Book of Shadows? Personal Journal? Does It Matter?

There are days, such as today, that I get stumped for what to write. In the past, I have taken two different routes towards solving this – I either just write off the top of my head or find an old post to rewrite in some fashion. Honestly, the first method just sucks. The post tends to come off as a rambly piece of work. The second doesn’t do much better, particularly when my perspective hasn’t changed much. So, I am about to spend part of the morning wrestling internally with what to do or what to approach. Welcome to my writing process. LOL

So, I went and peeked in the Email box, and found a question that I believe would be interesting (thanks A!). One’s Book of Shadows. Do I have one? No. Not by that name. Or even by that conceptual purpose. But first, let’s dig into what a Book of Shadows seems to be in a traditional sense.

Going off the Wikipedia page (I know – not a terribly great source of information, but a decent starting place for information, in my opinion):

A Book of Shadows is a book containing religious text and instructions for magical rituals found within the Neopagan religion of Wicca, and in many pagan practices.

Disregarding some of the grammatic descriptives, essentially, a Book of Shadows seems to be a repository of instruction, outlined ritual formats, and other useful information for the individual keeping such a tome. What gets kept in it? Well, from what I have come to understand, information that is important to the individual creating and keeping it. Ritual outlines, spells, notes on what does or doesn’t work in one’s Spiritual practice, copied quotations that have meaning to the individual…maybe even recipes. That’s from what I have come to understand.

When I was starting out in Wicca, I was encouraged to keep my own Book of Shadows by my teachers. I didn’t. Well I did at first. But it seemed an exercise in futility to me. Things that I added did not have the same meaning to me months later. Plus, any quotations I wrote down came from books that I already had on my shelf. When I left Fort Worth, Texas for Germany (thank you, United States Air Force), I completely abandoned the practice.

These days, I do keep something somewhat close to the concept of a Book of Shadows. However, I call it a Personal Journal. I don’t keep it in a paper format either. At one time I had it saved directly on my computer as an ever-growing Word document. However, I realized – via my Disaster Recovery education – that this was sheer folly. Magnetic hard drives do fail. So, I shopped around and settled on a cloud-based solution in EverNote. I have about four years’ worth of entries located here. I have only shared access into these files with one person, for a short period of time, and even then only with a certain section of what I wrote.

So, what do I write in there? Well, I work on blog entries there. I write synopsis of my day. I even have notes concerning my Bardic and Ovate grade work there. I keep notes concerning rituals that I participate in, and on unusual moments that occur in some of my daily devotions. In a way, you can say that my full life is in there.

Why a cloud-based solution? Well, I can access it from my computer, my laptop, my iPad, and even my phone. I can also access it from any computer I may have available to me. I just need to enter my userid and password – and then I am in and able to read or write. For me, this is very handy. However, I do realize that there are those folks who prefer the handwritten aspect over the computer. I have always believed that to be completely awesome. Everyone has different tastes as to what they prefer.

So, what information do I want to keep in my version of a Book of Shadows? How do I determine what is or is not important? What if the stuff that I want is vastly different from what others want? Who is doing things the right way?

Let’s start off with the who is doing it right and wrong argument. I absolutely loathe the “this or that” binary argument. What works right for one person may not necessarily work for someone else. What I consider to be “valuable” information might be considered as “trite” and “useless” information by someone else. Just as I dislike referring to my journal as a “Book of Shadows”, someone else may find that term to be useful and appropriate for themselves. Neither of us has a complete hold on the absolute truth. But we do know what works right for ourselves. Thus, let’s jettison this entire binary argument that things are either this or that. There is plenty of room in-between and beyond for a lot of other perspectives.

This holds true for what information goes into your Book of Shadows, Personal Journal or whatever you want to call it. No one can tell you what is important to you, other than yourself. What you record in those entries is completely up to you, no one else. Unless you want to give them the permission to dictate that to you. But that’s a piece of discourse for another time. The information in those entries, scribbled on pages or entered in a digital format, is what is important to you. Simple as that.

What do I consider as important information? Well, for me, that depends on the entry being made. Sometimes, its just a matter of documenting what had happened. Other times, I go into greater detail of how things happened, and my feelings during all of it. Many times, for me, its just a documentation of the day or the moment. However, I do have ritual frameworks outlined in some entries, a broad handful of poems that I have written, and a pair of super-shitty short stories I have tried my hand at. For me, this is what makes this more of a Personal Journal for me than a Book of Shadows. Even though, much of what I have in those entries does fall into the inane definition that I outlined from Wikipedia.

The truth of the matter is that your Book of Shadows will be whatever you want it to be. You are the one putting the information into the entries. You are determining what is important to add or not. You might wish to separate your notes about daily activities from your Book of Shadows. To be frank, I do exactly this inside of EverNote, as each type of entry has its own folder. I consider these to be more chapters than separate compendiums. Again, its what works for me. You need to do what works for you. Whatever that winds up being.

If you are on the fence about doing something like this…writing things down. Give it a try for a month. Then go back and read what you have written. Determine if it is something that works for you or not. Contrary to what some folks may believe, not every Pagan has a Book of Shadows or gets into journaling. For me, it is a worthwhile amount of time spent in my day. But I am not going to speak for everyone. That would be foolish of me.

In the end, a Book of Shadows? A Personal Journal? Some other descriptive? In my mind, it really doesn’t matter, so long as what you put in it has meaning and significance for you. That’s just my two quid.

–T /|\

(The Return of) Bad Poetry Thursday: Moving Forward

Walking through the forest
Deeper than before
Darker than I imagined
An anticipated adventure and journey

Stepping carefully and cautiously
Worrying of the footfall’s placement
What lies ahead – completely unknown
Pondering what could be ahead

Feelings of fear and excitement
Feed each step through the trees
Branches clawing unseen in the dark
Raking skin and catching clothing

I hear Her voice somewhere ahead
A soft whisper beckoning me on
Deeper into the darkened forest
An unknown where I now belong

I wrote this four years ago. I may have posted it on the blog before. However, this showed up as a memory on Facebook yesterday. This serves as a reminder that every step in the darker portion of the forest is not always easy to take. As I look over the last four years, I see so many unexpected twists and turns that have occurred in my life. None of them I ever expected. A few turned out far different than I ever imagined would happen. However, each – in its own way – has provided me with experiences, emotions, and lessons that have helped to shape the Path I am on today. What lies ahead? I really have no idea, but the only way to find out is to keep moving ahead. 😊

Permission to Fail or Daring to Try?

Permission to fail. Quite a few years back, I was always amused by this phrase. Who needed to have permission to fail? Failure just happens. Thus, I would look at the phrase as an amusement rather than a particular way of rephrasing one’s everyday approach to life.

I am more than half Germanic. Germans are known for their precise approach to things, according to popular misconception. Not that I believe my DNA pushes me in that direction. But I do have that tendency. A need for a precise approach to things. And when things don’t work, my frustration will set in very quickly. What I am about to set forth here is a manner of how I learned to deal with my frustration over things not working the way I expected. None of this happened over a short period of time. More like years. Quite a few.

When I first encountered Wicca, I had no idea what I was reading about. I brought all my questions to my much older girlfriend of the time, a Wiccan High Priestess. We would sit and talk about what I read, and she would provide a warmer narrative from her own experiences. When I finally decided to ask to be accepted into my Rainbow year of learning, I had a concept of what I was about to expect. Lots of talking, an occasional ritual, and some formalized classes in the living room of whoever was handling the lesson. The talking and the lessons went exactly as I expected. The rituals, on the other hand, were confusing and jarring to my senses. Frankly, I was not really prepared to be naked in front of others. Later, it was relayed to me that I had not been told about the nudity because they were sure I would have issues with it. They were right. But not in the way that they thought. For me, it was a moment where everything that I had expected was wrong. My state of mind did not like the unexpected failure of what I had prepared myself for.

The first time I tried to work a spell, I followed a formulaic aspect that I found in one of Donald Michael Kraig’s books. I gave the spell nearly a month to work. When I didn’t get results of any kind, I sought out a ceremonial magician friend and asked why. She could not tell me exactly why but noted that the formulaic process could always be altered in ways that were more personal to me. This only made me even more frustrated. How was I supposed to learn the basic process when I needed to find ways to improvise to make things work properly?

These are only two examples of how processes within my Pagan practice had “failed” me. Many, many times over, I would find myself not doing things “correctly” and become increasingly frustrated with my approach to Paganism. There were times that I sat down and thought that the Christians had it so much easier. All they had to do was show up at church on Wednesdays and Sundays, sign some songs from a book that was provided, and just listen to the admonishes of some intercessory that stood at the front of the congregation.

At this point, I had found myself handling my own approach to my Spirituality. I was in Germany, stationed there by the United States Air Force. Most of the Pagans I knew there, which admittedly was an extremely small number, followed various aspects of Wicca, Heathenry, or something else that I didn’t follow. I would gather with them to talk and discuss Paganism from a generic perspective. At one point, I met with members of a small coven to perform a ritual on Kapaun Air Station, the first such religious accommodation made for a Pagan group by the United States military anywhere in the world. But I was a guest, not a member of the group (though their leader had counted me as a member to inflate his membership numbers to the Ramstein Chaplain that had sponsored his group). Much of my Spiritual practice was spent wandering the wooded areas around the Kaiserslautern area. During my wandering in those woods, I would think about my own Spirituality, and began forming my own personal approach to Paganism. I often wondered if I was doing any of this correctly.

Upon my separation from the United States military, and my subsequent return to the United States, I found myself more alone than I was in Germany. The Witch Wars in Dallas had occurred while I was gone. Dovetailing with that was the back half of the Satanic Panic that had gripped much of the United States from the fanatical Evangelical corner. Many Pagans had gone to ground. Finding ways to hide in plain sight. I had very few people that I could contact to find out if I was doing things right or wrong. So, I continued doing things my own way. Right or wrong, my focus was on doing things in a way that felt “correct” for me. During this time, much of how I handle my own Spirituality came to be.

I wish I could impress on you how many failures I ran into in this period. It was a lot. I would lay out an idea of how to approach an aspect of my Spirituality, only to be frustrated over how it did not work the way I had expected. Or to have it completely backfire in my face. The first few years was quite humbling. However, at some point I realized that each failure was an experience that I could build on. When I found something that did work, I was ecstatic. Slowly I built my own approach to Paganism. Granted, its not a pretty one. There are plenty of scars upon it. There are mismatched pieces within it. But it works for me. That’s what counts most.

Over time, I came across the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids (OBOD). I looked through their information, even looked deeper into their ritual framework. What I found was much closer to what I had been doing in my own Spirituality – trying to find connection, reveling in experience. The ritual framework is not necessarily to my liking (and still is not), but it was a perspective I could live with in groups and gatherings. I don’t use it in my own personal rituals.

At some point, I had decided to give myself permission to fail. I just didn’t see it in those words. I saw it as an aspect of trying. But in trying, I had to prepare myself for the possibility that things wouldn’t work. From that, I learned the value of improvising, finding non-traditional techniques to try and make things work. However, I cannot give my work in my Spirituality the credit for that. Rather, I learned the value of improvising in my work within the military.

In Germany, I was attached to a multi-national NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) unit. Funding for all areas of this unit were sparse. You learned to make do with what you had on hand, or the mission did not get accomplished. That was not an option. I learned not to worry about what something was designed to do and see it for what it could be made to do. Somewhere, that started to translate into my own Spirituality. Did the Gods really give a shit if I called a Guardian at the four quarters? Did I really need to create a circle boundary between my ritual space and the rest of the world? Granted, for some workings – these aspects were necessary for a variety of reasons. But did that mean it had to happen all the time? Through this, I learned my most valuable lesson – question it. That was the only way that you could break things down to the necessary components and remove everything that wasn’t necessary. Or everything that you thought wasn’t necessary. Trial and error. Try it. If it didn’t work or didn’t feel right – add back a component you removed and try again. If that didn’t work, keep adding back and retrying until you find the combination that does.

