The Whispers From the Four Directions

Do you hear the sound on the wind?
The beating wings of crows?
Do you hear that on the wind?
The whisper of Andraste and Segomo
Do you hear the spears and swords beating on shields?
Teutates! Teutates! Teutates!
For the protection of Land!
For the protection of Tribe!
For the protection of kindred Spirit!
Standing Rock is the battle line.
—Robyn Birchleaf, 9/7/16

Its been a while since I have dusted off of my old poetry moniker. Back in my early days as a Wiccan, this was also my “Craft” name. Eventually, Wicca faded as a part of my life, but the moniker continues as my writing name.

This piece of poetry I wrote last night. I had set some music from the Johnny Whitehorse series of albums on rotation, and pulled on my headphones to block out noise. As I listened, I let my mind wander to my inner grove, while watching my stone circle in the backyard being bathed by the sprinkler system. It eventually brought my mind to the perspective of water, which naturally led my mind to what is going up in North Dakota. People were protesting, as peacefully as they could, the building of an oil-transport pipeline underneath the Missouri river. Any leak at or near this point threatens the clean drinking water source for the peoples of this area, and everyone else downstream. This includes farmers, whose crops feed the markets of this country where people shop for their food. Odd how all of that is so interconnected when you think about it, right? Not really, to be honest.

There’s nothing truly odd about the interconnection of all of us. What we do to the environment, our communities, ourselves, others, the animals, the air, the water, the land….it affects all of us to one degree or another. That’s a huge part of what I have come to understand and relate deeply to within my Druidry. There’s more than a “Circle of Life” – there’s an interconnected web, where everything finds harmony to one degree or another with everything else around. Everything that is, except mankind.

As human beings, we have managed to be arrogant enough as a species to consider ourselves above everything else in Nature. As a collective species, we have even managed to excuse that arrogance with “divinely inspired” spiritual perspectives that categorize the earth, the animals and everything else to the position of a giant grocery store for our use and abuse. We place ourselves above everything else, and then excuse our abuse and overuse of resources by declaring that there will be an end to this Earth, and the righteous will be flung up into the heavens to enjoy a plentiful and never-ending paradise. The wicked will be sent to a place of eternal damnation. And the planet and the animals?  Who cares? Its use will be finished. We can just wade it up, and pitch it over our shoulders. After all, we’ve managed to create a very disposable society in the same vein. But I digress slightly…

lakota-siouxWhen I wrote that last night, I was remembering that time and again, the clarion call of the Wild Hunt’s horn in my dreams and meditations. I remember a few meditations that were filled with whispers on the wind. “The battle draws closer”  “I do not ask for war. But I do ask you for to defend when the time comes”  “Remember, your staff is not just for aiding you in your walking”  Those were some of the louder whispers that I heard. For me, a determined peace-loving Druid, to speak of hearing whispered words of war is a difficult thing. I don’t like violence of any sort. I prefer to find peaceful, negotiated manners of dealing with conflict. But many times over the past months, I have been reminded that sometimes physical battle comes to one’s doorstep despite your best efforts to quell it.

The issue at Standing Rock is starting to resemble those moments where one has to reach for your staff because peaceful resolutions cannot be easily found. Last weekend, during a three-day holiday stretch, the corporation building the Dakota Access Pipe Line decided to bulldoze a large swath of burial ground that is part of the area that is to be built up. The protesters there immediately started to attempt to stop what was happening, only to be met by a “security” detail with poorly trained (if at all) dogs. The protesters were attacked by dogs that were encouraged to attack by their handlers. Protesters, including children were bitten. Many other protesters were maced by these same “security” folks. All the protesters had to defend themselves with were a makeshift flag on a stick, and their bare hands. What they really should have had in their possession were mace canisters. Not to attack with, but to spray at both the “security” detail and the dogs once the attacks against them (the protesters) had started.

I have always lived by the perspective that being non-violent and peaceful in protesting is the key to getting one’s message across. But just because you are being peaceful and non-violent does not mean that you are not prepared to defend yourself with forceful means. Trying to resolve issues with words and negotiation is the appropriate measure to take, but always be prepared to defend yourself against violent action. Defend, not retaliation. Retaliation belongs in the realm of vengeance, and that is a business that is far more serious, and should be far more thought out and appropriately measured.

From my perspective, and my interaction with Gods and Spirits….there’s a palpable anger on the wind. And return is coming…like I said, vengeance is for deeper thought, and far more measured response. I leave that to the Gods. Should They decide to utilize me as part of that response, I’ll know when They tell me. Until (of even, IF) that time, peaceful, non-violent, legal protesting is the call for the moment. Standing Rock is the battle line.

