What I Have Come Away With From This Trip

So today is the last full day of being here in Colorado. In the morning, the two-day trek home will begin. Yesterday was a trip up to Silverton on the Narrow-Gauge Railroad that starts in Durango. The morning was cold and wet. The town is located at an altitude of 9,318 feet. Not all that high, but high enough to allow my body to begin to betray me.

Through this entire trip, I have suffered from having immense trouble breathing. I brought my prescribed inhaler with me, which helped somewhat, but as strongly as I wished it had. See, a few years back I went on a trip to Iceland, close to the start of the winter season. To keep the weight down in my luggage, I opted for a far lighter coat than I should have – and eventually caught a cold that had been raging throughout the bus. Everyone else had the time to recover from their colds through the trip. I managed to catch mine on the trip back to the airport. Leaving 25F Iceland and arriving in 95F Tejas, my cold quickly developed into pneumonia, which eventually had me hospitalized for six days. My Primary Care Physician told me that my lungs would never be the same again. I believed that I could go through long walks to get my breathing back up again. Then COVID hit, and I stayed isolated from the world because of my horrible immune system. Exercise was not really in the cards.

A few short walks during this trip, and I realized that the combination of the heat (nearly 90F each day), the smoke conditions from fires further west, and my extremely deteriorated health would not allow me a good chance of walking the strenuous Petroglyph Point Trail. Couple this with the knowledge that the National Park Service had a serious statement about not leaving offerings within the Mesa Verde National Park, and I realized my chance to walk the trail and leave the offering I wanted were dashed. However, there was another trail that I could walk – the Step House Trail. Only 0.8 miles in length, and listed as a “lightly traveled” path, I figured I had my walking trail for Mesa Verde.

Carrying only my cell phone and a single bottle of water, I traversed the Path down to the residential location of a pre-historic Ute family. Getting down was the easy part. Going back was just as steep. By the time I reached the top of the trail, where the easier, flatter terrain of the mesa was located – I could barely breathe. In fact, I had a slightly severe asthma attack, and spent about fifteen minutes taking multiple hits from the inhaler, as well as trying to bring my breathing to some aspect of normal. The steep climb did me in – and it really wasn’t that steep.

In my earlier posts, I noted some of the risky chances I took on Petroglyph Point Trail, when I visited here six years ago. I felt like I took just as risky a chance on this 0.8-mile hike. But it also raised a few realizations for me. First, I need to work on getting my ability to breathe through normal exertion back to where it was previously. I’ll never be a marathon runner, but I should be able to make a one-mile walk without overexerting myself. Second, I need to be very serious about where I currently am health-wise. I’ve done more than enough fooling myself into believing that I am “ok”. I’m not. Third, I need to do this slow, incrementally. I am not going to turn this around overnight. I’m fifty-five now, getting ready to turn one year old come October. I certainly need to do a far better job of keeping myself healthy, that’s for sure.

When I made it to the Visitor’s Center at the main entrance to the park, there was a line to get inside to the bookstore. A sign noted that only “ten people” could be in the bookstore at any time. I politely and quietly waited for my turn. Given the rise of the delta variant of COVID-19, I have worn my OBOD facemask into every public location I have been. No one has ever noted the Awen on the mask before. Until the moment I was let in. The employee who ushered me in asked if I was an OBOD member. I replied that I was a member of OBOD in my Ovate Grade. Talking for a few moments, we realized that we both knew a particular OBOD member. The moment was a little jarring since no one has ever commented on my facemask before. But it was also a little reminder that while I am a Solo member, I cannot hide from the rest of the world. Just being on this trip has been important to me.

So, I did not get the chance to leave my offering at Petroglyph Point Trail. As one of the First Nations elders that I speak with from time to time reminded me: that same offering will have the same power when done in the confines of my backyard. It’s the intention that matters, not the location. The trip is also a reminder of the fragile perspective that I am at right now with my health. I am already formulating gentle steps to resolve that. I am also reminded that such acts of exercising can be construed as acts of self-love. I need to make myself better. There is still so much to do…and I still await what tasks Crow will eventually place me on. I need to be outside more often, among other Pagans more often – so I can continue to learn through engaging with others. I have moved so far away from that, that I am surprised when it happens – even with strangers.

I know…much of this may be boring for others to read. However, I hope that some part of all of this might remind a few of you that there is so much more to live for, so much more to do. We need to put ourselves in the right positions to do that work.

–Tommy

Quiet Restart in a Familiar Place

I am now ensconced in the Enchanted Retreat, a lovely little locale just north and west of Mancos, Colorado. On my list trip here, six years ago, this was the little cabin-ish location that I had stayed at before. Here, its quiet, peaceful, and the wildlife is teeming right outside the window. So far, I have seen a Blue Jay, some chipmunks, hummingbirds, and a few other birds that I cannot readily identify. Right now, I am watching two hummingbirds playing a game of chase around the feeder. The only sounds I can hear, aside from the various birds, is the hum of the fans laid out throughout this small house, blowing air around. Yeah, its hot. No central air to the location, which is perfectly fine. In a way of thinking, it’s a much simpler life than I am used to back in central Tejas. It is peaceful, tranquil, and exactly what I need at this point in my daily life.

I had many intentions in coming back here – mostly to reset things in my life. One was to hike the Petroglyph Point Trail in Mesa Verde National Park and leave an offering to Crow. My offering was intended to be loose-leaf tobacco, some water, and a few words of my own to give thanks. However, I have learned that the National Park Service does expressly ask for offerings not to be left within the Park. Two of the First Nations elders that I speak with frequently via Email have also stated that it is best to follow the advice of the National Park Service. One noted that I could hold such an offering of thanks in my own backyard, along with a small fire. “Crow will not care where the offering is made, so long as it is made.” So, my idea to walk Petroglyph Point Trail to specifically leave an offering will transform to something else done back home.

As I have noted before, I am not of the People, the People specifically being the First Nations people. I follow and work with two First Nations Gods, but my purpose is not to enact the rituals and ceremonies of the First Nations folks. I am not here to become one of the People. Their culture is specifically theirs, not mine. My work with Crow and Coyote is far different, and much more personally between myself and Them. However, I have gathered relationships with some First Nations peoples, who follow a similar Spirituality, and I consult with them whenever I feel I might be stepping over some boundary that I shouldn’t be. Just sayin’, for all those that would accuse me of “cultural appropriation.” Many may still see it that way, but I continue under the perspective that the Gods call who the Gods call.

In the meantime, the trip here to south-western Colorado will continue with other pursuits. There is a narrow rail train that travels between Durango and Silverton (further up the mountain). A large portion of the trip is alongside the banks of the Animas River. This river has its own draw for me. The river was named “Rio de las Animas Perdidas” by the Spanish explorer Juan Maria de Rivera. The name loosely translates to “the river of Lost Souls” which reportedly was to commemorate the people who had lost their lives in the river. Whatever the case may be, the river has a quality about it that suggests that life is its primary function or purpose – or at least it does to me. In Durango, there is a large section of the city that is near it, which has that natural feel of home for me. Were I able to afford such a move, this is where I would probably live.

Another day trip will be taken into an area known as “The Canyon of the Ancients.” From what I have read, this is a rather primitive area, and my truck’s four-wheel drive capabilities may be utilized. I am not sure what to expect, though there are warnings of mountain lions within the area. Going too far from the truck will probably not be a good idea.

As I said before, this trip is my chance to put a lot of things into the “reset” basket. Life has not been particularly easy over the last eighteen months. Here, I get the chance to be away from a lot of the distractions that I see, while taking the time to sort through some of the bigger issues that I still must deal with. Last night, by the way, was one of the most relaxing, undisturbed nights I have had within that eighteen months. I have; however, had a chance to digest a lot over that same time frame – enough to know what I do not want. Now, its just a matter of putting all the rest of the pieces together into a coherent picture and moving forward from that point. First, however, I have three days to enjoy an area of the United States that I can truly describe as “home.”

–Tommy

This is the same landscape that I had in my photos from the Strawberry Super Moon some six years ago. The area is slightly obscured now from the smoke of wildfires in the states just west of here.

Photos from this trip will be posted on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/tommyelf022/

Incomplete Thoughts on Baseball, Empirical Pagan Me, and Nature

Incomplete Thoughts – 07102021

Incomplete Thoughts is a semi-regular feature. This features smaller written pieces that I just cannot find any way to end them, thus the incomplete part. Plus, it can provide some insight into the way I view other things outside of my Spiritual practice.

Major League Baseball

The coming trade deadline and the first-year amateur draft process is about to begin. For Major League Baseball, this is the latest that the first-year player draft has occurred, and the closest that it has been to the trade deadline, which will make things hectic in any major league team’s front office. There are a lot of teams that are deemed to be “sellers” at this year’s deadline, and the most intriguing element is that of the Chicago Cubs. Somehow, their front office has managed to have a few of their major stars on expiring contracts at the end of this year. Most major league teams will stagger the end of the contracts of major league stars to lower the impact potential departures have on the team. However, the Cubs have managed to make that major misstep. Or is it? The Cubs have one of the most knowledgeable front office teams in major league baseball (and it pains me as a Cincinnati Reds fan to make that statement). I wonder if this coming trade deadline was a self-imposed thing by the front office, looking for a way to clear the path of some minor league players, while utilizing high-impact players to help re-stock some of the upper levels of their minors system. Regardless of the strategy, the Cubs will prove to be one of the teams to watch carefully during the deadline.

Empirical Pagan Me

Occasionally, I get asked why I don’t speak for Pagan practice everywhere. Why do I couch nearly every statement that I make about my Spirituality as what I do, and that others may be completely different? Most of the time, all I can do is shrug my shoulders, and move on. But the reasoning is simple. I’m one Pagan. I am not THE Pagan. The way I approach my Spirituality works for me. As an individual, I’m always cognizant of the perspective that I don’t always do things the way others do. That’s a part of being an individual, in my mind. When I was futzing around in Christianity, back in my early twenties, every single Christian congregation that I visited and spent time with did things differently than the others. Even within the same Christian Path. However, instead of embracing their differences as a unique perspective that worked for them, many adherents would claim that it was “the only way to worship God.” To my twenty year-ish self, the suggestion that there was only one way to approach Divinity just didn’t jibe with what I saw in the world around me. So, it was easy to reject their perspective and continue to move on to find my own – which eventually was Paganism, where I have wandered for thirty-plus years. Druidry works for me, and the framework utilized by the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids comes closest to what I feel comes “naturally” to me. I have no desire to slap down someone else’s approach to their aspect of Divinity – whether that be Monotheistic, Polytheistic (where I am), or whatever else you might have. So long as you do not harm others in the name of your beliefs, I see no issues. Harm others? Well, I’ll be standing up against that. Everyone has a right to live…and live the way that they choose. We can all be different without being violent. We only have to choose that.