I know there will be many folks who will find this to be sacrilege. However, I would point to the “fun” little rituals that are out there, such as the Rite of Chocolate, and ask why that could be accepted but little changes to ritual formatting cannot? Believe me, I am not saying that all this works for every single individual or that every Pagan must utilize this concept of alteration as holy writ. That’s not the point. All I am trying to say is that we need to be accepting of the idea that we can fail. And that in failing, we learn. In failing, we can find humor in what occurred. In failing, we can step forward to try again.

Failing, in my opinion, is a part of living. It is a part of growing. It is a part of feeling. In my opinion, our approach to the Gods is not a strict, unbending Path of ritual. Our approach to the Gods, our approach to our own Spirituality is a growing, changing, living relationship. If we place ourselves in a place where we cannot fail, we will wind up frustrated when we do. And our frustration can drive us away from our Spirituality.

I cannot count the number of times I have fucked up, the number of times I have failed. Numerous times, I have sat down and just cried over my frustrations at those failures. I am glad that I picked myself up each time, wiped the tears from my eyes, and resolved to move forward. If I had not, I do not believe that I would be the Pagan I am today. In fact, I know I wouldn’t. Without those experiences, those failures…

–T /|\

Photo by Eva Elijas on

Rebuilding My Druidry – Looking Back to the Beginning

Over the past few months, I have fleeting mentioned that I am rebuilding my approach to Druidry. A few posts ago, I went into a bit stronger detail with a post titled “Rebuilding My Druidry: Ritual” where I discussed my own approach to ritual in accordance to the Wheel of the Year. I had a few compliments passed on to me on what I had written. A few mentioned that I had expressed how they also approached their own Spirituality within their own Spirituality. Others disagreed but noted that it was important to see different approaches, particularly for those who are new to Paganism. After all, the more you read, understand, and experience – it only stands to reason that your own approach becomes much more informed.

In that vein, I will try my best to take one post a week and do some open exploration of my own approach to various topics as it unfolds in my own rebuild of my Druidry. For today, I will take some steps backwards and start from the beginning of this process.

I have been on a Pagan Path for close to thirty-five years now. Much of my early years were spent trying to swim within the pool of Wicca. The fitting between myself and the Wiccans I encountered was never a good one. Much of what I was being taught fell along the lines of strict hierarchies, none of which I believed were useful or helpful. I have never been shy about expressing my opinion on things. Looking back, it would have been better to just keep my mouth shut and move along. However, I was a very different Pagan when I was younger.

I didn’t come to Druidry until sometime in the early to mid-2000s. While the fit has never been completely tight or right – it is the closest thing I have found to what I believe. The framework provided by the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids (OBOD) has enough flexibility for me to find ways to make this Path my own. However, I didn’t realize that until shortly after I completed my Bardic grade, which took me nearly seven years. Thus, I had swallowed much of the symbology behind what a Druid “should” be, without critically examining what had presented. Those of you that have come out of families that were strong in the Southern Baptist faith will understand this. You accept what is taught and find ways to contort yourself around perspectives that don’t necessarily fit directly to you. Blind obedience has never really sat well with me.

In the past few years, I have loosened up the compartmentalization that I have had in my personal life, allowing my Druidry to flow easier into my life. More than once, aspects of my Druidry clashed with approaches that I used in secular (Gods I hate that term) life – some of which put me in awkward and even dangerous situations. This has caused me to tear down two matrices that I have constructed in my life – my own personal approach to daily existence, and my Druidry.

Because these two matrices were originally constructed to work independently of one another, when I let down the barriers between them, conflicts started to arise in my everyday life, and even within my own personality. To make the two work together meant pulling everything down, and then rebuilding from the pieces of both, while examining what was necessary, removing what wasn’t, and finding ways to combine those that were in diametrical opposition to one another.

Probably the most difficult part of all of this is bringing myself to understand that however I do this rebuild, whatever it winds up looking like – I am not doing this to please others. I am doing this to make my everyday approach to life map easier to my Spirituality without removing too much of the non-Spiritual perspectives that work for me. In other words, I am a Druid, but that does not negate who I am. I am not a slave to my beliefs. My beliefs are what help me connect to the world around me, and my beliefs should be helpful in my own approach to everyday things such as decision-making, and in the usage of my own emotional intelligence.

My first step was to remove some of the over-romanticized perspective of what Druidry is. I am not Gandalf the Grey or Gandalf the White. I am not Getafix. I am not whatever popular perspective of Merlin that is shown to us in the various renditions of the tales of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. I am me. I am not a Priest to the masses. I am not some individual who is strong with some arcane power that others just cannot comprehend without the training that I have. I really am just me. I am a Druid. As a Druid, I am constantly learning. I am constantly experiencing. What I learn and experience is different from everyone else, including the people that stand right next to me. I am still searching for what type of Druid I might be – if any. To me, archetypes are like labels – they’re useful for sorting, but completely bullocks in being useful beyond that. If you read through the blog, you will find where I struggle with labels such as “Priest”, “Elder”, “Teacher”, and even “Mentor.” I might fulfill some aspect of all of these – and likely even more – but in the end, I am still myself. So, the first step was to rebuild what I felt was a Druid.

At this point, I am still trying to formulate a complete answer to that. I find myself constantly falling into the asinine “Are You Pagan Enough” tripe, when trying to work up an idea of what a Druid is. So, I have decided to not worry about the fallacy of trying to find a definition for the word. I know where my footsteps are on my Path. Its not for me to judge whether someone else’s footsteps are “worth enough” to hold a similar descriptive to mine. In fact, given that I shamelessly advocate for others to find value and worthiness in their own footsteps, it would be hypocritical of me to provide any such judgment. Rather, I find it more useful to encourage others to continue to seek their direction, to continue to see worth in what they are doing, and to fail. Failing is an experience that teaches us about our efforts. I’ll write more on this in the next blog post for Tuesday.

This rebuilding of my Druidry is not going to be complete if I focus on it entirely. I also must focus on my own self as well. I have made no secret that I have been working with a mental health counselor. One of the bigger areas that we have worked on is a deeply rooted aspect of “Imposter Syndrome”. This has shot most of my personal confidence and has been a major cog in my constant second-guessing myself on various aspects of my life. This is a slow road to change, but a very necessary one.

After I wrote the “Rebuilding My Druidry: Ritual” post, I had a few folks tell me that they didn’t agree with my approach. I can grok that. In fact, I would say that they are completely right. My approach is not the right thing to do – for them. They know what works for them, and they realize that this won’t work for them. I am not them. They are not me. We are Pagans, but we are also individuals. No one has told me that I am completely wrong in what I am doing, and I am thankful for that. I dislike fundamentalist Christians for their lack of vision that the world around them is not the same as they are – and that the world is better off for those differences. I dislike fundamentalist Pagans even more. Everyone should, in my opinion, have the freedom to explore their own approach to the Divine. If they make mistakes, if they fail – they will learn from those experiences and adapt their beliefs and practices accordingly. While I can warn them about my own experiences in those areas, its is also better for me to be there when they need someone to hold them and listen to their laments over those experiences. No “I told you so” moments. Just understanding, and a steady shoulder for them to lean on or cry into. As the mem says: “I’m not here to compete with you. I hope we all make it.”

Rebuilding things is not the easiest task to accomplish. For me, it is necessary. I cannot live my life where aspects of myself are constantly in conflict with one another. This process is not quick nor is it easy. I am relearning the idea of personal patience. Plus, I am realizing that some of my life choices during this time were not healthy ones. But those were made. These are part of my Past now. A past that informs my Present and has a part in shaping my Future – whatever that might look like. Sure, after thirty-five some-odd years on a Pagan Path, at the ripe age of fifty-five (fifty-six this year), doing a rebuild like this may seem strange to handle. Why not just let it stay the way it is, relax and enjoy the latter part of my Life? That sounds awesome, but it is not me. I am still learning. I am still experiencing. Rebuilding my Druidry, as well as rebuilding parts of my own Self – to integrate the two more tightly and appropriately – well, that’s just being honest with myself over what needs to be done. The “fake it ‘tll you make it” tripe just never felt like I was being honest with myself. Others can disagree. I am not them. They are not me.

–T /|\

Rebuilding My Druidry: Ritual

Spring is one of those times of the year that I enjoy being outside. The temperature is not too cold here in central Tejas. Nor is it face-melting hot, but there is a promise in the air that this will be the future here. The elbow-in-the-ribs joke is that if you don’t like the weather here, just wait ten minutes. Except in the dead of Summer.

Spring also has the promise of one of the celebrations on the Wheel of the Year that I tend to avoid – Beltane. I have discussed that before, though. However, the year of lockup and lock-down that COVID-19 has provided for all of us, has uncovered a lot of other things for me. I have begun to see this past year of COVID-19 like a river in a high-drought season. As the water’s depth disappears, the stones that make up the river’s bed get exposed. Your perception of the river changes because of that. In so many ways, COVID-19 has done this for me in many places in my life – personally, professionally, and even Spiritually. This uncovering of the stones in the river bed has led me to re-examine parts of my own Druidry.

In the past, I have always tried to make two large celebrations in my nearest Pagan community. Not because the celebrations were important. My attendance was more about being able to mingle with the people there – re-igniting connections with others. The largest of these, for me, is the Gulf Coast Gathering (GCG), here in the States. I have never missed any of the celebrations. Due to COVID-19, I will have missed the last two years of this gathering of OBOD Druids. Many of these people are more than friends. They are family. Many of them, I only get to see at this gathering. Due to our busy lives, we rarely converse outside of the gathering. So, GCG serves as more than a celebration of a spoke of the Wheel of the Year. In many respects, it truly is a family reunion.

Over the past year, I have been to exactly zero gatherings. The last OBOD member I have seen face-to-face was John Beckett back in early March of last year. This past year has taught me the importance of these gatherings to what I am as a Druid, and as a person. All this time away has also taught me another perspective, that my Spirituality does not necessarily have to be focused around the Wheel of the Year. But one step at a time in this conversation.

I have never considered myself to be much of a social creature. When I was at Pantheacon, Many Gods West, the ADF Imbolc Retreat I have frequently attended, or even Gulf Coat Gathering – I was never really drawn to the celebratory gatherings that have occurred in the late-night hours. In my time at any of those events, I would retire far earlier than others for sleep. The truth be told, I always felt uncomfortable around any of those after-hours moments. My idea of winding down after any of these conferences, retreats, or gatherings was to sit around a fire and have quiet conversations about whatever subject. I have truly never been the “party-on” type of person. I do; however, miss the people that I encountered and spent time with at these events. Our discussions might take place on a porch or in a hotel hallway or across a small table in a Subway restaurant, but I have found that I crave these discussions the most. These discussions form a strong basis of how I work through my Spirituality on my own, and without them, I don’t always have the fertile ground that I am hoping for when I contemplate things, such as my own “Pagan Square Mile.”

Much of my practice has focused around the Wheel of the Year. I have worked personal rituals to the various spokes. I always found the time to attend group celebrations as well. This past year, I purposefully abandoned all of that. The exact reasoning of “why” is not important. During that time, I started questioning and rebuilding aspects of my Druidry. My heavy focus on ritual was one of those aspects that received a lot more scrutiny than I had originally intended. I had realized that I spent too much time worrying about what part of the Year I was in, and far less time being absorbed in my surroundings, and my local environment. When I worked at the college, my morning and evening drives consisted of a short ten-mile drive on a dirt road between five cattle farms. I didn’t need to celebrate the Wheel of the Year to see the cycle of death and re-birth. I could watch it through my windshield every single day. I saw cattle disappear from the various herds, obviously sold to market for food production. I would see the new baby calves Just a few days after their birth, moving on shaky legs. A few months later, these same calves would challenge my truck to a race along the fence line, a comical sight to be certain, but a definite sign of their growth. I certainly didn’t need ritual to experience the cycle of life. I only had to live and observe everything around me.

