of enlistment – Barksdale Air Force in Shreveport, Louisiana. I was still having issues with feeling in touch with my Paganism, and could feel myself drifting in Life because of that. This was a very low tide period of my life. I would eventually find new friends, and basically relearned about the spark of living life. That renewed energy helped to re-kindle the fire in my life with Paganism. And suddenly, I could feel things beyond me again. It took a lot to realize that it wasn’t Paganism leaving me, it was me trying to deal with a lot of complex and emotional aspects of my life. Once I got over the hurdle – or around the obstacle as I am more likely to say nowadays – I could see the Path ahead. And seeing the Path ahead is what makes the difference for me.

Consider this for a moment, you’re shut in because of this virus stuff…and you’re feeling like your Paganism, your Spirituality, your connectivity with the world is slowly starting to die….perhaps its not. Maybe, if you think things through, you’ll find that being stuck inside is causing you to lose your connectivity, that you need that fresh air. Take a quick 15-minute walk outside. Avoid people, just like you have been told to do. Just take a quick walk. Try not to touch things, and if you do…wash your hands the moment you get back home. But if you gotta get outside…get outside. If you have a backyard…visit it often. But most importantly….realize this: you’re not alone. If you’re reading this – you’ve got the internet. Write an Email to your friend. Do a video call with them, if your connection allows for that (I can’t do streaming where I am because the internet connection doesn’t have enough power to facilitate that type of connection). Yeah, it sucks that we are all seemingly stuck inside…but we don’t have to lose our Spiritual connections over it.

The time frame that I described above is 1993-1994, just a touch before the time of the commercial internet as we know it. The internet has helped to reduce the feeling of all of us being so far apart. The internet may not have been able to help me sort some of the things I had going on in my head, but it may certainly have put me in touch with the people I missed the most – the Pagans that I knew in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Keep that in mind…being able to connect and talk with others can be helpful. I, for one, am here. Should you need to talk: elfster@gmail.com is my Email address. I may not have any of the answers, but I will listen.

–T /|\

Stories Live On In All Of Us

…and its Sunday. As everyone crouches in their basement, waiting for the Coronavirus to pass by their house as if this were the times of Exodus, I went out and got a cup of coffee at my local Starbucks. No line. Apparently the Christian faithful don’t hit the Starbucks around here before they fill the church pews. And yes, I do partake at the giant coffee box company – particularly when my Keurig is hidden in a mountain of cardboard in the garage. But such is life. We improvise where we have to. 🙂

#CoronaPanic

Oh? The Coronavirus thing? Easy. Wash your hands. Don’t pick your nose. Don’t pick your friend’s nose. And if you are displaying symptoms, either self-quarantine yourself or go to the hospital to get tested. Above all, DON’T PANIC. Doing so will only scare the shit out of your fellow human beings…and make things worse. Really, that’s all I’ve got. Hope you weren’t expecting more.

The Coming Days

For me, the coming days are filled with memories of the end of life, particularly for three people. Monday will mark the passing of my father. Wednesday will mark the passing of a very dear friend, Pam “Kid” Harris. Thursday will mark the untimely death of one of my “heroes”, Randy Rhoads.

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

Each of these three had major influences on my life. Of the three, the only one I never knew face-to-face was Rhoads. Randy’s death happened in Leesville, Florida from a plane crash. I remember reading about his death in the local paper in Shreveport. A founding member of Ozzy Osbourne’s solo band, Randy’s style of playing inspired much of the coming metal and hard rock scene – even into today. The band had played in Shreveport a few weeks earlier, but I was unable to go due to work constraints (I worked twenty-five hours a week stocking shelves and unloading a truck when I was a Junior and Senior in high school). I would have missed the article, if my father had not sneered at me and noted that some “druggie” musician had died. My father was never found of my musical tastes, which were far away from his 1950s country music tastes. As much as I had never met Rhoads, his musical styling was magick for me – and remains as such to this day.

Of the trio I have mentioned, my father’s death was next. I was informed of his death while I was at my first OBOD Gulf Coast Gathering. My mother had passed away six months to the day prior to my father. While her death was an expected one, his was a complete shock. I was never really close to my father. His bond with my sister was far tighter and much more sincere. She shared his ultra-conservative values, which probably helped tighten that bond. My mostly liberal perspective, along with my attitude of rebellion, probably helped spread the distance between the two of us. When my mother suffered through major dementia over the last three years of my life, my father and I attempted to rebuild our relationship. While it was a little stronger than before, the deep strains and chasms between our ways of thinking were nearly impossible to bridge completely. Most of our phone discussions were about our mutual health conditions of diabetes and high blood pressure – and the manners in which our respective physicians were treating each of us. According to the coroner, my father had died of a massive heart attack, most likely as he stood up from the table while having breakfast. His morning medications, along with his diabetes log, were set at the table – as he always diligently did each morning.

Pam was a true friend. We disagree on nearly every topic you could think of. A devout Christian, as a lesbian she was considered a social outcast just as I was as a Pagan. We met in a programming class, where Professor Richard Robins was teaching Pascal Programming. By the end of the third week of class, I had already worked my way through the entire book, and started helping other students to understand the language. Pam was one of the more difficult folks to get to understand the concepts. her brain was never wired for the abstract concepts that programming really requires of its acolytes. However, she understood the concepts of Psychology, a class we took together. We sat up front in that class – exactly in front of the desk, where Professor Todaro liked to sit and lecture. After class, the two of us would stay and talk with Todaro from time to time, getting her perspective on various related topics to materials. It was Pam who persuaded the college Library to hire me for their Internet Lab, a place where I flourished in helping students find research materials for their papers. When things were slow in the lab, I would walk the second floor of the library straightening things up and putting materials back where they belonged….an action that endeared me to the rest of the library staff. Pam, a big Houston Astros fan, would often invite me to her house to watch her team play against my team, the Cincinnati Reds. We had fun ribbing each other over our teams’ various mistakes. When I left college, one term from graduating, to work full-time in Dallas – we lost touch with one another. I found out about her death from one of my classmates from the Pascal programming classes, who has gone on to become the Registrar at the college.

As I sit here listening to Queensryche’s “Operation: Mindcrime” while typing all of this, I am reminded that excellent storytelling in the vein of this album is a manner in which the memories of those who go beyond the veil continue to be alive. Randy continues on with the music that was recorded. he lives with every song with his playing on it comes through a set of speakers. My dad continues to live on – not just in my memories, but the memories of other family members, and the memories of his friends and coworkers. Kid continues to live on in the memories of those of us who knew her, interacted with her – both frequently and infrequently. Her huge, loving heart is never forgotten.

So I’ll challenge you a bit…look around you. Think of all the people you interact with, frequently and infrequently. If they passed, what would you remember about them? If you passed, what would you hope that they remember about you? If you are unsure if they would remember you in that vein – do something about it…. #JustSayin’ Stories live on in us….

–T /|\

Conventions Versus Fests – Some Personal Observations

Its Tuesday evening. I am listening to Halestorm on Shuffle/Repeat from Pixel. If I didn’t pick an artist to do this with, Pixel would be a schizophrenic mess. I could potentially go from Halestorm to a Classical concert to Black Sabbath to 45 Grave to Kenny Wayne Shepherd and even more. Just a touch too wild for me. So, I picked Lzzy and her boys to rock my headphones.

This past weekend was Austin WitchFest. It was quite an interesting event. When Shadow and I got there, it was raining and somewhat cold. Shadow packed for a potential change in the weather. Me? I read the “forecast” of partly sunny and low 70F temps, and came in a t-shirt and jeans. I had brought my cloak with me, but had opted to leave it at her apartment after reading the forecast. Yeah, bad on me. Once the rain died down, Shadow’s umbrella did not want to close, so I wound up carrying the open umbrella for the rest of the time we were there. At times, I felt like I was at the bus stop with the Totoro. 🙂

There were plenty of vendors, a handful of workshops, and even some music being played by a band at one point. Figuring on the weather that greeted us on our arrival, I thought that the turnout would be fairly low. Instead it was nearly the opposite. The longer the day went, the more people it seemed came out to the event. Were they all Witches? Were they all Pagans? Well, I can saw that not all were Witches. I know of at least two Druids that were there (myself included in that count). As for the Pagan side of things…I couldn’t really say yes or no. There was no poll being conducted at the door, and frankly I don’t think anyone would have cared one way or the other. And to really be blunt, I don’t think it really matters.

The large turnout probably did the coffers of vendors and the event a lot of good, which I believe to be an awesome thing. However, the large turnout, in my opinion, showed another aspect – that Pagan-oriented events are not dying, as it has seemed with the shuttering of Pantheacon. I believe that there is still a thirst out there for Pagan-oriented events. Vendors, talks, lectures, workshops, music, dancing, and all the fun associated with it…I believe there is still a desire for all of this. I just do not see how events are coming to a close.

At Austin WitchFest, Matt Auryn held a workshop/talk around mid-day at the center of the festival. While I did not attend any of the workshops, it seemed to be fairly well attended – another point towards my belief that events like this are not dying. All of this; however, begs a different question for consideration: are regional/local events such as the Austin WitchFest more likely to survive than say a national event such as Pantheacon?