Herbs, Plant Magick and the Such

Probably not a popular opinion in Pagan or even Druid circles, but I don’t do much in the area of working with herbs or doing so-called “Plant Magick” (I tend to refer to it as “gardening with intent” but that’s a slight slide from the conversation). I guess most Pagans would be shocked that a Druid doesn’t do much in this. However, its just not for me. My idea of being within Nature is just being alive. I like to take walks through the woods and am prone to picking up trash that I see, so it can be disposed of properly later one. Believe me, here in the States, there is trash literally EVERYWHERE. Seemingly, things just fall out of our hands as we walk through nature or magically fly out of our car windows on the highways and interstates that we travel. I saw trash in Europe, but not on the scale we see here. My idea of working with Nature falls more along the lines of being a caretaker of sorts. I am not here to trim back the verge, as it were. But I will pick up the trash of others, so that the natural growth of the world continues. After all, we’re all a big part of the cycle of living. If we do our part, maybe things around the world will get better in terms of climate and pollution. What if our efforts are for naught, and we did all this stuff anyways? Well, then we did our best to be stewards of our planet and tried our best to provide a better planet for the generations that come after us.

Well, thanks for reading another installment of incomplete thoughts. Hopefully, you enjoyed what you read. Maybe some of it even made you think. Even if it was just a single thought: “That Tommy dude is WEIRD.” 😊

–Tommy

Photo by Alvaro Espinosa on Pexels.com

Thinking About: Offerings

With the upcoming trip to Mesa Verde, I will be returning to the spot where I had a strong “moment” with Crow. This time around, I plan on bringing an offering with me. The notation of this prompted some questions being tossed to me about what I mean by that. Specifically, Karen S. wanted to know what ritual I was planning on doing for the offering. J. Thompson wanted to know what I was considering using for an offering and why. Fair questions, indeed. So, I gathered those up for today’s blog post.

Why Offerings

Thinking this through, there is a bit of a need to cover the reasoning behind offerings. In this instance, I am providing my thanks for the last six years of guidance. In returning to where I was provided with what I now consider to be “stern advice.” Crow’s message of “keep going” was meant to be more than just walking the Petroglyph Point Trail, and more than just working my way through the second passageway. That voice has echoed in my mind at several points in the past six years. A reminder to not stop moving forward, even when the prospectus seemed to be completely bleak and lonely. That voice has reminded me that what’s in the past remains in the past – exactly where it belongs. The only way through things is to go forward. So, my return to that point on the trail is about providing my thanks for that message. It will also serve as a “thank you” for the Spirits of the Land and the Spirits of Place for looking out for me as I moved through the trail in a reckless manner.

Ritual

Well, this usually winds up being a controversial part of anything that I try to explain concerning my daily practice. My rituals are simplistic. I don’t call quarters. I don’t call directions. I don’t even make a circle. I take the time to offer my ritual space to Whoever or Whatever may be watching, so long as They come without malicious intent. Then I do whatever the meat of my ritual is, and then close by thanking Whoever or Whatever decided to watch. Simple as that. My offering rituals are even simpler. I take a few moments to ground and center, using that time to bring myself to a place of calm. Then I provide whatever I am offering and give thanks to Whoever or Whatever I am providing the offering to. Then I take a few more moments to bring myself back to the awareness of the environment around me and I move on. I know some of this will sound silly to some – especially those who place a great deal of importance on elaborate (or what I consider to be elaborate) ritual gestures and intonations. Honestly, there’s nothing wrong with any of that – its just not what I do. When I am with others, I defer to whatever everyone else wants to do. But when I’m alone, I keep it as simplistic as possible. Some might even call it primitive. ::shrug:: It works for me.

What to Offer

I know a lot of Pagans and Druids that pour libations to their Gods and Goddesses as offerings. Typically, these seem to be alcoholic in nature. That’s perfectly fine for what they do. Nine Hells, their Gods and Goddesses may have made it known to them that was what was needed. Who am I to say that’s right or wrong? Not my Gods, not a request from my Gods. Just like my rituals are simplistic, I do the same for what I offer.

My typical fare is birdseed, tobacco, water, or some combination of that. As a follower of Crow, I figure that the birdseed is a fairly understood gesture. With Abnoba, a forest Goddess, the birdseed also makes sense there as well. Usually, I go with a Birdsong mix that I pick up in large bags at my local Wal-Mart. A ten-pound bag will usually last my three-to-four weeks. Yes, I do frequent offerings in the backyard using this.

With Crow and Coyote being First Nations Gods, the offering of tobacco is a somewhat standard gesture within First Nations’ cultures. In a manner of speaking, I am borrowing from those cultures with this offering. However, I am not trying to pretend that I am on the same standing as the People (the First Nations’ cultures) are. My offerings do not come with the pretense that I am doing medicine of any kind. I am merely making a familiar offering to a pair of Gods I work with. My go-to for this is any loose-leaf chewing tobacco product, which typically means ‘Red Man”. Unfortunate branding name, but the pouch version of this product tends to work best for my purposes.

Water is probably the easiest of the offerings to understand. Just as was stated constantly during the Standing Rock protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline, “water is life.” I provide water in most of my offering rituals for this very reason. If possible, I leave the water in a vessel that local wildlife can easily access. If not, I will pour a small amount while quietly stating that “water is life.”

Again, my offerings are kept simple and to the point. One reason is that I prefer the simplicity of such gestures. Another is that I can do these quickly in public places, such as Petroglyph Point Trail, without drawing undue or unwanted attention. The public practice of my beliefs is not meant to be a sideshow for others to gawk at. Thus, I keep my offering gestures short, simple, and concise. The shortness does not lessen the depth of what I am doing or what I am offering. I know that doesn’t work for everyone. It does for me.

Final Thoughts

I am a solo pagan. A single Druid. Just one guy. Much of what I do is kept simple because its what I am comfortable with. I don’t wear robes. The only true piece of “ritual” clothing I have is a cloak, which is not the most comfortable thing to wear in the Tejas heat. Most of the time, I am wearing a concert t-shirt, jeans and boots or tennis shoes. I dress for comfort. When I am comfortable, ritual comes far easier for me. I keep my offerings simple. Unless my Gods or my Goddess ask for something different. They haven’t. Yet. Maybe it happens one day, but in the meantime, I stick to what I know, understand, and can manage on my own. Keeping it simple. After all, I’m just a simple Pagan Druid trying to make my way through this everyday journey that we call Life.

–Tommy

Going Back to Mesa Verde

There are a few places in the world where I feel completely at home. The Black Forest region in Germany holds a very special connection for me that goes all the way back into my early childhood. The northern tier of the Rocky Mountains is another region that has a strong connection for me. A little further east, the mid-western plains have always provided super strong connections. Then there’s the extraordinary feelings that I get within Carlsbad Caverns. However, all these places have provided strong connective aspects with Spirits of Place, but never with specific Gods. There is a place where I have had that moment – Mesa Verde in south-western Colorado.

I blogged about this particular moment while I was on vacation in the area around Mesa Verde. Coming face-to-face with a God, even a Trickster God, can be a touch unsettling – especially when you are not expecting it to happen. And I would posit that most of the time, a first encounter (which this was not) is an unexpected moment for most.

Honestly, I was just walking the Petroglyph Point Trail at Mesa Verde to get a photograph of the petroglyphs at the end of the trail. The trailhead was near the Visitor’s Center and was paved, so it didn’t seem like a difficult walk. However, the trail soon devolved into a dirt path along a cliff face. At a few points, the trail worked downwards to the edge along broken rock. The only thing I had to assist me were various trees. I could have easily stepped on loose gravel and rocks and slid off the trail quite easily. So, the walk was not the easiest. I also did a stupid thing – I went alone. I could have sustained any kind of injury that would have immobilized me, and I would have been hoping for someone to come along the trail after me. Have I ever mentioned that I do reckless things from time to time without thinking of what might happen? Yeah. So very much me.

However, at the end of the trail, I did something even more reckless. I climbed up the broken rocks next to the petroglyphs – which is not the way up to the top of the mesa. Halfway up, I kept thinking that this was a rather dangerous way to have people get to the top of the mesa. It wasn’t until two years ago (my original trip was in 2015), that I found out that the trail continued to a much easier to navigate staircase. Yeah. So very much me.

So here I am in 2021. The pandemic has subsided – for the most part. I still carry my mask with me everywhere I go. I still wear my mask when I am in public places, even though most people have completely eschewed the continued wearing of the mask. I’m vaccinated but am still cautious around other people. In my mind, this pandemic is not completely over – yet. However, I do have a need to get out of Tejas, even if just for a week. I just need to be cautious. No need for reckless behavior. Not now.

Part of the plan is to visit Mesa Verde and walk Petroglyph Point Trail again. This time, I plant to carry water, a rudimentary first aid kit, some granola bars for energy, my walking staff, and a pouch of tobacco. The tobacco will be to provide an offering at each of the two passageways I walked through before. I’ll also be carrying my phone with me, even though there is no cell reception along the trail. This will serve as my camera and keep the weight down from my Canon and its lenses. I’ll also not be trying to walk the trail nearly as quickly as I did the first time. No need to be careless.

While in the area, I will also make a visit out to Canyon of the Ancients. On my 2015 visit, I did not get the chance to visit here. I will also be taking the steam engine trip up to Silverton from Durango. This will also allow me to see the Animus river there in Durango as well. And yes, I will be blogging while I am on this trip.

The trip serves a dual purpose as being a vacation, of sorts – as well as pilgrimage for me. This area holds very special meaning to my Spirituality, and I am extremely excited to be returning. As with any pilgrimage or visit to a site that I consider sacred, this is not just about taking pictures, but concerns bringing me back to a particular state of mind and being. My last eighteen months have been a period of tumultuous change – some good, most not. Mesa Verde was picked as a first major trip after the pandemic specifically to help me bring things back around full circle – to provide a little boost in nudging me back on to the track that I belong. To that end, I am cautious, but optimistic. Part of change is a frame of mind. Another part is action. Thus, I will have a lot of time for thinking, outlining, and determining my first steps of getting back on track. Nothing heavy. Gentle, but firm steps towards getting back to where I really need to be.

So, I am winding this down after a day of thinking about this and trying to write about it. I hope you’ll join me along for the trip – here on the blog. I am not sure where I will be posting pictures of the trip – maybe Instagram, maybe Tumblr. Wherever I do, I’ll post the link here in each of the blog posts. Looking forward to sharing some of my trip with you.

–Tommy

Incomplete Thoughts: Why Are Pagans So Poor?

Every few years, I see someone bring up the lack of money that seems to be within the Pagan community at large. “Why does it seem that Pagans are always so poor?” My guess that there are many answers to this question. However, a lot of those answers are pre-pandemic. With COVID-19 arriving, many people were furloughed or laid off (essentially the same thing) from their jobs. Before the pandemic kicked in, I was already on unemployment and looking for a job. When the pandemic became a major issue with employment, I got added into the temporary federal benefits. This past Saturday, my moronic governor here in Tejas determined that these benefits were keeping people from getting back to finding employment. That type of logic thinking is a load of privileged bullshit. Most people have been trying to find jobs that are not exploitive, low-paying wage positions with no chances of upward mobility within a company. But that’s another thought altogether.

