Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both And be one traveler, long I stood And looked down one as far as I could To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair, And having perhaps the better claim, Because it was grassy and wanted wear; Though as for that the passing there Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay In leaves no step had trodden black. Oh, I kept the first for another day! Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.
Instead of spending my time trying to hack out another of my horrible poems, I thought it might be more appropriate to post one of my all-time favorites, “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost. This particular work has a lot of meaning for me and continues to serve as a reminder that everyday life, everyday relationships, everyday everything is not the easiest road to travel. There is no certain Path in anything. Life, work, your Spirituality. Others may have walked similar paths, but yours is unique, specifically yours. The road you choose is ultimately your own to decide. If you prefer the worn Path, you will walk that Path. If you prefer the Path that is not easily spotted and requires a bit more work, diligence, and patience – you will choose that one. For me, I prefer those wild Paths. The ones that require you to not only pay attention to the mostly unmarked Path, but those that so few walk. For I can see the beauty, passion, and joy in what still remains wild, untamed, and raw. Certainly, there will be bumps, bruises, and some pain along the way…but to me, that’s all worth what I find on my travels.
In the last couple of weeks, I have had two people in my life tell me to stop with my “Druid peacemaker bullshit.” Now, in both instances, it’s related to a subject I will not discuss openly, but there are some aspects that were pointed out to me that I will share. I have a major tendency to try and keep everyone happy in a situation. In this particular instance, I chose to put myself in a potentially dangerous and compromising position, in order to not to hurt the feelings of another individual. While nothing happened that was overly threatening nor untoward to me, there were reasons that I should not have done such a thing. In the aftermath of all of this, it’s gotten me thinking a bit more about my boundaries, in conjunction with my perceived responsibilities. To say this has been a bit unsettling is a major understatement.
I have always perceived that Druids are the peacemakers in conflicts. Always striving to find all sides of an issue and attempting to help cooler heads prevail. While that may be true to a certain degree, there are a few other aspects to consider: personal boundaries, safety, and discretion. Each one of these areas has brought me face-to-face with how foolish my perception has really been.
Sometimes, you just have to hold your hands up and say “enough is enough.” Don’t laugh and those of you that get the irony in me making that statement – stop laughing. I am quite well known for taking on too much, far too often. I have a bulldog mentality when it comes to getting things done, I don’t like to let go until I’ve managed to get things done. My hardest issue is learning when I’m in over my head before I really am in over my head. In nearly every employee evaluation, I was always marked down because I would never seek help in a timely fashion. Shadow – and quite a few others – refer to this as my “stubborn side.” Sometimes, being overly stubborn can put you in a bad spot. So, the aspect of personal boundaries needs to take shape. Knowing what I can and cannot do – and being ready to ask for help. Along with that, I need to do a much better job of realizing when I’m in danger and walking quickly away – instead of escorting it to the end of the driveway for a talk.
Safety is definitely a high concern of mine. Most Druids will note that their role is to be the peacemakers in situations, but sometimes there can be a larger issue of personal safety. In my case, I had already been warned about the potential issues of an individual, and yet I still stepped forward to try and talk things through – rather than just closing the door. Without getting into too many details, I literally put myself in potential danger by not following the warnings that had been given. And all of it was done to try to smooth some ruffled feathers, so to speak. Something not worth putting myself into that kind of danger. So, I really have to note here, if you are that kind of person who wants to be that peacemaker…just like any fight, choose your battles wisely. I did not. And I was VERY, VERY lucky.
We have all heard the saying: “discretion is the better part of valor.” This is an extension of the back part of the personal boundaries statement. The Oxford Dictionary describes this as a proverb which means, “it is better to avoid a dangerous situation than to confront it.” (https://www.lexico.com/definition/discretion). Avoiding the danger, whatever it looks like or however innocent it seems, would be the more prudent direction to take. In my instance, I did the very wrong thing. Even despite the warnings, I went on a perception I had previously of the individual, not knowing what had been said that precipitated the warnings. It’s not just a matter of discretion. It’s also a matter of using your noodle. I had the warnings, which were credible. I failed to heed that, and put myself somewhere I never should have been. All because I was looking to appease every individual in the situation.
I will say it again. I was damn lucky. Nothing happened. But that’s not really the point here. I slid into my “Druid peacemaker bullshit” role and set about trying to be everything for everybody. And that shit just isn’t going to work. Fact of the matter, that shit is going to get me hurt or to be even more dramatic – killed. Instead of trying to live up to some romanticized aspect of what Druidry is, I need to start living up to how Druidry fits into Tommy. Druidry doesn’t get to dictate my concepts of boundaries, safety, and discretion – I do. Perhaps, I have been looking at some aspects of Druidry in a backwards manner. Certainly, there is a role for a Druid to be a peacemaker but one gets to walk away when aspects of boundaries, safety, and discretion are bent, mutilated, or just outright destroyed. Much like so many of you, I have so much more of my life to live…I have a lot to be living my life more safely for. And it is long past time that I started putting my safety first and forward in my life.
I will say this, if you see the peacemaker role as one that fits you – by all means go for it. All I really ask is that you are careful in what you do. Think before you get involved. Look, listen, and read everything that you are presented with. If the situation doesn’t look right or seems a bit more dangerous than you thought it might – take a moment and assess things carefully. You have got a lot of life ahead of you. Be safer with it than I was.
I will also add that not every person studying Druidry *HAS* to be a peacemaker. The perception that every Druid will step into any conflict to try and restore some peace is just a ludicrous concept, in my opinion. Druidry doesn’t turn people into peacemakers, just as Druidry doesn’t turn every individual into a fabulously wonderful Priest that is capable of serving the needs of a wider community. In my opinion, Druidry helps you to become a better person. If part of that helps you achieve the perspective of a Priest or a peacemaker, wonderful. Just don’t expect that to happen to every individual that is studying Druidry.
One last note to all of this. The largest criticism of me has come from my tendency to try and make everyone feel happy in a given situation. That singular perspective put me in more danger than anything else. I am learning that I cannot and should not try to make everyone feel happy over an issue. Sometimes, I have to say “no” in a rather hard manner and just close the door. That is going to hurt some feelings along the way but it will keep me safe and not needlessly in danger. And I realize that I am using the word danger a lot here; however, the threat was real – whether I perceived it that way or not. Don’t be foolish and stubborn like I was. Be smart with how you deal with situations in your life. Be careful, you have a lot to live for. I know I do.
Leader. There is no other word in the English language that scares the shit out of me. Especially when applied to me. Yet, there are people who claim to see this capability in me. Shit, even the United States Air Force claimed to see the ability in me. They TRAINED me to be a leader. It’s what they expected of those who were on the upward progression of the enlisted rank ladder. Every time I have had this applied to me by others – I completely freeze up. Because somewhere inside of me is this little voice which laughs out loud as it tries to spit out the phrase: “Who? You?”
In the past, I have written a few blog posts here and there noting that I am not a leader. I have utilized self-deprecating humor at nearly every turn to deflect the concept away from me. Over and over again, I have denigrated myself as not the kind of person that others would follow. All of that to convince myself that I am not capable of stepping in front of a group of people and leading them forward into….something.
A few folks would think I am a natural at this, given that I used to teach face-to-face in a Community College classroom. I’ll be honest, every single new semester, I spent the first three weeks being absolutely terrified in front of my students. The shorter Summer terms, I was an even greater wreck. Granted, they were a captive audience, but I still had to find ways to persuade them to complete assignments on time. While I loved being the professor in the classroom, there was always a tinge of terror behind my attempted calm demeanor.
One of the hardest things to be a leader on in the classroom environment was group assignments. Every student I know hated these. The reasoning was simple. No one likes having to rely on other’s for their class grade. But for me, it was (and is) perhaps the most important method for teaching folks about teamwork and leadership styles. I stressed to the students that the emphasis was not so much on the final product of the team assignment – though it would be graded for completeness and other aspects – but it was about the way that they worked together. many students would not wait for their weakest links to complete parts of the assignment, instead doing those parts for them. There was no perspective of helping the weaker student learn from what was being done – just an emphasis on getting it done. Whenever I caught wind of stuff like this, I quickly put a stop to it.
Why? Because I truly believe in supporting one another. One thing I’ve learned in nearly three and a half decades of working, teams are more than a collective of people to get a job done. Teams are places where folks can be free to be who they are (within “civilized” reason), as well as places where support mechanisms are built. Stuck on a coding problem? Come on down to Tommy’s cube and let’s discuss what the issue is. We can work together to come up with potential ideas, no matter how off-beat it may seem. Any option is a potential solution. Working together is something we all should be doing. That way, when times get tough, we have places to turn for various kinds of help. Got issues with your computer system? I can help. I’ll charge you a meal. Simple as that. Teamwork helps build concepts of community.
Now, I get paralyzed by the concept of being a leader because I don’t like being first out of the gate. I’m always worried that no one will follow. I’m also worried about always being seen as the one with the responsibility to get things done. You know, where one person does all the work but everyone else shares in the results? I like it better when everyone shares in the work and responsibilities and then share in all the results. But these are not the only reasons I freeze up. I always worry when people see me as the measuring stick. That everyone has to do things the way that I do, so they will get similar results. My idea of leadership is a little different. I let other people do their thing. When they need help, they can come to me for assistance. I’m not going to do the work for you, but I will suggest alternate ways to get beyond whatever obstacle you encounter. Perhaps, my style of leadership can be better described as mentorship. Except that I am still not adverse to rolling up my sleeves and getting the work done. I’ve never been sure what kind of leadership that is, but it’s the way I get things done. But whatever it is….it’s more me than anything else.