Life With Trickster Gods

My beliefs are a very integral part of who I am. I have learned all the rote answers to the typical questions I get from folks of other Paths. What is a Pagan? What is a Polytheist? What is Animist? What is a Druid? What kind of religious ceremonies do you have? Are you a Priest (a particularly tricksy question to handle from my personal perspective)? How long have you been a clergy member (I try really hard not to laugh through this one)? But eventually comes the one question that will have me blinking – how do you communicate with the Gods and Goddesses?

Its easy to formulate a quick response. I communicate with them through trance, meditation, and dreams. But that’s not a complete answer. In fact, I would almost call it skirting the question. There’s a lot more to it than trancing out, or meditating, or stumbling into a dream-state. And as I sit here and type this, I know that what I am describing is not correct for anyone else. So perhaps, I should start at the beginning for myself. With Coyote.

Coyotes are animals that I am drawn towards naturally. They work in groups, but can be very solitary creatures at the same time. I self-identify with that quite a bit. I work far better on my own, one of the many reasons that I approach my Spirituality from the perspective of a solo practitioner. Though I am not sure what I am practicing, most everything I do in my Spirituality is the real deal. Practice doesn’t come into it. But that’s a tangent for another time. I do work fairly well in groups, so long as I am not in a position of leadership. I am certainly – in my opinion – one of the worst leaders of magickal and ritual group work around. I know my hard limits, and that’s definitely one of the big ones. But my aspect of solo and group work identifies well with the common legend of the coyote as an animal.

Once that identification was held tight, I decided to spend time trying to approach Coyote through meditations and trances. It took a few months of continual and constant work, petition, and searching, but eventually I made contact through the meditative Path. At first I embraced Coyote outright, and was eventually set into a few situations where I was made to look very foolish – particular for my fervor in trying to accomplish the completely silly tasks set before me. Trickster God. Go figure. But this was one way that I realized I was being shown that I was in the right place. The third situation that was handed to me, I looked it over before denying that I would do what was asked. My first lesson. Learning to say no, no matter who was asking.

[Poem] If I Could Only Speak Crow...Crow was a little different. I didn’t ask for, or petition for Crow. In a manner of speaking I was introduced to Crow by Coyote during one trance session. I didn’t understand what was being asked of me, so I ignored Crow, treated him as a bystander. And then Crows started showing up everywhere. In the mornings, the Crows would be in the tree in the backyard, waiting for me to come outside for the greeting of the Sun. They would be at work, hopping through the manicured lawn of the college. They would line the rooftops of the local Wal-Mart, alongside the smaller Grackles that are a nearly constant sight. I knew Crow was vying for my attention when I saw Crows everywhere on a summer vacation in the Rockies. A trance session with my focus directly on Crow provided me with the second of the Trickster Gods that are a part of my daily Life.

Over time, I realized that it made sense. These are First Nations Gods, and I live right in the middle of old Comanche territory. The old Gods of this area of the world are here with me. Certainly, there are plenty of other Gods, including Celtic and Irish from the multitudes that practice those faiths here. But the First Nations Gods claimed me.

So, how does one attract the attentions of the Gods and Goddesses? Focus. Trance sessions, Meditations, Lucid dreaming. Petitioning them. And patience. It doesn’t happen in the first five minutes. Nor the first five days, and may not the first five weeks or the first five months. Show your dedication. Make offerings. And continue to be patient. And don’t get mad if the ones you petition don’t show up. Before Coyote, I had flirtations with Pan, and Tsuki no Kami – neither of which worked out after nearly two years of effort (Pan), and another year and a half of meditations and offerings. Perhaps, I may have had better luck by not offering to any particular God or Goddess, but that’s all into the Past now.

My third Spiritual companion has started to make her presence known, Floidhas – the Irish Goddess of the forests. Sort of strange for a guy with mostly German ancestry to have the flirtations of an Irish Goddess. Perhaps an Ancestry.com DNA kit may shed some better light in that direction. Hers came about with the horn of the Wild Hunt invading my dreams and mediations. I would focus on something, and eventually, the horn of the Wild Hunt would be sounded – and I would either break concentration or come fully awake. It took me a short time to catch the name of the young lady who stood by as the Wild Hunt passed along, and would then wink at me, and run off giggling and laughing. Flow-us. Took me even longer to figure out how it was spelled, much less that it was Irish.