Why does it always seem that Pagans are so damn poor? Or is it just an illusion? Looking around at other folks in other areas of Spirituality, the feeling that most people are poor seems to be prevalent there as well. Maybe its not so much that people are poor, but that in our current overly greedy capitalist society, people are trying to make their money stretch further while prices continue to soar unabated. Many folks have families, and believe me, kids cost money. Clothes, school supplies, recreational sports equipment, books, and the list can go on and on. Prices soar, but wages do not climb on a similar scale. What passed as a seemingly capable yearly wage at $30k just doesn’t cut it anymore today for a family of four – or even three. Due to the rising costs of transportation, we are seeing food prices climb even more. That’s understandable under a capitalist perspective. Costs that get added to the company get passed on to the consumer. Then again, I’m not economist, nor do I play one on tv or even the radio.

Perhaps, some Pagans seem to be poor because they have decided to step out of the capitalism whirlpool. They make their money in smaller ways – farmer’s markets, Renaissance faires, and maybe even Pagan gatherings. Maybe they make their livings online, teaching online classes for those wanting the information and perspective of theirs. I know for a fact that there’s not a lot of money in that realm. They may seem to be poor, but they are living the way that they wish. To them, it may be the richest lifestyle ever.

So, everyone that offers classes, writes books, creates things, offers services – they should do that stuff for free, right? Well, no. They should be compensated for what they provide. Perhaps in trade, if the terms are equal in the eyes of those involved in the transaction. However, we shouldn’t look down on those who are asking for compensation of any form for what they are providing. I have heard the snide remark that the “Craft should not be sold”. Sorry, that’s a load of bullshit. If you don’t think that what is being offered is worth you parting with your hard-earned cash – move along without comment. Or – maybe you can try and barter for a lower price. Just don’t be offended if the lower price is rejected. Don’t argue about it either. Just thank them for the potential to discuss the issue and move along without being crappy about it all.

This is probably not a popular opinion, but I see the question of “Why does it always seem that Pagans are so poor?” to be a rather elitist question. The question comes across – to me, anyways – as wondering why other Pagans just can’t seem to compete on your level within a capitalist agenda. A long time back, my mother reminded a teen-aged me that you cannot truly understand someone else’s life until you have walked a few miles in their tennis shoes.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Howling Into the Wind: Not Every Fight Is Worth the Energy

Today has been an odd day. I don’t normally engage people in religious or spiritual conversations unless I know them a bit better than most. However, today seems to have been the exception to that statement. I mean, its not a “rule” per say – more like an internal directive to myself. Even under that type of thinking, I usually do not discuss such matters with people that I know are heavily entrenched in their thinking and have no room or desire to comprehend other viewpoints. Again, today was somewhat of an exception – and it did not last very long either.

An individual, whom I know is a staunch agnostic, here in the neighborhood was engaged in a conversation with me that rolled from one point to another. In the process of moving topics, the tragedy of the condo-collapse came up. I noted that CNN had done a few discussions with those who are mourning the potential loss of their loved ones, while holding out hope of their survival. In the segments, a lot was made about their steadfast hope with a strong emphasis on what they believed would be the afterlife for their loved ones. The moment that came up, my conversation partner snapped into an angry perspective that these people were deluding themselves. That their so-called faith was essentially a “child’s understanding of the world around them.” I responded back that each individual has to make up their own mind as to what is right and wrong – each individual had to reach inside of who they are to determine what happens after one ceases to be in this world. The next remark was disdainful, in my opinion. “When they die, they no longer exist. There is no heaven for them to enjoy. They deteriorate until all that is left is their calcified skeletons.” “What about those of us that are believers in reincarnation?” “You’re even worse. You believe in a Marvel comics existence. All of you are fools.”

I ended the conversation shortly after all that. Skipping the derision and the anger, the conversation did have me thinking about the “rightness” and “wrongness” of believing the way that we do. However, as I turned that over and over in my mind – I kept coming back to how I have approached differences in Spiritual and religious belief: I know what I believe, but I am unwilling to make that into some kind of cut-and-paste belief. In other words, I disagree with quite a few ways of seeing the world around me. But disagreeing is one thing. Disregarding the personal nature of individual Spirituality and religious belief is another.

I am comfortable being around those of the Christian faith – yes, even those that would “rebuke” me to my face over how I believe. I have found that the easiest way to diffuse such situations was to not react defensively. In fact, I don’t even respond. When pressed, I will tell those people that I respect their beliefs and have no desire to change what or how they believe. But there is an exception to that. Should you try to harm me or anyone else because we don’t believe as you – you will have one insane fight on your hands. And I don’t fight “fair”.

Now back to where I was. What happens when we pass on? To be completely honest, I don’t know. I am a strong believer in reincarnation. I do believe I have been here many times before. I also believe that sharp details of those times are not available to me. What I can recall, which frankly is not much, are more like muddied markers. I doubt I will ever be able to sort much of that out. I do know that there are members of other faiths that believe differently. Unlike some of those Paths, mine does not provide the dictum that everyone else must believe as I do. My Path is mine alone. Sometimes people walk it with me. Most of the time, they don’t.

I am sure I am not alone in encountering people that are staunch and firm that their beliefs, their way of seeing the world around them, is the “only true road” that everyone else must travel. So, I am sure that there are those that are just as taken aback of their extremely aggressive pronouncements of how “stupid” or “idiotic” those who don’t see things their way are. Being honest, I usually avoid these people in most serious conversations after encountering them once.

Now, this is how I deal with stuff like this. None of that means that you must do as I do. You might crave the debate – the constant back and forth, the ways of utilizing logic in intellectual combat that they may have never considered. If that’s your cuppa, go for it. Just don’t be surprised if I back to the edges of the conversation and stop paying complete attention – if we are together. I know my own limits. Don’t be offended when you find that my limits stop far short of where yours are.

–Tommy

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Oops!…I Screwed Up Ritual (Again)

This morning, I am sitting here chewing on some muffins and drinking my coffee. Outside the door is a cloudy (sort of) day. I’m hoping for some rain to get a bit of relief from the 100F temps that we have managed to bump into here in central Tejas. As I sit here, I keep running possible topics over and over in my mind. This is a typical day for me when writing blog posts. I’m not as polished as some blog writers. I don’t have an army of blog posts waiting in the wings that I can choose from. I say “fuck” a lot. Rather I write it a lot. If you were physically around me, you would find I write very similar to how I talk. ::shrug:: That’s me. Warts and all. I’m far from perfect. Perfect is something I never want to be.

I guess that’s a similar approach that I have towards my own Paganism and Druidry. I make mistakes in rituals. I have no trouble laughing at myself out loud when I make errors. I flub lines. I mispronounce terms and names. I’ve even faced the wrong direction when calling a direction during a public ritual. That truly is me. I apologized to the leaders of the ritual, afterword. I could see in their eyes that they weren’t pleased. ::shrug:: I can’t make everyone happy. I have a difficult enough time doing that for myself. However, I have learned not to be too hard on myself after making mistakes. After all, I am still human. Not sure who to attribute the quote to, but “to err is human.”

I think that my ability to just fuck things up beyond compare, and then laugh at myself for doing so, is why I have two Trickster Gods that I work with. I know I have been quite the hoot with Them over the years. Sometimes in ways that I don’t really like. Yes, I do have a serious side to myself as well.

For the last…let me see (counting on fingers)…thirty-six years, I have been involved in the Information Technology world in one capacity or another. Gods, the fuckups I could tell you about. Some of them are so funny (at least to me), that I can barely get through them. However, I have worked for a lot of Type-A personalities over these years as well. People that just can’t remove the stick from their ass. None of them saw the humor in some of the mistakes that I made. All they saw was that their plans and projects rode over a speedbump that they did not anticipate. I have taken many an ass chewing over the years. Sure, it hurt my feelings a bit to get chewed out over those mistakes, but over time – I have looked back and still find the humor in those moments too.

Again, I think this is why I have two Trickster Gods that work with me. Plus, I still live by the mantra that my first supervisor in the Air Force taught me: “If no one is going to be potentially killed by your mistake, then everything will be all right.” There’s a reason I didn’t fix engines on B-52 Stratofortresses. ::grin::

All of this pulls from a question that Angie F., a US military member currently stationed overseas, wrote to me in an Email a few weeks back. She had found a set of blog posts where I detailed my time in the Air Force as a Pagan and started up what has become a running dialogue between the two of us. Eventually, she asked if I had ever made mistakes when doing my rituals or spell work. Well, I rarely do spell work (I mean REALLY rarely), so I responded back with some examples (including the one above) of how I have fucked up in a ritual. Consequences over those foul-ups? None from the Gods. Plenty from various people at the ritual.

I have been accused of screwing up “the mood” of the ritual with the things that I have done. Honestly, I have never done any of those moments as a malicious act. Most of the time, I get the lines right from the script. I add an appropriate inflection and tone for what I am trying to accomplish in my role. When I screw things over, its usually because I am trying to add too much to what I am doing or because I didn’t check on a pronunciation prior to the ritual. Simple mistakes. But I have had people get mad at me for not being perfect.

Personally, perfection is a myth to me. Its nice to talk about, but something always happens. Like the time we had a perfect ritual planned at a friend’s apartment. We lit the candles. We lit the sage. We had the perfect mood going (there’s that “perfect” word again). Then, the EXTREMELY loud fire alarm went off. We cleared all twelve units in the building. The fire department showed up. They checked every unit for a fire. They found none. They found the reside of our burnt ash on the table, along with the extinguished candles. We had the police brought in. We were suspected of having a massive weed smoking party. That one was not my fault, nor was I blamed for it – but shit happens. After everything had died down, and we were all sitting in the living room with rather sheepish looks on our faces, I commented that the Gods were probably rolling on the floor laughing their asses off. I mean, why not? Certainly, the Gods have a sense of humor too. Plus, we humans are so good at fucking things up in the most dramatic fashion.

So, what should you do when you screw up in your Paganism? I don’t know. My personal response is to laugh, take a step back, and do it again the right way. How you go about in that moment is really for you to formulate. I certainly cannot and will not ascribe what I do as “the way” to do things. I’m not that arrogant to think that I have the right way to do anything as it relates to anyone, except myself. However, I go back to my first supervisor’s statement – if your mistake is not going to kill anyone, everything will be all right. Stop. Take stock of the moment. Take a deep breathe. Restart. Or whatever sequence works for you. You will know what works best for you. Maybe not. Perhaps, you will need to do some trial and error with those moments to find what works well for you. Man, that’s called “learning”. And that shit is awesome.

Perfection? No thanks. Mistakes are a part of life. Some folks can view that as “sloppy” work. I see it differently. It’s a learning opportunity. You should, in my opinion, strive to be the best at anything that you do. However, if (and when) you fall short – don’t beat yourself up. Don’t give up. Get up. Dust yourself off. Strive to try to do even better next time. But never give up on being just who you are. That’s the special sauce that no one seems to want to acknowledge. Be who you are.

–Tommy

Incomplete Thoughts: Diversity

Lately, I have been plagued in my writing by what I call “incomplete thoughts” which are simply blog posts that I can’t find a way to conclude. These are usually shorter than the small essays I try to write, and I have a small clutter of these hanging around. Since I already use Thursday postings as the typical place for ‘Bad Poetry Thursdays” which happen infrequently, I thought it would be a nice change of pace from time to time to add “Incomplete Thoughts” to that mix as well.

