Frightened of the Future But Still Hopeful

After I had written Thursday’s blog, My Oaths Place Me on Common Ground, I got challenged over it with a single question:

So you’re scared of the future?

The question stung enough to hurt, but it also let me offer up a glimpse into things that I see and rarely talk about. My response:

Yes. Yes, I am scared. Scared of a future where healing doesn’t take place. Scared of a future that continues deeper down a dark trail humanity seems to already be on. Sure, admitting that I am scared of what a future may bring can seem like a cowardly perspective to some. To me, its a position of reality. It doesn’t change who I am. It doesn’t change what I am willing to be in service to my Gods and to my fellow humans. But I am scared…not just for me, my family, my friends…but for everyone. Take that however you want to.

Many folks that I talk with are citing the election as the point they are focused on. If America elects Donald Trump, the country goes to shit. If America votes him out, the country is immediately better. I stopped looking at that point some time ago. I’m now looking beyond and seeing a huge chasm between folks here in the United States. In fact, I’m seeing that chasm stretch beyond the United States and out into the world beyond. Here in America, we are deeply divided by our values. Our governmental system was founded on the idea of compromise and common ground. Now, common ground has been eroded away from the advanced widening and depth between two polar opposites. Compromise is seen as a sign of utter capitulation and weakness. When I look beyond the election, I seriously wonder how two sides with a “my way or the highway” mentality will ever reach a point of compromise, much less the necessary point of healing that desperately needs to take place. If the Republicans win, I only see the divide deepening. Should the Democrats win, I cannot fathom the Republicans stepping up to work with the Democrats. I have no idea how things change for the better.

As I started writing this, I was playing Joe Satriani on shuffle, and his song “I Believe” came on. if you would like to hear the song, just follow this YouTube link. The lyrics struck a deep, resonating chord in me, so let me juxtapose my thoughts against the song.

I’ve been out walking, for hours
I got something on my mind
How did we get here? Where are we going?
Why is life so hard

I admit, walking is one of the things I do when I really need to think. I might even be able to walk from here to Houston with all that is on my mind. (Note: that is a distance of some 208 miles, which Google maps thinks would take me about 68 hours to do. In reality, as slow as my aging carcass goes, it would probably be closer to 80 hours) But the song asks the pertinent questions,. How did we get here? Where are we going? For the first question, there are a lot of factors, issues and moments in History that got us to this point. For me; however, the more pressing question is the second. Just where are we going? To be honest, I don’t really know. I see a dark, dark time coming here in America on November 5th. There is a strong likelihood that we will not know who won the election, an even stronger likelihood that the election will be strongly contested in various states by both candidates, and with all of that, violent unrest among the followers of the candidates. That violent part is not speculation on my part; there has already been violence between anti-Trump folks and Trump supporters leading into this election.

I read the stories, see the photographs
World’s a crazy space
Got to hold on to my dreams
There’s just no other place
There’s just no other place

I have tried my very best not to get caught up in all the craziness of the election cycle and the various things that the President says or claims. He enjoys a chaotic atmosphere around him, as it lets him obfuscate actions that would not be tolerated by others. Think of the axiom: “Watch the right hand, so you don’t notice what the left hand is doing.” I try my very best to remain on that island of common ground, which is slowly eroding away like a shallow sandbar under the pressures of a hurricane coming ashore. To keep myself sane, I focus on my dreams…my dreams for the future. My dreams…my goals of what I want to accomplish (and I still have a lot to accomplish). My dreams….and all that I need to do to crawl, claw, and fight my way to what I feel is right. Sometimes even that is not enough and I have to stop what I am doing. Stop to try and catch my breath in the whirling dervish of Trump’s news cycle. Stop to ground myself against all of that chaos and remind myself of where I am trying to go. And hope that everyone else can do the same.

I’ve seen the shadows, of the living
I’ve seen them turn and walk away
And I keep searching, for the right words
To send these thoughts away

There’s a picture, I like to look at
A picture of a beautiful face
And I see something, in her eyes
Sends me to a better place
Sends me to a better place

I am frightened. Frightened of what the future holds. Not just for me, my family, my friends or the tribe that I hold dear. I’m frightened for everybody. Not just those who oppose President Trump but even for those who support him. Weird, huh? That I would fear for the very people that are opposed to my lifestyle and the lifestyles of the people that I love and care about. I should hate them, shouldn’t I? I should shun them, shouldn’t I? I should treat them as being beneath my contempt for them, right? Except that I can’t.

My Druidry teaches me that we are all here together. Our survival on this planet means that all of us need to be included in getting to a point of survival. Even those who don’t believe in the dangers of climate change. Even those who would bring us back to an oppressive Christian church, albeit that it would be an Evangelical Christian church position rather than that of the Catholic faith, previously. My Druidry teaches that Peace and Justice is for everyone and everything, not just a select few. And because of that, I look forward beyond Election Day here in the United States, and I do not see a future for Peace or Justice because I see no room for needed and necessary Healing. The Election is not going to change the fact that we are still struggling against a monolithic justice system that is systemically leaned against African Americans, Hispanics, First Nations peoples…essentially anyone that is not European, white descendant. We are still struggling against a government that rescinds treaties long ago agreed upon with the First Nations peoples because there are “necessary” resources on those lands that were ceded to them. Lands that should never have belonged to anyone because the land should be free. Make no mistake about it folks, the fights for freedom haven’t even really begun just yet. We are only wiping the sleep out of our eyes and climbing out of the bed at this moment.

I believe, we can change anything
I believe, we can rise above it
I believe, there’s a reason for everything
I believe, in my dream
I believe, we can change anything
I believe, in my dream

Yes, I am frightened of the future. I am frightened because I cannot see a good step going forward. Regardless of who gets elected, this nation has to figure out a way to heal this deep divide. A divide that goes way back into our collective histories. Not a few years, but a lot of years. A whole lot of years. An election is not going to heal this divide. An election is not going to change the way things stand in this nation, or even around the world.

There is a battle raging between fundamentalist perspective and the desire to change and grow. Seemingly, we have absolutely forgotten something – to borrow from Damh the Bard: “We are standing on the shoulders of Giants.” On both sides. They struggled for the changes they provided for us. For the foundations that we work from. There will be change coming. Make no mistake about that. Of that I am sure. I am just unsure of the shape it will take.

My Spirituality will get me through all of that which is to come. No matter how dark the road gets. No matter who wins the election. My Spirituality does not change. My faith in the Gods and Goddesses does not waver. My oaths to my Gods will not alter. My responsibility to others will not change. I am steadfast in all of that. But I am still frightened by what I see coming. Frightened for all of us.

By the way, the song mentioned that “I believe in my dream.” I do. With all my heart and soul. I believe in a world where all of our differences can be accepted as just that – differences. Not an item of contempt, but a point of celebration. That we are not all the same. That we are individuals with our own convictions, dreams and goals, living on this planet together as equals. How do we get there? By believing in that dream and acting on it, one at a time. Kristoffer Hughes once stated in a presentation of his that we all get our own Pagan Square mile. And that Pagan Square mile would be connected on all sides (think 3-d modeling here) by other people’s square miles. That we could find harmony living next to one other by respecting each other’s individuality. Its an idea I truly believe in. And as Kristoffer was also prone to say the idea can be passed on as a Druid Transmitted Infection, a DTI. Gods, I certainly hope and pray that it can be done, with a little love, care, understanding and patience. I certainly hope so.

My oaths, by the way, don’t change. My position is still meant to be there to help anyone on their own chosen Path – even if its not mine. That’s what my role apparently is to be. Through the blog, through whatever interactions we might have. You need help, ask. If I din’t have the answers or I don’t know exactly what to do, I know plenty of other people I can either bring you to or find answers from. Remember, as a wider Pagan community, I would hope we all desire to help others in need. Even when they are diametrically opposed to our values and lifestyle. Its about being human. #TwoQuid

–T /|\

My Oaths Place Me on Common Ground

I remember walking into the Military Entrance Processing Station in Shreveport, Louisiana on a cold February morning. Two weeks prior, I had finished a period of questions with my Air Force recruiter, signed my four-year contract and been given a photo-copied map of how to get here. I was the literal description of being the wide-eyed novice. I literally had no idea what I was doing or what was going to happen. My hearing was tested. My balance was tested. My eye-sight was tested. My teeth were checked. I was given a complete physical. Three weeks later, I was on a plane bound for San Antonio, Texas where I would enter the Air Force’s Basic Military Training, where my world was turned upside down. I had absolutely no idea what the future would hold. All I knew was that everything I remembered from high school was gone.

Earlier this morning, I sat here in my little office and listened to the rain beating again the window. Yesterday at this time, the outside temperature was right around 80 degrees and forecast to climb into the lower 90s before a strong cold front would come through. The rain I was listening to would be the last bits of rain, as the temperature changed to where it is now: the high fifties. Winter is beginning its call and Fall is being trumpeted forward. How fast it moves…well that’s another question, but when it does, Summer will have gone. I will be looking into a future that is unsure and thinking of all that has happened for the Spring and Summer of 2020.

This morning, that feeling of uncertainty sinks its roots deeper and deeper into my thoughts. Back in 1986, when I walked into that MEPS location, I was promising four years of my life to the military. Promising to be governed under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) and not the United States Constitution. Ironically, a document that I would be swearing to protect. And oddly enough an oath I still hold to this day, nearly forty years later. Oaths. A definite certainty that cannot be erased as easily as a blink of an eye erases the moment in time that you just experienced. I’ll come back to that in a bit.

When I joined the United States Air Force, tensions between the United States and the, then, Soviet Union were extremely high. The so-called “Doomsday Clock” had the world center at two minutes to midnight. Should the clock reach midnight, the world would be at nuclear war. Nuclear holocaust was at the back of nearly everyone’s mind. For me, it was very much at the forefront of my thinking. At that time, nuclear warfare doctrine held that only the United States Air Force (bombers and ground-hardened missile silos) and the United States Navy (submarine-based missiles) held the keys to launch nuclear weapons. I have been out of the military long enough that I am not completely sure this is the case any longer. However, I was joining a branch of military service that had the capability to wage the deadliest form of war on the face of the earth. Nuclear annihilation. I was nervous. I was scared. Much of the popular music of the time had a nuclear war theme to it, but none had a greater effect on me than Gary Moore’s “Victims of the Future” and Sting’s “Do the Russians Love Their Children Too?” Music has always had a major influence in my life. I always wondered, if peace could be found to a point where nuclear weapons would not be used — could we ever be friends with the Soviet Union?

In the United States, we sit on the precipice of an upcoming election. Another Presidential election where the choices are not ideal in the least. But forget about the Presidential election and the two party system’s candidates for a moment. The country has been literally torn in two over these two candidates and the ideologies that each “supports” as the chosen candidate for their party. The issues are acrimonious to the point of ripping friendships and families asunder, done in the name of patriotism and fidelity to the Constitution and claimed in equal parts by both sides. The lines of definition run deep and wide between the two sides creating chasms of difference that a single election is not going to heal. There are times I wonder, how can this country ever be pulled together again? How are we going to heal these deep wounds that fester, much less the ones that are going to be caused by whichever candidate wins the election? Much like that moment that I wondered how the United States and the Soviet Union could ever get along peaceable, I wonder the same thing about Democrats and Republicans here in the United States.

I spent eight years on Active Duty service in the Air Force. I spent time in a combat zone. I know what it means to wage war. But I also know what the objective of the military is for – to keep the peace. Some may not think so, but most military members that I know – both current and prior-service – prefer peace to war. What keeps the peace, for the most part, are the armies and the weapons of terrible destruction that stand in the position of promise, should their use be necessary. This doesn’t account for the various proxy wars that the United States and the Soviet Union have fought over the decades. However, it is the promise of the use of these terrible weapons that stands in the background, like a darkly shadowed Grim Reaper.

I see that same shadowed Grim Reaper standing in the alleyways and darkened recesses of nearby towering buildings, as protesters and law enforcement clash on the streets. Protesters wanting the laws to be equal and enforced. Law enforcement continuing to apply the law through tear gas and batons to those who disagree with their application of those laws. And I return to my thoughts, could these two sides ever comes to a delicate balance of peace? Could these two sides ever come to a point where they could pass one another on the street in calmer times and peacefully greet one another?

I recall mid-1987, my first full summer on a Strategic Air Command base – Carswell Air Force Base in Forth Worth, Texas. Home to two squadrons of B-52 strategic bombers and a full nuclear arsenal to load on to those planes. A mission to strike deep in Soviet territory in the event of war. And the summer where I finally decided to follow my Path of Paganism. From those early days, I was always drawn towards the idea that middle ground could always be found, no matter the issue at hand. How Libra of me…considering that I was born smack in the middle of that sign. Even then, I kept trying to find the role of the peace-maker. It would take another two years for me to reconcile my Pagan beliefs with my role within the military.

Picture by John Beckett, who takes amazing photos

I joke that I was never born to the concept of being a soldier. To this day, I don’t own a gun. I have no desire to have one; though I am quite capable of handling one. I prefer my staff, though I do lean on it more for walking these days instead of a manner of self protection. I am still quite capable of defending myself or others, should the need arise. My Druidry has taught me the value of observing before wading in. Sometimes, events are not as they seem the moment one walks up on them. So, with the protests, I watch. I support the need for change to police tactics when dealing with individuals. I also support the need to remove much of the military entrenchment that has become common-place in the police department. I live in small-town Texas; yet the nearest small city – Cleburne – possesses a military assault vehicle. Quite a shocking thing to see, which is precisely what it is meant for – shock tactics. But throughout all of that, I do support the police. I just feel that there needs to be necessary adjustment and changes. That balance that I walk, sometimes feel like I am walking barefoot on the sharp edge of a razor blade.

So, what drives me in these times of wide division? Where sides seem to be split into one side or the other with the simple statement: “if you are not with us, you are against us.” What keeps me focused and sane? My oaths. Just prior to my twenty-first birthday, I swore an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against aggressors foreign and domestic. Now, approaching the age of fifty-five, some twenty-six years since departing that military organization – I still hold that oath sacred. In 2015, I initiated as a Bard in the order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (OBOD). My initiation then set me on a Path of seeking peace and justice wherever I could find it. I also have an oath with Crow to do the work set forth for me. These three oaths comprise how I approach the world and events around me.

Where I currently live, directly across the street from me is an individual who has a Trump/Pence sign in his yard. He and his family just moved in two weekends ago. When he was outside this past weekend, we greeted one another from across the street. We were cordial and friendly to one another. I am not voting for Trump in the coming election. I believe Trump to be the number one threat to the Constitution of the United States. Why would I treat this man that supports him in a cordial manner? Because my oaths remind me that when all of this election stuff is over, we are still fighting COVID-19. When all of this election stuff is over, we need to sit down and have a super serious discussion on how to reform the police departments around this nation and find a way to set things into a more proper function. When all of this election stuff is over, Black Lives still matter and there is much work to be started, much less done. When all of this election stuff is over, we are all still Americans, a chosen community of geography and ideology. In the movie Gladiator, after Maximus has died on the sands of the Colosseum floor, Lucilla makes the statement:

Is Rome worth one good man’s life? We believed it once, make us believe it again. He was a soldier of Rome. Honor him.

George Floyd. Breonna Taylor. Atatiana Jefferson. Aura Rosser. Stephon Clark. Botham Jean. Philando Castille. Alton Sterling. Those listed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall. Those for whom the World War II memorial was created for. Those who lost their lives in Europe and are interred at Oise-Aisne. The countless others who lost their lives, unjustly, at the hands of police officers. And the countless number of police officers who lost their lives trying to perform their jobs to the best of their abilities. The 190,000+ who have died due to the lackluster efforts of this current administration, and despite the courageous efforts of those health workers on the front line.