Now, I am not going to sit here, hands typing at the keyboard and relate that this is the ONLY way to approach, communicate, and commune with the Gods and Goddesses. It is one way, and the way that works particularly well for me. All I can really pass along is that its a lot harder work than you may think. And that when the Gods that approach you have your ear – they will ask favors, provide tasks, and require devotional work from you. And it most definitely is WORK. Like with anything that happens between mortals and Gods, its not something that comes intuitively, nor is it something that comes easily. There will be some measure of sacrifice that comes. There will be a degree of hard work that is necessary to accomplish what is asked of you. And that is a measure of your commitment to their cause. It is a measure of dedication you have to who they are and what they stand for. You have the will to say “no.” You have the will to say “yes.” Think carefully before committing to one or the other.

 

A Staff is for More than Supporting Yourself While Walking

If you take a few steps back in the blog, you will find where I talk about how Crows have essentially invaded my life. And invading is a really incorrect way of saying it. Crows have become companions – in dreams, real life, and spiritually – being claimed by Crow is a really odd, unique, and spot-on experience for me. When I was approached by Coyote, it was through dreams. When I was approached by Crow, it was initially through a dream, then in a meditation, and lastly through the physical world with Crows following me everywhere. It was an odd experience, but has really become a refreshing one, with lots of insights I never would have expected – since I spent most of my time looking at the ground. I was afforded the point of looking up.

Now, I look up wherever I am. And this past weekend, I noticed a lot of Hawks. I traveled north on Thursday to the Kansas City area for my father-in-law’s funeral. On the way, I saw Hawks at every single stop along the way, as well as Hawks swooping down to fence-posts and ledges near the interstate, just before I drove past them. It was as if my Forester had suddenly become a Hawk-magnet, and not the Babe-magnet I always dreamed my over-sized station wagon might be (snark). At the funeral home, a Hawk landed on a headstone near to where I stood, and we just watched each other until one of my step-sons came out to talk. On the way back home, the hawks at rest stops, restaurants, and along side of the road continued.

During the drive home, I decided to forego my traveling music that I had going northward (the new Dead Boxed seat of their concerts in Chicago in July of this year), and decided to catch up on my Druidcast listening. I was five episodes behind, and there was nearly six hours of driving left – so it seemed to be logical. During that drive time, I wound up with several statements about the Hunt…which has been a thematic of my dreams in the not so distant past.

As I sit here typing this blog post – and the next step of writing a journal entry to cover the entire weekend’s events – I realize that the Hunt is about to become a very big research topic. Yes, I associate Hawks with hunting, and with Artemis particularly (don’t ask me why – that’s an association that immediately crops up). So, I see that part of my Spiritual Life are about to get an addition – and one that I never saw coming.

Now, I hate doomsday perspectives. I have never been enamored with Christian preachers that speak of “end times” during their Hellfire and Brimstone sermons. I have never looked at their scenarios as an “end times” concept, but rather as a major schismatic moment in society. And I am starting to see major schisms taking place throughout society. Violence in the name of religious belief. People promoting tags and labels as ways of classifying themselves or others. Politicians making statements of hate against a particular group of people. The voting citizenry of my country – the United States – delightfully eating up the idea of such division as a means of “safety”. I can truly see the cracks within society beginning to grow. And honestly no matter how large or small – depending on region or what have you – these cracks do signify a change in the way many people perceive others.

Regardless, there is a restlessness amongst the world. I feel it everyday when just walking in my neighborhood or at the mall. I hear it in the sounds of the horn of the Hunt in my dreams and meditations. While the issues may not permeate into my area of being – it does no harm to remember that my staff is for more than just walking.

“Claimed!”

It was an interesting conversation during my lunch time that day. To get away from my desk, I took my cup of Ramen and my bottle of Gatorade out to a picnic table near my building. After a few minutes, a student approached me and struck up a conversation.

“You’re Tommy Elf” aren’t you?”

I was a touch stunned, this is not a name I am known for on campus. I slowly nodded, and indicated the seat opposite me when he asked if he could sit.

“I listen to your podcast all the time…”

I groaned inwardly. Its not the first time someone has realized who I was…even despite the fact that my little Pagan podcast is not all that well known – even after nine years of battering people’s ears. I slowly nodded as I put another forkful of noodles dried during the Ming dynasties into my mouth.

He carried on like a squeeing fanboy for a few minutes, but eventually came to a serious question that he felt I could answer.