Don’t get me wrong. Ritual has a place within my life. In the smaller form of daily devotionals to Crow, Coyote, and Abnoba, I have an aspect of ritual that takes place every day. My focus on larger ritual celebrations tends to focus around the Equinoxes and the Solstices more than anything else. But ritual has never been the be-all, end-all that it tends to be for other Pagans. Before anyone thinks that I am taking a massive shit on the experiences and practices of others, I will point out that I have never said once that everyone should stop placing strong emphasis on rituals. I am simply pointing out that my Spiritual practice does not have the same manner of emphasis. I know what works for me, what calls to my soul…there is no way in the Nine Hells that I would ever believe that what I do should be done in the same manner by anyone other than myself.

Certainly, there are going to be those Pagans that will point to what I have written here and say that I am “wrong” in my approach. All I can really do is shrug my shoulders and move on. If they were looking for an argument or fight, they probably need to go back twenty years or more and approach me there. At my age, I have no desire to argue or fight about how I approach my own Spirituality. I have other areas where I wish to focus my time, and energy.

So, today brings another light-blue sky for my Sunday afternoon. I would prefer to be outside for at least part of it. I have my mask with me. My intention is to be outside, doing what I do as a Pagan…living my life and experiencing the day.

–T /|\

Thinking About: Paper Airplanes and Personal Experience – Why I Enjoy Teaching

Synchronicity is defined as “the simultaneous occurrence of events which appear significantly related but have no discernible causal connection.” I have often referred to it as a “gentle nudge” from the Gods” or even as “the Universe is trying to tell me something.” This doesn’t happen often for me, so it’s not something I can put an absolute definition to. Honestly, I don’t really care to even try to define what it is at the moment. I’m not a person that gets hung up on definitions or the uber-minutiae of stuff. So long as I can grasp what’s up…well, that’s all that really matters in my thinking.

The past few weeks, I have been catching up with a lot of older friends and colleagues that I have lost touch with over the years. While we have caught up, a running theme has started to occur in our discussions. Over and over, I have been asked if I was going to head back to the classroom. Not to learn, but to teach. That is not a direction I have entertained openly. Frankly, adjunct faculty members at the collegiate level get paid bullshit wages. But I can string together adjunct positions at several colleges that have online instructor needs, to help supplement things. In a manner of speaking, I would be going full-on mercenary in the collegiate world.

Professionally, I must face some facts concerning my place in both the technology and collegiate administration worlds. I turn fifty-six this year. In the Technology world, this provides me with the moniker of being a dinosaur. Skill-wise, I am what is referred to as a trouble-shooter. In today’s vernacular, I would be classified as a generalist. If that is still confusing you think of this in terms of the statement: “jack of all trades, master of none.” In today’s marketplace, generalists are at the bottom of the structure, bottom of the pay-scale, and are the most expendable piece of the corporate structure. Furthermore, these positions are typically filled by individuals out of high school. An individual of my age, my experience, and my education (one bachelor’s degree, two master’s degrees) would easily be passed over as “over-qualified”. In the collegiate administration, I find myself in a similar strait.

However, the faculty realm is a bit of a different story. Age is not a major factor. Experience is needed in your field of instruction. Mastery of a particular area is a desirable thing, but not necessarily a be-all, end-all thing. You need to know how to connect with the students over the course of your instruction with them. You need to have the ability to intelligently discuss technical issues in a way that non-technical people can understand and relate to the material. I have done all of this during the first three years I worked at the college. I still do this when I have friends that ask for technical assistance with their computers. As much as it pains my high school instructors to hear it, I’m an instructor.

Even my former faculty members have urged me to get back into the classroom. When I taught at the college, I was known for my unorthodox lessons. One semester, I utilized an entire class period to teach the students about assembly line concepts and techniques. I did that by having them build paper airplanes according to a specified set of instructions. Airplanes that were not constructed correctly were rejected at the Quality Control step. The number of correctly built airplanes at the end of ten minutes were counted. The team with the most correctly built airplanes received fifty bonus points to be split among the team members. Once the counting had been completed, and the chaotic noise had subsided, we had a conversation over what they observed during the process. Bottlenecks, the need for precision in following instructions, and the perspective of specialization on the assembly line were openly discussed. Yes, the class was an introduction to Business Information Systems, but to understand how Information systems provide information relating to business operations, they had to learn the business operations. The students loved the exercise. My team lead was not too enthusiastic, claiming it was a waste of class time, until I demonstrated it during a department meeting.

For me, teaching is not just vomiting facts, dates, and other information from a text. Teaching is about making those facts, dates, and information come to life for the students. How does all of that relate to their daily lives? Where and how does this subset of technology touch their lives? Teaching is about bringing the concepts to life in a very personal way for the student. It means that you must love explaining things, and never tire of hearing questions.

For OBOD’s Bard, Ovate, and (presumably) the Druid grades (I have not made it to Druid grade, so I can only speculate here), there are mentors that are available to help you. A place where you can ask questions of someone who has been through the lessons of that grade. Someone that can help gently guide you towards a specific way of seeing the material, without running the perspective and personal experience that it will provide. I imagine that these folks love what they do, otherwise being a mentor would be a rather unfulfilling prospectus for them. Hopefully, one day, I can step into such a role, should the Order think I am a good fit for that. I certainly would find that to be a fulfilling direction for me.

So, today, I have started re-working my resume to emphasize my perspective and experience on being an instructor. Within fifty miles of where I am right now, there are ten Community Colleges and Universities where I might be able to be added to their adjunct instructor pools. There are five or more national institutions where I can potentially find employment as an adjunct instructor. I am cautious, but hopeful of finding my place at any of these as an online instructor, or for the closer ones, being able to teach face-to-face (my preference). Instead of struggling to find a place where my skill sets may fit in, I will be looking for something where I get to do what I enjoy most – sharing my experiences with others, and getting them to understand, in a very intimate and personal manner, the information being presented to them. I feel like I am doing the same thing here on this blog. Sharing my experiences and my perspective with others. I hope you find what I write to be rewarding, informative, and thoughtful. I do enjoy writing these blog posts.

As I missed the Tuesday blog post because of medical appointments on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday – I will be posting two blog posts over the weekend. I will be headed more into some of my personal “how-to” perspectives of my own Druidry and Paganism. Until Saturday (the first post)….

–T /|\

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Goooooooals! Thinking About the Process…

Yesterday, I was reading a post on the ESPN Major League baseball site about what goals the writer thought each team should have going into this season. Goals. That prompted me to start thinking about my own goals, and how to apply those to what I work on daily. And I started segmenting my life into various areas. My Professional life. My Spiritual life. My Educational direction. My physical workout direction. As I did this, the goals all started to pile up, and I realized I didn’t have enough time in the day to reach everything I wanted to get to. That felt paralyzing. However, I didn’t want things to stop there. So, I took the evening to think a bit more on all of it.

Segmenting Life

Early in all the thinking, I realized that segmenting my life might not be the best thing in the world. I have heard it referred to as compartmentalizing, where one takes certain things and separates them from others. Lately, I have begun to realize that doing this is not workable for me. While I work in data and statistics, I cannot separate that from my Druidry. My Druidry provides me insight into my analysis and finding trends in the data I work on. How everything fits together and operates together is part of how I view the entire world around me. To divorce my Druidry from my Professional life would require me to not utilize my approach to everything around me. I just cannot do that. The same holds true for my approach to my own education or my approach to being more physically fit. All of which fits together to make a more complete picture. Separating each of these into individual component parts to be approached and worked on individually would, in essence, be ignoring everything I understand about myself.

Setting My Goals

I used to keep these elaborate lists of everything that needed to be accomplished. I would even graph out specified time frames in my calendar to bracket time for completing things. A few months back, I realized that this approach was just not really working for me. I do keep lists, particularly when I am packing for a trip, but I found that this process was not really working for handling my goals. So, I turned towards a different approach. I started to set smaller, more realistic goals that I could work towards without building these elaborate lists.

As an example, my Ovate grade work has many aspects to it. There is a lot of things that need to be accomplished, a lot of approaches to be thought through. I used to mark on a calendar a time frame that I would work on each Gwers. Each time I set up this goal-oriented structure, it failed. I would find myself off-track after a short period of time. So, I altered the approach to not be so list or task structured. I work with each Gwers as I can. Sometimes, one lesson is worked through and absorbed quickly. Sometimes its not. However, I have no worries or anxiety because I no longer place time limits on my time with each one. This stuff is not a race. Now, with work related things, it’s a little different. I am not the one setting the deadlines. But I do try to approach my work in a similar vein. I do my best not to hurry.

Working (and Rocking) My Goals

I do have long-term goals. I have a desire to finish my Ovate grade and move on to the Druid grade. Its not a given that it will happen, but it is my goal and desire to do so. I am seeing a need for more education in my Professional life. I am already looking into prospects for another master’s degree, which will assist me in improving my ability to do my work. There is always a chance to better yourself. I am headed in that direction. My physical self during this time of COVID has been diminished, thanks to being held inside (mostly). I am looking at ways to improve my physical strength, as well as my diminished health. No heavy goals here, except to get healthier. I am not looking to make a certain weight or be able to ride a stationary bike at a certain speed for a certain distance. Just a desire to get healthier.

One thing I have learned is that when you set unreachable goals for yourself, your failure to reach those unattainable heights can influence your mental health. Sometimes, its far better to walk away from those unattainable goals than to continue to reach for what is constantly just out of your grasp. Believe me, that is a hard lesson to learn. Plus, it is a real head-slam when you finally understand it. The difficult part is to not beat yourself up over it. Yes, you failed. But you can always alter your approach and try again. But there are also goals that will never be attainable. Those, you need to realize for yourself, and walk away without trying again. Those are the hardest moments that you can have.

Now, I will end this with stuff that I usually say. This is a process and a set of thinking that works for me. This is not going to work for everyone. Everyone is their own individual. Everyone will have their own way of motivating themselves towards their goals. Everyone will have their own way of analyzing things. I am not writing this as an ultimate manifesto of how to do things. I write this as a potential kick-starter for others to examine their own personal processes. I am not the ultimate authority of anything, except where it pertains to myself. I do suggest that if you find yourself getting paralyzed over trying to move forward with your own personal goals…start small. Those small successes will help. For me, it provided a way of seeing that I could accomplish things. That I was able to do it. Just a thought. Your mileage will vary.

–T /|\

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Howling Into the Wind: Wiser and Older But Still Foolish

Life has certainly changed a lot for me – not just in the past few months, but also over the longer course of this river that is my life. I keep thinking back to the first few years of where I was in my Pagan Path comparing it against the Pagan and Druid I have become today. I see a lot of differences. A lot more than I had initially realized. I had honestly never thought I would be where I am at now. In fact, looking back, I am not even sure of where I thought things were going to go for me as a Pagan.

In the Beginning

Most of my Spiritual background comes from an empty slate. My parents were Protestants but sent me to Catholic schools because the education there was supposedly better than the public schools. I learned a lot about the Catholic church’s history, its rituals, and its philosophy. The problem with that…I simply didn’t believe what I was being taught by the Priests, Nuns, and other faculty members. Perhaps, part of that is the rebellious streak that I have in me. I have never taken to having something shoved down my throat. Frankly, I learn better when the material is presented to me, and I am given the opportunity to make decisions on my own.

Once I graduated high school, I moved over to the Southern Baptist realm. Again, I rebelled against having a philosophical perspective shoved down my throat. The ladies were prettier though. 😊 I didn’t really learn much about this belief system while I was there. I came to realize quickly that I was no fan of the presentation method of loud yelling and threatening “unbelievers” with a painful eternal life in Hell. I never have dealt too well with threatening perspectives. Threats only make me feel like my back is against the wall.

Eventually, I came across a Wiccan Priestess that I was interested in romantically. She was up-front about her beliefs and offered me the late-Margot Adler’s “Drawing Down the Moon” to provide me some perspective. What I read was what I had believed – right there in words. At the end of the book, I noticed a Bibliography of other books, and was compelled to ask about those. Luckily, she had a few of those in her library and provided those to me. At this time, I was in the Air Force and stationed at Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth, Texas.

