Thinking About: Here There Be Monsters

So, its 6am here as I write this. The youngest cat is winding back and forth between my legs, underneath my chair. Outside, the world is pitch black, as the world slowly spins towards the sunrise. I have my headphones on, so I don’t wake anyone in the house to the sounds of The Pretty Reckless. Through all of this, I sit here and stare at my open Word document, wondering what to write. In some ways, I feel like I have written about nearly every topic I can think of. After all, the blog has been up since 2013. Eight years is a lot of time to write about this topic and that topic. In some cases, I have covered topics more than once. I’ve even gone to the degree of re-visiting some topics from time to basically just refresh my perspective on something. Not that my perspective is anything important. After all, I’m just one person with opinions of my own. Nor am I the type of person to make my own understandings into empirical facts. I have no mandates that Paganism is this or that every Pagan should be doing that or that Pagans should react this other way. That tin-stamping perspective is what turned me off to what Christianity is about. You must do this. You must believe this. You mustn’t do that. No room for exploration.

Exploration. The desire to dig further on your own within a topic. The need to see what becomes your own “truth” within your beliefs. The feeling that not every topic will appeal to you, but that such a lack of connection will not invalidate who you are or what you believe. That’s considered to be such dangerous territory to fundamentalists of all kinds. Why? Well, simply put – you are going beyond the teachings and directives of whoever believes that they are in charge. The digging further might lead you to question the strong pillars of their teachings. In other words, you’re going off-script. You’re wandering off the map. And off the map, there be monsters. Or so the warning goes. The reality is that you are going beyond what those so-called leaders know. And that great void beyond is scary for them because it might really invalidate the pillars of their belief.

In my eight years at the college I was employed at – the first three were as an educator. I was an adjunct faculty member. I taught a course called “Introduction to Business Applications.” The course was an introduction to what essentially was the Microsoft Office Suite. Super boring shit that most students already had a firm grasp on. I know I was losing the students’ attention, as I stood at the head of a classroom of thirty seats. They already knew the basics of using Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. For most of them, Access was an abstract concept that went a bit beyond their comprehension. But for the most part, they already knew all of this stuff. So I took the class on a deep dive beyond the syllabus. I scratched the surface on Business Intelligence by showcasing the usage of Information Systems. I showed them the usage of Information Systems within the legal and judicial systems by bringing in real-world cases straight out of the news. At the end of the class, I challenged them to go beyond what the class text taught them – to envision where a technology would be in the future – five years, ten years, fifteen years, and twenty years into the future. When I was asked what a “technology” would be, I brought up concepts beyond that of computers. One enterprising student wrote about the future of coffee brewing. The idea was to get them to think outside of the box, to delve into a technology (or industry as one student argued the point) in a manner that was to place them in a position to forecast the aspect of “cutting edge.”

Our teachers, even within Paganism, wish us to learn the basics. In our formative years, we learn the basics – the techniques, the concepts, the rote words, and motions of spell-craft and ritual. All of that is emphasized year after year. Rarely, is there a case made for students to explore beyond those basics. Exploration is never discussed, and in some cases discouraged. Because you are headed off the map. Here…there be monsters.

Speaking from the perspective of what some would call an Elder – a term that I do not like being adhered to me despite me nearly thirty-five years in Paganism – as well as that of an Educator and a Student, I sometimes wonder if we have lost the desire to grow beyond what our teachers provide for us.

Underlying all of this is the idea of growing Paganism. Not in terms of the number of people that decide that they are Pagan, but in terms of exploring aspects of our beliefs beyond what we know and use now. I am not foolish or arrogant enough to believe that Paganism has stagnated. Nor do I believe that no one is making motions towards growing our Pagan knowledge beyond where it is now. There are always innovators within any movement. Sometimes, they are overlooked because they are quieter than most. Sometimes, they are overlooked because they are the weird, eccentric people that no one wants to associate with. The people that helped innovate these wonderful, electronic devices that we use to communicate over great distances in real-time with people we may never meet face-to-face – they are all too aware of how that perspective feels.

Also, there will be those that prefer to stay on the map. The unknown is not where they want to be. They will travel into that realm when – and if – they are ready. There is nothing wrong with that perspective. Not everyone is made to explore into the unknown and deal with the unexpected, the failures, the desire to restart from scratch when any attempt to stretch and innovate becomes a fabulous disaster. My clarion call is not meant for those people.

In many ways, much of what I am expressing here is just reaching out to those Pagans that are seeking to reach beyond the edges of the map. Others may see your efforts as being useless. That you are flirting with unnecessary danger. That there is no need to look beyond the horizons, to stretch beyond the sky. I would point out, that as an educator my time in the classroom with my students was a multi-fold operation. I was there to teach the students the basics of the topic, while providing inspiration (and sometimes guidance) to go beyond the topic, should they desire to do so.

So, do you want to be a Priest in a manner that you believe to be unapproached by today’s modern Pagan Priesthood? Then research that direction. Learn about what it takes to provide what you believe to be needed. After that, seek ways to become that kind of Priest. After all, Priesthood is about serving others within their own Spiritual Paths – if that’s your calling, reach for it. Remember, the only thing that limits you in what you can do – is you.

Re-reading this, I’m a little astonished where my mind took all of this. However, knowing how I approached the classroom environment after my first semester – its not an earthquake of a shocker either. As I noted, at the end of each semester, I was challenging my students to think beyond what the class taught them. To build upon that knowledge. As Damh the Bard notes in his song “On the Shoulders of Giants” from his album “Sabbat”

So by peace and love we stand,
Heart to heart and hand in hand,
On the shoulders of giants we stand.

Damh the Bard, “On the Shoulders of Giants”

We build our traditions and groups with each new generation that arrives. These new Pagans will use our foundation of knowledge, traditions, and effort as the building blocks for their future. I tell you know, most the pioneers in the computer industry would be astonished to see where their start with basic computers built in their garages has gone. And who knows what the future holds. Well, the younger generations do. Their imaginations will take us beyond. First, they must have the desire to move beyond the edges of the map, as it is drawn now. For beyond those edges, there be monsters.

–Tommy /|\

Photo by Filippo Peisino on Pexels.com

Thinking About: Druidry Isn’t About “Winning” to Me

Just recently, I started getting out and walking through the neighborhood. Around here, that’s not exactly a safe thing to do. Hillsboro, Texas is not exactly a modern town. While there sidewalks on the more traveled parts of town, as well as the newer neighborhoods (such as the street that I live on) – the rest of town is just a series of paved blacktop roads with no sidewalks. To augment my own personal safety, I walk on the side of the road that has me headed into oncoming traffic. That way, when cars come towards me, I can move off the paved road into the (sometimes) mowed yards or fields that border where I am walking. Just to provide a touch more context, much of Hillsboro was wiped clean by a tornado in October of 1974 (Halloween to be exact). Much of the neighborhoods bordering mine consist of beat-up mobile homes, run-down homes, and empty lots. A LOT of empty lots. So my walks can, sometimes, be a touch adventurous with folks zooming these “back streets” at higher than posted speeds. However, there are other “hazards” that come with walking on the surrounding streets of the neighborhood – friendly folks.

I know, I can hear you say it…what makes a friendly person so hazardous? Well, its not their friendliness that is hazardous. Plus, “hazardous” might not be the absolute correct term, but its what I’ve managed to come up with – at this point. Embedded in the ten-mile radius from my house are fourteen Christian churches. Most are small churches. The sole exception is a rather large church that is closer to the nearby interstate than the neighborhoods. That’s the local Baptist church. Many of the closer ones are in run-down buildings that look similar to much of the neighborhood. Here, there are other Christian denominations. Five of them are independent Evangelical types. Those folks are a touch more rabid about their beliefs. They are also the folks I tend to encounter on my walks.

A few weeks back, I went out for a walk on a fairly warm day. I had my staff with me and a bottle of water with me – I’m not particularly stable in my walking, I am still basically recovering from the pneumonia and its side effects from the Iceland trip, though I am far better than I was. I came across an elderly man working on his front yard. Well, he wasn’t that much older than me. Probably in his sixties. We exchanged “hellos” and he stood and walked over to me. He held out his hand and introduced himself. I returned the greeting. Then he started in with asking me if I knew Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior. Yeah, here we go again.

We talked for a while, all gathered around my response of: “I’m not a Christian.” After about five minutes, I politely excused myself from the conversation and continued my walk. I’ve not avoided his house over the next few walks I took. We cordially wave and greet one another. Every single time though, he will stand and come towards me. I’ll politely wave him off and cheerfully reply: “Not today, thank you,” as I continue my walk.

So, as I sit here drinking my coffee, listening to some Electric Light Orchestra, I wonder about the entire concept of proselytization. This whole concept of trying to share your beliefs with others, in the hopes of converting them to your way of believing. I get it, sort of. You are happy about what you believe in. You want to share that with someone else. You want other people to experience the same happiness and sense of belonging that you have. All of it makes sense. Particularly, if you believe that you are holding the ONLY truth that is out there – the ONLY peace and happiness that can be had. I also realize that according to the writings that these people base their beliefs on, that I am here to deceive others, just as I have been deceived. So, I understand the perspective, though I complete disagree with it.

Were I just twenty-five years younger, I would have reacted differently. I would have stayed in this man’s front yard and had a full-fledged, loud volume theological argument. All of which, would have resulted in nothing more than damaged feelings on both sides, along with a healthy slice of resentment. Yeah, I might have actually “won” the argument, but what would I have really won? I could have added another battle notch to my staff (which has no such notches in it). So, a few added thoughts. I’m not a theologian. Not even close. I’m just me. A simple Pagan Druid trying to live my life each day. I’m not even attempting to convert a single soul to Paganism. Honestly, if someone is interested in Paganism – they have to make that choice for themselves. I’m not going to push them into it. I’m not going to tell them that Paganism is filled every single night with people sitting around a fire, sharing alcoholic drinks, and slowly finding a partner for the night, somewhere away from the fire. I won’t deny that such things happen – but that’s not the be-all, end-all of Paganism. In fact, it doesn’t ALWAYS happen. Sometimes, its just people taking a quiet walk in the woods together, talking about subjects that interest them. Sometimes, you are just sitting at home watching The Owl House (my current personal flavoring, outside of Gravity Falls) or some other television show or movie. Sometimes, you’re sitting in your backyard alone – gardening or taking a snooze in the warmth of the day. Sometimes, you are sitting in a coffee shop reading a book or people watching. Or you are going to some sports-ball game to watch your kids or grandkids or loved ones play. Living your faith, your beliefs, your Spirituality – all of that is no different than anyone of any other faith. The only difference is our perspective on Spirituality – how we approach our chosen God(s). And honestly, when you pare away all the frivolities and trappings associated with that – there’s a lot more similarities than differences. In arguing over which perspective is more correct, we’re just arguing semantics. We’re essentially arguing over the meaning of these symbolic gestures that we make. Meanings that are individualistic because we are individuals. Not one of us is the same. Our concepts of derived meaning are as individualistic as our choices in coffees, teas, soft drinks, and flavorings.

What would I have won if I had carried that front-yard conversation to its end? A sense of superiority? Would my Gods have given me a prize that I could have carried around with me? Would the wider Pagan community acknowledge me as a “great” word warrior against the “hosts of evil?” Going even deeper, would I really even want accolades like that?

Like I said, I’m not a theologian. I’m not here to fight some religious war. I just want to live my life as I can – without judgment from others, without interference from those that cannot understand that my perspective is just different than theirs. I’m not here to disprove Christians (or any other belief system, for that matter) and what they believe. I’m not here to tell them that they are wrong. I’d rather give them the same courtesy that I want to receive from them. Even when I don’t receive it from them. However, like anyone else, I have my limits…I just haven’t reached them yet. I hope I never will.

–Tommy /|\

I am Defined By What I Do

Over the past week-plus, I got popped by an individual that took some umbrage with my “style” of Druidry. In fact, I was told that being here in northern America, that I wasn’t really practicing Druidry. See, “real” Druidry only comes from the British Isles. Here in America, Druidry is really just a “mish-mash” of Native American beliefs, and “Americanized” Wicca. The implication here being that I should just drop the “Druid” aspect of what I am and be realistic about what I am doing. Essentially, I am a “mutt” believer of some New Age stew that I have created.

I started to fire back an angry retort but held off for the moment. After all, its an online forum where this came from. Asynchronous communication provides me with the opportunity to hold off and begin the process of removing a lot of my emotional attachment to what I was going to say. Instead of creating some online kerfuffle that solves absolutely nothing, while ratcheting up the drama level – I was going to take the time to turn this over and over in my mind before responding. Which I never did.

That’s right. I decided not to respond, except by this blog post. Which I doubt the individual will ever read. Nor do I care if they do. I’m not in the business of trying to change the minds of other people. My business is making sure that I am true to who I am. But that’s a different direction than where I wish to head with this, and I will not let my easily distracted mind sidetrack me here.