“What’s it like to be claimed by a God? Or even a Goddess if you might know…”

I held my right hand up for a moment, to indicate that I was going to answer him – but only after I finished off the extremely salty broth that my Ming noodles had created from their Keurig water bath. When finished, I flipped my cup into the trash barrel, and turned to him. Worded slightly different from our conversation, this is what I essentially told him. And its only reworded because I don’t have a flash-card memory in my brain.

—-

When Crow decided that I was a new interesting “shiny” to put His

Medicine Wheel (Wyoming)
Medicine Wheel (Wyoming)

attention to, I didn’t believe it for a moment. I’m not a remarkable person. I don’t have a particularly overwhelming charisma. There’s no way that I could even be close to being considered anywhere in the top twenty percent of the smartest Pagans about. I am truly about as ordinary as one can get without being Charlie Brown. So I spent a good deal of time just pushing back and saying “No, I’m not.”

And then one day, during a meditation, I came to realize that I could view this as a challenge. I could almost *dare* Crow to accept me. He’s a Trickster God, so this must be a trick, right? So I’m going to throw all my chips into the pot, and call. In a way, it was similar to the moment that Jesus Christ accepts his fate of being crucified during his one-way conversation with God during the song “Gethsemane (I Only Want to Say)” from the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar.

Can you show me now that I would not be killed in vain?
Show me just a little of your omnipresent brain
Show me there’s a reason for your wanting me to die
You’re far too keen on where and how and not so hot on why

Alright I’ll die
Just, just watch me die
See how, see how I die
See how I die

Yeah. Pick up the gauntlet from a God. Smart move. But that’s a lot of the “how” aspect of things. What is like to be claimed by a God? Its not like having your best buddy in your pocket 24 hours a day. In a way, its like having someone constantly peeking over your shoulder, and making clucking sounds with their tongue at some of your decisions and moments. But that’s when Crow is there. And when I do something that is a bit disapproving or disappointing. There’s always the off chance that something needs to be done NOW and by YOU. That’s something that’s only happened once, but I know others whose patron deities can be a bit more forceful.

Pathway in Mesa VerdeThere’s also “good” stuff to go with the relationship as well. I get visions of places to visit that wind up being beneficial to my Spiritual Path. My trip to Mesa Verde was a result of one of these visions. And the resultant moment on the side of a cliff trail to see a glyph was one of the most intense moments I have ever had. A side trip coming back from Montana provided an extremely intense moment with Crow at Medicine Wheel, during the first few months that I had accepted the relationship I have. And I have no idea what to expect along these lines going into the future, but my visions still come to me.

I call it being “claimed” by Crow, but the reality is that as with anything else in the world around us – its a relationship. And its one that He has willing provided to me, and one I am willing to provide in return to Him. I can always say no…I can always change my mind. But I really don’t want to….

God, Thy will is hard but You hold every card
I will drink Your cup of poison
Nail me to Your cross and break me
Bleed me, beat me, kill me, take me now
Before I change my mind

Mesa Verde – Crow, the Spirits of the Land, and the Petroglyph Point Trail

Yes, I am on vacation. Yes I am blogging while on vacation. This particular trip was planned about two years ago. Southwest Colorado has always been something of a mystery when it came to planning a vacation. But the draw of Mesa Verde, and Chaco Canyon have been too great to ignore. Chaco Canyon will happen in two days – Mesa Verde was yesterday.

Arriving at Mesa Verde, you could feel the “old” in the air. Walking into the visitor’s center at the main gate, you can see Point Lookout looming up the way. The visitor’s center is full of the typical tourist stuff. I managed to come away with a good book on the Ancestral Puebloans which had a DVD companion packaged with it. From there, the trip took us to the gate to purchase our ticket into Mesa Verde, and on down the trail we drove.

Or I should say “up” the trail, as the winding road took us up and around Lookout Point, along several ridgelines before bringing us to the first of the Cliff Dwellings that can be visited – Spruce Tree House. Its named for the large number of spruce trees located around the dwelling. While walking down the trail to the cave dwellig, I spotted the entrance to a walking trail called “Petroglyph Point” and something said “you gotta see that.” I had two hours before I had to be on the Cliff Palace tour – and a round trip of under two miles meant I could do this easily.