This is a good question for the larger Pagan community to consider. Holding an event on the immense scale of Pantheacon takes a lot of concentrated and coordinated effort. Now, don’t get me wrong, putting on a single day event like Austin WitchFest takes work too, but there are a lot more moving parts in a four-day convention like Pantheacon that need to be considered. I only went to Pantheacon three times. In that time, there was a lot of political in-fighting amongst groups of people that attended. There was a large amount of controversy that seemed to haunt the convention as well. And in some ways, it felt like a good number of attendees came to watch the spectacle that such confrontations created.

Let’s face some facts about larger convention-style events, folks. There is always going to be controversy and confrontation. There will always be people pissed off at one another, and willing to bring that out on a larger stage that something like Pantheacon provides. But these confrontations drive away more people than it draws. ::raising hand:: Here is one of those people that eventually feels the need to not be around such nonsense.

I can’t say that there wasn’t some level of confrontation at Austin Witchfest because there likely was. I say likely because I never saw anything of the sort. I saw a lot of people happy to see others that they had not seen in a while. I encountered a lot of friendly and helpful people. Shadow’s umbrella had a pretty pattern on the inside of it, and quite a few people had very sincere compliments about that – just as a singular example. If there was any negative attitudes or encounters – these were likely quickly resolved or abandoned by the involved parties.

At Austin WitchFest, there were probably five to seven workshops. Not a whole lot for an event, but I would consider it to be the right amount. People interested in the workshops certainly attended those. There were probably somewhere between forty to fifty total vendors (not including the food vendors). Not a massive amount, but more than enough to provide plenty of options and variety. All in all, I would consider Austin WitchFest to be an awesome event that was very successful. There was plenty, but not a massive overkill of anything.

So, would I consider a national even like Pantheacon to be a dead aspect when compared to a more regional/local event such as Austin WitchFest? Personally, I find the comparison to not really be a good one. There is plenty of room for both types of events to not only survive comfortably, but also to provide to the wider Pagan community’s needs. I don’t really see an ending to the Pagan convention format with the ending of Pantheacon. Conferences such as Mystic South and Paganicon – as two singular examples – will fill the void left by Pantheacon. Or maybe something else may arise from the closing of Pantheacon, only time can really tell. But I do see a future for more local Pagan events such as Austin WitchFest, many of which will provide some stronger alternatives to the Pagan Pride events that take place each year. Just an opinion….

…and in the future, I’ll listen to Shadow and take appropriate gear, no matter what weather.com says…

–T /|\

The Stars From A Different Vantage Point

Well, its been a while, has it not? Yes, I am running slightly off the Tuesday-Thursday-Once_on_the_Weekend schedule I have been trying to keep. But then, moving will do that for you….

Yes, I moved further south in Texas – on to the other side of the DFW metro-mess. Closer to Austin. Closer to San Antonio. Closer to Houston. I am fairly certain there are not very many Pagans around here either. But coming from closed-minded, overtly Catholic, supremely unfriendly Lindsey, Texas – anything is likely to be a better choice. Plus, there is a lot more woods here…and the Hill Country of Texas is just a stone’s throw out the window. It also cuts my drive to my chosen family by nearly half the drive it was before (for the moment). So there are plus signs all around.

But at night…the stars are in a slightly different place. And for someone that spends a lot of time with the night sky, its a little disconcerting, confusing, and odd. However, every night sky has all of us seeing the same night sky. Some with different stars, some with the same – but its really just because the vantage point is different.

Then again, Life is different than it was a year ago, five years ago, ten years ago, or even when I graduated high school in 1984. And it better be. Life is always continually moving, always changing – some of those changes are too gradual to really notice until we stop on the path and look back into our personal histories.

My life as a Pagan has been in a constant state of change and flux. Not because I had no idea where I wanted to go or what I envisioned myself as some aspect of a Pagan. Quite the opposite. I have been a Pagan for over thirty years. I have always had a fairly strong idea of what being a Pagan meant to me. for the most part, that Path has always been beneath my feet. Meeting up with – and working with – Gods of any sort, I never really envisioned any of that, and yet here I am. Druidry was the last Pagan Path I ever checked into, it turned out to be the tightest fit to my own personal beliefs.

What got me to here? Time. Patience. Perseverance. There were plenty of times that I could have turned back to my southern Baptist beginnings or even the Catholic upbringing my parents aimed me towards when they wanted me to follow their desires for me. But both of those Paths never really settled well for me. Likewise, I had plenty of opportunities to step away from the ridicule and harassment that I faced during my time in the United States military. I stuck with it because this Path was right for ME.

Interestingly enough, I always am asked why I have remained a Pagan through to this point in my life. Its an easy question to answer – because this is who and what I am – but a difficult answer for non-Pagans to understand completely or correctly. Sometimes, its almost as if you have to be a Pagan to completely grok the idea. or maybe I am just not getting the point across because I am doing a poor job of explaining it. Most likely its because I don’t feel its my job to explain every aspect of my Spirituality to others in words or tones that they can comprehend or not be hurt emotionally by. ::shrug::

So, now life will continue under a blanket of stars that are the same…yet different. My world will be drastically different down on ground level. Buildings will be different, the people that I see daily will be different. But the sky will have some familiarity to bring me comfort in both my daily life and within my Spirituality.

Parts of Life are about to change drastically though – even more drastically than the people I see or the buildings I drive past daily. I am starting to step into some of the roles of being a Priest. I have no guide or road-map to work from. My footsteps in the sands will be the first for me. My Path of Druidry also has a feel of changing roads as well. The Path before my feet feels more like a thin, rarely used path in the forest than the formal, sand covered, walking trail it has been. My footing is a bit more unsure, so my steps must be more firmly planted. Yet, I continue on.

I have no power over this, you know I’m afraid
The walls I built are crumbling
The water is moving, I’m slipping away

I throw myself into the sea
Release the wave, let it wash over me
To face the fear I once believed
The tears of the dragon, for you and for me

–Bruce Dickinson, ‘The Tears of the Dragon”

In case you have been wondered what these ramblings are about, I added some of the lyrics from Bruce Dickinson’s song “Tears of the Dragon” from his “Balls to Picasso” solo album. In concert, Bruce would introduce this song by saying “Here is a song that is about being shit-scared of change…” Here, its appropriate. Life is always about small, incremental change. You don’t always see it. Move where you live. Change jobs. Start a relationship. All big changes where everything changes instantly. What seems so frightening is that everything at ground level changes nearly instantly. There are hardly any handholds there to keep you from feeling like you are being swept down-river on a raging, uncontrollable river. And some of that is certainly true. But stop. Look up. See the stars? Some of them are in slightly different places than before. But its the same stars. You only change your vantage point….

–T /|\

Life is a Wide-Open Journey…A Few Thoughts

Life is an interesting journey. Sometimes you find yourself on a wide open plain with so many directions to try. Other times, you find yourself trying to squeeze into the most impossibly narrow alleyway. Not to mention all the other path sizes in-between that are yet to be dreamed of. 1/14/2010

I wrote this quote as a Facebook status ten years ago. A lot in life has changed in that decade. A lot has happened during that decade. I made my way into the collegiate classroom after being unemployed the first two years of that time frame. I would spend three years in the classroom, enjoying every moment that I had. I would then transition to a reporting position within the college, where I lasted nearly five years, until finally finishing the decade where I started – unemployed. In some ways, that trajectory has felt somewhat unsatisfactory, particularly when I start measuring it under the standards of those who employed me. And while that decade can be colored in with that particular crayola color, its not truly indicative of what the decade brought to my life.

My life is not a single, monotone structure of failure and success. While the decade did have its moments in employment, as well as several health scares, the deaths of my parents, and a few other items of minor interest, there were a handful of moments of success and triumph as well. However, all of these are not the primary color of my decade. I spent more time in my Druidry studies than any other time in my life. I learned more about the deeper, unseen connections between myself and the world around me. Yes, some of that came about directly from my studies in the Bardic and Ovate grade material from the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids (OBOD). Those studies did more to unlock and open portals of experience I had never really contemplated before, as did a year-long study I did with Cat Treadwell in the mid-range of the decade.

So, so many people have asked me what I learned in my Druidry studies, and what they might learn from doing those studies. I learned more about myself, how I connect to the world around me on a daily basis, and how to explore each of those connections. Those studies and lessons still stick with me to this day, and color so much of my way of contemplating the moment in front of me. For instance, as I write this, I have no idea who might read it today, tomorrow, five years from now, or even further into the future. I sometimes wonder if what I write will have any impact on how others approach their daily Spirituality. In the end, it does not matter how many find anything of importance from what I write. If I reach even one person, at any point in the future, and help them make a better approach to their own lives – that is all the connection to the future that I would truly want. One or many, the number does not matter, so long as what I write helped make some kind of positive impact. As for what someone else might learn from these lessons, that is really hard to say. Every single person is different. Each person has a different set of needs within their own Spiritual life. And to be honest, every person will get something different, according to their own needs. I know Druidry has helped me in numerous ways, especially in understanding the abstract, but I cannot say that anyone else would get the same thing from Druidry that I do.