On-Fire for Paganism

I would read these books during the shifts that I worked in the Data Processing Center, where I worked the base’s mainframe operations. Late at night, when the work was done (or during the long weekend hours), I would not only read about how Pagans and Witches had been treated over the ages according to what the authors would write – I would openly try to discuss this with the Christians that I worked with. I was never very kind about what I read and what I thought of it. Eventually, this pushed me on to a shift where the other three members were all Evangelical Preachers for their congregations. Eight-hour shifts with these guys felt like an eternity. Twelve-hour shifts were absolutely Hell. Over time, I learned to just work and keep my mouth shut.

That was a good thirty-plus years ago. I was not very accommodating of Christian beliefs and was hot-headed enough to say so. These days, my perspective has changed a lot. I see the Christian path as valid for those who seek to follow it. Those who attempt to ram it down your throat – well, they are simply doing what they feel is right. So long as they do not try to force me to believe as they do – its easy for me to ignore them and move along. This choice has certainly made my Path a lot quieter than it was before. 😊

Stick to the Rules

Reading a lot of the books, I saw how rituals were outlined, and all the setup work that went into making things “right”. Certain types of incense for certain rites. Certain color candles for this and that. If I couldn’t find the exact stuff – I just wasn’t going to be able to do the ritual. To me, at that time, these books were holy writ. No changing anything. Over time and talking with other Pagans that I have encountered along my long, flowing river – well, I have come to realize that nothing must be a certain way. Anything can be done with what you have on-hand. Its your intent that matters more. Don’t have candles? Flashlights can suffice, if needed. Don’t have drinking water available? A bottle of Dr. pepper can stand in for that if needed. Don’t have ritual clothing? No worries. That Pet Shop Boys concert t-shirt, those worn-out jeans, and your beat-up tennis will be all right. Forgot the words? Well, if you don’t have a physical copy of the ritual…wing it, if you can. There’s nothing wrong with any of that. What matters more is where your heart is at that moment. Where your mind is. Where your being is focused. The rules, the outline of the ritual, the various tools, clothing items – shit, even the date you do the ritual – is just extra and not really needed. The only thing that can’t be replaced or over-looked…is you.

To be openly honest, most of my rituals that I do on my own are impromptu. I have a basic structure that looks somewhat like OBOD’s ritual framework, but only somewhat. Outside of that, everything is stuff from the top of my head. I know that none of what I do for myself will have much impact for others. But I am a solo Druid. The only impact I am worried about in a ritual-for-one is for me. When I gather with a group of Druids or Pagans for any ritual aspect, I follow their guidelines to the letter. Their show…their rules. For me, it really is as simple as that.

Where Does It All Go?

Back when I first started down my Pagan Path, I honestly do not recall myself having any kind of direction. Even when I was part of the Wiccan groups I started with. My goals were essentially whatever they told me those should be. I had no idea where I was going or what I was doing. By the time I came to Druidry, I had a better idea of what I was trying to do – what kind of Pagan I wanted to be – even what kind of Druid I wanted to focus on being. That was around eleven years ago. A lot has changed for me since then. My focus is a little different. I have a desire to be a mentor…but I have no idea where or how to get there. Or if that Path would even be open to me at this point. I know I have a lot more to learn. My Path is only now starting to come out of one of the darkest periods in my life. There are lessons from that which I still need to learn and process. And lessons that I learned during my time in the dark that I need to work on completely removing. All of that takes time. It takes work. It takes sweat and effort. I honestly can’t say I knew that starting down this river. I really did think this was all just reading books and drinking and chanting around a campfire. Damn I was young and foolish. I’m older now. I can still be foolish…as shown by the last year. However, as I have learned over time – experience is a damn gorgeous teacher. A bit stern sometimes, a bit harsh at others, but She is awesome, nonetheless.

Through it all, I must echo what Mickey Hart said at the end of the Grateful Dead’s last show. Be kind. Not just to others, but to yourself too. You will make mistakes. You will get hurt. But if your heart is in the right place, you will heal – and continue. Just be kind about it all.

By the way, I am not the Pagan I was when I first started down this river. Thank the Gods for that. Looking back, I was not a very pleasant individual to be around. Some would say that I am still not a pleasant individual to be around now. 😉 But I would like to believe that I am a much more mellow individual than I was. Much more forgiving. Much more understanding. And yes, kinder.

–T /|\

Have I Got An Offer For You

I just looked at the calendar…if I was working for the college still, I would be looking at Spring Break right now. It feels like the entire last year has been an extremely long, extended Spring Break.

I was reading through a handful of Facebook posts from friends, and there was a post written about offerings to the Gods. I didn’t reply because I thought it would make a better blog post. Well, we shall see if that thinking was misplaced, right? 😊 The good part here is that I am finding writing prompts from a lot of other places than just my over-thinking mind. So, let’s just take a jaunt into this arena, shall we?

In the Beginning

When I first started to toddle along on my Pagan path, the idea of offerings was alien to me. Whenever it was presented to me, it had a similar feeling to the symbolic Last Supper rites within the Catholic mass. Just presented in a different way. Since I didn’t really want anything like the Catholic faith in what I was trying to accomplish on my own Path, offerings were simply not a part of what I did in those years. I do joke that I am a lapsed Catholic, but the reality is that this is where my childhood was set – thanks to my parents. So, with that symbology firmly ensconced in my head, the gesture of offering food and drink to the Gods felt almost like a reversal of the process to me. Looking back, I can see where my mind placed an unwarranted and unnatural perspective to all of this, but this is where my head took me.

This process was not helped by an extremely healthy dislike and disgust for the Christian faiths by the Pagans that I was working directly with. While this is a thought for a different post, it is an example of how so many aspects of our chosen Spirituality overlap into various areas of our belief. My unwarranted knee-jerk reaction to offerings can be slightly attributed to this type of collateral thinking.

Trying to Understand

As you can see, my approach to the idea of offerings was poisoned from the well, so to speak. However, as time wore on, my derision towards the concept of offerings was slowly being challenged. Like any new Pagan, as time marched slowly through my life, I started looking for new positions around the fire where I could sit. I found other Pagans to discuss Spiritual matters with. From these perspectives, I found more books and authors to read. These brought me to different perspectives of offerings, and a new light in which to observe and relate to the concept.

Now, you might view the above paragraph and think it took me a short period of time to contemplate the changes in my attitude towards offerings. That, simply, is not true. The above paragraph encompasses a period of close to two decades of my life. For me, my understanding of something happens over time. Changes to that perspective move at a glacial pace. Much like my emotions, I cannot change my thinking like one turns a faucet on or off. I’m just not built that way.

In the beginning, I had seen offerings as something that was an empty gesture – made for the benefit of others. Sort of like a Hollywood movie moment. Over time, I started to see offerings as a moment where one would share what they have with the Gods, or the Spirits of a Place, or the Spirits of Ancestor. The gesture is made in gratitude, and in hospitality. In essence, an individual or group presenting the offering is accepting the Gods, the Spirits of Place, or the Spirits of Ancestor as guests to the rite. These guests are being accorded the hospitality that one would provide to any other individual that had been invited to the rite.

To be completely open and honest, this is not a conclusion I came to quite a while ago. In terms of my thirty-plus years on this Path, this is a recent development for me. Quite a while back, I attended the ADF Texas Imbolc Retreat, presented by Hearthstone Grove. This is where I encountered a very real representation of making offerings to the Gods, the Spirits of Place, and the Spirits of Ancestors. Experiencing the heartfelt presentation of others to their Gods helped me immensely in understanding the entire concept as it is practiced by both individuals and groups. I cannot put enough gratitude towards all the people I have been with at the various Texas Imbolc Retreats, who have helped me understand what offerings really by what are about, through their actions.

Comprehending What Others Offer

An aspect of offerings that I have found to be somewhat controversial is what exactly to provide as an offering. I have found that there are many ways to interpret what is “proper” and what is not in an offering, dependent on the individual asked. I have seen a lot of items provided as offerings at various rituals. Incense, oils poured on fires, alcohol poured on fires or on the ground, water set in a bowl at the edge of the ritual area, food stuffs of many types tossed into a fire, effigies of various types placed in the fire, and so many others. Each is usually provided with some perspective of justification as to its usage in this instance. Some of the perspectives I understand. Others, not so much.

Probably the most difficult part of this is to not be judgmental over what others offer. One participant popped Rolo candies into the fire as an offering, which I thought to be somewhat odd. A short while later, I came to understand that while it certainly was odd, the individual was offering something that they would consume to the Gods. They were sharing their bounty (or their version of it) with the Gods, just as if they were serving a guest with a portion of the harvest. I had similar misgivings when I first saw individuals pouring whiskey and other alcoholic drinks into a fire as an offering to the Gods. But the aspect is similar. You share with the Gods what you would share with any other guest.

Part of what I needed to realize was that was being offered by the individual was something that mattered directly to them. They were not just offering something that they picked out for the occasion, but something that held an everyday meaning to them. For all I know, the individual offering the Rolo candies was offering something that was an everyday comfort item to them. Thus, the candies were not a sacrifice of some sort, but rather an item being shared with the Gods. While sacrificing an item as an offering is a real thing, the sharing of an item has an air of hospitality to it. And that is certainly a topic for another post.

What I Have to Offer

What follows is my own understanding, perspective, and justification as it applies to my own daily Path.

As I said before, I came to this aspect of offerings late in my Path. Being a diabetic, I do not drink much. I might have two or three beers over the course of a year. Maybe, I will add a glass of whiskey to that total over the same year, but usually not. My heavy drinking days are long behind me. But I do keep a bottle of Irish whiskey (Bushmill’s, of course!) to make special offerings with. When a fellow OBOD Gulf Coast Gathering member passed on, I left two gold-dollar coins and a shot of whiskey at my backyard circle for his crossing. This is precisely what I purchased the whiskey for – offerings of a special variety.

But alcohol is not the only thing I have used for special offerings. When my two beloved girls, Gizmo and Kaylee, contracted cancer and I took them to the vet to be put to sleep (a grace considering the amount of pain they were both in), I felt two saucers of heavy cream out at the circle, along with a shot of the Bushmill’s. The cream was for my girls.  The whiskey was for the Spirits of Ancestor, a thank you for helping my babies cross the Rainbow Bridge.

My usual offering comes in the forms of water and birdseed. The water is a symbolic gesture of life and is always the same water that I would drink. As the Water Protectors in the Dakotas reminded us during the Dakota Access Pipeline Protests – “Water is Life”. The birdseed is a thank you to the Gods for the daily inspiration that I have in my daily life. Plus, the birdseed attracts the birds to the backyard, which keeps the ‘Bird Channel” going for my two youngest cats, Raven and Gabby. 😊 But the thank you to the Gods is done by providing for the wildlife that is here in the area. While I live in a rural-ish area, I do live in what looks like an everyday suburban neighborhood. The animals were here before we were. They still need to eat too.

I give my offerings for a lot of reasons, but primarily as a reminder that I am still alive, and as a thank you to the Gods for looking after me. A strong bout with pneumonia, a high-blood sugars diabetic episode which had me in a coma for a bit more than a day, and this entire COVID pandemic – I have plenty to be thankful for in being alive.


Offerings come in many forms and are given for a variety of reasons that are as expansive as the Universe itself. I have reasons for the offerings I provide. Some Pagans may feel the need not to provide offerings, considering these to not be a part of their daily practice, or even feeling that these are not necessary. I can completely grok that. I have been there too. There is not one damn thing wrong with that. However, if you are contemplating adding the idea of offerings to your daily practice, take some time to figure out what you want to do. I didn’t discuss the “hows” of giving offerings because I feel that figuring out the wording, gestures, and ritual aspect is best left to the individual. How you talk to the Gods, the Spirits of Place and your Spirits of Ancestors will be as different as you and I are. That’s a good thing too. Because when it comes down to it, how you practice your beliefs – should be up to you.

–T /|\

Dealing With Cultural Appropriation – My Personal Take

Currently, I am going through a “dry” period of coming up with what to write about. Thankfully, a few folks have offered up suggestions on what to write. This weekend’s blog post is courtesy of a question from Ashlynn G. in Washington state. Ashlynn had read my earlier post on cultural appropriation and wanted to know how I approach others on that perspective when I encounter it with them.