Sure, the concept of being out front still scares the shit out of me. I’m always worried when people see me as the guy with all the answers – because that definitely ain’t me. I am; however, the guy who will go and do the research and try to find the answers you are asking for. The real truth is, no matter how scared I am of the idea of being the first…no matter how much I fear the idea of being seen as the guy with the answers….I can be viewed as a leader in some fashion. So, instead of running from that concept, I’ll have to embrace it.
Being the person that is viewed as a leader is a scary prospect. At least it is for me. I always worry about making mistakes and disappointing people with my choices. However, making mistakes and disappointing folks comes with the territory. A better way to deal with this, in my opinion, is to listen to the criticisms and not take it too personally. And to listen to the praise as well. Though I’m never great at taking praise as much as I am at taking criticism. But that’s a post for another time.
Each step forward Takes me a little further Along this unplanned Path
Higher in elevation than before Through the sloped floors of the forest Ever further on the ascent
Looking over a shoulder Down into the green valley below A breathtaking view to behold
Looking further upwards Along the barely seen Path before me The summit encircled with clouds
What might I find on this arduous climb? Monsters to defeat, challenges to accept? Or rocky terrain that may take my ankle to peril?
Climb ever higher I am compelled to do Not because this craggy summit exists But for the experience of doing so
Life is about challenges and accepting them Life is about pushing yourself to your limits Though the pinnacle one may never reach
One thematic that continues throughout my life is that of a hike. I actually enjoying hiking quite a lot. Walking through a forest is one of the best pleasures I know of in Life. But every aspect of my Life can be easily placed into a paradigm of a hiking-style journey. Without a challenge, something to strive for, something to reach for…Life tends to resemble walking on a sidewalk in the city for me. Perhaps, its foolish for me to see everyday Life as part of a long-term journey, but it certainly does provide a bit of direction for me. Plus, as I said, I love the imagery.
Life changes everyday. Each day brings a new challenge, a new experience, a new lesson or maybe a few. Every single day opens a door a little further. But it also closes another door a little more as well. That door being the Past. The past, where our common experiences come from, is an important factor in our lives. Our Past is an important part of our daily journey. However, there comes a point where the Past has to be let go so room can be made for the new experiences to come. For me, this is not an easy process. Much of my Past is quite important to who I am. However, I tend to hang on to my Past for too long and parts of my continued growth and learning do not happen because of it. It’s a hard lesson to learn, but assuredly, a necessary one.
In six days (I am writing this on a Saturday), my life is going to take on a radical change. I’ll still be me. But the manner in which I approach every day Life is about to undergo a change that may be one of the most painful in my entire Life. At the same time, its not really painful – it’s necessary. Letting go of pieces of my Past will be a bit difficult. But embracing my Present, as well as my Future will be helpful in undertaking this. I know, you’re reading this and wondering what the fuck I’m talking about. So, let’s take a moment and I’ll show you what I am doing.
I served eight years in the United States Air Force. Parts of that time are ingrained within my DNA. I cannot remove every aspect of what the Air Force did for me in those eight years. Nor can I erase the experiences that I have had. All of those are a permanent part of my life. But I have tendency to lean back to how things were when I was in the military. How we did things then. And make comparisons to how we do things now. I left the military in 1994. That was….quite a while ago. It’s time to place those memories where they belong, in my Past. And time to embrace where I am now. What I am trying to do now. How things are done now. Constantly leaning back into those memories does not let me react and respond to the things of today in a manner that is appropriate. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that I am out to forget those memories. I’m not out to destroy those experiences. All of that has made me who I am today. But I have more life to live. Life that is happening today, not yesterday. I need to open myself to that.
Let me place this in a little different perspective. I am in the Ovate grade with OBOD. My Bardic grade lessons and experiences built a foundation for me to get to this point. But to continue building on to that already established foundation, I have to realize that the Ovate grade is something different – something that expands beyond the Bardic grade. That opens me to more experiences, allows me to approach lessons with a fresh mind. I am looking forward instead of backward.
There is a scene in the movie Labyrinth, where Sarah is putting away all the toys and such that helped her go on her experience in battling the Goblin King for her baby brother. Its a moment where Sarah is realizing she needs to set the Past aside so she can embrace the Present and open the way to the Future. But in setting the Past aside, she is not discarding it. She can come back to it anytime that she wants, as all the characters from her adventure remind her. The Past is never truly gone. It still resides in your DNA from your experiences, your adventures and your memories.
To steal from another story moment:
It was at this point that Bilbo stopped. Going on from there was the bravest thing he ever did. The tremendous things that happened afterward were as nothing compared to it. He fought the real battle in the tunnel alone, before he ever saw the vast danger that lay in wait.
The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien
Every single morning is the start of a new adventure. Every single morning brings the start of a new moment of the Present. The real battle is not in taking that first step. The real battle is placing your resolve into not just taking the first step, but each step after. To do so, you can’t be focused on the Life that you have already lived. You have to be focused on the Life you are living and the Life you wish to live. The Present and the Future are waiting for you, every single morning. Are you focused on where your feet are being planted? Are you looking into the near distance to try and find your way to where you want to be? That’s where my focus is. And I promise you, its worth the change in focus. Its scary as all fuck. but the beauty that lies ahead in its promise is worth every moment of the fight and the struggle.
Back in July of 2016, I wrote a post titled “Thoughts on Spiritual Flexibility“. I thought it might be a great time to revisit some of the points in this post. I found it interesting that a July post in a Presidential election year would be facetiously noting things such as what Donald Trump may say to make headlines, since that became a fairly commonplace thing in the four years following. However, I brought the post back to the arena I wanted to set things in: devotional practice.
My devotional practice has changed a lot in the following years since this post. At that time, Crow was my primary devotional. Even though Coyote was already a part of my Spiritual Path, our contact was sporadic at best, as it has become lately. Abnoba had not even entered into the picture at this time. So much of what I wrote was geared towards daily devotionals to a single God that I was working with. Now, with three, daily devotionals can take a different tack in the wind. But I’ll serve that up a little later.
One thing that has not changed about daily devotionals is my perspective that it just is not work. And if it resembled work, I would have problems seeing it as part of my devotionals to two Trickster Gods and a Forest Goddess. perhaps, it might be best to set down a foundation as to what I consider to be devotional aspects of my Spirituality. Merriam Webster describes devotional as:
1a: religious fervor : PIETY b: an act of prayer or private worship c: a religious exercise or practice other than the regular corporate worship of a congregation 2a: the act of dedicating something to a cause, enterprise, or activity : the act of devoting b: the fact or state of being ardently dedicated and loyal 3 obsolete : the object of one’s devotion
So, the two I will focus on are 1(b) and to some extent 2(b). For my, my daily devotionals are something akin to prayers. Not quite the same thing, but that’s about the best that I can put into a descriptive thought. For instance, every time I drive down to Houston from Hillsboro, a trek of a little more than two-hundred miles, I always ask for the protection of my little triad of Gods. In a strict sense, this can be considered a type of devotional to all three of Them. Most mornings that I wake up, I stop for a moment and thank Crow for waking me. I don’t always do that, but am usually on point with it. But these little statements, these little moments….I don’t have to think about them, I just do them. Its a part of me. Its about respecting and recognizing the two Gods and the Goddess that are such a focal part of my Spirituality.
Now, granted, everyday life can and does get in the way of this. When I miss a day or five, I don’t kick myself for forgetting. I don’t apologize for forgetting. I get back into the cycle of showing my respect and recognition. Trust me, the Gods are not going to absolutely freak if you miss a daily devotional – unless They are requiring it of you, but that’s a different story.
I am going to quote an entire paragraph from that July 2016 post, because I just don’t know how to write this any better than it already is.
One’s Spiritual beliefs are what they are. What you believe is what you believe. I happen to believe in the Gods and Goddesses. You – whoever might be reading this – may have a belief in something different, or even nothing at all. But whatever the case may be, it shouldn’t be “work” – at least in my opinion. Being in your element Spiritually is something that should feel natural, and welcoming to you. Don’t mistake what I am saying though. Growing in your Spirituality is, and should be, work to one degree or another. That’s actually important. Growing is about stretching your Spiritual muscles, and much like physical muscles, there’s work to be done for that to happen. But just being who you are Spiritually? That should be as natural and comfortable as your skin.
I’m quite comfortable with who and what I am. I don’t need the wider Pagan community to acknowledge or tell me if I am a Pagan, a Druid or a Polytheist. I know I am those. I’m comfortable with being those. I continue to grow in my knowledge and understanding of all of those. I don’t need society to accept the fact that I am Polyamorous. I am. Our modern Christian society tells me that I am going to Hell for beliefs such as that. My only response is “you first.” I’m not judging people’s lifestyles nor am I saying that mine is better than theirs. Except that is better than theirs – for me. Don’t be on the fence about who and what you are. Figure it out and accept that for yourself. What others toss out there only matters if you let it.
Why do I bring this up? Because being who you are is important. Knowing who you are is a constant search. Understanding who you are is key to being comfortable with yourself. If devotionals aren’t your thing, don’t do them. But don’t piss all over someone else’s belief in devotionals. Respect it for what it is – a part of who they are, a part of their beliefs. I don’t particularly believe in the Holy Trinity, but I am not about to piss all over the concept. But if you are into devotionals and its your thing – don’t kick yourself in the ass when you miss one or five in a row. Just get back on the devotional cycle that you’ve set for yourself.