I definitely wasn’t thinking things through when I set out from the Spruce Tree dwelling and back down to the start of the Petroglyph Point trail. This was not a paved sidewalk in suburban DFW I was going to be walking on. It was broken terrain, where I was going to need to take care of where I stepped. And I was walking this alone. Not the brightest thought in the world, looking back. I could have turned an ankle, broken a leg, fallen face-first into the various stones I was walking over, or even slipped off a few of the “staircases” and found myself hurtling downward to the base of the canyon. But something said I HAD to go. And I followed that voice to my two-plus hour excursion along a broken, ragged trail across the cliff face of the canyon.

The Start of the Trail

At first, I thought I was merely walking the trail to see a set of petroglyphs. Fifteen minutes into my walk, I halted after a particular steep climb to catch my breath. I could feel the touch of a hand on the back of my neck. At first I tried to be casual about it and dismiss the touch of the wind. But I have felt this touch before. I knew it was Crow. A scream from on high brought my attention skyward to see a crow freewheeling on the currents of the canyon. I lifted my camera and took a series of sports shots to try and catch the crow’s image. When I pulled the camera down, I felt the caress against my neck again. I sat very still, and listened. And heard the sound of the wind in the trees, another scream from the crow above, and the thought arrived in my mind: keep walking. 

 
So I stood up and continued along the trail. Soon, I came to a VERY narrow passageway – and I nearly balked at going through. I’m not the skinnest guy in the world. But the voice told me to hold for a moment, and think of who I am, and where I want to be in my life going forward. I stopped for a few moments, brought to my thoughts where I am now in my life. All the changes that have happened over the last two years, and how those changed have changed me as a person. Then I switched gears and thought about where I wanted to be, what I wanted to really do with my life, and how those changes were just inches away from my fingertip touch. Then I made my way through the very narrow passage.  When I made it to the other side, I realized that I had just participated in a ceremony of some sort – making my transition from one life to be born anew in the next. What that holds for me, I cannot say just yet — only that its happened, and this is very much on my mind.

A Second Passageway

After thirty more minutes on the trail, I came to a second passageway. This time, I heard no thoughts, I felt no reassuring touch on my neck and shoulder – so I stopped, opened my feelings and emotions to the environment around me – and I felt them. LOTS of them. The Spirits of the Land, or if you will, the Spirits of Place. They were literally everywhere. And not one of them was paying attention to the humans around them. After all, why should they? Its not like we are all that significant to them. They have been here far longer then we have. They would not perceive us as anything, until we threatened the environment that they protect. And all I was doing was walking along a rocky path to view some carvings on a nearby wall. I was literally nothing to them.  So I drew a big breath, walked through the passage – taking care not to fall down the makeshift stone stairs that had been added here – and once again felt Crow’s reassuring touch. “Keep going” was the message. And I did.

  
I was now nearly two hours into my walk. The tour of the Cliff Palace certainly seemed an unlikely happeneing (it turned out that it was unlikely – I was physically drained when I finished the hike). But I continued on to the petroglyphs. I started this hike, I was damn sure going to see these petroglyphs! Twenty minutes later, after scrambling through three harrowing downward jaunts and two very hallenging upward climbs, I arrived at the petroglyphs. Through the first two-thirds of my hike, I had seen no one. It was only me on the hiking trail. Arriving at the petroglyphs, I encountered three families that were taking a break. The next upward climb involved some handhold/foothold pulls to get to the top of the Mesa for the journey back to the museum. I watied until they started their upward climb, and then I spent time looking at the petroglyphs. The symbology seemed a little simplistic to me, until I remembered – these folks were not exactly Picaso or Rembrandt. They were merely depicting what they knew on the wall in the closest approximation that they could make. 

 

It was here that I realized my third mistake – I had taken no water with me whatsoever. Again, not the smartest thing in the entire world. When I made it to the top of the mesa, I was greeted by a cool wind that had not been there before. Apparently, someone was looking out for me enough to cool me off. The rest of the walk was over fairly flat land, which proved to be the area directly overhead from the Spruce Tree dwelling. When I arrived back at the museum, I knew I was far too spent to make the trek through the Cliff Palace cliff dwelling. Crow whispered that it wasn’t important – what I had just done was what had been needed.

Final Thoughts

Its hard to say what you will do when one of the Gods or Goddesses calls you to somewhere. A little more forethought, and I would not have left myself so vulnerable to my environment. Perhaps this was by design – to place me in a certain frame of thought as I approcahed that first passageway. Perhaps not, all I know is that I didn’t THINK about precautions and safety measures. IIt never entered my mind – and I am typically an overly cautious hiker. But now – I have something new on my plate. And I have some serious choices to make going forward. I know there are going to be many more meditative circles where I approach Crow and seek further advice. There’s a lot to think about. But when the Gods come calling – sometimes you don’t get the choice of packing a day-lunch for the trip…

“Speaking Crow” or “I Finally Get It! Stop Pecking the Back of My Head Already!”