Is America worth those lives and the countless others that I could not recall to add to the list? I think so. My oaths drive me towards that conviction. My oaths remind me, when everything is finished, when the dust settles….we are still bound to each other. Yes, here in America, but also throughout the world. We exist together. That’s why my feet and my staff are firmly planted on common ground. Because we have to start somewhere.

Thinking About: What Makes a Pagan, a Pagan?

Today’s blog post is in response to a statement posed by a friend on Facebook.

We pagans find it easier to agree on what we are NOT than what we are.

This one is going to be a tough one. Essentially, looking underneath the statement to find the underlying anchor stones, I get left with really wide-open questions. “What is Paganism?” “Why can Pagans not agree on a set of defining principles that bring a solid foundational aspect to what makes a Pagan?” All I can hope is that this post does more than muddy the waters. I do; however, love to play in the waters of the creek. 🙂

To a point, I am reminded of a moment in the tv show Babylon 5, where G’kar is trying to enlighten his fellow Narn as to the truths that he has found in his many moments of solitude. Moments that have changed him from the angry, raging warrior that he was in the earlier seasons to a seeker of self enlightenment that has curbed that anger and provided a much stronger, wiser, and far more peaceable character in the latter part of the show. I will link to the video of that segment below on YouTube. Try not to get thrown by the costuming too much and listen to what G’kar says. In the meantime, I’ll go make a cup of coffee.

I know it seems that I am making fun of the question, but really its not. This particular segment from the tv show has something that I believe is a quite often on display when trying to describe one’s beliefs to others – a lack of compatible wording or even a lack of compatible concepts. The theorem follows that if you ask ten Pagans to describe what Paganism is, you will get eleven different answers. That is just from those that are creating the message. More confuse will arise from those receiving the message. The term “Priest,” for example, means something vastly different to a Christian. Add more than one type of Christian, and the number of meanings gets even larger. The more people you add to the conversation, the more the meanings of words begin to change. The more meanings change, the more misunderstanding that arises from the conversation. So, how to describe a Pagan? How do we synthesize the many different beliefs and concepts of the very wide and vast collection of faiths and belief systems that are ascribed under the so-called “Big Tent of Paganism?” Perhaps, we don’t.

See, Christians have this easier (maybe). They have a holy writ, the Bible, from which their beliefs spring from. The idea of being a Christian is to follow the teaching of Jesus ben Joseph, otherwise known as Jesus Christ. The basic concept is that in following these teachings that, as a follower, you become more like Christ. Yet, even with the anchor stone of the Bible, Christians cannot agree who among that designation is or is not part of that group. Back when I worked in the college, one summer afternoon, I had lengthy discussion with someone I would describe as an evangelic Christian over the Christian nature of the Catholic faith. I pointed back to the anchor stone of the Bible as evidence of the Christian aspect of the Catholic faith. He pointed to the way the Catholic Church does not follow the teachings of Jesus ben Joseph as an example of how these followers were not Christians. All according to how he interpreted the Bible to be read. Yet both are part of the wider range of Christianity, depending on whose interpretation you follow.

So, in light of that difference within a faith, how do we define Paganism? Who gets to be in the “Big Tent” and who doesn’t? Because this is going to help determine the definitive lines that need to be drawn in the sand to identify what is a Pagan and what is not. Right? If you believe (x), you get to be in.

There was a Facebook page surrounding a post from Patheos which slowly devolved into what seemingly is an online pushing match on the playground of Paganism. The pushing match was a result of soft polytheists feeling that hard polytheists were creating the definitions of how the Gods can or cannot be approached or worked with. The Patheos post is here. Give it a read, if you like. Personally, I thought the article (opinion piece, if you prefer) was quite well written. Yes, it is written from a hard polytheism point of view. It also approaches matters from a theological stand point, which I have no desire to go into. I’m not a Theologian. I don’t even play one on tv. I certainly did not perceive the post as trying to create holy writ or even telling soft polytheists that they are completely wrong. However, in a Facebook thread (I do not have permission to link you there) it was taken that way by a lot of soft polytheists. Now, I bring up this thread to not only round out the entire pushing match, but to also provide an example of what I am not in favor of doing: creating lines in the sand of what is or is not Paganism.

So, 870+ words into all of this and I have danced and wiggled (don’t visualize) around the entire concept of defining Paganism. What defining construct do we have that makes us all Pagans? Off the top of my head, we all have an innate love of our Natural world. But then, this makes me believe that we might need to determine what is and what is not the “Natural World.” Technology is a part of our world. Just as the concrete and glass buildings we have created to reach into the clouds are also a part of our world. Perhaps an easier thought would be that we all try and to find a balance between the wild aspect of our environments and the parts that we have “tamed” to provide easier living conditions for us, the human beings of this planet. Some Pagans reach for magick within their everyday existence. Some, such as myself, don’t. That makes us different, but surely despite the difference – we can agree on the existence of magick in many ways and formats, some which we cannot explain readily to others because of a lack of corner stones from where to attach commonality for proper discourse. Perhaps, Paganism is merely the wide-ranging umbrella term that we believe it to be. A term that describes individuals that live a life not bound by a holy writ, such as the Bible or the Koran or whatever set of rules and documents created long ago. Perhaps Pagans are those people who live their lives not bound to such rules. Pagans reach out and connect with their environment openly and find the Paths that are most suitable to each individual.

We satisfy our endless needs and justify our bloody deeds
In the name of destiny and in the name of God

And you can see them there on Sunday morning
Stand up and sing about what it’s like up there
They called it paradise, I don’t know why
You call some place paradise, kiss it goodbye

The Eagles, “The Last Resort”

Perhaps, a more on-point perspective might be this. Christians live their lives here on Earth, looking for a better life beyond. Life here is disposable. Their desire is the life beyond this one. Pagans, on the other hand, live in there here and now. We find ways to be the caretakers of this planet because we want to be alive today and leave a livable environment for generations to come. We are not looking for a more glorious place in the After Life. But then again, this is coming back to describing what we are not, rather than what we are.

A better solution might be to jettison all the Christian comparisons and develop our anchor stones a little better. Pagans are those who live their lives connected to the world around them and in some cases to the worlds beyond. Pagans found comfort and wisdom in the environment and try their best to blend the wild aspects of the world with the environments that have been created to keep us more comfortable. As for the everlasting battle between the hard and soft polytheists – and including those that don’t fall into either camp – everyone experiences the Gods (or God and Goddess or the Unknown) differently. We are all individuals, not clones. Our experiences are different, even if we name the resulting part differently.

Now, if all this makes sense to you, come and explain it to me, ok? No, I’m kidding. What I will tell you is this – all of this is my opinion. Its not holy writ of any kind. I am one thousand percent confident that there will be folks that disagree with me. Yes, even Pagan ones. Because if every single Pagan in this world agreed with me, I would need to find another planet to live on. That would frighten me beyond belief.

So what is a Pagan? And can we make it a definition that draws lines to absolutely define what a Pagan is? Well, you’ve got one opinion here. If we work at it, we can find nine other Pagans to voice their opinion too. We might be able to break the record and get fifteen different opinions. 🙂 All I know is that if you define yourself as a Pagan, take it super serious and constantly continue on the life-long exploration to find what works for you and what doesn’t…you’re a Pagan in my book, for whatever that’s worth. I’m not entirely sure I have answered any question with all of this. However, I do hope all of this has provided some food for thought – even if the conversation is just between you and yourself.

–T /|\

Every night I stare up at the stars and am thankfully for the life I am living now. A life defined by my personal beliefs. Its a freedom I never take for granted.

I Prefer Individualism Over Gate Keeping

I am a Pagan. I am a Druid. I am a Polytheist. I believe the Gods are real. I believe They are all separate, unique entities that can be experienced in a variety of ways. I know there are other Pagans that believe similar to me. Just as I know there are other Pagans that do not believe as I do. There are those that find all of that discomforting. I don’t. I take great comfort in understanding that the Gods are experienced differently by everyone. Why would I take comfort in that thought? Because it means we are all individual, unique human beings. It means we have the Free Will to expand our understanding of Those Beyond our understanding in a manner that speaks to each of us. It means we are not cut from the same mold, that we are as unique as I believe that the Gods are. And the best part of all of that? Not a single soul has to agree with me at all.

I follow the Paths of Paganism, Druidry and Polytheism to create my own experiences and understandings of what is beyond. To experience, relate with, and create from my own perspective – without judgment. I am not here creating dogma that is to be applied to the whole world. I am here trying to understand what I feel, what I experience, what I know to be a part of my reality. I’m not here to tell a single soul what is their own reality, what is their perception or how to define their experiences.

Every so often, a manner of discourse crops up with various folks in the Pagan Internet-Sphere (or Cloud or whatever you want to call the boundless and ever changing internet community we are all part of here). The argument tends to fall around the concept of gate keeping or perceived gate keeping. “You can’t be a follower of this God or Goddess because you don’t experience [x] or have studied [y] or done [z] research.” “You can’t be a Witch because of [a].” I grok the exclusive nature of such statements. Everyone wants to have a defined view of what [q] belief is really about. if you can’t reach those check boxes, than you can’t be [i]. The reality is that there are no check boxes to your personal Spirituality. To quote my favorite classic rock band: “That Path is for your steps alone.” You walk where you can, how you can. (That’s the Grateful Dead and the quoted lyric comes from their song “Ripple”)

If you are learning from someone else or from some tradition, the lessons that you are taught or typically is what is considered to the basics. You do the best to walk in the manner that they wish to – until you finish the way they want to you or you just can’t finish. Learning their framework means you are learning their way. It still doesn’t nullify how you walk the Path of your own Spirituality…unless you want it to. That is the truest measure of what you are doing…walk your way, you set the final steps in what you do. Walk the Path defined by others, you choose to follow that direction. There is nothing wrong with either…until you start demanding that others do the exact same thing.

Those of the Christian faith do this. They demand that everyone do the same things that they do. If you don’t, you are considered to be outside of who they are. You are treated differently because you choose to be different. Reality shows that you are just as much a human being as anyone else. Some Polytheists do this too. They see their way of viewing the world and connecting with the Gods as the only way possible. If you aren’t doing it their way, you are treated as “knowing less”.

Like I said, I am a Polytheist. I don’t want everyone to be just like me in their Spiritual practice. To me, that removes some of the beauty of diversity and individualism. Plus, who am I to say what is right and wrong for you? I believe that Paganism and Polytheism is stronger for the diverse array of Spiritual Paths. We are made stronger with the approach of individualism for each Practitioner. They know where their footsteps are best placed. They understand how the Gods look and react to their own belief of worship (or not). They know which manner of connectivity works for them. And if they are still searching for a potential perspective that works, their questioning approach should be understood from the perspective of the Seeker, not the Accuser or the Heretic. We all seek betterment, knowledge, solace, divinity, and ourselves on our Spiritual Paths. Questioning those for not taking the same footfalls as you is not a useful aspect of our own individual Path. Helping others to find their own Paths is not about steering them towards our own. We should be helping to find the part of the Path that aligns better to what they are seeking. I am not an evangelist for Druidry, Paganism, Polytheism or even the order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (OBOD, which is the Druid order I am currently studying within). But I am here to listen, without prejudice or bias (as much as I can attain that, knowing that I am biased in some degree to all things); desiring to help someone find their way.

Is Polytheism good? Is it bad? Is it some form of neutral perspective? I believe the answer to all those questions is that all are valid – depending on the individual. The same holds true for Druidry and Paganism. The only way of understanding how that answer formulates for you is to explore each on your own. Or if you prefer, as the Oracle tells Neo in The Matrix Reloaded movie: “Bad news is there’s no way you can really know if I’m here to help you or not, so it’s really up to you. Just have to make up your own damn mind to either accept what I’m going to tell you, or reject it.” The same holds true with your own Spiritual path. You know your steps. You know where you need to walk. You’ll make up your own damn mind about it. And if others don’t agree with you? That’s all right. They have their own Path to walk, secure in the knowledge that what they believe is where they need to be.

Maybe, one day, we can get beyond the concepts of gate-keeping or trying to tell others how they should be on their Spiritual Paths. Maybe. I still hold out hope that we, as human beings, can take a step beyond. When we get there we can marvel at the similarities we missed while arguing about our differences. Plus, we can be astounded at the beauty of Paths that went where we couldn’t find appropriateness for our own steps. Viva individualism! We are resilient in our ability to find our ways to goals we wish to achieve. Our ability to experience and formulate solutions is astounding. Even when those Paths and solutions are as divergent in greater and greater ways.

–T /|\

Gizmo hiding…sort of

Troubleshooting Change on a Personal Spiritual Path

Like many people, I am a creature of habit. What I have found is that simple routines keep me focused, while a world of chaotic everything gets me unhinged and away from my purpose. I have a tough time staying on-task when my daily routines get altered. Most people who read me here on the blog and over on Facebook, have been somewhat aware of my routines. In fact, if you read me over on Facebook, you can see one of my daily routines. Typically, every morning, I’ll post what amounts to a “good morning” status. I’m almost certain that the post irritates the shit out of a lot of people, since it doesn’t get a lot of likes or comments. So I post it to irritate people? No, not at all. Essentially its a small greeting to whoever wants to read, along with my thoughts about what I am doing across the course of the day. For me, its just a way saying hello to the day and whoever wants to listen. After all, Facebook is a community and part of that means developing relationships with others.

However, I don’t always get the chance to do this simple thing. Usually its because I have to start my day with my feet hitting the floor running. Sometimes its because I don’t feel well enough to roll out of bed. Sometimes its something else.

There is a lot to my morning routine. Get up. Test my blood sugars. Take my medications, including two shots. Make my breakfast. Make a cup of coffee. Post the Facebook post. Go outside – weather permitting – and greet the Sun on its upward trajectory towards turning Texas into an industrial-strength Easy-Bake oven. If I can handle all of that to start a morning, its been a good start to the day.

Another part of my daily routine has been getting exercise, typically in the form of morning walk. However since moving from north of the Dallas area to south of the Dallas area – I have to find a walking course through the neighborhood that is to my liking. Paving of the roads here is even worse than it was in Mississippi a few years back. Roads with pot-holes are not only dangerous to drivers, but also to walkers who are forced to walk in the roads because of no sidewalks. On such uneven and broken pavement, I am always in fear of turning my ankle with one small misstep. Add to all of that the issue of COVID-19, and I spend much of my time indoors to avoid contact with others. I have a Peleton bike that I can ride; however, riding an indoor, stationary bike in lieu of walking has proven to be a bit more difficult to maintain a daily regimen of.

So, what happens when daily routines like these get interrupted or do not even happen? Well, it doesn’t seem like much but it does have effects on me throughout the course of the day. Missing parts of my morning routine can throw me off the feelings of being balanced. For an individual who seemingly is the epitome of a Libra (or so I have been told), it can bring out some of the worst traits of a Libra. I can run into issues of feeling confused, having issues with making decisions, feeling completely over-run by even the smallest of tasks. A fairly structured morning start is the key towards allowing me to reach unstructured tasks and plans. If I am not feeling that balance, the more unstructured parts of my life will look like I am trying to wipe spilled milk off the floor with a completely soaked sponge. As another example, those of you who read the blog have noticed that more than a few times with blog posts. My writing tends to get unfocused and jumbled. In relation to the heavy alterations to my workouts, a new area and COVID-19 have contributed to me finding nearly any excuse to not do anything. The result? A fifteen pound weight gain over three and a half months. The fact that I find calm, peace and structure in making food does not help either. I make the food because it provides the routine my mind is seeking. I make the food, I eat the food.