Yes, my Druidry is pieced together from a wide variety of sources. The primary framework comes from the framework of Druidry, as provided from the teachings of The Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids (OBOD). On that framework, I have attached teachings and concepts from other belief systems – First nations’ teachings here in North America, concepts from the far Eastern belief systems, some perspectives of Shamanic beliefs from the Scandinavian area of the world, as well as the Siberian peoples – at least those that I can find documented in texts. Yes, much of what I have is a mishmash of stuff that resonates with me. However, none of that invalidates what I use as a basis for my beliefs. No, its not just Druidry. It’s the connection I have with the Gods I work with.

I’m not sure if that makes any sense to anyone reading this, but it makes sense to me – and from where I sit, that’s what is most important. All of this recalls a particular point from the movie “Bloodsport” starring Jean-Claude Van Damme. Yeah, the guy makes some super cheesy action movies. Bloodsport, in particular, has some dubious aspects to its authenticity, since much of it is based on unverified claims made by martial artist Frank Dux, on whose life the movie is based. Setting that aside, there is a particular moment in the movie that struck a strong chord with me and resonates to what I am trying to get across here. The dialogue below is a moment in the film when the Asian martial arts master and Dux are conversing after the death of the Master’s son – Shingo. The Master is going to stop training Dux because of Shingo’s passing.

Frank Dux: Shingo and I were close friends. Brothers. And you and Mrs. Tanaka have treated me like a son. What will happen now?
Tanaka: No more training. Stop now.
Frank Dux: [shakes his head] But you have so much to teach.
Tanaka: You don’t understand. During the war, I lost my first family. My son, daughter, and wife. I left Japan because of the war. War was wrong. I came to America to start over, to have a new family, and a son. For 2,000 the teachings passed, father to son, father to son. When Shingo died, it stopped.
Frank Dux: Teach me. I can do it.
Tanaka: You are not Japanese! You are not a Tanaka!
Frank Dux: You told me to use any tactic that works, never to commit yourself to one style, to keep an open mind!
Tanaka: Why?
Frank Dux: To honor you, Shidoshi.

Not exactly riveting dialogue or scriptwriting, I know. However, Dux’s point in the film about not being tied to a single tradition is a point that I have lived throughout my life. Thirty-five years of working in Information Technology, I have done nearly everything that can be accomplished within the industry. I have never been a master of a single part of the trade. I can repair computers, I can rebuild them, I can write programs in various languages, I can build databases, I can curate data, I can provide data analysis on information, I can setup a network, I can troubleshoot all sorts of aspects within an Information technology setup. I can work in a Windows, Macintosh, UNIX, and Linux environment with equal dexterity. If I had kept myself to one particular discipline, my job opportunities over the years would have been limited.

In that same vein, my Spirituality comes from various areas. I have delved into First Nation’s Spirituality, but always under the perspective that I will never be of ‘The People.” Furthermore, I will never be a Master of any of the various belief systems that I pull from. I will also never be a “master” of the Druidic discipline as well. However, I use everything that I have accumulated to help on my Path of Druidry. Sometimes, a particular lesson in Druidry will make no sense to me. That’s when I reach out to other beliefs, to find something similar that I understand better. Once I find something similar, I use my knowledge there to understand the Druidry lesson better, so that I can learn that lesson in a more familiar tone.

Sure, I get it. Not learning the way that someone else perceives as the “right way” makes me “not like them.” However, I don’t really want to be like anyone else. The only thing I desire is to utilize what I learn in my Spirituality to become a better “me.” Druidry forms the primary basis of who and what I am. I’m not on this Path to gain titles, certificates of authenticity according to someone else’s perspective, or some degree that is conferred for learning. Yes, the OBOD coursework confers me with a grade title as I work through each one. But its not the title that I seek – it’s the knowledge. I call myself a Druid because that is the closest set of teachings to my own knowledge. However, if pulling knowledge from other areas nullifies that in the eyes of others – so be it. I’m still a Druid. Because that’s what I am. I’m not defined by others. I’m defined by what I do, as far as I am concerned.

#JustSayin’

–Tommy /|\

Picture by John Beckett, who takes amazing photos

Thinking About: Past Lives and Passed Lives

Have you been here before? Well, that requires a bit of belief in reincarnation – that your existence is passed from this life on to another one. That your current existence came from an existence previously here before. Attached to that is a notion that you stay on this mortal coil until you have learned all the lessons that you needed to. Then your essence gets an eternal rest, once you have completed that. Many folks cannot hold a belief in all of that, for whatever reason. Me? I believe in reincarnation. I believe in past lives as well. I don’t hold much countenance in the idea of counting into existences until certain lessons are learned, but I won’t completely discount the possibility. Why? Well, let’s explore that for a bit.

I do believe that I have been here before. There are folks that I have encountered that there’s that immediate connection with. I can’t explain it, but I believe there’s more than just chemistry that causes that. I have also gotten the same experience in various places that I have been. Again, many will explain that away as a chemical aspect within my body. Sure, I get that is what is happening, but why does it happen? Science has never been able to completely explain that away. So, I look at it as a kind of connection. Some of the people that I have connected in that fashion are long out of my life in this existence. Some of the places I have felt that “chemical reaction” are so far away that it is likely I will never have the chance to be there again. How can I explain that? Well, I call that something similar – Passed Lives. I’ll get to that in a moment.

Why do I believe in reincarnation? Because I believe that there is more to this existence than just being here, and then – poof – you’re gone. Just a memory for those who are still unfortunate to be here. Or a footnote in recorded history. So, that means that I believe I was someone historical, right? I’m a follow-on to Aleister Crowley? Sir Francis Drake? Some member of Egyptian royalty? No. Not really. I figure that who I am today is not that different from who I was in the past. So they had computers in the far distant past, right? Or my incarnations only go back to the time of Ada Lovelace?? Well, no. My personality is that of a technician and a troubleshooter. Not necessarily computers. But I can’t really tell you what I was in the past. See, I don’t do the past life journey stuff. I just don’t want to know.

As for the aspect of everyone going back and finding that they are someone important. Or the several hundred Aliester Crowley’s that are out there today. Well, everyone likes to believe that they were someone important. I’m not saying that they might not be those individuals. Just that I wonder where the average, everyday farmer working his fields in medieval England. Or the cart-wright that was mending the wagon wheels in the “wild” west of the United States? Surely, average minions such as these folk would make it to another incarnation in my theory? Certainly, they would. But let’s remember, very few people believe in reincarnation, much less look into it. They aren’t concerned with the Past. They are concerned with the here and now, just as those folks were doing in their time. As for all the Crowleys, perhaps Crowley had Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD), and all these incarnations are individual reincarnations of who he was? Or maybe the folks who claim to be Crowley are all seeking attention? I don’t know, and honestly I don’t care. I don’t need to prove or disprove what I believe to anyone.

What about this “Passed Lives” thing? Well, this is not reincarnative (is that even a word?) theory. This is about the crossroads that we all encounter within our lives. You’ve been there before. I’ve been there before. There are choices that you make, which change your life drastically. When you look back, you will see where if you decided on this instead of that, your life would be far different than where it is today. Those choices that were not taken, I refer to those as “Passed Lives.” Or, if you prefer, alternate lives. That series of “what-ifs” we all have in our lives. How different would my life be if I had chosen to buckle down on my collegiate studies back in the mid-1980s? For reference, I graduated high school in 1984. I did not receive my first collegiate degree until 2003. There’s a lot of life lived in-between those two points, much of which was dictated by my decision to not throw myself into my original collegiate studies in earnest. I would never have joined the Air Force. In not joining the Air Force, I would most likely have not encountered Paganism. I would not have met all the friends that I encountered through the world of Bulletin Board computer systems. I could spend a long time looking at those Passed Lives. Sometimes, I do wonder what kind of person I might have been, had I traveled down those roads. However, I also remember that I like who I am now…so those wandering memories are best kept as the Passed Lives that they are.

Whether the choices that I made in this life or in another are good or bad – in the end, I am who I am today because of those choices. There are more choices that I will make in this existence that will continue to shape who I am. While I do believe that I have been here before, that I have a connection with some folks going into other existences, much like the wake left by a boat traveling over water – those ripples will fade. The energy of those ripples will flow to some distant shore, where the echoes of those Pasts will slide into the beyond. While I believe that the wake existed in the Past, there’s no need to dwell too long on where the boat has been. The till still needs to be manned, and the boat brought safely into the harbor.

–Tommy /|\

Howling Into the Wind: If I Stop, I’ll Never Know

I’ve been writing this blog for…what…seven years? Eight? Something like that. The WordPress history says that I started sometime in 2012, but the stats only show heavier readership in the next year. But really the amount of time is not that important – just a placeholder to put an emphasis on time. See, every few years, I wind up with someone asking me if I ever thought about publishing my own book. In the life of the blog, its happened more than a handful of times. And success-averse me always responds in the same manner – “who would want to read it?” Only this year has the answer not been – “right.” Instead, I wound up with a different perspective: “You’ll never know until you write it.”

These days, I have found myself challenging a lot of the perspectives I have built up over the years. 2020 proved to be the year that my perceptions were massively annihilated right before my very eyes. The very foundations of everything that I had been holding close vanished, and I found myself in a deeper sea than I had ever envisioned. It took a while to regain solid footing underneath me again. Once I managed that, I had to re-evaluate everything in my life. And I mean EVERYTHING.

The first was my perception relating to what I did for a living. My tendency has always been to make my job an integral part of how I define myself. What I found out was that I am not my job. My job is what I do for someone else. Work has been sparse. Without that anchor, I had to locate a stronger way to redefine who and what I am. For me, that meant an even deeper turn to my Druidry. I sought a better approach to rebuilding myself – not just in terms of defining myself, but in living what I believed. I had already done a rather foolish breakdown and re-evaluation of my Druidry, which proved – in the end – to be a complete waste of time. This time I didn’t need to rebuild. I needed to reinforce my Druidry. I needed to make sure that my Druidry was an integral and important part of me. I stepped back to doing ritual at appropriate times of the year, not just doing things “whenever.” I kept some of the impromptu aspects of what I do, but I added back more structured elements of ritual. I took the time to re-institute specific times for my meditational work. I pulled journal writing back into my daily practice. In the course of doing so, I find myself enamored with my Druidry again, and not resenting its pull away from other things, such as playing on the PlayStation. Now that the Easy Bake Oven summer of Texas has been lessened, I am getting back to walking again. Yeah, the distances are not anywhere near where I used to be, but it takes time and routine effort to get back to that point.

As I have been re-doing all of these things, and reconnecting with what makes Druidry beautiful, useful, and part of me, I have been wondering how many other people are coming out of that same rut. Let’s face it, COVID has sent us all scrambling indoors to try and avoid becoming ill. COVID has disrupted much of our daily lives and routines. For some who were just starting to enter the wider Pagan community and beginning their own personal steps on their Pagan Path, they may have felt all alone – like the community abandoned them, which it didn’t. We all did what was natural: we went into survival mode.

Yes, I write about stuff like that here on the blog. I write about a lot of other things that have taken place along my own Path. Once again, I feel that calling to write about my own journey, so that I can detail some of the darker aspects of what I went through, so that others can see that their journey may also follow into the shadows, but eventually, you will find the sunlight again.

I sat and discussed this a long time ago with a publisher, who quickly nixed the entire idea. “Books about personal journeys don’t sell,” is what I was told. I can understand that. I was aimed towards self-publishing, as an alternative. That sounds great, except that requires funds, which I don’t have. So, all of this still sits by the wayside. It might never see the light of day. Still, I write.

Am I an author? No. Am I important enough to be read? ::shrug:: I have no idea. But I still say the same thing when asked questions like this – I’m just me. Just an average, every day, Pagan Druid. Just trying to make my way through daily life. With Abnoba to one side of me, Coyote to the other side, and Crow on my shoulder. Constantly telling me all kinds of stuff. 😊

As for the blog, I have a few constant readers. I attract some traffic to the site. I only hope that folks who read what I write get something out of it. Because that’s the real reason I write. To help that one person get that one spark that fuels their inner passions and drives them on to be who they are meant to be. Just that one person. That would be more than enough for me. Maybe there’s a book in all of that. If I stop writing, I’ll never know.

–Tommy /|\

Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com

Incomplete Thoughts: Rainy Days, Experiences, and Jam-Based Discussions

As the weather has started to take a turn towards the rainy – and most likely not today or tonight, but soon – I started to wonder what I would write about this time. So, I put my iTunes on psycho-shuffle. That’s a shuffle that utilizes my entire music collection and does random shuffling through everything. How big is everything? Well, it comes to 15,068 songs that total out in time to approximately 112.9 days. Some of those “songs” are complete albums done up as a single file. Psycho-shuffle is just a way to inspire myself with lots of different music in the background. At this moment, I have “Perfect Strangers” from Deep Purple’s “Come Hell or High Water” playing in the background. I have no idea what will come up after it gets finished – nor do I care.