During the decade, I turned fifty years of age. In some ways, I feel much older, particularly where my health is concerned. However, in terms of living my life – I feel like I have only just begun. When I was twenty, I felt like I would never be forty. That age was just “too old” for me to contemplate. Now at fifty-four, I hope to experience as much of life as I possibly can. I am open to whatever possibilities are out there. A radically different mindset from the hard-partying twenty-something I was before. I don’t have the desire to run through life with a whiskey bottle in one hand, while waving a sword with the other. I’m a touch more reserved in that capacity thirty-plus years down the line. I have begun to understand that rushing through life is no way to really live – there are intricate details to observe and partake of. Only when you slow down, do you catch those subtleties. And like I noted, I want those experiences.

As I noted in the quote, life is a journey. The past decade has been spent trying to wriggle my way through some fairly tight passageways to get to where I am now – where the plain opens up before me. I can choose nearly any direction I want, except back. I have been there. I want to see the things that I have yet to see. I think that the best plan at this point is to follow the pretty sunset – it leads to an even prettier sunrise. And the deep night between has its own marvelous sights and sounds to be experienced, under the gentle fall of the sky’s dark, star-brightened blanket.

–T /|\

Redefine, Re-Focus…Evolution Not Revolution

2020….back when I WAS 20…I never thought I would live to see this year. Last year, I nearly made that come true in early July. So, here we stand, at the opening of an entirely new calendar year. Now, remember, I don’t make resolutions. Instead, I set goals and then try to reach them.

Last year, I made several goals…and met none of them, thanks to illness issues. This year, I have some smaller goals (yeah right), that will hopefully be a bit more attainable.

First, my Ovate studies have suffered over the past year. Lots of other things took priority, so its time to relight the engines on the jet for this. Its a little past time to get moving on all of this and eventually make a chance at the Druid grade studies.

Second, my search for a job position, somewhere, continues. My desire is to move further south towards the Houston area. But I’m ok with a job up here in the northern tier of central Texas for the time being. Some of this is going to involve doing some creative retooling of my skills, as well as a degree in Library Sciences. I’m a touch late to start a degree program in January, but am already working on an application for Fall term. The sole requirement that I have is that the program must be completely online, so that I am capable of moving when necessary.

Third, and probably the most surprising aspect to me, is to look into actually gaining credentials as a Priest. I know, I know. I have talked so much about trying to move away from this role, and yet every time I turn around, I find this staring my back in the face. It has taken a long time for me to realize that the role of Priest is not what I have shaped it into within my mind. That shape comes from others and how they have approached the role on their own. Just as I shape the concept of Druid into what I see it to be, I can also do the same with the role of Priest. What shape that is really going to take will need a lot of thinking on my part. But it is time to seek out the various aspects towards credentials of some sort. This is one of the longer-term goals that may take more than this calendar year.

…and since I am a Druid….three goals is where I stop for the moment. Just a nice, neat number for me.

Many folks will notice that resistance against the corporate machine or the current abusive US government is not on my list. Because none of that is where my focus is at. I have had several folks tell me that they are concerned that I am not focusing on things such as these. Well, to be honest, sometimes the Path that I walk will be different from that of others. Just because I do not share the burning desires of your convictions does not mean that I do not agree. It merely means that my energy is focused where I need to be. And its ok to be different.

Others will notice that I am still not trying to find a group to be a part of on my daily Path. That is correct. I am still practicing my daily Path on my own. This is the default setting that works for me. Moving towards being a Priest does not change that. In fact, from my perspective, it strengthens that in ways that I am looking forward to exploring.

Many of my friends are declaring 2020 to be the year of their revolution. For me, that does not ring true in my ears. This coming year will be the start of my own personal evolution. It is long past time to change. Long past time to re-define my focus. Long past time to step into the role that has been staring me in the face for so long. Long past time to explore the Path that I am now turning to face.

–T /|\

(Picture by John Beckett)

Listening….

Merry….whatever day you want to call it. Instead of getting bent out of shape worrying about what the holiday is called or who is going to get pissed off because I didn’t name their specific holiday…just have a happy whatever you want to call it or not. One thing I have learned over the years, you will never be able to please everyone, so its easier to please yourself.

Its been a tough year for me. Serious illness and loss of employment will definitely do that to a person. But that is only part of the whole year. There has been fun. There is love. There is community. There is good and bad moments. After all, its Life. You never know exactly what is coming up around the next turn in the cart-path. And if the donkey is pulling the cart too fast, you can wreck the whole lot. Yeah. Donkey. Because I don’t really want Life to move much faster than that…at least for right now.

Most folks don’t really catch my sense of humor, so don’t feel too lost if you don’t. 🙂

For me, the end of the year…the end of the decade…finds me at a potential crossroads. Nearly a decade ago, I was in a similar place. I was unemployed, as I am now. Undecided on what I should do. Life, then, threw me a curveball…working in collegiate Education. Over the next nine-plus years, I learned more about a field that I knew so little about. I got into the classroom and enjoyed every moment that I was there. I was able to converse with other people, listen to their dreams, and find ways to motivate them even further on their own personal Paths. My students came from different walks of Life, different careers, different employment opportunities, but all had the same basic element to their education goals – striving to better themselves, so they could do jobs that fit more naturally in their lives.

Then, after three and a half years, I moved into the Administrative side of things. I had lofty thoughts of an environment where people worked together to achieve and environment that helped students succeed. What I found was a labyrinthine environment, rife with individuals holding decades-long grudges against parts of a system that no longer contained the individuals that had inspired such feelings, and others that were spiteful over the successful endeavors of others. For someone such as myself, driven by a desire to help other succeed and achieve, such an environment is always a sad thing to view; particularly when there were others that also wanted to find ways to improve aspects that were choked into submission, such as transparency and communication. Only to see these individuals run out of the system after pounding themselves endlessly against steel walls, their ideas falling onto deaf ears. That lack of communication led to lack of cooperation, and eventually to the series of events that followed with my own dismissal, the details of which are not important to this conversation.

Along this particular Path, I learned to traverse the broken ground that lay before me. I learned the concepts, the subject matter, and attempted to do the best I could – for the team. My efforts were also driven by how I could help to better my team. I wrote my code with notes strewn throughout to allow others to run the same code in the future with minimal effort. I didn’t encrypt concepts or methodology to insure some form of “job protection” – for me, that is unacceptable. Its not a part of team-work.

Yet, here I stand on the outside again. I now spend my time trying to find ways to re-invent myself, yet again. At fifty-four years of age, it is likely I have come to my last attempt to re-invent who and what I am. And to what ends? I don’t chase the almighty dollar. I have no desire to have massive amounts of money on-hand, just enough to survive in what I would consider to be “comfort”. But to what ends am I striving for? I don’t need to be the tops on my career field, whatever that might look like. I have no desire to be the “expert” in some subject matter. I’m not out to be the “top Druid” in any conversation…I’m not even sure I belong in any such conversation to start with.

Don’t mistake me here. I am talking about where I am going to aim myself into the future with whatever I need to do to make money to stay alive in today’s overly-capitalist society. My Spiritual beliefs, my life as a Druid, who I am as a Polytheist….none of that is in any question whatsoever. I have had thirty-three years to figure all of that out very well for myself. But perhaps, my time has started to come to figure out how I can weave all of that into the skills that I have accumulated in my lifetime. Perhaps that is the direction that I may need to contemplate going into my future. How? That is a good question, and one that I do not have a ready answer for….yet.

There are a few things that I do understand going forward. I am a team-oriented person. One person can be strong, several people together can be a force. Wherever and however I end up going into the future, it will be with the friends that I already have in my life. Without them…and without those who I will met in the future…there’s not a lot for me to be strong about. All of you are included in that…

This has been me just thinking out loud. If you are finding yourself at a familiar crossroads, I would suggest that you take a few moments in your night to stop, ask the question that you need to, and then be quiet and listen. That’s where I find myself most nights. Listening.

Me a Re-Constructionist? Hardly…

Reconstruction. Every time I hear this term, I think of the period immediately following the American Civil War, particularly in the southern United States. But that is not what the term typically means in Pagan circles. to borrow from Wikipedia’s page on Polytheistic reconstruction:

Reconstructionism attempts to re-establish historical polytheistic religions in the modern world, in contrast with neopagan syncretic movements like Wicca, and “channeled” movements like Germanic mysticism or Theosophy.

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

Fairly textbook oriented perspective, but useful in understanding the primary aspects of reconstruction perspectives within the Pagan community. Attempting to showcase the perspective I am chasing, a simpler aspect would come from elsewhere in the same article.

While the emphasis on historical accuracy may imply historical reenactment, the desire for continuity in ritual traditions (orthopraxy) is a common characteristic of religion in general, as seen in Anglican ritualism, or in much Christian liturgy.

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

Essentially, and I am painting with an overly broad brush here, its a perspective of doing rituals and practicing aspects of a belief system exactly (or as close as possible) to the manner in which the ancestors of that system did back in time. There is a strict adherence to a set of ritual framework, spell-work, and how to honor the Gods, the Ancestors, and the Spirits. This can even include things all the way down to manners of personal dress and how such clothing is made.

Now, please do not take me the wrong way. I am not denigrating or trying to shit all over the way folks that practice this methodology to their Spiritual Path. On the contrary, I applaud them for finding this method as working directly (and correctly) for them. This approach; however, does not work for me. In fact, it would be most appropriate to say that I am nowhere in the same ballpark with any reconstruction movement.

in fact, my own approach to my Spiritual Path might be more detailed through a Journey song. Yes, Journey – the band.