Bruce Dickinson’s “Tears of the Dragon” is a song about how all of this can contribute to being (quoting Bruce): “Shit scared of change.”

I heard one of you thinking the comment: How does someone whose Spiritual practice hinges on extemporaneous ritual have issues with working in unstructured environments? This is an excellent question. One of the things that I really stress about improvisation within ritual is that you learn the basics completely before you start changing things around or altering the process or elements of a ritual framework to suit your own needs. In the post, Improvising in Ritual? Learn the Basics First…Trust Me, I talk about the need for learning the basics first. Much like a guitar player, before you can learn to solo, you have to learn chord structure that allows you to feel the rhythm of a song. The same holds true in ritual. Learn the basic elements, learn the whys of this or that within the ritual and then you can branch out and try to give the ritual more meaning to you or provide a stronger connection between you and the God you are working with. When working something new, realize that your effort will have you failing more often than succeeding at first. That can be discouraging. Don’t be completely discouraged. Realize that you also succeeding in knowing something that does not work. That information is just as helpful. In the meantime, back to the point at hand.

How can I be so easy to embrace improvisation and yet have difficulty altering something far simpler, such as a daily routine? Well, the best point that I can surmise is that my daily routine is a foundational part of who I am. Ritual is not. That’s right. Ritual is not a foundational part of who I am. Ritual helps me to provide a more in-depth aspect to who I am. My daily routine is the primary foundational piece of who I am. Everything about who I am is built upon that. When that foundation shifts, it affects everything that is built on top of it. Not sure it makes much sense to anyone else, but it is where I am at.

The US military taught me the idea of being as flexible as possible when things go wrong. After the move down here, I have done my best to be as flexible as I can with many of the small changes that get thrown my way. But learning to be flexible and being flexible are sometimes far different experiences. The key, I have found, is not being overly harsh on myself. Yes, there are experiences to be had from every success and failure, but taking the time to seek knowledge from those experiences is of primary importance to being able to alter my own perceptions of the environment that I live in. As one of my Sergeants told me when I was learning about how the UniSys 1100/60 mainframe operated: “Fixing this beast means taking things one step at a time. First find the problem. Then see where it is not operating properly. The rest is about experimentation until you find a solution. And you move far slower than a step at a time there. Understand the system and its peripheral devices and how they work together. Once you get that down, you will be able to start using unconventional techniques to making things work. First the basics, then the experiments. That is the art of Troubleshooting.” I figure that I have learned quite well from that theorem of thought. I have been utilizing it over a thirty-four year career inside Information Technology and Systems. Plus, its worked for me over thirty-two years of a Spiritual path withing Paganism. Its definitely worked for me. It might not work for you, but what does it hurt to try first?

Questions, Questions, Questions – Some Books to Consider

Questions, questions, questions. One of the fun things that I have been doing for a running period of about three years is a series of questions from six folks on Facebook. About three years ago, I invited folks to offer me questions on any topic via Facebook Messenger. Initially, I had about fifteen people asking questions from time to time, but my Q3 Club (Questions, Questions, Questions Club) has shrunk to about six people. A lot of the questions are nonsensical stuff, mostly questions to have fun with – such as the “What is your fave color?” that was tossed to me yesterday. Of course, I answered with Sir Galahad’s answer at the Bridge of Death. However, from time to time, one of the folks will ask a good, serious question about Paganism or Druidry that makes me stop, think, and formulate a serious answer. Sometimes, those questions require far more lengthy answers, which brings me to here. With that bit of background out of the way, Stephen S. (Iowa) wrote what I consider to be a fairly offbeat question. However, answering this will take a bit more typing time than it does on Facebook.

What Pagan or ‘Pagan-y’ books do you consider to be excellent reads that are fairly under the radar?

Stephen S. (name used with permission)

This post took me a little time to work and formulate a response. Stephen originally asked for a twenty-five book response. I am going to cut that to somewhere between seven to ten. At the moment, I am not sure of the final number, except that I will stop at ten if I can go that far. First, I have to deal with the “under the radar” terminology. Looking at my bookshelf, I considered a few factors for this concept of “under the radar”. I have a handful of books that were not easy to obtain. I also have a few books that I rarely see a lot of folks talking about out in the Pagan internet cloud, for lack of a better description of the Pagan-y online communities. Not every single book that I will include on this is a Pagan topical book. Some of these are science fiction books that I consider to have a strong Pagan flavor to them. Now, with all that typed/said, let’s get down to stuff, shall we?

The first book I would like to set out for discussion is by one of the three female Druids in the UK that have greatly influenced my daily practice. Part of the Pagan Portals series of books, The Awen Alone: Walking the Path of the Solitary Druid by Joanna van der Hoeven has been an invaluable source for my daily practice. Back during my podcasting days, I got Joanna to join me for discussion on Upon a Pagan Path. I have long since closed the Upon a Pagan Path podcast; however, I hope to put the episodes up here on the Life With Trickster Gods blog site. Now, Joanna is one of the nicest conversations I have ever had online. Her books are a true joy to read and work through. I cannot recommend her work enough, even outside of this one book. I do believe that this particular work is not talked about enough and is particularly quite useful for the individual Practitioner that chooses to go it alone (which is definitely me).

The second book is also from my triad of influences, and I am more than thrilled to not only have her as a friend, but to consider her a mentor of sorts as I started walking down a Path of Priestly concepts and functions. Cat Treadwell‘s book, A Druid’s Tale, has provided so much inspiration to me along my Path. I have literally read through this book four or five times over the years that I have had it on my shelf and I continue to draw inspiration over my Path with each reading. Like many Druids that I have met online, she is quite friendly, forth-coming with her responses, and just one of those people that I want to rush over to the UK just to get a hug, sit and talk….and laugh. I’m definitely biased about Cat; however, I rarely see her two books – the other being Facing the Darkness – talked about openly. Plus, Facing the Darkness covers issues of crisis and depression from a Pagan angle with some east to work exercises. I truly consider this particular book an essential item to have on your shelf in these absolutely turbulent times we live in.

My next under-the-radar choice is a work of fiction. Morgan Llywelyn is one of the most prolific fiction authors I have ever read, aside from the Zane Grey. I have numerous books written by Morgan, but Druids is the one that I continually come back to for re-read after re-read. I have loaned this book out several times to friends, who probably forgot to return it to me. That’s ok though. Paperbacks don’t cost that much money, plus I was always happy to help this particular work find new, happy homes. The story follows a French tribe living in Gaul, particularly a young Druid named Ainvar. The story is captivating, charming, and written in a way that will make you fall in love with not only the characters, but also the lush environment created in the story. My understanding is that this book is getting harder and harder to find, so I hope the publisher decides to make a new print run.

Kristoffer Hughes is one of the zaniest Druids I have ever had the pleasure of meeting and those bear hugs where I get lifted off the ground (Kristoffer is MUCH taller than I am) are the stuff of legends. Kristoffer’s book Journey Into Spirit is absolutely amazing reading. The book details some of his journey into his everyday job in the morgue. There are also discussions of how to approach impending death of a loved one with dignity, love and grace. There is a lot of talk in Paganism about coming of age rituals, celebrations of the wheel of the year, and initiatory rites, but rarely is there discussions about rituals associated with the end of life. Kristoffer notes how society has essentially taken the concept of death and locked it behind the doors of the mortuary, away from the eyes of loved ones. This is a book that I think everyone should take the time to read, contemplate, and determine aspects of their own passage to the worlds beyond. And if you ever get the chance to catch him talking live….make sure you are there. Kristoffer is profound, humorous, profane, and one of the most loving individual you could ever encounter. Just an absolute joy to be around, and his book will provide you with so much material to contemplate, as well as tearing up at aspects of his own personal journey.

These next two books have been lifesavers for me in the area of ritual. I don’t see either of these talked about often enough. The weakest part of my Druidry is definitely ritual. Being solo, I have a group of one for my rituals, so things are fairly easy on me. Ritual with others can be quite strenuous for me. Group ritual requires a lot of work, a lot of meshing of everyone’s energies, and a lot of preparation. Emma Restall Orr’s Ritual: A Guide to Live, Love & Inspiration and Rachel Patterson’s The Art of Ritual have been quite helpful at dispelling some of my apprehensive nature towards this area of Druidry. and Paganism. Patterson’s book is written from the perspective of a Witch, but I still found a lot that was presented to be quite helpful. granted, I don’t agree with the concept of specific clothing for rituals…I feel the Gods are just as comfortable with me in a Rush concert t-shirt as They would be with me in specialized clothing for rituals. However, both authors bring up good points about all aspects of ritual in their books.

Published in 2005, Pagan Visions for a Sustainable Future is a group of essays written by a number of folks approaching the perspectives of feminism, magickal ecology, political activism, globalization, sacred communities and environmental spiritual displayed against a backdrop of where to go into the future. At fifteen years old, some of the perspectives appear a bit dated and somewhat nonsensical against the backdrop of today. However, I found this book to be full of great starting points for very difficult subjects. If you are looking for something that presents a challenging read, this would be my suggestion of starting place. Beyond that, there are hundreds of tangential directions that can be pursued. Those rabbit trails, in my opinion, can provide you with some topical perspectives that you may never have even considered.

Now I am not that “up” on the availability of some of these titles. As a point of consideration, Restall Orr’s book and the Pagan Visions book, I found in online used bookstores. The links I have provided for each of the books either goes to an Amazon link or directly to the author’s site. Honestly, I prefer the author’s site whenever possible, as it removes Amazon as the “middle man” and puts more money into the authors’ pockets. Just my personal preference. Plus, I love that Pagans seem to be some of the deepest read individuals in the various Spiritual communities. As a former professor, it does my heart good to see so many folks willing to read to expand their connection and experience.

–T /|\

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

Thinking About: When a Data Request Turned Into a Bizarre ‘My God is Bigger Than Your God’ Moment

A short while back, Facebook peppered me with a memory from back in my days working with the college. For those that don’t know, my job was to pull data from the Student Information System as requested by others. Typically, the data requests were fairly straight forward and never really required any in-depth SQL coding to get to it. However, sometimes the requests were a bit more complex and from time-to-time required pulling data from disparate systems and connecting the databases, as well as connecting the data with the appropriate student, took time, thought, and a certain aspect of creativity. This Facebook memory is an actual conversation between myself and a co-worker (denoted as CW). I was being sarcastic, but it was not taking that way. I wound up being brought to my supervisor for a behind-doors discussion.

CW: “Its a fairly complex data request, right?”
Me: “Yeah. Its a complicated, hot mess of a query. However, I think it can be done.”
CW: “So what do you need?”
Me: “About two hours, two dry erase markers, SQL Server Management Studio open on my computer, a live chicken, two shots of whiskey and a competent Witch.”
CW: “What?”
Me: “I need the two hours, the dry erase markers and SSMS to write the query. I need the live chicken as a sacrifice, and the two whiskey shots for devotional offerings.”
CW: “What about the Witch?”
Me: “I just need someone to talk to while I do all of that – and preferably someone that I can bounce ideas off of.”
—–
This is why people do not ask me how I get their data. My sense of humor, and my sarcasm combined with my inability to keep my inner monologue under control with a single cup of coffee….just never provides the answers other people are seeking.

This entire moment wound up with me in front of my supervisor, as I have already noted. The sarcastic commentary was not the issue. The issue was the implication that I was not a Christian, which I wasn’t then, before or after. I was asked point blank if I was a Christian. Point blank, I answered in the negative.This prompted a series of questions, which turned into a long conversational perspective of why I was wrong – according to the Bible. Well, it was conversational in the context that I answered in short, concise replies and was countered with diatribes that rivaled politicians being set in front of a microphone and provided with open-ended questions. One question out of all of these had me trying to formulate an answer.

Where do you get your moral authority?

Moral Authority? I have never been asked a question from this perspective prior to this. In fact, its a question that falls more to the perspective of Theology – according to definition it is “the systematic study of the nature of the divine and, more broadly, of religious belief.” This led me down a path to understand what was being set forward as “moral authority” and where I would derive such from. For the definition, I will fall to that which is in Wikipedia. Academically, Wikipedia is never considered a solid choice, but for something such as a blog post masquerading as an essay, I believe it will manage to be useful.

Moral authority is authority premised on principles, or fundamental truths, which are independent of written, or positive, laws. As such, moral authority necessitates the existence of and adherence to truth.

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

For me, this entire perspective comes down to something that is derived from “Truth.” For a Christian, such as my supervisor was (and still is), his construct of moral authority is derived from the King James Bible. He can find supporting passages within that text to justify any aspect of “truth” as he wishes to define it. His choice of moral authority means absolutely nothing to me, however. I am not a Christian and have no desire to set my life on a defining touch-point created by a faith that I do not follow. However, my problem is finding a point of moral authority in how I practice my own faith. I have no “magic” tome to lean towards for my moral authority. I have no one that I can point to as a point of dispensation of such “truth,” since I hold no one in that high of a regard. As I read more, I began to realize that I had no way of answering my supervisor’s question in a manner that could provide a standing in an argument. Not that I would want to utilize my faith and belief in any kind of a battle with someone challenging the legitimacy of what I practice and follow on a daily basis. The only place I need legitimacy is in the connection I have with my Gods. Besides, I have no need to prove my beliefs nor do I have any reason to challenge the legitimacy of the faith and beliefs of others.

Now, a few years down the road from that moment in time, I have a slightly more reasoned answer. I am a strong believer in individualism. My moral authority comes from within myself, from my desire to treat others with the respect I expect to be treated with. However, on further contemplation, I realized that this would also be rejected in such an argument as I am referencing. However, I also came to another conclusion, why should I have to answer at all?

Now, some three years after the fact, I have come to realize that the conversation was more of a morality trap than anything else. A straight up comparison of one set of beliefs against another, utilizing the backdrop of moral authority upon which to lay out the commonalities and differences. In a manner of speaking, it was an autopsy of what I believed versus what he believed. The measuring stick was to be against the backdrop of his beliefs. As my beliefs are not built on a book or the cult-like leadership of a single individual – historical or not – I was provided with footing that was nowhere near that of a solid state. In all reality, I should have declined the perspective from the very beginning, and brought the conversation back my work-related duties. Instead, I stepped right where I was being beckoned to do so.

The overall conversation lasted about two hours. Two hours of wasted productivity, to be honest. However, they paid me to stand there and listen, hardly getting a word in edge-wise. I certainly could have used those two hours a lot more productively trying to figure out how to tie the three systems together in a single SQL query, which I eventually did. Instead I wound up being brow-beat over my beliefs. Back then, I was moving into my thirtieth year as a Pagan; this conversation had no chance at all of eroding my Pagan faith. Now, three years later, there is a far lesser chance that it would. I am a Pagan. I am comfortable with my faith and beliefs. I am challenged daily with what I believe to find connections in a world gone haywire all around me. And I still have no desire to define where I get my moral authority from. I am not a Theologian of any stripe. I am not interested in trying to figure out what makes other faiths tick. I am more interested in walking the Path, as I know it.

I do; however, have a competent Witch I can talk with whenever I need to. I don’t necessarily need the live chicken anymore, but I won’t turn down the whiskey.

–T /|\

My “business” card, which is in dire need of updating

Division by Zero. Musings on the Upcoming Election Cycle

Welcome to Tuesday or Day Two of the American Republican party’s multi-day infomercial. The previous week, the American Democrat Party held their multi-day infomercial. Yes, infomercials. I call the “conventions” this because none of them are designed to inform anyone towards the aspect of forming and changing opinions. In true essence, these are nothing more than sophmoric attempts at pep-rallies designed to pump up the faithful of each side. No changing minds of the undecided voters or trying to sway those that are barely leaning into one camp or the other to switch sides. Just a lot of rah-rah-sis-boom-bah. Hooray for our side!