As I said, the weather is about to take a slow turn to the wetter, which Texas needs. Water from the sky. The sound of rain falling has always been a magickal sound for me. Not to mention the extremely distinct smell of petrichor in the air. For me, these two distinct aspects provide a wonderful basis for the mindset of meditation and ritual. Plus, if I want to let my mind wander, I can easily set myself back in time within my life to various moments that I associate strongly with the sound of rain and the smell of petrichor.

A lot of my empty time has been spent looking back with associated smells and sounds. I have had enough empty time on my hands that I have found myself looking back on various moments within my life. Much of my life really came together in the mid-to-late 1980s, after I had joined the Air Force and started my initial steps on my various Paths within Paganism. Thinking through that time, I have only kept up with a small handful of people from that time. Despite all the time that has passed, these folks are some of my closest family. We might not talk for years on end, but when we do manage to get together – in whatever fashion – its like no time has really passed. I have folks within my OBOD family that fall into that same category. As I think about all the Pagans that have come and gone from my life, these folks make up only a small percentage of that small group. Then, when I add all the non-Pagans that have come and gone through my life, I realize how small of a number all the Pagans are in comparison to the non-Pagans.

So, where am I going with this? Well, I’m not completely sure. This is an exercise of just opening my mind and writing. I made it to this point, where I need to gather my focus. Ok, so I realize that I am looking to place an emphasis on the people that have come, gone and remain within my life. All the varied relationships that I have had – good, bad, indifferent – and the new ones that I will encounter as I continue to move forward in my life. Each of those people, no matter how small of relationship I have had with them – they have all had – and will have – an impression in my life. My Spiritual path is one of experience, and that includes the people I have encountered. Looking through my own struggles with American politics and how it fits into my life, I can remember conversations I have had with various people on that count. The discussions about the differences between Republicans, and Democrats. The differences in approaches that the Green Party, and the Libertarian Party have in that discussion. Why the two-party system holds such a dominant position within the American political system. Why the third parties gain no traction in this political setup. Why its foolish to consider a vote for the third parties to be a “wasted” vote.

That’s just one aspect. I can spend all kinds of time pulling back conversations that I have had with other folks about the Gods, aspects of ritual, baseball (don’t get me started, please), programming (don’t get me started here unless you really want to have that conversation), why I suck at mathematics, and so many more things. While I may not remember the names of the folks that I have had these conversations, I can recall the conversations. As an aside, why do I recall these conversations so easily, but it takes me FOREVER to learn someone’s name? Maybe a thought to explore for another time.

Conversations, interactions – the stuff is essential for me. Sitting out by a fire at night is an ideal location for all of that to happen. The fire provides some illumination, but the darkness also provides some aspects of anonymity too. That anonymity can be ideal when a conversation takes a serious turn. Plus, there’s the extra added observational point of the stars above, unless the weather doesn’t permit that view. But those conversations with other folks is the start of a musical jam for me. Anyone that wants to add to the conversation. Those that choose to be silent are also participating by being there. No matter the total number around the fire, the conversations and interactions are all extemporaneous. We are winging it. There are no rehearsed speeches. There’s all of us adding our unique input. Some serious. Some sad. Some non-sensical. Some humorous. Some supportive. But all added to the jam we are creating together as equal parts.

I know that some folks reading all of this will be scratching their heads wondering what the Nine Hells I am getting on about. There will be other that grok what I am saying. There will be others who “sort of” get it. What I am detailing here is how I learn, how I grow on my own Pagan Path. I know some will think that I am totally off-base because “Paganism has to be done THIS way and this way ONLY.” I grok that concept. I don’t agree with it though. My of learning and growing works for me. It MIGHT work for others, as well. But I am not arrogant enough to think it will work for EVERYONE.

So, I will measure this as an incomplete thought. In the future, I might come back around to this and try to expand and make a clearer picture. However, this is where it is for right now. 😊

–Tommy /|\

Photo by Viktorya Sergeeva on Pexels.com

Thinking About: Iceland, Travel, and How It All Fits in With My Spirituality

Travel has always been a large part of my life. Some of my earliest memories are being crammed into the rear hatch area of a Ford Pinto which was pulling a small trailer. That view through the rear window was my view of so many destinations throughout Europe with my family. We travelled to many places in mainland Europe. Valencia, Spain. Montpellier, France. Countless locations in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. All the trips I took throughout Europe when I was stationed in Germany as an adult. The myriad of locations throughout the United States that I have travelled to as an adult. Various locations throughout the Rocky Mountain chain. The Blue Ridge Parkway in the Carolinas. The long three-day driving trip from Texas to Glacier national Park, with a stop at The Medicine Wheel in the Big Horn mountains of Wyoming. The magical trip to Yellowstone. The two trips with the college to Ireland, Scotland, and the United Kingdom. However, none of those compares to where I was three years ago – Iceland.

The trip to Iceland meant doing something I truly loath. Flying. Kind of strange for a former United States Air Force to dislike flying, but I do. I know its an irrational fear, so I always spend time shoving it into the back of my mind – just so I can get on the plane and avoid running down the aisle, screaming my head off about getting out of this tube-shaped coffin. However, Iceland was worth every second of anxiety in all the flights that had been to be taken. Plus, I got to visit YYZ, otherwise known as Toronto Pearson International Airport, both coming from and going to. An absolutely gorgeous airport, which there was no time to explore with time between flights being under an hour in time.

The terrain of Iceland is absolutely stunning, and quite varied. Around the airport, everything looked like wide-open prairie from west Texas. Granted, the plants looked different, but it had that same feel to it. The bus ride from the airport to the first location we stayed at with our group was really not that notable. Near the hotel that we stayed at (which was like a series of bungalows) was a location where steam vents could be seen. According to the folks at the hotel, these had been opened a few years earlier from an earthquake. I took the opportunity to walk to the steam vents. At the beginning of the walk was a MASSIVE uphill walk on a worn-down gravel path. I remember thinking that I had to go back DOWN that hill on my way back. The walk to the vents was a long way down the path. One the walk there, I marveled at the terrain, as well as the shadows that the sunset was putting on the hillside behind me. Just gorgeous stuff. At one point, I stopped for a few minutes to open myself to the land around me. I could feel the VERY ancient Spirits of the Land, no where near as active as those that I had encountered back on the northern plains of Texas. Everything seemed to move slowly and deliberately. If I take a moment, I can still feel that moment now. How small I felt. How insignificant I seemed to be in comparison. How I was so readily ignored. Then there were the smaller beings that I could sense. What some on the trip referred to as the “fair folk”. I never really found anything like a name for them, but they always felt like pesky little creatures. Back at the hotel, the folks in the bungalow next to mine got locked INTO their room. Weird stuff like that happened throughout the trip.

Once we started heading north, the terrain changed and became extremely dramatic in perspective. Valleys that we drove through had steep mountains on either side. From where we were on the road, neither side seemed that far away. That is, until you saw a building of any sort further down in the valley. These buildings were large barns and large houses but looked even smaller than the houses that one saw on a toy train set. When you started to think about your own size in the bus in relation to the building that was seemingly in the middle of the valley, you started to get a real sense for how far away the mountain side on the other side of the valley really was.

The last part of the trip was spent around the northern city of Akureyri, which I can only find the nearest comparison of Koriko, the city where Kiki comes to live in the Anime film “Kiki’s Delivery Service.” I have never fallen in love with a city as quickly as I did with Akureyri. Having grown up for part of my life in Europe, I was well accustomed to the concept of walking and mass transit for inner city travel. Walking part the small mom-and-pop restaurants and bakeries was just amazingly enchanting. Here, in the city, it was easy to find the Spirits of the Land, as well as the Spirits of Place. All you had to do was open yourself to the experience. There were also older, and what felt like extremely watchful entities as well. Not quite like a Spirit of place, Land, or Ancestor. These felt more like “Protectors” or “Guardians.” There are legends within Iceland mythology about the Gods being present to protect Iceland from invaders. Not being too familiar with the legends and lore, I can only presume that these beings might be them.

While part of this is me reminiscing over a trip from three years ago, its also a reminder that there is more to my Spirituality than honoring my Gods, venerating my Ancestors, and celebrating the turning of the Wheel. Travel, exploration, and experiencing the wider realm of my environment is equally important. For the past two years, COVID-19 has put a lot of that on hold for me. Just around a few months ago, I took a trip back to southwest Colorado, a trip that was needed for my personal well-being. I needed to be out in places that have that sacred feel to me. The trip to Mesa Verde did just that for me. Not only did I get the chance to explore Mesa Verde a bit more, I also got the experience of being caught in a torrential downpour – complete with terrific and terrifying lightning strikes. A reminder of what I find so sacred about the world around me. The sacred beauty, coupled with the terrifying elements, has that feeling of being my own personal RESET button.

Iceland provided the same thing for me. The beauty was certainly there. The cold that I returned to Texas with set into my lungs – providing me with pneumonia. I still suffer from its effects to this day. A reminder that places like Iceland, while beautiful and rugged….can certainly kill you if you don’t take it seriously enough. Every single day, I have a reminder of that. My shortness of breath. The swelling of my feet. Just two ready symptoms that serve as reminders of how small I am upon this world. Now, I live in the central part of Texas, much further away from my beloved southern-central plains. The Spirits feel different here. They react differently here. Yet, the way I approach my own Spirituality remains – largely – the same. I take comfort in that sameness. Yet, I still yearn for the capability to travel safely to return. Soon.

–Tommy /|\

Thinking About: Solo v. Group Dynamics.

Why are you on your own? Why not join a group? You’ll be better off if you do.

I hear this a lot, particularly from my Pagan friends who have been working exclusively within a group throughout their Spiritual career. Honestly, its an understandable position from them. They have found something that works quite well for them and they wish to share that perspective with every Pagan they encounter. For me, it’s a reminder of why I left traditional Christianity behind when I was in my late teens.

Don’t go to that southern Baptist church. The one I attend is so much better.

That approach, for me, is like high pressure sales at Best Buy. You know, when you want to get your fingers on the various technologies and hardware platforms, so you can see the differences for yourself and determine which one meets your needs. Then the salesperson comes along and starts explaining why they think this platform sucks when compared to that one.

As I have noted before, I have been on my Pagan Path for thirty-plus years. Its never been smooth sailing. I’ve gotten a lot of bumps, bruises, and scares on this Path. There have been times that I have wondered just what the fuck I am doing. There are other times where everything just fits together so clean. There has been a lot of hard work that I never wanted to tackle at all. There has been work that I could barely contain my glee at getting straight into. And there’s been a lot of stuff that falls between the extremes I have noted here. In all my time on this Path, I have been with a local (to me) groups for about less than twenty percent of all that time. Most of that has been in the first few years of my time being on the Path. So, I am firmly entrenched in being a solo Pagan.

I know, I know. I can see your eyes starting to glaze over. This is Tommy getting started on the sales pitch as to why being a solo Pagan is so much better than working in a group. Except that its not. Having gone through my own bumps and bruises in my own personal experiences of bring in a group, as well as transitioning to being a solo Pagan – I know better than to declare one as being better than the other.

Some people take to the dynamics of groups far easier than others. When they discover that, sometimes they believe that going the route of the group is the answer for everyone. Their zeal at having found that missing puzzle piece to their practice can become a self-assigned mission to help others to “see the way.” Trust me, I know that feeling all too well.

When I first encountered Paganism, I wanted to share my new knowledge with everyone, particularly with my Christian Air Force co-workers. I pushed hard for them to understand and accept my beliefs as valid. I wanted them to realize how badly the earlier members of their faith had persecuted the earlier members of my own. What I wanted them to see was how alive I felt at finding a Spiritual Path that worked for me. Essentially, I let my zeal get too far ahead of my skis. So, I can really grok how that happens with those folks that want other Pagans to join their group. Just as I wanted my co-workers to revel in my moment of ecstasy of finding a Path where my footsteps were those of joy, I can see how these folks want that from their Pagan friends too. In fact, I marvel at their joy and would encourage them with heartfelt joy of my own for the beauty of those footsteps on their newfound Path. Seeing people taking those early steps is one of the most awe-inspiring things I know of.

Over the past few years, I have been asked to join a handful of local groups as an active participant and member. I have turned each one down, noting that I would be more than happy to attend as a visitor and participant for their public rituals, but that becoming a member just wouldn’t be in the cards for me. The reactions have been a mixed bag. Some have accepted that I prefer being a solo Pagan. Others have taken that rejection of becoming a permanent part of the group as a total rejection of their Path. I can understand that reaction, even if it is the furthest point from the truth. I do my utmost best not to be offended by that. Everyone has their own viewpoint of how something is.

I am a part of a group, even though my Spiritual path is taken from a solo perspective. I am a member of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids. (OBOD) My training in the three grades is done on my own, though I always have a mentor assigned for help. A few times a year – except while COVID-19 rages throughout our world – I will come to their gatherings, so that I can participate with other members, as a group. For me, this is a reminder that group work is essentially to my growth, but that I can approach that on terms that are a little more comfortable for myself. No judgment. No pressure. If I wanted to completely cut out the group aspect, I can. I continue with this smaller aspect of group because it works for me. I can expand or constrict it as I need to.