I like diversity. Not just with race or gender or what have you, but with everything. I like my politics to be a diverse set of perspectives, not just Right-wing or Left-wing. I want to hear from those perspectives in-between and even further Left and Right. In my opinion, a wide range of perspectives makes for better decision-making and opinion-forming. America’s dominant two-party system just sucks. I prefer lots of musical styles. A wide variety of musical viewpoints is refreshing. I love Jazz, in all its forms, Classical, neo-Classical, Hard Rock, Heavy Metal, Pop Rock, County and Western, Swing, Ballroom, Rhythm and Blues, some Rap, and a lot more. Each style, each presentation of musical and lyrical content helps me to see deeper into a wider world of Awen than I could ever have dreamed on my own. Diverse perspective provides clashes where two (or more) perspectives cannot ordinarily mesh. That conflicting perspective provides more than one way to look at things, and allows the spectator (me, you, or others) a glimpse of the differences. Those differences provide a perspective that we can utilize to determine what does and does not work for us individually. Those differences help us to make choices for ourselves.

What I am not for is using diversity to make choices that can be utilized to drive deeper wedges between “Us” and “Them”. We saw a lot of that during the last Presidential cycle. Both sides making charges that you either vote for (x) candidate or you are against us. I opted out of that silly game. I see value in every individual – even those that think and act differently than I. We all inhabit this same planet. We all breathe the same (somewhat polluted) air. Whether we agree with it or not, we all survive together. What a shame that we cannot collectively agree enough to bring and end to violent conflict as a means to solve our differences. While I value diversity, I agonize over our lack of humanity – our lack of decency towards one another – our lack of compassion for those that are different than we are. But I still hold out hope. Because if I didn’t…I don’t even want to think about that.

–Tommy

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Thinking About: Living Intentionally

Over the last week and a half, everything I have written has come out like an uncompleted thought. Thinking about it, this tends to happen a lot around this time of year. Perhaps, I may utilize that as a short break in the blog’s postings. I’ll have to give that a bit more thought. However, that simple moment of intentional scheduling sort of leads me into what I wanted to write about – living intentionally within my Druidry.

There is no secret that everything in my life has come apart over the last six to seven months. All of that has worn on me like the weather will wear a stone smooth. This past year and a half has had a feeling of wandering aimlessly through my life – both mundane and Spiritual. I even went through a period of re-examination of my Druidry, trying my best to find where the fault with everything really lay. In the end, I changed a handful of things, but nothing of major distinction. Still, everything felt so rote, so much like life was on automatic for me.

Let’s face a major point in all of this – the past year of COVID-19 forced a lot of us to live our lives in a manner that was difficult. Yes, connecting with one another via video, phone calls, and even Email kept the feeling of solitude at bay. However, we are all communal creatures. Enforcing the COVID-19 standards took its toll on all of us. For me, it has meant not seeing friends and extended family for over a year. However, it was necessary – considering my badly compromised immune system. Now, as we all slowly get vaccinated, we have begun to emerge from our enforced hibernations with some mixed emotions as to how to proceed. Or maybe not, but I know that I have these emotions.

Thanks to Cat Treadwell, I have run into the point of living intentionally. The concept is nothing new to me. However, placing it in the context that I am going to be working with it will be.

What Is It?

Living intentionally is a conscious manner of living your life according to your values and beliefs. I have always tagged this within my mind as being tied to the concept of intentional communities, which are people who band together to live in a certain manner. Thinking it through in that manner, choosing to be a Pagan can be construed as choosing an intentional community, of sorts. Choosing to be a Vegan can also be thought of in the same vein. But just choosing is not enough.

I decided to be a Druid, after nearly twenty years of searching through the wider ‘verse of Paganism because it most closely fit what I believed in. I chose the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids (OBOD) because it was the most malleable to what I was wanting to do. To this day, OBOD continues to be the underlying basis of my everyday Spiritual practice. Over the last decade and a half, I have taken things that I have learned through the OBOD system and plied it into something that works better for my daily practice. I have utilized devotional practices to the three Gods I work with as a basis of everyday life. All of that is a part of living intentionally. Much of what I have written throughout the blog are my attempts to live my beliefs and my values in the best manner that I can. Its not perfect. It never will be. But I try my very best.

The COVID-19 hibernation has brought me around to other realizations that have needed to change. I have had to make decisions of what I am willing to tolerate within my life, and what I am not. As an example, I have DNA family that believe whole-heartedly in President Trump. They believe that the election was rigged. They believe that the January 6th insurrection was necessary and founded on sound principles. On all of that, I feel extremely different. I don’t care for having that in my life because I find it to be fundamentally wrong thinking. During the COVID-19 hibernation, I have had to place these people at arms-length or further. An intentional act of what I am willing to have within my daily life. Here, at the end of the COVID-19 hibernation, I have realized that more needs to be addressed as well.

Part of my personality, for lack of a better description, is that I try to be accommodating to everyone. As a prototypical Libra (right smack in the middle of the sun sign), I try to find balance in everyday dealings with everyone, including those that are diametrically opposed to what I believe. Why? Because I am working through a particular value that I have: that all people deserve respect, until they lose that through their actions. Circling back to the above notation, I have very little respect for those individuals that follow President Trump blindly.

In trying to live my life intentionally, I originally thought that this meant that I needed to find a purpose – particularly within my personal Spirituality. I have struggled with the concepts of being a Priest. The reality is that I am a Priest, and I am not a Priest. Rather circular, eh? I am precisely what I need to be at any time, at any moment. To quote one of my favorite songs:

Some of my friends had it worse
Some were better off than me
Hard to say who’s more fucked up
It’s strange reality
I’m thankful to be alive
I’m so lucky I can be
Anywhere at any time
No one to blame now but me
If I come crashing down

–“Crashing Down“, TNT from the “Transistor” album

Where to Go From This Point?

I can’t really say that I know. However, certainly not into another full-scale examination of where I am on my Pagan/Druidry path. Been there. Done that. Frankly, it was a waste of time, effort, and energy. Perhaps, it will be a better examination of seeing where my value of personal hospitality should have its point of culmination. An examination of where my limits are would probably be a far more lucrative expenditure of my time and effort. In the meantime, I continue to live my life as the Druid and pagan that I am. I do not have to be like my other friends who are Pagans or Druids. I just need to live the way I need to. Living it consciously and aware of what I am doing, and where I am moving towards. Step one, finish my Ovate grade. Step two? Who knows? But it will be an adventure getting there.

–Tommy

Thinking About: Trees

Being a Druid and a Pagan always brings some of the zaniest notions from family, friends, co-workers – even neighbors. I have been asked if I roast small children over a fire pit in my backyard by a few hardcore right-wing nutjobs that claim to be Christians. I have been told that I am doing Satan’s bidding in the current world. Those statements typically get a smile and a shake of my head as a response. I have found that anything beyond that only encourages more vitriol from those folks. However, I do get questions from the above-mentioned group of folks that are fun to answer and provoke some interesting and nice conversations.

When I was teaching at the community college, I never hid the fact that I was a Druid and a Pagan. I didn’t advertise it, but students can be some truly resourceful information gatherers. One student approached me after class as I was walking in the parking lot to my truck. “Why all the emphasis on trees? Why is nature so important?” I beckoned him to follow me to the truck. I popped the tailgate, so we had a place to sit, and I started to relate my reasoning for that emphasis, as it occurred to me.

Thinking back to that moment, I realized it might be fun, informative, and a good exercise for me to backtrack to this conversation. However, it will just be a one-sided “conversation” here with the blog. Hopefully, you will allow me this indulgence.

To be able to articulate the perspective behind “Why Nature? Why trees?”, I have to start a lot further back. I didn’t grow up in the United States, for the most part. My father was active-duty Air Force, and we moved around a lot. A lot of my younger years come from living in Germany. My father enjoyed Germany and its culture, plus he married my mom – a German citizen. We were always close to family. We participated a lot in German culture, particularly in Volksmarching. I knew the term for this form of non-competitive fitness walking as Volkswanderung, and I really enjoyed participating it. Most 10km, 20km, and 30km trails went through the countryside near various towns. I remember walking along the trails in farming fields, along streets in towns, and through dense forested areas, which Germany has in quite an abundance of. Later, when I got stationed in Germany as an active-duty Air Force member, I recall marveling how the populace would avoid growth, to preserve the forested areas between towns. During my walks in the woods, both as a child and as an adult, I always felt a sense of calm and easiness when walking through the wooded areas. I always felt at home there. During my adult years there, I even found the time to reach out to the Spirits of Place within the forest. Those Spirits felt so old and ancient – and at a few times it felt like They were just ignoring me. Like people come and go at such a fast pace, that Their attention towards humans was just not warranted.

Prior to my Air Force time in Germany, I spent the mid-to-late 1980s at Carswell Air Force Base in Forth Worth, Texas. At that time, the Dallas/Fort Worth concrete jungle had not completely formed as it is today. There were wooded fields between Fort Worth and Arlington (to the east). Living in Fort Worth was like living in a small city that was out on its own. No huge worries. If I needed a dose of nature, it was not a big drive to get to it. In 1994, when I returned from Germany and was ending my career in the Air Force, the Dallas/Fort Worth had changed a bit. I have watched it grow into the concrete jungle that it is today. Every time I go through the main population area of the DFW metro-mess (my term for it), it does not take long for me to feel disconnected from the natural world around me. When I was living in Houston a few months back, I felt much the same way. While I understand why people live in large metropolitan areas, I have come to understand that its not for me. Where I live now, I’m in a rural area. For me, its very easy to reach out and connect with the natural aspects of the world around me.

Medicine Wheel in Wyoming…one of the most magickal and alive places I have ever been.

Still, why nature? Why the trees? As I noted, I feel more at home in such an environment. I have dreams – or goals, if you prefer – of returning to Germany and walking through stretches of the Black Forest that I had played in before. I had that same feeling when I visited Medicine Wheel in the Bighorn National Forest in Wyoming. Each moment felt so serene, so peaceful, so perfectly in tune with what I needed. For me, these natural spaces within our modern, plastic, steel, and concrete world are important. These spaces allow people to reach back to feelings of simpler times. When man lived with Nature and did not attempt to dominate Nature and bend it to the greed of a few. For me, time in places where man has not bent the environment to his will, those are moments where I can recharge my soul. Where I can ground and center myself. Where I can lean back into the grasses and watch the skies above change from light to dark. Where I can easily see the stars in the far-flung Universe above without having to fight the light-pollution generated by the concrete cities that never sleep.

I know. Many folks will point out the romantic and over-blown notions that I hold on to. After all, I live in a heated and air-conditioned home, even out here beyond the growing reach of the greater metro area. I have a grocery store where I can gather food stuffs that are already caught, cultivated, and processed for my consumption. I am not trying to become a survivalist or anything along those thoughts. I admit that I have that part of the “modern” human with me, and without that, I would be hard-pressed to adapt to a different way of living. However, getting out into Nature – away from the amenities of modern living – allows me to take a few moments to commune in a manner that I find to be deeper and more comforting. I don’t need that every day, but I do need it from time to time.