This is a bit of a tough area for me. I am not the kind of person that goes around looking for other peoples’ approaches to blow up. I have never found approaching others over their approaches to Spirituality to be a comfortable topic. Even as a friendly discussion. I have my own way of going about my Spirituality and have never felt a need to judge someone else’s approach. There are those that I find distasteful from my own perspective, but I am also not in their shoes. To judge another’s approach beyond how it would or would not apply to myself…well, that’s just not me nor is it something that I feel is a necessary thing for me to do.

Yes, I get the cultural appropriation charge leveled against me because I do have close relationships with two First Nations Gods. However, it has been made very apparent to me that I am not of “the People” (First Nations’ folk). That specific Path is not mine, as I was told. My Path and working with Crow and Coyote is different than that of “the People.” Pow-wows, sweat lodges, vision quests, and the such are not on my Path. I have never been invited to any such thing either. And to be honest, I am not sure I would accept if I were invited. The perspective of a Shaman would never apply to me. I work with Crow and Coyote because They called to me. I can’t control that. But I can ensure that I am not trampling into areas I should not tread.

The same holds true when being provided a description of someone else’s Path. What Gods that they work with is not for me to denigrate. Even the rituals, spell work, and the such is really none of my business. My place is not to be the judge of how others conduct themselves on their Path. I do not know what agreements, contracts, and what-not they have bargained with their Gods. Nor do I need to be privy to that either. My footfalls are the steps that I can control. Those are the steps that I need to concentrate on.

Occasionally, I will run across Pagan folks that feel it is their duty to battle Christians over perspectives, actions, and what-not. Way back when I was a far more zealous Pagan, I would wade into these “battles” on Bulletin Board Systems (BBSs – and yes I am dating my fifty-five-year-old self here) for prolonged ‘warfare”. Looking back, I must ask myself a few questions. What did it accomplish? What image did it portray to those not involved in the “discussion”? What did I really intend to have occur? The answers are simple, and not very pleasant to my ears. These accomplished nothing. Essentially, to others, I came off as a very angry, preachy Pagan. Unfortunately, my desire was to try and get folks on the other side to admit to the hypocrisy that I saw in their beliefs.

Much of where I am now on stuff like this comes down to boundaries. Boundaries that I have set myself – for myself. Words do not have to be answered with zealotry and misplaced passion. Words need only be answered with truth and answered only once. Prolonged and protracted arguments will do nothing to establish “right” or “wrong”. Plus, words are only words. When someone takes those words a further step with action – things change a bit. Answering the actions of zealotry requires action in return. Hurt those I love and care about, and that crosses another boundary I have set. I am not an individual of violent reaction. I prefer discussion over fists and weapons. I prefer common ground over battlefields. But my preference can sometimes not be the vanguard of the day.

Hypothetically, how would I approach someone whose personal practice is crossing into the territory of cultural appropriation, blatant or otherwise? Well, as I said before, discussion is my preference to any approach. I would prefer to be as courteous as I could, not come in with guns blazing. The reason is extremely simple. I have no idea why they are doing things the way that they are. I don’t know the bargains that they have made. My assumption may be false, and I am assuming. Even with people I have known forever. My preference is to tread lightly just in case I am wrong. If they don’t listen? Well, in that case, I have done what I can. Forcing people to see a potential error in their ways brings me back to those protracted “discussions” on the BBSs. Arguing for the sake of making noise, essentially. I am no longer that Pagan. Thirty-plus years has softened my approach to such things. Besides, I would prefer to let the Gods and karma do that work. Both are far better at it than I could ever imagine I could be.

So, Ashlynn, I hope this answers your question in a way that is helpful and informative. There are others that will disagree with my approach, and prefer the guns blazin’ approach. I understand how they get there. I was there once myself. This; however, is the way that I believe would be best…if I was to approach someone over such things. As I said, the Gods and karma are far better at responding to such things that I could ever be.

–T /|\

Bad Poetry Thursday: Stealing My Sight

I have watched beyond the horizon
Staring past the Sun’s last rays
Hoping for a glimpse of the Future
Of things I cannot seem to say

The future is there to be seen
But the Sun slips beyond the edge
Darkness steals my sight from me
I dare not move further on my ledge

In the morning, the Sun climbs high
The Past can so easily be seen
The light of the day provides the lens
For all that has already been

At day’s end, the Sun drops in the West
Beyond the edge, waving a quiet good night
Taking the Future beyond with it
As darkness, again, steals my sight

When I first started trying to figure out how to read the Tarot, I kept trying to see it as a prognostication tool. Something that could provide foresight into what was to come. In some sense, I still believe that it can be utilized in that way, but I have also begun to realize that it can also be a tool to work on what one sees in their own mind. The symbology can be very personal. The interpretation can provide some meaning and perspective into what is currently on one’s mind. it can also be easily misread too. As I note in the poem, when the Sun sets and darkness takes hold – my natural perspective is to stop and not take another step forward. I have no perspective for how high the ledge is or how close I am to the edge or even how precarious my footing currently may be. When darkness robs your vision and perception, you move a little slower, a little more deliberate. And to be completely honest, Tarot is not a flashlight or a torch that can be used to light your way. From my perspective, its a tool to help understand and determine your state of mind. That perception can be like the dawning light of the early morning, where everything is lightly illuminated, and you can see a bit better…just not completely clear.

That’s not likely the way anyone else may see things with the Tarot. My perspective might not be pretty, but its where I am tonight. 🙂

–T /|\

Photo by Darwis Alwan on

Thinking About: What It Takes to Get There

Well, its Tuesday. Time for another blog post. Still pushing through writer’s block, I was coming to this with empty pockets. However, I came across a Facebook post by Cat Treadwell, which reads (in part): “I’m undertaking more rites of Passing lately, due to the state of the world, but wanted to say again that I’m absolutely fine for my details to be passed on as needed for any such work. We’re not able to gather for celebrations yet, but officiants are still needed.” All of that got my head to working its way around a few thoughts, which are turning into this post.

Currently, we are starting to come out of the nightmare of COVID we have been living through. This morning, I realized that it was right around this time last year that we all started to become aware of COVID. One year ago, this was the time of change for all our lives. Now, we are still moving towards that finish line – the battle with COVID is far from over, despite what idiots like Texas’ Governor Greg Abbott may think, but this is the right time to stop for a moment, and determine how we move forward from here.

The Pagan community is a vast, constantly growing, constantly changing macro-organism – so pretending like I know what will and won’t work for such a widely diverse community would be the height of arrogance on my part. I am just one Pagan. One Druid. One Polytheist. I have one voice. One opinion. One dream. The reality of all of that is that I can only speak on behalf of a single person – me. But I can, point out what I believe needs to be addressed, from where I stand. It might jive with the perspectives of other people. It might not. But here goes.

Cat is pointing out something that is a reality in the wake of the forward motion of COVID. We, the wider Pagan community, will be quite likely be in the process of mourning someone in our community, immediate family or even someone that we admired from afar. For those Pagans that identify on the Path of a Priest, those roles will be more important than ever before. Generally, we tend to think of the rites of Passing when catastrophic events occur within our lives. Well, COVID is here. We’ve all focused on trying to survive, hoping that we don’t have to face the awful event of someone in our immediate sphere of existence passing from this awful disease. But it does happen. Many of our folks that are in that path of Priesthood, generally, seem to be approached at times of happiness. That is typically the rite of Handfasting. We have many members of our communities that will need comfort and assistance…and that does not have to come solely from those in the Path of the Priest.

COVID has also cut off some folks from their chosen communities. For instance, I have not seen a single member of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids (OBOD) since I saw John Beckett at Austin WitchFest last year, sometime in April. In fact, that was the last public Pagan gathering I have attended to this day. I am sure that many others have similar stories. Being cut off in this manner can create issues of anxiety, depressive states, and feelings of extreme loneliness. As a community, we need to reach out to others…just to make sure they are ok. Reassure them that we are all still here. We are still connected, despite the distance of time. Reassure ourselves that things will come back together for everyone…even if it is a little slower than we want it to be.

Let’s face a few facts. We have not kicked COVID’s ass. Not yet. There is a distant light at the end of the tunnel, that’s for sure. We have vaccines available. I’ll be getting mine (the Moderna two-shot version) on Friday, with the second four weeks following that. Even after that occurs, I’ll still be wearing my mask in public. Just because I got the vaccine does not mean things are over and I can act like everything is back to the time before COVID showed up. Even despite what my state’s governor may say. That also means that Pagan public events should not be kicking off starting tomorrow. In fact, I believe it will be a while before even those get going again. And perhaps even longer before we start really trusting those public type of events again. That means that people who have a major social aspect to their pagan practice – and I am including myself here – will need to remain patient. We will need to remain content with the sterile virtual gatherings we have all come to understand and relate with in these times. It also means that we need to take the time to check in on everyone…making the reassurance that those connections are still there.

One day we will all be able to see one another face-to-face. We will be able to hold hands, hug one another, show each other the genuine affection we have for our people. In the meantime, we must stay vigilant, and keep ourselves safe. Not just for us, but for everyone. Yes, even that annoying Trump supporter that lives down the street. Because that dude is a human being too. A bit misguided, but still a human being.

For those on the Path of the Priest…those rites of passing are important. We need those. We need you being able to do those. Even if its just a virtual session. We need that connection. We need you to be in your role.

We all have roles within our community. Some are Priests. Some hold other roles. Some are just trying to find their own footing. Whatever the case may be, we have all been interrupted in our approaches from what has happened with COVID. We have all learned to survive on our own. We have all managed to handle our personal Spirituality on our own during these times. To whatever degree that may be, it doesn’t matter. We’ve made it here. To this point. We still have more of this lonely road to travel, but soon we will be walking it with others again. Hand-in-hand, side-by-side….together. Let’s manage these last steps with our minds on what is yet to come – and what we must do to get there.

–T /|\

What Does Success Look Like In Your Daily Approach – My Attempt

Starting this off, I must admit that this is probably the most difficult writing topic I have ever approached on the blog. See, I have hit a tough period of writer’s block lately. I confided in a long-time friend and reader of this blog (all the way back to the old days) that I was in this dry spell. She suggested the previous topic and this one as potential jumping off points. The post on Imposter Syndrome took a few hours to write, and nearly two days to research and think about. This post, well…this has been a much tougher one to write, for a lot of reasons – some of which I will go through in the post. I just wanted to explain some of the aspects of approaching the topic – as well as noting that I am always willing to write on any topic you might want to provide. Or at least, willing to try since it will be my own approach.

So, the topic that was suggested was “What Does Success Look Like in Your Spiritual Approach?” In all actuality, this is where I moved the goal post somewhat. The original question was “What Does Success Look Like in Druidry?” However, I cannot and will not speak on Druidry in a way that expresses some dogmatic perspective that should apply to every Druid out there. I just cannot do that. I know my own approach. I know how Druidry functions within my daily Path. I just cannot claim to know what Druidry is to anyone else. So, the first step was to reframe the question in something a touch narrower – my own approach. But that was not the only stumbling point that I encountered.

Success. What the fuck does that even look like for me? Success conjures up imagery of winning, of competition, of goal setting. And if you don’t come out with the higher score, dominate your opponent, or reach your goal – you are a failure. Right? Well, yeah. Except that I do not believe in all of that. Dominating your opponent, having the higher score – that works well in things of competition, but I am not competing with anyone. I hope we all make it, as the oft-quoted meme says. As for goals, I set goals all the time. I fall short of those goals quite a bit. But none of that is a failure. Its an experience that I can learn from, an experience that I can adjust my expectations from. Honestly, Life is not about successes and failures for me. Not anymore. Life is about experiencing things. I think the only success I can truly point to is waking up in the morning. It means that I have not passed beyond the veil, and I get another chance at a new day that could be better than yesterday. Immediately, I find myself beyond the eight-ball, so to speak, trying to figure out what a “success” would look like in my Spiritual approach…my daily Path.