She said
Any way you want it
That’s the way you need it
Any way you want it

Journey, “Any Way You Want It”

Most of my ritual work has a framework associated with it – that which I learned through my studies with the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids. However, over time, I have many alterations that I have added (and removed) to that framework until I have a few variations that I can manage that are within my own personal comfort zone. And since I am a congregation of one (me), it makes it a lot easier to alter things on the fly if need be.

Now orthodoxy would have me called out as a blasphemer, since I am altering what would be considered as “set in stone”. Orthopraxy; however, would note that what I am doing is “ok” for me, so long as I do not force my own changes onto others. In other words, when gathered with a group of fellow OBOD members, following the typical ritual framework would be considered as better conduct since we all have studied and trained within that aspect. No one would be caught off guard with the various alterations I have created for myself.

My own alterations to the framework are why I would never consider myself a part of a reconstruction movement. I am not trying to recreate something old; just utilize something that I am more comfortable with. And even if I did utilize a part of a framework that is the same or similar to what was done in “ancient” times…my use of that is not associated with a desire to do things “as they have been done before”. Rather, as I have noted a few times now – I am trying to do something that “works for me,” nothing more.

To be brutally honest, I am not worried about how things were done in the “ancient” times. Nor am I worried about how things were done last weekend. I want to focus on what feels “right” and “comfortable” with this moment in the ritual. Simple as that. That perspective will likely draw the ire of reconstructionists and Pagans of an orthodox frame of mind, but this will have little effect on me. I am not encouraging a single individual to do what I do. If someone decides to adopt the same mindset – working on their own Path through ritual practice that they know and understand – that is for them to decide. So please, do not take me the wrong way and say that I hate reconstructionist and orthodox methodologies within Paganism. Rather, my perspective is that those perspectives do not work for me.

My friend John Beckett likes to remark about the Big Tent of Paganism. My perspective is a little different – more like a Pagan campground. However, whatever the symbolism that gets utilized, there’s room in Paganism for a lot of beliefs – even those diametrically opposed to one another in belief, methodology, and/or perspective. And that wide diversity is a strength, in my opinion. If you explore throughout – either walking through the Big Tent of Paganism or going from fire to fire in the Pagan Campground, you will learn many approaches to personal Spirituality. And the more approaches you can understand, the wider your vision can become. You do not need to utilize the approaches – merely understand. In my opinion, the wider your experience, the wider your eyes will be. The wider your eyes will be, the more you can see. The more you can see, the more you can choose to experience. Just a thought….

Just Do It

So, you have decided to peruse the Path of Paganism. What should you do to start? Where are good starting points for various perspectives? How do I know I am doing the right things? I have been Pagan since late 1986. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard this from Seekers (and others) throughout the years, especially the further I get from my own initial steps.

Distance Does Not Equal Sagacity

In the course of discussions, I tend to get that feeling that I am considered “wise” or “smart” within Paganism because I have been on my path for…what?….carry the one….approximately thirty-three years. I have dabbled in Wicca for a good part of those years, generic Paganism, and (now) Druidry. None of that time means that I have mastered anything, except maybe length of time – and that does not mean a thing. And yet, there have been folks that hang on my every word, like I am some sage philosopher located in a cave high on some mountain. The reality is a bit different. I am an expert on how I have approached Paganism as a part of my own Spiritual Path. Nothing more. But, if you want to sit and talk about how you would formulate your own Path of study and dedication, I am more than happy to do so.

Books Are Still One Individual’s Perspective

I remember the first time I ever met a Pagan author – Pattilee Glass-Koentop – in her own Pagan-oriented shop. I was in awe of who she was. When I started treating her words as something that was infallible, she stopped me and discussed why I needed to see her statements as advice, not as immutable law. When I tried to point to her writings as being pure law, she laughed and told me that writings were the same as talking to someone. The book seemingly provides more weight, simply because it exists in physical form. The reality is that it is still an individual’s perspective.

Several years later, I was sitting around a fire having a conversation with several other people over this same perspective. One particular young lady (who I found out was the High Priestess of her group) asked me to describe the fire from where I sat. Once I finished, she patted the spot on the log she was sitting on, asking me to come sit with her. Once I reached her spot, she asked the same question – what did I see when I looked into the fire. I gave a different description. She nodded and pointed to a spot at the other side of the fire, and asked me to go there. Again, the question, followed by my description. She then told me to sit where I felt comfortable and I moved closer to her so I could hear better.

“So, you’re sitting at a different fire each time?” she queried me. I explained that I was not. I saw the fire from three different positions. Plus, the fire was always ever changing, so there was really no way I could describe the same fire. “Could the same not be said about the journeys that we all take within our own Spirituality? After all, we cannot occupy the same space around the same fire. So all of us would have a different perspective.”

Books are tangible perspectives. The words contained within them does not change, unless a new, revised edition is created, printed and provided for mass distribution. Because of this never changing perspective, we tend to treat books as unchanging law, rather than the perspective of the individual writing them – frozen in that perspective of time. They, indeed, can be considered as “set in stone”, but even the writer’s perspective may change over time.

Distance in Time Matters Less Than Experience

Every single day of our existence is spent in gathering more experience to one’s life. No matter what I do, those experiences gather up like data points on life. When I make salsa for the games on Sunday, which I admittedly have on the television as background noise, I also deviate slightly from the recipe I have. I work with what I call the base recipe – the parts that I know work correctly – first. I need that base to be able to make the changes I am seeking, and most of that comes from the spices I use. Every time, I make a mental note of what did not work versus what seemingly worked this time. One day, I may actually perfect this, but in the meantime, I add and alter as I move along.

Moments like this, standing in front of the fire and thanking the Gods for the safe travels of all, used to frighten me. (Picture by John Beckett)

I do the same – somewhat – with my Spirituality. Over thirty-three years, I know what works best for me. My rituals tend to be impromptu because I already have a sense of what will be best for my, in my own practice. I do follow the ritual aspects of The Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids because it is the system I work within – but rarely are the parts of that in my own personal rituals. However, when I am with others, I follow the ritual aspects because it is something everyone knows, which makes it easier to work with others. How did I get to the point of being able to do impromptu aspects though? Through experience.

Just because I have been a Pagan for thirty-plus years means so very little. Its what I have managed to do inside that thirty-plus years that matters. So, if you’re looking for the secret – its simple. Even Nike understands it with their shoes. Just do it. Those experiences become life lessons. Those life lessons will mold you into the Pagan you will become. Just do it.

Answering the Questions

So let’s answer the questions in the best manner we can. As a refresher: What should you do to start? Where are good starting points for various perspectives? How do I know I am doing the right things?

Well, there is always researching the material. Interested in Wicca? Read some Wiccan books. Find some Wiccans who are blogging online and read what they say. Those books and blogs are excellent starting points for understanding the various perspectives that are out there. As for knowing when you are doing things right – experience will tell you that. Just do it. If something seems a little off, look at what you’re doing – and alter it slightly to fit your own feelings. The blue candle does not necessarily have to be at some cardinal point in the circle. Put it somewhere else or do not use it, if it offends your sensibilities. Do the stuff. And don’t be afraid to fail. That’s one of the best lesson-masters out there. How do I know not to wear loose-hanging sleeves in ritual? Because I caught myself on fire, that’s why. Flaming fail = lesson.

I will add one final warning to making changes to anything….be aware that there can be consequences for doing things in odd ways. Be prepared to deal with the unknown. Be prepared to apologize. Making mistakes is an excellent way to learn. Its also an excellent way to get hurt. As they used to say on the tv show Hill Street Blues – be careful out there. But remember, being careful is not a reason to not get out there and do it.

Spotlights in the Wilderness

A lot of what I have done in my writings these days has been looking back and seeing how things have changed over the course of many years versus that of a few years versus where I am today. I do not have a ton of writing that was done by me from fifteen years back or further. Writing just was not something I indulged in a lot. But looking back just a few years and seeing where things were previously can be done, as I have a handful of notebooks from when I did start scribbling down thoughts from time to time.

One thing is for sure, my health was a lot better. Right around 2001, I was diagnosed as a diabetic, but I paid little attention to it. I continued living my life as I had, and slowly over time, that lack of attention has brought my health to where it is now. My ability to do some of the things that I could do five years ago is severely limited. Edema wracks every aspect of my body, including my lungs and my eyes – both of which I am being treated for. And my attention is more on how I can be more healthy going forward than anything else at the moment, with lifestyle changes I would never have contemplated before.

As an example, this morning I woke earlier than normal with the asthmatic rasp that I have come to associate with pulmonary edema. That tell-tale rattle when I exhale is the auditory indicator to what I can feel – a strong difficulty in catching my breath. That starts my exploration throughout the house to locate my inhaler. I never dreamed I would have an inhaler to help me breathe. Then again, I never dreamed that I would have so many issues with my body (and I have not and will not list all of these here). On July 2nd, I passed out at work from a diabetic episode – my blood sugars were extremely high. Now, a few months after the fact, there’s talk that I may have had a mild heart attack. Sobering stuff indeed.