Perhaps the way I go about all of this might some hypocritical to some or unnecessary to others. However, I live my life as I need to. I’m not here trying to reach the accolades and praise of others, according to the manner that what I do matches their efforts. I applaud them for what they do, how they approach things from their own perspective. I have no desire or need to deride them if their efforts do not match mine. Everyone does things according to their own needs, abilities, and desires. How all that works for them is not for me to judge. Rather, I would prefer if a few of them would come around the campfire, so we can talk or maybe just listen to the sounds of the night or watch the stars above. I find that to be far more desirable than arguing over who is doing something right or wrong in communing with their environment. In fact, I prefer that over arguing over a whole slew of things. And if no one joins me? Well, the trees don’t argue or deride anyone over their choices. Plus, you must be quiet to hear the conversations through the rustling leaves and branches. Just thinking about that brings a huge smile to my face.

–Tommy

Promises in the Dark

I wanted to try my hand at a different writing tack. My typical writing time for a blog post is between 7am and 11am. When I was gainfully employed, my writing time was typically between 5am and 7am. So, I guess I can be considered a “daytime writer” with those habits. Tonight, I decided to try something different. Right now, its almost 21:45 (9:45pm for you non-military types). I have most of the lights in the dinning area (my office area since there is not enough room here for me to have my own hiding place with a door). Outside the window in the back door, all I can see is pitch black. However, there is so much that I can hear.

Thanks to a handful of days of rain, the frog population here has made itself known, especially at night. Right now, there’s a chorus of frogs punctuating the night. They will bring things to a close somewhere around midnight. Sometimes its earlier, sometimes later. Between their calls, I can hear crickets in the night as well. This is a nightly sound that I usually filter out of my thoughts, but not tonight. I don’t have headphones on, and the television is (thankfully) off. As I type, my mechanical keyboard beats a loud staccato while using the crickets and frogs for an underlying layer of sound.

Now its closer to 10pm, and I hear a north-bound train as it rolls through the eleven crossings in town. That shrill single blast from the horn as it approaches is crossing is so distinct. I know its northbound because the sound is not as loud as the trains headed southbound. The decibel level is not very loud at all. In fact, if the television were on, even at a low volume, I wouldn’t not even realize that the train was coming through. Two more northbound trains will make their way through town over the course of the early morning hours, as well as two southbound trains. In my periods of insomnia, I have spent quite a few hours listening to the train sounds and glancing over at the clock. Yes, Virginia, the trains run on a tightly wound schedule.

Most of my Druidry tends to take place during daylight hours, simply because that’s when I am usually out and about. But even then, I usually have headphones on listening to music, as I am this morning. At this moment, I have Jimi Hendrix Experience’s “I Don’t Live Today” coming through the headphones. However, with the headphones off, I can hear the sounds outside. Hammers banging, along with the sounds of electrical equipment, remind me that the house at this end of the street is still being finished. It also reminds me that several houses will be going up just beyond the backyard fence over this coming Summer and Fall. Occasionally, I can hear cars whooshing by on the road just past the fence, the road that will be the connecting point for the driveways of this coming homes. I can hear the 8am southbound train coming through the town, carrying whatever goods that it has for consumers at the distant end of that travel. I can smell the aroma of my just made coffee; the hazelnut flavoring is a strong and comforting aroma for me. Some mornings bring the sounds of a helicopter flying nearby. That sound always makes me sad. It’s the sound of a helicopter bringing a critical patient to the small, local hospital here. I always stop when I hear that sound and say a quiet prayer for whoever is being brought in.

I put the headphones back on, and my iTunes player greets my return with Manfred Mann’s Earth Band’s album “Watch”. Sensory information. A part of my Druidry that I have taken for granted. The sounds outside. The smells that I come across. The tactile feel of the keys of my mechanical keyboard as I type. The music that makes up the soundtrack of my day.

I have taken a lot of sensory aspects that I encounter every day for granted, particularly during the COVID pandemic. My decision to start this blog post at night made me realize that. I stopped focusing on small things inside – the television, my computer screen, and even my headphones – and found that connection with the world that I don’t explore often enough. Last night was an epiphany, of sorts. Reconnecting with the sensory aspect of my Druidry is a poignant reminder that the past year was about searching through my beliefs, scouring my Druidry – for what essentially has been nothing. Or maybe not nothing. However, I spent a lot of time spinning my wheels – stuck in the mud of my Druidry, hyper-focused in a direction that I did not necessarily need to. Now, a year later, I realize that being driven indoors by COVID removed me from something I loved and enjoyed – just being. A lack of personal contact with other Pagans was part of the stimulus that I was missing. There was the fire crackling late at night at the gatherings that I attended. There was the quiet, hushed talk around the fire with others, as we talked about life, while trying not to wake those who had gone to bed. All the zany antics that we would pull on one another in camp. The quiet walks through nearby paths in the wooded areas nearby. All of that is an essential aspect of my being alive.

Was the hiding indoors during COVID appropriate? Maybe. Maybe not. I did that out of an abundance of caution. With a compromised immune system, catching COVID was just not an option. I did what I felt that I had to do. Right or wrong doesn’t matter. I did what I needed to do. Now, its time to get things restarted. Time to be the Pagan and Druid I have always been. Sure, there will be people that disagree with the way I deal with things. There will always be people who do that. I just need to do what I do and stop worrying about doing things in a manner that pleases others. I just need to be the same weird, caring, odd individual that I have always been. Because that’s me.

And just think – all that started with me taking a few moments to just listen to the sounds of the night. What else can be accomplished by just taking the time to reset and restart? Here’s a hint: anything I set my mind towards accomplishing.

–Tommy

Howling Into the Wind: Individualism and One’s Approach to the Sacred

Since COVID struck, I have had lots of online conversations with various folks about what I believe. Lots of conversations. Much of that also backs up into how they can help define what they believe as well. That’s a hard zone to really be in. Not everyone thinks the same or experiences things the same – or even has the same emotions to experiences. Working through how others experience the world around them, react to the experiences that they encounter – I began to understand how one’s Spirituality is not a “one size fits all” perspective.

Now, I write quite a bit about how I react to things, how I experience the world around me. More often than I care for it to happen, what I write about gets compared to other Pagan bloggers. I get the rationalization though – if I felt one way, they should too. When my experiences and reactions are very different – I tend to hear about it. “You didn’t have the same experiences that John did.” “Your reactions is totally different than Cat’s.” Way back when, commentary like that stung – hard. I also questioned whether I approached that experience in the “correct” manner. After all, these Pagans, these Druids – they write about their experiences, and a multitude of people chime in that they felt that way too. Anyone experiencing it differently – they’ve got to be doing it wrong.

Slowly, I started confiding in others, usually around a campfire, late at night. I would discuss how my way of experiencing and reacting to moments that I encountered within my Pagan and Druidry studies were different. I would bring up various examples that had been flung in my face – and I would ask how I could approach things better. One night at an OBOD retreat, I confided in someone whose perspective I have always admired greatly. We talked about why I felt the way that I did. Why did I feel that I was doing something wrong because I didn’t have the same reactions as other people? Quietly and gently, I was reminded that I am an individual. I am not my friends. I am not other Pagans and Druids. I am me. Uniquely me. Comparing myself to others did nothing for who I am. All it would accomplish is an erosion in my own confidence. I’m not to be a clone of some other Druid out there. I am meant to be me.

Remembering this quiet conversation in a corner of the main building has helped me push further past my drawbacks concerning the word “Priest” and all that it conjures up in my mind. There is no Priest archetype that I need to fulfill or assume. I just need to move forward in my studies and forward in my life. My role will figure itself out. My direction will come quietly to me – through the whispers of my Gods, and through my daily walk through Life.

Perhaps, my current role is to document my thoughts where others can read. They can make up their own minds concerning my sanity (or lack thereof). However, there may be that one person that needs to hear that they can blaze their own Path in their Spirituality. That there is nothing wrong if you’re experiences are different – by just a few centimeters or by many miles.

So, I began to realize that I could more adequately answer the questions of “why Druidry?”, “What does Druidry afford me that other Paths cannot?” Furthermore, I can answer that in a single statement – Druidry is who I am, what I do, where I go, what I feel, what I am.

Several years back, I wrote about compartmentalizing myself. My Druidry would go into one area, my work went into another, and so on. What I wound up with was a mess. Separated aspects of what I was trying to deal with did inform others. What I found was that my Druidry was a part of everything that I do. Understanding correlations and relationships that Druidry helped me uncover informed the statistical analysis work that I was doing at the time. My work helped me to understand relationship and connections I could never fathom in my everyday life. All of it worked together. All of it informed other areas of my life. Within that understanding, I started to understand the Christians that made statements that their faith was a part of everything that they did. They believed that because they insisted that every aspect of what they did was a part of their everyday faith. Well, my Druidry is an everyday part of who I am. Perhaps, in a similar way that the Christians believed theirs; however, I don’t believe that mine is the way everyone else should believe, because I believe in individualism. Everyone chooses their own Path to walk. Sometimes they walk it alone. Sometimes they walk it with a great many others. But the singular choice is still theirs to make. The form that their Spirituality takes is their own unique connection to the world around them.

What does Druidry do for me? Well, I am provided with so many different ways of seeing the world around me. I see the Gods, Spirits of Place, Spirits of the Land, Spirits of Ancestor, fairies, instances of magick, and the living Earth Herself all around me. Everything is living at different speeds around us. Everything is aware, just not at the speeds that we move. Druidry helps me to embrace that understanding and learn how to live in my existence as a better caretake – a better member of a wider society. The morning sunrise is always the kept promise that the sun will rise again – a promise made at sunset each night. Greeting that morning sunrise is my way of extolling that I believed in that promise last night, just as watching the sunrise is my way of saying that I believe the promise that was just made. All of that may seem silly to you, and that’s really ok. For me, I am the only one that needs to steadfastly believe in all of that – because it’s a part of who I am.

That’s what I see. That’s how I believe. My sunrise and sunset rituals may take moments, but they are important markers of time in my daily life. Not every Druid or Pagan will believe like I do. Maybe no Pagan or Druid believes like I do, but that’s ok. I don’t need the buy-in of others to my beliefs. The world around me is alive – this is how I connect to it. I don’t need to believe as you do to find the beauty, the joy, or the sacred in what you believe and do. I don’t have to believe it because I can see it written in your face. I can feel it written in your soul. That is what matters the most. Not that we match, but that we respect each other’s approach to the sacred – even if we find the other’s approach to be nonsensical compared to our own practices. We are individuals.

–Tommy

Howling Into the Wind: Moving on From the Smoking Ruins

I am sitting here with my headphones on, listening to the Styx live album “Caught in the Act”. This is interesting for me because this album is a direct link back to my post high school years. The album was released in April of 1984, somewhere close to my high school graduation. Shortly after the album’s release, my favorite member of the band – Tommy Shaw – made the announcement that he was leaving the band. Caught in the Act would be the last album that Styx released in the 1980s. Many of the tracks on the album hold some dear memories for me – hanging out with friends in their front- and backyards. We would listen to various music, cut-up, talk, and generally just be around one another. Around 1985, we all started going our separate ways. This was also a time frame where I had difficulty trying to figure out where I was going to go in life. My plans were slim or non-existent. My interest in personal computers was there, but there was no avenue aiming me to a career – until the Air Force.