Staring out across the valley below Scarred by miles of barbed wire and fence posts Literally no end in sight up to the forested hills
Blue skies and clouds overhead Framed against a waving golden sea Of prairie grass nearly shoulder high
The wind is light against the skin As I reach to pull a piece of prairie grass Tight in my grip I feel the snap
The quiet blanket of summer air Wraps all around my heightened senses Noises, smells and sights are everywhere
This is the calm, peaceful center of my world
Within Druidry, as I have been taught it, there is always a wonderful place you develop in your mind. Some call it the Sacred Grove. Others refer to it as internal Sacred Space. For me, its just a place to enter when I need calm that would be more than what grounding and centering can do for me. But what I describe is not my Sacred Grove. That is a different place for me, which resembles some of the more distant locations within the Rocky Mountains. This particular place, I modeled on the fields of western Kansas that I drove through to get to the Rocky Mountains one late summer. From inside the car, on the interstate, it felt like I was surrounded by a giant golden sea, which felt so calm and serene. For me, this is a place of some hardcore grounding and centering…when I need it most. For those wondering how to do this, its just simple visualization. Build out what you find to be most pleasant. Once you have the basic concept, spend some time continue to visualize it from time to time – and allow yourself to build intricate detail. See the pitting of any large rocks. Look carefully at the bark on the trees, the shapes and colors of the leaves, the sounds of the nearby animals. You’ll not only have a joy at the world you are building for yourself, but you can always find a measure of safety there.🙂
I have said it often enough: Working with Trickster Gods can drive you bonkers. Lately, its been only one though…..Crow. Except that Crow has not really been acting much in the vein of a Trickster and more along the lines of a Mentor. This has really been a bit of a change, but I suspect there is some kind of reason behind it all. Most of our times in Sacred Space have been cordial, almost conversational in tone. And more than once, I have been sitting there, waiting for that “gotcha” moment…which has yet to arrive.
Most folks that have known me for a while, are well aware of my constantly moving mind. I am always rethinking what has happened, replaying it over and over in my mind…until I hit the uber high notes of anxiety. My life is now on the cusp of a major change. My mind easily shifts into high gear without any prompting from me. This Samhain Eve, I did a remembrance ritual to honor those in my life who had passed beyond the veil in this turn of the Wheel, as well as others who had gone before. I also spent time giving thanks for everything that has happened over the past turn of the wheel, as well as thanks for all that is to come in its next turn. Prior to that, I had created Sacred Space to have time with Crow and Abnoba. Her time was the usual formal stuff that I have come to expect from Her. Crow; however, sat and talked. No orders, no demands, just talked. And when He finished, I was reminded about grounding, centering and relaxing – three components that I have not utilized very much in my daily practice until lately.
Through all of it, I have begun to wonder what it means when the Trickster God you work with goes from being a Trickster to being a cordial discussion companion? Since my library is currently packed away, I dropped over to Google’s Book search for a few answers to this concept. In a few scattered excerpts, it seems that the Trickster archetype can be played out in two different meanings. On the one hand, the Trickster is a comical fool, playing tricks and deceiving others to create learning moments and points for others to see and learn from. Crow has played this part for quite some time in my Spiritual Path. On the other hand, the Trickster also utilizes these same tricks to showcase a perspective of sagacity and wisdom, a side I have never seen from Crow before. Coyote, yes. But definitely not Crow.
Most of my recent “conversations” in Sacred Space have been held in a manner quite similar to sitting around a camp fire and talking. I’m fairly certain that this plays off of a desire of mine to have those days of sitting around a camp fire at night with friends – just enjoying our mutual company and perhaps a swallow or five of some good Irish Whiskey. I have learned more and found more wisdom in these particular times than I have ever found in any lecture or talk from any individual. That particular perspective is probably why that setting came so easily to my mind. In my last time in Sacred Space with Crow, we were both sitting on the same log, facing a small, but warm fire. Up above, the sky was clear and every star was easy to find with the naked eye. Off in the distance, crickets could be heard relaying their song to the night around them. We sat and talked about a wide variety of topics, none of which I will reveal. But Crow eventually told me to “ground, center and relax.”
Grounding and centering would help to chase away some of the anxiety that I had been feeling concerning the upheaval I felt in my life. But relax…that’s a hard one for me to do. Most of my physical tension gets held in two places, my shoulders and my calves. On any given bad night of sleep, I can awaken three to five times with hard, grabbing cramps in my calves. This is always a sign that I am having a difficult time dealing with things…typically, I’m over-thinking something. When I feel my tension building, I power it down into my legs. Now, with COVID around, I stopped doing my daily walks. I just couldn’t see taking the chance to be out in public. My leg muscles have suffered from this. I have taken to going back to my three mile walks (with mask in hand), not just to build up the muscle strength, but also to release some of the tension in my legs. But that’s the physical release. I still store my tension in my legs. Crow has quietly reminded me that I need to find ways to relax.
All of this is very different for me. Usually, Crow would tease me over something like this, just enough to make me angry enough to get up and do whatever it was. But this…is not what I have come to expect. It is almost as if I am being mentored towards something. In a manner of speaking, I have a Trickster God that is not really acting like a Trickster most of the time now. I am having a bit of difficulty comprehending this concept. A few folks I have talked to about this have suggested that the point is to relax. And a suggestion was that I take up a bit of illicit activity (smoking) to do so. That sounds fine, except I don’t smoke. So another suggestion was to utilize a CBD massage oil for my legs, to help remove some of the pain aspect and hopefully find a feeling of relaxation. Its a definite option, but I do have to wonder about potential reactions with all the medications I am required to take on a daily basis. So obviously some research will need to be done. Extremely hot baths was another suggestion….which I’ve tried with no useful results.
Besides, I keep getting pulled back to Crow’s refrain: “ground, center and relax”. Which has me wondering: what happens when a Trickster God seems to no longer act like a Trickster?? I guess, as I move along my Path, I’m going to find out.
Usually, I write these blog posts with some standard idea of a topic that I want to cover. I may not have an idea of what precisely I am going to say, but I normally have a topic in mind. This past week and a half has been a complete jumble of personal emotions. Every blog post has been a struggle and a fight for my mind. Today, Thursday as I write this, my mind is tapped dry. So, I guess it might be time to talk a little about what happens with me during Samhain. Because a lot of what I am going through has a lot to do with the energies that I get during this time of the year, and at Beltane as well. But let’s keep the focus at this time of the year. I warn you now – I am about to dive into some of the darkest parts of my personality. Please don’t take this post as me looking for a way to end everything. I am nowhere near that point. In fact, I have a very bright and vibrant life ahead of me and a partner who will be there to steady me whenever my footsteps become stumbles from the exposed roots of the trees of the forest. Without her, I would truly be completely lost.
However, aside from working with my Ancestors (arguably, the weakest link within my Druidry), I also take a walk down much darker Paths. On these Paths, I work with some of the emotions that I tend to push back – sorrow, anger, rage, jealousy and even hate.
This year, apparently this type of work is at the forefront for me. In the past few weeks (arguably a month and a half), I have been fighting my own war against these emotions on a nearly daily basis. As I move forward and am trying to shed significant portions of my past, these particular emotions are tied to several very distant memories. These memories have surfaced for a variety of reasons. I have found myself experiencing these emotions in a very real and distinct manner in relation to people who do not merit or deserve these emotive moments. As I experience all of this and paint it on to others unfairly, I find myself in that very memorable spiral. The lashing out, the regrets at doing so, feeling my own anger and sorrow at what I have done, lashing out at others…etc, etc. I wind up with Noctura’s “Die Another Day” lurking in my mind.
Believe me Never meant to make you feel this way Forgive me Before i die another day I can’t erase The things i said that made you go away Give me just one chance and hear me say I’m sorry -Noctura, “Die Another Day”
There is a reason I have a tendency to celebrate Samhain (and Beltane as well) alone. Because I know how I can lash out at others with my emotions that get generated from this time. if you look at the Wheel of the Year, you will notice that Beltane is at the exact opposite position. Both are times where the veil is the thinnest. And that thin veil does more than allow the Spirits to cross over. It also allows pieces of your Past that haunt you to cross over more easily as well. I am a quintessential Libra. I seek balance and calm in everything I try to do. But as an air sign, I can also be unbalanced by extreme emotional moments too. And an unbalanced Libra is difficult to deal with. I am not a vengeful person. I’m not an individual that seeks out conflict or wishes to harm others. But my darker parts of my personality can certainly lead me down the Paths to such thoughts.
Usually, this time of the year finds me reaching into those places where I have pushed back my jealousy, my sorrow, my anger, rage and hate. Normally, I don’t even realize that I am doing so, but can catch myself doing it. Its a sign that I need to draw up inside myself and deal with things. This year; however, has been a little more difficult to deal with in a manner I am used to. Starting right around my birthday (October 1st), my entire world has been shifted from its base. Done deliberately. By me. And I am now dealing with emotions that I had long buried underneath that base. In essence, the forest closed up around me and blocked out the light. There’s a path underneath all of this…I just cannot see it. I feel it from time to time when my feet cross over it. But I am still pushing through the darkness to find my way. I am still reliant on a helpful nudge in one direction or another….not knowing what or who pushed me in that direction. For all I know, I’m travelling in a wide circle at the amusement of Crow and Coyote. And in that darkness, I am encountering everything that I pushed back. And lashing out blindly as a result. This is what Samhain and Beltane feel like for me.