On Facebook, it was pointed out to me that I missed an inspirational speech from Uncle Joe (Joe Biden) on the last night of the Democrat infomercial. My response was that I missed nothing that I needed to hear. I already know who will get my vote at the Presidential level of the ballot. I have no need to hear either the Democrat or Republican perspective on that anymore. My focus is now on the down ballot for my state, my district, my county and my city. With a little time and a lot of study of the candidates, as well as queries to candidates that do not seem to be clear on their position on a topic, I will eventually figure out where my vote needs to go there. When I do enter the voting booth in October (my plan is to early vote in person), I will already know where I my opinion will be. I can tell you right now, its not likely a straight-party vote either. I do not provide blind allegiance to any political party here in the United States.

Most people would call me a fool or an idiot for figuring out my vote in this manner. Just as I got called such for waiting for third party candidates to toe the starting line in the Presidential race. I was told that a vote for these candidates would be a vote for Trump. But that is not true. My vote for Jill Stein in the previous Presidential cycle was a vote for Jill Stein and no one else. Sure, folks can provide me with all the facts and figures to support their perspective that third party candidates give the election to the other main party candidate that they wish to see lose, but the true reality is that a vote for the candidate of your choice is a vote for the candidate of your choice. And you have every right to make that choice and not have the entire world crash down on you, saying that the election of one candidate or the other in the main two parties was your fault.

Notice, I am not going to beat you about the head and shoulders saying that you should vote for this candidate or another. That’s because your vote is your vote. My friendship with you has nothing to do with how you vote. Nor will your vote have any effect on our friendship. I detest the human being that is President Donald J. Trump. However, if you decide to vote for him as President, that vote will not change who you are in my eyes as my friend. Your politics can (and likely will) differ from my own. I do not base my friendship with you on how your politics align with my own. Just as I do not base my friendship on the type of beer you drink or if you drink beer at all. Personally, I prefer a good IPA that is not too heavy and not too light. However, our friendship is not going to revolve around the similarities between our taste buds.

The four years (well three and some change) of the Trump Administration has been marked by a desire to divide people. According to them, we have to not like each other because our politics are different. We have to not like each other because our skin color is different. We have to not like each other for all kinds of aspects of separation. Well, I will just disagree with them again. Our choices of political perspective does not divide us. Our choice of religious beliefs do not divide us. Our skin color does not divide us. We are all human beings living on this planet. What divides us is the inability to find decent, respectful compromise. What divides us is buying into the “Us v. Them” paradigm that is peddled by those who peddle fundamentalism as the only way to a “perfect” society. Be like us or become one of them. And if you are one of them, we will have to destroy every trace of who you are.

I watched this type of shit back during the Satanic Panic of the 1980s. I had a front seat to watching state governments, pressured by a “moral” society, rip children out of the arms of parents. Then insert those children into the awaiting arms of the State, while the parents were labeled as Satanists. All done in the name of Jesus Christ because tearing families apart was the loving thing to do. The only manner of stopping it was to plea with judges about what makes a loving family, particularly when it is not a Christian one. I have watched even more horrific things done to others, simply because they choose to love someone with a different skin color or the same gender as they are or even loving more than one person. All done in the name of a belief system that espouses love for the sinner. But apparently only the sinner that is part of their belief system. All part of the pattern of “Us v. Them”. Why?

The only explanation I really have is that the conflict aspect of “Us v. Them” is the easiest to understanding. While Love and Hate are two very close emotions that seemingly run parallel to one another, Hate is the easier emotion to reach for. Hate is the easier emotion to sustain. However, I’m no Psychologist or Psychiatrist. I couldn’t even play one on TV. This is just my best guess.

So, how did I go from talking about politics and voting towards examining love and hate within society? Well, read through the comments on any political story. Once you get about five comments in, you should see it. Or if you prefer, listen to any Trump speech. It won’t take long until you find him driving a wedge between everyone. Try and talk with either a vehement Biden support or a vehement Trump support and that deep-seated vitriol will be easy to find. I gave up trying to be the online peacemaker in online debates and arguments well over a year ago. I stick to the sidelines for the most part and let everyone battle it out. However, I am stuck with one thought that continually makes its way through my mind these days. When an election is over, Americans are supposed to unite together under the new administration and find ways to work together. Except that has not been the case since the second term of the Clinton administration. And with each new Presidential administration, that deep division gets wider and wider. Soon, we should be at a point where the opposition of a newly elected President will not be able to be seen with the naked eye. And the opposition will become more and more violent against the administration. How can we have a country that operates in the name of the people when the people cannot even find ways to be humane and respectful to one another? And just to further that thought, in closing, how do we heal that rift? Who is willing to step up and break that constant cycle of division? For me, I’m one of those that desires to see that cycle shattered, sooner rather than later.

–T /|\

We All Learn At Our Own Pace

“I can’t learn this stuff, I’m taking too long.”

I heard this a lot when I was working on my Bardic lessons from the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. And I could truly understand the frustration, as well as the bitterness over the constant stopping and starting that was taking place while trying to learn. The slow pace was being compounded by everyday life getting in the way. Having to work late. Yard work. A constant need to bring work from the job back to the home, just to get caught up. I understood the frustrating nature quite well. That’s because the person experiencing those troubles was me.

When I got my lessons in the mail from OBOD, I always did my best to get through them before the next mailing would arrive. Life; however, had a different plan. When I started, I was an adjunct instructor for the college. Typically, I had anywhere from twenty to nearly a hundred students whose assignments I had to continually read, grade, correct, and comment on before I returned the assignments. Then, I accepted a position as an Institutional Researcher for the college, which removed me from the classroom. I lived less than two miles from the campus I taught on. My new job put me on the main campus, which was a forty-five minute drive – one-way. In the summer-time, the college went to four days a week of work. Each of these days was ten hours of work. My entire time was raised to nearly fourteen hours per day with the driving in rush hour traffic. That meant I essentially woke up, made breakfast, drove to work, did my job, drove back, made dinner, and went to sleep. The next three days – Friday, Saturday and Sunday – were typically reserved for housework, yard work, medical appointments and any other errands that needed to be taken care of. So to alleviate all of that, I moved to be closer to the job. Getting things together for the move, that all ate into the time that I had to complete my studies as well, until I had developed a routine of setting my studies to the side. See? Life got in the way.

When I made it to the first OBOD Gulf Coast Gathering camp, there was a meeting setup for all the Bardic students. Here, I found a few others had struggled with the balance of mundane life and studies while others seemingly had no problem. I learned a few techniques to getting things completed, but one notation stuck with me: everyone learns at their own pace. There is no time limit to the lessons because of this. You learn at your own pace. And that currently is a reminder to me as I work through my Ovate studies, which are decidedly not as much as the Bardic studies were. That presents a new set of challenges to my mind. Getting through lessons that have a much weaker call to me.

Don’t get that statement wrong. I am not about to stop on my Ovate studies. I am merely indicating that the challenge of making it through these studies comes from a different place than before. And as I did make it through my Bardic studies, I will make it through my Ovate studies. I am finding that I need to determine a different perspective to get there.

Most people, it seems, look at the course work and see a daunting set of lesson plans set before them. A booklet of material that is broken down into what feels like a set of lesson plans. And seemingly an internal self-realized clock that says – you can do it in a year. Maybe that needs to be changed to: you SHOULD do it in a year because I never found anything that suggested that I should complete my studies in any specified time frame. “Everyone learns at their own pace.” My firm belief is that this is where folks develop a mental road block, that they feel they must overcome. When they don’t – because Life gets in the way – they become paralyzed, not knowing what to do and their abaility to progress is just shot.

I can understand where this comes from. In all the schooling that we have had – there’s a time limit for everything. Lessons have deadlines to be submitted. Tests have a specified time frame in which they must be completed. You must move forward each year within grade progression: first grade, second grade, ninth grade, until you graduate with a high school diploma. Yearly progression matters for everything. In college, you get a number of courses you must complete before moving on to the next progression of courses, until you meet all the requirements for your degree. If you fail, you get held back, and your graduation date gets pushed back another semester, because you have to complete that course with a satisfactory grade. Deadlines. Submission dates. Course start dates. Course end dates. Expected graduation dates. All of that leads to dealing with deadlines in the work place. You begin to live your life under a set of self-imposed deadlines. Things have to be done by this date. And this becomes the default for how you handle your life and it creeps into your new-found learning: your Druidry studies.

Except that you don’t have to approach it that way. Learning Druidry, Wicca, whatever Spiritual path you are on is not about the grade or title you attain. Yeah, I’ve made it past my Bardic grade. I’m on my Ovate grade. I have a desire to finish the Ovate grade and progress to the Druid grade. I have a desire to finish that….for what? Yes, I get to say that I am a Druid that completed the OBOD coursework for the three grades. But is that what I am trying to attain? Some sort of bragging rights?

Certainly, working through the three grades is an important part of my Spiritual Path. And yes, I will have a manner of fulfillment at finishing the three grades. But it won’t make me any more important than I am now. It may place me in a position where I can get a chance to work with other OBOD folk going through the courses, to help guide them towards fulfilling their own goals and desires over what the coursework is for. As a former instructor, I always loved the moments where I saw students’ have that little light of understanding get “turned on.” Always a great feeling, especially when I got them to understand that I didn’t turn their light on – they did. I only helped them to understand where they might find that switch within themselves. But that’s only a side desire of doing my work in the grades. My first desire is to become a better “me” through the work. To learn and experience what I can through the course work. This is about altering aspects of myself into something that I want to become.

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

I have a desire to be a Druid and I am one. This is my Path. No title is going to make me into a Druid. I already am a Druid. The course work is going to help me become a more effective, more knowledgeable Druid. And my progression towards effectively working on myself through the lessons, through the camaraderie that I have with other Druids I encounter at OBOD camps, Pagan Pride Days, and other gatherings…that will happen on schedule. At my pace. I still have other requirements in my everyday life that I need to continually address. My work, my everyday life at home, my position as a friend in the lives of others, being there for those that need that shoulder to lean on or that ear to bend….all of that is me. But I continue to learn about my Druidry, how it relates to me, how it relates to the world around me…and even after I finish my Druid grade with OBOD, my learning will continue through the rest of my life, and beyond the veil when I pass (which I hope is a long, long time from now).

This Path is about constantly experiencing, learning and evolving. Deadlines be damned. I build myself at my pace. Sometimes, I need to stop and take a break. Short or long, that break will be something that I needed, so that I could refresh my perspective. So that I could see the world with fresh eyes. The pace I set on this Path is mine. Some people want to sprint down the Path. Good for them. They are doing what they feel they need to. For me, I prefer to walk down the path at what others may lament is a leisurely pace. I like to stop from time to time, lean on my staff, and take in the view around me. No matter the landscape, I can find beauty in it. And beauty needs to be experienced and admired. Those moments are certainly necessary. We walk (or sprint as the case may be) our Paths at our own paces. So, the next time you are having trouble with learning a guitar passage for a song you want to add to your musical quiver….set the guitar down. Take a break. Come back to it in a bit with fresh eyes and fresh fingers. Having trouble with a bit of programming. Save the code where you are at. Document where you are, so you can recall what you were trying to do when you come back. Put on a movie and lose yourself in the story’s experience. Or get some much needed sleep. Do something to give your mind a break. However long that break may be.

Stop trying to live your entire existence on a set of self-imposed deadlines. There will always be deadlines in parts of our mundane life. That doesn’t mean we have to impose those deadlines elsewhere. I’ve been there. I have done that. Trust me, its an empty existence. You rush through everything trying to reach those deadlines and zoom right past the real knowledge in those lessons – OBOD, Life or otherwise – and you miss something that you needed. It took my seven years to get through my Bardic Grade. The first four years, I struggled with the lessons, going back and forth in the lessons so that I could understand. “We all learn at our own pace.” I spent the last three years taking my time and learning at my own pace. At first it felt frustrating moving so slow, but soon I fell into the rhythm that worked for me. Eventually, I finished, and found myself looking into the Path of Ovate, where I find myself learning more deliberately. While the lessons are not what stirs my soul, it is knowledge that I need to work with, accumulate and accustom myself to. I work and experience at a pace appropriate for me. Deliberate steps on an appropriate Path. Taking the time to stop and marvel at the beauty all around me. “We all learn at our own pace.”

–T /|\

Thinking About: Continued Musings on Wanderlust in the Time Before COVID

Yesterday’s post (which should have been Tuesday’s), Wanderlust, Memories and Spirits of Place – Against a Backdrop of Times Before COVID-19, was only a small slice of my travels over the past decade or so. There are so many other places that I have traveled, where the pull of Spirits of Place was immensely strong. Some were in the oddest places. Some, I have suspicions that it may not be the Spirits of Place that still haunt the areas.

I have already made my love of driving known. I seriously have no issues pulling long drive of twelve to fourteen hours before I need some kind of lengthy rest. In the past, I have made long drives from the north area of Dallas to just north of Kansas City in a single night of driving. Part of that drive is through a tolled section of Interstate-35, which is mostly a rather boring drive that is punctuated throughout with overtly right-wing Christian signs denouncing abortion. Those signs are placed on the private property that borders either side of the roadway. However, there is a section of the drive where the landscape changes dramatically. This is the Flint Hills region of Kansas, and it is a magnificent part of the drive. The interstate winds down into the Flint Hills and the back up other hills. Unlike the majority of the turnpike going north, this is not a straight line of driving. All around you, on either side of the road, is miles upon miles of prairie land. Occasionally, you can see animals in the distance, but it is essentially clear, flat-land for the most part. Most of the commercial signage also disappears here, as well as a huge amount of the done-in-the-garage anti-abortion signs. Plus, there is also the strong pull of the Spirits of the Land here. Even with an interstate and barbed-wire fencing, this area has that strong feeling of power. Anytime I have driven north or south through this area, this particular part of the drive has always been my favorite. I always exit the Flint Hills part of the interstate with a feeling of energized power, which I have no explanation of. For reference, this is the ancestral lands of a few First nations peoples including the Kaw, Kikaapoi, Oceti Sakowin (Sioux), and the Osage.

When I was stationed in Germany, in 1992, it was a few years after the fall of the Berlin Wall. When I was younger and living in Germany while my father was stationed at Weisbaden, we never took the chance for a visit to Berlin. Thanks to military mission that I was attached to, I got that chance in April of 1992. We didn’t get the chance to stay very long, only three days, However, we all took the opportunity to visit the remains of the Wall, as well as Checkpoint Charlie. We were not allowed to bring cameras with us, so those of us that went did not have anything but our memories to carry back with us. I remember thinking how different life was on each side of that wall. On the West Germany side, apartments and shop fronts were as close as ten to fifteen feet from the Wall. On the opposite side…mostly guard stations and barbed wire. Over the years, there were many attempts by East Germans to scale, tunnel or circumvent the wall to a freer society in West Berlin. Most were stopped and taken to prisons or killed in their escapades. While visiting, I felt strong presences there. Many of them. These did not have the same feeling of Spirits of Place. It was more as if they were there because they had nowhere else to go. To this day, I wonder if I could still feel those presences so near the foreboding Wall that separated Germans from Germans, sometimes splitting families in two.