There was a single song that echoed through the hallways of my mind through all this time. “Fooling Yourself (the Angry Young Man)” quickly turned into a personal anthem.

You’re fooling yourself if you don’t believe it
You’re kidding yourself if you don’t believe it
Get up, get back on your feet
You’re the one they can’t beat and you know it
Come on, let’s see what you’ve got
Just take your best shot and don’t blow it

Styx, “Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)”

These lyrics along with “Blue Collar Man” held me together through some truly difficult times.

Keeping my mind on a better life
Where happiness is only a heartbeat away
Paradise can it be all I heard it was
I close my eyes and maybe I’m already there

Styx, Blue Collar Man”

I bring this up because – well, life has been a true disaster since mid-January for me. My struggles have happened in nearly every aspect of my life. My everyday mundane life on through into my personal Spirituality. Much like those days immediately after high school, I have had a lot of trouble trying to see clearly and with focus. The future has been cloudy…and with super heavy meatballs.

This has been noticeable to almost everyone who remains in my life to this day. Keeping up with my own Spiritual practices has been difficult to say the least. Even staying focused on blogging regularly has been a bit of a struggle. This morning, I spent a short while in meditation, asking for help from Coyote, Crow and Abnoba – either individually or through some combination of the three. No answers were readily available, so I opened iTunes and hit shuffle on my massive music playlist. The first song to start was “Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)” – not a sure sign from the Gods, but most likely a coincidental, synchronous moment for me. All the memories of my nearly three-year struggle to find my footing in the early parts of my adult life came rushing forward.

What I needed to do was make a completely clean break from my not-so-distant past and move my focus to the here-and-now, as well as the short-term future. I made mistakes. I needed to spend time squaring that fact with myself, as well as realizing that was over and done. There would be no going back. Now, I find myself in the planning stages of where to go from here.

Yes, I have need of employment. That will come soon enough – now that Texans have decided to open up after the pandemic. I am not too sure how good of an idea that is, but I need to focus on finding employment and stop worrying over decisions made by others where I have little to no input. My Gwers work, as I survey what I have completed so far, is shoddy at best. I had promised myself not to re-boot things…and to that point, I have resisted doing so. However, a reboot is what I need to put things back on track. No deadlines for finishing – just a need for weekly progress, no matter how small. Focus on quality, not quantity. Re-entering my “local” Pagan community will be a bit more difficult. However, even though I follow my Spiritual path alone – I do need others. So, I am looking at making those steps real again. Getting the blog back on track is not as easy as it sounds. However, I just need to take that a step at a time – focusing first on consistent posting on the Tuesday/Thursday/Weekend format. The last was to rebuild my personal practices and my relationships with my three patron Gods. That will take time and some consistent effort.

That’s a lot of stuff, eh? It certainly is. A lot of that becomes a sacrifice of personal free time. As someone told me not that long ago – you focus on the things that most interest you. You make time for the things that are important to you. Well, everything that I just outlined above are important to me. And as the song says, “You’re the one they can’t beat, and you know it.” That means effort. That means action. Instead of sulking over the burning ruins of the past, I need to get focused again and get moving forward again.

–Tommy

Photo by Lindeboom Jean-Bapt on Pexels.com

Different Footfalls, As It Should Be

There is no secret of my struggles to figure out what type of Druid I am aiming towards being. Much of those struggles have come from my reluctance to handle and work with the term “Priest.” With my personal life undergoing some whiplash-style changes, trying to work through all of that, along with juggling this singular perspective of my own Spirituality resulted in nothing less than an epic train wreck. Now, having patched my own personal life back into the ragged blanket I have always come to expect it to be, I have had the time to turn back to the question of what kind of Druid will I be with a better degree of focus. Over the past few weeks, this process has brought about a few reminders that I had forgotten.

When I started down this Path with the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids (OBOD), now nearly two decades ago, I was quite unsure of where things were going to go. Even after I finished my Bardic grade and entered my Ovate studies, I still struggled over finding a role that I could carve out of all of this – a role that could provide a sense of belonging and purpose. A few overtly Christian friends who read the blog noted that all of this was a “sign” from God that I was on the wrong track – that I needed to re-enter the Christian faith that I left behind back in the mid-1980s. None of that could be further from the truth, though. I am a Polytheistic Pagan through-and-through. The Christian faith does not relate to me. I respect it as being a Path for others, but not for me and so many other people. However, I still struggled with finding a purpose for what I was to be.

Where were these Druidry studies taking me? What was I hoping to accomplish? What was I going to give back to my wider Pagan community through the things that I do? I have talked this over a few times with Pagans I deeply admire that I could reach at points of crisis in my thinking. A few suggested getting back to podcasting. In the beginnings of that, the goal was to provide something back to my community by show-casing the thoughts of others. The download numbers were never all that great to begin with, and in the end I realized that so many other podcast shows did a far better job than I could ever dream of. While it was fun, it never really felt like it worked out that well. So, at that point, I turned to blogging as that creative outlet. While the aggregate numbers have never really been that great, I came to realize that what I blogged would be available through WordPress for many folks to encounter later. Thus, I have kept on with what I have been doing. Granted, its not always timely…and much like this current post – I have tried – sometimes in vain – to keep a consistent schedule. But life does get in the way.

Despite all of that, I have yet to find my role from my own studies. I don’t take students, even though I have been a successful professor and facilitator in the collegiate classroom. I have found that while I may be successful in a role in the mundane world, that doesn’t usually translate into the same in the Pagan world. Several Pagan friends have noted that my written words have been helpful in getting certain points across. So, maybe there is some aspect of teaching that does translate there.

Seemingly, the sticking point has been – and continues to be – the term “Priest.” I am a Priest though – something that I have learned to acknowledge openly. I am a Priest of one – me. I handle my own need for ritual. I handle my own daily Spiritual practice. As a solo practitioner that works well for me. Public ritual? Not so much. Frankly, I suck greatly in this area. Facilitating a ritual experience for others is most likely not an appropriate Path for me. I am asked to participate in OBOD rituals that I attend, but I believe that is since I will willingly volunteer, so long as there is a script I can read. ::grin::

Still, I struggle with what my role is. Over the past few weeks, I have spent a lot of walking meditation time thinking this over. At one point, I started going over old journal notes from back in 2007.

In the Bardic lessons, I can sense a need for a personal role to be focused upon and developed. I wonder, sometimes, if my role is better served by aim[ing] at a solitary Path? I work through these Gwers studies alone. Perhaps, that’s the hint at the Path I should be headed towards? Definitely, a thought worth pondering.

–Tommy, 16Nov07

Looking through these older entries, I have realized that I have struggled greatly with the public aspect of Druidry and Paganism for a long time. My answer: however, was directly in front of me. I do not need to have a defined role to be the Druid I am. My walk is my own. Druidry is not a matter of definition. My role only needs to be what I need at that moment. The term of “Priest” is just that – a term. The definition of what it is or is not comes from the individual not from some arcane dictionary. If my function as a Priest does not match what someone else believes it should be – that is perfectly fine. My Path is mine. I do have the same studies as others within the OBOD grades. However, the way I approach those studies is solely my own.

What role do I have? Well, that’s simple as well. My role is to be myself. I don’t have to fit into someone else’s definition of what a Druid or Priest is. If my approach doesn’t fit into someone else’s paradigm, then they should find their own way or look to a group that fits better for them. No judgment. No worries. The Pagan Path is wide enough for all kinds of approaches, even those diametrically opposed to one another. I am not foolish enough to claim my own Spiritual Path as being the “only way”. Everyone must walk their own Path. Their footfalls are very likely to be different than my own. As it should be.

Going forward, I will very likely have the same feeling of avoidance that I have had in the past towards the concept of a “Priest.” That is personal programming that will take some time to move beyond. However, that deprogramming does not need to be front and center. There are so many other things that take a heavier precedence over that. Most of all – just living. After all, its just a term. A single, simple word. While words do have meaning, the depth of that meaning is ascribed to it by the individual. Just a thought.

–Tommy

Walk softly through the desert sand
Old dreams lead the way
Nothing new in the sands of time
Just changes every day


Hang on – It’s starting again
Hang on – There’s no shelter from the wind
Hang on – Like a fire from the sky
Winds of change are blowing by

Jefferson Starship, “Winds of Change” from the album “Modern Times”

Thinking About: the Shrinking Common Ground

Why don’t you protest things more often? Don’t you care about what happens??

I cannot count the number of times I have been asked about this. When the Black Lives Matter protests were in full swing, I was frequently questioned on why I did not participate in the protests that took place all over the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex. At times, it seemed that I was being accused of not being responsive enough (or at all) to the movement – thus providing the assumption that I didn’t care. There are other movements and protests that I have surreptitiously avoided providing support for, which creates the assumption that I don’t care. I have seen these “charges” laid against other individuals within the Pagan community as well.

Probably the first thing to step up to the plate is the notion that if someone doesn’t protest in your cause that they don’t care. This is an easy dichotomy to fall into. I call it the “Us versus Them” theory or perspective. You can find this divisive mindset all throughout the wider cultural spectrum. In the movie “Ben-Hur”, Ben-Hur’s childhood friend Messala presses for Ben-Hur to name the Jews that are speaking out against the Roman occupation. When he refuses to do so, Messala exclaims that “You’re either with me or against me.” In 2001, then President Bush made an appeal to the United Nations for all countries to supply something in the effort against the war on terrorism. He noted that some countries didn’t want to contribute troops, which was understandable. He noted that they could, instead, contribute intelligence-sharing. “Over time it’s going to be important for nations to know they will be held accountable for inactivity. You’re either with us or against us in the fight against terror.” Even the Bible makes mention of this divisive trope. “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters” (Matthew 12:30). For those looking to statements such as this for support in their desired “Us versus Them” paradigm will not find me among the fold.

I prefer to follow a different path in my thinking.

You should have disagreements with your leaders and your colleagues, but it becomes immediately a question of questioning people’s motives, and if immediately you decide that somebody who sees a whole new situation differently than you must be a bad person and somehow twisted inside, we are not going to get very far in forming a more perfect union.

William J. Clinton’s Dole Lecture at University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas, archive.news.ku.edu. May 21, 2004

I know that President Clinton is not a popular figure in the overall spectrum of things. However, disregarding his sexual exploits, I admire his approach to conversation on difficult topics. Rather than completely avoiding the difficult conversations that allow us to determine a deeper consideration of an individual perspective, President Clinton urges that finding the middle ground is more important. Middle ground is a place where everyone can agree on the same point and explore differences from this perspective. In that manner, the common ground is the tie that binds everyone’s exploration together. For instance, the Left/Right divide here in the United States. Both sides have a love for what this country is about, and a respect for the laws that have been set up to govern the country. It’s the interpretation of that governance; coupled with very different views of what a future America would look like, that create the division that we currently labor through. We hyper-focus on the differences rather than anchoring ourselves back to the perspective that should unite us. That hyper-focus and uber-vigilance towards a future vision has driven the deepest wedge between two political perspectives.