I wrote in one of my journal entries that I would be celebrating the full moon of Samhain alone again this year. Perhaps, next year will be different. In fact, I know it will. I’ll have others there that will help me walk a bit more solidly during this time. I don’t know what shape that will take. Each step of the journey will get me closer to that time. But this year will not be that time.
In “Samhain Approaches….That Time of Year“, I noted that I do the best that I can to work with my Ancestors at this time of the year. As an actual outcast from my family, its a bit difficult to work with disapproving Spirits of Ancestors. However, during the full moon, I will do my best to honor Them, as they are my Ancestors. They don’t have to approve of me nor I of Them for me to give honor to the footsteps They left on this earth during Their time. A good friend of mine passed away earlier this month. I only found out today. Though he and I disagreed with one another for the last decade-plus, I still consider him family. I still care about him. He will be given honor in my ritual on the full moon. There are also so many others within my Path of Paganism that I will find time to honor as well. They all had a hand in my growing to be the Pagan that I am today.
For me, I will continue to struggle with the strong emotions that I encounter during this time. This year, I have Shadow’s help, love and understanding to help me through – even though that is at a physical distance for the moment. Next year…things will be different. But for this year, I continue my struggle in a time of constant flux, change and no base/foundation to completely work from. But I’ll manage. Because the alternative is to succumb and let the waves crash over my head and allow the current to drag me to the bottom. And I just cannot let that happen. Whenever I drive any kind of distance, I also tell Shadow when I have left and when I reach the destination – so she knows I am safe. During the drive, she reminds me to “drive safely.” My response has always been the same: “I will. I have a lot to be safe for.” The same holds true during these overly emotional moments for me. I could easily let these completely overwhelm me to the point that I am unresponsive to the world around me. But I have something that reminds me there’s a reason to fight back – the future, the here and the now. And I am learning to ask for help. Because asking for help is the bravest thing you can do.
Over the weekend, I got an Email from someone asking what it was like when I first started out as a Pagan. My first footsteps on this Path happened during the times of the “Satanic Panic” of the 1980s. I was confused over how secretive all the Pagans were that I met out in the civilian populace. They seemed to be afraid to declare who they were. I didn’t realize that I had more protections than they did. In the military, there was no open discrimination against you over the beliefs that you held. You could easily declare your beliefs and not see any immediate punishment. At least not punishment in the eyes of the military. When I came out openly as Pagan, I was moved to a different shift in my duty section. I found myself on shift with three Charismatic Christian preachers. And each of them took a turn working directly with me. Or I should say, preaching at me while I was working. That was my first taste of what the civilians were getting outside of the boundaries of the base. I decided to write something for Bad Poetry Thursday about that. Its an open schematic; in other words, no rhyming material, but I wanted to give a try to three line stanzas, which I’ve also found harder to write, particularly because I tend to be so verbose.
Fighting Off the Whispers
I try my best not to dwell on times long past A time when I first walked in the footsteps Of the Path I find myself currently on
Back when the mere mention of alternative lifestyles Was enough to send everyone scrambling for the exits And watching the shadows of the alleyways headed home
A time when being a Witch was a guarantee for your family To wind up as wards of the state here in Texas Or a brick to find its way through your front window
Many have called that time “the Satanic Panic” When the Christian communities lost their shit And saw the Devil in the shadow of every mailbox
Many have claimed that those times have gone away Not from what I have seen – the attackers are better hidden The outcry is not nearly as loud, but the whispers just as damaging
Life is not as easy for those of us who chose a different way to live Simply because we see love in a different way, see divine differently Each and every day, we fight our battles against those that condemn
…but fight we shall, because Love should not be caged by a definition Because our idea of the divine is so much wider and encompassing Because we choose not to see a life so narrow and unforgiving
Over the past few weeks, I have noticed a lot of questions surrounding information that some author put in their book.
“Do I have to follow everything that is in this ritual?” “The author said that this was the way to do this type of magickal spell work, but I don’t see the need for this/that component/process.” “Do all Druids/Witches/Pagans do things this way?”
I get these folks’ perspectives. Much of what I do as a Druid runs somewhat counter to what I have been taught. In discussions, I tend to catch a lot of flak over the changes that I make and the things that I exclude. I try my best to explain that I did things the way it was explained and taught to me. But I still catch the lower level of Nine Hells for making changes. And I catch even more of the lower levels of the Nine Hells when I tell people that what I have learned through OBOD is not the freaking gospel either. I have been told I am not a “proper” Druid because I don’t do things exactly the way I was taught. Well, my normal default answer is a lyric from a Garth Brooks song:
Well, I guess I was wrong I just don’t belong But then, I’ve been there before Everything’s all right I’ll just say goodnight And I’ll show myself to the door
Garth Brooks, Friends in Low Places
Don’t take this as me leaving OBOD, that’s simply not the case at all. This is me not falling into line with what I perceive as an aspect of fundamentalism. See…I don’t see much of what is in Paganism to be a “set in stone” moment, particularly when it comes to ritual and spell work. There’s a basic framework that you work from, but even that framework can be altered. To me, the idea is to embrace what the ritual is about – not the framework. The idea is to manage your intent in spell work, not be overly worried about whether what you have developed adheres to some structural aspect. Now, for some folks that framework and structural component…it matters to their practice. it provides them a stable aspect to which they can relate to. Honestly? There’s not a single thing wrong with that, at all. For me, it doesn’t work. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t work for others.
For example, casting a circle for ritual. I don’t. I don’t want an implied barrier between myself and the Universe around me. I want my rituals to be open for any and all to come forth and witness…so long as They do so in peace and love. However, for spell work or ritual that has a spell component attached to it…I do want that circle barrier. So that I can work with the magick I raise and not worry that I unleash my intent beyond the narrow focus that I am working with. Most of that probably runs counter to what a lot of folks do. I not only understand that I also respect that. Because everyone will take their own unique approach, even those that follow a prescribed framework or structural perspective.
But here’s where I may rub a few people the wrong way. I would posit that what is written in books, journal articles, and even in blogs (particularly this one) are merely guidelines and suggestions. Or to quote Captain Barbossa….
“First, your return to shore was not part of our negotiations nor our agreement so I must do nothing. And secondly, you must be a pirate for the pirate’s code to apply and you’re not. And thirdly, the code is more what you’d call “guidelines” than actual rules. Welcome aboard the Black Pearl, Miss Turner!”
See, authors and writers will write what they know and how they do things. If it’s the very first time you are doing something that they have written about – by all means, I suggest that you follow everything exactly by the steps you have. However, if you’re more experienced and already know what does and does not work for you…altering what is stated, well… it’s probably already gone through your mind. Or you might be muttering to yourself “that’s the wrong way to do that.” I absolutely get it. What is in those pages flies in the face of what you know. That doesn’t mean it won’t work. It just means that it won’t work for you.
Thus, I get labeled as not being a “proper” Druid because I do things my own way. Fuck, I mean I’ve been on my Path for over thirty years. I’m already well versed in what does and does not work for me. But that doesn’t mean I’ve seen it all. I try to keep my mind open to the possibility that something will come along that I’ve never encountered before. I’d have to try it before I’d say that it doesn’t work. On top of that, I’m also not arrogant enough to believe that something I tried before and decided didn’t work for me – won’t work for me now. If you want some admission of that, read the blog post “Break Glass in Case of Emergency.” But to be honest, I stopped worrying about whether or not I am a “proper” whatever…I’m me. I have my own faults. I can be stubborn (ask Shadow), and sometimes I have to be gently walked over to a solution that I don’t want to consider. Every single day is a learning experience. You just have to open your mind to the possibilities. To illustrate that, I’ll toss out another quote – this time from Metallica.
And if I close my mind in fear Please pry it open
Metallica, The Outlaw Torn
Remember folks. These people that wrote books, these people that write blogs….they are just as human and fallible as you are. Want to make your own path in Paganism stronger? Focus on your intent. Find what works for you. Focus on the reason behind the celebration instead of the structural components. In my opinion, your Paganism is about what you intend for it. Your Paganism is about the experience and emotion that wells up inside of you. Whatever works to make that stuff rise up in you…that’s what all of this is about. How you get there…well, that can vary from individual to individual. I’m far more concerned in finding my experiences within my Paganism, finding the meaning for me behind each ritual aspect I encounter than I am worried about being a “proper” Druid. Whatever the fuck that is.
My theory on pretty much everything is easily summed up in a quote from one of my favorite games.
The D&D game has no rules, only rule suggestions. No rule is inviolate, particularly if a new or altered rule will encourage creativity and imagination. The important thing is to enjoy the adventure.
Tom Moldvay, from the foreword of Dungeons & Dragons Fantasy Adventure Game Basic Rulebook
I pretty much apply this to everything in my life. Cooking, baking, knitting, sometimes speed limits … (kidding, … maybe). But I read the instructions and then generally follow them but make changes as needed. Clearly, some things can’t just be winged. If I’m baking a cake I’m more likely to follow the directions closer than if I’m throwing together chicken and herbs into a skillet. If I’m knitting straight mindless socks then I’ll fudge the numbers, even with some patterns. If I can make it look intentional then it’s fair game. If it’s intense lace, well, I’ve been known to perform surgery on it to undo several rows and make it exactly as directed.