The calling card of a local bear near Medicine Bow Peak in Wyoming

Another place that I ventured to was Medicine Bow Peak near Laramie, Wyoming. On October 6th, 1955, a United DC-4 crashed into Medicine Bow Peak killing all 63 passengers and 3 crew members aboard. The aircraft was traveling from New Your City to San Francisco, California and had made a stop in Denver, Colorado for a routine crew change. Assigned to an altitude of 10,000 feet, the plane was to fly through the Rocky Mountains along a path that kept it away from mountains taller than the assigned altitude. There is; however, a narrow shortcut through the northern tier of the Rockies that can be flown, that would reduce the flight time to Seattle by nearly ninety minutes. As there was a lengthy delay in Denver, it is assumed that this was the reasoning that the crew deviated from the flight plan and attempted the shortcut, in order to get the flight back on scheduled time. Instead, they fly straight into Medicine Bow Peak, a mountain of some 12,000 feet in height. When I visited the area, I was struck by the number of boulders strewn all around the area below the summit. About a mile away from the crash site, there is a paved road (back in 1955 this entire area was wilderness with no roads – paved or otherwise) which leads to a parking area with many picnic benches. The day I was there, it was very sunny, and extremely warm. Plus, there were no other people at this location. The hike alone the well-worn path was a nice stroll, with the exception of coming across a tree with deep claw slashes in it, which appeared to be fresh. This was the sign of a bear marking its territory. Keeping that in mind, the rest of the walk was rather brisk and a bit short, leading to the location where the aircraft had slammed into the sheer face of the summit. In this particular place, the Spirits of Place were extremely strong, and I wondered what it might have been like here long before the pavement invasion of the white man. These lands are the ancestral home of the Arapaho, Cheyenne, and Oceti Sakowin (Sioux). All three of these tribes figure prominently in the retelling of Hollywood versions of the time of the first white Settlers in the west. Early history of Medicine Bow Peak is not known prior to the 1833 and 1834 expeditions of John C. Fremont within this area. Down in the foothills, the Lakota, Ute and Eastern Shoshone were known to have also inhabited the area or utilized the canyons and mountain passes as travel routes to and from Summer and Winter lands.

Each of these locations hold vivid memories in my mind. Both the Flint Hills and Medicine Bow Peak have often left me wondering what the area must have been like before the coming of the white Settlers. While most of my musings likely have a heavy tinge of romanticism attached to them, I do understand how rough life would have been. Still, I envy the sheer closeness that comes with being so close to nature. Even under the auspices of such terrifying ferocity that was surely evident from the various predators that lived there.

I have so many more memories of pre-COVID travel, but I am also reminded about the one rule I have made for myself when visiting these places, even man-made places such as the Berlin Wall: leave no trace. At Medicine Bow Peak, if you walk on the other side of the lakes formed by ice and snow run-off, you can still find parts and pieces of United Airlines Flight 409 among the rocks and boulders. The plea from many folks is to leave it where it is found. Photograph it, but don’t pick it up. Leave it there, so others may have the chance to experience the “discovery” of such things for themselves. Bring in food, at your own discretion and caution. And by all means, if you bring it in, pack it back out with you. Dispose of your trash where it should be…not just letting it fall out of your hands casually. Let others have the same or even better experience than you did.

COVID-19 will not be here holding us all hostage in our homes forever. Much like influenza, a work-around will be found. We do not have a cure for influenza, but we do have a yearly vaccine that helps control its spread and its effects on the human body. We will eventually reach that point with COVID-19. It probably won’t happen as soon as many would like, but I am hopefully that it will happen. In the meantime, we stay safe. We wear our masks in public. We keep our distance from others, as much as we possibly can. We thoroughly wash our hands. And we practice patience, as best we can.

–T /|\

Part of the summit of Medicine Bow Peak

Wanderlust, Memories and Spirits of Place – Against a Backdrop of Times Before COVID-19

Back before COVID relegated most of us to our homes, I got the chance to do a lot of traveling through the Rockies from time to time. Every once in a while, someone will ask me what my favorite part of the world is – the quick and easy answer is the Rocky Mountains. I have never been more at home than I have there. If money and other factors were not issues, that is where I would certainly find myself – particularly the northern area.

Every few years, I put my mind into a thinking mode of where to travel to. Lately, my mind has gone back to those travels. Since I hate flying, I prefer the long drives from Texas to Wyoming, Montana, and all the nearby areas. For me, driving is a manner of therapy. I find that I am quite capable of driving twelve to sixteen hours on my own before I need a night’s rest. A few years back, an uncle of mine passed away, and the burial was up in Indiana. I drove from Dallas, Texas to the north side of Nashville, Tennessee in a single day, alone. All of my father’s brothers were truck drivers, so I guess there is some of that genetic makeup in my material.

There is a section of interstate in Colorado that runs from the southern part of the state to Colorado Springs. The interstate is on a flat portion of the prairie, as it rolls up to the edge of the Rockies. Those mountains are off to the left on the drive north, jutting majestically out of the land – reaching for the skies above. That single area is one of the images that I can easily recall in my mind when I am day-dreaming. So many others I have discussed this with call it “the most boring stretch of road” they have ever driven.

There is also a stretch of highway 287 in north Texas that I love to drive. From Wichita Falls to Amarillo, the drive takes you through a long stretch of smaller towns and not-so-large cities on the way into the Texas plains near Amarillo. Many of these towns have fallen on extremely hard-times, as evidenced by the run-down buildings and closed store-fronts of their tiny centers-of-town. Often, I have wondered what towns, such as Claude, Texas might have looked like during more prosperous times. Many times on the many drives through 287 to Amarillo, Texas, I have wondered what this part of Texas might have looked like back in the days when the Kiowa and Comanche tribes were numerous and powerful.

More than one person has commented to me that I belong to a different time-line than where I am. Most comment that I remind many of them of the times commonly referred to as “the old West” when people here in North America and the fledgling United States were moving westward to expand the country. In many cases, there was a desire for adventure, exploring the great unknown. For others, it was a chance at a new start. There were many, many other reasons, as well – but the romanticized history of the times tends to relate those two reasons as the greatest. I suspect that they are probably right. I have had lucid daydreams of just that perspective from time to time. Gods, I honestly would love to go back to my thirties and spend some of that time in my life reaching out to the less exploited and less inhabited parts of western Texas. The only thing that comes across as difficult to deal with for me is my personal distaste for guns. But that’s a thought for another time.

View From Medicine Wheel

One of my favorite places that I have traveled to is in Wyoming. Medicine Wheel in the Bighorn Mountains is in the ancestral lands of the Apsaalooke’ (Crow), Cheyenne, and Oceti Sako’win (Sioux). My visit there happened on the long trip to Montana, that I mentioned previously. According to the cultural history, Medicine Wheel dates back thousands of years into a time where no First Nations settlers had been seen. The moment you encounter the Wheel after the mile-plus walk from the parking lot, you can sense the sacredness of this place. The view across the valley looking westward and north towards the poorly named Custer Gallatin National Forest is simply amazing. This one place, I have felt at utter and complete peace. The area around the Wheel is populated with the nearby town of Lovell, Wyoming located down the steep, winding road into the valley. Of all the places that I have visited, none have called more deeply to my soul than Medicine Wheel.

I enjoy traveling. I guess I have a gene of wanderlust in my genetic makeup. Perhaps, that came about from my parents pulling me and my sister along to Volksmarches in the German countryside, when my dad was stationed there. Walks along small roadways between farmers’ fields, along the cobble-stone roads of small German villages, and my favorite (and most well-remembered) walks through the dense, dark, and venerable Black Forest are such deeply ingrained memories of my life. I remember getting permission to walk off the path, into the dense ranks of the trees, walking on the soft, brown pine needles that seemed to be the floor of the forest. Marveling at the shafts of light that would penetrate the dense canopy like multi-colored laser strikes from spacecraft high in orbit – or at least that was what it seemed to a SciFi addled school boy’s over-active imagination.

Thinking deeper into what I have noted above, I would surmise that a lot of the energy and calm that I felt came from Spirits of Place. I cannot prove this for a fact, but each of those experiences remain some of the strongest memories I have at a time in my life where I can scarcely remember what I had for dinner last night. Yes, memories do fade, particularly if you do not feed them. My memories of high school feel like old, yellowed photographs of faces I do not remember very well. My memories of a childhood spent growing up throughout Europe, courtesy of the United States Air Force, are even fewer in number, and far less sharp in contrast, with the sole exception of walking through the countryside for a simple Volksmarch medal (all of which I still have).

I still wonder if I really belong in this time-frame of the world or if my soul actually belongs elsewhere. That’s a question of reincarnation and rebirth, something I have no qualifications to speak coherently on. I do believe that there is some aspect of that which exists, but it is only my supposition. Still, I wonder about the pull of a time within the history of this continent I currently inhabit. I also wonder about the pull of specific locations that I have physically visited in this life. How can a place that I have never been prior to my first visit exhibit that kind of continued pull in my life? I do have desires to return to Medicine Wheel, this time with the proper offerings in hand. And should that occur, I will certain spend time detailing the entire aspects of such a trip. Could it be described as a pilgrimage? Perhaps. I am not sold on the concept of that perspective. I do know that the need to return and properly pay respects is strong. And what of the potential of Spirits of Place? I have always felt that Spirits of Place ignore humans for the most part. They have been here much longer than we have. Our significance is not that great, outside of the harm that we have caused. What of Them?? Certainly, for me, much of this is a continued process of “food for thought”….

However, I do miss traveling…thanks to COVID-19.

–T /|\

Note: This is the sixth re-write of this post. I hope it makes more sense than the first two did.

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

A Direct Line to the Gods?

You are so blessed to have a direct line to the Gods…

Whenever I talk with people about my connection with Crow, Coyote, and/or Abnoba, I tend to hear this comment floating in. I am not fond of hearing this, but I also don’t really clear up the air on it either. So, instead of floating back to an older post and trying to bring a new spin – I figured this might be a good place to start for today. Yes, I do communicate with all three from time to time, but it is not a direct line of communication. Nor is it like a Bat-signal that gets flashed in the sky for me to see, and I go running for a location where I can quickly and quietly meditate. Nor can I just flip a switch, focus on Them and They pick up the other end to hear what I am asking for help on. This relationship has NEVER worked like that. And if it did, I would be scared shitless.

I am not some physical manifestation of a super-hero for the Gods I work with. While I can, and do, work as a physical extension of Their Will, I am not puppet whose strings get pulled. From my end, I can ask for assistance in understanding a perspective that I don’t understand. About ninety percent of the time, I get no answer whatsoever. The other ten percent of the time, my answer winds up being a nearly thousand-piece puzzle set that I have to piece together to decipher my answer. Rarely, have I found the Gods that I work with to be blunt and straight-forward. And with two Trickster Gods, it is definitely what I would have expected.

In the beginning, though, not so much. Coyote was the first. When He started showing up in dreams and meditations, I got fairly freaked out. I was not used to my dreams or meditations talking back in a lucid, conversational tone. There was a lot of back and forth over what was needed and required of me in this relationship. A whole lot of trial and error in figuring out what was necessary, and what was just the extra sprinkles on top of the requirement. I still have trouble with Coyote over straight-forward requests. Crow was easier. However, both are Trickster Gods, and I was put through the ringer doing some really stupid things that I thought They wanted. It turned out, They wanted me to figure out that I could also say no.

Yeah. You can say no to a God. You can refuse to work with Them. But a word of warning, weigh that choice against Their desire to work with you. I have never been called by The Morrigan – and I hope I never, ever get called by Her. Aside from the fact that She literally scares the shit out of me (She is quite the fierce Goddess), I see no need or place for me within whatever army She is developing. At one point, I thought I was being approached by Her (The Morrigan is not a Valkyrie), but it turned out to be a handful of Valkyrie that were pushing me towards another perspective. As an aside, I have found that working with the Valkyrie is quite interesting as well, and far more suited to the training and career that the United States Air Force built me for, but that’s for another time….maybe. As I said, you can say no, just realize that there are consequences.

There are also consequences for saying yes, as well. if you are provided with an oath, go over it carefully before you say yes. Make sure you understand exactly what you are bargaining, because that is precisely what you are doing – setting a bargain. An oath or bargain taking lightly can place you somewhere that you might not want to be. When you are striking a bargain with the Gods, you are creating a contractual obligation between both of you. Make absolutely sure that you are comfortable with what you are providing. Also, make absolutely sure that you are comfortable with what you are being provided in agreement.

You do not have to become a Priest or Priestess to the Gods you work with. At one time, I misunderstood Crow’s perspective and believed that I was to become a Priest of His. That misunderstanding led me down an incorrect Path. A lot of back and forth happened with a lot of confusion on my part before I realized what was being told to me: the First Nations Path was not mine to be walked. I work with Coyote and Crow, but I am not of the People. Certainly there is some crossover in my path and that Path, but their ceremonies are not mine. Priesthood was not where I was being directed. Nor was the Path of being a Shaman. My footsteps go elsewhere, into Druidry – and a different type of Priesthood. As I said before, my experience has been that direct communication with the Gods is quite difficult at times.

It stands to reason that this is the case. They are not Humans. And Humans are not Them. As John Beckett would say, “Their ways are not our ways.” What are the Gods? I am not completely sure how to classify Them other than not Humans. To me, They are the Gods. They don’t control us, and They don’t want to. They work with us in a Spiritual give-and-take. Sometimes, the scales of that give-and-take are not equally balanced. Again, we have choices that we can make. Accept and do or reject. Each has its own set of consequences.

Unfortunately, I cannot hear the Gods. They seem to have rejected me.

The Gods call who They call. I would caution you a bit about running joyously into Their service. Serving the Gods can be a difficult Path over razor-sharp rock with only your bare hands and feet to traverse it. Working with the Gods is not a comfortable position. And stepping into Priesthood with the Gods can be even more difficult, time-consuming, and possibly even beyond your imagination. The Gods are definitely not the depictions we see in the movies. I cannot dissuade a single soul against that perspective; pop-culture can be that powerful. But from my own experience, the Gods are way beyond the magic of Industrial Light & Magic and other VFX and animation studios.

For me, the Gods are real, distinct Beings. I know They exist. I work with a few of Them. I have been working with a few of Them for quite a few years. I can relate that my experience has been that service to the Gods can (and will) be difficult at times. I can also relate that They do not always communicate with me directly or indirectly. There are times that I have wondered if They had let me go. I do not have a direct line to the Gods. There is no emergency telephone between here and wherever They are. Others might actually have that connection, but in my experience it does not exist. But They definitely do.

–T /|\

Thinking About: Stories

You need music, I don’t know why. It’s probably one of those Joe Campbell questions, why we need ritual. We need magic, and bliss, and power, myth, and celebration and religion in our lives, and music is a good way to encapsulate a lot of it.

Jerry Garcia

I was reminded of this quote from Jerry during the Days Between of Jerry’s’ birth and death. This appeared on Mickey Hart’s Instagram account. Hart was one of the drummers for the Grateful Dead and a very close friend of Jerry’s. The quote always reminds me of the necessary need for music towards the expression of our collective emotions, as well as a transport for strong stories that bring inspiration to our minds. If you need examples, I will point to songs such as “The Legend of Wooley Swamp” by the Charlie Daniels Band, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” by Gordon Lightfoot, “One” by Metallica, or even Iron Maiden’s “Still Life” as singular examples among so many others.

Music also brings other stories to mind. Several songs will easily invoke moments where I first heard these songs with friends. As an example, I remember walking with friends around a football field, listening to Midnight Star’s album “No Parking on the Dance Floor”. I’m not overly fond of dance music from the 1980s, but any song from this album will automatically evoke the memories of that late afternoon and evening. Of that group, only three of us are still alive to this day, and none of us speak to one another for various petty reasons. But despite that, my memories of us cutting up and pretending to lip-sync the synth-induced robotic voices will quickly bring a smile to my face. Music has that ability to bring up those stories that we may have long forgotten; however, it is the essence of those stories that provide strong emotions related to those stories.