So, bringing this all back around – why am I reluctant to head out into the streets to protest? Because I would prefer to find a way to achieve the middle ground between the two sides. However, over the last decade or so, it has become increasingly difficult to find members of either side that are willing to communicate and compromise. Its either this way or that way – or all-out war. This way or that way do nothing to ratchet down the tensions that are prevalent. Nor does going to one side or the other solely for a solution provide an answer. At this point, I hold my middle ground, and hunker-down in place – to survive.

Turning to the “you don’t care” commentary, I understand where that comes from. I don’t care enough about your pet cause to provide any appropriate feedback for you. I understand the easy stance of believing me to be against you and not caring about you. For me, its not that simple. I can disagree or even be ambivalent to your cause, and still care about you. Your pet cause is not you. I am more interested in you and your well-being. I can understand that this may rub people the wrong way, but I look at the person first, and their pet cause last. Not sure how else to put that, so I hope that makes sense to whoever winds up reading this.

Over the last decade-plus, I have watched politics invade every single corner of our daily lives. We take political sides over schoolbooks, brutal policing issues, and seemingly everything else. I have my ideas of how the government should be run here in the United States. However, I am just one voice of many. Others have different ideas than I do. The difference? I’m not willing to bloody someone’s nose, knock out their teeth or take their life because they don’t see my way as being correct. I can only hope that there are many others that would think this way as well. However, after January 6th – I just can’t be completely assured of that. To me, that is a scary prospective indeed.

#TwoQuid

–Tommy

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Thinking About: Obstacles for New Pagans

So, you have started working your way through Paganism. Your first steps were exciting. You met some wonderful people. You have had the most experiences at a few Pagan gatherings. Now you are trying to figure out what group to commit to. Or should you? You start reaching and pulling for rules. Anything that might be helpful in navigating the road you are on. However, your anxiety is building up and you are having this feeling that you do not have control of the wheel.

Sound familiar? This did to me. The above narrative is not typed word-for-word the way it was presented to me in Email. However, this is what was presented to me well over three months ago. The individual and I have traded quite a few Emails back and forth, but I will respectfully withhold the identity of the individual – despite being given permission that came across as being hesitant to me.

When I first got the Email, I felt the difficult feelings I had over the first year of my journey into Paganism. I offered the same starting point I was given – the late Margot Adler’s amazing tome – “Drawing Down the Moon”. I explained the difference between the original and expanded editions (urging that the expanded version should be chosen, but in the end it was still the individual’s choice, not mine). A week later, I was asked for more, and offered up Philip Carr-Gomm’s “What Do Druids Believe?” and noted all the books listed in the reference section of both Adler’s and Carr-Gomm’s works. “These are the springboards into finding out what works for you,” was my additional comment.

Our traditional – and very linear – conversation has led to many other roads and tracks. Music, art, ritual, clothing, how to deal with the mundane world… Re-reading through our discussions, it had never occurred to me all the various things that new Pagans must wander through. None of that even addresses the over-consumerism effect that starting down a new Path can have on an individual. Believe me, books, clothing, travel to rituals, training materials from your chosen tradition/group – even those must-have, gorgeous crystal balls that you could haul down to the local bowling alley…all of that costs a lot of money, even if you make the clothing yourself. All of that can really drive you straight to the workhouse. I mean, we all must be good little Pagans purchasing everything in sight, right? Right?

In a simple word – Yes. But only to a point. If you are trying to decide between that new book from an author you adore (I have several on my list but three that are always tops) and your rent – pay your fucking rent! I know quite a few Pagans that continue down the consumerism tract – and that works for them. But to be honest, you don’t have to buy that cool chalice for your rituals – a Red Solo cup works just as well. Save your money up and buy a chalice when your are financially capable of doing so. The same goes for any ritual tool you can think of. Remember, you must survive, even in this corporate-mad environment that we currently live in. Splurge when you have the capability to do so. In the meantime, just make it work with what you have. Trust me, the Gods don’t care about all the trappings…well, most of the time. Just handle things the best that you can without driving yourself into the arms of the workhouse.

Eventually, our conversations have turned towards choosing a particular Pagan Path, as well as what type of Tradition to look at. Admittedly, the choice being made was Wicca. Not a Path that I claim to know a ton about, but I provided some advice on choosing a Tradition – try things out with Tradition members when you feel comfortable. Look into more than one. Be open to the idea of striking out on your own. Trust your instincts. The last point I made is a self-deprecating one, which I know many people hate when I do that. Even the advice I give to you might be wrong. Because I am not empirical fact for anyone, except myself. And even that is debatable.

I have always viewed myself to be more of a modern-day Ferryman in the Pagan world. You climb in my boat, and I do the best I can to get you to a point where you can do for yourself. I did the same for this individual. I provided Email introductions to a few Wiccan High Priestess that I know (asking if they would be willing to help with the individual’s informal education beforehand) and have settled into a more background role in this person’s Path.

Very few us on our Pagan paths came here first. Very few of us chose this as our first Path. Naturally, we bring a lot of baggage from other Paths – mostly Christian and Southern Baptist in nature. I came from a very conservative Catholic perspective. Naturally, I have my own baggage that I carry as well. Take, as a singular example, my dislike for the term “Priest”. I have struggled with that the entire time I have been on this Path and will likely struggle with it until I pass on beyond the veil. For many of us, it will take some time to grapple with the changes between one Spiritual Path and another. In some cases, we may never completely shed our understanding of our new Spirituality because of things we were taught in our childhood Spirituality that was imprinted upon us by our parents. For many, including myself as I noted, it will likely be a life-long struggle. No need to beat myself up over that point. I will have my struggles. There will be good days. There will be bad days. There will be days in between. One step at a time.

Having been a classroom instructor, I have always marveled at the moment when the “aha!” lightbulb goes on for a student. That moment is easy to see. The student suddenly seems to have an intense moment of clarity and understanding. Well, working through things in Email, I had my own “aha!” moment. I believe I have a better understanding of the difficult, rocky path that new Pagans have. Their footing is never sturdy as they scramble up the somewhat steep side of the mountain before them. It will take them time to navigate their way to a more well-traveled Path. They will stumble and fall at various points on their Path. But with a little encouragement and patience from someone who has been there before, they will manage that difficult terrain. I can’t walk the terrain for them. That’s for them to manage. I can provide some tips on how to achieve better footing or what area of the terrain might be more useful for them. I can also applaud their efforts and encourage them to continue when they have fallen. I can’t take away the bloody knee or scraped skin, but I can let them know that someone gives a shit at how they are doing. And if they happen to decide to go a complete different Spiritual Path – even falling back to their old Path, I can be there to congratulate them on their effort and experience.

To be certain, Paganism isn’t for everyone. Just like Christianity, Judaism, the Muslim faith, Buddhism, and any other faith are not for everyone. The obstacles that new Pagans can be faced with may not seem to be amazing or difficult, but for some these choices can be paralyzing, especially when they are coming from a Path that encourages everyone to be alike, purchase the same things, eat at the same fast food chains….having choices can be a paralyzing moment too. Not every Pagan will have the patience to deal with newbies who are going through these issues. Me? I try my best. But I have never been perfect.

–Tommy

DFW Pagan Pride Day 2013
DFW Pagan Pride Day 2013

Howling Into the Wind: Playing in the “What If” Puddle

I took the opportunity this weekend to travel from central Tejas to Hot Springs, Arkansas to visit the graves of my parents. I am not sure that I would ever have thought that a boy that grow up in the hills of southern Kentucky and his wife – a German from the fairly large city of Wiesbaden – would ever have picked Arkansas as a place to retire. Coming back here, at what seems to be the height of Spring, I can see why. The trees are full of lush, green leaves. The air is filled with the smells of wildflowers. And then there is the state bird of Arkansas – the mosquito. These suckers are large enough to carry away small dogs. But despite the overly large bugs, everything is serene and peaceful.

I am fifty-five now. Later this year will mark another turn of the Wheel within my life. Sometimes, I wonder what the future will hold for me. Other times, I look back on the past few years, marveling at the turns and twists that my life has taken. I think the lyrics to a song states that life is a winding road – or something like that. Sometimes, it can have that feel to it.

Over the last few weeks, I often wonder why I write these blog posts. My traffic stats suck. Nine times out of ten, I get stuck on just what to write. When I do write, I always feel like I could have been more concise, that my writing is a touch more rambling than it should be. I write about my experiences in Paganism. I write about my experiences in Druidry. I write, and I realize that I don’t typically follow the same Path that most other Pagans do. When I look back through my life, I have begun to realize that most everything that I do is quite unorthodox. How did it go in the Johnny Depp pirate movie? Those aren’t rules – they’re more like guidelines.

Sometimes, I wonder what I would be like if I just did things the conventional way? Wat kind of computer technician would I have been? Would I have stuck to single specialty or would I have satisfied my curiosity of other areas in Information Technology and still branched out to become more of a generalist? Not that someone with generalized knowledge is considered valuable or necessary in today’s marketplace. Or at least that’s how it feels from where I sit.

What about me as a Pagan? If I had just learned to live with the parts of Wicca that I didn’t completely agree with, and stayed on my original arc of Wicca – would I be the Pagan that I am today? Perhaps, my disdain for spell work would be far less than it is today. Perhaps, I would be less inclined towards non-formal ritual structure in my life? What about my encounters with Crow, Coyote and Abnoba? Would any of that ever have happened? Would I have been interesting enough to have the interest of Coyote happen upon me? If it did, would I have delved into understanding the perspective of First Nations’ Spirituality enough to know that I was not “of the People” or would it have mattered to me at all?

There’s a lot of room to play in the “What If” world. While it can certainly be fun and amusing for a time; in my opinion, it’s a nice moment of play. None of that is going to take care of the things that I need to do to move forward from where I am now.

2020, the year of COVID, has certainly sucked. During it, I lost a lot of things for a large variety of reasons. Chances at a job since companies didn’t seem to want to hire anyone. Friends – over the choices that I made in my life – both good and bad. Muscle-mass, as I had a major tendency to stay indoors and avoid people outside – choosing to be sedentary instead of staying active. Not being able to be among friends and family around campfires at various points of the year – catching up with our lives, as well as making fun, zany, new memories. There is a lot that I must take stock of within my life, as well as building things back up to being the active person that I was in 2019.

The biggest part is decided where and how to start. Thinking back to when my parents had decided to move up here to Hot Springs and build a home, I remember how much work they put into everything. First was the purchase of the land that they built the house. After that, it was developing the plans for the small house that they had created for themselves. The kitchen was the way my mother wanted it. The garage had a workspace that my father laid out his wood-working tools on, as well as the little corner where he built golf clubs as a side business. Then there was the plan on moving from the house in Shreveport, Louisiana. Things had to be set into two groups – things to go to Arkansas, and things to be gotten rid of. It was a lot of work and effort, but they did what they had to, to make their retirement dreams come true. That hard effort, planning and sweat worked out for them, and they spent the last years of their life living in a heavily forested retirement community, able to enjoy those years in as comfortable a manner as they could.