I know there are those that would believe that I hate working in a group. That my preference to work alone is due to the “fact” that I prefer to not have any accountability. But that’s not true. I am accountable to myself. Believe me, I am much harder on myself over failure than anyone else would be to me. Truth be told, I am far more comfortable approaching my Spirituality on my own than within a group. That’s no indictment of groups or the people that prefer that approach. They know what works for them. They know how that approach brings ecstasy to their Path. But works for them does not necessarily work for others. And I really enjoy that diverse approach. I prefer human beings be their own individual self in whatever they do. There is a myriad of approaches that work. That myriad of approaches shows the creative inspiration that drives our collective reality and makes us the unique personalities that we are. Viva la difference!

–Tommy /|\

Around the fire at OBOD’s East Coast Gathering

“Baby” Pagan/Witch/Druid. Settle Down Its Just a Term.

“Baby Pagan.” “Baby Witch.” “Baby Druid.” I have been watching the start of the outrage over these types of terms beginning here on various forums on the internet. The back and forth, at times, seems nearly comical. One side accuses the other of not being serious over the terminology. The other side makes accusations of “gate-keeping.” Both points only enrage the other side further. I’ve watched Pagans that I generally consider to be level-headed suddenly erupt into throwing insults like hand grenades at the other side. Me, and others, stand on the sidelines and take in what is occurring.

Stuff like this makes me wonder if the wider Pagan community can ever get things together enough to present a cohesive perspective to non-Pagans. Apparently not over things like this. Arguing over whether a term should be considered an offensive slur or not. Suddenly, we start to divide into sides, and arm ourselves for mortal combat. All over a simple point of terminology.

I sort of understand. There are racially insensitive terms that should never be uttered, which can cause a similar type of scrum. However, I must really question whether adding the term “baby” in front of Pagan, Druid, Witch, Heathen, or what have you, really rises to that level. Or does it?

On the one hand, the term “baby” seems to imply that those who have this label hung around their necks are simply newbies to the entire scene. They simply haven’t accumulated a lot of knowledge or experience about aspects of their newly chosen Path yet. Certainly, there are better reference points for these folks, such as neophyte. But honestly, not everyone uses such terminology in their everyday vernacular. Referring to someone as a “baby” whatever provides a quicker expression that displays a faster understanding of these newbies.

On the other hand, the implication is that these newbies need to have their information and knowledge spoon-fed to them. A further implication is that these “baby” whatevers will never learn to accumulate knowledge on their own, making them into what some might see as a useless whatever Path they are on. This seemingly references these folks as seekers on the Path that are not worth spending time on, simply because they don’t know any better.

I can see both sides of that coin quite easily. Being a completely unknowledge neophyte in my earlier days on my Path, I can easily relate to the position that those seekers are in. I completely understand how lost such a seeker can feel when faced with others who know so much more. Even deeper, I can relate to how embarrassing one can feel in front of those with that wide ranger of knowledge who treat you like a pariah just because you don’t know. Been there. Done that. I used to make the t-shirts down at the t-shirt shop for sales for the next coven bake-off. Not only is it a lonely place to be, it can turn people away from a Path that could be completely useful and helpful in their life. I would hate to be the person that is responsible for pushing someone away from their Path, just because I had a need to feel elitist to them. I mean, fuck, we’ve all started on the same points in our Paths. The knowledge and experience that I have now – well over thirty years of it, doesn’t mean I was born on third base. It took a lot of effort, time, and learning to get here from the batter’s box.

On the other side, I’ve been around those Pagans that think this is a giant Harry Potter story that we live as Pagans, Druids, Witches, Heathens, and what not. Yes, being around those folks that believe that the Norse Gods are just like the Marvel movie characters can grate on my nerves like fingernails on a chalkboard. But I also remind myself that everyone’s Pagan Path is different. Its not up to me to determine what MUST work for everyone else. Rather, I need to be focused on how I walk my own Path. I must focus on the quality of my own connection to the world around me. What works for me doesn’t mean it’s the only way to get things to work for someone else. To bring that around to a strong part of what I believe in my own Path: everyone must determine what is “quality” for themselves. Individual Spirituality means that we might follow a similar Path, but it doesn’t mean that we walk the same way on that Path. I might stop to take in the magnificent beauty of a distant waterfall on a cliff at the opposite side of the valley. You may stop to watch the bids flit from branch to branch. Or you may kneel at the side of the forest path to take in the spectacular beauty of a group of flowers in their magnificent coloring. We are all doing the things in each of those scenarios that bring meaning and beauty to our individual Paths. Each are meaningful to the individuals practicing those observational differences. None of those observational moments is wrong for the individual utilizing it.

Back to the “baby” debate. We are arguing about terminology and what it means to each of us. Every single individual will approach the terminology in a different way. We will all come to our own conclusions about the “rightness” and “wrongness” of the terminology within our own observations, perspectives, and opinions. However, can we agree that not everyone is going to see it all the same way? Can we agree that no one MUST agree to our own individual compiling of that information into our own belief? Do we really have to divide up into battle groups and assail one another in public forums for having a difference of opinion?

Personally, what I see is another symptom of how our modern society has chosen to approach differences of opinions, based on our political approaches. Since the George W. Bush era, here in American politics, we have divvied ourselves into rival factions and waged societal war against one another. Over time, this has been bandied into where we stand today. We seek to establish sides and arguments into everything we do. Coke or Pepsi? Coffee or tea? McDonalds or Burger King or Wendy’s or what have you? So, why not separate into sides to decide the correctness or wrongness of such an inane term as “baby” whatever to describe new people coming to Paganism? Think back on when you started on your Pagan path. Would you have continued, if you saw or heard people arguing over the right and wrong of a term like this? How serious would you have been able to take your Path if this was one of the first things you encountered? I know I probably would have turned away and giving up completely on my own personal Spirituality. That would have made me feel rather empty inside, and possibly have hardened my heart to a Path that has done so much to enrich my life, and teach me so much about myself.

Besides, the term “baby” whatever – that’s just a convenient label for those to find footing in describing others. If that’s what they need, so be it. I think its ridiculous to ascribe a rightness or wrongness to the term, and then wage war with others over a difference of opinion. Besides, there are other terms that can be utilized, Neophyte, Beginner, and Seeker among so many others. Me? I tend to refer to these newbie Pagans as “People.” To describe where they are on their Path…all I can offer is what I tell these newbies that I encounter – you’re where I was when I started down this Path. I hope you’re excited about learning and experiencing. I was when I started too. And I look back on that time in my Path with great fondness. I made mistakes, just like you will. I had successes, just like you will. I envy you what you are going to experience. Even the difficult times. Just remember, there are experienced folks on your Path that can help point you in the right way. They won’t solve the problems for you. That would rob you of an experience that will be a part of you growing on this Path. But if you stumble and fall down…there are Pagans like me who will help you stand back up and be your cheerleader to continue moving forward when you feel ready. Until that moment, we can sit here on the Path and talk together. 😊

–Tommy /|\

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Your Mileage Will Vary

I cannot count the number of times that I have spent listening to this Pagan or that spew forward points that they insist are the ONLY way to be a Pagan. Or a Witch. Or a Druid. Or this. Or that. Very rarely do I speak up to state something different. After all, I don’t really THAT much attention to what they are saying. I already know that what they are saying doesn’t hold true for what I have done. Besides, starting a row over a difference in something as personal as one’s approach to Spirituality just ain’t my bag. Well, at least it hasn’t been for a good twenty years or so now.

The “One” Way

You’ve probably read more than enough about me railing on the so-called “one” way. That there’s only one way that this or that can be done. You need these magickal ingredients, these very precise hand movements, and these particular symbols drawn on the floor, which must be bare wood only. Your high priestess for the rite must be this exact height and weight. If she is heavier than that, she needs to diet quickly. If she’s too short or too tall…well, you know the measures to take. Just remember, she won’t be able to move very well on the bloody stumps, if you are losing inches.

::shaking my head:: Look, none of this stuff is an exact science. You do what works. You try new things to see if the results are better. If not, don’t use it again and move on to the next thing to try. Yes, I do a lot of things impromptu, particularly in ritual. If it feels right, I’ll keep using it until it doesn’t anymore. As for magick and spellwork…I keep it as simple as I can. Much of the time, my magick and spellwork doesn’t go the way I planned (or at all). Nothing to be ashamed about, particularly because I rarely use either. My typical manifestation of spellwork and magick that does work, is physically doing something that needs to be done with my personal intent laced in behind it. In nearly every case, I’ve found that its typically never the same thing twice.

If you are looking for an example of this, there’s a story that Margot Adler tells in her book “Drawing Down the Moon” about a group of folks that go down to the river to catch fish for their community. When they don’t catch any fish, they come back empty-handed. The group leader tells them that the fish are necessary to feed the group and goes back out with them. On the way to the river, the group leader tells them to think about how a bear catches fish by reaching into the water and scooping the fish towards the bank, where the fish would die and be ready to pick up. They wound up catching a lot of fish using this methodology. I would quote the page number to you, but as typically happens with this book, I have loaned this out somewhere and it has not made it back to me. I cannot count the number of times I have (happily) repurchased it.

Anyways, there is not a single way to get anything completed. That includes, in my opinion, how to do your own Spirituality. Yes, there are people who work in a group because of the cohesive nature of doing the same thing that everyone else is doing. I grok that big time. It has worked on more than a few occasions for me in my own practice. However, I have found that doing things my own way – after I have the basic concept down – gives me a deeper feeling of ownership. And that deeper feeling of ownership helps me go even deeper into how those rote movements provide a more kinetic relationship between myself and my Gods. That doesn’t mean that what I do, or this process will be useful for you. So, there’s a “buyer beware” sticker on it.

Saturday Night is for Fighting

At least that’s what the song says. ::shrug:: As I said in the previous post, you can take my life in decade-ish layers. My thirties were…well, let’s just say I was an unpleasant individual to be around. Literally, I would be in anyone’s face about how things should or shouldn’t be – particularly in Pagan practice. I was arrogant enough to believe that I had the ONLY handle on what was and wasn’t Paganism. And woe be to the individual that did things differently from myself. Which meant just about every Pagan I met. I am glad (and very fortunate) that my Pagan family never steered away from me. I know I was basically handled with nuclear-level oven mitts for quite a few years.

Now, I’m 55…my mid-fifties. Perhaps, I am mellowing in my old age or maybe I’m getting a more mature outlook on life in general. Personally, I just think of it as finally growing up. Fighting and arguing about things just doesn’t spin my boat like it used to. Perhaps, its because I don’t see things as a “win” or “lose” paradigm anymore. That kind of shit, in my opinion, can stay with Donald Trump. For me, everything is not so black-and-white. Someone believes that theirs I the only way to work one’s Paganism. Cool. I get it. Trust me, I understand it. I stood on the tube platform quite a few years ago. Its not my place to knock this individual past the yellow line, past the gap and into the tracks. They will either change their mind as more facts get presented to them or they will find out differently later in life. I just hope that they had the friends and family that I had – who were there for them, despite their closed-minded perspective. Like I said, I was lucky in that regard. I just hope others are that lucky as well.

What is Important

So, what do I think is important? Finding your place in Life. Finding the Gods that you can work with. Moving forward in your Path. Learning everything that you can. Living your Life in a way that is meaningful for you. Seeking – and finding – happiness in everything that you do. Being there for others when they have need. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? I’ve found that it certainly is. And it isn’t. Sometimes at the same time. ::smile:: So, what’s important? Well, only you can answer that. For yourself. Your mileage will vary.

–Tommy /|\

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I Don’t Always Get My Choice

What’s your support for why you do that as a Druid?
Where is the information that supports your rationale for believing that?
The Bible say that Christianity is right in this particular passage. Where does it say that Druidry is right?
You have no factual information to support the correctness of what you do in your Spirituality.

::sigh:: Gods, I can feel the frustration that comes from having statements thrown in your face like this. Where people try to take a simple conversation about differences in belief and turn it into a courtroom drama. Believe me, I have been there more often than I care to admit. When I first started down my Path of Paganism, I was grilled by the Chaplain assigned to my squadron over what I believed. I felt like one of those arcade shooter duck targets. He would fire question after question at me, not even waiting for an answer. As I would sit there trying to formulate an answer to the previous question, I would have another question smashed right against me. In the end, he shook his head and told me that I was merely having a rebellious fantasy that I could project into an environment where rebellious attitudes were deplorable to “good military discipline.” I was completely crushed when the interrogation was completed. I promised my duty section sergeant that I would not bring up my beliefs in conversations about religion in the duty section. The four evangelical Christians on my shift were not admonished at all. They were free to discuss any matter they chose. In the end, I chose to not participate in any conversation with them that did not handle working matters. In a few short months, I knew the mainframe system’s workings far better than they ever did. A set of orders sending me to the US Army’s Central Command would provide a change of scenery for me – in more ways than one.

The point is not the degradation that I received at the hands of an uncaring Chaplaincy system at a Strategic Air Command base in Texas. Rather, its about this notion that others feel that they need to create discussions into rapid-fire debates, particularly where one’s beliefs are concerned – especially when those beliefs are contradictory to their own.