But where does my health fit in with the various odds and ends that I am brought to accomplish by Crow or Coyote? Well, it really does not figure into all of that. I am still tasked with various things to accomplish, and I continue to do those to the best of my abilities because I gave my word that I would. If/When I am to be released from that oath, it will happen then. In the meantime, I do what I am able to, as I am asked.

What about my Druidry? Certainly, my illnesses and ailments have slowed down some of the work that I have to do in my Ovate grade lessons, but its not slowed my drive to finish and move on to the Druid grade work. Its work that I promised myself I would do, and work that continues to nourish myself at the level of my soul. My speed may have slowed, but my desire continues.

This morning, one of my favorite films – “The Last Samurai” – was on, and I paused everything I was trying to accomplish to watch a bit. This film is full of many quotes and concepts I try to live many aspects of my life by. The following moment appeared on the screen.

Katsumoto: You believe a man can change his destiny?

Nathan Algren: I think a man does what he can, until his destiny is revealed.

I have all these physical ailments wracking my body. I slowly watch my health being destroyed, unsure of how I can abate the gathering tide of issues. Currently, my career is at a full-stop. I have the chance to look at other options, find yet another way to reinvent my life from a professional perspective. And yet, I still wonder what my final destiny will be. is my destiny to be a warning sign for others in their lives? Don’t do what Tommy did or you’ll wind up like this. Or are all of these issues something that I can bring together to show others what can be done when you really want to work magick in your life – what you can do when you decide to bend your Will to help shape your Fate?

At the moment, I am not completely sure. I peek at the stats of the blog from time to time – I know there are not that many people that read this site. But that is really not important. Its not the people of today that matter – its whoever stumbles across this in the future that will matter. Those who will be alone on their Path of Druidry, Paganism or Polytheism, trying to blaze their own destinies through the wilderness of Life. Those are the people that I have the hopes of reaching and inspiring – not to follow in my own footsteps, but to realize that they can do it by themselves. That if I can do it – just about anyone can. There are places in the wider Pagan community for Priests, Arch-Druids, Chaplains, and many other types of leaders – just as there are places of prominence for those that go it alone. There’s just not nearly as many spotlights available out in the wilderness…

Thinking Out Loud – Ambition, Experience, Intuition

Ahhh! Welcome to the Thursday blog post. There won’t be a blog post this weekend, as I will be on the road. But I’ll pick back up again on Tuesday. Its a rainy day here in the northern tier of central Texas. Cold rain though. Winter is scratching at the door step again.

Lately, a lot of my thoughts have strayed into the past, looking back on things that I helped create or had a hand in making into a reality. Ambition is not a high item in my list of things to do in life. And yet, it is. In my mundane life, I have never had the ambition to climb the corporate ladder. I am content to live in the world of the technician, where my hands and mind are actively engaged in solving problems and finding insight. At one time, I managed to climb into the status of “Vice President of Technology” in a super-small company (less then fifty people). It took exactly eighty-eight days for me to not like the job. Too much paperwork, not enough time with my hands in the machines or working with the data. That eighty-eight day experience convinced me that upper levels of corporate leadership are definitely not for me.

To a point, this mindset bleeds over into my own Spiritual practice. I am a fiercely independent Pagan, having spent most of my thirty-plus years on my Pagan path, on my own. I have garnered the deepest Spiritual experiences working alone, though I would argue that even those that work in groups would also experience deep Spiritual experiences doing individual work. As of this moment, the highest ambition I have within my Spiritual life is to finish my Ovate grade work and continue on to finish the Druid grade work within the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids. I have no ambition to seek a status of clergy. Nor am I actively seeking to be a teacher of what I have learned. Titles hold no interest for me. Rather, experiences do.

Experience Might Be the Best Teacher…

I am sure you have likely heard that phrase before – that experience is the best teacher. And its completely true. You can read up on any concept, but until you experience the doing, you’re just dabbling in theory. Magick is real. It takes a lot of forms, shape and processes, but it is there. I am reluctant to use it, as I consider it to be a last resort item. Hard work, sweat equity, and finding ways to accomplish it using mundane, everyday methods and concepts are my first tools of choice. Many others lean to magick for nearly every first choice to a problem, which is fine. But that hard work is still going to have to figure into the solution, whether you believe that or not.

…Personal Intuition is a Better Guide

While experience is a wonderful teacher, its not always the best indicator for what way to approach a solution. I have found that personal intuition tends to be a better indicator, for me. Not always perfect, but there’s a tendency to know something is the “right” thing, even if your experience relates that you’ve been burned numerous times on this before. Experience tends to help with being a little more cautious in my approach when that distinction arises, just saying.

Doing For Others Brings The Greatest Joys For Me

When I was in the United States Air Force, I helped with the actions to get chapel space afforded to minority religious groups. This did not help just Pagans, but also other smaller religious groups that had been meeting (illegally) in base housing overseas, or at off-base locations within the United States. By having the base chaplaincy afford space (which could be an unused office building or even a warehouse), these smaller groups did not have to resort to breaking the rules of housing or risk finding places off-base where they might meet with trouble. This helped not only Pagan folks, but also smaller groups of the Christian faith to find places for worship and gathering.

I also added my voice to the many that wanted a change to military dog tags. Prior to getting a change, members of smaller religious beliefs (in terms of numbers of military members) had to list “Other” on the last line of their dog tags. It was that location where a member’s religious preferences were set. If the military member died in combat, one of the two tags was taken and affixed to the military member’s corpse, so that the Chaplaincy could afford the proper death rites (I won’t describe how the tag is affixed because it is fairly gruesome). The other tag was kept by the unit’s command structure, as a reporting tool for who had been killed in battle.

These are just two of the various things I stepped up and advocated for while I wore the uniform of the United States military. Falcon Circle at the United States Air Force Academy, and the Fort Hood Open Circle are just a pair of examples of what the efforts of myself and countless others have done. My desire was to open the door for others, not just those that were serving with me at the time at many other military installations, but also for the countless others that have come after me.

Ambition? Well, if you want to call it that. The technician in me says that there was a problem that existed, and a solution to resolve it needed to be found. If that’s what constitutes ambition, I guess I will cop to it, though I find it neither embarrassing or wrong.

I guess that the best way to view how I have managed through life is trying to be in Service to more than just myself. I travel my roads alone, but that never really means that I am alone. Others will travel where I am. Others have already been here. I write this blog as a marker, of sorts. An indicator of where I have been, so that others might be able to find better steps to make their own way. I am not, can not, and will not claim my thoughts or actions are the only way – those are merely where I have been. Others’ Paths will be different, as they should be.

Thinking on Respect and Civility

Welcome to Samhain, folks. Well, the calendar version of Samhain. There’s a lot of debate over when it truly is – the calendar year, the closest full moon, etc etc. Honestly, I don’t think the Gods are going to get pissed off if you celebrate the turn of the Wheel of the Year a few days early or late. I think the more appropriate aspect is your intent when you celebrate aspects of the Wheel of the Year. Anyways, on to the topic I want to touch on today….

Probably the most frequently asked question from non-Pagans comes in some form of “What is it like to be a Pagan?” Its really no different than being anything else – Christian, Buddhist, Agnostic, Atheist, etc, etc. You live your life the same way. You do all the same things. Nine Hells, you might even shop in the same stores for groceries! The difference is in how we approach the more mystical aspects of our lives – how we connect to the world around us – and under what perspective we seek our understanding of the worlds beyond. Yes, I mean that correctly – worlds.

Different Perspectives Make For Good Discussion

So, everyone has a different approach to their own Spirituality. I can tell you for a fact that not every Pagan will approach their own Spirituality the same way that I do nor anyone else. While Christianity tends to make the approach a rather cookie-cutter version, when you dig deeper, you will find that its the same there. Every person is an individual and makes their own footfalls on this Path we call Life. Sometimes, we step in the same footfalls as others, but at some point our trails will diverge and your footfalls will become your own.

I have had this discussion with several Christian friends over the years, trying to showcase the point that others will see life differently. My example, admittedly a clumsy one, is to take a coke can and set it on the ground. I then get people to sit around it in a circle, and ask them to describe what they see without trying to describe what they cannot see. Those diametrically opposed to one another in the circle will describe vastly different perspectives, yet they are still looking at the same can.

Everyone sees the same can, but because of where they are in Life, they describe a different aspect. We all live on the same planet. We all interact with others in the same environment. Yet, we all have different approaches to how we connect with that environment. For some, it comes from an individual experience within that environment. For others, the modicum of Truth for the environment is dictated to them from a pulpit by others or from a book. And for an even larger group of folks, their perspective is drawn from both arenas or from neither. The possibilities are endless and boundless.