I will be honest and up-front — its a lot of fun to have a God in your life. But I will be honest and up-front — sometimes its not exactly the easiest thing either.  You wander around the Pagan blogosphere long enough, and you will come across someone – somewhere – that has had their life touched directly by a God or a Goddess. Some will refer to it as being “called” – others (like myself) look at it as more akin to being “claimed.”  But regardless of the verbiage that gets utilized, it is something that happens.

My Backyard Stone CircleBeing claimed by Crow has been a very strange experience for me. After all, this is a First Nations God – and is usually a part of the Northwest tribes. I am on a Path of Druidry – a decidedly Celtic experience. So its a little strange to find myself being claimed by a Northwesterly Native American God. On a whim, I did a DNA test to see what my lineage was.  I am mostly European/Germanic, which wasn’t that surprising, considering my mother was a full-blooded German. But there is also 1/64th of Native American DNA – likely from my father’s side of the family – emigrants that left Holland to settle in the lower Appalachians (Tennessee/Kentucky area). But even with 0.16% Native American DNA, I am still somewhat stymied that a Native American God would find interest in me.

I first realized that there was something there about four years ago. Everywhere I seemed to go, a Crow or a Blackbird or a Starling would turn up. I thought it was cute. Then, my meditations and dreams started to have these little dark, winged visitors arriving as well. When I did some research, I found that Crows were considered to be messengers – so I started to affectionately refer to these Crows as my “Emails”. The only problem was that I could never figure out their messages.  One night, I wrote a poem about them….

Every moment I look up
They arrive from elsewhere
Beating black wings
The Crows are here again

They bring shiny bits
Buttons, twigs, and string
Like small offerings
Brought to their Gods

I know they are messages
Sort of like Emails
Meant to bring meaning
With their offerings

Some messages are clear
Others…well not quite so
Regardless of the clarity factor
They continue to arrive

What are you trying to tell me?
What does blue shirt button mean?
Why the yellow strands of yarn?
If I could only speak Crow…

—Tommy

The past few weeks, they have become more and more insistent. Guided meditations, where no Crow should be, had dozens upon dozens of them. All sitting silently, and watching my every move. At times, I wondered if I was to be working a guided meditation, or was I seeing my death via some Hitchcock film? It turned out to be neither. I was being told more and more to do what I had promised I would do – to change the podcast from being about me (From the Edge of the Circle) to one that showcased others (Upon a Pagan Path). This last year was the first for the new podcast – and while I did a great job with the first two interviews – the rest of the year was done very poorly. My job was to get it back on track.

That message come through loud and clear at the Saturday night ritual at the Imbolc Retreat – now almost a week ago. While everyone else was raising the drinking horn around the circle, and offering up to their patron Gods and Goddesses – I watched the fire, and turned my focus inward. I sat down in my Inner Grove and listened to the Crows. They cawed and danced just beyond my reach. Their beady little eyes watching each move I made. And when I looked up, I saw Crow standing at the very edge of the fire. I listened as He slowly explained that I had to get the podcast back on track – to get the voices of the others out there. When I came out of my moments in the Inner Grove, I found I had not been gone for more than few seconds from the ritual fire.

Immediately after ritual and dinner, I stayed up at the main house rather than partake in the Bardic Circle. I knew that alcohol would be plied throughout – and being a diabetic, it was just easier to step aside rather than politely refuse over and over again. I pulled out my iPad and the blue-tooth keyboard, and set about checking Emails. Its just happened that in the inbox was a message from an author that I had expressed interest in interviewing. We have exchanged a few more Emails, and I am hoping to make the connection for the interview fairly soon. Another author, whom I respect greatly and love her work, was the one that helped setup this contact. I also expressed a desire to interview her as well – and I hope that can happen very soon as well. During the course of the evening, and into the next morning – I found individual after individual that expressed an interest in coming on the show and talking for a bit about their own Pagan Path. When Crow says to do it, I merely have to do it. And as if I needed more encouragement, a conversation I had that last morning…circled around this very thing.

Since that time, I have had a handful of personal meditations — and in each one, I still have a crow or two arrive. But nothing like the dozens of dozens that I had previously. Friday afternoon, I came home to find my backyard tree was covered in Starlings on nearly every branch. I made my way outside with a bag of bird seed, and spread the contents on the ground. When I looked up – they had all flown away. All I could do was smile, mouth a silent thank you to the clear, blue evening sky – and head back indoors.