Trying to define something like success, as it applies to my own daily approach, is a lot tougher than I thought it might be. Again, success by its definition, is not something I aspire towards unless I am playing a video game or playing in a soccer game. Perhaps, I could apply it to a concept of positive and negative experiences. Like, for instance, a great moment might be when a ritual goes EXACTLY the way I had planned it. No odd moments. No things forgotten. No surprises. But then, I have had rituals that did not go the way I had planned that wound up being extremely important experiences. Such as using rubbing alcohol to hold a small fire in a metal pot (cauldron). You must light that shit quickly. Otherwise…well, let’s just say that my experience taught me to go other routes. 😊 So positive and negative perspectives really isn’t quite the way to go since negative experiences can provide just as much enlightenment as positive ones can. But there is that one point – enlightenment.

What exactly is enlightenment? The English Language Learners dictionary defines it as “the state of having knowledge or understanding.” This plays a bit easier in my mind as to what this so-called point of “success” might look like. I am not seeking a point of winning or losing. I am looking for experiences that can relay knowledge and understanding to a particular question or issue within my mind. Take for instance, my Odyssean journey through the grades of OBOD’s study courses. I spend a large amount of time on my lessons, not because I cannot grasp or comprehend what is being presented. Rather, I am trying to squeeze every fucking drop I can from the material. I keep looking for more and more experientially points that I can derive from what is presented. Until I have wrung that cloth completely dry, I seem to have the feeling that I have not really reached what I need to get.

What does success look like in my Spirituality? Within my daily Path? Well, I must resort to Henry David Thoreau for that response.

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, to discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and to be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.

Henry David Thoreau

My Druidry is about experience. I’m not looking for a success or a failure. I am here to suck the marrow from the bones of daily Life. I am looking to taste, feel, hear, see, smell, talk with, and listen to whatever is there. If I come back home bruised, broken, and bleeding, I experienced just as much as if I came home with a notebook full of scribbled notes, and horrible sketches. I can go to a classical music concert with an elegant dinner afterwards, and have just as exhilarating an experience if I went down to a local club to see Halestorm, and then stuck around to pound whiskey shots with the band until I passed out. Daily Life is about experiences, about feeling the moment. Grab a hold of it, sink your teeth into its neck, and feel the rising passion. Or curled up on the couch with a book in one hand, your cat on your lap, and your lover holding your other hand. There is no such thing as success in how I live my life. There are experiences, there are sensations, there is living. Sometimes, Life is good. Sometimes, it’s bad. But most of the time, it’s somewhere in-between. So, what is success? I opened my eyes this morning. I took a deep breath. I get another day in this existence. I have succeeded.

Now, regarding the original question, I am not completely sure I have answered exactly what was asked. All I can really do is apologize, to a point. I really have tried my best to answer the question. I did have to change things around a bit, and work my around some of the definitions, as well as the philosophical aspects. Not sure if that is disappointing, infuriating, or satisfying to others. Or maybe some combination of those, maybe even some perspective I have not even thought of here. I will point out; this is how I approached the question. The real question for you, the reader, is how YOU would answer this. I will bet it is far different than I have. And I will bet it is not wrong, whatsoever – even if its diametrically opposed from my answer.

–T /|\

Making a Move: Pushing Through Imposter Syndrome

I still remember my first professional presentation. I gave a short presentation on basic Structured Query Language (SQL) for collegiate professionals using Microsoft Access. The presentation was straight-forward stuff. No heavy-duty table linking. No temporary tables. No query optimization theory. Just plain old SELECT statements with a handful of WHERE examples. I had fifty minutes time. I was nervous, and frankly scared to death. I was not used to being in front of people and trying to demonstrate things to them. Ok that’s not completely true. I had taught Introduction to Information Systems for three years prior to that moment. But this was the first time I had done this in front of a group of peers.

Well, that’s not completely true either. In the United States Air Force, I had given two briefings on command-and-control message processing structures, one in the command post I worked in, and another in an off-building near the Pentagon for an Air Force command conference. Plus, I had helped teach a course in Chemical Warfare protective equipment (how to use the stuff) to other members of my base. So, yeah, I had experience in being in front of people and doing what I was attempting on that day in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Plus, I have done a handful of professional presentations since then – three more presentations at regional conferences, and a presentation at a national conference in San Diego. I’ll come back to these in a few minutes.

Before I ever stepped in front of those crowds of people to present – even in my own classroom – I have developed a sense of nervousness I have never been able to explain. After a few minutes at the front of these groups of people, my nervousness would melt back into the background, and I would be able to carry on with presenting. And apparently, I’m good at it because I have heard many praises of my presentations provided to me. Not that I would agree, but that’s a different post for discussion. I have never had a name for how I felt until the past couple of years. Imposter syndrome.

Wikipedia, which is not the greatest source in the world, notes imposter syndrome as being:

…is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their skills, talents or accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. Despite external evidence of their competence, those experiencing this phenomenon remain convinced that they are frauds, and do not deserve all they have achieved.

The Wikipedia article goes on to describe the terminology in greater detail from the research provided by Dr. Pauline R. Clance and Dr. Suzanne A. Imes, which provides even more details. I am sure there is even more in-depth research and materials that can be found (as evidenced by the detailed references section of the Wikipedia article), but what is presented in the article brings about a fairly strong example of the internal issues I have each time I step up to present any material to others.

My regional presentations, including the first one that I described here, usually had no more than ten to thirty people in attendance. The first one had fifteen people to start the presentation. By the time I brought the presentation to a close, I was told I had around thirty people there. I’m glad I had no idea of the numbers. I would literally have frozen in the middle of the presentation. When I was in the classroom, I usually had an enrollment of nearly thirty-five students at the start of the class semester. By the end, it would dwindle to around twenty students that I would see on a regular basis. Thus, my expectations were always for a consistently shrinking audience. My national presentation, I was told had over 145 people. Standing room only in a room that had a capacity listed by the hotel as 130. The only way I made it through that session was to focus on the first five rows of people and ignore everyone beyond them. I was literally shaking after I finished.

After every presentation I gave, during the rest of the time at those conferences, I would receive praise from people who attended. People would thank me in the hallways, remark on some of the humor I tried to infuse into the presentation, and I even was thanked on a bus trip to an aircraft carrier museum the next evening at the San Diego conference. I have never been good at taking praise. Every single one of these encounters was extremely awkward for me. After reading the work of Clance and Imes, I am starting to understand that much of that awkwardness comes from the effects of my own internalization resulting from Imposter Syndrome.

I have been provided all kinds of advice to dealing with this, including the “Fake It Until You make It” concept. Unfortunately, that tactic does not work for me. Faking things is a measure of dishonesty, both to myself and to others, that I just cannot deal with. If anything, this tactic only buries me deeper into the Imposter Syndrome effects and magnifies the resultant behavior within me. I withdraw from everything. I place even more pressure upon myself. That starts an even deeper and darker cycle of personal self-destruction (mental, not physical). In fact, I am currently pulling myself out of just such a cycle. Trust me, its not a pretty sight…even from deep inside, where I am. I know that this concept works for other people, but it just doesn’t for me.

So, where and how does this matter to my Druidry? Well, several times over, I have been asked to present at various Pagan conferences. Several times, I have turned down such offers. I have never viewed myself as any kind of expert on any part of Paganism – other than how I, a singular individual, approach it and apply it to my daily life. The reality is not that statement – though it is factually correct. The reality is that I would have felt like a complete fraud standing up in front of a large group of people talking about my Paganism, when I struggle with all of that within my own Daily Path.

I have made no secret over my seeking mental health assistance during my most recent bout with my own Darkness. As I have started to come out of those extremely difficult times, I have realized that no matter how scared I am of getting in front of people, I will need to do it. Not just to talk about Paganism. Not to talk about Druidry. But to talk about how that gets incorporated into one’s own fucked up life. The band Icon For Hire has a lyric in their song “Somebody Make a Move” that I feel is relevant here.

You and I, we share the same disease
Cover up, compromise what we grieve
I’ve let more than my share of revivals die
This isn’t pretty but it’s who I am tonight

My life is hardly pretty. But perhaps my struggle can be someone’s inspiration. I have my own inspirations. They struggle as well. They create as well. They set themselves to one degree or another as an example of what can be done if we decide to make a move. Right now, our world has everything locked down for COVID, and rightly so. But in the future, we will see our Pagan gatherings and conferences come back. I look forward to that day because I don’t have to be isolated from people that I love and care about so deeply. And who knows? You might even catch me giving a presentation…. well, more like a talk. Because I don’t want to be the only with something to say. I’d prefer we inspired each other to make a move.

–T /|\

Gizmo hiding…sort of

Thinking About: I’m Still Lousy With the Tarot

It is no secret that most of my daily Pagan and Druid path does not include magick or even divination tools such as the Tarot. I have always had a certain level of reluctance when things start to bend in those directions, but not because I lack the ability for such things. My reticence comes from a lack of experience. That, and my strong belief that I have no need to add my own push to whatever the Universe is going to bring about. I view magick, divination, and many other aspects of the Pagan Path to be tools. But tools that are a last resort after you roll up your sleeves and get on with the work that is stacked up directly in front of you.

This is also an area that I do not readily discuss with others. As such, I do not have a lot of information to gauge against my own to determine how common my approach may or may not be. I just know that it is my own way of seeing things in the overlay of the land as it is set before me.

Oddly enough, I have had a frame of mind that equates magickal usage as something common and everyday in the life of a Pagan. Sort of like the moment where Anakin Skywalker uses his force powers to cut up food for Padmé Amidala in one of the Star Wars movies. Where magick is one of the first tools that a Pagan might reach for. This is probably a silly thought, and my approach that magick is kept as a tool of last resort is probably more appropriate and practical within the Pagan community at large. However, I have no empirical data to back up that perspective from either direction.

Not that long ago, I took some initial steps into the Tarot, which resulted in a particular interpretation of a reading that I did for myself. Well, I found out how bad I am at doing readings using the Tarot. Going back to that reading, which was done in early October of last year, I can see where I misinterpreted certain aspects because I was certainly too close to the subject matter to come back with a concrete meaning. In other words, I was too close to the forest to see the trees. That has brought me around to the notation that I am excruciatingly bad at doing Tarot readings. I have heard that doing readings for one’s self should be far easier to manage than those for others. There is no way that I would ever unleash my horrible interpretations onto others, particularly when I have become to realize how bad I am at it with myself.

However, I also now that experience helps attune one’s self to a task at hand. Thus, I am not throwing the Tarot tool into the trash and labeling it as “useless.” Rather, I have labeled it as “unrefined” at this point and have started looking at ways to fine tune what I am trying to do. I know its not the deck, The Celtic Tarot has provided good readings – particularly at one-card draws, which I have been using to refine my knowledge of the cards themselves. Perhaps, I need to look to other layouts to see what might work better for me. Or perhaps, I need to loosen up the interpretations I have made a bit more, so as not to make my readings so uber-specific. Whatever the case may be, I am trying different approaches, methodologies…and going into the future, maybe even a different card set. However, at this point, I do have to remind myself that I am the ultimate day-on novice at all of this – and not be too hard on myself over the stumbles and failures. Learning takes time. Time means patience. I am not going to be a Tarot expert over-night, that is for sure. 😊

However, all of this does remind me… everyone has these moments. Moments where they fail at something that they thought would be easy to put into practice, easy to be excellent at immediately – only to be sitting in the dust, wondering how the Nine Hells you got there. Being humbled in a manner like this is a royal kick in the pants, so to speak. But it is also a lesson. One can be confident in their ability to learn, but not so over-confident as to over-extend one’s weight over one’s skis. Yep, learned that lesson in the sixth grade. Skiing. Broke my tibia and fibula in my left leg. Wore a hip-high cast for nearly two months. My over confidence of my ability to ski was the cause of my injury. I was the only kid to suffer an injury during that trip. The only kid whose parents had to drive down to where we had gone on our trip to bring me home. For a sixth grader… it was quite a blow to the ego. Even if my fellow classmates were all more than gracious about it. There are all sorts of places you can find these little lessons…and most of them aren’t even magickal or even Pagan in nature.  😉

I will continue my journey to learn about the Tarot and how to use this tool in my daily Path. I will learn as much as I can, but I know there will be so many others that learn more than I do. That’s awesome though. Because they learned as much as they could. We are all individual from one another. Our strengths are often different. The depth of our learning in a variety of subjects is as varied as the material presented. I will eventually discover my depth in the Tarot. Right now, I have only got one toe in the water. And I can’t even tell if the water is cold or hot. At least not yet.