…Except When It Doesn’t

The truth of those perspectives deserve a degree of respect, even if it does not fit into our own perspective whatsoever. This is where discourse gets messy and you can see it daily in the political arena. Here in the United States, we are essentially a two-party system – Republicans and Democrats, or if you prefer Conservatives and Liberals. Both have very different ideas of how a national/state/county/cite government should be run for the betterment of the citizenry. Both care a great deal about this system of government, but are hampered in their efforts because the citizenry is split nearly 50/50 over how things should be done. Thus, compromise needs to be managed in order to get various aspects of legislation through. Compromise comes from a position of respect, not a position of power. Well, about twelve years back (maybe more), one side decided that compromise was no longer an option. From there, many lines in the sand have been drawn…and well, let’s just say that government doesn’t work as well as it has in the past. But this is an example of where differences go from good, solid conversation aimed towards solutions to a strong measure of constant bickering and finger-pointing. Its either one way or the highway…

Divide By Zero

The deeper I dive into my own Spirituality, the more I see parallels with other Paths. No, I am not changing from Paganism over to a different Path. Nor am I stepping off the framework of Druidry that peppers so much of what I do. Pagansim and Druidry are the right places for me to be. Stepping away from either would be counter-productive. But I see a lot of similarities in the approaches. There is a desire to seek closer perspective to whatever is seen as $Deity or $Gods. There is a desire to live a “better” life in whatever form that is seen. The differences come from how our environment is seen, and the way we perceive Divinity.

The lacking aspect, as I perceive it, comes from our collective inability to be respectful of differing opinions and perspectives. We want actions that will potentially harm others, but don’t care because those people don’t believe as we do. I am probably off base, but a little more respect would probably go a long way towards changing things. That respect will help us to achieve compromise in our politics, but it will also bring back an air of civility among us all. At least I hope so. Because the alternative is a future that is so dark, sinister, and devoid of creativity – that I really don’t want to survive long enough to see that.

I’ve said it before…and it bears reminding here. I have a very pacifist mindset when dealing with people in my face. But harm the people I love, and I will end you. Respect comes from a desire to be peaceable. To be able to see past differences and define our relationships from a position of finding our similarities, no matter how small those might be. May we eventually find that…

I’d Rather Try

The future. That one thing we all look towards, but never seem to figure out how to get there. Or at least that is how it seems at certain points. We make all these intricate plans on how to get there, only to find the bridge we planned on using to cross the river to be burned and destroyed. Ok, so what now?

Looking around, it seems very easy to see all the gloom and doom elements there. The rise of ultra-corporate interests within the government. The naked over-reach for power and control by those same ultra-corporate entities. The attitudes of being above the laws that govern their respective countries. No regard for their fellow individuals. No regard for the well-being of the planet. All the damage that they are doing to the planet. A blindness towards environmental issues that will impact future generations. Not only does it make your head spin, but you also want to sit on the ground and just cry. All of those actions have led to the destroyed bridge we currently see. No way over the river. What now?

I remember the nuclear panic of the 1970s and 1980s. I am sure some of you are older enough to remember the issues in the 1960s. I remember the forlorn feelings that arose from the dark clouds of nuclear annihilation that hung over the world’s collective heads. To borrow from the Greek Myths, the nuclear spectre was much like the Sword of Damocles, a giant sword held at the pommel by a single hair from a horse’s tail. (Come on admit it, you’re currently hearing Rocky singing “The Sword of Damocles is hanging over my head” from the ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show’) In a manner of speaking, the climate change issue has a very similar feeling of impending doom for the planet.

Can It Be Changed?

Well, to be honest, in our current political climate….no. And if we are going to find ways to stave off the issue of climate change, we are going to need the politicians. In fact, we are going to need people of all kinds. Solving an issue this complex is going to need a lot of thinking, and a whole lot more doing. However, a new question has started to arise. Are we too late? has the earth reached a tipping point in the balance that just cannot stop the changes in climate that we could see? Or perhaps, if we follow the naysayers, does the problem really even exist?

Well, let’s set the “too late” part of the discussion to the side, just for the moment. What about the naysayers, the ones who believe that all of this is a “hoax” or “garbage science”? For the most part, many of those folks fall into two categories: those who are using all of this as a political football to thumb their noses at their opponents, and those who tend to believe that earth is here specifically for the use of those exclusive members of the Christian faith. On the one hand, its a group of people that just want their way, and will stubbornly oppose anything that the opposite side of the political spectrum wants. Essentially, “the loyal opposition.” Some of these folks are squarely in the court of the corporate entities and on the side of accumulating more monetary wealth than they really need. As if those with the biggest bank account when they die, wins. The other side of that spectrum, the Christians that utilize Dominion-ist theory to support their claim to the Earth. These folks are a larger danger to the world, for a lot of reasons, but let’s realize that these naysayers will likely never be convinced of a single thing about climate change. So, instead of fighting them and constantly bickering and arguing with them – move around them and continue on. And yes, I realize that some of these folks are in political positions. Work actively to vote them out of their positions (see, your vote really does matter!).

Do We Have to Stop?

I will fight for the Earth.

But are we too late? Maybe. I’m not a climate scientist nor do I pretend to be one on or off TV. Some of the scientists that I do read and follow say that this may be so. That we may have already reached a tipping point, where any effort towards curbing the issues surrounding climate change. And I do believe that there may be some truth to that. Does that mean we HAVE to stop? Certainly, some folks are seeing this as the moment to throw their hands in the air and shout “What’s the use?” at the clouds. Under that perspective, the easiest thing to do is to give up. In Disney’s movie ‘Tomorrowland”, a rather poignant statement made by Hugh Laurie’s character listed off a large number of issues that he related to the issues surrounding the inevitable destruction of mankind. In that statement is the following lines:

In every moment there’s the possibility of a better future, but you people won’t believe it. And because you won’t believe it you won’t do what is necessary to make it a reality. So, you dwell on this terrible future. You resign yourselves to it for one reason, because that future does not ask anything of you today.

So, the bridge is burned out and destroyed. What now? Well, we can build another bridge. With what? Whatever we can find. It won’t be the perfect bridge, but it will work to a better degree than nothing at all. or we can swim across the river. Or try to find boats or build other floating devices and cross that way. But we don’t give up. Its certainly easy to just give up. Its certainly easy to resign yourself to the idea that you don’t make a difference. Because as the statement says, that future is not asking anything of you today. Sure the plans we make for the future will not always be what we expected. But we can improvise, we can adapt. As human beings, its what we do.

if we are at that tipping point and our efforts will change nothing? Then, perhaps through our efforts, we will find ways to adapt to the coming changes. We will find ways to continue forward. Not for us, not for the generation directly behind us, but for the many generations to come. perhaps our plans will fall apart. That the future won’t be nearly as rosy as we would prefer it to be. But at the very least, we tried. At the very least we did SOMETHING. ANYTHING. Even despite the naysayers or the people that just want to use up the resources now and not look to the future, because they believe the only future is being a small group of chosen individuals that are accepted to a gilded country club simply because they believed, not because they tried. I’d rather try.

Living a Dynamically Alive Perception

Quite a while back, I wrote a post about how Mythology is sometimes viewed in terms of static being. The point of the post was that the stories that make up the Mythologies we turn to for insight are so much more than that. Sure, the stories are essentially written in stone and never-changing, but that the themes extracted from those stories are alive and played out daily in our lives. That same thing can be deduced about our Spiritual beliefs.

We live our lives everyday. Our Spiritual beliefs and practices inhabit every step that we take in the past, currently and into the future. Where we step, so steps our belief and connection with the world. I am a Polytheist. I hold strong beliefs within the realm of Animism. For me, the world around me – wherever that may be at the moment – is alive. When I reach out with my mind and my being, I can feel All that is present. Some of All of that is not as strong as the connectivity of others, but All is there. When I juxtapose the ideas of the stories that I have read into that space, I can feel how the themes present in those stories mesh or clash with All of that. And from that mesh/clash moment, I can see how all of that works (or doesn’t) with myself.

Currently, I am unemployed. Life has been feeling a little messy and unorganized for me. I’m unsure of where my footing will be found or how solid it will be when I get there. In a manner of speaking, I feel like Theseus about to enter the maze. To provide a solid feeling, I count on my friends to be there to steady me from time to time. In this manner, I have my own version of Ariadne providing me with a ball of twine to navigate my way through the maze. But in a contrast to the theme, my goal is not to navigate my way out of the maze, but to a new job. Somewhere. However, utilizing the wider thematic of the maze, Ariadne, and Theseus, I can provide a more solid footing for myself as I move forward. What is happening with me is not the Myth, However, utilizing the Myth allows the theme to grow with what happens to me going forward. The actual Myth remains what it is, but the thematic idea grows with me – in success or failure.

My Spirituality grows, changes and evolves on a daily basis. As I reach outwards to discovery new connectivity with the world around me, my understanding of that same connectivity evolves. Some of the connections die off or alter in ways that continue to expand my understanding of things. My Spirituality is alive in that sense.

For instance, most people know my desire to not utilize magick or spells in my daily Path. I have always been of the mind that sweat, hard work, and physical investigation are the first tools any magick worker should turn to. However, there are times where those efforts produce no results, and an investigation into the efforts of magick and spell-work should be looked into. I am not at this point in my job search. I continue with the first tools, but have also added my prayers to the Gods as well. I am also not one to beg the Gods for assistance as my first steps towards a solution. But I have exhausted my first steps – the first tools – at this point, and am now seeking assistance from another angle.

Many folks might find my reluctance to call on the Gods for assistance to be a little odd. After all, if one looks to the Christian faith, there is a constant measure of beseeching that is made for the smallest things. Such as asking for God’s assistance in getting a new iPhone. Should I not hit my knees or trundle on out to the backyard circle and make my offerings? “Oh Crow, help me get the required monetary needs for an iPhone.” I would think that the Crow would smack me upside the head if I turned to such measures. No, I think I will leave the wailing and rending of clothing to the Christians for such things. Not that those folks are Christians…but that’s a conversation for another time.