Here in the blog, I have relayed quite a few of the stories that I have from my experiences throughout the thirty-plus years I have been a Pagan. Some have been humorous. Some, not so much. Each story; however, is a simple momentary glance into what has gone on in my life. My sharing of these stories is just to let you peek into my life or to provide an entertaining look at what a doofus I can be at times. What I hope to invoke with you is a moment where you can start to sort your life into similar small peeks – sort of like mini-chapters of a novel – into who you are. My point is not to have you do the same as what I am doing: sharing it openly with others. Rather, to get you to look at those mini-chapters and find the experiences that you need to work with or save to remember later. Certainly, if you feel called to do so, share those experiences with others. When you feel the need to teach or mentor others along their Pagan paths, you will need these experiences to showcase lessons for others. Drawing parallel conclusions between what you stumbled over, and what your student may encounter can not only be a rewarding teaching moment for them, but also a cathartic experience for yourself.

Stories drive our lives. We can envision ourselves in the roles of the characters we read about in Louis L’Amour novels. We can see ourselves as major or minor characters in the stories we read, or those that we watch on our televisions or movie screens. However, sometimes in our mundane lives, we forget that there is more to this story concept. These days, we all watch on the screen as the numbers of total corona-virus cases rises and the deaths continue to climb upwards in a parallel dance. But each of those numbers, is a singular human being. And their life is a story. How they contracted the virus is a story. The very sad way in which they died is a story. Those that survived and have gone home or a continuing story of success, as well as further struggle with how the virus has wrecked their bodies. It can be somewhat comforting to reduce their stories to numbers, since those can be sterilized to faceless counts. But, in my opinion, that reduces them from human beings to nothing. Those stories need to be told – by their friends, their relatives, their friends, their lovers, and their colleagues. Those who are remembered, truly never die. They live on in their stories that are told.

When I initiated into my Bardic grade at Gulf Coast Gathering in Louisiana (directly across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans), I remember the faces of everyone that initiated with me, as well as those that participated in the initiation. Many of that initial group have slowly filtered to the wayside. Others have shone brightly in the camps that have come afterward. And some of disappeared altogether. Yet, I still feel the need to talk about these initiates with any new initiate I can corner for five minutes. I want my fellow class of initiates to continue in their own stories. I also want the new initiates to take a moment to see the others initiating with them. The stories that brought everyone to that first initiation of Bards at Gulf Coast Gathering are as wide and varied as the personalities among all of us. Their stories live on. As does the growing legend of the Screen Boar, though I am certain so many folks get tired of hearing it every year. 🙂

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

I have so many stories about the people that I worked with at the college. Some are fun. some not so much. After leaving there, I am not in contact with these people as much as I thought I would be. For a couple of thousand days, I spent time with all of these people. We worked together, we had fun, we certainly had fights and arguments. But the further that I get from August 28th, 2019; the more my memories of those folks begin to fade. This is an example where the moment of the stories ceases to hold its importance going into the future. The same holds true for my memories of high school. Certain events and moments, I distinctly remember, while others have faded so far from memory, I can scarcely remember them happening. And in a manner of speaking, it is sad that these memories have faded to near total darkness in my mind. At one time, these were very important to me and were vividly recalled at a single moment. Are these moments in time that really were not important? Perhaps they were at that time, but more recent experiences have slowly pushed those out, as my mind has set those off to the side as “not as important as I thought they were”. I cannot say for sure that this is what it is, but I am certain that those memories have faded…

Stories are everywhere around us. You can read the ongoing saga of how Donald Trump has destroyed America daily in the papers. Or, your perspective can be that he has saved America from debasing itself. Sometimes stories can be interpreted differently by many people. Much like experiences, everyone will pull something different from a story that they read, watch or live. We are, after all, unique individuals with unique perspectives. Rest assured though, stories can be found everywhere or be evoked by any of the senses or combination thereof. As someone who places a heavy value on the telling of stories, I would suggest that examining the world around you to find all the stories evolving around you….it is an endeavor that may open your world to a perception you may never have noticed. Such as the war between the two ant colonies on either side of the yard. Or, as Rush detailed in their amazing song “The Trees“, the battle for sunlight between the Oaks and the Maples, as well as the hinted at government that governs the forest. There are plenty of stories to read, watch, experience and discovery. The first step…is finding them.

–T /|\

The Future: One Perspective

Druidry. This has been a part of my daily life for quite some time now. Just a little over a decade, if my reckoning is correct. Although, the true timing of when I started down this path does not really matter to me. Being on this Path is what I spend my focus on. For those wanting to know how Druidry got to this point, that’s an easy thing. Ronald Hutton has two excellent books on the topic: “Druids: A History” (which seems to be out of print) and “Blood and Mistletoe: The History of the Druids in Britain“. There are many other authors who have written about the history of Druids, so the road here is very well paved from an historical sense. Plus, each of the Druid orders out there have their own histories from their perspectives as well. However, the one question that keeps cropping up from a lot of the people that read this blog and the folks I am associated with on Facebook is where the future lies for Druidry and to a much wider extent for modern-day Paganism.

The short answer is – I really don’t know. Looking at things from a growth perspective, I have seen studies that proclaim a deep growth for Druidry and Paganism – and other studies that show a much more shallow pattern of growth. I am not going to debate one perspective over the other. Rather, I will point out that whatever perspective you believe, there is a pattern of growth and that point alone is important. Growth means that there are more people becoming interested in what an alternative Spirituality has to offer over the common-place, main-stream forms of Spirituality that are readily available and known within society, as a whole.

Growth does imply that numbers potentially getting bigger. We do; however, also see people leaving Druidry and/or Paganism as well. Some are disenchanted with what they have perceived to be nothing different than the dynamic power structures built by more common main-stream Paths. Plus, our Elders are passing beyond the Veil as well, which can provide a negative balance to the overall growth equation as well. There is no census of Druids or Pagans out there that is available to substantiate any of this. I am merely speculating as to the normal patterns associated with human curiosity, disenchantment with previously held ideals, feelings of disenfranchisement, and the natural life-span of these human shells we wear. I would still hold that there is a progression of growth that is still there, even though I do not have any numbers to back my feeling. If that one point ruins everything else I am about to say, so be it. However, all of this is my opinion, and mine alone. As I am fond of hash-tagging: #JustSayin’

I have read and heard a lot of thoughts towards a future for Druidry and Paganism, both short-term and far-flung. From grand visions of temples and sacred shrines dotting the landscape of the world to Druidry (and other forms of alternative Spirituality) being openly considered as being on equal footing with the Big Five. No, I don’t mean Slayer, Anthrax, Metallica and Megadeth; besides those bands were known as the Big Four, unless you consider Exodus to be a part of that which would make them the Big Five. What I mean is Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism. To some, being placed on equal footing within societal understanding would be an ultimate step forward into the future for Druidry and Paganism. Fair enough. Both are interesting perspectives to see happen going forward, but I see those as much bigger steps than what the future may hold.

Now, I am no fortune-teller nor do I have special dispensation towards what happens in the future. I am a horrible prognosticator. Just check out how badly I have done in picking Fantasy Sports teams, and you will understand what I mean. I add this to continually point out that all of this is my own opinion. Others may share all or parts of what I envision, but the number of people that agree with me is not going to make any of this happen or not. Furthermore, some of this is going to dive slightly into politics, which I said in an earlier Facebook status post that I was not going to write about. Before you start lighting the torches, understand that the ripples from the political pebbles that got tossed into the pond will effect all kinds of things in seemingly unrelated areas. So without further quantification, here I go….

One Side of the Flipped Coin

While most of us in the world enjoy a greater degree of freedom where our beliefs are concerned, political events certainly have a degree of foreboding in the clouds. Like it or not, all aspects of our freedoms lay in the balance of what happens over the next few months. On the one hand, we can see some small growth in alternative lifestyles and spirituality perspectives. While I do not see alternative Spiritual perspectives gaining the equal footing on a social basis with the Big Five, I can see an opening for some positive growth. Growth that would allow people to be who they are openly, without fear of reprisal from their employer or government agencies pulling their kids away to foster-care. In-roads into these areas has been well documented, but there is still a lot of open ground to cover before we can see everyone safe with this. Not just in Spirituality, but also where one’s declared gender is concerned, as well as being able to openly declare who you love or how many you love.

The Other Side of the Coin

However, there is a distinct, different direction that things can go in the next few months. Society could lean towards a more fundamentalist perspective, where everything falls back to so-called “traditional” values. In that case, Druidry, Paganism, Gender Declaration, Polyamory could all fall towards a level far deeper than societal disdain. In this direction, there is a distinct darker cloud over our future…and the potential (not a guarantee that it will be completely so bleak) where who we are, how we are, what we are – is outlawed. Of course, that approaches the apocalyptic perspective which is a major extreme. However, I can see a future society that pushes Druidry, Paganism, Gender Declaration, and Polyamory (among a lot of other perspectives) into an underground status, where you are very quiet about who you are – almost living within a secret society and a double life. I remember thos days from the late 1980s and early 1990s. I am sure many of you out there reading this post are nodding and saying that things have not changed, even today.

Now I am not talking about anything beyond five to ten years with all of this. Why? That is really simple. I cannot envision a future any further than that. In fact, I refuse to do so. A future beyond the scope of ten years is beyond the scope of my ability to clearly see and predict.

If the Coin Lands on the Edge

However, let us take a perspective beyond ten years. Let us refer to this as my dream for the future of Druidry and Paganism, among other perspectives, lifestyles and beliefs. I still don’t envision Pagan temples and Sacred Spaces on neighborhood corners, as we see a huge variety of Christian spaces of worship today. In fact, I am not sure I would want to see that at all. What I do envision are Scared Spaces, usable by any faiths, dotting the countryside. Where Druids, Pagans, and any other faiths can hold their ceremonies, rites and gatherings openly. A future where visitors to any of these gatherings are welcome regardless of their faith or perspective. I envision a world where the color of my skin or eyes has no bearing on how anyone else treats me. Where differences of opinions are settled with discussion rather than angry words that are erroneously cloaked in the word “debate”. My hope is that we get there, one day. I fear I will have shed my human form in this current existence long before it happens. I can only hope that whatever existence I take on into the future will be capable of continuing forward the gentle push to make the necessary changes for all of us to get to what I hope for the future. However, in the meantime, I can hope and continue to plant the seeds of hope. All of this writing may seem futile to many, but if I reach just one person…that will be enough.

We have the right to our freedom
This is the life we choose
We never asked for you and all your rules

Black ‘n’ Blue, “Rules from the album “Nasty, Nasty”

–T /|\

ReVisting: “Finding My Way”…and Going Even Further

Well, we have made it to the weekend, actually the near end of the weekend with the 8:45pm point of writing this post. Maybe I need to alter my writing of these posts by a day or two prior to the publishing date, but I digress. This is one of the “ReVisiting” I have decided to work on. This time I went way back to 2012 – nearly the beginning of the blog, and pulled up the post “Finding My Way“. This post was a sort of internal phrasing of where I was at the moment. I was burned out on nearly everything I was doing, and I desperately needed a long break. A three-week long trip was planned to drive up to Glacier National Park, with stops in the Dakotas, Wyoming, and Colorado in both the going and returning aspects of the trip. The trip turned out to be exactly what I needed. An internal reset. I certainly could have used such a trip earlier this Summer, but COVID-19 had other plans, which have kept me in Hillsboro, Texas for quite some time. This has also allowed me to step back into the analytical approach as to how my personal Path has been going, where it has been, and where I hope it might go.

In the “Finding My Way” post, at the very end, I left a rather disjointed statement about getting back to my poetry, which I have, as a means of bringing things back together. Now, a little over eight years later (I wrote the original post on June 12th, 2012), I have started to understand far better that the Path is not always a straight line. And sometimes I have no control whatsoever where it will lead me to go. While the analytical part of what I wrote was a good look at where I had gone with my career, which is currently not at all where I ever envisioned it would be, another song besides Rush’s ‘Finding My Way” (the lyrical inspiration of the post) brought a much deeper piece of analytics to me – Queensryche’s “Someone Else” from their “Promised Land” album. There are two versions of the song on the album, and this one is referenced as the “full band” version on the 2003 reissue of the album. As follows are those lyrics:

When I fell from grace I never realized
How deep the flood was around me
A man whose life was toil was like a kettle left to boil
And the water left these scars on me

The chains I wore were mine, dragging me towards my fate
Planned for me long ago
I played by all their rules, went to their right schools
Who was I to question?

They used to say I was nowhere man
Heading down was my destiny
But yesterday I swear that was
Someone Else, not me

Here I stand at the crossroad’s edge
Afraid to reach out for eternity
One step when I look down
I see someone else, not me

I know now who I am, if only for awhile
I recognize the changes
I feel like I did, before the magic wore thin
And the baptism of stains began

Sacrifice, they always say… is a sign of nobility
But where does one draw the line in the face of injury?
I’m just trying to understand

Standing here at the crossroad’s edge
Looking down at what I used to be
A drowning man, trying to stay afloat
Heavy with the past, but somehow keeping hope
That there’s something more that is seen
But it’s somewhere out of reach

So I keep looking back
Looking back and I see someone else

All my life they said I was going down
But I’m still standing stronger proud

And today I know, there’s so much more I can be
I think I finally understand

From where I stand at the crossroad’s edge
There’s a path leading out to sea
And from somewhere deep in my mind
Sirens sing out loud, songs of doubt, as only they know how
But one glance back reminds and I see
Someone Else, not me.

I keep looking back at Someone Else… me?

I realize it is a lengthy quote, but the song has some real meaning to me throughout my life. All the way through sixth grade, I was a student that was ahead of everyone else. I read on a near collegiate level, while most my class lagged far behind me. My teachers had nothing but very elevated praise for me. When my father reached the end of his thirty-two year Air Force career, we rotated back to the United States, Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama to be precise. My parents enrolled me into Catholic parochial elementary school for my sixth grade (a repeat grade for me because I did not have all the credits required to move to high school due to the differences between US schools and DoDDS (Department of Defense Dependents Schools). This was also my first introduction to the concepts of main-stream, popular music. That was predictable measure for my grades to drop. I went from the top of my class to a continual and constant finish at the back of my class through to my high school graduation. As the song notes, no one had a lot of hope for my ability to make anything of myself. And I certainly listened to all of that and played predictable to it, with the exception of my extremely high ACT and SAT scores. But scores never mattered to me, and I kept to my constant routine of being more of a failure than any kind of success.

My long hair also did not endear my very well to my extremely strict and conservative father. The fact that I immediately went back to wearing my hair long past my collar after I left the US military brought a lot of the anger and disappointment of both of my parents aimed directly at me. Much later, my mother confided in me that my father was never more proud than when I was promoted to Sergeant. And never more disappointed than the moment that I was removed from the military with a General Discharge (Under Honorable Conditions). He was disappointed. I was ready to live life under my own terms.

Most likely, I am a typical Libra. I see all sides of an issue. I see the good and bad in people. I always seek balance. Except when I am traveling my own road. I am quite the free traveler in all of that. If a certain pathway looks more intriguing to me, I will take it – if I can. My entire world view has been one of experience – both good, bad, and disastrous. I remember points in my life where I lived in a one-room apartment. My meals were ramen (yummy and salty!) and popcorn. Yes, I bought those large bags of pre-popped popcorn, and I could live off of that for nearly a week. From that point, I have also owned my own home, had more than enough money to pay the bills and then some. I have seen both sides of that hill. I have driven cars that I am absolutely sure were never safe to be on the road. I’ve purchased brand-new cars. My life has always been about experiences. And it likely always will.