In my youngers days – I was twenty years old when the above occurred (I had to get a calculator out to figure that – honestly!) – I didn’t think so quickly on my feet. Had it occurred today, I would have gotten up and walked out of the room – the Chaplain’s Major rank be damned – and walked straight to the Base Legal Office to press my rights being violated in such a manner. Of course, I have thirty-five years of experience to bring me quickly to that conclusion (thank you calculator!). Twenty-year-old me didn’t know any better. Thirty-year-old me would have fired off some caustic remark that would have gotten me in a deeper world of trouble.

Back to the quick-fire questioning methodology. If you watch some of the Congressional committee meetings, where the members question an individual about some matter, you will find this methodology utilized by those not wanting to ask questions. Rather, they use this methodology to grandstand for the C-SPAN cameras, so that their constituents can see how tough they are on these matters. They’re not really being tough, nor are they doing their job – which is to assist the committee in ferreting out the facts. It’s just a show. The same holds true for those that do this in a “discussion.”

I’m fifty-five now, getting ready to turn another year in less than a month. I have little desire, energy, or stomach for fiery debate over my beliefs, yours, or anyone else’s. I know what I believe. I do my best to live those beliefs to the best of my ability each day. I screw up occasionally, like anyone else does. Simply put, I’m not perfect. I don’t really care about how anyone else believes either – so long as their words, rhetoric, and actions do not cause harm to others. Believe me, I know how hard a line that is to walk.

Why do we feel the need to argue, and (taking an old BBS term) flame one another over the differences in our beliefs? I couldn’t really tell you. I know back in the old BBS days I was known for rolling up my sleeves and jumping start into the religious debates. I would accuse Christians of being hypocrites based on what people did back in the medieval ages, all in the name of their beliefs. Certainly, many of those atrocities happened back during that time – but Christianity back then was a far different system of belief than it is today. Or so I would hope. I wasn’t alive back then (that I am aware of – but reincarnative belief is another bridge to cross at another time – but for short commentary, yes I do believe). Plus, those who have done vile actions in the name of their beliefs in our modern age…I just can’t say for certain what they do or do not believe.

So, on to a practical aspect within all of this. Don’t fall for the bait. When the rapid-fire questions start, don’t talk – just listen. Don’t try to answer. Let them talk. Give them the lectern. When they finally stop to wait for an answer, take the opportunity to get up and leave. If all of that makes no sense to you, ask yourself these simple questions: is anything that you are going to say likely to change their mind? Do you think that anything that you utilize as a retort will cause them to stop and contemplate the differences of what you say versus what they claim? Honestly, if the answer is no, consider just leaving things be, and going about your way. That choice is up to you. For me, I consider it a waste of my time, energy, and a depletion of what positivity I have. There’s plenty more for me to do where I can make a difference. But again, that choice is yours. Lay a hand on me when I try to leave? I might be a fifty-plus, slightly fat old man, but the military taught me well. I might not win that particular skirmish, but I’ll give as good as I get. My preferred choice, still, is to just walk away and let the discussion be done. I don’t always get my choice.

–T /|\

It’s the Same Story the Crow Told Me…

It’s the same story the Crow told me, it’s the only one He knows.

Grateful Dead, “Uncle John’s Band” from the album “Workingman’s Dead”

This is one of my favorite lyrics from the Grateful Dead. Written by the amazing Robert Hunter, the song is included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s “500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.” Aside from being an awesome song, it also is a reminder that my God is always nearby. My relationship with Crow has grown over the past two years. Throughout some of the most troubling moments that we have had, as well as difficult times within my own life, Crow has always been there to remind me that each day continues to be a gift – even when it doesn’t look that way.

Over the past decade or so, everything around me has seemingly fallen into a category of “winning versus losing.” Everything is cased in the perspective of being a competition or as it has turned over the last two years, into a battlefield. “Either we get our way, or there’s going to be war.” I’ve watched that permeate through the constant barrage over the Confederate and Civil War issue that covered the news for so long. I’ve listened, watched, read, and even participated in the long “discussions” over the presidency of Donald Trump. I watched in pain as supporters of President Trump challenged the election process of various states during the last election cycle, including a horrendous storming of the Nation’s Capital to stop the proper installation of a duly elected President Biden. Through all of that, Crow has been at my shoulder reminding me that those polarizing moments are fleeting. “The cycles of human-kind,” are what I am constantly told.

Those cycles happen constantly. All of it comes from a need and pull for power by others. Here in the United States, we collectively get wrapped up in what our political parties want. It drives our elections, our legislation, and our wider focus. Those parties claim to be wanting the best for all the citizens of this country, but all of it is really a ploy for power. Certainly, one could point to the turmoil in politics, the constant hatred and anger towards one another within politics, the surge in extreme weather conditions (I saw a story on the Weather Channel a few days ago that this summer’s heat edged out the hottest summer during the Dust Bowl era), and COVID that there is a “Storm” already here. Certain folks that are far more sensitive to magickal aspects than I ever dreamed of being, will confirm that. Crow continues to remind me that all of this is just a cycle of humankind.

One of the Pantheacons that I attended, there was a ritual that was aimed towards the Morrigan. I attended out of curiosity. I could feel the calling of the Morrigan towards those for this coming “Storm”. I also had Crow on my shoulder reminding me that this was just a cycle. “That’s not for you,” was my reminder, “Unless you choose that Path.” I didn’t. That moment was quite a few years ago. Since then, Crow, Coyote, and now Abnoba, have continued pushing me elsewhere. Towards teaching and mentorship. In the background of all of that has been another reminder: its not about winning or losing. It’s about living.

I have wrung my hands over this coming “Storm” for quite a long time. During one meditation, Crow asked me about how to deal with a storm here in this physical realm. I replied that it depended on the severity of the storm, but typically, one either stayed inside or got a raincoat and an umbrella. In the case of a stronger storm, one would either barricade themselves inside their home or evacuate. ::Exactly.:: was the response.

I know a lot of this won’t sit well with others. In some ways, I have felt that everyone seems to be spoiling for a fight. That’s not an indictment of anyone or their motives. Just an observation from my perspective. During much of President Trump’s campaign, he would talk about “winning” and “losing” – turning a political campaign for a government office into a battle rather than a philosophical conversation on how a government should be run. When he did turn to the philosophical perspective of govern, he utilized it as a hammer to drive a spike of division even deeper between two perspectives of governorship. His campaign forced voting citizens to see things in an either/or perspective – essentially into a war or battle. That continued into his re-election campaign. Looking back, many of our issues that have flashed through the news headlines have followed this same pattern, even long before President trump first placed himself into campaign mode for his only (so far) term. So, we’ve been choosing this either/or perspective for quite some time.

Crow continues to remind me that these are the cycles of humankind. Winning and losing is a construct that we have put together. Life is about adapting to the conditions and moving forward. How we live is more important. Finding kindness and assistance for those that need it is far better than cruising the highways in your vehicles looking for political opponents to harass and run their vehicles off the road. Happened right here in Texas during this last Presidential election cycle. Helping others with their mental health issues is of the utmost need. Accepting people for who they are regardless of their political philosophies, their gender, who they love, or even how many…finding the common footing that we are all human beings and designed to be unique from one another. We can disagree without being violent or hateful. In my mind and perspective, we can all live here together. All we need to do is have a little respect for others…just acknowledge that we all are trying to live our best life, if we are just afforded the opportunity to do so. So long as we break this current cycle of humankind, and accept a new cycle where we can disagree, but respect.

I do get it though. Its easier to be disrespectful to others. It’s easier to pick a group of people and treat them as opponents. Winning and losing is an easy paradigm to connect with. We’re taught the perspective of competition in our earliest moments of childhood. We learn competitive games such as football, baseball, and such. We play to “win” – not the joy of the game. We learn in school, but we are provided grades, which are accumulated to determine who has the highest-grade point average. That person is awarded a title and given a position of prominence when we finish our climb towards an award acknowledging our educational achievement. Winning and losing is a part of our lives. We use that competitive drive to achieve and excel. It only seems natural for us to place that competition into areas of our lives that go beyond those moments. Winning and losing drives us into those areas.

I am not trying to say that competitiveness is ruining our lives and making us hate each other. The problems that get us to that point are much deeper than that. I’m only pointing out what gets us to the point of placing every aspect of our lives into a competitive nature, where “Us versus Them” becomes “Us only need to survive.” Where “we are better than them,” starts us down a Path of violent reaction.

This is all just a cycle of humankind. Cycles can be broken. Storms exist. But they exist until the imbalance that created them is returned to normal. In the meantime, we survive. We shelter from the “Storm.” We help others survive by helping them find shelter as well. For those who are afraid, we provide calm, strength, positivity…we help them. Because it is the right thing to do.

I know this entire thing is rambly. If that’s really a word. Hopefully, you can see my point. Crow, Coyote, and Abnoba keep pointing me towards what I need to do. However, I am not trying to teach anyone anything here. I am merely pointing out my own perspective on these turbulent times we live in. I’m also trying to express my hope in human beings to break this cycle we are in by finding compassion for others within themselves. I can’t make choices for anyone. Nor would I want to. That removes your capability and capacity to choose for yourself. That is freedom. To make your own decisions, based on your own observations. To force everyone to believe as I do makes for a boring world, full of clones of me. No thanks. I like unique individuals that I can interact with. People I can agree and respectfully disagree with. Because that means we are doing more than just thinking. We are thinking and feeling.

It’s not whether we win or lose. It’s how we live each moment we are given. Some of that probably sounds familiar…after all, it’s the same story the Crow told me. It’s the only one He knows.

–Tommy /|\

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

Thinking About: Technology, Personal Spirituality, and Where They Cross/Connect

How do you reconcile your approach to a nature-based belief system with the advances of the digital age?

This was an interesting question that was asked via Email. The individual that sent the Email specifically asked not to be identified. Its taken me over a week to formulate my response because I had to sort through a variety of layers to get there.

To be able to understand where I am coming from, I need to explain how things were when I started down my path of Paganism so you can contrast that against what you know about personal communication at this point in your life. That’s right, you will have to create the contrast and comparison against what you know. For me to do that would be trying to force my perspective against what you know for yourself. Furthermore, my understanding of the digital age goes back even further than my Pagan Path does. To those who encountered the digital age just a few decades back, their understanding will begin in a far more sophisticated perspective, which will make their understanding quite a bit different. Yes, technology has changed that quickly over the years.

My initial start with Technology beings in the rise of the personal computer, as well as in the beginning of the digital age from the 1950s. I started on the path of the personal computer in 1981, at the height of hobbyist computers. Think the earliest versions of the Apple }{, as well as the predecessor of the Commodore 64 computer – the venerable Commodore Pet-Plus 4. These computers had RAM modules around 4 kilobytes. That’s less than today’s digital watches. Professionally, I started on a UniVac 1100 series 08 mainframe system. This was my second duty station in the United States Air Force. To compare with the personal computer, the mainframe took up approximately half of a building, and required several people working in various functions to operate it. For me, these two very different systems were my start down a professional and personal path within computer technology to where I am today.

When I first started down my Pagan path, I was working on that mainframe environment at Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth, Texas. At that time, I had purchased my own Commodore 64 with the 5 ¼ floppy disk drive (the 1541 model), along with a modem that would allow me to connect to local Bulletin Board Systems via a telephone call. That modem, which was the connective aspect that would allow me to connect with other Pagans in the Arlington and Fort Worth parts of the Dallas/Fort Worth metro areas. I would find friends that I still have today through the discussion boards on each BBS (Bulletin Board System). I would also find out about various public rituals that I got to attend, as well as various face-to-face gatherings in various local pubs. I do miss those days. However, I do acknowledge that all of that has led me to today’s internet, where I am able to discuss lots of things with Pagans around the world.

That’s really the biggest change from nearly forty years ago. The breadth and depth of people that I can communicate with. There was no Facebook, or anything close to it, back then. Much of what we know about the internet today wasn’t even dreamed of at that time. However, the internet has allowed us to communicate between one another in a much wider degree. A lot of communication has taken place within the Pagan community over the internet. We write blogs. We “chat” with one another via text and/or video. We have discussion forums on various platforms. We exchange ideas. We argue with one another. We insult and denigrate one another (Back in the BBS days, we called inane arguments and insult hurling: “flame wars”). We discuss whatever topics we desire. We make plans for get togethers, public rituals, private group meetings, and a lot of other things, all of which help connect new Pagans with groups that interest them. Today’s digital world is as much a part of our daily lives as eating, drinking, exercising, and sleeping. We make friendships and strong connections with other Pagans that are far away from us, even in other countries. Some of these people become closer to us than our physical families. I have a few of these long-distance relationships with people I might never see face-to-face. That fact, the distances – neither have mattered when it comes to the strong, close connected relationship I have with them. I’m quite certain that others have similar relationships.