And when it comes to my witchery? Yup, same thing. I’m :checks calendar: thirty-eight and I’ve been practicing magic since I was 5, untrained and by instinct. I do what feels right. Originally I kept my alter exactly as I found in a beginner’s book. One day I rearranged everything to something that felt more natural to me. I used to pull up a circle for every single thing that I did. Now? Only if it’s incredibly important and I feel that it’s worth “bothering” the elements or deities. Do I think I’m actually bothering them? No. But if I’m putting thankfulness, positivity, or stirring my coffee with the intent of having a good day then there’s no need to call upon everybody. They’ll hear me anyhow. When my husband was sick with Covid I pulled up a circle, called all of the quarters, and called upon both a god and a goddess for his renewed health.
What it really comes down to is what fits best for you. Try this, try that, try it again, just in case. Keep what works, toss what doesn’t, and understand that my connection to the natural energies is not the same as yours. And that’s good because it takes all kinds to keep this world going. We all have our place in the great scheme of things.
Usually, this is the time of year where I start to get questions about what I am doing for Samhain. This year, not so much. That’s been both a relief and a touch puzzling. But it is understandable, especially since nearly everyone I know is aware of the state of flux my life is in at this moment in time. But, I thought I’d try and discuss this just a little bit, just in case someone out there is looking for ideas of what to do.
This year is a super odd year. We have COVID-19 floating around. There’s all the angst over a potential second term of President Trump coupled with a contentious election cycle. Some folks are still being affected by the various state shutdowns, as jobs haven’t come back as robust as many had thought those might. And this year, the full moon is on Halloween. Take your pick from those or find one of your own, if you want – this year’s Samhain will definitely be a little odd.
For me the biggest driving factor throughout this year has been what I’ve been trying to avoid since March – COVID-19. For public events and such, this has been the largest consideration I have to take into account. Trust me, it’s not an easy thing to deal with. I’m moving two-hundred miles and it’s a major concern every time I put the truck in gear to drive the distance to and from. All I can do is take my normal precautions and just try to avoid people who aren’t doing the things that matter.
Currently, I have an invite to a gathering in Oklahoma for Samhain. However, I am not sure I will make it. First, I saw that the COVID-19 numbers in Oklahoma City are climbing. That brings major concern to me. Secondly, I have no tent to sleep in. The option I have to work with is to throw a sleeping bag in the back of my cab (I drive a Supercab F150) and sleep there. My third issue is the distance, which is greater than the distance between where I am now and Houston, where I am headed to live. So there’s a chance that this may be something I don’t make. Other options include attending any of a number of online events that will be occurring. Not quite the same thing as a live event, but better than nothing. Or I can do ritual on my own, inside the confines of the house I am currently living in. This is more than likely going to wind up being the option I work with. I’ll have to do a lot of improvisation, as most of my ritual materials are in Houston and I have no plans to drag them back to here.
But then there’s Trick or Treating. I have my cloak, I have my crow-skull mask, I have black clothing, and I can wear a mask under the skull to keep me safe. Yeah, I might handle the trick or treating stuff….I mean, I do like all the little kids that come to the door. It’s something that I usually find to be entertaining…but the trick or treaters tend to be smaller and smaller in number. So, I have the potential to be a bit disappointed over the turnout.
In the past, most of my Samhain stuff has basically been me staying indoors and spending time in meditation. But that’s not really been cutting it for me the past few years. So, some of this is about being a little more out in the open and having a little bit more fun. Yeah, for those who have known me for a while…. it’s definitely a different me. But Samhain should be a time of fun, spookiness, and mystery. You aren’t going to get much of that with the porch light off and you sitting in a darkened office room by yourself. or at least, I’m finding that to be the case.
My hope is that this is the last Samhain I spend alone. I have ideas of what to do if that winds up being the case. Just as I have ideas of what I can provide to the celebration in Oklahoma – should I find a way to get there safely and sleep…somewhere. LOL
Back in the mid 1980s, when I decided to take up poetry writing, I used rhyming schematics. For a while, I found it a lot of fun trying to work out the rhyming aspect while fashioning words that helped convey meaning around it. At some point, I decided I was fairly bad at it and moved over to non-rhyming schematics, as it made it far easier to write what was on my mind. About six or seven years ago, I gave up on that too…because I was really bad at it. And I mean really bad. And I still am, hence the naming convention I have chosen for Thursday blog posts: Bad Poetry Thursday. I know it sounds like I am being self-defeatist and just beating myself down with some self-deprecating humor, which I have been told by a lot of people I need to stop doing it. But this isn’t just a humorous attempt at naming what I do – its a reality check for myself too. There are folks that really like the poetry I write, including the open verse material. I’m flattered that they do, but I still consider it to be some of the worst writing that I do. Maybe I am my own worst critic – and I probably am. Most writers tend to be.
So, for today’s Bad Poetry Thursday I thought I would try to go back to rhyming poetry. The below work was written in about five to seven minutes. I added a few more minutes to go through and do some formatting to how its written. I hope you enjoy it, but I am not going to be offended if you hold your nose through the reading process. #JustSayin’ 🙂
My Own Beast of the Mind
I hear you screaming in the landscape of my mind Hunting me throughout my day, deep into my night Somewhere in the dense fog of the unknown Hidden far away from any part of my sight
I hide where I think I can not be seen Aware of your steps throughout it all I can hear your breath and smell your stench The talons on your claws to drag me to my fall
I know you’re there, ready to attack Sooner or later, I’ll have to do what’s right Find whatever weapons that I can Whether I want to or not, I will have to fight
I have to come out into the open and face you Meet your green-eyed gaze and answer your call Push the panic down and find my shield Await your charge with my back against the wall
Because I have to…I have no choice Or you will consume every part of me
Personal boundaries are always a necessary thing. At one point in my life, I had an extremely intricate set of personal boundaries. Certain people could have this part of my life, but not that part. Only certain people would I talk with about stuff like that. Everyone could get the very washed out “morning” versions of me on Facebook. It was a lot of compartmentalizing. And all of it was done for one reason – to protect myself from everyone else.
I guess to really illustrate this point, I need to provide a touch of background. When I was in my early twenties, I was a very open individual. You wanted to know something about me, all you had to do was ask. I had no problem telling you. But after a few years, certain people started exploiting that openness and would either use me for their own means or deliberately hurt me emotionally. This caused me to build my own walls, boundaries if you want and started placing people outside of certain pieces of who I was. I even started to compartmentalize my life. I would only talk about politics with these people. Only baseball with these people. Only work with these people. Only Pagan stuff with these people. And the number of people who had access to all of that information was infinitely small. Then there was the section where I held all the stuff about me. What I wanted out of life. What my dreams were. And no one had access to all of that except me; that was where I kept my heart and soul.
In 2006, one person finally got into all of that. And truthfully, I didn’t even realize it until a few years later. At that point, I was being torn to shreds over my inability to do the right thing and it hurt more than anything else. Somehow, she had managed to get past all the boundaries without me realizing it. She had complete access to my heart and soul. However, despite all of that, I kept my boundaries. In fact, I built more. Now, fast forward to 2018. Those walls and boundaries made life very quiet, sheltered, and lonely. That one person entered back into my life, and her unfettered access across the boundaries was still there. Through a few discussions, I started to realize what I had been doing wrong. I had made too many boundaries in my life. I needed to open up a bit more. Her access to every aspect of my life is still there. There are no boundaries and barriers for her. I want it that way. But I don’t have so many barriers and boundaries in my life anymore.
I live my life out in the open now. I’m a Pagan. I’m a Druid. I’m a Polytheist. I am polyamorous. I am fifty-five. I am an Information Technology data systems specialist. I am currently unemployed. I am so much more than all of that. And it’s out there for people to see. Why? Because it can’t be used as a weapon against me. None of it is a secret that I am hiding from anyone. If you don’t like any aspect of it, you can move on or you can choose to accept that my life is different from yours, but you still enjoy and respect me as your friend. There’s a boundary. It’s a simple one. I won’t tolerate being disrespected or anyone disrespecting those of my chosen family. There’s another boundary. So, I haven’t gotten rid of every boundary that I have. But opening up my boundaries has opened up my eyes to possibilities I had never contemplated before.
Aspects of my Druidry have changed a bit. Parts of my personality are changing slightly. Instead of being closed off to chances and opportunities in magick that I would never have chosen to work with except in dire emergencies, I’m open to some of these as first options. My perspective about dealing with things such as politics has altered a bit. Because, in losing many of those boundaries and walls, I can now see a little more objectively than before. I am not saying that my boundaries blinded me, just that my boundaries limited me. Yes, I built the boundaries to protect my heart, to keep me from being hurt. But I have learned that hurts like that can be healed, especially if you have someone that is willing to help heal and care for your heart and soul. Someone whose heart and soul that you want to help heal and protect as well. Because together, nothing can stop either of you.
Don’t misunderstand. My first statement still holds true. Personal boundaries are always a necessary thing. But be careful about how many boundaries you create. Because you never know when you might trap yourself in your own maze. I’ve been there. It’s not a great feeling. Compartmentalizing your life, something I consider to be another form of boundary making, is a technique that I have found sucks the joy and happiness out of life. You spend all your time trying to remember how to act with this group but not with that group. Life has gotten a lot easier for me since I stopped doing all of that. I’m just me. I have no need or desire to hide pieces of myself away from polite company. Either accept me as I am or you don’t. It’s really that simple. And if you feel that the way I live my life makes it difficult for you to be my friend, I completely understand. My feelings are not going to be hurt if we part and go our separate ways. I’ve found my love, my family, and my tribe. All of this not only works for me, it is me. And to be honest, I’m just tired of hiding behind the walls of the maze.