Yes, being claimed by a God can be an interesting thing. Maddening at times, particularly when you don’t quite understand the point of whatever is being said…but no one ever said that life with a Trickster God was going to be easy. Interesting? Yes. Informative? Yes. Easy? ::sigh::

–Tommy /|\

ADF Hearthstone Imbolc Retreat – and Just Doing It….

There’s been an over-arching theme in my daily life for the past four months.  Yes, there’s the crows that are EVERYWHERE.  My dreams, my meditations (even where they do not belong), real life…just everywhere. At first I thought it was cute – all these crows constantly cawing at me, dropping buttons and yarn in my lap in my meditations – just cute adorable stuff. After a while, I realized there was a message behind all of this – that Crow was trying to make me understand something. I just couldn’t puzzle it out.

Now, I’m not one to be out in public very often – at least not the Pagan Community aspect of being public. I’m always afraid that someone will recognize me (beyond the people who know me face-to-face already), and just squee all over the fact that I am a podcaster. Yes, I fear the notion of “fame” – and its taken quite some time to get over that notion, much less realize it.  More on that in a bit.  So, when I saw the invite in my Facebook messages section from Chris Godwin about an Imbolc Retreat in the hill country here in Texas….I balked and attempted to put it out of my mind. The idea of getting out into the public is an issue of being gun-shy for me.  So I just let the invite sit in my inbox.  I didn’t decline it (like I normally do when get things like that) – and I couldn’t really relate to why I did that. But then the dream came up…where the Crow shouted “Do It!  Register and go!”…and I sat up in the bed, went to my computer, made sure I had the funds to sign up, and left myself a sticky note to ask for time off with work. And after getting the a-ok for that, I registered and paid my reservation in full. And right after I hit the button, I knew there was no going back.

And Still the Crows Came

Every dream, every meditation, everywhere I turned – there were crows.  Still.  I thought I had satisfied the necessary requirement that Crow had been bugging me about. I still didn’t understand.  And when the day came to head down, I got to talk with a friend through half of the trip about the dreams, the meditations, the crows…

“Messengers,” she said quietly after listening to me for close to fifty miles. “Crows are messengers. They bring information to Odin. Odin understood, but the Crows had to bring him the information to work with.” I shared a nervous laugh with her, as I wondered what the messages might be. On the third day of the conference, I was talking with one of the attendees, and she mentioned much the same thing. ::holding finger in the air:: First point to Crow.

During the retreat, there were two evening rituals – both of which featured the opportunity to step forward and offer a blessing or a sacrifice in whatever fashion you wanted to. I passed on both opportunities. Each morning after, I found myself wide awake at 6am – even earlier than I normally am. The first time was because of someone else having left their phone alarm on. The second time, I awoke suddenly. When I checked my own phone this morning, it was 0600 on the dot. The first morning (yesterday), I found myself watching a cloudy sky – waiting for the sun to rise.  But the second morning, I didn’t wait for the sun, I walked out into the foggy mist and off into the wooded area behind the retreat bunk houses.

About a mile away, I sat down at the side of the dirt road – butt on the ground, my arms around my knees – and I listened. I could hear the cars on the nearby interstate, their tires noisily gripping the road’s surface as they were compelled onward by their occupants. I could hear the caw of a crow, somewhere nearby. Damnit.  Even here I can’t be alone. So I centered and grounded…and asked what I wasn’t getting. I got four words in response:  “Not you. Do it.” All I could think was:  thanks a lot. Cryptanalysis was never my strong. I could fix the machines and operate them, but I couldn’t break cypher codes by hand. I slowly got up (I’m not as spry as I used to be), and my movement apparently startled a nearby deer having her breakfast. As she dashed into the underbrush, I murmured an apology after her white-brown rump. And headed back to the retreat center for breakfast.

Just prior to breakfast, I’m talking with John Beckett about the prospect of an interview I had been wanting to line up for the podcast.  After a few moments, he stops and quietly notes that he has an editorial comment:  “Stop talking about things and just do them.”  I’m not sure John noticed the look of shock on my face, but here was the Rosetta Stone I was needing for my meditation moment just a scant half hour before.  Trickster Gods…  I spent most of my drive home contemplating that entire few moments of synchronicity…  Damn Trickster Gods…

And Then There Was That One Moment….