So, all of that doesn’t reconcile well with the strong connection we Pagans have with Nature. The internet is a man-made concept. It has become rather pervasive within our daily lives. Some of us use it to connect with our jobs, particularly in this age of COVID-19. How does all this fit into the beliefs that we practice in nature-oriented beliefs? Well, for me, it’s rather simple – it’s a tool. A means for communication. An access point to research that I wouldn’t have otherwise. But its not a part of my beliefs. It is a part of my personal history.

In the late 1990s, I was working on a mainframe environment for a financial company in Dallas. On a shift, I was talking with one of the other employees working on the operations floor. We started discussing religious beliefs. Being rather open about what I believe, I talked about Pagansim. At that time, we were all temporary employees. This individual and I were up for the same full-time job. When he went in for his interview, he couched it that I was a Satanist and should not be employed at the company. In my interview, my soon-to-be supervisor asked me point-blank about it. I answered that I wasn’t a Satanist, that I was a Pagan. I gave what amounted to a quick minute-and-half explanation of the difference. After I was hired, my new supervisor mentioned what was stated in the interview. The Director of the department had bluntly stated back to this temporary employee that she “could care less if I worshipped the computer system, so long as I did the job that was asked of me.” First time I had ever been accused of worshipping the mainframe system. At another job, I maintained the computer labs for a for-profit college. I worked the nights. The students would bring food into the labs, which was a no-no. I told them it would be all right, so long as they didn’t make a mess and kept drinks on the floor with lids on. One night, I went through a computer lab to get ready for closing. On the floor in the back corner, I found a paper tray filled with the bones from hot wings that a student had brought in for their dinner. The bones were all neatly arranged on the paper tray. I surmised, in my own sarcastic humorous way, that the student was working on a difficult project and had brought in the hot wings as a sacrifice to the computer Gods for a better chance at a successful project that would earn him/her a better grade. These two instances are as close as any moment has gotten to a religious inference with a computer being specifical involved. Thanks for letting me sidetrack you for a moment. 😊

Much like an athame, ritual clothing, a crystal, a table designated specifically for ritual, a staff, a written set of instructions for ritual, and even a meditational state of mind to put a participant into a correct frame of mind – the digital world that we find ourselves in is a tool. Certainly, it is used for more than just furthering our personal practice. It serves other functions and provides for other mundane needs. For me, beyond the use of a communications and research tool, the computer and internet serve no huge part in my beliefs. As a tool, these aspects of the digital age do help to further part of my beliefs through the communication aspects and research capabilities. I have used these to connect with others for assistance. Last year, I connected with a long-time friend for assistance in remembering a function of rebuilding my own personal shielding – simply because I had forgotten the technique. That would never have been possible without the amazing connective technology that we have today.

Am I some kind of cyber-mage? Does my use of technology make my Druidry stronger? As I am chucking out loud right now as I write this – you should be able to realize that my answer to both questions is no. I do; however, consider the dreams that became challenges that moved others to create and refine these technologies that we use today to be real magic. I marvel at what they have created. So, I end this with some of the lyrics from Rush’s song “Mission” which pays tribute to the Awen/inspiration that they had, in taking their own ideas and dreams and bringing that to a reality that could be shared by everyone. If you are looking for something that would bind these technologies to my beliefs – it would be this. Where the Gods helped spur the idea of innovation and creation. Not what resulted from it, but the drive to make what seemed impossible become a reality.

In the grip of
A nameless possession
A slave to the drive of obsession
A spirit with a vision
Is a dream with a mission

I watch their images flicker
Bringing light to a lifeless screen
I walk through
Their beautiful buildings
And I wish I had their dreams

But dreams don’t need
To have motion
To keep their spark alive
Obsession has to have action
Pride turns on the drive

It’s cold comfort
To the ones without it
To know how they struggled
How they suffered about it

If their lives were
Exotic and strange
They would likely have
Gladly exchanged them
For something a little more plain
Maybe something a little more sane

We each pay a fabulous price
For our visions of paradise
But a spirit with a vision
Is a dream with a mission

Rush, “Mission” from the album “Hold Your Fire”
My old classroom

Thinking About: In the Beginning

Over the weekend, I was having a linear conversation on Discord with a new-ish Pagan over my personal start down my Pagan Path. All of it started over a personal lament over how difficult it seems to be to navigate the deep waters of what kind of Pagan one can be. I completely grok the perspective, as well as sympathize with the real struggle of finding one’s footing. Of course, there is a bit of difference between our stories. I started down my Pagan Path in 1986. A very pronounced difference compared to here in the late 2010s and early 2020s. Information is more widely available here in the digital age. People are far more open about their beliefs. There are also more Pagans today than there were back in the mid-1980s.

As I write this post, my music program (the rather vile Apple iTunes) has Dokken currently playing – a particular favorite of mine from the mid-1980s. The music does put me in the frame of mind to remember back to that time.

I graduated all-boys Catholic high school in 1984, a year later than I should have. Thanks to my family moving all over Europe, and then returning to Alabama for my father’s last few years in the Air Force, I was missing a few credits from the lower levels of my four years of high school – specifically Louisiana Civics, and a requisite two classes of language. While I walked through high school graduation with my class, my diploma was a blank piece of paper until I could attain the two classes I was missing: Louisiana Civics, and a Government class, both of which I achieved in Summer school sessions with students from the public school system. Here, I was exposed to the idea of alternative beliefs.

Being a “loner”, as well as being classified as “weird” by most of my classmates, I fell into the same daily routine that I had in high school: essentially being alone. However, my appearance: long hair, Hair band t-shirts, torn jeans, and a battered black-and-white checkered Vans, pointed me towards the goth folk that hung out in one corner of the second-floor atrium. Their interest in me increased when they realized that I was one of the Catholic school kids. Here, I was introduced to the aspects of Satanism, tantric approaches, Wicca, and other non-mainstream concepts. Once Summer school ended, my life went back to “normal”, until I joined the military. Here, I continued to research these non-mainstream perspectives until I ran across two books: The Spiral Dance by Starhawk, and the much more influential (for me) Drawing Down the Moon by Margot Adler. These two books, along with the myriad of local electronic Bulletin Board Systems (BBSs) that I would call into, cracked open my worldview a little further. Not only did I find a myriad of other resources to learn from, I found people to meet and talk with in person.

Back in the mid-1980s, which also harkened the Satanic Panic, there were very few resources available – mostly books, and magazines and newsletters such as the Green Egg. Any other information tended to be passed around by word of mouth. In today’s environment, there is a lot more material available, thanks to the advent of the internet. Being a solo Pagan is much easier today because of the depth and breadth of available information. Back in the mid-1980s, the dearth of such information usually meant that a new Pagan had to reach out to a local group, learning things in that Tradition’s perspective only. In my opinion, it was much more difficult to find your own footing than it is today. I grok that many folks would disagree with me and point out that new Pagans are more likely to be more confused and scattered in their Pagan practice because of the lack of a solid anchor to work from. Certainly, there is an argument to be had in both ways. However, which is “right” and “correct” really depends on how the practitioner feels about their own personal footing within Paganism as they are experiencing. Some will say that the solo methodology of today makes Pagans with a much shallower practice. I can grok that perspective, except its not for my to judge what is and is not “deep” practice for someone else compared to my own practice. Besides, personal Spirituality is not a competition for me. I hope we all will win, regardless of our own individual Paths.

One thing that I didn’t enjoy about those early days on my Path was that your ability to advance in knowledge all depended on how your “teachers” felt that you were progressing. Much of that didn’t rely on the knowledge that you attained and worked with. A lot of that went into how well you stroked the egos of your “teachers” and how well your personality mixed and meshed with theirs. However, being a solo Pagan today means that you get to pick and choose from topics and perspectives. You can avoid the topics you don’t want to be in, meaning that some of your training and learning can be unbalanced. Take, for instance, my reluctance to deal with spell work. Much of that comes from perceiving spell work as something similar to a nuclear weapon: , it is nice to have in the fold, but its usage as more of a deterrent. I continue to choose to set it to the side. Certainly, if I had stronger training in its usage, my perspective would be very, very different. Thus, I believe that there are strengths and weaknesses to both the trained and solo approaches to things.

Back in the beginning of our conversation on Discord, I had been asked which perspective I preferred. Well, if you go back through the blog, you will see that much of my approach to my Paganism is very unorthodox. I even acknowledge that in my approach. Is it the proper approach? For me, yes. But many others require a much more organized and orthodox approach. There is nothing wrong with that either. Really, this is a matter orthopraxy versus orthodoxy, or so I have been told. For me, its just picking a style that works best for you. I love Dokken. Not everyone does. It’s a matter of personal taste and style. If that’s the same as orthopraxy versus orthodoxy, cool. If its not…that’s cool too. I’m not a theologian of any sort. I’m just me. Some need the feel of theology and all the terms associated with it. Cool. That’s not me; however.

I still hold to the perspective that today’s new Pagans have so much more information at their fingertips than the Pagans of my initial period of “newbie-ness” had. That depth of information provides them a open avenue towards being a solo Pagan. Most solo Pagans during my “new” period in the mid-1980s did so because they had far fewer Pagans near them. The wider base of knowledge, coupled with the way the internet has narrowed the communication gap with one other, provides greater capacity and capability for these solo Pagans (which I am one of, by choice). But really, none of that is wrong. How you come to your Pagan Path is your choice, and your choice alone. Your initial steps on your Path will be ringed with confusion. I remember how confusing my first three years on my Pagan Path was. So, I do grok that feeling – far better than many folks will realize. The difference for me were teachers and friends that I had to talk about things along with the way. Without them, my Path might not have been possible. I am eternally grateful that they were there – and are still there – when I have need. I only hope that my own counsel, perspective, and friendship has been as helpful to them.

–T /|\

Howling Into the Wind: Practicing Alone

Last week, I suffered a diabetic seizure and was taken to the emergency room. A bit of a scary moment, as well as having an entire sleepless night in the emergency room in a single bay. Later that night, a woman who had been sleeping in her car at one of the local gas stations was brought in to have her wounds from struggling with the police. Since they couldn’t get a statement of whether she was vaccinated or not, she was placed in the last bay. The two police officers that had struggled with her were also in there. One of them asked the nurse where they could go within the Emergency Room area. She replied that they could go anywhere except Bay Five, which was mine. Later, I asked why my bay had been excluded. “You have an immune system issue with your diabetes. They had been with the patient in Bay Eight for an extended period of time. Since we couldn’t determine her COVID status, we moved her to the furthest location from you, and treated the officers as if they also needed to be kept away from you.” COVID has changed the protocols within my local emergency room. As I sat on my bed in the room, I realized that a lot more has changed concerning those protocols – even my approach to my Paganism.

When COVID was raging last year, I spent much of the Summer in the house. I very rarely came out of the house for anything. I had a handful of homemade masks that I could wear, but nothing I could call dependable. Over a period of time, I purchased a handful of manufactured masks that I could put filters inside of for better protection. However, I continued to stay indoors out of simple precaution. I did my rituals inside, so I could limit my exposure to other people. Rituals that I would normally seek out a group to work with, I stayed in a solo mode. Other aspects where I would usually seek out the company of others, I found other methods to gather and make contact with them. Over that time, my approach to my Paganism has become much more inward, much more solo in nature. Where I was making parts of my Paganism solitaire, and other parts more group-oriented, these last two years have been completely solitaire in my daily approach. Coupled with some issues within my own personal life, I truly found out what it is like to be a solo Pagan.

I know others have had to make changes in their approach to their Spirituality during these times for much the same reason. I know these times of COVID can seem quite scary, even for those who have gotten the vaccines. With new strains showing up, where the vaccines are scant protection against break-through infections, it certainly feels like we are a long way from our lives getting back to some aspect of “normalcy.” I still have fears concerning face-to-face gatherings, festivals, and conferences. I am starting to worry for the survival of such gatherings. Where I live, I am about ten miles from the Texas Middlefaire location. These last two years, Middlefaire has not held an event at their location. A year ago, the Middlefaire owner/operator took the signs off the signpost at the highway just out of the faire grounds. That signage location continues to be bare to this day. There is some question about the capability for Middlefaire to even return if things got back to some aspect of “normal.” That begs the question of what will be “normal” for public gatherings, and rituals. To be honest, I don’t know what the future will bring for those aspects of our collective Pagan lives. I’m not a prognosticator. I don’t even play one on tv.

Currently, I see my own personal Pagan practice continuing on the lonely Path that it is. My lousy immune system will require me to be much more careful than others. Already, I’m seeking out video gatherings to keep connected to others. I just do not feel like having a Pagan practice where I don’t connect with others in some way…just for some meaningful discussions, as well as just plain ol’ chit-chat. In many ways, I’m tired of being alone on my Spiritual Path. That’s actually quite ironic for me. I’ve always been a solo Pagan, coming out to group practice only a handful of times in a year. It should stand to reason that being alone and not doing any group-oriented anything should be ok with me. But like any human being, I’m still a social animal. Being completely cut off from public gatherings has never sat well with me.