I have often surprised people with my lack of walls. Surprised, shocked, even scared them.
“How can you do that? How can you just tell everybody everything?”
Well, first off, that’s not what that means. Secondly, I don’t necessarily tell everybody everything. I just don’t shy away from answering questions. I wear my pentagram bracelet every day. I have crystals and a wheel of the year on display in my office cube. I have nothing to hide. I chose to live my life so that should I ever have to look back on my choices and decisions, I won’t regret them.
So how does this work in the real world? Simple. I am the same with every single person I meet. I am open, friendly, and helpful. If they have questions I answer. If they chastise me for my life, I smile and say okay. It’s clear I don’t agree with them and I’m not going to change anything about how I live my life but that doesn’t mean I need to engage with them over it. I don’t need to convince them of anything; I’m not going to change their mind. Instead, I continue my life, I continue to spread love, happiness, and light … and to point out those that Kharma might want to take a closer look at. :bright smile:
Walls make it harder to keep your life straight. Walls make it easier for others to use things against you. Clearly, if you’re “scared” to share information with certain people, that’s something that can be held over you. And if you’re open with things, well, what can they threaten you with? So fewer walls mean fewer divisions of who has access to what, fewer things to remember, and better friends. Because people know who you ‘really’ are when you have fewer walls and you’re likely to have stronger bonds with those who know they’re safe to be themselves with you. Then it becomes an ever-expanding ripple of people just being honest and kind. No downside there.
So, let me tick off a list of things that I said I hardly ever do in my own Druidry practices. Spell work, check. Well planned and thought out ritual (as opposed to impromptu or off-the-cuff ritual), check. Darker magicks, check. Tarot cards, check. You will find a lot of commentary based around all of that throughout the blog. Well, guess what? Never, say never. You’re reading that correctly. In the last two weeks, parts of my Druidry have crossed over into the areas that I, personally, would ascribe as being much closer to Witchcraft than Druidry. What in the Nine Hells happened, huh? Mostly circumstance and need, but this illustrates the particular point of never saying never. All of these particular techniques can basically be considered as arrows in the quiver. And while those arrows may never be used until a need arises, what happens when you start to stretch and flex these magickal muscles that haven’t been used? And does it mean that my Druidry is changing?
Knocking the Rust Off
I have always said that magick use for me is always the option of last resort. I’m a Druid. I like to talk my way out of things, if possible. I like to find ways for cooler heads to prevail. If that does not work, physical mundane means are usually the next position to take. Essentially, roll up your sleeves and get the work done. However, if that is not possible – the last option is to turn to magick. This is a little flawed logic. Yes, I am admitting to using flawed logic in my approach to various things. Because, sometimes magick should be the first option, particularly if you are trying to bend the Will of another to see reason. No, I am not saying start throwing the curses the moment shit doesn’t go your way. Not at all. Rather, utilize some subtle magicks to help the other side see reason in an issue. Then, the talky bit might work a little better. Consider it to be greasing the hinges so the door doesn’t squeak, if you prefer. For me, this was a pretty tough realization to come to. It changes a lot of the tactics I have utilized in various dealings. This also means that I have to knock the rust off of a lot of techniques I have not used in years.
Flexing Muscles That Haven’t Been Used in Years
One of the very first magickal techniques I ever learned was shielding. My shielding was built a few decades ago. That’s right. Decades. Due to the recent changes in my life, I have been battered in ways I never could imagine. It took about a week to realize that my own personal shielding just wasn’t holding up. The problem for me was that I had literally forgotten how my shielding had been built. So I needed advice on what to do. So I turned to the person that taught me about shielding. Folks, I have been on a Pagan path for well over thirty years and here I was approaching an old friend on how she had taught me to build shielding because I had actually forgotten how. There’s a short lesson here – do not be afraid to reach out for help, no matter how long you have been on your Path. Realize when you are in over your head and find that lifeline you need. A quick re-learn-it session over Facebook Messenger, and I was ready to rebuild and reinforce my shielding. Even with the warnings about drawing too much energy to yourself, I did it anyway. I wound up being wide awake for most of the night. See, I wasn’t USED to using those muscles anymore. As Shadow had reminded me, much like coding – when you don’t practice it, you lose it and have to do some relearning. These are muscles that have weakened from disuse because my philosophical perspective was not entirely appropriate.
Is My Druidry Changing?
Three days after that, I have done two more rituals with intent and purpose behind them. One of those was my usual impromptu style ritual, which – well just didn’t have a lot of the “zing” (for lack of a better word) I expected it to have. The other, I spent some time crafting out the pieces of the ritual. I included a list of things that were needed for the ritual. I included a set of semi-readable instructions for setting up for the ritual prior to creating Sacred Space. I wrote a step-by-step ritual with spoken and non-spoken aspects. I included an aspect of disposing of the detritus left over from everything. When I did the ritual, I was not great at what I was doing. I did not flow well within the ritual with my spoken parts and my non-spoken parts. I stopped several times to figure out where I was and what needed to be done next. From a theatrical perspective, it was shit. However, what was in my heart, what I brought forward from my soul….that made up for the shit part. I have always said that heartfelt intent is better than theatrics any single day of the week. But after I got done, I started looking back at all I have done over the course of two weeks (about sixteen days). As I noted, many of these things I have done have a feel that is closer to Witchcraft than Druidry. So I began to wonder out loud if my Druidry was changing into something else??
I had hoped to have a quote from one of Philip Carr-Gomm’s books for right here, but most of my personal library is sitting in a box in what will be my bedroom soon enough. So, in the meantime, I’ll have to improvise through this a little. Druids follow a path of Druidry. Witches follow their Paths in Witchcraft. However, there are some overlaps between the two, particularly in the usage of magickal workings. So, as I wring my magickal fingers and stretch my ritual muscles and re-learn processes that so many consider to be everyday basic stuff – much of these techniques have overlap between the two areas. So is my usage of techniques such as spell work, tarot cards for divination and what have you – changing me into a Witch? No, not really. What is happening is that I am re-learning techniques and concepts that I have set to the side for some very wrong perspectives. If you prefer, I am growing again in my Druidry in a direction I had previously not considered for anything other than a “break glass in case of emergency” moment. The reality is that I never needed to approach it from that point of view.
So, here’s where I admit that I am wrong about my perspective on magicks, spell usage, structured rituals, and tarot cards. And I further admit that my gorgeous editor AND my lifelong, always long-distance friend LL were both right. Unfortunately for me, it took a “break glass in case of emergency” moment to realize this. I’m just thankful that the two of them are gracious enough not to sing “I told you so” to my face too many times. 🙂 Finally, I would add this – take a good look at your “whys” when it comes to not using this or that magickal technique or concept. just check on it every once in a while. Turn it over in your mind and see if it still applies. Because you do change and grow, so do your perspectives.
It is morning on the beach Flat wisps of clouds caress the horizon Over a flat, motionless pale blue sheet That reflects the brightness of the rising sun
The soft, fluffy sands of the dunes around me Move slowly with the hint of a slight breeze Which carries the sounds of my phone’s music Softly playing some country music artist’s lonely tale
I lean back on the dune looking upwards into the sky As squadrons of seagulls drift along on wind currents Unfelt dozens of feet beneath their altitude Seemingly searching on pathways completely unseen
I have been here for hours but really only mere minutes Just watching the scene playing out in front of me Long before the daily crowd of sun worshippers arrive Just me and the quiet life around – serenity for thinking
Playing the “what-ifs”, “what might have beens” over and over Turning over every stone of the Past expecting something new And finding the same brown soil that was already all around An empty spiral rolling around and around with no end
Seeing a nearby rock, I reach over and pick it up Half expecting to see something different than the sand beneath For a moment, I realize what this means, what she had said And again, she is right. One of these days, I’ll listen
I reach back and throw the rock into the glassy blue sheet The ripples form immediately after the splash I watch for a moment and then stand up Gathering up my tennis shoes and socks, I walk to the parking lot
One of these days, I’ll listen For right now, its time to jump
I have a few places I go to when I need moments alone. One of my favorites is a forest that is a special place for me. The beach scenario I describe above is one of the rare places I go. Usually, its for moments of necessary solitude, where I get to spend my time thinking. Yesterday (Tuesday, as I write this), I needed this place more than I have before. In real life, I’ve never seen this beach in my life. My thoughts are that it may be on the eastern shores of Florida or possibly even one of the beaches of southern California. Physically, wherever this beach is really doesn’t matter. The music playing from my phone is typically that of the so-called “Bakersfield Beat” which is a sub-genre of country music that is significantly influenced by the electric rock sound. The Eagles, Dwight Yoakum, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Poco and so many others typify this sound.
Oh? The stone? That’s a symbol of the Past. Putting it back into the ocean….well, that’s an easy one to figure out. 🙂
I just turned fifty-five years old eleven days ago. Fifty-five. I kept trying to wrap my head around that age and then I started thinking back to where I’ve been, what I’ve done, the things I hadn’t done, the things I can’t go back and correct now….and just stop. Anyone recognize the little trap I just stepped into? No? Didn’t even notice? I’m wearing it on my foot right here on my boot (pointing down at right foot). It’s me, living in the past. Did you notice how one thing led to another which lead to another and another and another….all focused on way back there (thumb pointed over shoulder)? Yeah. There’s a problem there. I keep focus on the past, I keep forgetting to see and appreciate what is right here in my face. Nor do I have an eye fixed to the horizon to see what may potentially arise in the near future.