Here I am. In a similar position. At fifty-five, I’m no young person full of vim and vigor. I’m not old either. But I am old enough that I am starting to see age discrimination in the hiring practices with employers. In the end, I am really looking for a way to continue working – and setting up for the latter part of my years. However, I have far more pressing needs in the short term. I need to get out and do some moderate exercise – not enough to turn myself into another version of Kirk Douglas in his later years. Just enough to keep my healthier than I am now. I have OBOD studies that I need to put a stronger focus into. I have a role of where I fit into a wider Pagan community to figure out as well. Through all of that, I need to continue to be alive.

Playing the “What If” game is a nice past-time to partake in when the rain is pattering softly on the roof. Hang around there long enough, you will wake up suddenly and find that Life has started to move on without you, while you remained in park. My parents and I were never close. I didn’t follow the Path in life that they wanted me to. That disappointed them, and they were not shy about expressing it to me. While I loved my parents, I kept them at arm’s length in my life because of that. I have no regrets in doing that – it was what was necessary for me to be able to survive. I found my support and love from my extended family. However, my parents did show me what drive and determination could do. They had a dream of living here in Arkansas. Why? I’m not sure, nor is it important. They had a desire to be here, and they found a way to do it. Now, its my time to approach that same idea…where am I going, what am I doing, and how do I make all of that happen? On the first two, I am not completely sure, but I have some idea what it is. I can utilize the third to make it real.

–Tommy

The house that my parents designed and built for their retirement years.

Howling Into the Wind: Whose Side Are You On?

“God was more on my side.” This morning on the news, I heard an individual who had been physically assaulted by another make that statement. I sat there and chuckled a bit. Here was an individual that believes that his idea of God was taking sides between himself and someone else. But as the weather guy droned on and on about his forecast of the weather – coupled with his constant apologizing and hedging over how forecast models are merely “trends” – I found myself thinking a bit more on the above statement.

So, I work with three different Gods. Coyote (sometimes), Crow (most often), and Abnoba (Who I have been working with more and more). Working with each of Them to handle what was asked of me was one thing. It never occurred to me to think of Them as taking my side in the world around me. Or do They? Should They? If They don’t, why won’t They?

I am never sure how others may feel about the Gods being involved in the lives of human beings within this existence. Some will view that as unwanted manipulation by the Gods. Others will see it as a loving action on the part of the Gods. Some will even see it as being “favored” by the Gods. Personally, I can not only see the validity of each perspective mentioned there, as well as the logic that can bring one to believe. For me, I have a different perspective. Yeah…go figure. I have a different view. 😊

I do believe that the Gods can and do intervene on the behalf of human beings that They work with. But not all the humans that work with Them. I don’t see the Gods as being perfect. I don’t see Them as being omnipotent either. They are however, beyond our comprehension. Just like I love all three of my cats, I do have my favorite. I intervene on her behalf when it becomes necessary to do so. But only when necessary. Yes, comparing the way I deal with my cats to the way the Gods deal with the humans that They work with is a horrible comparison. After all, I am not the God of my cats. I’m just the human that they own.

I cannot provide a single instance where Coyote, Crow or Abnoba have intervened on my behalf. Nor do I think that any of Them would do so. Most of my mistakes that I have made are utilized as lessons to be learned. Discernment and understanding are key elements of what each want from me. I won’t get that without making mistakes to provide a better perspective for me. I could even suppose that They set me up for failure at times just so I can learn and understand a perspective much better. Some of that has been and is painful, but I was never physically in danger or harmed. Lessons to be learned.

So, are They “on my side” when there are battles of any sort that I am involved in? I couldn’t really say with any level of certainty. I would love to say that it is true. That each of Them has my back and would intervene in my favor. That’s nice “Us v. Them” theory though. Unlike many Pagans and Christians that I encounter, I do not see a coming battle of Polytheism and Monotheism. Rather, I see human beings projecting their need for debate, discourse, and dislike for things that are different from their own perspectives onto the projector screen of their representative Deities. For me, I don’t see much difference between the perspectives, aside from Who – and how many – are being uplifted as “divine”. But are Coyote, Crow, and Abnoba on my side?

I suppose it’s a fair question of sorts. However, I do comprehend all of this in the same perspective of the relationship between myself and my three cats. Knowing that the Gods are not perfect, I would theorize that They also have their own favorite humans. However, I would further theorize that despite the concept of “favoritism” that could be applied, it does not diminish the individual relationship that They have with everyone that They interact with.

I am a firm believer that the relationship I have with the Gods – any God or Goddess – is unique to me and that Deity. Further, I believe that applies to the relationship that every individual has with their chosen Deity on their own Path as well. Knowing and believing that, I can openly say Coyote, Crow, and Abonba are on my side. They are on my side in a manner that works within the relationship we have together. I don’t expect my relationship with Them to be the same as the relationship that They have with other humans. I know that many Christians believe that the relationship that they have with their representative God is – and should be – the same between all of the Christians and God. Sorry, I’m not built that way.

Being open and honest, I cannot empirically prove anything that I am describing above. Nor do I care to do so. I know what I feel. I know what I believe. Considering the personal nature of Spirituality, I am not out to prove anything that I believe to anyone else. Nor am I a person to convert others to the way I connect to the world around me with my Spirituality. Forcing people to believe as I do is diametrically opposed to everything I believe in and hold as morally correct. If people believe differently than I do or worship differently than I do or connect with the Gods different than I do – believe it or not, I am thrilled for them. I know how special and wonderful that feeling can be – even if just from a general point-of-view.

Many folks will say that if the Gods do not intervene on my behalf, that those Gods are not with me. Or that my Gods are bowing before their all-powerful monotheistic God. Bully for them. I don’t subscribe to that thought. I would suppose that it depends on what you mean by the God(s) being “on your side.” I know my Gods are with me. Mine walk with me on my daily Path. Sometimes beside me. Sometimes on my shoulder, in the case of Crow. They are not with me to fight my battles for me, but to teach me ways to be a better human being. In return, I do Their works here in this world. It works for me. Apparently, it works for Them too.

Now with all that said…I need to go pick sides with Them for a game of Red Rover.

–Tommy

Thinking About: Are You Experienced?

I love talking to folks who are new to the Path of Paganism. Regardless of their age, I have always found it to be a wonderful experience to feel the excitement that they have for what they have (apparently) stumbled upon. Feeling all that energy that they churn up over their new first steps is some amazing stuff. I have always thought that it would be great to bottle that feeling up and sell it online. I would probably pass gates and Musk in valued monetary worth. LOL

I still remember my first steps in Paganism. How excited I felt about finding something that properly fit the way that I believed. Over time, I have realized that it does not always fit properly. Its not an air-tight fit, but then it never was meant to be one. In the beginning, there was a lot of confusion over what direction to pick. The lady that introduced me to Paganism handed me all kinds of books to read, but the first one she handed me is one I continue to run to over and over. The late-Margot Adler’s “Drawing Down the Moon” was my first steps into the wider world. The first time I read it, I realized that Paganism was a lot broader than I had realized.

Wiccans, Witches, Druids, Goddess worshippers… honestly, I was overwhelmed. My first time reading DDtM was like trying to drink from a fire hose that was attached to a high-pressure hydrant. There was a lot of information to take in, but I could only get small drops of it at a single time.

Now, I have written at some detailed length about my first steps on my own Pagan Path. My confusion, my exploration, my decisions…. all that is littered throughout the blog. However, I really have not written much about the next steps. My first five to six years on the Pagan Path were akin to trying to find your way through a forest during a dense fog. The real formation for the foundation of the pagan I have become came in the next four years.

Once I started to find my feelers through the world of Wicca, I started to realize that this was not the Path for me. No matter what Tradition I decided to study with, or whatever author I picked up – the emphasis on spell work was always a constant. For me, it did not take long for me to realize that spell work was not for me. At least not as a first-choice tactic towards solving problems or figuring out issues. For me, spells (and curses) are like nuclear weapons in the military. You keep it in your arsenal, but you try to find all kinds of solutions to keep from using it. Yes, I hear the groans and grumblings of those who disagree with that statement. Honestly? That is perfectly fine. That is the way those folks step towards such matters and issues. However, its not mine.

So, I set Wicca and Witchcraft into the rear-view mirror and started exploring elsewhere. Druidry, Ceremonial Magick, general Paganism… nothing seemed to fit. So, I struck out on my own. I decided to blaze my own trail through Paganism and develop my own way through Paganism. However, I kept studying other directions while I was doing this, and eventually stumbled across Druidry (again). This time, I had a different perspective. Seeing this with a new-ish set of eyes, I started to understand how I could work within the framework of Druidry, and still walk my own Path. Thus, here I am.

Now, that all worked for me. The chances are quite real that this won’t work for someone else. We’re all individuals on our personal Spiritual Paths. We all experience everything from a different perspective. There are similarities between everything, even Christianity and other Spiritual Paths. But each vantage point can only be occupied by a single individual at a single time. At least that’s my theory.

Confused yet? Yeah. That was (and still is) a constant feeling that I encountered along my own Path of Understanding. Typically, I step on the brakes, park my Spiritual beliefs at the side of the road, and get out a blanket and some food to sit and contemplate things. Most of the time, I will find a way to remove some of that confusion. Most of the time. Sometimes, I remain confused. Either way, I eventually pack things back up, get back in my Spirituality car and get back on the road.

Still confused? If so, that’s only a natural response. My imagery works for me, not necessarily for everyone else. However, much of where I am at now comes from a singular piece of advice that Gardnerian Wiccan in the US Army offered to me at a ritual I attended in a forested area near Kaiserslautern, Germany.

Your footsteps are yours alone. What you see is what is processed by your brain for you only. You can describe the feeling of the Path under your feet. You can describe what you see. Everyone will interpret what you say differently according to their own experiences and biases. Don’t be confused or angry when others don’t feel or experience the same way.

Ivy was kind enough to relate that perspective to me that night. What she told me resonated with me then and still does to this day. My only wish is that I knew that back in my first five to six years on my Pagan Path. But then, if I had known that, I would have had far different experiences on my own Spiritual Path – and who knows how different a Pagan I would be today.

When Pagans, particularly those fairly new to their own Pagan Path, hear that I have been on my Path for close to thirty-five years – well, its only natural to come and ask how I have walked my Path. Ivy’s statement is a good one to give, and I have done that on a few occasions. However, I have a larger tendency to just respond with “Be curious, be open-minded, and find Joy in your Path.” Sometimes, I get the feeling that wasn’t the answer that they might be looking for. Sometimes, I am even told just that. But I am not some Pagan guru that is sitting on top of a mountain waiting for students or seekers of information to find me. I’m a student and a seeker of information too. The only difference is that I happen to have been on this search/quest much longer. That doesn’t make me wiser, smarter, or better than anyone else.

The immortal Jimi Hendrix once wrote:

If you can just get your mind together
Then come on across to me
We’ll hold hands an’ then we’ll watch the sun rise from the bottom of the sea
But first
Are you experienced?
Have you ever been experienced?
Well, I have

“Are You Experienced?, Jimi Hendrix

The real question to ask basically boils down to what do you mean by “experienced”? Depending on how you explain that, well I have. That still doesn’t make me better than the person just taking their first steps on their own Pagan Path this morning.

–Tommy