As a Polytheist, I believe that the Gods are all individual Beings. That They grow, just as we do. That They are capable of change, just as we are, but not at the speed or pace that we do. As an Animist, I believe that everything is alive. From the trees and rocks around us to the plastics that we use to wrap our disposable foods within. I also believe that the stories that we ingest, the tales that we seek comfort within; that these themes are also alive and constantly in motion within our lives. For me, the world is a living place. That there is motion in everything. Some of it, like the changing of the stones, takes place at speeds that are imperceptible to us.

I try and take a walk every day that I can. Not just because I enjoy taking a walk. Not just because I like being outdoors. Because the world is alive around me, and my walk is just a celebration of that particular state of being – alive.

Thinking Aloud on Leadership

Leadership. Yeah, I have been talking about this for a bit now. That is mostly due to the concept being on my mind. Particularly within the Pagan community. What can be considered an ideal “Leader” within a Pagan community? is there such a thing as an “ideal” leader? What traits should such a leader have? Does the Pagan community even need a leader?? Well, none of these are easy questions to contemplate, but let’s give it a little bit of a tug, shall we?

The “Ideal” Leader

What makes a leader, ideal? Well, this is tackling the hardest of all the concepts first. However, this is a bit necessary to start with since all the perspectives will potentially be shaped from this one. Now, disclaimer time, this will come from my own point of view, so please don’t confuse this as being a mandate that every Pagan should have. Others may have different and extremely varying opinions. An ideal leader is someone who has a passion to do what is best for the community, not just what is best for their own personal Path or Tradition. Patience, understanding, the ability to listen, capable of working with others to get decisions and results – fairly typical stuff. Essentially, a person that can bend rules but not break those rules. Someone that sees fairness and equality above all else. Someone that can make those same rules rigid and unbending where necessary.

Is a Leader Necessary?

As a solo Pagan, this is a tough one to really answer. My response to this is “no”. Its not necessary to have anyone else as a leader, other than yourself – at least in my own estimation. But let’s remember – I’m by myself as a choice. I do things better on my own, at least in my opinion. But for others, group dynamics is a must-have in their Spiritual Path. And within group dynamics, there is always that single individual that is looked at as a leader. So, for group dynamics, my response would be “yes”.

Now, does the Pagan community, as a whole, need a leader? Or maybe even several leaders, depending on Tradition or Path? For this, my response is a definite no. However, the Pagan community does have various Pagan folk that are looked upon as “an example”. Not necessarily a leader, but as a kind of template, if you will allow me the reference. How should we as Pagans respond to the dramatic examples that are made of Samhain by evangelical Christian leaders? Well, as an individual I am outraged by the blatant falsehoods that get presented, but for a more appropriate response, I might look to the people that I have admiration and respect to see how that response might look like. I can take my tips and cues from that. if I think their responses are a bit more milquetoast than I believe it should be, I might disregard their perspective and continue to be openly outraged on my own. But those folks that are out there openly, the so-called “Big Name Pagans” that everyone reads (I’m not one of them, honestly), or that everyone listens to, can be gauges by which we can check our own responses against. Particularly, if our perspectives and opinions tend to line up with theirs. There is, honestly, nothing wrong with checking your emotional response against others. That always provides a different perspective.

Does there need to be some kind of Pagan Pope out there? Someone who speaks for the entire Pagan community? Nine Hells, no! I can trust some folks to make generic, bland statements about the overall temperature of the Pagan community as they observe it, but there is no one that can speak for all other Pagans. I have found Pagans to be individualistic enough to speak for themselves…well, for the most part. There is no need for a singular Pagan mouthpiece in the world. At least not in my own estimation.

So, What is Leadership About Within Paganism?

Well. ::taking a big deep breath:: Leadership, from I stand, is about good mentoring of a group of people. Helping others to learn and grow on their own individual Path, even within the confines of a group. Leadership is not about empirical statements of how others should or should not act. Leadership is about being there to point people in the right direction, to provide focus to a group of people moving towards a particular perspective or foundation. Leadership is about growing others to be capable of doing the same thing for the generations to come. Leadership is being the rock solid example of what should be done or how people should roll up their sleeves and help – even when the cause being championed is not their own. For me, that is what makes a leader.

Does the Pagan community need leaders? Certainly. But leaders also need to understand the power that others place into their hands. Those people are looking to you as the example. It is not because they are weak, but because they are needing an example to follow. They are looking for that template pattern to build from. They will add their own twist and kink to it, in time. But that beginning mold is the first building block. It is not that they think you are infallible, every human being makes mistakes. But is is that they trust you. And that power should never be given away lightly nor should it be abused by you. It is a measure of trust being given to you, and that trust has tremendous responsibility with it. Do not abuse that trust.

I’m no leader. I do what I have to do. Sometimes, people come with me. –Edgar Friendly in the movie ‘Demolition Man’

With Respect and Trust – Sometimes People Come Along

About a week ago, I posted a quote I had gathered from a Twitter account that pushes out Jean Luc Picard statements from the Star Trek: Next Generation episodes (incidentally, which I love).

Respect must be earned. Trust must be earned. A demand for either means the loss of both.

For me, this quote sums up a lot of problems in the world of leadership. Most folks in positions of leadership demand that others respect them for the titles that they hold, having done little to nothing to earn that respect – aside from being promoted or hired into the position. Along with that demand to be immediately respected, seems to come a secondary demand of wanting their word to be trusted above all others. Again, without having earned that trust through their actions, words, and deeds. But there is a secondary catch to all of this as well, where a healthy skepticism turns into an unhealthy ability to trust. When that sets in, such a mindset can be a difficult thing to break.

Respect and Trust Are Not the Same

These two perspectives have some conceptual aspects that are closely intertwined, but they are not really the same thing. Let’s take a look at their respective definitions from dictionary.com.

  • Respect – to hold in esteem or honor. To show regard or consideration for.
  • Trust – to rely upon or place confidence in someone or something. To have confidence; hope.

Respecting someone, showing them regard or consideration, does not necessarily need to have a degree of trust associated with it. As an example, I do not trust President Trump whatsoever, but I would not lower the degree of respect I have for the title of his elected position. The President does demand that people respect him, solely based on him being who he is. I just cannot bring myself to respect Donald Trump, the individual.

When people in positions of leadership make demands that people respect them, simply because of the title that they hold, as the quote notes – they not only lose respect, but they also lose any trust that may have been engendered to them prior to that moment. When you start demanding respect, simply for existing, there tends to be a severe erosion of trust for that same individual. Perhaps, this is where we tend to have the issues that tend to arise in Pagan leadership.

Respect and Trust Come Through Compassion

When I was in the United States Air Force, the idea of making better enlisted leaders was a very real thing. I was sent to two leadership schools: Airman Leadership School and Non-Commissioned Officers Training School. Both taught me a lot about being a leader, but the better (and more powerful) training that I got was with the Non-Commissioned Officers that were appointed to be my supervisors. I had bad leaders and I had really awesome leaders. The bad ones would lord their “power” over their subordinates and take all the credit for things that were done correctly and in an outstanding manner. The good ones were a lot more helpful, and shared the credit for the triumphs with those of us that worked with them. The correlation did not miss my notice – the good leaders did not want the position of being a leader. They wanted a team that worked together. This was also emphasized heavily in my training via the Leadership Schools. Leaders, the good ones, eschewed the power, and opted for strong communication and the sharing of the accolades. When failure came about, those leaders did not find a single individual to blame. Rather, they asked for the blame to be given to them, as “the team had failed, and the team was my responsibility.” Afterwards, these leaders would not berate the individuals responsible. They would work with those individuals to identify the problem, as well as work together to create a solution to insure it did not happen again.

In our Pagan communities, it seems that the leadership is more concerned with keeping power than practice the art of compassion and seeking to grow others to be leaders for the future. Let’s be realistic for a moment. Someone who becomes leader will eventually have to step down for someone else to take their place. It only makes sense to grow others in skill sets and perspective to eventually take the place in leadership. And people will do as they have been taught. Want compassionate leadership that you can respect and trust? Let them learn how to be just that through others. That means letting go of personal ego, and wanting to do for the overall group. Sadly, this does not always seem to be the case, as many Pagan Community leaders are more concerned that someone from their Tradition, someone from their Path, someone that they hold as a close friend – that these people will assume the mantle of leadership of the Community.

Respect and Trust Are Earned Through Hard Work and Effort

You are not always going to be successful at the things you do for the Community, as a leader or even as a member of the Community. Its how you handle the failures that is going to matter more. if you fail and just stop doing after that, you will be seen as unreliable or just in it for yourself (which you should not be). Sure, you will need to dust yourself off, and get back on your feet. But step back into the Community with another project that someone else is trying to get moving forward. Help out there, and you will be creating that “sweat equity” in being a member of the community. Then, when you try your own Project again, perhaps you have made a strong enough ally to get some necessary assistance. Maybe not. Realize that not everyone is going to be on-board with the idea of helping others. Just realize that building trust and respect is a two-way street. You can respect those people for putting forth something that benefits the community, but that when help is needed elsewhere – those same folks are not likely to be trustworthy enough to seek help from. You have to find your victories wherever you can find them.