Looking backwards to what you have done is a nice thing to do occasionally, after all, its a great way to have a quick look into experiences and see what you can draw from that. It is, after all, one of the ways that we learn: looking back to what we’ve done before and applying that experience to something we are trying for the first time. But remember that those applications of technique are not necessarily the same as what you need to apply now. You may need to adjust things a little to make it work. Or just utilize the theory of “why” you did that back then and apply that to now, knowing that the actual application will look nothing like what you did before.
In Your Studies
One place where constantly looking backwards has a tendency to trip me up is in my own Ovate studies. I have spent a lot of time trying to compare the techniques that I utilized in my Bardic studies to what I should be doing in my Ovate studies. Well, Bardic studies are Bardic studies. Ovate studies are Ovate studies. Trying to lay a blueprint of one over the other is just silly. Taken in a different context, you are not going to study for your American History up until 1835 college class the same way you are going to prepare for a Realtor’s exam, right? It is nice; however, to look back on that Texas Government class that you took and nearly aced. It’s an achievement that you can really have pride in. But that nearly perfect class score (yes I did this. I managed to get every single point for my class, save four) is not going to allow you to pass a mathematics course you take the next semester. Focus on the here and now to accomplish what needs to be done.
In Your Mundane Life
The same concept holds true in other parts of your life too. Remember how you fixed that clogged drain in the bathtub? That was great. You did a few things you had read about elsewhere, then applied the clogged drain stuff and it worked. But that one achievement isn’t going to mean anything should you forget to take out the over-flowing trash can. That fixed drain might turn you into an overnight hero to your significant other, but that isn’t going to make up for the missed trash pickup. Yes, even in your job or career, you might make the big catch that saves the company millions. However, you slip a few deadlines and your reputation within the company is going to take a dive from that million-dollar hero status.
What Have You Done Lately?
Sure, I get it – this has the sounds of the ‘What have you done for me lately?” overtone. Except that it doesn’t have to. This is not really about throwing the Past into the garbage can and moving on to the next thing. I know it seems like it is, but its really not. This is about focusing on the results that need to be completed now. About making progress on your journey.
Every single one of us has taken those trips to the touristy locations. We have all seen the telescopes planted here and there that let you look into the distance for a quarter, or whatever denomination you can think of. Think about constantly looking into the Past in the same vein. You have stopped moving forward in whatever you are doing and you are taking that time to reminisce about what happened. Or maybe, you’re taking a moment to play out a “What-If” scenario in your mind. That stuff is ok from time to time. Nine Hells, its ok to stop, take a step back, and turn around to see where you have come from. But if you spend nearly forever doing that….you’re going nowhere. Your feet are firmly planted where you are. Take that momentary stop, but remember that you need to also keep going.
Looking Forward But Not Moving
Now, there is also the chance of looking forward and seeing everything that needs to be done and getting stuck in what analysts call “paralysis-by-analysis” mode. Where you spend moment after moment looking forward and trying to plot out all the directions and possibilities so that you know where to go, how to do it, and what to do when this or that might happen. Welcome to my world.
I am an extremely calculating individual. My analytical world is a pure flow-chart in my brain. Or, if you live in a programming world like I tend to do in my usual work-flow, its purely a Visio diagram. If this -> then this -> if not then this. That shit is cute outside of work, but it also keeps you from doing what you need to do. Sometimes, you have to throw caution to the wind, leave the calculated odds behind, and just move forward. Otherwise, you can find yourself not moving forward at all and losing out on chances of a lifetime. Other times, you have to ignore the calculated odds and take the damn jump – no matter how scary it may seem.
One Size Does Not Fit All
Now, let me return to something I usually state in nearly every blog post I write. This is my perspective, my understanding of living my life. Essentially, through this blog, I am living “out loud” – providing you aspects of what I have done, what I thought, what I am thinking as I type this….that doesn’t mean that I am saying this is the ONLY way to think. I am a strong believer in the individualistic aspect of each person. We all have our own choices to make. What works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for others. But the only absolute I will provide for you is this – follow your heart. Your Passion is important in life, in my opinion.
So, looking backwards to the Past is a good thing. Until you are doing it so much that you are going nowhere. Looking forwards to the future is not a bad thing either. Until you over-analysis everything, trying to remove some of the surprises that you may encounter. Those surprises might be the life experiences that you absolutely need to experience to move forward in another aspect of your life. The overall point is to be in the here and now. To not make everything in life into a calculated risk or into some flow-charted diagram in your head as is my tendency. Sure, removing the calculated risks may remove some of the bumps and bruises that you will encounter, but you will also miss out on some spectacular moments as well. Forget about what you HAVE or MAY HAVE missed. Take that step into the unknown and experience what you want.
Finally, one of my favorite movies is “The Dead Poet’s Society” with the late Robin Williams. The movie is about taking chances, finding your passion, and going forward with life. Not waiting for something to happen. Not conforming for the sake of conformity, but really living life. Without the flowcharts, without the calculated risks, and without the super-long glances at the Past. The here and the now…..if you have not seen the movie, give it a watch. Every couple of years, I’ll sit down and watch it…just to remember that Life is about taking risks.
I do not often look back. I find it fairly pointless, for most things. I experience a thing, decide whether I liked it or not, and toss out everything I deem unimportant. See, most of my past is trauma-related. From abandonment to all forms of abuse, I’ve lived a few lives in this single life. So when it comes to things from my past, I’m pretty ruthless about tossing things. I may end up with a fairly barebones, ramshackle frame of experience to carry forward but my theory is that I’m lighter.
I have a tendency of jumping from cliffs, often with no parachute. If I carry all that baggage I plummet, but if I’m light then I have a greater chance to coast on thermals until I can safely land.
That isn’t to say that the past is pointless. I do carry some things on, mostly in how I mentally process things. I’m far more willing to give grace to others when I don’t know their story, their trauma that is influencing their current actions. I’m more willing to slow down and stretch out a hand while I coast, to help them find their own wind current to raise them up. But show me hateful living and you’ll find yourself relegated to my past. Things wither and die in my past because I don’t gaze upon them, study them, or give them anything to thrive on. I will nurture the lessons I learned, but nothing more.
Some will say this is foolhardy. And that’s okay. Their opinion is valid for them. I found that carrying too much baggage, looking too often into my past, caused my depression to spiral out of control. So instead, I carry only the bare minimum with me and have no problem cutting people out of my life if they relegate themselves to my past. You don’t want to grow with me? Cool, but do it over there where you’re not pulling me down in your stagnation. Unless you’re part of my soul. Then I drag you kicking and screaming into the sun, walk you to the cliff, and teach you to jump.
A long while back, at a Gulf Coast Gathering, one of the individuals that I initiated into the Bardic Grade with sought me out at the very beginning of camp. I think I had been in camp less than ten minutes at that point. He wanted to let me know that he was initiating into the Ovate Grade at this camp, which thrilled me to no end. That was quickly tempered by part of his next statement: “I was motivated by you going into the Ovate Grade last year. You inspired me to do this.” Inspired….I have always been uncomfortable with the position of being a mentor or a leader. So this particular statement really made me hold back for a moment before giving him a big hug (pre-COVID days, you know?). To provide a bit more context concerning my frame of mind and reaction, I need to take you back in time a little ways, as well as provide a piece of lyrical perspective from a Tommy Shaw solo song.
The United States Air Force trained me how to be a leader and a mentor. I learned how to work with people of different personality traits and to show them how to do a task without taking over completely. Because there’s no experience like hands on. I went to two training schools to learn all of that, Non-Commissioned Officers’ Preparatory School and Airman Leadership School. But even when I was being trained to be able to do handle these leadership skills, I had a very difficult time adjusting my mind to the idea that I was “good enough” to be such a person. Yes, I struggle greatly with the perspective that I am not good enough to have success in my life. I have a fairly good idea where all that originates from, but its not so much something that will help me change that mind-set by confronting it.
Later in my eight-year career, I became a well-liked shift leader by my subordinates,. My leadership style; however, was far too unorthodox for my supervisors. I did not always follow the Air Force’s idea of military discipline. I treated my subordinates as equals in capability and knowledge. I felt that they deserved that much, since I was pouring my knowledge and understanding into them where the job was concerned. My ideal flight of individuals would be those who could do the job as well as I could. In knowledge and skills, they would be my equals. We just happened to be in the Air Force for different amounts of times. See, this was wrong because in the military there is a reason for rank – so a pecking order of who is in charge can be established. Me? I don’t give two shits about that. My focus was on getting the job done and making sure that the people in my flight were the most knowledgeable and capable that they could be. My job was to keep it all together and make sure everything got done. We worked as equals, not as supervisor/subordinate. See, I took the idea of “the mission’s success, at all costs” that I had been taught in my career and morphed it into my own philosophy. To this day, I’ve utilized that philosophy in my work, but to much less spectacular results. Life outside of the work place is much more important than what you do for a paycheck, a lesson I learned the very hard way.
I have always had an extreme fear about being a leader, especially a Spiritual one. I’ve watched scandal after scandal from Christian leaders and even Pagan ones, to not see the warning signs. Absolute power will corrupt absolutely. Tommy Shaw put out a song that succinctly explains my trepidation with all of this in a single lyrical moment. The song comes his first solo album, “Girls With Guns”. The song is called ‘Free to Love You”.