Has COVID changed how we connect with one another? Certainly, it has. Has it changed the way we approach the Gods within our own Spiritual Paths? For some it has. For others, its not been a significant point. For me, its been a significant change to my own approach. Still, another example, that we traverse our Spiritual Paths differently.

–Tommy /|\

Find Your Tribe

In the last blog post, I received a comment that is one of the most common questions that I hear from new Pagans. “How do I deal with how my non-Pagan family and friends will/might react to me being a Pagan?” Believe it or not, this question can be answered in a myriad of ways and is not as straight-forward as one might think.

The easiest answer I can give is my own approach. However, that’s because its what I live every single day: I don’t care. Or I should say that I don’t lend a lot of energy to the situation because I do care what my family and friends think about me. I just try my best to not get too caught up in trying to model myself in a way that I think others will accept me. I’m me. If people cannot handle that or disapprove of it…I shrug and move on. In the basic basics of things, I must live my life in a way that allows me to feel free and places me in a perspective of being free and true to myself. If I try to be what they want me to be…well, I wind up feeling like I am living a lie. However, I tend to tone down my Pagan beliefs and perspective when I am around my DNA family. I do my best to not kick up arguments with them. We don’t agree on a lot of things – beliefs, politics, etc. etc. – but that doesn’t mean that I don’t love them any less. They are, after all, family. However, I do tend to keep my face-to-face interactions with them at a minimum, to keep the strife down.

Another way of dealing with such things is to ostracize yourself from your family. I can understand the approach. I did the same thing when I first left home for the US Air Force. My mother was a very domineering individual. So, when I had the opportunity to leave, I removed myself from the dynamic. I didn’t contact my mother for close to two and a half years. So I can relate to this perspective to a degree. Eventually, I made amends to a point, but I was truly never very close with my parents after that point – a perspective that was amiable for both sides.

There is a myriad of other solutions, as I said before. However, whatever solution you come up with, just realize that the dynamic can change. After all, people do soften or harden their perspective on issues, depending on the individual and the dynamic in play. Everyone has a different perspective, need and dynamic – so there really is not a “single solution” that fits all.

I think that the hardest part is telling someone about your Paganism for the first time. You never know how they might react, so one tends to steel themselves to the worst possible interaction. Many folks develop what everyone seems to refer to as the “Two-minute Elevator speech.” Basically, its just a short little one-way dialogue explaining who you are and what you believe to someone that is encountering you for the first time. Personally, I find it to be a waste of time to develop something like this, but others have found it to be quite useful. Again, it’s a matter of what you feel works for you. Everyone is different.

Ratcheting up your courage to initiate the conversation/encounter might be the most nerve-racking part of all of it. It usually is for me. However, I remind myself that there is nothing to be afraid or embarrassed over. Paganism is a part of who I am. I am a Druid. There is nothing wrong with any of that. Its no more embarrassing or “odd” than Evangelical Christianity, Buddhism, the Muslim faith, Agnosticism, or any other belief system or perspective. I’m not embarrassed of who I am. I’m not embarrassed of being an Information Technology Generalist. I have no need to hide or deflect over the education that I have received over my three degrees. I’m not everyone’s cup of tea or shot of whiskey, but that doesn’t mean that every single individual will be repulsed by me. It’s just a measure of finding those who are my tribe. The individuals that accept me for who I am and revel with me in the uniqueness of our differences. Those that cannot do that, I acknowledge the differences and respectfully move on. No fuss, no explosion, no heavy energy. No need for dramatics. Simple as that.

Now, everything I have described here is my own way of dealing with things. As I have noted over and over, this works for me. You might try it and find it doesn’t work for you. Believe it or not, that’s perfectly fine. Everyone is built differently. Everyone reacts differently. Some folks are going through more shit right now than others. There are so many factors that play into face-to-face interactions. You just have to do a little detective work to figure out what methodology or approach works best for you.

So, if you are sitting back and wondering how to broach the “Pagan topic” with people in your life, remember that it’s your choice that matters most. I would add that approaching things from a perspective of respect is usually a good tact to utilize. You know, that saying of attracting more flies with honey than vinegar. Just remember if things go sideways – quietly walking away is an option too. That approach calmed a lot of tension between myself and my mother. We eventually found footing that allowed us to effectively communicate with one another. She never accepted my choices and decisions in where I went with my life, and that took a long while for me to realize that never was going to change. But despite her disapproval, I know that she loved me.

Coming out is a difficult decision that can only be made by you. Whether that is your religious belief, your sexuality or even the number of partners that you decide to have. Being part of what the world terms as an “alternative” lifestyle is not always an easy choice. But it’s a part of who you are. You won’t always be accepted over your choices by others, particularly in your family, if it’s a fairly conservative one. Don’t be ashamed of who you are. Just remember that you can temper your interactions with others. Find your tribe. Should you ever need to talk, my Email is always open. There are so many others that are willing to listen, willing to give you that hug to reassure you that you are cherished as you are. There are always options.

–Tommy /|\

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Thinking About: Pagans v. Christians, Why Can’t We Be Friends?

A few weeks ago, I took a walk in the local park. While walking, I came across a group of other people that were walking on the park’s trail as well and was invited to walk with them. Well, with new people, we all started talking and reaching out on various topics – just trying to get a feel for who we all were. Eventually, our conversations turned towards religious beliefs. I brought up that I was a Druid and a Pagan, and one of the ladies kept giving me this weird, panicked look. As I gently explained what a Druid and a Pagan were, as well as how I viewed both perspectives, I finally stopped and asked her if I was upsetting her.

“You are.”

“I’m sorry. That wasn’t my intention.”

“I know, but now we can’t be friends.”

Her fellow walkers started telling her that she was acting stupidly. I stepped in a little closer to continue the conversation on a lower tone.

“I don’t understand. Why can’t we be friends?”

“Because you’re a Satanist, and I’m a Christian.”

“Let’s have a seat for a few minutes,” I gestured to the nearby park bench. The three of them sat down on the bench. I sat down on the sidewalk. “I’m not a Satanist. I’m a Pagan. Pagans are not Christians. Satanists are anti-Christians and part of the Christian beliefs.” I saw her immediately take several steps backwards mentally. “That’s a more complicated discussion though. Let’s stick to why we can’t be friends.”

Over the course of the discussion, her point had been that Christians and Pagans are supposed to hate one another. I asked where that written rule was because no one supplied that to me when I was given all the rules of being a Pagan. I quickly assured her I was being sarcastic with this point. Our discussion continued with a lot of point, counterpoint but at the end of it, we hugged. We have done a few more park walks since then, and our conversations have continued. All of it has provided a lot of nice examination of both of our points of view.

All of that has led me to think a bit along the lines of why Christians, Pagans, and other religious viewpoints must find ways to dislike one another. Much of this takes me back to when I first started down the Path on my Pagan journey. I had the horrible habit of preaching to my Christian co-workers about the damages that their people did to mine (Pagans). Gods, I was insufferable. Enough so that it became necessary to move me to an entirely new shift, which was populated with charismatic Evangelical preachers, who preceded to make my life a living Hell. I learned from that to keep my mouth shut about my beliefs, but I still harbored against Christians for what had been done to Pagans so long ago.

Eventually, I was transferred overseas, where I kept my beliefs a little quieter among my co-workers until one Halloween weekend, the Stars and Stripes newspaper – read all over Europe – published a center-spread article called “Practicing Pagans”. I was featured in two photos. Even with my last name misspelled, it was easy to realize it was me. My first day back to shift after that weekend, and I was in front of my duty section supervisor, being questioned about what being in that article meant. Some of my fellow duty section co-workers were positive – others not so much.

All of that was a good twenty years ago or more. Over that time, I have come to realize that what was done to Pagans so long ago during the inquisition cannot be laid at the feet of Christians today. However, what has happened to Pagans and their families in more modern times, such as the Satanic Panic of the 1980s (which arguably persists to this day), can be laid at their feet. However, the Satanic Panic is not real. Most of it is pure fantasy from the minds of people who fear that which they don’t understand. If you look back to the time just after 9/11/2001, you will find much the same attitude by these same Christians towards individuals of the Muslim faith, as well as those who are of middle eastern lineage but not of the Muslim faith. Many of these Christians that act in such atrocious ways are consumed with the End-Times scenarios – looking for a way that this world can end, so that they can move on to the life afterwards that they believe is promised them. Looking for Satanic invasions, and ways that the world can end are meant to be “signs” that will hasten judgment on others and provide them with the magical after-life they imagine will be there for them. In the meantime, this world continues to spin, and those co-called “signs” continue to prove to be fantasies of unimagined proportions.

So why all the hate and anger aimed at those who are not Christians, and those who do not fall into their same-sex manifestations of what is right? Well, I tend to agree with those that say that it is far easier to hate than it is to love. Plus, that hate fuels their narrative. Why does it go the other way too? Why do some Pagans hate Christians of any stripe? Well, most likely its because a Christian did something to them or to a family member. That’s my best guess. Honestly, beyond that guess, I don’t know. I’ve refused to be a part of all of that.

My perspective changed when I realized that by feeding the cycle of anger and hate between a Christian and Pagan perspective did nothing that was worth my time and energy. It took a little while to get my walking friend to understand where I was coming from, but she soon understood what I was getting at. I also took the time to understand her perspective too. Without judgment. Without emotion. As a human being she deserved that much respect within the conversation. In the end, she asked if I was going to change her perspective on things. I told her that changing her opinion/perspective would have to start with her, not mine. Just as it took my constant observation, talking with others, and understanding how things came about for me to change my own.

All the anger marshalled up between Christians and Pagans is a complicated ball of energy and emotions. Does it ever dissipate? I don’t know. That’s a question beyond my understanding and comprehension. I do; however, hope so. Probably not in this lifetime or even the next, but I do hope so.

–Tommy /|\

Howling Into the Wind: It Took Me a Long Time to Clean My Boots…

I don’t normally write about topics from other blogs; however, a recent post by John Beckett provided a strange point of interest for me. John’s point came from a perspective of how to present Pagan beliefs to a generation of what John describes as “Spiritual Explorers.” Quoting from John:

Our many varieties of Paganism and polytheism are not a social club, a political party, or a marketing agency. We don’t proselytize. At the same time, we want to see our values grown in the mainstream culture. More importantly, we want to be welcoming to those who are looking for what we have – even if they don’t know it yet. The Gods call who They call, but many times those calls are faint and difficult to follow.

How do we welcome those who expect to ‘make their own guidelines?’ How do we balance the obligation to preserve our sacred traditions with the obligation to be hospitable to those who simply won’t tolerate being told what to believe or what to do?

John Beckett, “Presenting Paganism to a Generation of Spiritual Explorers?“, August 19 2021

Well, the concept/perspective can provide a bit of an issue for some. Like John, I am a member of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids. Within OBOD, there ritual formats that are expected to be learned. There are some philosophical aspects that you will need to not only, but completely understand. Unlike John, I am not a member of ADF, and will likely never be one. Their ritual format is not something that I can work with, and ADF has a super strong adherence to that framework. I have been in quite a few ADF rituals. I understand their ritual format, plus I also realize that while the ritual format is not something I wish to work – there is a point respectfulness towards their way of doing things. So, when I read about how we provide hospitable perspective towards others, I find it to be easy to do. Were I to design and run a public ritual, I would stick the public ritual aspect that OBOD adheres to. If I were invited to a public or private ritual, I would adhere to whatever ritual format that was presented. After all, I am a guest.

As for the perspective of working with a “Spiritual Explorer,” I think my moving through various Wiccan groups – all of which had a different ritual format than I did, my time within OBOD, and the three years of presenting myself as a generic neo-Pagan (as well as trying to determine the best direction for ritual perspective) could quite easily place me in the “Spiritual Explorer” camp. While I have been working with the OBOD framework, particularly during OBOD camps, I still utilize the OBOD framework as a way of framing the way my practice works for me. I know. I hear it all the time, even inside of OBOD: I need to stay faithful to the OBOD framework. I need to stop changing things up, like it’s a balloon-animal. Its bad for me to do that, even if the only time that I do things is when I do ritual on my own. However, I learned that its easier to ignore such statements and to continue doing my own ritual techniques in the fashion that work for me when I am alone.

As for passing the values on towards others or making my values into the mainstream…no thanks. I am not going to pass my values on to others. I would rather that others take the values that they deem to be correct for their Path and find ways to make that work for themselves. Surely, we will have values that cross-over from our perspectives. We can work on those values together. Where our values differ, there’s no need to declare mine or yours to be what every Pagan should be doing. To my ears, that sounds like dogma…and I have no need to impose my own dogmatic perspective on to any other person. Just saying.

So, to answer the question of how be welcoming, respectful, and honorable to those who see Paganism in a different way? Well, I just do the same thing I try to do for Christians that I encounter on my daily walk within Life. I realize that we may not see things the same way, but I try to respectful as much as I can without compromising my beliefs and understanding. Even when they respond to me with hatred and anger. Certainly, I won’t invite them back to sacred space or a ritual after the intention is known. But the only way that I physically remove them from the equation is if their responses and actions are detrimental to the sacred space, the ritual or those attending at that moment. Ideally, everyone would be respectful enough to be able to get through the rite or ritual. However, as much of an idealist that I am – I know that doesn’t happen all the time.