Wrapping It Up

Well, I have rambled on enough about the concepts of trust and respect where leadership is concerned. Most of the “code” of leadership that I have was developed by the individuals who were my supervisors in the military. Its not a perfect understanding of the concepts of respect and trust, nor is it a perfect system of being a leader. However, its a conceptual understanding that makes sense to me. Edgar Friendly said it best in the movie Demolition Man: “i’m no leader. I do what I have to. Sometimes people come along.” Its a perspective that works well for me. It is true that I am not a leader, otherwise I would not be a solo practitioner of my Path. But sometimes, people do come along. And when I do find those folks that are coming along, I do my very best to be there for them…to the best of my own individual ability. If some folks see me as some type of a leader, I can only hope that their trust in me was weighed out carefully before they gave that to me. And I can only hope that I am worthy of their respect. However, I still have to walk my Path for myself. Sometimes people come along.

Not Quite Your Type of Pagan Or Maybe I Am

Eccentric. Odd. Different. “Not Pagan Enough”. Yeah, I have heard all these types of descriptives applied to me. I used to get really bothered by comments like this, but not really so much anymore. I have heard tons of other comments as well. Not following a Pagan Priesthood. Does not follow the typical framework. Not really a Wiccan (so true for this Druid). Off-centered. And so on.

There is a point of reality that a many of these folks do not quite get: I ain’t your type of Pagan. That doesn’t invalidate who or what I am. I might not be “enough” to be a Pagan in your eyes, but I am not on this Path to be validated by anyone else except myself. Sure, I may not follow a Path that is authentic in your eyes, but my foot-falls are my own. Authenticity comes from within me, not from some aspect of validation from without. Nor am I going to take my personal practice and make comparisons to what others are doing. This ain’t no who-can-piss-further contest. For me, I’m just not interested. You do you. I’ll do me. We’ll both be happy afterwards.

When I was much, much younger in my Pagan roots, outside criticism of what I was doing was enough to wash the soil out from underneath me, and leave a rather unsteady personal practice. Honestly, I just needed time to dig my roots a little deeper. I got that when I was transferred overseas by the United States Air Force. I was left on my own, essentially. I think I knew less than twenty Pagans in the three years I was stationed in Germany. My daily practice was done on my own. As a group of individual Pagans, we would gather maybe two times a year. That meant that a lot of what I did, I was the sole judge of what and how things were being handled.

That alone time was difficult. Things happened here in the States with the Pagans I knew. Several of my friends were hit by the dying gasps of the Satanic Panic. Each of them struggled against those moments on their own, with me being completely ignorant of everything overseas. I heard small snippets of news here and there, but the closest thing I had to consistent information came from the Circle Sanctuary ‘zine that I received once a month. And even then, that was not much in the way of news. For all practical purposes, I was isolated.

At this point in my life, I had not been approached by Coyote nor introduced to Crow. My solo practice had me in the woods of Germany, meditating and working my own circles of celebration as the seasons passed. I developed my own interpretation of raising cones of power, working my circles of Sacred Space, and my own personal theories on the practical application of Magick. Most was taken from books by Cunningham, Buckland, Starhawk and Kraig. At least where I understood what was being asked. Where I did not have understanding, I improvised. And through that process of improvisation, I began to develop my own personal understanding of the process of being a Pagan.

Me? Priest? Yeah. For myself. I didn’t have any students. And have never really had one at any point in my life. I may be a teacher in the collegiate classroom, but I am not some Luke Skywalker figure, here to instruct Daisy Ridley in the ways of Paganism, Polytheism and Druidry. I have always shied away from that role as much as I could. Not because I want to keep some mystical secret. Because those who have asked to be students, I know I would be doing a dis-service to them. It has always been easier (and more appropriate) to point them to those people who would be better suited in that role than myself. Yes, I believe that when the teacher is ready, the student will come. But I am also a big believer in knowing one’s limitations too.

What about public ritual?? Be someone that leads people in a celebration of the seasons. Definitely not me. A good public ritual leader is there to facilitate the experiences of others. I do not read people well enough to anticipate their needs within the context of a ritual…or just about anywhere else. I have helped out in public rituals by handling various roles, but that is just about where my dabbling ends. Again, a process of understanding and knowing your limitations.

So, what kind of Pagan am I? I’m me. Beyond that, you will have to lean back to the descriptives that started this post. If you are looking for what others might think. I will warn you…most descriptives from other people will only tell you the picture as they see it. To really know and understand what you are seeing…you need to experience all of it yourself. And then make up your mind from there. Am I your type of Pagan? Maybe. Maybe not. But I am me. No apologies. No excuses. I have my bad days like anyone else. But then the judgment is all in your perspective, not mine. To paraphrase Mickey Hart of Dead and Company – in all that you do – be kind.

Speaking of Speaking

So a few days back, a friend emailed me and suggested that I put in a presentation for Pantheacon. I politely declined the suggestion, noting that such a large conference would be an odd place for me to start any kind of an inclination towards speaking. Plus there are a few other aspects that might not make me the greatest individual to be put in front of others. But my friend persisted with the idea, and asked me to give it some serious consideration.

My friend is in a unique spot compared to most folks. First, he knows I am a Pagan. Second, he has interacted with me face-to-face. But interacting face-to-face is not really enough to have this consideration of me standing in front of people talking about a perspective on a topic. He’s actually seen me give a “professional” presentation on the intricacies of Common Table Expressions within Microsoft Transact-SQL code. He’s seen a side of me that MAYBE one-hundred and fifty students at my previous employer have seen – the whacked-out, off-the-cuff professor in the classroom environment. Or if you prefer, my padded room with a whiteboard and those awesome smelling white-board markers.

I am not an outwardly zany individual, at least, not until I get to know you better. Then, I’m a hamster on crack that is main-lining coffee grounds while eating as many Snickers bars as I can. Unfortunately, as a Type-II diabetic I can’t do that anymore…I’m likely to have another diabetic seizure, a place I never hope to visit again. But there is that wild, Diamond David Lee Roth -eseque banter that comes out when I have center stage in a classroom. And I really have to keep a leash on that aspect of me, I can very quickly become NSFW. Is there a boundary? I’ll flirt with it. I’ll even try to take it out on a wild date the night before class. Show me the river…and I’ll cross the Rubicon, especially if you tell me not to.

I have been told that I can be a charming individual when I choose to do so. Ok. ::shrugging shoulders:: If you say so. I don’t see it, but then I’m to close to being the forest, that I cannot see the trees. Or something like that. But being witty, charming and funny is only part of the presentation. Somewhere in all of that, I have to be able to present something I am uber-confident about. Something that other folks would be interested in learning about, listening to…and I just cannot see myself in that arena. Do I really know enough about a topic to stand up in a room full of folks, and talk about??

Getting a little more serious here, I know what works for me within the framework of Paganism that I utilize. I know enough about daily practice to be competent for me, and possibly dangerous to the practice of others. The song “Free to Love You” by Tommy Shaw starts with lyrics that I take as a serious warning… “I don’t wanna grow up/To be a Preacher/I don’t want your soul in my hands”. There are a lot of other folks out there, in the Pagan Blogosphere, the Pagan podcasting realm, and other places, that are far more confident with guiding others down a Path they deem as appropriate. Me? I’m comfortable showing you the tools that I used, the techniques and coping mechanisms that I developed for myself…but none of that means I am an expert on anything except…well…me. Would that be enough to dip my toe into doing presentations?? I’m not so sure.

Continuing in the vein of being serious, there is also a lot to be said for my time in the classroom as a collegiate educator. For three years, I taught multiple sections each semester on the topic of Information Systems. To get students to understand the connected nature of data, along with the legal aspect of data-sharing by state governments, I used their own drivers’ licenses to show the concept of data-sharing agreements. If they were pulled over in a state that had a data-sharing agreement with Texas, and they had a warrant in Texas – they might be arrested and sent back to Texas. The first time I utilized this concept, the students went from being bored to actively participating in the discussion with the topic. That spurred me on to an in-class exercise of having the class divided into teams to build paper airplanes. Two students were chosen at random to play the part of quality control. It was in-class discussions and exercises like these that had my sections filling before other instructors. That reputation for off-beat, real-world examples garnered a reputation among the student body of having a class that was fun and informed. But does this style of “crazy” translate well elsewhere?? Again, it comes back to the mastery of the material.

In the classroom, I knew the material we were working on. I have built a lifetime career out of understanding those business processes. I have been a Pagan since 1986. Does all that time make me a master of the material? Do I need to be a master of the material? Or will presenting my own unique translation of the material, as well as my own unorthodox approach to such topics and perspectives, be enough? At this point, I am not completely sure. But it certainly is a direction I need to consider a lot deeper.

So where will all of this lead to? I honestly have no idea. If I do decide to go this route, anyone coming to watch and listen to me would need to understand – I take my topics seriously, but I definitely do not take myself seriously. Either way, I do not plan on giving up the blog. I enjoy writing far too much to do that…but you might look up one day at a conference and see me. If so…I hope its everything you might want. If not, let me know. I’m always open to criticism, good and bad.