Remember I was noting how much I fear the entire concept of “fame”?  During dinner on the second night (last night), John and I are eating and one of the attendees sits down noting that she is about to have a “fan-girl” moment. Now, John is fairly well known – so I was prepared to sit and listen to someone talk with John about his excellent writings on his blog. However, after she notes how long she’s been reading John, she continued with “…and I have been listening to you for quite some time too.” And I have my first moments with a fan of my shows that isn’t someone I already know in real life. It didn’t turn out like I had always feared it would…she had wonderful conversation, along with her non-podcast-listening friend who turned out to have a lot in common with me (databases), with both John and myself (John and me, John and I — whatever the correct vernacular is).  And her demeanor really put me at ease. Once again, I had blown up the idea of what it would be like to run into one of the twenty-some odd people that listen to my two podcasts would be like.  When all was said and done…I could hear Crow and Coyote snickering about how foolish I felt after that (and still do).

There Was a Lot More Too…

U BAR U Retreat Center - in the fogBeing out by the fire with a group of dedicated Pagans looking to raise some energy for a cheerful purpose was absolutely amazing stuff!  To put it into perspective for me, DFW Pagan Pride Day in 2013 was simply amazing stuff. It paled in comparison to what happened during this Imbolc Retreat. There were several good roundtable discussions (one of which was an excellent presentation on looking forward into the near future of Paganism given by John), and lots of good feedback from folks in the audience. An overwhelming thematic throughout proved to be that of hospitality, and of community. And I do have to say that our hosts were most hospitable people throughout, and are really amazing people. Chris and Amanda Godwin, I have known only online for the past two years, but it was super incredible to meet them and get some really nice warm hugs from them!!

Looking Backwards and Forwards…

Yeah, it took more than little coaxing to get me to go. And after all the apprehension on my part – I found that I had no reason to be apprehensive whatsoever. I have met so many people at this Retreat that I likely would never have connected with otherwise. And I feel completely enriched from having spent the time with them – and I hope the same can be said for them spending time with me.  LOL  If they hold this again next year…I am already making plans to be there…  I hope that doesn’t drive attendance down…  ;)~  But I did come away with one big takeaway that was specifically there for me…we’ve talked about making this podcast go.  Its past due the time to make it go.  And starting yesterday, this little boat of a podcast is moving forward, and I will not be the focus.  That will be the people who come aboard for an interview….  Its time to just do it.

 

 

I Know I Am Alive…

I sit here, listening to the occasional wind gust blow through the tree in the backyard – followed by the whoosh of a passing car in the street below. On the speakers, I have the Garcia Plays Dylan album wafting through the speakers of my iMac. I don’t really know why, but every year around the start of autumn, I tend to play a lot of Jerry Garcia, the Grateful Dead, and Bob Dylan. Its just the type of music that I envision myself listening to while sitting on the porch in a rocking chair.

This is also the time of the year that I hear various Pagan folk commenting about the “dark” of the year. Perhaps its the associated imagery of All Hallow’s Eve that tend to bring that up. Maybe its something else – but for me, this is the time of year where everything starts to thrive. The harvest is coming in, and the preparations are being set into motion for the coming of winter (anyone hear a Stark there?). In my environment, my thoughts begin to turn inward. I start turning the previous year over in my mind, reading back on journal entries through that time, and looking forward to where my steps are about to take me.

Sure, the days grow shorter, the nights grow longer, the weather turns colder….that doesn’t mean that the world is getting meaner or that there is a reason to be scared. Darkness is nothing more than a point of existence, where light is not as prevalent. Its still a part of our environment, just a change from what we have been used to in the spring and summer. And to be completely honest, I do my best meditations during these longer nights of the winter.

Over the past year, I have watched as Coyote has moved a little further away from my circle of understanding. Crow has become a far greater influence in my daily meditations. I have also started to feel the pull of Lugh and some of the Celtic influences that speak towards my Druidry lessons. Perhaps not as strong as others have felt that same pull, but it is there. And now, I feel a slight pull from within the legends of the Celts through Fionn mac Cumhaill. Very odd directions for me, but I walk where my Path leads my feet.

I know there are those that see the winter as an oppressive spirit that brings darkness, and a lack of the sunlight. For me, its a little different time. I still spend time outdoors, even when it snows or rains. Just because the weather changes, my connection to my environment does not. There’s plenty for me to do…plenty for me to learn, plenty for me to experience. And that is how I know I am alive…I still feel that connection, to the environment around me, the plants, the animals, the Kami of the land, the Gods… Yes, I know I am alive…