I have tried a few different aspects of Paganism. And my Spirituality continues to be about experiences. That is an integral aspect of my Spirituality. I cannot fathom any part of my lifetime without that.

Each of those experience are what I consider to be “crossroads” in my Life. Now, at fifty-four (almost fifty-five), one would think that these crossroads would begin to be less and less. Not so…crossroads will always occur throughout this Life, and continue on into whatever happens beyond the Veil. I would hope that I am less likely to jump in any direction than I was in my youth. I hope that I am far more considerate about what each direction might hold before setting a single footstep in that direction.

At the very end of “Finding My Way” I made the following observation about trying to move forward with the expressed intention of folding more creativity into the daily recipe of me:

In other words – just let the G-ds club me upside the head with Awen — and see what happens.  And through that — explore the “me” a little more.

In essence I was a little naive in my thinking. Creativity is all around me. Not just mine, but everyone else’s too. Someone’s creativity created the laptop and the Windows 10 environment I use. Someone’s creative created the WordPress platform I am typing all of this into. The creativity of the band members of Queensryche provided the music I am listening to. Creativity is everywhere. There are waves of it invisibly washing over us every moment of the day. Just gotta grab one of those waves and let it take you wherever, while opening yourself to what it is and whatever it brings to you. As a simple aside, this is exactly how I do the writing for this blog. I do not typically write the way other folks seem to – find a topic, plan out what to write, and then fit what you type into that. I just let the wave take me wherever it does.

A long time back, everyone in my life told me that I would never really be anything in life. And I listened. Until the military showed me I could do anything I put my mind to doing. When I came out of the military and into the world, I did not try to conform to anyone else’s standards of what I should do. I conformed to be what I wanted me to be. I took my lumps for it. There were some truly dark times associated with my choices. But those were my choices. I owned the consequences of those choices, and in my opinion – I grew up in ways I never thought I could do. My father always told me I would be irresponsible as an adult, simply because I didn’t follow his way of doing things. A few years before his death, we reconciled our differences and he admitted he was impressed with the way I handled my life. It was what I truly needed to hear…even if it came too late to really soften my heart towards his stance. But that’s another post of self examination….

–T /|\

Thinking About: This Year and What is to Come

Yesterday, I took the day to go to Denton County for medical appointments. When I lived in Lindsay, it was a little easier, as the drive one-way was forty-five minutes. Now, Hillsboro to Denton County is about an hour longer, which makes me pile my medical appointments one top of the other for those Wednesdays, and turns a trip to Denton County into an all-day affair. I could just move to new doctors down on this side of town, but once I am comfortable with a doctor, I hate to give them up. On the way home, with my eyes all blurry from being dilated and my right getting a steroid shot to help with my vision (that’s right, I get shots in my eyes about every seven weeks or so), I decided to stop for Chinese food on the way back home. No dine-in option, because the local Chinese place doesn’t deem it safe to have the dine-in area of the restaurant open due to COVID-19 concerns. All of which suits me just fine – given that I am still not comfortable being out in the public spaces for any length of time. So drive-thru window it was to be. I went home, ate about three-quarters of what I ordered and promptly went to sleep. Today, I have struggled to find my topic for today, until I opened my fortune cookie and saw the message hidden inside.

At that moment, I started wondering what in the Nine Hells this was trying to tell me. I’m not one to believe in fortune cookie sorcery, but I always take a moment to pause and consider how these generic messages inserted at random in some fortune cookie factory might fit into my life. I have always found this to be an excellent source for self reflection, and have come away with some really good journal entries concerning my feelings towards where that particular cookie brought me. But this one? This floored me in a way I was not really ready for.

See, I am just like anyone else. I see all the troubles that inhabit our current times. Police brutality issues that are centered in an unbalanced manner against people of color, our out of control President here in the United States, our Senate here in the States that enables his outrageous behavior, the cries for justice that are happening everywhere, our desire for the freedoms promised to all citizens of this country that are our current government seems to hold as dear and proper for only those that support the President, and the ever present fear of COVID-19. I look around and I see people who are behind on their rent and with the eviction restrictions that our governor placed on landlords about to expire over this coming weekend – I just cannot fathom what or how those evicted are going to be able to manage in an environment where they have been furloughed or outright laid off from their jobs. I look at all of that and feel the weight of despair, injustice and the growing anger that is seemingly all around me. I live in a VERY Trump-supporter heavy county. Nearly every vehicle that has a political statement in the form of a sticker has one supporting Trump. If you go into any public space within the county, you will encounter a multitude of red-hats being proudly displayed. If you drive between Cleburne and Hillsboro (the two nearest large cities), you will drive by house after house on the rural highway that is displaying either a Trump/Pence 2020 yard sign or flying a Trump flag (yes, a flag) in their yard. And these people are active in the Facebook groups for the county, and very vocal about their support for the President. And even more vocal about what they would do to protesters in the streets, if they came across them. That anger and hate is laid out as naked and arrogant as possible, with a hint of violent tendencies just beneath the surface for those that don’t agree. So, in terms of the so-called “long-game,” I am not overly optimistic.

But there is hope, which is what my fortune is seemingly reminding me of. Trump does not get elected solely off the vote here in Hill County or even solely off the vote from here in Texas. However, if he does manage to eek out four more years in the White House, there is still hope. Because we still have each other. I look to the love and caring I get in messages in Email or in Direct Messages or in Facebook status posts, or tweets on Twitter. Take away all the politics, all the ridiculous online debates, and even turn off the news….and the best is still there. Even despite COVID-19, we still celebrate life among one another. We celebrate birth dates, we rejoice in anniversaries of dates we became friends on Facebook. We find happiness in each other, no matter the distances. When we feel down, our friends take time out to console us, they write private messages to engage us, they comment on posts to help heal us – no matter how small that might feel like. All of that is triumphs that we have in our lives. Why does that happen? Because we are in this together. To steal a movie quote from Matrix: Reloaded:

Believe me when I say we have a difficult time ahead of us. But if we are to be prepared for it, we must first shed our fear of it. I stand here, before you now, truthfully unafraid. Why? Because I believe something you do not? No, I stand here without fear because I remember. I remember that I am here not because of the path that lies before me but because of the path that lies behind me.

Morpheus

What comes after this point? An election. A hopeful end to a devastating virus. A new world that will change every step in my life for the future. I know there will be an election, I know a vaccine that helps drive down the devastation of COVID-19 will be found, and I know that a new life is waiting for me, just around the corner. The what and when of all of that, I cannot predict, but I am not about to stop fighting or believing in any of what I just stated. Why? Because I believe harder than you? No…as pointed out by Morpheus in the quote above, because I remember and look back on what has gotten me to this point. All the hard work, all the struggle, wrapped up in all of the time and effort I put into going forward. I believe that I can continue to go forward and that I will see positive change, but only so long as everyone else remains willing to fight, work, and struggle. I have faith in your ability to work together and move forward for change. I have faith in all of you that are pushing for a world of equality for all. Certainly, we live in uncertain and unstable times, but our goals for change happen further on. This is not a time to despair over where we are, it is a time to remember where we are headed – and knowing that there is still much work to be done. I do believe that….all thanks to fortune cookie that I opened, just a few hours ago. Who says that the Gods don’t work in weird and strange ways? 🙂

–T /|\

Progression on One’s Path – A Personal Perspective

I have written a few posts that explain the why of my working within Druidry. What I haven’t done is explore some of the aspects of progression in one’s own Spiritual Path. For this, I need to work from another person’s perspective. My choice is a Druid who influences me greatly with what she does within her own practice. A few years back, I took the opportunity to take a year long study program with her to get an even deeper perspective on my own approach to Druidry. Yes, I am talking about Cat Treadwell, and specifically a passage from her book “A Druid’s Tale“. This is one of my go-to references, when I am needing inspiration on my own Spiritual path, so it is no coincidence that I pulled this off the bookshelf for today’s post.

Every single quote I am about to add to this post comes from pages 118 and 119. I add these passages to provide some emphasis for part of my own Path over thirty-plus years, and especially over the last thirteen to fourteen.

If you are serious about your spirituality, a point will come when your practice as a Pagan (of whatever Stripe) becomes your way of life. It will be so integrated into your world that the practice is almost entirely natural, not an activity separate from your work, your family or anything else. You are a Druid (or Witch, etc.). This is not special or different, it’s just part of who you are. Many novices aspire to this – and it’s a good goal to aim for.

My first twenty years or so as a Pagan, my personal Spirituality can best be described as a “caravan gypsy.” I did some rituals on my own, and even practiced with a group of Wiccans a couple of times, but at best, my concept of Paganism was more deeply rooted in an academic perspective. I spent a lot of time studying Paganism, but not nearly as much time doing it. Over time, slowly, my personal, individual practice of my beliefs through solo rituals increased my understanding from one of pure knowledge to one of understanding what that knowledge really meant: actually being a Pagan. This was the point where I started looking into Druidry as a more structured aspect of what I was trying to do. That still took a little bit of time to start changing who I was – finding a more serious direction for my practice.

I understand that the entire focal point of some modes of religious practice is to achieve enlightenment of some sort. That’s not Paganism, and certainly not Druidry. It’s a constant. You are, in a sense, continually being enlightened – as you practise, you learn. You are continually waking up each new day with new experiences and perspective, healing the past and moving forward with new potential into the future. That’s active and rewarding life, continuous inspiration that you use personally and share with those around by your expression of it.

When I finished my Bardic grade in the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids, this perspective nailed me like a brick flying across the courtyard. I even found Druidic inspiration in my daily, mundane work as a data specialist in my mundane job. As odd as it sounds, finding daily functionality in my Druidry helped me to recognize not only the relationships with the world around me, but also how to interpret relationships in my database work. Of course, I had not learned the art of subtlety at this point, and many of my brash observations on the college’s data were taken as criticism and arrogance. All of that possibly led to my eventually termination, though I was seen as someone who could readily interpret relationships and quickly help setup extremely complex data studies. I have never been known to sugar-coat the truth, which was likely the reason that upper management saw me as quite abrasive. Regardless of that fallout, seeking relationships between this thing and that thing has become a strong hallmark of my daily Path of Druidry. Cat’s notation over this making for an active and rewarding life is something I find to be very understated. Whatever your job, whatever is the truest aspect of your mundane life; I am quite positive that you will find that connection and inspiration. It may take some time, but if you have that curiosity to dig deeper, to open your mind to whatever possibility exists – you will find your Druidry open new ways of seeing the world around you.

But there is more, should you wish it. In other traditions, it may be a calling or vocation, but it’s that time when practising purely by yourself is not enough. You want to work with others. Or for others.

Initially, this may be for personal reasons. A group to learn with is wonderful, sharing the journey together, and validating your own experiences. A light is brighter when made up of many flames.

Or you would be called upon to truly be Pagan ‘for other people’ – to serve as a Priest. You may not have ‘completed’ your training (when have you ever?), but you want to be there for others, to help when called upon, whether they are actively seeking their own way or simply looking for information.

Here we go.These three little paragraphs are where I am right now. I struggle with the term “Priest.” However, I am learning that the term does not fit with the Christian baggage that I carry from my time in Catholic schools during my formal schooling period which my parents thrust me into. As Cat notes, one does not have to be complete in their “training”, which as an Ovate student – I am not. I struggle through my most of my Ovate studies, only because it has not been nearly compelling to me as my Bardic studies were. However, it is knowledge I need to understand going forward, so I work my best that I possibly manage. I do; however, feel the Calling to help others on their own Path. To be there to help them back to their feet and being able to stand up before moving forward on their Path. Far too often, I have pushed seekers of assistance or knowledge to others, without even trying to do more than get them to other people. That certainly is a form of assistance, but I need to stop, actively listen to them, and see if I might be able to provide the assistance that I have reserved for others. After all, those people sought me out, I owe them that much. Do I doubt my ability to do this? Somewhat. That may be inexperience talking or just my lack of self confidence to be what I perceive in these other folks that I know. While I might not have all the answers – no one else necessarily does either. Plus I will never know if I can help, if I keep foisting those needing help on to others. At some point I have to roll up my sleeves and get started. Now seems better than any other time.

Cat’s book, “A Druid’s Tale,” is a wonderful book, as is her book “Facing the Darkness” which is a definite go-to book for me when I hit those down-times in life. I am lucky enough to say that she is my friend, and even luckier to have had her as a teacher. While I know she is blushing furiously over this particular paragraph, I will also reiterate that she is a superb role model on how to get things done. As one of the ‘Tom’s” from among her litters…I am humbled by how much I have come to understand and experience within my own Spirituality, just from small comments and suggestions.

My Path in my Druidry will likely never be complete. I will work towards completing my Druidry grade with OBOD. Beyond that, I am not sure where my Path will set my feet, but there will always be more learning and experience to find. Of that I am sure. All that I have described here is what I would consider a progression in one’s own Spiritual studies. You start out with the basic, and then finding how these all configure into your daily life. And then, maybe, you will want to be in a deeper role, helping others on the myriad of Paths here within Paganism. That would be your individual choice. Wherever you decide to stop and find yourself completely at home in your Paganism is definitely your individual choice. The whys of it is nobody’s business but your own. There may be those that look down on you for not continuing from where you are…and that’s their loss. They are not seeing the beauty of you continuing to thrive right where you are. But your Path is not theirs to walk. Whatever your Path, whatever your choice…I, personally, think it’s the most beautiful thing that can happen. Your happiness, your curiosity are the most important parts of your daily Walk. To quote the Grateful Dead:

There is a road, no simple highway
Between the dawn and the dark of night
And if you go no one may follow
That path is for your steps alone

–T /|\

Thinking About: The Moon Was Full, and I Was Left Unsupervised

In my defense, the moon was full and I was left unsupervised.

This is, by far, one of my favorite memes on the internet. When I read it, I get a little chuckle out of the idea of being unsupervised and being able to blame my craziness on the moon. With two Trickster Gods riding shotgun, it would be such an appropriate perspective. Except that it really is not.

Let me take you back to sometime between April 1984 and February 1986. This was so long ago, that I cannot pinpoint with any degree of accuracy just when it happened. It did; however, happen sometime after I graduated high school and just before I entered the United States Air Force. Therefore, I can lay down that somewhat wide time-frame. At the time, I was exploring beyond the Catholic faith that I had been taught in high school. My protestant parents wanted the best possible education for me and decided that Catholic school was the direction to go. While I learned about the Catholic faith, it definitely was not calling to me. Once I graduated high school, I set out to find something that might suit me better. My first stop was Pentecostal Christianity. Don’t look so shocked. Shreveport, Louisiana is a fair hot-bed of this wing of Christianity. I stayed within this culture for a little under a year. The waving of the hands, speaking in tongues and so-called possession by the Holy Spirit seemed to be more staged and dramatic to me than anything else. Plus, I learned quickly not to question anything openly with the church members, as I got castigated fairly heavily. Still, I could not fathom how these concepts were not anything more than play-acting in the name of their God.

About four months into all of this, some of the other teenagers from the church wanted to go to a tent revival that was near my house. We all piled into two cars and went. When we arrived, we were ushered away from the back of the tent, where the preacher was sitting and smoking cigarettes with a few other folks. Folks who were moving and acting like normal people do. Once the church services got underway, these same people had “afflictions” that they did not exhibit at that back area of the tent. The preacher would call them up one by one, slap his hand on their foreheads and declare them to be healed. My friends ate it up. It was the Will of God being shown to us. I saw even more dramatic play-acting. When the offering plate was passed around, I simply moved it from my left hand to my right to hand it to the usher standing at the end of my row. The look I got was one of complete contempt. I know right then….this was about money, not God.