Personally, I don’t want people to be limited to whichever part of the forest that they are going to explore. However, as I have said several times before – before you start leaving the Path to explore, its best to learn the ins and outs of the basics. Some of those basics on ritual, magickal frame-working, and other things will provide a stronger basis, should you look for twisting the balloon into a balloon-doggy. Do I disagree with John? To a certain degree. I don’t find it productive to argue over the differences. Instead, its useful to provide a different perspective. I’m not sure what theological perspective, point of view or concept all that plays into. I’m not a theologian, and don’t really care about stuff like that. Instead, I am just trying to make it through each day and be available for anyone that needs a shoulder to lean on or an ear to bend. I’m not here to prove John wrong in any manner. John is a friend of mine – or at least I consider John to be a friend.

These “Spiritual Explorers,” I can understand their perspective very well. I was there not that long ago. I’m just glad that my teachers were patient enough to show me ways to place myself in their shoes. I’m also glad that my teachers had enough patience to let me ask my questions, no matter how silly they might thought I may have been. I might not have any students…and I may never have any students ever in this lifetime. All of that is “ok.” But I can sit and talk with these Seekers and provide my own perspective and explain that my perspective is one of many. I don’t create “the law.” However, I do know where I had stepped, so I don’t step in the dog shit and the cows shit that are in the field. Believe me it took a long time to clean my boots off. 😊

–Tommy /|\

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Sacred Space – My Process, My Take

Over the last few posts, I have been describing some of the working techniques that I use. Or, if you prefer, some of the tools that I have been using to provide me a better boost through the trying times I have found myself in. One of these tools, or methodologies, that I have referred to is that of “sacred space.” In my solo practice, sacred space is a defined area from which I can work directly with focus to achieve a calmness or stillness.

A sacred place is first of all a defined place, a space distinguished from other spaces. The rituals that a people either practice at a place or direct toward it mark its sacredness and differentiate it from other defined spaces. To understand the character of such places, Jonathan Z. Smith has suggested the helpful metaphor of sacred space as a “focusing lens.” A sacred place focuses attention on the forms, objects, and actions in it and reveals them as bearers of religious meaning. These symbols describe the fundamental constituents of reality as a religious community perceives them, defines a life in accordance with that view, and provides a means of access between the human world and divine realities.

Encyclopedia.com, “Sacred Space

For me, this definition is not ultimately satisfying for how I see the concept of sacred space, except for the last part noting that “sacred space is a means of access between the human world and divine realities.” Even then, its not a snug fit for my perspective. Sacred space is a means of such access, but the overall aspect of sacred space is a means of sliding between the realities of our mundane world and the worlds of divinity, for lack of a better term. In the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids (OBOD), you may hear some members of the Order refer to one’s “Inner Grove”. My sacred space is the same as that Inner Grove, except that I refer to it as sacred space.

I use my sacred space as method to put myself into a proper state of mind, specifically for ritual. However, I do not use it in bringing a setting to a public ritual or to a ritual where there will be more than just myself. I don’t expect others to be able to settle into my sacred space – nor would I expect to be able to place myself into their Inner Grove. That space is intensely personal. I do suppose that through shared meditation techniques, a group of people could create such a space before a ritual – placing the individuals that are performing the ritual into a proper frame of mind. Personally, I have never tried any such technique with a group of people before, but I certainly wouldn’t rule out the possibility, simply because I’ve never tried.

My Processing of Creating and Closing Sacred Space

My first steps are to create the proper mood to take the first steps towards sacred space. A ritual bath (or even a shower) is my usual starting place. Once finished, I dress in comfortable clothing. Usually, I’m barefoot. Ritual clothing? Well. Search through the blog, and you’ll find that I’m not big on playing dress-up for ritual. I’m far more geared toward comfort than presentation. Once I am ready to get started down the road to getting sacred space started, I light a candle – usually a white pillar candle, but that somehow disappeared after my move from Houston. However, any candle can do in a pinch. I just prefer pillar candles out of years of habit. Once the candle is lit, I take a few minutes to calm my nerves and my mind. Then, I focus my mind. I also include the large white stone that I refer to as my “focus stone” in the setup. Usually, it’s right next to me so I can physically feel it.

My usual start to entering my sacred space is to find myself walking through a thick forest of pine trees. I slowly push my way through the branches. Sometimes I suffer small cuts from the branches, other times I don’t. No rhyme or reason to things that I have been able to discern. After going forward for a bit, the growth starts to thin out, and the walking gets easier, until I come to an egg-shaped meadow. In the middle of the meadow are three trees: a very large Oak standing between a much smaller Birch tree and a slightly larger Apple tree. The trees are aligned east to west. Just a few steps to the south is a large boulder. The boulder usually serves as a place to sit when discussing things with my Gods. When my Gods are not there, I can see five to eight crows in various places on the boulder. Again, no rhyme or reason to things. A dozen yards to the east of the trees is a small, one-room building. In the past, it was still built up and maintained. These days, it is in extreme decay. Again, no idea why it is in this state, but I don’t spend a lot of time near the building.

Once I enter the meadow, I always check for the three trees, the boulder, and the ruin of the building. In surveying that, I can usually locate if anyone is in this sacred space. Ninety percent of the time, there’s no one there. Once I have my bearings, I start whatever ritual I was coming here to do. I can hear my voice in my mind, but I know that I am not speaking. Most of my individual rituals are silent, except in the voice I can hear within my mind. I go through the process of creating a ritual space by thanking whatever direction I stand facing. I don’t cast a circle, though that is what typically happens in rituals where I am with others. In my individual rites I start in the East then move to the South, then the West, and finishing in the North. Once finished, I pick whatever direction feels right to me and thank whoever has decided to come and attend to the rite. That’s about as complicated as my individual rite will get. I can understand the more complicated aspects of drawing a circle, calling on the Gods to witness the rite, and going through the needs for protecting oneself. I prefer the simplicity of my own approach.

To close out my rite in personal sacred space, I start by thanking whoever has witnessed the rite, and then thanking the directions in the reverse order. Once I have finished that, I take a few moments to feel the energy that was raised during my time in scared space. Then I walk towards the edge of the meadow, feeling the energy I have created dissipating as I grow closer to that boundary edge. As I start to walk into the forest and feel the growth of the trees getting thicker and having to expend more personal energy to move forward, I feel myself being pulled back to this reality. That pull is created by the focus stone, which is my anchor here. The focus stone serves a lot of other uses in my personal rites, but this is its primary purpose. Its usually just underneath the screen of my monitor.

Now, I am more than aware of how different all of this is compared to what OBOD teaches. I am also aware of all the people that are saying “You’re doing it wrong.” Yeah, I get it. My process is not the same as a lot of other people. But I am not trying to be them. I’m just trying to do what works for me. To be honest, if you are looking at all of this and going “that’s what I want to do.” Sure, go ahead. Just remember, if you are in a tradition of some sort, you need to learn their stuff too. In fact, I would say that you should work in their tradition’s process until you have it down good and well. THEN you can step into experimentation. That way, you have a strong base to work from. Just my opinion.

As for creating and entering your sacred space or Inner Grove, work through your process until you can do it in your sleep. In fact, when I am having trouble sleeping, I have utilized my sacred space to bring myself to a much calmer state so that I can get to sleep. What you create will most likely not look like mine. How you enter or exit it will likely be very, very different from my own. Remember, this is YOUR sacred space. Uniquely YOURS.

–Tommy /|\

My Grounding and Centering Techniques: Tools for Bad Moments and Times

Feel like the entire world is about to implode? Are you aggravated over everything? Even the slightest thing? Or as I described it in “One Pagan’s Perspective. One Druid’s Approach”, you feel like a hand grenade just waiting for your pin to be pulled? Believe it or not, I know the feeling all too well. Go back a pair of decades in my life, and you will find someone with an explosive temper. And it didn’t take long for me to get that temper wound up to a high tempo. Thankfully, I had good friends that not only saw all of that…they didn’t abandon me over it. They stuck tight to me and offered help. One friend, opened up to me enough to teach me two techniques to deal with those moments – grounding and centering. In today’s blog post, I m going to my best to describe the two techniques. I can’t say that these two practices of mine will completely resolve things for you, but hopefully, it can provide a basis from which you can move forward and find your own techniques to help you take a step back from the brink of personal nuclear warfare.

Grounding

The Behavioral Health Partners blog from the University of Rochester Medical Center from April 2018 lists a 5 step process for reducing anxiety:

  • Acknowledge five things you see around you.
  • Acknowledge four things you can touch around you.
  • Acknowledge three things you can hear.
  • Acknowledge two things you can smell.
  • Acknowledge one thing you can taste.

I can understand the process quite easily. You utilize your senses to focus on your immediate surroundings. By doing so, you start to push back whatever has you on the edge to the back burner, and provides you a chance to look to smaller aspects of your environment that you might be taking for granted because of the issue. However, I use a different technique to ground myself.

I create sacred space around me. Once I have managed that, I work towards clearing my thoughts, and feeling that I am a tiny oak seed in the ground. Slowly, I grow, feeling new branches move from the start of my trunk. I feel leaves grow, brown, fall from my branches to the ground around me, and new buds begin to sprout with the Spring. I can feel myself growing taller, while my roots reach even deeper into the ground. Those roots keep me upright. Those roots are the essence of what I am becoming. After a few minutes, I check to see how I feel. Is my issue still prevalent in my thoughts? If so, I continue to grow my oak tree in my thoughts, with the roots reaching ever deeper. I can feel all my troubling thoughts being emptied into the ground around my roots – leaving my system, until I no longer feel those troubles. I spend a few more minutes in Sacred Space, still focusing on my tree and its overall health. Then I take three deep, cleansing breaths and close my Sacred Space.

I know that it sounds rather childish to some, but for me – this process can be done nearly anywhere. On the floor of my living room. Laying in my bed. Walking down the sidewalk in my neighborhood. And while I think I could do this while driving, I’ve not done so. I am not sure if I would be in in state with enough awareness to operate a motor vehicle properly.

Centering

The second technique is centering, which I consider to be a much more difficult thing to do. The wesbite Mindtools states that centering is:

Centering is an ancient visualization technique that is popular in Aikido – the Japanese defensive martial art of “spiritual harmony.” It teaches you to focus on the here and now, taking power away from outside concerns and negative thoughts, and helping you remain stable and grounded.

Centering: Maintaining Focus in Stressful Situations.”, Mindtools

I don’t practice Aikido, but I learned a lot of this technique from when I was in the Air Force, particularly in the Warfare Training Schools that I was sent to. For me, the technique is rather simple. When everything starts to feel like it is spinning out of control, I find a safe place to stop and take a few moments to inventory everything going on. I’ve adapted it to my daily Pagan practice, by starting with creating sacred space. I will go into my process of creating sacred space in Thursday’s blog.

Once I have sacred space created, I take a few moments to inventory everything that I am experiencing. From that inventory process, I determine what needs to be dealt with, and filter out everything that is superfluous to the moment. In essence, I am working towards trying to work with what is in the “here and now” and set the other things to the side – to be dealt with later if need be. Once I feel I have a strong enough of a mental grip on what I need to, I take three cleansing breaths (three…because I’m a Druid), and then bring down sacred space.

Making It All Work

Now, I know some folks are wondering how I make this all work to defuse my temper in certain situations. Well, sometimes, the situation warrants my temper. But that is far rarer then it was before. Grounding is meant to calm me down and temper my anger a bit. Centering allows me to determine if pursuing things really makes that much of a difference in the first place. Grounding tamps down the emotions, while Centering allows for personal analysis of the situation, if you will. For instance, I see memes throughout Facebook and Twitter that can get my blood boiling. However, taking a small amount of time to Ground and Center will lead me to a single question: is my input on the topic going to add to the topic or enhance some of the conversation by providing a different perspective or will it be nothing more than the angry back-and-forth noise we constantly see online? If it’s the first, I will pursue the topic from my perspective. If not, which is far more often the case, I move on without a comment. For me, this has made my interactions on Facebook and Twitter far lower in frequency. It has also allowed me to retain some of my own personal dignity by not stooping into the digital mud.

Like I said before, these are the techniques that I know of and use. There are other techniques and perspectives. The Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (OBOD) has a video on what they term as the “Deep Peace of the Tree Meditation” that I have found to be useful when I have trouble grounding and centering. You will likely need to find some methodology of grounding and centering that works specifically for you. I do not – and will never – claim my techniques to be the quintessential methods for others.

Hopefully, some of this makes sense to those of you reading the blog. Even if all you get out of this is to start your own search for something that helps you to ground and center – you have started fresh down your own trail. Remember to be true to yourself. If a technique doesn’t work for you…that’s ok. Experiment, continue to search, tweak the technique into visualizations that have meaning to you. You’re unique. Sometimes it takes a bit more work than you thought. And that’s ok.

–Tommy /|\

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