–T /|\

Photo by Lucas Pezeta on

Another Year….of Patience

Normally, this time of year would find me plotting and planning a trip to Louisiana for the annual OBOD Gulf Coast Gathering. For the second year in a row, that’s not happening – mostly due to COVID concerns (and rightly so). This year, Winter decided to howl down from the north, and push me even further indoors (mostly due to my horribly compromised immune system). All of that has allowed me to spend more time on my studies, as well as continue the re-build of everything I comprehend about my Spirituality.

Here in Tejas, the temperatures over the last few days have been intolerably cold. Then again, I have bivouacked in even more extreme temperatures in the wilds of Denmark, the highlands of Scotland, and even in the forests of Germany. I was also a bit more prepared and adjusted to those temperatures, thanks to the United States Air Force (USAF) and the command structure of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Each of those times were training exercises that were mean to test our capabilities of operating in extreme temperatures and what each organization referred to as “disparate environments.” In our training manuals, these exercises were referred to as “implementations of situational readiness.” That is something that the Tejas government was hardly prepared for. To be fair, weather and temperatures like this are once-in-a-generation happenstance. This is not what the state government expects to occur, and thus is something that they do not prepare for.

I spent eight years in Command-and-Control environments in the United States Air Force. Situational preparedness was a common theme in daily life. The threats that could occur ranged from power outages to nuclear warfare. As a member of a unit, you trained for any scenario that could be thought of and learned to adapt what you had learned to whatever was presented to you. When I left the US military, I pivoted to corporate Disaster Recovery, where the focus was on rebuilding the business infrastructure to get the company back on its feet and quickly operating after some form of a disaster. In this job, my department spent a lot of time sand-tabling scenarios. That is, we spent a lot of time dreaming up ways to destroy the company and what techniques could be used to rebuild it quickly. Many times, we did that in the lunchroom of the company’s main building. We were quite loud. Like the time we cleared the lunchroom by discussing a gas tanker running out of control off the interstate and sliding through the main lobby of the building. We discussed what the mortality rates would be, how many people we thought would actually be able to escape down the fire exits (we were in an eleven story building), and how we would reconstitute the company’s operating capacity in a parking lot that would also have to be utilized for massive casualty emergency response. Yes, we were a blast to have in the lunchroom. 😊 And as I noted, we could easily clear the lunchroom with one of our animated sand-table sessions.

During the cold weather here in my area, I left the house a total of zero times. I have spent a lot of time reading, listening to my audio lessons, watching television, sleeping, and trying to stay as warm as I possible can. This weather did not take me by surprise. The weather forecasters have been talking non-stop about this extreme drop in temperatures for a few days before it occurred. I had plenty of time to stock up on food items and be a bit more prepared. But all of this did give me a few moments to pause and reflect on my past, as well as how prepared I am for moments of uncertainty in moments of Life.

The last six months have been some of the most tumultuous that I have had in my life. Yet, despite everything that has happened, I continue to survive through it all. Because, essentially, I am a survivor. Again, I can thank the US military for that. For eight years, I was taught how to handle situations where nothing goes as planned. While I am not the better for where I am, I will eventually be better off. Rebuilding takes time.

I think the hardest part of the last six months is not having my Druid family nearby. As I said earlier, it has been quite a while since I have seen the people that are my family. Online contact has been sporadic as well, as everyone is doing what they need to, in these times of COVID. However, I know they are there. From time to time, we cross Paths online, and do a mini “catch up” by whatever means. Just stuff that can suffice for a short period of time.

As I learned in the military, being prepared is not about having every single contingency answered with this procedure or that pieces of equipment. This is about being flexible, being able to utilize what you have at hand to make it through. This is about being patient, too. I am just as restless as anyone else being here at home. I want to be outside. I want to go hiking. I want to breathe in a world awakening from its Winter slumber. Right now, its dangerous for me to be outside. The cold weather could have catastrophic effects on my pulmonary system. Yes, the pneumonia I contracted after coming home from Iceland really did quite a number on my health. I am still recovering from all of that. I am better, but still must be somewhat cautious. Things will be better. I am sure of that. I must be patient.

Through all of what I have tugged out of the shadows here, being patient is the most important aspect. Yes, there is always a sense of urgency in getting things moving in the initial aspects of impending uncertainty. But once everything is stabilized, patience and calm is important in relation to moving forward. So, another year will pass without me seeing my OBOD family. In the coming year, we will all change even more than where we have managed to now. There will be a lot of differences between the last time we met, and the next time we will. Welcome to life. Ever changing, always growing. Whatever those changes may be…. we are all still family in my eyes.

–T /|\

Photo by Simon Berger on

You Get to Define That. You Get to Live That.

For this blog post, I decided to cross some very familiar territory. Some of this will be a bit of a look back. Some of it is a bit of finality in drawing boundaries for me. Much of it is about adding some more framework to how I will define my Druidry going forward.

So, where are we headed to? Well, back to some labels and terms. Priest. Teacher. Mentor. Shaman. Elder. Druid. Generally, the terms that I have struggled with in the past and continue to struggle with here in the present. In the groups that I am a part of, these terms are used fluidly to describe what many believe is the quintessential aspect of any Pagan-ish training. Each is utilized as the very end of the trail we all traverse in our studies. These are the goals that many seem to hold in highest regard. For me, these are just labels. Nothing overly special. Not even the slightest bit of goal-oriented thinking. Not any type of an objective to attain. Just loose descriptors. After all, each term/label carries a connotation that can wobble slightly from one person to another, in terms of descriptive understanding.


Probably the most difficult of all these terms for me is that of Priest. Growing up in a non-religious household, the terminology never meant all that much to me, until my parents sent me to private Catholic schooling. The term “Priest” in my mind will always conjure the image of the Jesuit Priests that were at the forefront of my education. At least as the first iconic imagery that comes to my mind. Later in life, there were the pastors of the Baptist faith that I explored, prior to Paganism. For me, a Priest is an individual that leads the religious education of others, as well as being at the forefront of ritual for a group of people. Honestly, none of that is me. I have no desire to be considered the “authority” on anyone’s faith, other than my own.

Teacher is probably the easier term for me to deal with. I have been a teacher in my professional life. For three years, I taught collegiate students about Information Systems, and did my best to show them some of the real-world applications of these systems. Granted, I strayed far from the textbook in doing so, but from the first day I taught out of that text – I believed it to be a shitty manner of showcasing what information was in our current environment. However, my style of teaching is not an easy one for a student – I will readily admit that. I prefer to hand the information to the student, let them assimilate the information the best that they can, and be available to them for any questions. Within a Pagan context, I know that this can be difficult for others to handle. So, I know my own limits towards being a teacher. However, even with that warning, if a student persisted – I would likely be open to being a mentor. The difference between teacher and mentor? A mentor gently guides. A teacher is a lot more hands-on. 😊 There is a song lyric from Halestorm’s song “Break In” that goes “Put your lighter in the air and lead me back home.” This is about as far as I want to get to being at the forefront of anyone’s religious education or instruction. My ideal perspective is to help lead others to where they are trying to get to, not force them down my own Path.

Shaman. What a charged term this one is. Because of my ties to Crow and Coyote, I have heard people mutter the term “Shaman” in my direction before. I have also heard the murmurs of cultural appropriation as well. Well, to put it bluntly, when I started working with Crow, it was made very plain to me that I was not of “The People” and my dealings would have absolutely nothing to do with the religious or ritual aspects of the First Nations. I am not working in sweat lodges nor am I undertaking a vision quest. Those are not for me. I am not of The People. I am also not a Shaman. Any thought that I would head down the path of the First Nations is categorically incorrect. I work with two First Nations’ Gods because the Gods approach those that They approach. Simple as that. I have always been, and always will be, uncomfortable with the notion that I am trying to work some Shamanistic approach.

Elder. Gods, I hate the term but I have been on my Pagan Path since 1986. Whether I like it nor, the basic definitive application of the term certainly can be levied at me. As a point of levity, in the movie ‘We Are Soldiers”, Sergeant Major Plumley makes the statement “If any of you sons of bitches calls me grandpa, I’ll kill you.” In many ways, I feel the same way when people express astonishment about the length of time I have been on my Pagan Path, as if longevity makes me wise or sagacious. Really, its just a notation of time, not a marker of knowledge. I am uncomfortable being noted as a ‘Pagan Elder” but I also understand why such a charge is levied at me. I only wish that people would stop reacting to it as if it is a badge of honor. Because, frankly, it’s not.

Druid. Well, I am a Druid. Even if I am just within my Ovate grade in the order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids (OBOD). Regardless if I continue into my Druid grade or even finish that grade – I am still a Druid. In the past, I was always reticent about utilizing the term, especially when I had not finished all three of the grades within OBOD. However, it is not the grades that make me into a Druid. It is me. With or without OBOD’s training, I am a Druid. With or without the training of another Druid order, I am still a Druid. You may, honestly, have no idea how difficult it was for me to come to that understanding. Or how much that still has me dancing on my tiptoes in nervousness. Yes, it is an aspect of Imposter Syndrome. Going beyond that…. well, it will take time.

Happy Thoughts, Lying on Green Grass, Under Blue Skies

In the end, this whole aspect of labels and terms will matter more to some people, and far less to others. For me, I could give a shit what you call me. Just don’t call me late to dinner. I know what I am. I know what I believe. I know what I need to get done on my Spiritual Path. Just like anyone else, I have certain images and concepts mixed with the terms we all utilize so inter-changeably. Some of those will match up with what you understand. Some of it won’t. Where it matters the most is not to me or anyone else. What matters is how it matches up with what you believe, how you are a Pagan or whatever. If titles, labels, and descriptives hold that much meaning to you – that is awesome. None of that holds any major weight with me, though. And that should not matter one whit to you, me, or anyone else.

I promised you happy thoughts while lying on green grass, underneath blue skies. Well, for me there is happiness going forward. My path is my own. I walk under a framework provided to me by OBOD, but with the knowledge that structuring things beyond that is up to me, and me alone. Your connection to the world around you is up to you. You provide the depth and detail that works for you. You explore in the manner that provides the most meaning and representation to you. All of that will be different from the way that I do it – from the way anyone else does it. Because your connectivity to the world around you is yours – and yours alone. Revel in that. Soak it in like the sunshine in the daytime or the moonlight in the night. Your choice, your approach. You get to define that. You get to live that.

–T /|\

Long ago there was a dream, had to make a choice or two
Leaving all I loved behind for what nobody knew
Stepped out on the stage
A life under lights and judging eyes
Now the applause has died and I can dream again
Is there anybody listening?
Is there anyone that sees what’s going on?
Read between the lines, criticize the words they’re selling
Think for yourself and feel the walls
Become sand beneath your feet
–Queensryche, “Anybody Listening?”

The Gods, the Darkness, and the Quiet Times

This morning, it’s a cold Valentine’s Day here in the center of Tejas. As I look out in the backyard, I can see the patches of ice that have formed in the yard from the low temperatures. There is a promise of even colder weather, as well as a possibility of some significant amount of snow. Well, significant as it relates to here in Tejas. Currently my coffee is still warm, though I will need to refresh it sometime in the very near future. My speakers currently have Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush with their duet “Don’t Give Up” from Gabriel’s “So” album. Just the perfect stuff under the grayish skies above.

Weather like this reminds me that Winter will grab hold and try its best to cling on to our days for a little longer. However, Spring is nearly here, we just need to be patient for a little while longer. The Gabriel/Bush duet reminds me that there is always struggle in Life, even in one’s Spirituality.