I don’t want to grow up To be a preacher I don’t want your soul in my hands
When I hear people call me an inspiration, these lyrics immediately spring to mind. When I hear those kinds of words, I feel myself being placed on a pedestal (and I really am scared of heights). I am truly no one special. Not to be put on that level. So I hear that kind of praise and I can imagine myself arguing with people and telling them to use the wood they are building the pedestal with for something else. Build a house, make a fire and cook food for everyone….anything but that.
What makes this even more difficult is when people start characterizing me as a person with the “best moral and ethical character that I know.” Back when the tv series The Mandalorian came out, Shadow wanted to sit down and watch the series with me. “He reminds me of you.” Sure as shit, she was right. The Mandalorian is not a leader. He gets a mission he fulfills it, sometimes using questionable tactics. But essentially, he’s just trying to make his way through life, while trying to do the right thing. This really epitomizes my daily walk. I’m no Saint. I have a moral code to what I do. I have an ethical responsibility to others as well. Sometimes those don’t mesh well with the typical perspective of the rest of society. I have done quite a few questionable things in my career, in order to get the job done. Sometimes even sacrificing my happiness. And honestly, that’s not a good choice. So I wouldn’t classify myself as a paragon of good virtue.
Despite all of that, I have to grapple with one realization. I AM a teacher. As much as I want to deny that, I know I’m good at it. One of my styles of teaching is to inspire people to look at the topic and turn it over and over until it calls to them. I have been doing that since 1988, when my duty section Supervisor put me in charge of learning the new Uninterrupted Power Subsystem for the mainframe we worked on. Then tasked me with teaching all the other shifts. I was excited about a new piece of technology being added to the system. That showed when I tried to teach others. Even the ones that didn’t want to learn. This was exactly the style of teaching that I did in the collegiate classrooms later on in my life. I don’t always reach everyone, but I always said that if I reached a single student in a year, I would be satisfied with that effort.
Now I can’t teach any Druidic students because of where I am on my current Path. However, if I did – and OBOD would want me to do so – I would prefer to be a tutor in their system. Currently, I am headed to Houston, somewhere that I am not aware of many OBOD folks. I may not be able to run study groups, but I can try and build a social perspective within the area. At least gather folks together that have like-minded perspectives and want to spend time together. More on that much later, when I have my feet a bit more firmly on the ground there.
I can be an inspiration to others, just by living my life. Out loud. Out in the open. No fences. No apologies. I am definitely not everyone’s cup of tea, so to speak, but I am not worried about that anymore. I have my own Spiritual practice to work with. I have Gods that I work with. I have an equal partner in my life. I am a perpetual student. Somewhere in all of that, someone is drawing some kind of inspiration to move forward in their life, to seek joy, happiness and positivity in all that they do through the day. And if that is just one person in an entire lifetime, then I have provided my own little spark to their part of the Universe. And in that, I can rejoice. I just have to make sure no one puts me sky-high on a tiny platform.😉
There are times that you need to clear away things in your Life, so that new growth can take place. Old hobbies that no longer interest you, clothes that no longer fit or cannot be repaired, and even entire parts of one’s past. A crucible is a ceramic or metal container where substances can be melted down or subjected to very high temperatures. This is sometimes done to burn away everything except the base metal itself. However, in this case, I am using the definition that a crucible is “a situation of severe trial, or in which different elements interact, leading to the creation of something new.” (Dictionary.com)
The Crucible of Change 10/6/2020
Looking back at the past
Burning bright in the distance
This had to be done
To be able to go forward
Not all is gone though
Some pieces of the past endure
The fires of destruction
The crucible of change
Those pieces are malleable
Able to evolve with a new focus, a new dream
Remaining as true as they were
When they started along on this Path
There is no sadness at the flames
No regrets to this complete reduction
This choice is the Path I am to walk
With these people whom I chosen as family
For the new to grow joyfully and properly
The way must be cleared
For growth will require new soil, new life
For the roots to be true and deep
The Universe set all of this before you
You made the choice that you have
You stepped off into the void
Knowing the dragon would catch you
Much of my Pagan Life, I have avoided the usage of Tarot Cards and other aspects of Divination. There were a lot of reasons behind this decision that I made, all of which – until recently – continued to be the logic behind my perspective. I want to take a little time to discuss some of these and why these are no longer valid for me. Perhaps you have had some of the same thoughts or maybe others that I do not address here. Perhaps it might be time to take a look at where things sit and attempt to reconsider your position based on those thoughts. I know it made a difference for me.
Trying to figure out which deck worked best for me was always a confusing process to try and undertake. I never knew which one may be best for me and which one would not be suitable. When I asked folks how they figured out which deck was best for them, I get a myriad of answers that only confused me more. Look at the artwork, see it speaks to you. Hold the cards in your hands. See how they feel. Meditate over them for a few moments and see if any deck calls to you. Look at the price and see which one fits into your budget at the time (seriously). For me, the answer came in a little different manner. I attended my last Pantheacon in 2018, where Kristoffer Hughes was selling his Celtic Tarot deck. I had listened to a lot of Kristoffer’s talks and quickly realized that he spoke straight-forward and honestly on various topics. I surmised that the same would hold true for a Tarot Deck that he helped develop. I bought a deck and it made it to my bookshelf. Where it sat, unopened. Now, nearly a year and a half later, I finally opened the deck, spread it all over the floor so that I could create reverse cards within any given reading, brought the deck back together and started the process of my first reading. That reading not only turned out to be accurate, but quite a swift kick in my ass as well. Three more readings brought more navigational points that also pointed in the same direction. I realized that without thinking about it, without going through all the meditation processes, gazing at the artwork endlessly or even considering the price…I had found a deck that worked with me. But was it the deck or me? More on that in a moment.
When I first started looking at tarot I was astounded and confused by the large number of layouts that one could do a reading through. if you go to a search engine and try to find a card spread that you can examine and try working with – there are hundreds. Some are more complicated than others, some are rather simplistic. For my purposes, I stuck with the three-card layout that is in the accompanying book with the Celtic Tarot. While keeping the question in my mind, I shuffled the deck nine times (three times three…I’m a druid, so threes are important). The first card explores the issue itself. The second card explores the unconscious factors, or things that you may not be aware of. The third card brings the two together in a conclusive manner to offer guidance. For me, this particular layout was short, concise and to the point. Precisely what a novice such as myself needed.
Now others will swear by more complicated layouts where more cards are revealed. I’m sure those work with folks that have been using the cards for large amounts of time. But right now, I am just a novice at doing this. So the simple three-card layout seems to be the best option at this point.
Not Knowing Attributes by Memory
One of the most intimidating things about tarot cards is trying to discuss readings with others. Many of these folks have the attributes of each card in the deck memorized. They also have many layouts memorized and can just look at a spread of tarot cards and provide answers to you immediately. Little ol’ novice me has to take the time to open the associated book, flip through the pages to find the section on that card and then read what it written there. After that, comes a few moments of trying to analyze what I just read and piecing that together around the question that I asked. Then, moving on to each successive card and then trying to piece all of that information into a cognitive perspective. It has always been intimidating when the far more experienced tarot readers rattle things off so quickly and then are seemingly offended when you can’t quite keep up.
This used to turn me off to even getting involved with the tarot at all. I can’t get to where those people are over the course of a few days. I wind up feeling like I am just “not good enough” to do this. Until one day when I was refusing to attempt tarot readings in a meditation with Abnoba. She pointed out to me that at one time, I was just as much of a novice in programming languages. it took me time to learn the constructs of various programming schematics before I got fairly decent at putting these into practice without much thought. “You need to practice. Spend time with the cards of your choosing. You will get better. You know this.” After considering that, I started to realize that when discussing programming techniques with novice code-writers, I was probably just as intimidating and maybe even came off as a bit dismissive. Perspective truly means everything, folks.
Not Placing Faith in the Process
One of the most difficult parts of the process of working with the tarot, at least for me, is placing my faith in the process. One Witch that I have known wanted to work some magick on me. I consented, thinking the person was only playing at what they were doing, not really knowing that they had the skill and the power to do just what they were suggesting. That particular bit of spell work continues to work to this day. I was proven wrong (happily though).
The same holds true with working with the tarot. Have faith that what you are doing by working with these decks will produce results. The results may not be exactly what you intended or bring up more questions than get answered, but that is a result. More of a starting point than an ending place. One thing I have found to be completely true in any case, is that the magick is inside of you. have faith in your ability to put your personal magick into the reading. But that leads me to a final question.
Is It the Deck or You?
Where does the real power for all of this lie, in you or the deck of cards? I am no expert, but I would posit that it all lies within you. The deck merely acts as an amplifier or a magnifying glass concerning all that could be, that surrounds you. And by “could be”, I suggest that there are many places in Life where choices have to be made. Sometimes, the tarot can bring to light some of the points that may bring those choices to life.
I see the tarot as tool that amplifies all that is around you and shows you the potential of what can be, should you work with what you had asked in your original question. Its not a Magic Eight-ball with its crudely set choice of x number of answers. Rather, it is a system and methodology of being able to plug deeper into your own thoughts and reactions. Of course, I have no proof of that, aside from the readings that I have done. It still remains to be seen how well the cards will continue to respond to my self-readings, much less the extra complication of doing readings for others.
I went from a half-skeptical individual to believing in the tarot’s possible capabilities. That will teach me to close off my mind to the possibilities. And I have so much more to learn.