Needless to say, as I knew my departure date for the Air Force was getting closer and closer, I started feeling no worries over repercussions over asking questions. When I was reprimanded over my doubts, I renewed my questioning of what I saw. I was told that I was not allowing God to speak to my heart. I was also told that everything that was to happen to me over this questioning was to be “God’s Will.” That, essentially, my life was not mine. God would aim and direct me in all the endeavors that occurred to me – even the bad stuff – so that I would learn and grow closer to God. Needless to say, I shook the dust off my feet when I left that situation.

I do; however, hear a lot of folks within the Pagan community stating that what happens is the ‘Will of the Gods”. To this, I disagree. Crow and Coyote certainly do speak with me. They do give me tasks to accomplish for Them. They do spend time to teach me perspectives I had never considered before. But never have They been the direct focus of my daily life. They do not interfere with what I do. If I err in judgment or action, that is for me to learn from. Intervening on my behalf would teach me nothing. Plus, it would turn the Gods into an Automated Teller Machine (ATM), as John Beckett has said before. If I wanted something, I would just ask the Gods to give it to me, instead of doing the hard work to get what I was wanting. Certainly, the Gods can pat my on the shoulder and tell me that I should continue working hard…but They are not going to do the hard work for me.

Thanks to COVID-19, I have put on about fifteen pounds over the past three to four months. The Gods did not do that to me. My inactivity did that to me. The Gods are not going to snap Their fingers and have the fifteen pounds melt away tomorrow (though I certainly do wish). Me getting into an exercise routine in the house, so I stay away from people outdoors, is how I will lose this weight. Me changing my eating habits is how I will lose this weight. The Gods can – and probably will – provide support for my efforts. They are not going to make things happen any different than it would normally. I walk this daily Path. Sometimes They will walk beside me. Never will They carry me.

So, when I hear people tell me that whatever happened to them is a result of “God’s Will” or the “Will of the Gods,” all I can do is hold my commentary. I am not the person that needs to alter or change their perspective. Only they can do that. If they asked me why the Gods would let this (whatever bad has happened) occur to their lives…my advice would be fairly frank. The Gods did not do this to you. Your choices are what did this to you. And sometimes, we make the wrong choices – even those choices seem rock solid. Because sometimes, life is tough. We can tighten up our belts, pull back our shoulders and move forward or we can collapse from the weight of things. And sometimes collapsing is the only choice you have. That’s where the rest of us come in. We should help those who have collapsed from the weight of their choices. Help them to stand up. Comfort them. Let them know that there are people who are there to help. Assist them in making better choices for their lives – all with the understanding that the point is to help them get back on their Path. Because they have to walk it. Not alone though. Because we can walk beside them too. Just as the Gods will, when you ask. They will not walk your Path for you, but They can be there to support you.

So, in the end of it all – we are not puppets on strings. We are not here for the entertainment of the Gods – though we can be entertaining. We are here to walk our individual Paths in Life. If there is any “Will of the Gods” that might come into play, its likely that They would want us to succeed at what we do our best to accomplish. That is, after all, the best goal we can ever have – to do what we set out to accomplish, within reason.

–T /|\

Revisiting “Morphing the Myth” – Building a Mystery or Personal Self-Examination?

All of what you are about to read started with a question posed to me in Facebook, which I turned into a status post. From there, what I perceived to be a touch of playfulness from Cat Treadwell turned into me turning that same point over and over in my mind. First let me setup what happened to get this entire aspect kicked into gear.

Q; Biggest Pagan confession?

Well…its not much of a confession, as a lot of people do know this about me. I’m not a fan of the Mabinogion. Never really was enthralled with it when I read it (all three times, different translation each time), and its generally not a part of anything that I practice within my Spirituality. I grok that it speaks to others….just not me. Now what’s my penance? ::eye-roll::

This was what started everything. A simple question, followed by my answer. Many of the members of OBOD – and many more Druids – are inspired by the Mabinogion. For me, its an odd series of tales, which provide no area of ready comprehension for me. That prompted the following….

Cat: So what story speaks to you instead?

Me: Mythological?? Theseus and the Minotaur.

Cat: I do wonder who set those Pagan Rules. Tolkien made his own mythology. I’d love to see yours.

Me: Mine would be really messy…I mean REALLY messy….

Cat: Do it!

…and all of that started my brain racing.

A few years back, I attended Pantheacon in San Jose, California. Actually, I attended it three years in a row. In one of those years, there was a panel that I attended called “Morphing the Myth” which I wrote a blog post on. There’s actually about six or seven blog posts that tie to this panel, but you should get the picture with the one. If you want to read further, just do a search on “Morphing the Myth” here at the blog site, and you should pull up the other posts.

Back to Pantheacon’s “Morphing the Myth” panel… Much of the discussion fell towards how Science Fiction and Fantasy open the doorway to Paganism for so many people. Cat’s point on Tolkien really struck home with this thematic for me and realized that I was suddenly thrust back into the panel’s wide-ranging discussion. Tolkien wrote a very impressive universe for his stories to live in. His vivid depictions of places such as Fangorn Forest, the formidable and dangerous land of Mordor, and the dwarven fortress of Erebor, provide the fertile ground upon which the seeds of his stories grow and take deep root. In much the same way, we find similar fertile ground in the myths and legends that we read, study, and explore. For some of us, certain legends resonate deeply with who we are and the manner in which we connect with the world around us. As I noted, the Mabinogian holds no such cherished treasure for me. Furthermore, while I identify greatly with Theseus in the story concerning the Minotaur, is is also not a story that calls deep to my heart either.

Oddly enough, I am drawn to the stories of the old West here in the United States. The stories of Wyatt Earp, Doc Holiday, Billy the Kid, and so many others ring deeply in my soul. However, it is not the lawman that resonate with me. I’ll use a very specific example – the movie Hidalgo, which depicts the legend of distance rider Frank Hopkins. The character is one that does things his own way, a trait that plays well in my way of dealing with the world. I am also drawn to the mythologies of the First Nations, some of which do not dove-tail neatly from tale to tale. As I noted my idea of a mythology would be extremely messy, and this rag-tag mythology of tales fits right into that particular point.

Building my own mythology. While it certainly sounds intriguing to my ears, its a direction I cannot tread – other than through a fictional narrative. I have often though about creating my own world for characters that wander through my mind. There is a certain appeal to doing just that, through short stories which I might be able to weave into a longer tale. As I noted, it would be messy. And while I am not completely seeing how I might be able to do this, as I said there is a certain draw to it.

You come out at night
That’s when the energy comes
And the dark side’s light
And the vampires roam
You strut your rasta wear
And your suicide poem
And a cross from a faith that died
Before Jesus came
You’re building a mystery

“Building a Mystery”, sung by Sarah McLachlan

The “Morphing the Myth” panel did have one extra feature to the discussion that I thought was an incredible point – we give life to the Myths and Legends that we hold close and dear. We don’t always get all the points absolutely correct in the retelling, and this literally brings these stories back to having a renewed life. Plus, there is some aspect of retelling these stories with updated parts to the stories – told against the background of a culture so alien to the original story. Take for example, the 102nd episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, titled “Darmok”. Much of the story parallels “The Epic of Gilgamesh” and is a very interesting showcase for how an old myth can be painted against a futuristic backdrop. I have often wondered at the inspiration of so many other films and whether or not that inspiration may have been drawn from a myth or legend that have long been put to the wayside.

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

Would I create my own mythology and legends, from which I could use as a backdrop for a series of characters? I do not know about the “would” part, but the “could” reaction is that yes I could. It would be messy. As if the entire aspect of the myths and legends was not completely preserved. This is a thought that I have constantly had concerning the myths and Gods and Goddesses that we all work with. Yes, this God was a god of this or that, and there are references to the God having certain characteristics and personality traits from the myths and legends. However, I have often wondered if we paint too much of a two-dimensional portrait of the Gods in this manner? Maybe the stories, legends and myths that have survived are not a complete understanding of that particular God or Goddess. Maybe Pan was more than just the epitome of a collegiate student headed to the Florida beaches for Spring Break. We just don’t know about an alternate, more serious and studious side of Pan because those stories did not survive being handed down during the ages.

And what if we have an incomplete understanding of the Gods? Does it negate what energy we have put into worshiping and working with Them? For me, that answer is easy: no. Over the years, I have developed my own relationship with both Coyote and Crow. Both are tricksters and enjoy having fun at my expense from time to time; however, both can also be quite serious about things that need to be accomplished too. For me, this is a case where the myths and legends only show you a two-dimensional aspect of who the Gods are. If you believe that the Gods are individual Beings who have Their own lives and make Their own choices…then of course, the myths and legends will only show a singular side of who They are. Do I believe that? Yes, I definitely do. Do I have a complete understanding of who Crow or Coyote are? No, not even close. My relationship shows me a side of each of Them that is chosen to be shown to me. I know enough of Them to do the workings that I need to do for Them.

…and all of this came from a single comment made on a Facebook post. That’s generally considered diving down a rabbit hole. Except that it is not. That one comment opened a doorway I have walked through many, many times. That comment lead me through the doorway to something that I have done my very best to consider, evaluate, understand and believe for a huge portion of my adult life, and will continue to take up my thoughts far into the future. Is my perspective empirical fact? Nope, not even close. It is; however, a part of my own UPG – Unverified Personal Gnosis. And as such, you might even be able to consider it a part of my own personal Mythology. For me, it is just the prelude to some chocolate eclairs for this morning – and a topic that I will continue to obverse, evaluate and explore well into my next lifetime.

…and I certainly have to thank Cat…for knocking the door off the hinges, so I would walk through. 🙂 Conversations can take us all to some supremely strange places.

“‘And what is the use of a book,’ thought Alice, ‘without pictures or conversation?'” Indeed Alice…what are legends, myths and stories without internal observation and personal examination. Indeed.

–T /|\

The Right Speed to Deal With These Times

How do I deal with everything going on in the world? This is one of those questions I hear from a lot of folks. Constant wall-to-wall coverage on COVID-19, the constant idiocy of the Trump Administration (or some other world leader), the stresses related with not having work or having to alter the way you deal with work, kids and spouse constantly at home, and on and on and on – everything crashing down like tidal wave after tidal wave pounding you into the sand on the shore, while a hurricane looms just offshore. I completely grok where folks are coming from. How do I deal with things? Well, to be honest, I either make everything line up and deal with things one at a time or I push them off into a corner and come back to deal with them later.

Of all the things, the news is the easiest to mess with. Turn off the tv, radio or whatever web browser you are getting your news from. Trust me, it will be there later. Then take the time to lean back into what you’ve learned in all your studies in your Pagan tradition or Path. Grounding and centering should be your first defense. There are lots of ways to go about grounding and centering, my favorite is an OBOD “Tree Meditation” that I stumbled across on YouTube a few years ago. I have continually used this as a manner of pre-work towards other meditations. For me, it is a perfect grounding and centering technique. By the way, for those of you that have trouble getting into the so-called “right frame of mind” for meditations, you might consider trying this technique before you attempt your meditation work. Just a suggestion.

As for everything else, its best to just shove that stuff into a small pile, go have a nice drink (alcoholic or not – your choice), flip on the tv and watch some show or film or documentary and then get some sleep. Trust me, that shit’s still going to be there in the morning. You might have a clearer perspective after a nice evening without dealing with those thoughts.

The other method that I use is to try and stay focused and level. Losing your cool means that you’ve relinquished control to someone or some other thing. That is giving power to that person or that thing to drive the narrative. Getting control back from a thing is relatively easy, but from another person? That is not always the easiest thing in the world to manage. I try and remember what my first High Priestess taught me about controlling myself. Yes, this means a little bit of a story-time moment.

I was relatively new to the idea of Paganism and Wicca. I had just started my “Rainbow” year with the coven. for those unfamiliar with the idea, it is a year and a day process, where one is taught the basic basics of Wicca, Paganism and the Tradition. So, this was….mid to late 1986. Maybe even early 1987. As a group, we had decided to go shopping at a Pagan-centered store down near the Dallas Fairgrounds. I don’t recall the name of the shop or its precise location, so that’s about as good as my fuzzed-up memory will get me. I was overly excited, as this was the first time I had ever seen such an establishment. I was literally vibrating with energy and excitement. By the time we had returned from the shop, it was difficult to be around me, I was bubbling so much with exuberance. I was pulled over to the side with the High Priest and High Priestess, who helped me get calm by working with me on grounding and centering. The next weekend, I arrived early for the rainbow class for that period (I drove nearly forty-five miles one way to attend the classes, so I was naturally always very early). My High priestess sat me down and asked me if I remembered about grounding and centering. I explained the process the best that I could, which led to a long discussion about being in control of myself (apparently, I was a dervish of wild emotions all the time). She noted that when I wasn’t in control of my emotions and my energies that it was easy for others to nudge me in directions that I might not necessarily want to go. The first step was to understand more about myself, so I was given the task of listing fifty positive things about myself, and fifty negative things about myself. This part of the exercise took me a lot longer than I thought it would – particularly the positive side of things. However, I eventually finished. When I brought the lists back to the next class, she looked over each list, smiled deeply at me and told me to write an essay comparing and contrasting the two lists. The essay was to be no longer than two pages, typed but not double-spaced like an English assignment. Once I completed this part of the assignment, we talked again. She noted that every single item on each list was a type of energy within me. She also noted that some of the items in the two lists crossed between the two, which meant that this type of energy could be manipulated in different directions. The trick was to control all these energies, so as not to emit them broadly to the world around me.

Since that time, I have worked hard to be able to control my energies the best that I can. I don’t always succeed, but I do manage my best to not let things get out of control. Again, I don’t always succeed, but I certainly do try my very best.

So that’s nice, right? How does all this apply to everyday life in these weird-ass times we are currently living in? Well, if I ingest too much news, I find that it is easy for me to get extremely angry at the people on television and, to a different degree, the people that are being reported on in the news cycle. Or I can find myself starting to feel depressed over the lack of ability I have to make things better – not just for me, but for everyone. That is me letting those energies have completely control. The way to hold off that energy is to peruse the news just enough to know what’s going on, and then turn off the news. When I feel that constant pounding of the emotional tidal waves crashing down on me and driving me into the sand, I know it is time to back off and find something else to do. And the first place I tend to dive into? The Tree Meditation.

The reality is this is the development of coping mechanisms for when the world gets dark and cold. I completely understand that this works for me. It might not work at all for someone else, particularly those who suffer from severe depressive bouts. For those moments and folks, I recommend that the rest of us try to be understanding, calm, and very nearby. That way, we can be available for that supporting shoulder or the chest that someone might need to cry into while being held by receptive and loving arms.

Look, our current world is a scary, ugly, depressing place to be right now. There are those that will pick up the torches and run out to burn down the repressive aspects of government. Bully for them! I support that action every single time. But there are those who cannot do so. And these folks need the medicines that we have within ourselves, just as much as those on the violent front lines will need medics when the tear gas and batons come out. I am not one of those who can rush into the front lines. I can; however, be available to help those that need help, those that need a reassuring hand and soothing voice telling them that they are safe now. I can be the individual that stands between them and their oppressors, their demons….and says ENOUGH. Because everyone needs that protective aspect when they are hurting.

So how do I deal with these times? One day at a time. One hour at a time. One minute at a time. One issue at a time. This is a linear thought process, but when the assistance needs to be calm, reassuring and healing…one issue at a time is, in my experience, the right speed.

–T /|\