I have walked through many valleys within my Spirituality, most recently during the last three months of this past calendar year. I tend to refer to these valleys as my “quiet times” in my life. Crow will whisper in my ear from time to time during my “normal” times. Abnoba tends to be more direct with confrontation in dreams that will linger long after I awake. Coyote…. well, communication there is far less frequent and tends to be a lot more subtle. However, the “quiet times” feel a lot more disconnected, and as I have learned recently, are tied tightly to my “down” moments with my depression.

I have never been sure why the “quiet times” come about, and aside from tying it loosely to my “down” bouts, these tend to happen without reasonable frequency. Sometimes, these last for a while. Sometimes, not so much. When I first started to experience these moments, I would panic. The world feels so out of touch, out of sync with me – nothing felt like I expected. I would feel like I did something wrong. However, I have learned through experience that these moments happen, and that I will be walking on my own for a while. It still feels scary when it occurs – plus my entire life feels very dis-jointed and disconnected when it occurs.

There are those that come to Paganism expecting to be put under the protective embrace of a God or Goddess, only to be disappointed when it does not happen. Folks, the Gods choose to work with those they choose to work with. Sometimes, They even find a working agreement with an individual and pick those folks as Priests and Priestesses. While I work with Crow, Coyote and Abnoba quite a bit, I am not a “chosen” individual with any of the three. I’m just someone that works with Them. Crow made it very clear that I have a role outside that of traditional First Nations’ aspects. I am not of the People. Their traditions are not mine to work with. My working with Crow is for a different purpose and reasoning. What exactly that is…is not really mine to question or easily discern.

Like I said, many folks come to Paganism expecting a direct relationship with chosen Gods or Goddesses. My relationship with Crow and Coyote is not a direct one. Occasionally, my Path will intersect with Theirs. Abnoba is a little different. I am sure there is something that She wants from me. As of this moment, I am not completely sure, though She is more likely to be directly in my face over things. There is no direct connection there, yet. There may never be. Some will say that I am lucky to have such a “direct” connection to the Gods. There are times I would scoff at the term “lucky”.

My connection with Crow, Coyote, and Abnoba is just – a connection. None of the three play a major part in my daily Spirituality, aside from offerings that I give to each. My daily Path is more about connection to the environment around me, and far less in devotion. The whole point of connection for me is why I feel so disoriented during my “quiet times.” When you have something as integral in your daily practice that suddenly gets “turned off” – well, as I have described my depression before, it becomes a very dark and lonely place.

For those coming to Paganism seeking a connection with a specific God or Goddess, let me impart a piece of advice to you. The Gods and Goddesses are not the Hollywood and Marvel depictions that you see in comics, books, and movies. Those two-dimensional depictions are meant to entertain you for the time you spend in those fictional environments. Loki is not Tom Hiddleston and is a far more complex Being than what those crappy movies depict Him as being. If/When you do encounter Loki, you will find that out.

If you don’t encounter a God or Goddess in your daily practice, continue with your devotions to Them. Its not hurting anything to do that, and who knows, your efforts may yet attract Them to you. If you are disappointed and finding that a lack of a God Or Goddess in your Life is making your daily practice of Paganism meaningless to you…perhaps, this Path is not for you. That does happen. If, like me, you find yourself in a moment of the “quiet times” – persevere in continuing through that dark valley. Trust me, the Light will eventually return, the connections will renew, and you will have made it through. Just don’t expect it to happen right away. The darkness of the long night does not fade so easily. Hang in there. You will make it.

And if you need it, reach out your hand. I’ll be happy to hold it and walk beside you in the darkness. Your darkness doesn’t scare me. I am not afraid of being sucked into your depression. I know what it is like to be left alone in your own darkness. And I know what it means to have someone care enough to reach out.

–T /|\

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What Do You Wish You Had Known Before Choosing Druidry?

I was browsing through YouTube a few days ago, and stumbled across a video by Scarlet Ravenswood titled “7 Things I wish I Knew Before Becoming Pagan.” I found the video fun to watch, even though it is aimed directly at the Pagan newbie. Some of her points were pretty much spot on for me, and I’ll even duplicate a few of them in my own list. Yes, I thought this was enough fun to give it a try myself – except that I am not aiming too far down my own Pagan path. I just want to approach the aspects related to my own Druidry. So, here we go.

Druidry Is Not a Single Process

What I am getting at here is that Druidry is not meant to force you down a single tube towards a particular way of thinking. Material is presented to you, and you are given the freedom to explore in any direction you feel the need to go. Yes, there are some lessons embedded in the materials you are provided, but there is a lot of freedom to explore (and even expand) on what you envision in the world around you. When I first started down my own Path in Druidry, I tried to stay on what I perceived was the “straight and narrow” for Druidry. However, the further I walked along my Path, the more I noticed that a directed Path would be nearly non-existent, forcing me to look in other directions (or all around) to figure out which foot-falls I really needed to take – not for my Druidry, but for myself. In the end, I started to realize that personal Spirituality was not about walking along any singular Path, but about finding connectivity with the world all around you.

Learning Is Not Just the Order’s Lessons

I work within the structure of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids (OBOD). Currently, I am working through my Ovate grade materials, and have been for a while. When I first started on my Bardic grade, I had a typical newbie belief that once I made it through the three grades of the Order, all learning would end. When I started to (finally!) come to the end of my Bardic grade, I soon realized that I would always be learning lessons from the Bardic grade for the rest of my life. Plus, it would be the same for the Ovate and Druid grade lessons. However, that learning would be more than what was in the lessons provided by the Order. Learning would be a lifetime experience, as each lesson would build on previous lessons, opening a whole new perspective of the world around me. This will continue to the day that I pass beyond the veil…and likely even once I slip past the veil. What I am learning in my Druidry lessons is just a door opening into a wider understanding that I will experience.

Elder and Priest Are Just Labels

I have railed against the descriptive aspects of what a Priest and an Elder are for quite some time. I am fond of neither term. There are few more descriptive terms that I don’t really care for. However, in the end – these are just labels. I make the kind of Pagan or Druid that I am through my own actions. I don’t need a title or a label to make me into who I am. Yes, it has taken quite a lot of time, a lot of navel-gazing, and a lot of brow-furrowing for me to come to this point. I am the Pagan and Druid that I am from my actions – not from reaching some aspect of training in the Order or some length of time in identifying myself as a Pagan. To be honest, I have lost a lot of time and energy struggling and wrestling with all of that – only to find that it was not necessary. I’m just me. Nobody extra-ordinary. Nobody special. Just someone who has persisted in my studies and my own personal Spirituality for as long as I have.

All the Research and Reading Involved in This

One thing I will say about being a Pagan, it has taught me a lot about researching things that I am trying to understand. I look at my bookshelves and see all the book titles that I have read, which have helped me to better understand my own Path. Each one has provided a small part of my understanding but taken together – they are all a part of my daily, personal Spirituality. When I was in high school, I was not the most studious individual. My research and reading skills were non-existent, as evidenced by my 1.76 Grade Point Average (GPA) upon graduating. Becoming a pagan, I was shown the power of reading, understanding the material, and even extrapolating on what I had read to create my own spin on my daily, personal Spirituality. But I will admit…if I had known how much reading and research would have been involved in this Spiritual Path, I might have run screaming in the other direction.  😉

In Conclusion

I started down my Pagan Path sometime in 1986. This year will be my thirty-fifth as a Pagan. To be blunt, it doesn’t feel that way. I have a few Pagan friends that were there at the beginning, and I am confident that they would say that I have changed quite a lot as a Pagan. It sure does not feel that way, at least to me. I still learn, every single day. I make mistakes all the time, even on the simplest of things. Each morning always feels like a new chance to try again, to explore somewhere I had never thought of going before, or to step back into an older part of the Path that I don’t recall as clearly as I thought I did. I wish I had known these things before I started because I feel I would have been a better Pagan, a better student for those who have mentored me on my Path. However, I do wonder how different a Pagan I would be today if I had known. It’s a nice exercise in “What-If”, but the answer to it I can never know. After all, my footfalls brought me here. I think it is very important that I acknowledge that over a dreamy thought of what might have been….if.

–T /|\

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If That Makes Me a Teacher….

Not that long ago, I was asked why I do not have any students. I was flattered by the question, as someone thinks highly enough of me to believe I would be a good teacher or mentor to other Pagans. However, my response went along the lines of not really being qualified to teach anyone anything – except for myself. I really hate giving responses like that, but there is a seed of truth encased in there. I am not sure I would be what anyone would expect of a Pagan teacher. To put it in a different way, I would be the most unlikely teacher around. Sort of like Mr. Miyagi in the first Karate Kid movie. Just an awkward, ill-conceived set of approaches to topical matters.

Why would I say that about myself? Because I know what works for me. I am also aware of how it does not work for most others. The old saying goes along the lines of “when the student is ready, the teacher will come” – or conversely – “when the teacher is ready the student will come.” For me, any student that could conceivably work under the approaches that I use – well that one student may have to break one of my knees to get me to notice.

I am very flattered by the idea that I would be a good teacher. I am more amiable to the notion that one day I might make a good mentor. Not necessarily a teacher, but more of a guide for someone that is learning on their own. Someone that they could come to with questions when they get stuck on something. Naturally, I would be upfront about my own limitations. Magick is not, nor has it ever been my forte’. I can help in a crude measure of understanding, but someone looking for a smooth, sophisticated approach would do better searching elsewhere. Or, if they would like, I could point them in directions and towards people that I think would be helpful. Granted, some of those people may hold low opinions or even harbor anger towards me, but I don’t take people’s opinions of me into account when trying to help someone else find a better guide. Go to this or that individual – just don’t mention my name. 😊

To a point, I am confused why people would find me to be a good teacher. Its not like I am placing myself into a position that would advertise me as such. I have yet to offer a class of any sort – online or face-to-face – to the Pagan community at large. I have not taken a single student for one-on-one teaching. I have; however, taught in a collegiate classroom (for nearly three years), but I don’t see how that would ever bring me to the forefront of a conversation of who would be a good teacher. Plus, my approach to learning is to hand you the same resources that I used, tell you to go read, and when you felt like coming back – we could have an in-depth conversation. That’s it. No tests. No quizzes. No certificate of completion. No final assessment of whether you were a top student or just someone that barely made the grade, in my opinion. Just a discussion, held at your convenience. Preferably around a fire, late at night, out where we can see the stars as we hold our discourse. My kind of classroom.

I guess a lot of that comes from my perspective of learning about Paganism. Its not something you can get out of a book. A book should lead your mind to more questions, and a desire to explore for answers. A book should have you wanting to try to do things rather than learning my theory of how to do things. For me, learning about Paganism was about reading, questioning, doing, experiencing, being…. I didn’t need an individual who would sit and endlessly lecture to me about their way of doing things. They would talk about how they did it. If I had questions, I asked. Afterwards, I went out and did it…myself. I didn’t need their approval over any twists or changes or additions that I put to it. I took their framework and built my own on to it. In the end, it might look nothing like what they “taught” – and that didn’t matter to me, so long as it held meaning to what I was doing.

I will honestly and openly admit that many people will find the way I approach my Paganism to be distasteful and unappealing to them. Because I chose to discard traditional aspects for things that work for me. Because I set aside pre-printed rituals that arrive via the post office, in favor of embracing the moment. But I will also acknowledge that whatever works for them, works for them. I am more than thrilled that these methodologies work for them, because it provides an authentic feeling and connection to the world around them, a valid and strong connection with their Gods. There is no fucking way I would ever want to discount any of that for them, simply because they use a methodology that is not mine. That would be disingenuous to what Paganism is about to me, what true Paganism should be all about: the individual’s experience. Their connection with the authentic passion of their own practice – whatever it looks like.

My personal approach to my own Paganism, my own Druidry is uniquely mine. Parts of what I do overlap with the practices of others. While I feel the draw of being a mentor to others, I am not entirely sure what that would look like, considering the deep personal aspect that my approach holds for me. Perhaps, I will eventually find that one student that can meaningfully learn from my approach, and together we can explore what it means to teach that to others. In the meantime, the only way that I know to do this, is just to be myself. If that makes me a teacher…I am just as surprised as anyone else.

–T /|\

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